Thursday, August 28, 2014

Boston Comes to Baltimore

And I’m not talking about the stinkin’ Red Sox, I’m talking about:

Boston, a major touchstone of my teen years, came to the Pier Six Pavilion Tuesday night.  Earlier this spring, I mentioned that I scored a ticket and planned to go alone.  I also mentioned I passed up a much closer seat because I was worried about getting my ears blasted out.

Tuesday was actually the start of what will be a busy week for me.  Wednesday I had an Orioles game, (and possibly one tomorrow), Saturday is the Ohio State/Navy game, Sunday I plan to go to the State Fair and make my annual bets on the ponies, and then top it off Monday afternoon with another Orioles game.  (It’s a bobblehead give-away day.)

So with Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s events taking place after work, within walking distance of the office, I had to be super-organized to make sure I brought the right stuff with me to work each day, (clothing, camera, tickets, etc.) knowing I’d have to leave my travel bag at the office both nights.  Extensive lists were involved.

One of the most important things on the list was for me to be sure to bring my ear plugs.  Even in my prime concert-going years, I always brought a pair of those spongy industrial ear plugs, because some of those bands were seriously LOUD.  With the onset of tinnitus I already have, I didn’t want to tempt fate to make it any worse.

As soon as I got home on Monday, I put the ear plugs and ticket in my travel bag.  What I didn’t foresee was that I’d also need another list to remind me what to bring from the office to the show, because as I realized about an hour before show time, I left the fucking earplugs in my bag.

It sucks getting old.  But believe me, I was in good company.  The crowd for Boston was predominantly in their 50s and 60s.  I’ve never seen so many old people at a rock concert.  (Yes, I know I’m 52, but you wouldn’t know it from my behavior.)

Boston’s first album came out in 1976, when I was 15.  So I suppose anyone who was in their early 20s at that time, is solidly in the crowd range I described.  All I can say is that when we all start hitting the retirement homes, they’re going to have to completely change their entertainment programs.  Lawrence Welk, Glenn Miller, Sing Along with Mitch: OUT.  Boston, ZZ Top, BTO, Bob Seger: IN.

The venue was real nice; right on the water.  In fact a number of boats had anchored there, in order to hear a free concert.  (All they could do was listen, because the end of the venue is raised, there is no direct sight line from the harbor.)

Taken from directly behind seating area.

I made the mistake of checking out the tour merchandise.  How depressing.  Flippin’ $40 for a flippin’ t-shirt???  That’s almost the price of the ticket.  Back when I was going to concerts regularly, t-shirts were $18-$20, and I thought THAT was a ripoff!  Granted, that was about the price of the ticket then, too.

When I found my seat, I suddenly realized why there was a single seat available there.  Can you say limited view?  I was behind a freakin’ pole.

OK, it was “partially” limited view.  The pole cut off the far left side of the stage, where I could see a mic stand (if I leaned around the pole).  What blocked off the rest of the stage were the four numbskulls who insisted on standing up during the opening act.  It’s one thing when everyone in the place is standing, but not when you’re the only ones.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again.  Whether it’s a ballgame, a concert, or whatever… if you’re the only one standing up, you’re an asshole.  In fact, I probably ought to add that to the Book of Bluz.  

But because I didn’t really care for the opening band, I just sat there.  I wasn’t missing anything.  Not to mention, it’s my policy not to mess with someone who’s not only wearing a Harley t-shirt, but also sporting a tattoo on his skull

But soon, some other people got an usher to come over and reason with the idiots.  That didn’t work, so then a much larger usher came over, and he and the diminutive but muscle-bound idiot proceeded to argue it out.  The idiot’s primary argument (and it’s such a common and self-centered point) was that he paid his money, so he can stand if he wants to.

When I heard that gem come out, I hollered, “But so did we!”  Obviously, everyone standing behind these dipshits paid their money too, and didn’t appreciate the unbroken view of their asses.

Anyway, a moment later, an usher woman, who appeared to be the supervisor, came over to chase the large usher away, and continue to try to persuade the standees to become sittees.  She went away, and the standers continued to stand and sway, but only until that song ended.  THEN, they finally sat down.

At that point, Harley and his buddy disappeared.  Later when different people sat down, I realized they had just been squatting there.  Then after the opening band was done, the other two left as well.  Must have been big fans.  It was a local band, so they were probably friends.

I don’t know if it was because of Boston, or the venue, but everything else seemed to go like clockwork.  The openers started exactly at 7:30, were done at 8:15, then Boston came on precisely at 9:00.  (And played for exactly an hour and 45 minutes.)

Tom Scholtz, founder, writer, guitarist and keyboardist for Boston.

When they came out of the gate with “Rock and Roll Band” and “Smokin’,” from their debut album, all minor inconveniences about cement poles and cement heads were gone.  I was especially glad that I got to hear Tom Sholtz  play that big “church organ” right away, during the solo on “Smokin’.”  They sounded brilliant and played with an effortlessness that makes you feel like you could go up there and join in yourself, skills or no skills.

Tom Scholtz playing the big Phantom of the Opera Church Organ.

For the opening act, I had McGuyvered some ear plugs out of pieces of a bar napkin, but took them out almost immediately.  Boston's sound was very well balanced; loud, without being deafening.

