Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Kick Prince Albert in the Can

LA Angel Albert Pujols hit his 500th home run last night and what should have been a celebratory situation ended up with some hard feelings.

The home run ball was caught by Air Force Sgt. Tom Sherrill, who turned the ball over to team officials in return for “whatever they thought was fair.”  That’s where perceptions of value apparently differ.

Milestone baseballs like this can be sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars.  The team gave the guy an Angels cap and the promise of 4 complimentary tickets to a future game.

Unless those seats are in (late owner) Gene Autry’s luxury box, in heaven, I think the guy got screwed.  It’s not like the Angels, or Pujols can’t afford it.  Pujols and two other teammates have 9-figure deals with the team, so it’s not like they couldn’t grease the good Sergeant a little better than they did.  I guess he shouldn’t have made the terms so ambiguous.

Other teams in similar circumstances have provided signed bats, jerseys, and hats, tickets, or meetings with the player involved.  Those are the kind of things that don’t really cost the team all that much, but can be highly valued by the fan.

Seeing this story makes me, a person keenly interested in sports memorabilia in general and game-used baseballs in particular, wonder what I would have done.

I suppose a lot would depend on whose milestone ball I caught… was it someone of whom I was a fan, or just another big hitter with whom I have no connection.  In other words, if the guy isn’t a Pirate, an Oriole, or a universally-loved superstar, I might not care too much.  I’d probably try to figure out what options would best work in my favor.

What I don’t think Sarge realized was that he held all the leverage.  I say; if the player or team wants the milestone ball, make me a compelling offer.  I would totally haggle with the team representative.

Let’s say I catch (on ricochet off the upper deck facing or grab from under a seat) a milestone ball hit by the Orioles’ Chris Davis or Pirates’ Andrew McCutchen.  My first ask would be an autographed game jersey and hat.  Definitely some high-quality tickets to another game.  And I would like to present the ball to the player myself.  (In other words, get to meet the guy, congratulate him, and probably get a picture.)

If the team or player balked, I’d be perfectly happy to keep the ball on my bookshelf with my other “trophies,” like the foul ball I caught at Camden Yards five years ago. 

 Then if the market was right, maybe I’d sell it for some long green.  Some players like to keep their memorabilia; others don’t care.  So I’d make either case work for me.

Now if I obtained the ball from a player from the opposing team, about whom I didn’t really care, I probably wouldn’t hold out for meeting the player.  If it was a future Hall of Famer and class guy like Derek Jeter, I’d ask, but still settle for a hat and jersey, maybe a signed bat.  And again, if I didn’t like the deal, I’d go home with the ball and explore my options.

The team would be crazy not to meet my requests.  Look how much bad press the Angels are getting over the Pujols ball right now. 

The one thing I definitely wouldn’t do is hand the ball to some kid, who would probably chuck it back onto the field.

It occurs to me that this would be an excellent opportunity to make fun of the whole process.   How asking for some non-traditional perks, with great opportunity for hijinks:
  • Be bat boy for a game.  Then show up in a cape and mask.
  • Pick the walk-up music for each batter and make it wildly inappropriate. (Salsa for the white guys, rap for the Latin guys, Pat Boone for the black guys.)  (Nah, I’m kidding.  Pat Boone for everyone.)
  • Ask for an invite to spring training, for a tryout.  Show up in football gear.
  • Be the PA announcer for one inning, and mispronounce everyone’s name.  Even names like “Adam Jones.”
  • Throw out the first pitch, and chuck it into the dugout.
  • Be one of the racing characters on the field, (if the team has those) and run straight into the outfield wall and fall flat.  Stay there until they come to drag you off.
So, all kidding aside, am I just another greedy pig?  I don’t see it that way.  No matter how much I ask in return for the ball, it’s essentially chump change to the players and the team.  Superstar doesn’t get his trophy?  I’m sure he’ll still live happily ever after with his multi-million dollar salary and lifetime of perks. 

 Actually, I’d be stone cold stupid not to sell the ball outright.  Choosing some autographed swag versus selling the ball for between one and several years’ salary?  Not exactly shrewd, is it? 

Of course, I’d just blow my earnings on game jerseys, bacon cheeseburgers and beer, anyway.

