June 24, 2014

How I Write

By Pete M:

In order to write I first must be driven. Some unseen demon most move me to put events into words. When passion hits, I cannot be stopped on the keyboard. Finding that passion is more difficult than actually writing the prose. While a struggle, the process itself is uplifting. Like a gigantic shot of ego. When I find the flow, words, phrases, sentences, ideas come in spurts, never in sequential order. In my most productive state the words come effortlessly, I'm happy with what comes out. I know what I have is good when I laugh out loud at my own copy.

I hit my word count. Then I rewrite, usually removing entire passages, rearranging sentences, cutting excess words. New ideas come and are implemented in their proper place. The single word that comes to mind constantly is flow. The passage just flows and it's effortless. Getting started sometimes impossible, but once I'm there, it's like being a great athlete, in the zone. Unstoppable.

Once I've rewritten the story once, I go back and do it again. Always catching errors, funky sentences, repetitive words. The story nears perfection. My voice is distinct. The theme clear. One more time. Reread.

Stamp and publish.

January 18, 2014

Writers: By S.L. Price

“Time now to speak of writers. We are, most of us, a particularly cramped breed, gunning for little victories: the newest wrinkle, the most telling detail, the juiciest quote, the phrase or paragraph or - please, God - page that approaches the song in our grasping, caffeine-riddled minds. Writers are selfish. Writers judge. Writers trust words more than people. There’s a reason writer and neurotic so often end up in the same sentence.” - S.L. Price for Sports Illustrated

January 4, 2014

Iowa Bar Declares War On Inept Journalist!

Kung Fu Tap and Taco patrons have declared war on local writer Pete Myers.  The comment section smolders months after the controversial article reached bathroom floors at Kung Fu Tap and Taco.  Kung Fu Tappers are a unionized bunch, proud of their tap and will defend it, even if it means typing a complete sentence!  Lesson learned for this sorry sack of a writer; nothing unites a south side biker bar like poor reading comprehension.

October 2, 2013

Walker Hunt

Cpl. Aaron Walker was accustomed to sleeping with a weapon. The former infantryman slept by the M4 every night during three tours with a CAAT platoon in Iraq. The cold steel tucked in next to him like a stuffed animal, soothing to the touch. Loaded barrel laid across his grizzly bear chest. Walker is no stranger to the rifle.
It's 2006 and Walker is home from Iraq, no longer is it a M4 under the covers with the trained assassin, it's a Wahlter P99, special ordered German handgun with a single-action (hair) trigger. No safety on this weapon. The black beast rests just under Walker's chin, moonlight through the blinds exposing his right index finger, which rests in firing position as he naps.  
This madman is one of the finest men I know. If you listen and research what he's done, things he's lived, your stories won't compare. This man has done three tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. As a gunner and vehicle commander. This man was getting shot at while you were trying to coax girls back to your dorm room. For one stretch of my life, this is who I shared a room with.

Our parking lot had been robbed the night before. No doubt the robbers were disappointed only to find a book of scratched up classic rock CD's. That's really what got to him. Nobody sneaked past Cpl. Walker, especially not in the middle of the night. Not when he could have been armed.
The intruders did some damage to the car windshield in order to break in and hence had become prey to the baddest man in Iowa City. This dude would kill you easily with his bare hands. I've heard legends of him taking out three 200+ guys at once. Seen him simultaneously choke out two Marines in a sand pit which would have made Fight Club seem tame.
During the full moon, loaded weapon in hand, sleep is not deep for Cpl. Walker. He had set a trap by the next night. Cell phone, iPod and laptop were left in the front passenger side of his BMW. He'd even left the door unlocked. 'Come on, take a look,' Walker whispered in his dreams.

The bait was placed just outside his cracked bedroom window. When the cat burglars returned, he had a surprise for them. For the first time since returning from Al-Anbar, Walker had someone to hunt.

September 26, 2013

Todd Helton, Mike Bauman & the Foul Ball that Changed it All

He'd never be up, that damn Bauman. Every morning I was forced to invite myself in to his parents house and shake him from deep coma.  Sure it was early, well, early for a 17 year old in the summer.  We worked for the Park District. Youth baseball coaches.  ‘STAFF’ laid out in green lettering across our backs.  CR logo on the cap.