I had been wondering how they would sound, what with their original singer being dead and all.  Not many singers have the range of Brad Delp.  But this dude Tuesday night was pretty close.  And to simulate the incredible high-octave harmonies for which Boston is famous, they had a female guitar player and vocalist; a tall, lanky blond who if she had to be obscured by a pole, I would have preferred it to have been mine.

There was intermittent standing and sitting, and I was OK with that.  Usually if the song was slow, or new, people sat.  When the classics came out, we stood.  Then of course, there are the other times, when someone just doesn’t get the message.

As usual, right smack between me and the middle of the stage.

So, the band played absolutely every song I went in there wanting to hear, and I’m pretty sure everyone else agreed with me.  You should have seen the people bolting early, at the onset of the encore.  It’s looked like there was 4 minutes left at a Penguins game.  You know old people… always wanting to beat the traffic. 

Even though I didn’t need to worry about traffic, (because I rode the subway) I got up halfway through the encore song, because A) I didn’t know it, B) given how timing of the whole night, I was sure it was going to be the only encore, and C) I wanted to get out of the seating area, so I didn’t get stuck in a slow-moving mob trying to squeeze through the same aisle.

As I was going through the early evening, suffering one annoyance after another, I began to wonder whether I made the proper call… to come to the show on my own.  I wondered if I was getting too old for this shit anymore.  Then the next thing I knew, I was healed by the redemptive power of rock and roll.  Couple of power chords and some snappy hooks, and all was right in my world.

Maybe those talentless, auto-tuned YouTube hacks will take notice and start producing music that will still be relevant in 30 years.  Not holding my breath though…

Monday, August 25, 2014

License to Kill Time

I had to go to the DMV on Saturday, to renew my driver’s license.  The last time I did so, I blogged about it.  I didn’t have to go to the same place this time; I found one about 10 minutes from my place.  I think it’s new.

What was also new was the wait time.  Their website said Saturdays were busy, but still, it was better than taking time off work to handle such a mundane chore.  Anyway, I rolled in just before 10:00 AM.  I brought the paper with me, figuring I could stay occupied with the crossword puzzle for a while.

Cut to 40 minutes later, having solved the crossword, the Jumble and Sudoku, and immediately find myself bored senseless.  I had considered bringing my iPad with me, and I really wish I would have, because as it turned out, they offered free wi-fi.

I was starting to get antsy, because I hadn’t heard anyone with my range of numbers get called.  Eventually, I reseated myself on the other end of the room, and found that I still had a ways to go.

Finally, after almost two hours, they called me up to the counter.

For the most part, getting a license renewed in Maryland is uneventful.  In fact, I could have done it by mail, or online, but if you’re over 40, you have to take a vision test.  In the renewal notification, they provide a form to take for your eye doctor to complete, and then you send it in to the DMV.  I figured, one hassle is as good as another, so I’d just go straight in and get my license directly.

And I came thiiiiiiiis close to bombing the freakin’ vision test.

It’s not that my corrected vision is bad; it’s that as you may recall, my contact lenses are proscribed so my left eye is for close-up reading, and my right is for distance.  So when I looked into the little ViewMaster thingy, there were three rectangular boxes, each with letters in them.  Both eyes could see the box in the middle, and the boxes on either side were only visible to the eye on that side.  I could see two of the boxes perfectly, but the one on the left, I had no freakin’ idea. 

It was just like this, only with different letters and was less hand-drawn.

In a panic, I looked up and pleaded my case with the clerk, but to no avail.  She just gave me a look like, “You better guess well, homeboy, or you’re going to be walking for a while.”

If only I’d have been sitting closer to the counters, maybe I could have used my Dad’s old trick of listening to the people in front of you taking the test, and just repeating it back.

I gave it another shot, and if I kind of squinted and concentrated, I could just about make something out, so I took a stab at all three boxes.

When I looked up, the clerk was surprised.  She said, “I think you might have had it.  Can you do it again?

I was like, “How about we just stick with the part where I got it right, so I can get the hell out of here?

Well, to myself, I said that.

I looked in again, squinted, maneuvered and blinked my contact into the best view I could manage, and reeled off the letters a second time.

She said, “You only missed two of them; one in the right box, and one in the left.” 

I said, “Oh, that one on the right that must have been an O instead of the D.  Those are tricky.

I passed, but who knew they graded vision tests on a curve?

There was also the issue of getting a new picture taken.  I never know how to pose for license shots.  I didn’t want it to look like a mug shot, so I settled on an expression of slight bemusement. 

Unfortunately, it occurred to me after the fact that I should get my license picture taken looking like I was drunk.  Then if I ever get picked up for DWI, I can claim that’s how I always look.

I’ll have to remember that idea in six years, when I have to get my next renewal.  Actually, I’m going to have to remember a lot, especially about the vision test.

If I had known about how they do the test this time, I would have worn one of my old left-eye contacts that were made for distance.  But in six years, it’s unlikely I’ll still have any of the old prescription lenses lying around.  Of course by then, I’ll probably have a decent set of glasses, and I could use those.

