Mai-den, Mai-den: Up the Irons aka the hand of fate is moving and the finger points to you

Looking like a champ while purchasing the last Iron Maiden album in 2010.
Looking like a champ while purchasing the last Iron Maiden album in 2010.

Sometimes (well, in 2011) you finish work at 2 a.m., walk to the PATH train, wait 40 minutes for the PATH train, get on the PATH train, hear a drunk dude yell “Winning!” and think to yourself, “This jabroni makes more money than me, doesn’t he?” Sometimes you finish work at 2 a.m., drink a beer in your home “office,” then go to bed. And sometimes you finish work at 2 a.m., check the TWITTER and find out Iron Maiden have just released their first new song in five years.

I’m gonna bet I’m not alone in this, but I got into Iron Maiden due to the song “Teenage Dirtbag” by the band Wheatus. That song was a somewhat-major hit in 2000, and its chorus was “Cause I’m just a teenage dirtbag, baby/Yeah I’m just a teenage dirtbag, baby/Listen to Iron Maiden, maybe, with me. Wooo-ooo-oo-OOO.”

I’m sure I’d heard Maiden and seen Maiden videos before this song, but I hadn’t noticed them before.  I thought, “I am also a teenage dirtbag, maybe I’d be into Iron Maiden?” Then, around this time, I was home one Friday night and the Rock Show, hosted by Anthrax’s Scott Ian, was on. He said they’d be playing the new Iron Maiden video, so I kept watching. And he played “The Wickerman.”

HAND OF FATE IS MOVING AND THE FINGER POINTS TO YOU/HE KNOCKS YOU TO YOUR FEET AND SO WHAT ARE YOU GONNA DO/YOUR TONGUE WAS FROZEN NOW YOU’VE GOT SOMETHING TO SAY/THE PIPER AT THE GATES OF DAWN IS CALLING YOU HIS WAY

YOU WATCH THE WORLD EXPLODING EVERY SINGLE NIGHT/DANCING IN THE SUN THE NEWBORN IN THE LIGHT/SAY GOODBYE TO GRAVITY AND SAY GOODBYE TO DEATH/HELLO TO ETERNITY AND LIVE FOR EVERY BREATH

YOUR TIME WILL COME (Repeat YOUR TIME WILL COME a bunch of times)

Never had I immediately gone from not knowing a thing to being, “This is now my favorite thing, for it is the greatest.”

I bought all the albums: the Paul Di’Anno era (if someone tells you they’re not that into Maiden but they like the first two albums — even if they’re being honest — don’t trust them), the Bruce Dickinson glory years, the Blaze Bayley period (X-Factor is underrated).

I saw them live (nine times, if I’m counting correctly). The first time, I had to hike several miles on the side of a busy road in Long Island to get to their show in Jones Beach because we were stuck in traffic and my friend Dan needed to return his dad’s car, so he kicked me to the curb. The second time was at Madison Square Garden, and it’s still the best show I’ve ever seen. I saw them at Ozzfest and sang “Run to the Hills” with these two giant, blonde-haired Swedish dudes I randomly befriended on my way back from getting beer.

I read all I could about the band/the members of the band. Dickinson is a personal hero, because he’s a tremendous singer/songwriter/entertainer, a modern-day renaissance man and he got me into the wonderful television show, “The Prisoner.” I once defused a fight at a bar between a group of my college friends and some Scranton townies due to the fact that one of the guys in the other group was wearing a Motorhead T-shirt and I told him I had seen them open for Maiden. He was impressed. Then, when he said goodbye at the end of the night, I yelled “Up the Irons!” (the Iron Maiden slogan) at him. He was less impressed.

But would he be impressed with the new Maiden track? Who knows? Who cares? Up the Irons.

Also, Rape of the mind is a social disorder.

Brian Cougar

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Mai-den, Mai-den: Up the Irons aka the hand of fate is moving and the finger points to you

A tale of great courage

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“Oh my, that’s a bat.”

