Published: Thu, July 21, 2016 @ 12:05 a.m.
By GUY D’ASTOLFO
After several years of work, another burst of creativity from Matt Palka has arrived.
Palka is a Toledo-area native, but Youngstown has always been his muse. He has lived here on and off in the past, and it’s always where he comes to create – even though he now resides in Los Angeles.
Palka’s latest output is a novel titled “Baseball Clubbies” and a CD (“Stealing Home”) that serves as its soundtrack, and also a couple of videos (find “Stealing Home” on YouTube). The book and CD (also available in vinyl) are being released today at amazon.com.
They say that life imitates art, but in the case of Palka, life IS art.
The author/musician/filmmaker’s projects are always based on his travels and experiences.
“Clubbies” is no exception. The novel is a fictionalized account of Palka’s five years as a clubhouse manager for the Toledo Mudhens professional baseball team.
The author’s “life as art” ethos began years ago. He was at a crossroads in life after graduating from Ohio University and decided the best course of action was to bicycle across the country, from Ohio to California. The trip became fodder for his first novel, “Moment in the Sun: The Life of Riley.”
“I learned from that bike trip to make your life the highest work of art,” said Palka.
The new project marked the fourth time Palka has returned to the city to record an album or film a movie or video.
“Clubbies” offers a behind-the-scenes look at the daily operation of a minor-league baseball team. What sets it apart from other baseball books is that it’s from the point of view of an outsider who happens to be very much on the inside: a clubhouse worker – not a player or manager – who does everything from washing uniforms to cooking the team’s post-game dinner.
The lead character, Riley Holiday, is a hippie in jock culture. But like the players he looks out for, he is also trying to make it to the Big Leagues – albeit in music. To get there, he occasionally must cross the line of ethics to make an extra buck during one hazy summer of hustling, partying and shooting for his dream.
Palka plans to write the final novel in his “Life of Riley” trilogy in the future.
He has already written, starred in and produced one movie: “VW Bus Tour: Americana Bohemia” (2012). Like his first novel, it also was accompanied by an album of original music, recorded in Youngstown.
“VW Bus Tour” chronicles Palka’s cross-country gypsy-style ramblings in his signature vehicle.
Why does Palka keep coming back to Youngstown to create and record? It seems to suit him to a T.
“The artistic community here is edgy and funky,” he said over a cup of coffee at a downtown Youngstown eatery. “Plus, I love the pizza here.”
On deck for Palka is another film that he wrote, directed and stars in.
Shot in Youngstown in 2013 by local filmmaker Chris Rutushin, it’s titled “Saturday Scout Club” and is set for a 2017 release.
As always, the story is based on Palka’s life.
“A Hollywood actress meets a rambling musician at a show in Youngstown, and a bond is formed,” he said, describing the plot. “But they only have 24 hours.”
The city of Youngstown itself plays a key role in the film, which includes a lot of scenes shot at Cedars West End rock ’n’ roll club on the West Side. Several local musicians play “versions of themselves” in the film, said Palka.