Friday, October 24, 2014

Being a Free Spirit Has its Limits

Last Tuesday was the last big event from the Summer of Bluz; I went to see another concert.  It was a show downtown at the Baltimore Soundstage, and I went by myself.

I thought I’d be able to scare up some happy hour company, but no one could come out and play, so I just went to a bar near the venue, and waited it out.  I should have taken it as an omen… it’s a special kind of torture when there are six TV screens within view at a bar, and all of them have racing on.

I’ve been a big fan of the artist I was going to see, since the early 90s.  I guess you could call him a folk singer… he sings funny songs, story songs, and occasional balls-out rave-ups (although not this night, because he didn’t bring a backing band).

But I don’t want to say his name.  Although I’m about to complain about the show, I love the guy’s work and I’d hate to discourage you from listening to it, should by chance you accidentally hear a song of his.  Granted, this is highly unlikely.  I’ve never once heard one of his songs on the radio.  In fact, I don’t know a single person who knows of this guy, (excluding those I’ve played him for).  To be honest, I didn’t think there would be more than a couple dozen people in the venue for the show.

When I walked up to the place, about 10 minutes after the doors opened, there was a line curling around the sidewalk out front.  I’d say there were about 50 people there, which was double the amount I thought would show up, in total.  So I guess he was known a little better than I gave him credit for.

As I settled into line, it began to rain… Omen #2.  Not too hard, fortunately, but enough to be concerned about, especially with the lightning flashing in the distance.  They had someone out in line, checking IDs and issuing wrist bands to anyone that planned to drink.  I got my wrist band, but I don’t know if I should be amused or insulted that she never asked for my ID first.  I prefer to think she considered me too honest to pull an under-age drinking scam.

 For me, I was seated in a perfect spot; back in a corner, off to the side, on a 2-step raised area.

I liked that they had seats and tables there.  That helped seal the deal when I was deciding on whether I should go.  I’m too old to be standing all night for a show.

As the place filled up, I struck up a conversation with the (marginally) older dude beside me.  He said he tried to see this guy the last time he was in town, but he never showed up for the show.  He said it was like being at an airport; “They would make announcements. ‘He’ll be here in a half hour.  He’ll be here in 15 minutes.  He’ll be out any minute now.’  Then they said he wasn’t coming.

He guessed they thought they could sober him up enough to play, but were unsuccessful and had to pull the plug.  He said he swore he’d never come to another one of his shows, but here he was, hoping for the best.

I’m thinking, “Great, Omen #3.”

I was also concerned with the timing.  I came in on the subway that morning, and I knew it stopped running around midnight.  I asked the waitress if she knew how long the artists were expected to play. 

She told me she’d seen the set schedule and it should be over around 11:30.  I was happy because that would give me plenty of time to get to the subway, which was only a couple minutes away.  It was still going to be a late night though.

When the feature act came on, I got chills.  There he was, singing and playing just like I’d heard on his live albums.  It was very cool.

Early into his set, people started calling out what they wanted to hear.  He handled it well, I thought.  There was a table up front who apparently had a lot of ideas.  He told them, “I appreciate the energy, but I got this.”   The line killed.

And he’s right… let the man play for a while before calling out requests.

This picture is not intentionally altered, for identity concealment.  For the life of me, I could not get a picture in focus, with this lighting, (which rarely changed, all night).

He played another couple of songs, but next thing you know, some ushers showed up at that table up front, and began escorting the whole party out… about 10 people in all.  As that began, the artist stood up and said, “I can’t be a part of this, so I’m taking a short break,” and walked off the stage.

I looked at the guy beside me and he was like, “See?

But he came back out about five minutes later, and resumed the show.  He explained that they were trying to talk to him while he was playing, and it was throwing him off.  He said, “I can sit here and talk to you, but then I wouldn’t be able to play some of the songs you all came to hear me play.”

He said, “I know you all paid money to hear me play and you think that makes me a professional.   But let me tell you, I am not a professional in any way.”

It kind of fit his whole rap though.  This was a guy who was basically a derelict, who had lived on people’s couches while he basically Forest Gumped his way around the country.  He said, “Do you know what the difference is between a ‘freeloader’ and a ‘free spirit?  Three chords.”

The crowd wasn’t quite sure what to do now.  No one said a word, and applauded every song.  For the next hour or so, he had us in the palm of his hand, telling stories and singing his songs. 

But eventually people started calling out for songs again.  At one point, he was playing the intro to on tune, someone called out a song, and he instantly switched to the intro of that song.  It was pretty slick.

Then, after another few songs, he said, “This just isn’t working out very well, so I’ll just leave you with a couple more.”  I checked my watch, and it was only about 10:25.  I was like, “WTF?

He played two more songs and then ended with “This Land is Your Land,” and walked off-stage.  I kept wondering if this was just another “break,” so I (and the rest of the crowd) just sat there nervously, wondering what to do.  Then a couple of roadies came out and began taking stuff off the stage and shortly after, the house lights went up.

The final timing worked out to be an hour and a half worth of concert.  Now, I’ll give you that I’ve seen many, many concerts that lasted an hour and a half, and was perfectly satisfied with them. 

But in this case, A) I knew for a fact that he was supposed to play for another hour, and B) I’d see his set lists on Facebook, from his prior couple shows.  They ran about 30-33 songs.  He played 20 songs on this night, and that’s counting three of his extended stories as songs.  I figure I saw about two-thirds of his show, and missed a number of my favorites that he was likely to play.  Am I wrong to be disappointed?

All summer, I’ve been looking forward to seeing this show and then writing it up, to both share the experience and tell you all about this relatively unknown artist.  As you can clearly see, this was not the post I anticipated writing.

The sad thing is that now I feel like enjoying his music has been ruined for me.  I mean, over the next couple days, every time one of his songs came up on my MP-3 player, I’d skip it, like, “Too soon!