Todd Helton homered last night.  Perhaps for the last time ever; a symbol of youth, of the nineties, reaches his twilight with grey hair growing from his chin.  This is probably it.  Ball players growing old enhances your sense of age.  Todd Helton was once a strapping young first basemen.  Back in the Summer of ’99, he was Mike Bauman’s favorite player.

After Bauman ignored several polite requests, that he be ready when his ride to work arrived, my skinny backside resorted to pounding on his bedroom window from outside, something Michael once referred to as the most head splitting way possible to be woken up.

It was no different the morning of June 30th, a Wednesday during the last summer of my life.  We hit the ball diamond early, before the kids arrived.  Our bosses were Al Smith and his son Steve, serving as mentors, former major leaguers kicking dirt at Noelridge park with teenagers Jeff Reiners and Mike Bauman.

All we had to bring was a glove.  Those days, our first hour on the clock was spent playing catch with the kids, as the parents slowly trickled in, dropping their son's for two hours of baseball under the eye of professionals.

Mike always cracked up when coach Steve Smith, a full grown man, would make snide comments about 9 year olds who were, how do I write this, less than athletic.  'He's no Derek Jeter,' Steve would say. Hopefully no one's feelings were hurt, as Steve always stood far away from Mom.  The remark had a lifetime impact, to this day whenever an infielder boots a ground ball, I say instinctively, 

'He's no Derek Jeter.'

Baseball was our life. They paid us to play ball with kids! Jesus, what were they thinking? Two sport crazed teens living the life of a ballplayer.  Our entire life centered around baseball.  Up at dawn on the ball diamond, wasting the entire day, waiting for baseball on ESPN.  By supper, we’d crowd a computer screen. Playing out an entire 162 game season with a digitally rigged Indians team featuring; McGwire, Sosa, Ripken and Todd Helton.


September 11, 2013

Shadow Boxing with the Richest Fight of All-Time


I met Lance Williams on a Friday night in June.  Not far from my hometown, Lance boxed at the Wildwood Saloon, where a prize ring stood in place of mechanical bull.  Lance had no trouble spotting his opponent 20 lbs that night at the old country bar.  Easily winning an exhibition before a crowd of Kewanee maniacs, there for a come-backing Country Boy Weida.

On the wall of my office is a framed newspaper article from that night and an un-cashed check for $25.  Young Lance Williams wears a du-rag in the file photo underneath a headline reading, “Williams Overwhelms.”  The check represents the first time I was paid to write about boxing, assigned to his early bouts by the local newspaper.  Lance is a peer, the first boxer I befriend, like McRae and James Toney in Dark Trade.  For much of the past two years, I live vicariously through Williams, tying his boxing ambition to mine.

The Money Team called for Lance Williams a week ago, offering a bout in the lead up to Floyd Mayweather and Canelo Alvarez.  Tuesday morning, Lance hopped a plane to Las Vegas.  He faces Olympic alternate Robert Easter Jr. Thursday night at MGM Grand.   They call Easter the “E-Bunny,” but don’t mistake the corny nickname, Easter is favored.  Lance would catch the eye of Golden Boy with a victory.

September 5, 2013

The King

The King


Cleveland's LeBron James is a national phenomenon in April 2010, speculation regarding his pending free agency griping the sports world.  Three months before the Decision, LeBron greets Chicago with a rude triple double, breezing through town with the Bulls, United Center and writer in his wake.


My eyes open at 7 a.m. sharp April 25th, 2010. No alarm is needed.  My heart already pounding, I had a date that afternoon with the King.

I’m the biggest Bulls fan in the world.  There isn’t anything I can’t recite from memory regarding team history.  Even with my loyalties, I'm a basketball junky.  My true excitement would come from seeing LeBron James in person.  James is a once in a lifetime type athlete.  I'm lucky, as a basketball fan, to see him in the flesh.

Accompanying me on my date is a gigantic man from St. Charles; who enjoys late nights, fast women and roast beef sandwiches.  We take his ride for the 225 mile trip, mine deemed too dangerous with four bald tires.  He drives until we reach detour at the Mississippi, choosing the moment to suddenly veer off the road and exit the driver door.

He says little, doing the vomit stomp around the back and to the passenger seat, where he reclines and instantly passes out. The 48 hour bender he’d put in prior to Chicago proving too much for consciousness.   I would be driving the rest of the way.