Either way, I’ll have to remember to take steps to remedy the situation.  But what are the odds of me remembering?  Well, without writing it down, zero.  So I figured I’d write myself a note.  But where to put it?  Post-It Note?  Scrap paper taped to the wall, or on a bulletin board?  No way can I trust it to stay put for six years.

And that’s how I came to write a self-reminder note on a searchable electronic medium, to be shared by the world.  Now don’t let me forget…

Friday, August 22, 2014

I Call'em Like I Hear'em

This summer we’ve had a steady stream of food trucks set up for lunch every day outside our office building.  I think they’re a fun alternative to the usual grab & go cafeteria food, without having to go anywhere, so I’ve been using them frequently.  There have been seafood trucks, BBQ trucks, Greek trucks, cupcake trucks, even a mac & cheese truck. 

Don’t get me started on the Brazilian street food truck.  When I first heard of it, I was like, “What’s ‘Brazilian street food,” fried monkey?” 

Nevertheless, I tried it last Friday, and got a beef “pastel.”  It was like a cross between a pastry and an eggroll, but filled with ground beef and spices.  It was really good.

We were wondering if it was going to come back today and a co-worker asked me, “Are you going to try the “yucca" pastel this time?”

I was like, “Hell no!  The name says it all right there.  “Yucca.”  Or "Yeeaacha."  What else do they sell, “Fried Bleah?”  “Toasted Ralph?”  “Cream of Hurl?  Yeah, I’ll take a big order of Smoked Heinous.

I think I missed my calling.  I really ought to be in Marketing.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Whatever Happened to the Show Me State?

I honestly wasn’t going to write about this because I didn’t have much to say, but at this point, it’s become such a CF I no longer have a choice.

Ferguson.  Everyone’s talking about it, yet nobody knows jack-shit.  Call it a microcosm of modern news media.  Cops shoot people every day.  So why did this one blow up into a national headline?  I’ll tell you why: witnesses and social media.

I read about police shootings all the time, either in the local paper when is happens around here, or online when it happens in other communities.  But in most cases, there are no eyewitnesses except maybe other cops.

In this case, from my understanding, there is the guy who was with the kid who got shot, Michael Brown, and someone else who saw the altercation from her car.  Next thing you know, the local news is talking to them about how Brown had his hands up, surrendering, and the story ends up online, and gets passed around the neighborhood and around the country in moments.

Social media makes it easy to mobilize large numbers of people in a short amount of time, so now you have a protest.  And once there’s a protest, people take advantage of the distractions and go on a rampage.  And when all that is going on, the news media swarm to the area to get pictures, because that film is going to make a huge impact.

Once the cameras are rolling, out come the fame whores who feel the need to become involved with every incident that comes to the country’s attention.  Then everybody else goes on TV to try to spin the story to their advantage.  Poor downtrodden victims versus jackbooted redneck cops.  Officers of the Law versus rampaging thugs and looters.  And so it goes.

And the sad thing is that no one knows what really happened.  For all the coverage and attention, I don’t know what happened. You don’t know what happened.  And neither do any of these “expert” commentators and opinionators.

There are three people who know what happened: the cop who shot the kid, and the two witnesses.  Do cops ever lie to cover their asses?  Absolutely.  Do witnesses ever lie to cover for somebody else?  Absolutely.  Which leaves us in exactly the same place.  We don’t know what happened.

So how do you get justice when no one knows what happened?  That’s what everyone is talking about, right?  Justice?

Sure, everyone wants justice.  But what no one wants is to wait for it.  We’re an immediate gratification country.  We want the case wrapped up and the killer brought to justice in an hour, just like we see on Law and Order.

Maybe the critics were right when they said we shouldn’t spend so much time in front of the TV.

As you know, I’m usually a reliable advocate for the left.  But with this story, I’m finding bullshit everywhere. 

For example, I saw a tweet making an issue out of an (undocumented) factoid that blacks were arrested in Ferguson at a much higher rate than whites.  On the surface, that gives one pause, but when you consider that the population of Ferguson is overwhelmingly black, what else would you expect?  For the arrest rates to come out even, the police would have to actively seek out and arrest white people with little regard to what they were doing.  That’s just basic math. But it sure looks good on Twitter…

When the police released the pictures and video of the kid “strong-arm robbing” a convenience store, the townsfolk decried it as character assassination.  Sure, it might not have been necessary to do, but how can it be character assassination to show what someone really did?  No one was saying it wasn’t him.  They’re upset because it makes him look like a punk.

Granted, the sentence for stealing a box of cigars should not be the death penalty.  And the fact that the officer fired six shots in the space of a second or two tells you that he was trained to shoot to kill first, and ask questions later.  But like I said, we don’t know what the kid was doing.

I think the root of the problem is that you have a town that’s predominantly black, and a police force that’s predominantly white.  When you have those two factions clash, there’s bound to be sparks.  Add the tinder of an unarmed kid, social and mass media, and our country’s “fix it now” attitude, and you have the bonfire we’re roasting our weenies on right now.

Until that imbalance is fixed, in Ferguson and in hundreds of other towns across the country, we’re going to see this again and again.  Maybe one day we’ll learn.

In the meantime, (and it pains me no end to have to say this), we should listen to Chris Christie.  He said "None of us quite know yet exactly what happened in Ferguson."  I've been urging people to not pre-judge anything here."