I know there are “free spirits” out there, but I don’t care about the guy’s disclaimer about not being “professional.”  If a room full of people pays their hard-earned money to come see you perform, you get your ass out there and put on a show.  Period.  Surely he’s dealt with harsher crowds before… hell, this one loved him and was dying to show it.

So I tried to look on the bright side.  I did get to enjoy a night out, see a show, and get home in close proximity to my usual bedtime.  But I fear I’m always going to look at it as an opportunity missed.

No one has ever accused me of being a starry-eyed optimist.

Director’s DVD Commentary: If for some reason you care to know who this artist is, there is enough information in the first paragraph for you to Google it. 

Monday, October 20, 2014

Cappy's List

After seeing the second Captain America movie this summer, I got the DVD a couple weeks ago and finally re-watched it this weekend.

There’s a scene in the first five minutes, when Cappy strikes up a conversation with a fellow jogger, who tells him he should listen to Marvin Gaye’s “Trouble Man,” if he wants to hear the last 70 years in one album.  Cappy whips out a pad and paper, and says, “I’ll put it on the list.”

The camera shows the notebook, which contains a list of the things Captain America (aka Steve Rogers) wants to check out, as he endeavors to catch up on all the things he missed since the 1940s.  (On account of being frozen in the ocean depths at the end of the first Captain America, and he comes out of “hibernation” at the beginning of “The Avengers.”) 

I’m not sure the line drawn through Star Wars means he saw the movies, or scratched the idea.

It’s an interesting cross section of American life from the 40s to the present day.  Obviously it’s weighted more heavily toward the 90s and 2000s than 50s or 60s.  I have to give them credit though; they probably had hundreds of idea listed, and had to whittle them down to 10 things. 

If I had been designing the list, I would have tried to guide Cappy through the decades more gradually.  Remember, the guy still has the sensibilities of a guy from the 40s.

The music alone is a problem.  I mean, taking a guy from the big bands directly to Nirvana?  You can’t do that; his brain would explode.  You have to make the trip much slower.  I’d give a list with several artists he’d need to explore.

Chuck Berry and Little Richard
The Beatles
The Rolling Stones
And THEN, AC/DC.  

Maybe I’d throw in The Scorpions, if only to see the look on his face watching Germans singing about world peace and harmony (when they’re not singing about getting laid.)  I would include disco, just to show how sometimes, things can go horribly wrong.  And the less he knows about music since 2005, the better.

Thai food?  Meh.  I’d go with Chinese, just for the shock factor. 

They included the moon landing on his list; I’d also add the space shuttle program, international space station, and of course, the Challenger and Columbia tragedies. 

Captain America was the product of the US war effort, so he probably ought to know about some more of our military endeavors, like Korea, Viet Nam, the Gulf Wars and Afghanistan.  He lived through the time of Pearl Harbor, but not the end of the war, so he’d need to know about Hiroshima, Nagasaki and 9/11 as well.

No argument with putting “Rocky” on the list.  Not sure what he’d think about Rambo though.  But picking out some key movies might be a problem.  For example, I’d have to disqualify Star Wars as being too ordinary.  I mean, in “The Avengers,” he saw giant nasty aliens flying lizard-esque spacecraft through New York City and knocking down buildings.  That makes the Star Wars Cantina scene look like a grade school play.

In fact I’d have to eliminate all my favorite sci-fi monster movies, because in his post-Avengers world, dangerous, ugly alien monsters aren’t fiction at all.

I would add “All the President’s Men,” to the list, just to show that being American doesn’t automatically make you noble and forthright.  And I would add “The Usual Suspects,” to demonstrate that things aren’t always as they seem.  I’d put “Blazing Saddles” on the list, because I know he’s seen a western or two, but not like this.  “Die Hard” would make the list, to show that you don’t have to be the biggest or strongest to save the day, just have guts and brains.

I was going to add “The Long Kiss Goodnight,” to show how women can kick ass too, but then I remember he works with Natasha Romanof, aka The Black Widow… so he already knows.

I’m sure “I Love Lucy” would be something he’d appreciate as is, but that’s just barely out of his time.  I’d be inclined to start with “MASH,” which would also help flesh out the Korean War.  I might have included “Seinfeld,” but I’m not sure he’d be up for watching that much “nothing.”  Guy’s got some heavy chores to do.  But “The West Wing” would be worth his while, even if a functioning government is just a pipe dream in this day and age.

Also, I’d provide the good Captain with DVDs of the six Pittsburgh Steeler Super Bowl victories.  Pro football was not much more than an oddity in the 40s, so what better way to explore the growth of football than to become familiar with its greatest dynasty?  Here we go!

Couple of other things he ought to know about…

Civil Rights Act of 1964
Title IX and the failure to pass the ERA
The Pill
DOMA and its eventual reversal
“Thank You for Smoking” and the story of the tobacco lobby

What would you add to the list?  If you met someone from the 1940s, what would you tell him to look up?

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Digesting the Last Post

This post is basically going to be a long “Director’s DVD Commentary” on the last one.  If you haven’t read that one yet, you probably should, or this one won’t make much sense.

After writing last month about getting the runs at a ballgame, I swear I had no intention of doing it again.  (That goes for both getting screaming meamies, and writing about the experience.)  Even as I was suffering through this episode, I was thinking, “Nah, I can’t blog this… I’ve already done itWhat else can I do with this particular scenario?” 

I mean, I talk a lot of “shit” here, no doubt, but I really try not to talk about shit.

Of course my hesitation may have also had to do with the high likelihood of my making an unholy mess in the subway, my car, or in some poor homeowner’s bushes.  Some things are better left undocumented.

So there I was, long after going to bed, desperately seeking the solace of blessed sleep.  I was laying there, reflecting on my experience with The Little Man reaching his breaking point amid all the other passengers on the subway train, when a line of Star Trek dialogue occurred to me. 

Scotty: Cap’n, we’re about to lose containment! We must evacuate or I canna be responsible for the safety of the crew!