August 24, 2013

Summer of Avery

Once upon on a time there was a princess from the faraway kingdom of Merle Hay. The princess wakes before dawn each day, demanding breakfast in bed and getting it.  She drinks organic milk only. Gulping at the rate of three gallons per week.  The princess dresses herself with flair, allowing only a chosen few to touch her flowing blonde locks.  
Each day the princess turns the King's quarters into a playground.  Happy to shift furniture in support of her cause, the princess has no concern over noise, disturbance or even the hour of day.  She’s a princess, after all, and this was her Summer.
For today’s scheduled appearance in the Western Hills, the princess has chosen a black button up dress.  Looking all business as she places a flower petal in her hair.
Gobbling chocolate chips, the princess is chauffeured by her coachman, riding back seat in the personal carriage.  On the way to the Hills, she points out her favorite stores and preferred neighborhoods. The princess requests and receives a small toy on demand.
During a meet and greet at the wading pool, the princess informs villagers that she only swims at beaches.  The next Saturday, princess visits the white sand beaches of Saylorville.
Between travels, she makes a cameo on the 5:00 news, treating the sight of herself on television like a reflection in the mirror.  A journalist travels alongside, documenting her every move.  Later in the week, the townspeople will read a story about the princess eating breakfast with her King.
When her carriage was in need of repair, the princess rides to school on the back of a Knight.  It can be hot in the kingdom, but the princess shows no mercy, yelling for more speed.  She pretends the Knight is a horse, feeding imaginary carrots and cracking a fake whip.
After refusing a plate of food at dinner, the Princess receives spa treatment, swimming away the day’s grime in a chin-high jacuzzi.  
A night of cinema with Prince Charming follows the bath.  The princess prefers the film “Titanic,” Prince Charming watching it again and again, quick to forward through, “the grown-up parts.”
At night, the princess lays down, undoubtedly exhausted from a day spent bossing around indentured servants.  She requests creative art before bed.  Original stories only.  The Gesture swears he ran out of material months ago, but comes up with something.
After such a taxing day, the princess is left with only one more demand, a back rub…..
not the whole back……
…...just the lower back
Please.

It’s good to be a princess in the Summer.

August 21, 2013

@Dengler-Harbaugh

The last thing I remember was singing Shaggy’s “It Wasn’t Me” with the pack of groomsman and a professional rapper.  Our rendition was a cappella, teaching me that somewhere, buried deep in my cerebral cortex, are the lyrics to the 2001 hit.

"Congrats Mr. and Mrs. Dick Dengler," read the marquee outside.   No, the name isn't a joke, rather an appropriate moniker for a larger than life groom.

Dengler-Harbaugh attracts the most powerful of northeast Cedar Rapids players.  Groomsmen include; two Kennedy grads flown in from Colorado, a hip hop artist, a podcasting Cubs fan and a Hawaiian.  One of the finest collection of gentlemen ever gathered at the Longbranch Hotel.



I'd requested a speaking role at the Dengler-Harbaugh, but thankfully was declined. It's a good thing because the best man delivered, showing up any would be successors.

Fighting through lockjaw nervousness and badly receding hairline, the best man delivered a classic tale of Richard's first Playboy magazine, then owned the room with an ageless close,

“Richard you’re an only child, but know that you have seven brothers sitting up here.”

I met Richard Drummond Dengler through my connection to the Ryan Dynasty. Still a teenager, Dengler stood outside with me that first night in Iowa City, talking Kennedy Cougars basketball.  One of my favorite subjects. He was on varsity that year and we were instant friends.  It didn't hurt that we bore an uncanny resemblance to each other, sometimes passing as brothers.

I followed young Dengler in the box score his senior year, until finally seeing him play at the 2007 state tournament. Richard got two minutes of burn in that game, using the time to face guard and box out a formidable Des Moines Lincoln postman.  I swelled with pride, along with Richard's Dad, who recorded the whole thing behind me.

Three years later, the once affectionately named "Lil Homie" was grown up, pulling me aside during the 2010 Polar Bear Challenge to share some feelings.

"I'm dating that Sarah girl now," said Richard.

"She makes me happy.....man."

Richard has this undeniable habit of punctuating everything he says with the word man.

When he invoked the man clause while discussing Sarah, I knew she was the one.

There was moisture in his eyes when he said it, also that goofy grin he makes before exploding in commentary.  Richard was happy and there was no judging that.