Monday, April 21, 2014

The Quiet One

Got my head banged last week, with the various reports about my favorite head-bangers, AC/DC.

On Monday, there were reports that due to the illness of an unnamed band member, AC/DC was no longer going to be recording or touring.  They reportedly had a pact that if anyone in the band leaves, they’ll fold their tent.  The information came from a member of another band, who was friends with the group.

I’ve written before about my affinity for AC/DC, so this was disconcerting news to me, for sure.  There hasn’t been a time during my years as a rock and roller, that AC/DC hasn’t been out there hammering people’s senses with deafening, hook-laden three-chord blues rock.  I immediately assumed the ailing rocker was Malcolm Young, the band leader, co-song writer and rhythm guitarist.  He’s always looked like he was mildly ill, or at least undernourished.

The next day, singer Brian Johnson made a statement saying if the band was quitting, it was news to him.  He did confirm that one of the boys was sick, but wouldn’t elaborate, saying it wasn’t his place:

One of the boys has a debilitating illness, but I don't want to say too much about it. He is very proud and private, a wonderful chap. We've been pals for 35 years and I look up to him very much.”

Then, the next day, the band put out its own statement, confirming that the ailing musician was indeed Malcolm, and that he was “taking a break from the band.”  It went on to say that the band would continue to make music, and asked that his family’s privacy be respected.

AC/DC from 2011: L-R Malcolm Young, Cliff Williams, Angus Young, Brian Johnson. (Source)

I’ve seen AC/DC in concert on 5 different occasions, one of which was their “Blow Up Your Video” tour, in which Malcolm Young’s nephew Steve filled in for him, while he went to rehab.  I never even knew the difference.  From where I was sitting, (quite a ways away), the kid was a dead ringer… skinny guy with long hair and a white t-shirt.

So I know they can still tour.  That’s not where Malcolm will be missed.  I’m wondering about the song-writing.  Malcolm has writing credits on most every AC/DC song, and as the rhythm guitar player, I’m sure he has a lot of influence.

Rhythm guitar might sound like “second fiddle,” but on the contrary, it’s what sets AC/DC apart.  Younger brother Angus gets most of the attention, because of his schoolboy suit, dizzying solos and tireless energy and showmanship, but the rhythm guitar is where the hooks live.

Think of the greatest AC/DC songs… the ones where you know from the first 2 seconds, what’s coming.  Those opening hooks that carry the primary melody?  That’s Malcolm.

Whole Lotta Rosie…  Da dada dada dat dat…

Dirty Deeds… Daaah, dat daaah… dat daaah… dat daaah…

Highway to Hell… Da da dat… da da dut… da dut dat, da dut dat, dut, da dat.

Back in Black… Dat… da dat… da dat…

Director’s DVD Commentary: I should totally go on “Hollywood Game Night.”  Of course they speak in “doots,” not “dats.”  Potato, potahto.

I’m leaving off a zillion more that probably aren’t known to the casual listener, plus, I’m running out of “dats.”  But these are instantly recognizable chunks of power chords that have been making heads bob for over 40 years.

Anyone can thrash away on a guitar.  It takes a real musician to put a hook behind the “crunch.” 

So I hope Mr. Young gets well soon.  Hard rock won’t be the same without him. 

People can go out and hear R.E.M. if they want deep lyrics, but at the end of the night, they want to go home and get f*****! That's where AC/DC comes into it”  ~Malcolm Young~

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Getting Crabby

My department at work sponsored a March of Dimes fundraiser (you remember how I’m seeking donations?) which featured various crab-related dishes for lunch.  We had crab quesadillas, crab dip and crab soups.  The soups were donated from nearby restaurants. 

One of the donors, Mick O’Shea’s requested that we bring their gallon-sized plastic container back to them.  Because Mick’s is my regular downtown happy hour spot, I volunteered to bring the container back.  I emailed my friend, Sitcom Kelly, figuring it would be a chance for a quick happy hour.  Would have been a shame to waste the trip.

She couldn’t go, though.  But this email chain rose from the ashes.

Sitcom Kelly: Did you have any crab soup?

Bluzdude: Hellz yeah!  It was delish.  Mick’s in particular was real good.