As I began to form additional exchanges in my head, I realized I could tell the story, and make a parallel construction in the form of Kirk-to-Scotty dialogue, that even non-Star Trek fans would recognize.  That would sufficiently differentiate this shitty post from the last one.  Plus, I thought it would be funny.  And that’s when I decided to write the post.  (No, I didn't get up and write it then, I banged it out the next day.)

Isn’t inspiration fun?

My original visual concept, for when I finally made it to a bathroom, was to use that famous image from the movie Independence Day, when the spaceship hovering over the White House sends down an enormous stream of plasma and explodes the building.

If my Photoshop skills were better, I’d replace the White House with a shattered toilet.

But later, I decided to stay with the Star Trek theme and use shots of the actual Enterprise warp core, in increasingly ominous states of emergency.  But the Independence Day image still cracks me up.

Oh, and FYI, the Sitcom Sisters take much better selfies that the one I posted.  Because the first couple of shots I ever ran of Sitcom Kelly had her obscured by various inanimate objects, it became a “thing.”  So I Wilsoned* the shot of the three of us, just to stick to the theme.

*If you’ve never seen the old sitcom “Home Improvement,” the lead character had a neighbor, “Wilson,” whose face you never saw throughout the entire run of the show.  He’d always either be on the other side of a high fence, or behind some other object.  Hence my use of the term, “Wilsoned.”

So why did this happen?

That’s what I’ve been wondering. There are a number of possible suspects.  Because I never ate anything all day before the game, it had to have been something from that afternoon.

Jalapeños: I had them before the first episode, at a midtown bar.  The second episode, I had, like, 5 slices on my nachos at the ballpark.  I’ve had them at the ballpark before, a number of times this summer and last, without an issue.  Also, I had them on an order of nachos the previous weekend, at my Sunday sports bar.  No issue.  So maybe it was the jalapeños, but it’s not consistent.

Hot dogs:  Yes, I had a crab and mac & cheese hot dog before the first episode.  And I had a lot of hot dogs at the all-you-can-eat snack bar at the ballpark.  All dogs were fresh and delicious.  And I’d have to think that the sanitary conditions at the ballpark (and bar) are better than those at the various street vendors, whose dogs, brats and burgers I’ve been eating for 10 summers or so, without a problem. 

Beer: I had a large (32-oz) draft at the pre-game bar, one can at the game, and that was it.  I didn’t drink for the rest of the game.  That’s a far less quantity of beer than is usual for me before and during a ballgame.  Maybe there was something in the tap lines at the bar, but I doubt it.  This was a reputable place, 6 blocks from the ballpark.  It’s wasn’t an “anything goes” kind of place.

So what’s left?  What I believe may be the culprit…

Condiments: I only used 3 condiments, but 2 of them were out in the open.

I take mustard and relish on my dogs. The mustard came from the mustard pump machine, so I figure that was unlikely to be contaminated.  But the relish?  OK, same pump thing, but there was a tray underneath the spout that had a huge pile of it, with a spoon.  On two of my dogs, I spooned up some of that relish.  (It doesn’t come out evenly from the pump.)  That’s one possibility.

The other is the salsa I put on my nachos.  Again, it was in a big public bowl, on the nacho counter.  OK, for that matter, so was the hot cheese.  Every time I’ve gotten nachos, I’ve had the same stuff on them, including the times when Sitcom Kelly snaked us some nachos from that very stand. 

Maybe someone sneezed on it or something. 

Oh no.  Does ebola give you the shits?

Monday, October 13, 2014

Red Alert

As I told you in the last post, I had a ticket to see the Orioles play Game 2 of the American League Championship Series on Saturday.  Sitcom Kelly and her Sitcom Sister were also going, although we weren’t sitting together. 

I ended up in the left field club level, close to where I frequently sat all season.  I say “close to” because after I bought the ticket, I realized that I was in the All-You-Can-Eat section.  For an extra $15, you get unlimited hot dogs, nachos, popcorn, peanuts, ice cream and soda.

I’d considered sitting there in the past, but the numbers didn’t work for me.  I could spend $10 on a foot-long brat and a cheeseburger outside the stadium, and be just as full.  But since this was essentially a throw-in on a $300 ticket, I didn’t fuss about it.  The game was at 4:00 and I planned accordingly, by not eating breakfast or lunch.

Sitcom Kelly and I avoided the mobs at our regular bar outside the ballpark, and found one a few blocks away instead.  About an hour before game time, we moseyed down to meet up with Sitcom Sister.

After a beer in the concourse, we went our separate ways.  As soon as I got up to my Junk Food Heaven section, I immediately trucked four hot dogs.  Say what you will about the food outside, (which I love), you can’t beat hot dogs at the ballpark.

Having dispatched those with great gusto, I got a tray of nachos with hot cheese, salsa and a few jalapeños, and made my way to my seat.  It was sweet… middle of the section, 4 rows back.  Round about the 5th inning, I went back for 2 more dogs and a small cup of ice cream.  Just getting my money’s worth, that’s all.

The game?  Well, the game was long.  Four and a half hours long.  The O’s fought valiantly to claw back from a three-run deficit, but couldn’t match the Royals speed, defense and seeing-eye singles.  By the bottom of the 9th, with the Orioles down by 2 runs, I was praying they would either just lose, or hit a 3-run homer.  The last thing I wanted was extra innings.

Why?  Well, do you remember the last time I was at a game with Sitcom Kelly?  Remember the “digestive” problem I had?  I had a sneaking suspicion that I might be in for more of the same.  I sensed some preliminary rumblings.

When the game was over, I met up with the Sitcom Sisters and we headed out.  After bidding adieu to her sister, Kelly and I made tracks for the subway.  Luckily for us, a train rolled in right as we got down to the platform.   A long wait would not have been good.

I was beginning to have sharp pains in the lower abdominal area; the telltale sign that things were about to get serious.  The pains would come in a wave and then subside for a minute or two.  At each wave, I began having conversations with what I call, “The Little Man Holding the Trap Door.”  I figured he needed a pep talk, because it was clear he was struggling against a vastly superior force.