And with that, Christie should shut his cake-hole and go back to mismanaging his own state.  It’s not his business what happens in Missouri.  I’m sure he wouldn’t appreciate the governor of Missouri commenting on the state of New Jersey.

That’s the same reason I think Al Sharpton was wrong, when he criticized Christie for partying while this crisis is playing out.  This isn’t Christie’s dance, and he has no role in it.  So who gives a hoot what he’s doing?  That’s a matter for the citizens of New Jersey.

Reverend Al should turn is attention to the idiots on Fox "News," whose company line seems to be, “He had it comingLaw and Order. And it’s Obama’s fault.”

I’d like to see the reaction from Fox News if the crowd of protesters were armed as well as, say, those attending an average Georgia Tea Party rally.  Conservatives are all for people carrying guns, as long as those people are white people.  Arm a crowd of black people and they’ll be calling for the National Guard.

Oh wait, that already happened.

So how about we all climb down off our soap boxes, turn off the TV lights, and wait for the wheels of justice to turn.  There will be an investigation, an indictment and a trial.  Let’s see what happens before we erupt in righteous anger.

And in the meantime, maybe try to fix a few long-term problems, so we don’t keep repeating these short term ones.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Good Housekeeping

My object, this weekend, was to continue to improve and refine my living space, which is an artsy fartsy way of saying, I needed to hang some more stuff on an open wall and clean up.

A couple weeks ago, I ordered a couple of 20 x 24 canvases of my photographs.  The first one arrived all wrong… they sent me an 8 x 10.  It reminded me of that scene in “This is Spinal Tap,” when the band ordered some 16-foot Stonehenge rocks, but when they wrote the order, the guy wrote 16” instead of 16’.  So when they were on stage, instead of a giant, impressive rock formation, these tiny little foam rocks were lowered down, dancing on the end of the wire.

The second canvas was fine, so I had to call in to the help desk and get them to fix it.  “No,” I explained, “I did not order the 8x 10; because I went back and forth a number of times, it did revert to the 8 x 10 default, but I noticed it and backed up to revise, before finalizing the order.”

I don’t know that they believed me, (it was true), but they made good and sent me the proper sized canvas.  The whole thing took an extra week though, so I had the one canvas sitting around here for a while.  I didn’t want to hang one without the other, because they were to go together.  Anyway, it worked out eventually, and I got them hung up.

Before that, though, I had errands to run and a movie to see.  (“Lucy.”  It was OK.  The trailer showed all the best parts.  Scarlett Johanssen is gorgeous though.)  On the way back, I stopped at the store, and among my quarry was a new Swiffer.

I’ll be the first to admit; I’m pretty “cleaning challenged.”  There have been some Swiffers around the place before, but I wasn’t the one using them.  But it looked like a good alternative to a broom, or grungy old mop.  And if the cleaning can be made simple, I’m much more likely to do it.

It’s not that I slop up the kitchen floor; it’s more an issue of lint from the dryer and hair.  (I shed like a Persian cat.)  Now with my nifty new system (I got both wet and dry cleaning thingys), I can safely say that I’ll clean the kitchen floor every three or four months, whether it needs it or not.

When I got home from my errands, I walked into a kitchen surprise.

Now I KNOW it wasn’t like that when I left.  Was it the work of ghosts?

No.  The apartment above me has recently been vacated.  I think it was the result of all the pounding the maintenance guys have been doing up there, installing new carpet and whatnot.

So, I called the maintenance department and reluctantly had them send someone out.  If all the wires had still been connected, I probably could have put it back together myself.  But I’m no electrician and had no intention of electrocuting myself when I could have someone else do it for free.  (Fix the light, not electrocute himself.)  I hated to call them out on a weekend, when they’re supposed to be off, but I didn’t want that thing to fall, and have them be like, “Why the hell didn’t you call us?

So, an hour and a half later, the guy shows up and starts working on the light.  I left the room to give him some space.  Then the next thing I know… SMASH!

I was like, “Um, that didn’t sound good.”

I thought, “Shit, I could have done that my own self.”

So I went into the kitchen and handed him my broom and dust pan.  You broke it, you bought it. 

I stealth-shot this while he was out in the truck.

After he cleaned up, he went out and got some more light bulbs and glass covers for them, and got everything working again.

After he left, I put some hard-soled slippers on and went to check the floor.  As I suspected, he got all the big pieces, but there were still a lot of glass slivers on the floor.  I must have been prescient when I got the urge to buy a Swiffer.  It came in right handy, with both the wet and dry attachments.

I got so worked up, I used it on the bathrooms too.  Then I got out my new Swiffer hand-duster, and dusted the whole place.  That’s my M.O.  I rarely do “cleaning things,” but once I start, I get on a roll.  So now, this ought to hold me until at least December.

Lucky for me, I can still count on my family to keep me amused in the face of tragedy.  My dad sent this out on Friday, and it still makes me laugh.  The message said, “I just found the cause of my recent bout of clumsiness.

This was the picture:

And I know that’s not an email forward, because I recognize the carpet.

Later on, Dad sent out a message to the family to celebrate the (long overdue) purchase of his first hearing aid.  To which someone else wrote:

Just watch out when your wife fires up the microwave.  When mine does it and I have my hearing aid in, I start spinning around and pee my pants.”