Sarah Harbaugh worked at Hy-Vee the first year of my daughter's life.  Just down the street from us in the days we were constantly running out of diapers and formula.  I spent many bleary eyed evenings waiting in Sarah's check out line, running on minimal sleep, only to forget something and have to return for daily visit #3.

One day, Sarah decided to bring up a mutual friend, who I heard she crushed on.  

Richard.  

She had good taste.

"Do you know Richard Dengler? You're the guy on his ID right?"

Since we're twins, I had willingly loaned Richard my ID to enable a little underage activity (retroactive sorry to Mom & Dad).  When Sarah asked me that, I decided to have a little fun.

"WHAT!?!? WHO has my ID! I've been trying to find this guy!"

The look of terror on her face was well worth the effort put into the joke.  I let Sarah in on it quickly though, not wanting to be a jerk.  She appreciated my humor and I've appreciated her since.


In a way, I owe my discovery of writing to Dengler.  Back in the day, I needed him for my employee-only basketball team, the problem being Richard wasn't an employee.   We used to sneak him past AEGON security as a ringer, risking career, just to ball together.  

Stories from the 6 Ft Over basketball club forced me to write. The stuff was just too good not to document.  Especially Richard's observations on the game, league and whoever showed up to play us.  The team's memorable one-loss season documented in my first attempt at blogging.  Richard provided most of the quotables and plenty of elbows in the paint.


Longbranch resembles the set of a Hollywood Western. Winding through narrow halls and Old West decor, I continually expect to encounter Clint Eastwood on the draw.

Gorged on meat and potatoes, comfortably hugging old friends, I sense the gathering moving towards epic, once the party dwindled to only the diehards.

The Ryan Dynasty controls a table flanking the wedding party.  They're all here, after the years, sticking up for each other through retirement, illness, disability, the ups and down of family. There are retired AEGON executives, twins, best men, mother and child.  They're long friends of the Dengler's, expanding their influence up NE 42nd Street for the 90's & 00's.

I share pitchers with the Ryan Matriarch. The Godfather, Gary Ryan, sits with his youngest son, looking tan, talking golf swing.  The eldest Ryan child once said,  "No way I'll ever leave Cedar Rapids."

I always think of that when visiting the Ryan's. Why would they leave Cedar Rapids? They own this place.


The lights had not faded deep into the night of Dengler-Harbaugh.  DJ continuing to spin pop hits, local rap artist grabbing the mic for one exhilarating verse. We form a circle, taking turns in the center.  An eight year old is flung through the air, twirling like a figure skater, having one of those great childhood nights.  

The groomsmen had changed, appearing like regular people again.  I pull Richard away to thank him.  We snap a few moments in time, good luck removing that smile from his face.

There's little to say other than the obvious.

"What a great wedding......"

Not able to help it, I wait a few beats.

"......MAN!"

August 1, 2013

Pete @ The Breakfast Counter

I live somewhat of a strange existence for a person my age.  Despite thriving in the coveted 25-34 demographic, I prefer to keep the hours of a 72 year old man.  As you would imagine, this does wonders for my social life, but that’s OK.  It’s time to admit publicly that I prefer breakfast counters over Court Avenue.

My 4 year old just hit a phase where she mimics everything I do, which is fine because she makes for a fine breakfast date.  We take breakfast seriously, the two of us, embarking on a tour of sorts during the summer of 2013.  We call it the Breakfast Club.  It’s been something fun we’ve shared, discussing the next stop on our journey days in advance.  Working on a rotation, we evaluate key attributes sought at an ideal breakfast counter.

Here is my criteria in order of importance :

1.  Price.  Anything over $5.99 for breakfast is pushing my limits of cheapness.

2.  Scenery.  It must be comfortable, close and thought provoking.

3.  Conversation.  Bring me the old people, they make fantastic company.  I’d say a friendly server, but that’s a given for anyone willingly awake at 6:00 AM.

My kid’s criteria in order of importance:

1.  Ability to spin 360 degrees on the swiveling chair.  Once, we visited a place where the chair didn’t spin at all.  Deal breaker.

2.  Limitless access to syrup.  The kid must drown her pancakes or she won’t eat them.

3.  Proximity to gum ball machine.  Nothing says protein like a jawbreaker for breakfast.

Using the above as a rubric; allow me to evaluate the top 3 breakfast joints visited during the Great Summer of 2013 Breakfast Club Tour.