Soon, my internal conversation with The Little Man morphed into something more like Kirk and Scotty in an episode of Star Trek.

Kirk: Status report, Mr. Scott?
Scotty: Cap’n we’re looking at a warp core breach of massive proportions.  Unless we can stabilize, I canna be responsible for the safety of the crew.

I was beginning to legitimately panic.  Here I was on a crowded subway car, with no recourse or escape. Because there are no public restrooms on the subway line, I had no choice but to try to ride it out.  But these waves were killing me.  Each one made me twitch and squirm, either grasping the top of my thigh, or putting a death-grip on the hand rail. 

The funny thing was, Sitcom Kelly hadn’t noticed any of this.  But I’m sure the other people in the car did.  There was one lady across from me that must have thought I was either going through heroin withdrawal, or doing a mean Joe Cocker imitation.

Kirk: Scotty, we need a stronger barrier.  Reroute all available power to the containment field.
Scotty: Aye Cap’n.
Kirk: Scotty, now I’ve got sweat rolling in my eyes.  The heat on deck is rising.
Scotty: I had to divert power from environmental systems Cap’n.  I couldn’t risk pulling it from propulsion or navigation.

The train couldn’t seem to move fast enough.  I was counting down the stops like mile markers on a cross country journey.  I was thankful I had a seat.  The cushion provided some support for The Little Man at the Trap Door.  But then I realized, “What happens when I have to stand up?

I took a couple of half-hearted attempts at rising, but I instantly felt The Little Man’s knees buckle.  I then had to confront the fact that I might not make it through this episode unscathed.  It was a shame too… I was wearing my favorite jeans.  But if what I feared might happen actually came to pass; I’d have no choice but to burn them.

Scotty: Cap’n, the containment field is failing.  I recommend evacuating all crew to the shuttlecraft.
Kirk: We’re in the middle of nowhere, Scotty!  We have to make it to Home Base, or else we’ll be consumed in a massive Sonic Hydro Ionized Tachyon storm.
Scotty: We can try, Cap’n but I canna guarantee that this vessel isn’t blown apart from the pressure.

Finally, we pulled into the station.  I scrambled up, as best I could, and began shuffling towards the exit doors.  My inclination was to fly down the escalator stairs and into the parking lot, but I was afraid of parting my legs too far.  So I’d take a step, then wait, take another, then wait.  I made it down the escalator and staggered through the subway lobby and out toward the parking lot.  At that moment, the Mother of all Waves cascaded through my body and I lurched to a halt, grabbing onto a hand rail.  I think this was the first time Sitcom Kelly noticed that there was anything awry.

Remember what happened to me the last game we went to?  Well it’s happening again.”

Meanwhile, I had to stand stone still and squeeze my glutes together with all my might.  The Little Man was on his last legs.

Scotty: MAYDAY!  MAYDAY!  Cap’n, we have an imminent breach.  We must eject the warp core right now.
Kirk: Negative, Mr. Scott.  We’ve got Home Base on scope.  We’ll be there in a few minutes.
Scotty: Aye Cap’n.  You better put it at Warp Nine, or the Enterprise is going to need 6 months’ worth of detailing.
Kirk: Red Alert!  [WERP…WERP…WERP…] 
Kirk: If we lose containment on the warp core, we’ll need a massive cleanup operation.  Mr. Spock, set internal phasers to “Purell.”

I fought off the wave and slowly shuffled forward.  It was like March of the Penguins, only without the formal-wear.   Or dignity. 

About 15 feet from my car, another wave hit.  They were beginning to come faster, and with more intensity.  Again, I had to squeeze my ass shut and stand still, like I was inventing a new exercise: the vertical plank.

Scotty: I canna hold it any more, Cap’n.  Ya canna deny the law of gravity.  Whatever is up muss come down.  The warp core, she gonna blow any second now.
Kirk: Just another minute more, Scotty.  We’ve got to get to Home Base.  The lives and lunches of everyone onboard depends on it.

I made it to the car.  How I managed to actually crawl inside of it is still a mystery.  As I steered out of the parking lot, another wave hit me.  It was then I knew I would never make it home.  And if I were to lose containment here, it wouldn’t just be my jeans; I’d have to burn my car as well.  I decided I’d have to attempt a Plan B… one I truly hoped to avoid. 

There was a gas station about a half-mile from the subway.  I didn’t know if they had a public restroom or not, but I had to roll the dice.  Otherwise, I’d have to spend the rest of the weekend car shopping.

Kirk: Scotty, we have report of a Safe Haven just a few light years ahead.  Just give me two more minutes!
Scotty: Make it fast, Cap’n.  Containment field integrity is at 5% and falling.

I peeled into the gas station lot, not even pulling into a marked space, and staggered out of the car.  Before I could take a step, another wave rolled in and I had to lock it up again.  If only I could walk on my hands, I could get gravity working for me, rather than against me.

I walked into the mini-store and took a fast look around.  There were no other doors except than one that said, “Employees Only.”

I eyed the Indian guy behind the glass, nose deep in his phone.

Excuse me, can I use your restroom?  It’s an emergency!

He looked, for a moment as if to consider my request.  But at that point, it was less a request than a warning.  Something was about to give.  It could either be in his restroom, or in the middle of aisle 3.  But before I could lay his options, he must have seen the desperation in my eyes, and motioned me to the Employees Only door.

I shuffle-dashed in as quickly as I could.  It was clean enough; the ballpark men’s room stalls I used weeks earlier were much worse.

Kirk: Scotty, we made it. We are currently docking at a Safe Haven on Planet Habib.  Begin warp core offloading process.
Scotty: Aye Cap’n.  All right laddies, release the hounds!  AAAAIIIIIIIEEEEEEEE…

No, I didn’t lay down any paper, nor did I even check the condition of the seat.  I barely got both cheeks down, as it was, before the Little Man finally stepped aside and was relieved of duty.  And speaking of sci-fi propulsion systems, I was lucky I wasn’t propelled into the atmosphere, myself.