What would I do without family?

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Nanu Nanu

I’m sure you’ve heard by now that Robin Williams died yesterday, by an apparent suicide.   I mean, everyone’s heard, right?  It’s been all over the news, the internet, all of social media.

I found out about it last night, a friend’s Facebook popup message had the news.  It’s probably not a coincidence that today has been dark and rainy; the very essence of gloom.  It’s like Nature is acknowledging that the she’s has lost one of her brightest lights.

I’m not going to run down all the amazing things he’s done.  You know them.  The guy was brilliant on TV shows, on records, in the movies, on stage.  When he wasn’t blazing like manic fire, he was acting so deeply and touchingly, it affected your soul.

As I digested the news and read the statements of grief rolling over Twitter, it made me wonder if there is a more beloved person in America.  I was overcome with a profound sadness I haven’t felt since Princess Diana died.  I know, that’s weird when it involves someone you don’t know, and who travels in circles you’ll never see.

But I feel like I grew up with this guy.  He burst onto the scene on TV, as Mork from Ork.  Yes, I watched the show every week, and loved his madcap zany.  But this was still a traditional sitcom… it was like a cross between Happy Days and Alf, on 78-speed.  He looked like a furry elf. 

And because it was a Garry Marshall production, they had to have a catch phrase and a cloying Big Lesson at the end of every episode.  Mork’s weekly epilogue with “Orson” took care of both.

I was a junior in high school when it first came on, and sure I watched the show every week, but by then I enjoyed edgier stuff.  So when his first comedy album came out the next year, wow, it was like a comedy tornado.  The dude was just going a mile a minute with strange voices, accents, asides and tangents. 
This is the whole album.  My favorite bit comes at the end.  It’s called “Welcome to my Mind.”  It’s a peek at what goes on inside a comic’s mind, when he bombs onstage. 

I never really thought about it until now, but he had a big ripple effect on my group of friends.  We were doing a lot of improve comedy on cassette tapes that summer.  Now, I did “OK,” but Billy was a master of making shit up as we went along.  How could we not be affected by the boundless energy and wit of Robin Williams? 

We all used to imitate bits of his act.  Bill imitated Williams doing Lawrence Welk.  Rik got some rainbow suspenders, just like he wore.  (John and I got similar ones as well.)  For a while, he made me want to be “That Guy,” who could command a room and reduce it to ashes.  After the effects of Robin Williams and Steve Martin, we were all trying to be comedians, where nothing was too weird or irreverent to goof on.

It’s sad to realize that now I’m going to have to live in a world that Robin Williams won’t be in.  It reminds me of a scene from one of the Harry Potter movies, after Ron Weasley had his first encounter with a soul-sucking “Dementor.”  His line was, “I felt like I’d never be cheerful again.”

That’s kind of how I feel right now.  So I apologize for not bringing the chuckles today.  I’m just not feeling very cheerful.  And I don’t know if listening to that album again is going to make me feel better, or worse.

Rest in peace, dude.  I hope you are finding the peace that eluded you here.

Director’s DVD Commentary: I began playing that album clip as I edited and prepared my post for the online template.  Better… it’s definitely making me feel better.  I haven’t heard this stuff in 25 years, and it’s still freakin’ funny.  I was going to give you the time where the bit I mentioned begins, but you should really listen to the whole thing.  Trust me, you’ll feel better.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

A Picturesque Day at The Yard

In my previous post, I described my mini-ordeal of trying to buy an Orioles ticket from their box office.  Well, yesterday was the game for which I bought the ticket.

Because it was considered a “premium” game, (meaning it was a “premium” opportunity for price gouging), I decided to get a “cheap seat,” in the upper deck.  Not that $38 for what it usually a $20 upper deck seat is really “cheap,” mind you, but it was better than the alternative of spending $50 to sit where I usually do, in the left field club seats.

Because I’m also slowly but surely redecorating my apartment with canvas art, made from my own photos, I figured this would be a good opportunity to get a good shot of Camden Yards.

It was a 4:00 game, so that meant I needed to get down to my pre-game watering hole, The Bullpen, by 2:00.  Because I suspected it would be a crowded game, I actually got there even earlier, around 1:40.  I should have made it 1:00, because the place was packed.  Being a VIP has its advantages, but securing a seat isn’t one of them.  But I managed to weasel my way into a seat at the back of the bar. 


I didn’t find any gap-toothed honeys to talk to, but I did find myself among a group of guys about my age, who were on a multi-stadium tour.  They were also going to see games in Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Detroit and Chicago.  As a veteran of 3 of those 4 parks, I inserted myself into their conversation, hoping to leave them with the impression that not all Baltimore fans are numbskulls.

No, it was fun.  I enjoy meeting people over the shared love of sports, and we spent a good hour shooting the breeze about the relative merits of different ballparks.  After the guys wandered off to have a look around The Yard, I ended up talking to a 25-year old kid from Cleveland, who was sitting beside me.  Poor kid… only 25, and he already thinks he knows from suffering.  If he continues to follow the Browns and Indians, he has much more agony to look forward to.