I was staring at the ceiling in the front of my apartment in Scranton, Pa., in 2004. It was the end of the Summer of Starvation*, and my brothers were coming the next day to pick me up so I could spend a week home in Brooklyn, N.Y., before returning for my senior year at the University of Scranton.

I ran into my room and shut the door. Panic set in immediately. I’m sure some of you are thinking, “What, it’s just a bat.” Well, I had never come face to face with one before, damnit. And I knew two things about bats: They can fly. And they all have rabies. I know that second one isn’t true, but it is.

First I wondered, “How the hell did it get into the apartment?” Then I remembered that while I was sweeping the front porch, I had left the door wide open for some reason. Dope. Why was I even sweeping the front porch? Eleven college dudes were going to be living in the apartment, it would never be clean (and it was NOT). Then I thought, “Maybe I can just lock myself in here for the night, and it’ll be gone by the morning.” But what if it got in somehow? The raptors in Jurassic Park figured out how to open doors! And also, it was, at least while hanging from the ceiling, quite tiny. What if it crawled under the gap at the bottom of the door? Murdered while I sleep.

I opened my laptop and tried to search for info on bat removal. But since we hadn’t set up Internet at the apartment yet, I was relying on the weak wireless signal from the library and nothing was loading. It was like 2 in the morning, and while this was clearly an emergency, I didn’t think anyone else would consider it one, so I figured a phone call would either be ignored or end up with me being mocked.

I had to get rid of it myself.

I looked for things around my room that could help me achieve this. The broom! I had left it on the front porch. Damnit. I had a large collection of CDs, but Queensryche’s “Operation: Mindcrime” and Iron Maiden’s “Powerslave” were not going to be sacrificed in my attempt to drive this evildoer out. Wait, I had an old pair of shoes! Two chances to hit it. My hope was that a direct shot would cause it to explode into tiny light bubbles like when you die in “Mega Man.” Or at least stun it. Then I would throw my dirty bedroom sheets on top and throw it onto the front lawn.

Before I could put my shoe plan into action, I had to armor myself. That armor consisted of two pairs of socks, my winter boots, a pair of jeans, a pair of sweat pants, a T-shirt, fleece sweater and a bubble jacket. Plus a ski cap to cover my head, my glasses to protect my eyes despite the fact that I was wearing contacts, and a Jack Daniels bandana wrapped around my face. Note: It was 85 degrees out. I looked like a lunatic, but had convinced myself that rabies could not penetrate this shield. I wished that I had some type of booze in my room to give me some liquid courage, but sadly I did not. If I’d had the time or the right, I would have said a prayer.**

I opened the door of my room. The bat hadn’t moved. I had a shoe in each hand, and after a few seconds to find what little courage I clearly have, I ran underneath it and launched the first shoe at the ceiling. I completely missed the bat. But I hit the panel it had latched onto. The bat did not like this. It spread its wings, which were approximately 30-feet long, then shrieked and launched itself at me. Hellspawn! I dove to the ground, did a military crawl to my room, and kicked the door shut. After spending 30 seconds on the floor with my hands over my head, I got up, opened my front window, and climbed out onto the front porch.

While I had not got rid of the bat, I had rid myself of the bat. Success!

I took off enough of my “armor” on the front porch so that I could walk around without looking like a crazy person, then headed over to the library, which thankfully was open 24 hours, to calm down. When I returned an hour or so later, I slowly opened the door and peaked inside. I looked up at ceiling. No bat. I looked in my room. No bat. I checked every room in the apartment. No bat. It was never seen again.

But it’s still out there. And it will find me.

Brian Cougar

* When I arrived to Scranton as a freshman, I weighed 250 pounds. Because I do everything ass backwards, I actually lost weight in college. By the end of the Summer of Starvation, due to my job hauling kegs and cases of beer around Northeastern Pennsylvania, plus the fact that I was solely responsible for acquiring/cooking my meals on a limited budget, I had dropped down to about 180.