Five or so minutes later, when I could focus again, I reassessed my situation.

Kirk: Status report, Mr. Scott?
Scotty: Cap’n, we have warp core ejection completed; cleanup operations in progress.  Activating the internal Purell phasers.
Kirk: Damage report?
Scotty: Hull integrity at 100%. But the boys down here are beat.  Can I offer them an R&R trip to Fubar-3?
Kirk: Negative, Mr. Scott.  We still have to make it to Home Base.  But once we do, I’ll send the whole engineering crew on a fact-finding trip to Planet Cleavage.

Cleanup operations… that would be a bit troublesome.  In my haste to relieve The Little Man, I neglected to check for TP; not that it would have made a difference, mind you.  But now, I had to consider what I was going to do. 

I checked the little cabinet they had in there, but there was nothing helpful.  The wastebasket by the sink had a lot of paper in it though.  And in fact, it also had at least 3 empty toilet paper tubes.  That not only told me they don’t empty the trash very often, but that they use TP to dry their hands.  That would have to do.  What could I say, it was either 2nd hand paper, or have to burn a perfectly good hankie.

Anyway, I made it home just in time to check in for Round Two, and eventually Rounds 3-6.  It was an ongoing process.  I almost had to pass up going to the sports bar to watch the Steelers on Sunday, but the old warp core seemed to have calmed down.  Although all things considered, the way the Steelers played yesterday, watching the game from a “docking station” might have been more appropriate.

So, with another horrific intestinal experience in the bank, I can only conclude one thing: Never go to an Orioles game with Sitcom Kelly again.

Oh, and always be good to The Little Man.  You never know when you’re going to need him.

Kirk out.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Odd Bits - The Birthday Edition

Yeah, I celebrated my natal anniversary last Wednesday. 

You know, once you pass a certain age, your birthday entails a significantly lesser level of pageantry than it used to.

Happy Birthday to me!

Some of you may have seen this shot on Facebook or Twitter.  But before you feel sorry for me, you have to know that I set it all up.  Not that I didn’t have Beefaroni for my birthday dinner… I totally did… but I had a big lunch earlier in the day, and didn’t need a big dinner.  Plus, Chef B is still one of my guilty pleasures.

The genesis of this idea started with my parents.  We were talking on the phone the week before and they asked if I had any big plans for my birthday.  I said “No, just my traditional birthday dinner at Denny’s.

Remember when Denny’s used to give you a free dinner on your birthday?  Back in my old retail life, while I was living far from my family and friends, I used to partake in the Birthday Special.  (And yes, it was just as sad and pitiful as it sounds.)  So it became a running joke about my birthdays, and my annual trip to Denny’s.

When we were on the phone, I reminded them that they don’t offer that deal any longer, I said, “Maybe I should just stick a candle in a can of Chef Boyardee, instead.”  Then the thought of posting such a picture on Facebook occurred to me, and I couldn’t stop laughing.  I knew I’d have to do it.

I even had to go out and pick up some birthday candles, just for the shot.  Granted, I was already out getting an eye exam that evening, with the intent of finally getting a decent pair of glasses.  (I wear contacts 100% of the time.  My only glasses are from 1994, and the prescription is woefully out of date.)

See, that’s what my birthday celebrations have come to now.  I went for an eye.  Although if it weren’t for my Beef-a-Roni candle idea, I could have eaten at Wendy’s.  The things I won’t do to try to get a laugh…

Earlier that morning, I took my annual look at my birthday horoscope.  It was unenlightening, as usual.

I don’t see anything useful there.  I was more concerned with the list of birthdays.

The bottom three, I’ve never freakin’ heard of.  Zach Galifianakis is a recent addition, in the last couple years.  Steven Collins? Isn’t he the guy in the news for molesting children?  I think our communal horoscope failed to catch that little turn of events.

The others, I’ve seen every year since I can remember.  But I notice that one was missing… Jimmy Carter also has my birthday.  I know he’s old news and everything, but is an ex-President really less relevant than those 3 young twits at the bottom of the list?

“I got you a sandwich… bacon, lettuce and tomato, with malaise.” (Source)

Anyway, no complaints about a boring birthday; the weekend totally made up for it.  I already told you all about going to the Orioles ALDS game on Friday, and the sports bar on Sunday.  But on Saturday, I went with my brother and his family to the Ohio State / Maryland game, in College Park MD.

This was our first time visiting the Maryland’s Byrd Stadium.  I’ve been here 17 years, and my brother, significantly longer, but neither of us had ever been.

Long story short, it was OK.  I mean, the game was great… the Buckeyes pretty much mopped up the place with the Terps, as they were expected to.  And it was the first sell-out there in ages. 

But there didn’t seem to be a lot of enthusiasm in the stands.  I mean, even early on, when the Buckeyes had the ball, you could hear a pin drop.  That’s when the home crowd was supposed to be roaring.  I was sitting smack in the middle of the Maryland side of the field, and there was nothing going on.  I guess it will take a little while, to warm up to football in a big-time conference.

Anyway, here are a few pics I took, from my very nice vantage point at the 32 yard line…

The Terrapins coming onto the field.  This was one of their only highlights of their day, this and their kicker making a 57-yard field goal.

This was my vantage point.  Pretty sweet, huh?

It was cool because I had a lot of opportunities to zoom in and get action shots.

The Buckeye didn’t bring their world renowned marching band, so the Maryland Band had to hold down the musical fort.  They were OK, but not nearly as large or snappy as the Best Damned Band in the Land.

One thing they did have going for them were capes!

Or rather, I should say “half-capes.”  It looks like they all have a 1970s drapery slung over their backs. 

You just don’t see many people wearing capes any more.  Thor and Batman, that’s about it.  I think we should bring back the cape into general usage. 

It wasn’t too much longer after this point that we figured the Buckeyes’ lead was pretty safe.  That ended up being the final score.

So, that was Birthday Week.  Started slow, but ended up in grand fashion.  With capes.