I didn’t stay at The Bullpen as long as I usually do; there was a promotion going on at the ballpark.  It was Wild Bill Hagy Hat Giveaway Day.

If you don’t live in Baltimore, I’m sure you don’t know who Wild Bill Hagy is, so I’ll explain.  Wild Bill was a Super-Fan, back in the Memorial Stadium days.  He was a burly, wild-bearded cab driver from Dundalk, who would get loaded on the Budweiser he brought to the game with him, (back when you could still do that), and lead Section 34 in the “O-R-I-O-L-E-S” chant.  It was kind of like doing the YMCA, only with more leg action. 


Anyway, he was a legend around here, up to and after the day he died.  So with the Orioles celebrating their 60th anniversary this year, they decided to honor their most infamous fan, by giving away facsimile hats.  The hats were to go to the first 20,000 fans, and because I was expecting a pretty full house, I wanted to make sure I didn’t get frozen out.  All was well though… I got my hat, and it just barely fit.  (I was surprised, not many one-size-fits-all hats will fit over this giant Bluz noggin.)  They seemed to fit everyone else though…


I ended up sitting on an aisle, beside a 40-something year old blonde, with whom I conversed on and off during the game.  She was tiny; couldn’t have been more than 4’11”, and it looked like about a quarter of her body weight was accounted for in boobage.  Not that I have a problem with that… she just had to be real careful when eating peanuts.  Had to make sure she didn’t drop any shells down there. 

The game was good enough… the Orioles won big, 10-3, mostly off of three home runs.  But my primary objective was to get a decent ballpark shot.  I took pictures at various times throughout the game, hoping that one would be acceptable.

In retrospect, I should have adjusted my picture size from 4:3 ration to 16:9, (or in other words, wider.)  Anyway, I’ll show you the best three, ask you what you think.

Shot 1

Took this one from my seat.  Not crazy about the 2 heads at the lower left foreground.  I could probably photoshop them out, but when the shot is blown up for framing, I’m afraid the evidence will be visible.  I like the action though, with the pitcher in motion.  I also like the shadow on the field, which looks to me like “old time baseball.”

Shot 2

Also from my seat, and again with the big head at the lower left.  And if I crop the bottom, I’d also crop out the batter at home plate.  Don’t like that you can’t see any of the left field seats.  I do like that you can see the ball on the way to the plate.  And the shadows. 

Shot 3

For this one, I got up and moved a couple sections down.  No heads, good shadows, pitcher in windup, can see left field stands, but not right.  Definitely needed a wider shot.  But, I think this is the best of the lot.

So what do you think?  Which of these three would make the best frame-able shot?  Or should I try again with a wider angle?

Director's DVD Commentary: Gah! I totally forgot to mention that right next door to Camden Yards, this weekend, the Ota-kon convention is going on, celebrating Japanese pop culture and animation.  Going to and from The Yard was like passing through Freak Central. With all the people dressed in costume, I saw more girls wearing heavy makeup and bunny ears than you'd find at Hef's Grotto.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Four Random Bits and a Story

Random Thoughts that aren’t enough to carry a post:

·       These politicians who are crying about “The War on White People” are laughable.  I read there’s a guy who claims Obama is trying to divide the nation by race.  Or in other words, doing exactly what the Republicans have been doing ever since the Civil Rights Act of 1965.  (Which was signed 49 years ago, yesterday.)  You want to mobilize white people?  Threaten them with black people.

·       Arguing that now small donations in large numbers are corrupting politics more than massive corporate donations.  I disagree.  At least with the small donations, they represent the will of large numbers of people, as opposed to the bottom line of single, profit-driven corporations.  For better or worse, that’s the way it should be.  If we want a less divisive government, we should be less divisive people.

This is me, not holding my breath.

·       Big headline on my Yahoo home page about how the Yankees were “blacklisted,” regarding being a trade partner for top stars.  Sounds juicy, no?

The article was actually about both the Red Sox and Rays had permission to trade their pitching aces to any team but the Yankees.  You know, it doesn’t constitute a “blacklist,” to not want to trade your pitching ace to a cash-laden, perpetually contending division rival, who if they retain the player, they’ll have to face him 4-5 times a year.  Complete “click-bait” article.  I hate’em.

·       English singer Marianne Faithfull recently gave an interview, in which she says her French boyfriend killed Jim Morrison, 43 years ago, by giving him some heroin that was too strong for him.

Is this really a surprise to anyone?  I mean, no one thought he died from high cholesterol, did they?

By the way, Marianne Faithfull used to be Mick Jagger’s girlfriend, back in the day.  Most people would know her now by the raspy vocal interludes she did on the Metallica song, “The Memory Remains.”  (Her voice is so roached out by decades of drug abuse and cigs, the first time I heard the song I thought it was one of the demon voices from “The Exorcist.”)

And the only reason I even mention this story is so I can reference Dennis Leary’s rant on The Doors…

“We need a two and a half-hour movie about The Doors?  Folks no we don’t, I can sum it up for you in five seconds:
I’m drunk, I’m nobody.
I’m drunk, I’m famous.
I’m drunk, I’m fuckin’ dead.  There’s your whole movie OK?.
Big fat dead guy in a bathtub; there’s your title for ya...”