SK: Good to know.  Maybe I’ll get it sometime.

BD: You can eat crab??  (Sitcom Kelly is a vegetarian.)

SK: I “can” eat anything I want.  I’ll eat stuff made with crab meat, but not the actual crab.

BD: The longer I know you, the less sense you make.  But I guess that’s part of your charm.

By that definition, you could also eat pulled pork or chicken nuggets.

SK: Hee hee hee.

BD: Beef or chicken broth.  Hamburgers!  They’re nothing but minced beef… like what’s in crab soup.  (Just all wadded together.)

SK: It makes no sense, I know.

BD:I yam what I yam, and that’s all what I yam.”  ~Popeye… and Sitcom Kelly~

Such is the dichotomy that is Sitcom Kelly.  But I shouldn’t be surprised.  This is the same girl that orders a cheese pizza, and picks off most of the cheese.  I guess Popeye is a vegetarian too, and he does all right. 


Anyway, I couldn’t scare up anyone else to go have a drink, so I just went by myself and figured I’d grab a seat at the bar and see if there was anyone to talk to.  I ended up sitting beside The Catman.  I know this because the bartender and all the wait staff called him Catman, or just “Cat.”  Also, he was wearing a ballcap that said, “CATMAN.”

Just goes to show, you never know who you’re going to meet when you go sit at a bar.

Not that this has anything to do with anything, but when I got home, I found a UPS delivery slip on my door.  It’s funny.  Last night, they left a $200 ottoman at my front door.  Earlier this week, they left a $250, 32” flat screen TV at my door.  And now, they won’t leave a $10 surge protector?

Nothing makes sense any more.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Cup Mojo and Other Miscellanea

Well, another NHL regular season has been put to rest, with the Stanley Cup playoffs starting tomorrow.  As you may know, to me, the regular season is nothing but an opportunity for me to gain data on which Penguins game jerseys to wear for the playoffs.

For each game (most of the time) I select a game jersey and track the results.  Over 82 games, it comes to a pretty good bit of data.  And each year, I run down the results for you here, because it is just that fascinating.  (Snork!)  Hey, if I’m going to put this much effort into tracking, or anything, I expect to get a blog post out of it.

I didn’t obtain any new hockey jerseys this year, (most of my jersey acquisition went into baseball jerseys), so you’ll see the same options I’ve been rolling out.

This year’s clear winner was the black Brooks Orpik #44, which I wore for most home games.

18 wins 6 losses, and a .750 win percentage.

Next best was the black Evgeni Malkin #71. 

7-3, .700

I didn’t wear it as much because A) the Orpik jersey was hot and B) Geno was hurt a lot.  I tend not to wear the jersey of a player who’s out of the lineup.  Most of the wins here came from when Orpik was hurt.

Next was my go-to jersey for away games, the white Sidney Crosby #87.

11-8, .578

The white Sid was streaky, but still piled up a lot of losses.  When I didn’t go with this one, I went with my white James Neal #18.

3-4, .428

Because neither of those two white jerseys was very reliable, I went with a number of alternatives for away games, usually in powder blue.  The blue #87 from the first Winter Classic (vs Buffalo) went 1-1.  I had better luck with my blue “Pensblog” jersey, which went 3-0.  Other times, I wore a white Mario #66, with the 80s-90s Corporate Pigeon logo, which went 2-0.

All of my other “home” jerseys went 1-1: Snoop Dogg-era #66 with Pittsburgh down the front, early 2000s-era #66 with Vegas Gold trim, and early-90s-era #66 in black and yellow.

There were occasions where I didn’t wear any jersey at all, usually because I was otherwise occupied, often with a certain person who was moving into and then out of my apartment.  When I wore no jersey, the Pens went 3-6, .333.  This clearly proves that the Pens have a better shot at winning when I’m working the jersey mojo. 

So with the playoffs looming, it looks like I’ll be working the black 44 and white 87 most often, and bringing in the occasional Mario jersey off the bench, when an extra bump is needed.

***

The apartment is coming along nicely; I’ve been busy assembling new parts and pieces to classy-up the old man-cave.  I keep telling myself I have all kinds of time to work with, but the other part of me keeps whining, “But I want is all done NOW…”  I swear, I’m keeping Amazon in business singlehandedly.