Next adventure on deck: Bluz gets a ticket to Game 2 of the American League Championship Series for this Saturday!  Not sure if it will be blog-worthy; we’ll just have to see how it goes.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Diamond Jubilee

If you remember back to my post on going to the Orioles game where they clinched a playoff berth, you can see why I would want to go to one of those playoff games.  When the O’s were in the playoffs in 2012, I went to two of those games.  This time around, tickets would be harder to come by.

Again, they had a lottery for the opportunity to buy tickets from the team, at face value.  Again, I won.  I one of 60,000 or so, among the 120,000 who signed up.  I read those stats last Saturday morning, the day the sale was to start.

At the stroke of 10:00, I was into the ticket site and clicked the section where I wanted to sit, for Game 2.  Said it was sold out.  I immediately clicked on 4 tickets (the most you could order), under “Best Available.”  The search came back with Standing Room Only tickets.

Oh. Hell. No.  This homeboy isn’t standing for three hours, fighting for space in a sea of drunked up Balmer fans.  Instead, I tried going for prospective Game 5 seats, and was able to land 4 in right field foul area.

Those seats would be fine, except that I didn’t expect there to be a Game 5.  My prediction was Detroit in 4.  I had been consulting with the pre-eminent Tigers fan, the CFO, in the hopes I could score the tickets and he could come out for the game.  This was still in play, but I’d have to go through the “secondary market.”  (Like StubHub.)

Of course, we’d have to pay roughly double, so I’m sure the CFO realized he could just as easily buy the tickets himself and see a game in Detroit, thus saving himself either a plane ride or 8-hour drive.  So he was out.

Tuesday night, I consulted my iPad app, SeatGeek, which compiles resold tickets from a number of different websites.  I considered pulling the trigger, but then thought about my weekend’s “itinerary.”  On Saturday, I had to be at my brother’s house early, to go to the Ohio State / Maryland football game.  If I was out late on Friday, I’d be dragging ass.  So I passed on it, and decided to hope for a Game 5.

When I woke up Wednesday morning, I heard on the radio that the Friday game would be either at 12:00 or at 3:00, depending on the outcome of the NL Wild Card Game.  (Don’t ask.) 

Whoa… that changed everything.  A day game meant I could burn one of my unplanned leave days, see the game, and still be home by dinner time. 

I went back to SeatGeek and snapped up a single seat in the back of the lower bowl, just behind 3rd base.  It was 13 rows back, but I figured it would beat sitting up in the nosebleeds.  It wasn’t a bad deal either, all totaled, $157, or about double face value.

I was happy to be guaranteed to see a game.  I didn’t feel good about the odds of Game 5 actually happening, so I didn’t want to miss out.  Detroit is a seriously good team, with a pitching staff featuring the last three Cy Young Award winners. 

The game ended up starting at noon, so I was down at the Yard by 10:15.  Even so, I couldn’t even get near the door of my favorite pre-game watering hole, The Bullpen.

Not even my VIP card was going to get me in there.

Not wanting to fight for space to stand, just to speed-drink a couple of beers, I went into the ballpark early, got a beer, and watched a little batting practice. 

You can see the time, (if you squint) up on the scoreboard at the top left, 10:44.

I stayed off to the side, because the flag court was already about 4 bodies deep at the rail, due to the SRO tickets.  I found a nice, leisurely spot and just enjoyed being out in the sun, with a cold beer, watching baseball.

Eventually I worked my way around the Yard, seeing what there was to see, and recording it all for you.

This would be the view from my prospective Game 5 seats.  Not bad at all.

TBS (who was broadcasting the game) added a new camera, displacing about 6 seats.

I love that they have all the players’ pictures on a cheat sheet.  I can hear the director shouting, “Get me the hairy guy!

At first, I thought the guy with the beard was Detroit relief pitcher/Orioles’ whipping boy Joba Chamberlain.

I mentioned it in 2012 and I’ll repeat it again: I hate that they make a field logo that says “Post Season.”  It’s so generic.  It’s like putting up Christmas decorations that just say “Holiday.”

I think the field logos should look like this:

All I can figure is that they just don’t want to repaint it for the next series.  Although really, all they’d have to do is change one letter, to “ALCS,” up until the World Series.  Moving on…

Because the Orioles always wear their black jerseys on Fridays, I was going to wear my black Adam Jones jersey.  But the game before, The Yard looked so good with most people wearing orange, I decided to buck my habit of matching what the team wears and go with my orange Nick Markakis jersey.  (Uncoincidentally, the O’s were 3-1 when I wore it to a game, AND they won big (12-3) when I wore it while watching the game on TV the day before.)

As it turned out, it really didn’t matter what I wore because no one would be able to see me.  I guess I overestimated how many rows there were under the deck.  Now I know… 13.  Because I was in row 13, the very last row.  What that meant was that I wouldn’t be able to see the scoreboard, or even a fly ball.  I’d see it go up, then watch to see where the outfielders went, then see it come down.

This was the view from my seat… kind of like watching the game with your eyes half closed.

Because we were in the last row, my seatmates figured it wouldn’t matter how long they stood up, so the guy to my right was up almost the whole game.  Yes, I could still see the game, but it cut off all my peripheral vision to the right.

Like my brother used to say, “Everywhere I go, there’s an ass in my face.”

During one of my potty breaks, (which thankfully didn’t involve full scale evacuation, like at my last game), I cruised around behind the plate, looking once again for a ballpark shot I could get blown up.  I think I found it.

We’ve got game action, a full house, and playoff decorations on the field and warehouse.

So, the Orioles went 2-0 early, on a Markakis home run, then the Tigers came right back with 6, for a 6-3 lead.  It was tense… I was fairly confident this wasn’t going to be our day, but at least it put me closer to being able to use my Game 5 tickets.

Suddenly, in the bottom of the 8th, the wheels fell off for the Tigers.  The O’s finally got rid of the Tigers’ starter, and began to lay into the not-nearly-as-good relief pitching.  Tigers’ pitcher Joba Chamberlain actually got a rousing ovation… O’s fans were happy to see him come in the game, because he had just gotten shelled the day before.