(Oh sorry… I should have said “Spoiler Alert.”)

A Story
So, at lunchtime yesterday, I walked down to Camden Yards to pick up a ticket to Saturday’s Orioles game against St. Louis.  I had already looked up 3 prospective seats online… I figured I’d try the upper deck behind home plate, in the cheap seats.  (I hope to take a nice, full-park photo I can blow up and frame.) 

I need a shot like this one from 4 years ago, only with a good camera, to produce a larger file.

The reason I didn’t BUY the tickets online is that if you go to the ticket window, you don’t have to pay the obscene $7 per ticket processing/Ticketmaster fees.  I checked the weather before I left, and there was a strong possibility of some rain coming in.  I thought I could make it there and back before it hit, if I was quick about it.  It’s about a 15 minute walk from my office.

There were people at each ticket window but one, so I walked right up and ordered my seat.  My first choice was available.  But when she said, “$20 please,” it triggered my brain.  The website said it would be $26.  I figured I’d check my ticket when she gave it back to me.  I should have said something right away.

When I looked, the ticket was for Friday’s game.  But by then, another guy was up at the window, so I waited close by.  Soon, she asked if something was the matter.  I said she gave me the wrong day.  She said “OK, just let me just take care of this guy.”  Which she did.

Which took 8-10 freaking minutes! 
Do you have this section? 
No. 
Do you have that section? 
No, the whole lower bowl inside the infield is sold out. 
How about if we break up the tickets? 
No, it’s all sold out there, unless you want to pay $150. 
No, I don’t want to pay that.

On and on it went.  Meanwhile, other windows are opening up, but I figure I should deal with the person who screwed up my order. (No, I absolutely didn’t say Friday.  I said, “Sund… I mean Saturday.”)  Meanwhile, the skies are getting darker and darker, in the direction in which I have to go.

Eventually, while this schmo is still pissing around with his seating, the next window over opened up, so I figured that was safe.

And it was no problem, except my seat wasn’t available for Saturday.  Before I could go to my next choice, she suggested another aisle seat, one section over.  I said that was OK, and she ran my card for an additional $6.  But then I got a brain tickle.

I asked, “That’s not a limited view seat, is it?”  I’d found one around there earlier, when I was scoping seats.  I had no idea there was an obstructed view anywhere in the upper deck.  I wonder what the obstruction is.

She said, “Um, yes it is.  I don’t know why that didn’t come up on the screen.”

Right… it “didn’t come up,” but you can see it now.  Lady, you just tried to unload a crappy seat on me.

So now I’ve spent 15 minutes at the windows, while it’s already starting to drizzle, and still don’t have my seat.  They had my 2nd choice though, one section closer but of course, that’s another $12, so she had to run my card a 3rd time.  Still, at least I got out of $7 in processing fees.

But I wanted to tell her, “If I get rained on, it’s your fault.”

I didn’t say that, because she probably would have taken me seriously and I would have gotten blackballed.  Meanwhile, they just turned ME into the schmo taking all day at the ticket window.

Anyway, it only sprinkled on my walk back, so I had time to scope out a new food truck before getting back to the office.  Of course, I had to wait for 10-15 minutes there, too.

It’s no wonder I never want to leave the building.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Odd Bits - The Satanic Edition

It certainly didn’t take long for the ripples from the Hobby Lobby decision to come to light.  Last week, a group of Satanists from New York announced their intention to use the ruling as the justification for court-mandated protection of their own beliefs. 

The funny thing is, what they want has nothing to do with Satanism.  They’re looking to provide women with a way to opt out of the often-times biased abortion pamphlets various state legislatures require doctors to supply to women, or have them limited to apolitical information based solely on fact.

They’re also fighting for other related issues, like mandatory waiting periods.  You can click the link above for more details.

But geez, where have we gone as a society where the Satanists have to be the voice of reason?  Where are the Pastafarians when you need them?

But this shows the inevitable problem with the Hobby Lobby ruling.  What happens when it’s not a mainstream Christian group filing for religious protection?   There’s nothing in the decision that limits protection to the primary religions.  Are they now going to go back to court to argue that only their religion warrants federal protection?  That’s not going to fly.

Of course, I didn’t think “Corporations as People with Religious Protection” would fly either.  We’ll see what happens.

To the Moon, Alice!
You’re probably surprise that I haven’t mentioned the Ray Rice thing yet.  I mean, the guy knocks out his fiancĂ© in a casino elevator, with a leaked video tape showing him dragging her off!  Huge PR disaster for the NFL, and an equally huge headache for the future Mrs. Rice.  And I didn’t say anything.

Last week, the NFL Commish Roger Goodell poked the bee’s nest when he suspended Rice for a mere 2 games.  Pot offenders, Adderall users, and people that had NFL Draft violations have all gotten more games suspended.  I still didn’t say anything.

But after watching Rice’s (2nd) press conference, which was supposed to be his big “Apology Tour” performance, I have to write.

How many times do we have to watch athletes, politicians, and other Privileged People give the “I made a mistake/Nobody’s perfect” speech?  It’s especially irritating when the transgression is something this serious. 

Yes, nobody’s perfect, but you know what?  There are millions and millions of imperfect people out there who have managed not to knock a woman the fuck out.   That’s what he did.  He Knocked. Her. The Fuck. Out.  He hit her in the face so hard, she went unconscious.