***

And I know I said I wouldn’t mention it again, but there is still time to help some people out by donating to March of Dimes.  You can read about the lengths I’ve come to throw active support behind this organization, and find a link to donate, in this post here.  The link for donations will be open until 5/1.

 ***

Lastly, let me just remind you that you can still vote on whether I should shave my head.  The poll is open until Thursday at 6:00 PM, and can be found on the right hand margin, just under my Twitter information and recent tweets.

I’m not saying the results are legally binding; I’m just seeking outside opinion.  It may not be as important as Game Jersey Mojo, but you know how I am about gathering data…

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Bald Truth

I’ve been chewing on a dilemma for a while now, so I was thinking maybe I’d ask for your opinion.

A number of people over the years have suggested to me that I should shave my head.

For most of my life, I’ve dismissed the idea immediately.  I grew up in an era where the longer your hair was, the cooler you were.  I always wanted long hair, which during my junior high and high school years, created ongoing conflict between my dad and me.

He got the last laugh though, as genetics proved to be the ultimate arbiter, from which I had little recourse.

I’ve never really liked the look of a white guy with a shaved head.  Without the right facial hair, it just looks like a thumb with a face on it.  I also think I resist because it IS becoming a more frequent look.  I resisted shaving my beard into a goatee for the same reason… because everyone was doing it.

Of course, I did eventually cave on the goatee, and now here I am considering this too.

Aesthetics aside, I have a number of practical concerns.

  • You know I rarely go anywhere without a ball cap on.  Hair provides a handy sweat buffer.  If I had no hair, the whole hat would be more likely to get ruined by sweat and salt stains.  I like my hats to look crisp and clean.  And there would likely be a hat-ring left on my skull every time I took it off.  Also, anything I’d touch my head against would end up with a greasy coconut mark on it. 
  • I worry about missing spots shaving it.  It’s not like I can see back there.  Nor would I notice all the little cuts and nicks I’d inevitably leave.  Hell, I could have blood smeared all over the back of my head, and I’d never know it.  (At least until the police start questioning me about my whereabouts…) 
  • If five o’clock shadow looks bad on my face, it has to look worse on my head.  My bare-headed buddies, Rik and John, both have light hair.  If they shadow up, it’s much harder to notice.  With my dark hair, you’d easily see the line where shaving stopped and nature took over.


  • What the hell do I use to wash it, soap or shampoo?  Wouldn’t soap dry out the scalp and produce dandruff?  Ew.  Maybe the “one quarter cleansing cream” the Dove soap I use would suffice. 
But it’s not like there aren’t any benefits.

·       No more buying shampoo or haircuts.

·       No more bed-head.  (Of course, there will be more surface area for pillow marks.)

·       Less hair on the floor to sweep up.  (I say “less” because the idea of shaving anything else is a non-starter.  I refuse to walk around looking like a boy band member gone to seed.)

·       The gray hair disappears.

OK, so there are some partial benefits.  So let’s say I’m going to do this… I’m not one to go plunging in.  I’d probably do it in stages.

For example, when I get a haircut, I usually have them use a “3-guard” on the clippers.  Maybe I’ll go for a 2-guard next time.  The last time I had them use a 2-guard, Pinky thought it was too short.  So then, the time after that, (but before it gets long again, do a 1-guard, which won’t leave much more than fuzz.  That would leave me with a pretty good idea of what I’d look like if it were all gone.

I know… it’s so much fuss about a small strip of hair around the back of my head.  I should just get over it and pull the trigger.  It’s not like it won’t grow back.  And this is the season to do it… if I wait much longer, I’ll start to get tan on my face and head.  And then if I shave the rest, it won’t match.  My head would look like butterscotch on a vanilla cone.

I’d also have to decide what to do about facial hair.  I could shave the chin and go with a big handlebar ‘stache, like my buddies do.  The plus side is that my chin is where most of the gray hairs reside.  The down side is that when we get together, it will look like we’re in some kind of club. 