O’s put across a run, making it 6-4.  Next thing you know, the bases were loaded, with one out.

The next batter, former Tiger Delmon Young, ripped a double into left field, scoring 3 runs and putting the Orioles back in the lead.  My friend, when that happened, the Yard went stark, raving bananas.  I mean, we were loud the entire game, with lots of chanting and carrying on.  But now?  Off the charts.

This was the most excited I’d ever been at a baseball game.  Everyone was waving their orange towels (which had been given to everyone at the gate), although some clearly needed lessons.

The Orioles were up 7-6 going into the top of the 9th.  If they held them there, it was all over.  Camden Yards was absolutely shaking.  The crowd was doing the Seven Nation Army chant, (which I hate), and chanting this year’s post-season slogan, #WeWon’tStop!

The closer buzzed through the Tigers like a hot knife through butter, and the game was over.  What a celebration… I know I was engaging in multiple same-sex high-fiving encounters all over the place.  All I could think about is how I needed to come back and do it again.

Notice how the stands were still full.  I think maybe people expected the team to come back out and lap the field again, like they did after they clinched.

I actually watched Game 3 at the sports bar, after the Steelers/Jags game.  As soon as it was over, I pulled off my Steelers jersey and hat, and pulled on my lucky orange Markakis jersey, which I’d packed and hidden under the bar.  People were like, “Weren’t you just… um…”

I watched the end of the game at home though.  And because it was looking good for the O’s, I thought I’d take a picture for the CFO, of me holding the proverbial broom.  Now, I knew it would be bad karma to actually take the shot before the game was over, but I figured there was no harm in getting it set up.

So with the O’s up 2-0 in the bottom of the 9th, and their closer in the game, I got out my tripod and attached the camera.  Then I got the broom from the kitchen.  Within seconds, the Tigers hit consecutive doubles, narrowing the score to 2-1.

I immediately stowed the tripod and put the broom away… I should have realized I was basically daring the mojo gods to smite me.  Luckily, the mojo gods were appeased by my act of contrition, and rewarded me with an inning-ending double play.

So, good news: the O’s move on to the American League Championship Series.  Bad news: my Game 5 tickets are worthless.  Good news: I get my $350 back!  Bad news: just in time to spend it on a single ALCS seat.  Geez, if they go to the World Series, I might have to take out a loan.

But in the meantime, I have this:

Note: No, those aren’t boxers.  They’re Orioles jammy pants.  You know you wish you had a pair…

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Summer of Bluz - By the Numbers

Back at the beginning of the year, while I was in the midst of great personal upheaval, I decided I’d make the last few months “The Summer of Bluz.”  I vowed to do fun things, go places, see stuff, and step out of my comfort zone.

Well, with the calendar about to flip over to October (and a couple of high profile birthdays… Hi Jess!), I figure it’s a good time to tally up the activities and see if The Summer of Bluz lived up to the hype.

The summer’s travel tally was four trips: one to Toledo to see my buddies, one to Pittsburgh for a wedding, and two to Florida to see my folks.  Sounds like a lot, but it’s really not any different from most other summers.  Only wrinkle was that 2nd trip to Florida, for my mom’s 75th birthday.

So the travel aspect is kind of a fail, although I do maintain that I’ve been trying to recoup the money I spent during the Winter of my Discontent.  I wasn’t looking for any big ticket trips or hotel stays.  Maybe next year.

Well, there is definitely a trip to Pittsburgh slated for the end of next March.  Sitcom Kelly and I (and her sister) have Penguins tickets, so we’re booked for a couple of nights dahntahn.  Pittsburgh bloggers, make a note.

Just one, seeing Boston, in August. 

But I have a ticket in hand to see comic folk singer Todd Snider later this month.  More on him as the date draws near.

Saw seven movies in the theater, this summer:
Captain America-The Winter Soldier… Loved it.
Godzilla… Loved it.
X-Men-Days of Future Past… Loved it.
Edge of Tomorrow… Loved it.
Monty Python Live (Mostly)… Really loved it.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes… Really loved it.
Lucy… Meh.

Yes, I saw all of those movies by myself.  For “Lucy,” there was only one other guy in the theater.  When the movie was over, he left before I did, so I spent several minutes pretending I had my own personal movie theater. 

I ran around and sat in different places, just to assess the view.  Like in the last row, against the wall, and then up in the very front section.  I was pleasantly surprised to see that the seats up there recline, so you can lean back and take it all in.  I still wouldn’t sit up there by choice, but it would do in a pinch.

Sports Events
Ah, here’s where I spent all my time and money.

This summer I went to 16 Orioles games, (which is a personal record, and I’m not done yet), 2 minor league baseball games, and the Ohio State/Navy game.  So that’s 19 games, plus Fridays ALDS Orioles/Tigers game, and Saturday’s Ohio State/Maryland game to come.  I’ve also got tickets to an Orioles/Tigers Game 5, if there is one.

Since the O’s games took up most of my time this summer, let’s take a closer look at the numbers.  (Here’s where my Sports Event Tracking Sheet comes up big!)

Of the 16 games thus far…

* The Orioles have won 10 and lost 6. (I rooted against them during the two games against the Pirates, so my rooting interest was 8-8.)

* I sat in club seats 7 times, upper deck 2 times, forward in the lower bowl 5 times and under the deck in the lower bowl, twice.

* The best game jersey mojo was with my orange Nick Markakis jersey, which was 3-1.  Only jersey I wore without a win was a white Chris Davis (0-2).  I had two other jerseys at 1-1 and three at 1-0.

* I saw 8 games with Sitcom Kelly.  The O’s were 5-3 during those games, including the one that clinched the division, so the numbers say that Sitcom Kelly is not the bad omen she thinks she is.

* Six of the games were giveaway nights, which earned me three shirts, two bobble-heads, and a Wild Bill Hagy hat.

After adding these to the others in my closet, I have more orange t-shirts than any one man should ever have.