Oopsie.”

That’s not a “mistake,” that’s a “felony.”  I can say I made a mistake if I leave a plate in the bedroom, or forget to put the milk back in the fridge.  Because I’m not perfect, I may neglect to take the trash out, or roll my windows up before a rain storm.  But I never accidentally punched a woman in the face.  And that’s a good thing, because I’m not an NFL running back, so I would probably get in trouble.  Like, jail trouble.

And now with the league basically saying that taking a non-performance-enhancing drug is less serious than knocking a woman TFO (I’m just gonna abbreviate it now), if I were running the big breast cancer organization, I’d be putting in a call to the Commish right about now.  I’d be telling him to stuff his pink shoes and pink towels and pink hats straight up his big pink ass, until he comes up with a punishment that fits the crime.

Unfortunately there’s no way that’s going to happen.  No large charity is going to risk having the money spigot from a huge benefactor turned off.

As usual, from the Ratbird fans, there seems to be a great whitewashing of Rice’s misdeed going on. Yes, the paper quotes a few people who are getting rid of their Ray Rice jerseys.  But you should have seen the cheers he got when he walked onto the Rats’ practice field.

This season, I dare any Ratbird fan to start talking smack about any other player’s off-field foibles.  I shouldn’t have to wait very long; they’ve been making excuses for their guys for years, while sharpening the knives for others.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Seventy-Five

My apologies for the “radio silence” since last week; there were underhanded doings afoot.

My mom turned 75 this week, so earlier this spring, Dad cooked up a plot for all of her kids to show up down in Florida for a surprise party.  I went down with my brother and his family, and my sister and her husband came in from Ohio.  It was all very hush-hush, and of course, there were almost a few leaks.  Bluz Sister has a real problem keeping something quiet, especially from our mom.

So we all came into town on Friday and assembled at my folks’ favorite restaurant at the appointed time.  Then… Surprise!

The moment she noticed her offspring loitering out in the back room.  She was probably afraid we wanted to move back in with them.

Yes, she was quite surprised.  Luckily, she didn’t faint (or pee).  You have to be careful when you ambush a 75-year old lady.

While we enjoyed a fabulous dinner, their neighbors began filling up their house, so when we all showed up afterwards, it was on to Surprise Part Two.  Much exaltation and drink-pouring ensued.

Of course, we had to “outfit” the birthday girl.  Dad had this one in mind for months.

The Game Jersey Mojo Master approves.

Our stay was from Friday through Tuesday, so we still had lots of weekend left to play.  My brother-in-law made sure we had plenty of snacks.

This is a sight that I never, EVER saw in our house.  We had to snack on pencil shavings and dryer lint.

The big chore of the weekend was to help Dad.  See, he had his “panel of experts” in town, so he figured it was the perfect time to replace his antiquated TV.  He got it quite some time ago, when flat-panel sets were new, and just before the tech took a huge leap forward.

It was a monster.  It was supposed to be Hi-def, but it was nowhere near what modern TVs can do.

So, we lit off for Best Buy and came away with a fresh new HDTV and sound bar.

Funny how a thin little sound bar has to come in a huge box.

We all* flew into action to get it set up. (*Mostly my brother and brother-in-law.)

The brothers set up while Dad wonders how soon it will be until he can watch Law and Order.

By the time it was all done, and we had done some significant picture rearranging, it looked like this.

It all turned out beautifully.  Totally made me jealous too.  I need to upgrade my gear now too.  (Probably not this year though.)

We ate out a great deal… obviously we didn’t want Mom to do a lot of cooking.  But geez, that’s all we did this weekend… eat drink and shoot the shit.

As we were sitting around on Saturday, I realized it was the perfect opportunity to introduce my nephews to the “Farting Contest,” the 40s-era “sporting event” I wrote about in 2012.  I called it up on my iPad and let it rip.

There some things that are universal constants.  One is that it never rains when you go to the trouble of bringing an umbrella.  The other is that young boys find farts hilarious.  It was heart-warming to me that I could entertain the boys so heartily.  Not sure their mother agrees though.

On Monday, Mom’s actual birthday, we did a cookout.  My BIL grilled up a whole mess of pork ribs, to which Mom added chicken, corn, and salad, which obviously doesn’t count as “cooking.”  But what a feast!


Our flights out on Tuesday were swift and uneventful, just the way we like them.  I was glad that we could pull off something like this for Mom.  There just aren’t that many occasions where we all get together, outside of weddings and funerals.

I’ve said before; I am a genuine combination of both my mom and dad.  From Dad, I got a sense of practicality and a need for things to make sense.  (And many other virtues as well.)

But my creative side… writing, blogging, photography, political activism; that all comes directly from my mom.  She instilled in me a love of words and wordplay at a very young age.  Every time I sit down here to tap something out for you, it’s because of her.  (Even the fart jokes.)

So if you’ve ever enjoyed a post or two here or chuckled at a particular turn of phrase, you can thank my mom.  Or blame her, as the case may be. 

Without her influence, I’d probably be outside poking things with a stick.

Happy Birthday, Lil Mother.  Here’s to continuing the adventure.