** A Batman reference was going to happen in this post, and this was it, from “The Dark Knight Returns.”

A tale of great courage

Spring Training: The time when the bad are now good, and the good are now better

Spring Training time! Optimism abounds! Your team, no matter how bad last year went or ended, if thing’s break right, or, in some cases (Astros), a miracle happens, has a chance! Articles mentioning fresh-cut grass (that one’s always been odd to me … do most people who attend/report on spring camps live in caves in the offseason? I enjoy the smell, but I’ve never missed grass enough to mention it) will be published. Winter is nearing its end! While I enjoy all these things, even the bizarre talk of grass, my favorite part of Spring Training are the endless stories, and quotes, that almost always center around three things – if a player was bad last season, hey, he’s going to be a good again. Injured last year? Feeling tremendous! If a player had a good or great season? Watch out! He’s just getting started.

I do kind of wish there was a sprinkle of bizarro articles around every season, just to mix things up. A guy who had a great season might go, “I hope you all enjoyed the ride last year because, let me tell you, that’s as good as I’m going to get. I have reached my  peak!” The no-hope-returning-from-injury-guy, “I am a beaten and broken man. I feel worse than when I started this quote.” Or the guy who had a down year expecting even more trouble ahead: “They’ve all figured me out. I’ve got no more tricks up my sleeve. I am the captain and we are on the sea of uncertainty.*” I enjoy things that will never happen.

However — back on course — while it’s still early in the Spring Training season, I have already seen some memorable optimistic quotes/stories. The first one ends on a sad note. And I feel really, really bad that this guy is injured again, but it’s kind of what led me to this post.

Joel Zumaya was a bit of a breakout star during his rookie season with the Tigers in 2006, throwing 100 mph out of the bullpen and striking out tons of people, but he’s battled injuries pretty much ever since. He signed a Minor League deal with the Twins this offseason, and this was him just a couple of weeks ago:

“They’ve said they’re going to just watch over me a little bit in the beginning,” Zumaya said. “I’ve told them, ‘Don’t baby me; I’m here to go full out now.’ I took a whole year off, so my arm is basically healthy. Progressing will be the main thing.”

Zumaya then tore his UCL in his first bullpen session, ending his season and, possibly, his career. That led to this quote:

“Maybe it’s time to move on. I’m a pretty dang good fisherman, so I might pursue professional fishing.”

Such a quick turnaround from clear skies to the crash. Feel better, Zumaya. I hope you can either make your way back or find them fish.

The great Ichiro Suzuki didn’t exactly have a bad year last season, but he was down from his usual elite numbers. Now, I’ll take any excuse to quote Ichiro, and here’s what he said on last year’s “struggles” and this year’s expectations:

“We always feel fresh and always feel open to new challenges every year,” he said. “That’s never changed. I feel the same way this year. But I’m happy that a lot of people say I suffered last year.”

I have a feeling I am also going to be happy about this.

Matt Kemp, who finished second in the NL MVP voting last year with his .324 average, 39 homers and 40 steals is not messing around when it comes to the upcoming season:

“Fifty-fifty? Hey, I set my goals high.”

Hell yes, Matt Kemp.

Now, not everyone does the positive-spin thing. Jayson Werth, who got that ridiculous contract from the Nationals then struggled last year,  and has always come off as a bit gruff (and not just because of the beard), had this quote:

“I’ve been playing baseball since I was 4 years old. I’ve had really good seasons, I had really bad seasons. I’ve had average seasons. Last year was just a bad season. Whatever. I’m over it. I’m ready to play ball, play 162 games.”

I kind of like that one! Although it’s basically him saying I will promise you nothing. “There’s been sunny days, there’s been rainy days. There have been days when it’s rained when the sun has been out. Yesterday was rainy. I’ve over it. I’m ready for more weather.”

Well, those are just a few I’ve seen so far, but I’ll be on the lookout for more as Spring Training rolls on. Now, I must go … I’m feeling pretty good right now, but I expect I’ll feel even better soon.

Also, again, best of luck, Zumaya

Thanks.

*Stolen from photographer Ross Halfin quoting producer Martin Birch on an Iron Maiden DVD.

— Brian Cougar

Spring Training: The time when the bad are now good, and the good are now better