Since around February, I started collecting these, to bring in to work, where a co-worker is collecting them for charity.

Now, it’s not ALL from beer, but mostly is.  There may be a couple of sodas in there.  And I didn’t drink them all, but I drank most of them.  There may be a couple from Sitcom Kelly.

Well, I didn’t do everything this summer I imagined I might, but I did pretty well, for me.  I never really stepped out of my comfort zone, other than doing the March of Dimes Walk for Babies.  But that was a first step.  (OK, it was four miles worth of first steps.)

I didn’t meet any new ladies, other than that gap-toothed gal down at The Bullpen, and the tiny, chesty blonde in the upper deck at Camden Yards.  But I admit I’m not hunting in a target rich environment.  I took a look at an invite to a Planned Parenthood Chocolate Tasting soiree, but was put off by the $250-$1000 price of admission.  Maybe once I become independently wealthy…

I went to my local sports bar for semi-regular Friday happy hours all summer, but not much came of it, aside from a full belly and a pleasant buzz.  Clientele-wise, it seemed to be the Dance of the Dead in there, when it’s not a football Sunday.

But I’ve enjoyed my summer and you won’t hear me complaining about it.  It was cool… so very cool, in fact, I never had to turn on the A/C once this summer.  That’s another personal record.  I don’t think I’ve ever made it past the 4th of July before.

So now, let’s see how I do with the rest of the year.  I almost called it The Fall of Bluz, but it sounds like I’m the Roman Empire.  And The Autumn of Bluz sounds like I’m at death’s door.  So I don’t have any snappy titles for this next period.

Maybe The Post-Summer of Bluz?  The Pre-Christmas Bluz?  The Year End Bluz?

I don’t know, I’ll just see what happens next.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Knockoff Football Jerseys - Addendum

A closer inspection of a couple of my jerseys showed me two more thing to be aware of, as you evaluate your next jersey purchase.

First off, do you know how they have those size labels on the bottom hem of the jersey?
 Usually these are sewn on, and I thought they were on my newest jerseys as well.  But when I wore one to work on Friday (for Jersey Day), I noticed that the edge of the label was peeling up.  I could see it was ironed on.

Because I’m not really crazy about broadcasting my size as I move around town, I figured I’d just pull it off.  What was underneath cracked me up.
Nothing says “quality” like Quan Shihu.

Being even less crazy about broadcasting cheapness than I am about broadcasting size, I used my thread cutting tool to remove the “Quan Shihu” tag.  Probably means “Cheap white man.”

The other issue to look for; make sure all patches are straight.

I understand it’s easier to square up a square, but still, you can see the angle of the word “Steelers.”  It needs to be straight.  Of course, if someone is looking at me with their head tilted, (as is likely, in a sports bar), the logo will appear fine… but the numbers will be crooked.  Can’t win, I guess.

In a completely unrelated note, Happy 9th Birthday to my nephew Sammy! 
 Kid’s growing like a weed.  Pretty soon, he’s going to be big enough to give his older brother a real tussle.
No 3rd grader rocks a tank top like Sammy!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Best Beer I Ever Had

I was talking with friends about a month or two back and the subject of the “best beer we ever had” came up.

I didn’t even have to think twice about mine.  And the funny thing is; I don’t even know what kind of beer it was.  That wasn’t as important as the circumstances.

This was back when we were living in the farmland outside Toledo, Ohio.  We didn’t have a huge parcel of land… it was an acre and a third… but it would have been an awful lot to mow by hand, so we had a lawn tractor.

Coming from the suburbs, I thought that was the coolest thing ever, especially because as the oldest son, I was about to inherit primary ownership of the family grass cutting chores.  I still had to use a regular lawnmower to “trim,” because the tractor couldn’t really get into all the nooks and crannies around our several out-buildings (a garage, two sheds and our Barn).  But it was far better than doing the whole thing by hand.

Me earning my keep, the first summer we lived in Toledo.  I was about 14, wearing a shirt from my old junior high in Columbus.  (As well as hideous pants, but that’s another story.)

It was fun at first, but the novelty quickly wore off, especially during the dog days of summer.  Cutting the grass then was a long, dusty, sweaty, allergy-provoking endeavor which was most definitely not fun.  But it was my job, so I did what I had to do.

One day, when I was around 16, I was just finishing up cutting the back yard, on a hot, muggy, dusty summer afternoon.  After I finished up one last strip over by The Barn, I came cutting back across the yard to head over to do the other side of the garage, when I saw him.

It was my dad, standing out in the yard along my intended path, with his arm outstretched.  As I drew closer, I could see he had a beer in his hand, holding it out the way the people hold out cups of water to people running a long-distance race.

Now, I’d grown up on sips of everything, from beer to whiskey, to gin and tonics, to martinis, or a small glass of wine with dinner on holidays and birthdays.  But I’d never been given a beer of my own.  Until now.

I pulled up beside Dad, accepted the beer and took a long pull on it.  It was absolutely perfect, and exactly what I needed right then.  I think I asked to confirm that I could have the whole thing. 

Like I said, I don’t know what kind it was; probably something standard… a Bud or a Miller Lite.  Maybe it was a Hamms, which Dad used to bring back from his business trips to Chicago.  But it didn’t matter because it was cold, it was beer, and my dad gave it to me.  It was one of those father-son moments you don’t forget.

I continued on to finish up the side-yard, beer in hand, feeling much more mature than my 16 years.  In fact, I felt like a million bucks.  Not only did Dad trust me with a loud, powerful spinning-bladed death machine, he trusted me to drink a beer and not do anything stupid.  I know it sounds risky in retrospect, but even then, I never copped a buzz from a single beer. 

But it set the stage for future such moments.  No, they weren’t always hand-delivered out in the yard, but I knew that when I came in from a long day’s lawn mowing, there would be a cold beer in store for me, and before long, maybe a gin and tonic instead. 

You know, this would have made a really good beer commercial.  Too bad about that pesky “drinking age” thing.  The kids of today are missing out…