 Or I could grow out a full beard and go full Russian.  Or I could just leave it as is.  I wouldn’t consider shaving all that off too.  I think facial hair is needed to break up the monotony of my face.  I can’t do anything too outlandish though, because I still work in a fairly conservative industry.

I’m not the one who has to look at me.  Believe me; I spend a miniscule time in front of a mirror.  Factor out attending to my contact lenses and shaving, and it’s pretty much zero.  My point is; it’s the rest of the world that has to look at me.   So what does the rest of the world, as represented by you, think I should do?

I’ve always wanted to try the “survey” gadget on Blogger, so this appears to be my chance.  Please click a response on the survey in the right-side margin, and feel free to add any additional explanation in Comments.  My head is in your hands…

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Odd Bits - The Cold Cuts Edition

I know I covered this back in 2011, but here it is again.  Another female high school teacher has been arrested for “cleaning the erasers” with a male student.

As I asserted in a previous post, I fail to see the problem here.  To me, it sounds more like “The Year I Won at High School.”  So it cracked me up where in the article, they keep referring to the kid is The Victim.  (Yes, I know they don’t identify minors by name when they’re a “victim” of a sex “crime.”)

I guarantee this kid will be bragging to his friends about this story for the rest of his life.  “Victim,” my eye.  Sure, the teacher cleaned and polished the kid’s eraser in a closet at school.  But also notice that they had two other encounters at her place.  Think she tied him up and dragged him there?  That kid followed his pecker over there like it was a divining rod.

And not only that, he filmed an encounter on his phone.  You think he was “collecting evidence,” like it was a congressional “investigation?”  Hell no.  That was earmarked for the spank bank.

I just wonder about the teacher.  I know she was really young, (24) but I keep thinking, “Come on, lady, I’m sure you can do better than some boy…”  It’s not like 24-year old men are all old and over the hill…  So while she’s not exercising the best judgment, I can see her getting fired from the school.  But I don’t think she needs to go to jail. 

Maybe sentence her to 30 days on Match.com instead.

I Keep Telling Everyone, But No One Listened
Ah HA!  I knew it!  A new study just came out that said vegetarians are less healthy and have a lower quality of life than meat-eaters.  Revenge is mine!

How long have I been saying that vegetables are evil?  Huh?  For as long as I’ve had a blog, that’s how long.  All you vegetarians and vegans with your special diets and gluten-free this and non-dairy that… We omnivores get the last laugh!

OK, I’m done gloating now.  The truth is, I don’t really even fully buy the study’s conclusion, because they seem to make a lot of assumptions.  If you read carefully, there are a number of other factors that influence one’s health, like alcohol intake and smoking.   And a meat-heavy diet does come with legitimate concerns about obesity, clogged arteries and risk of heart attack.

But still, it’s nice to have a little support from the scientific community.  And now, bacon for everyone!

 The Dream
Great.  Flaming. Jesus.  I had the most unbelievable and traumatic dream Sunday night.  Check this out…

I was playing soccer, and got tangled up with another player, and we both went down in a heap.  When I got up, I realized that “Bluz Jr.” had been nearly sliced off and was hanging by a tiny strip of skin.  In fact, the top half came right off in my hand.

And I remember thinking (within the dream), “Damn, that’s the good part.”  No guy wants to live without the Angry Inch

You know how we guys are about our junk.  We’re highly protective of our little buddies. 

(Disclaimer: Not an actual willy.)

Though clearly unhappy about my schlong being reduced to a schlort, I was remarkably composed about the whole incident, which had been surprisingly painless.  (That should have been my first clue that it was a dream.)  Next thing I knew, I was sitting in a sort of “common room” that you might find in the main area of a frat house.   It appeared to be a house full of medical students.  Perhaps I was playing college intermural soccer.

Anyway, with the better half of Bluz Jr still in my hand, and the other half suffering from boneus interruptus, I asked the room if they might be able to find a way to put this thing back on, because I was pretty sure I was going to need it.  In fact, I had to pee right then.  There seemed to be a murmur in the room, as they discussed my plight and I considered what it might be like to live without a wang.

And then… I was never as glad as I was right then, to wake up in my own bed.  An immediate examination determined that Bluz Jr was just fine.  And all was well again in the land of Bluz.  Even if he didn’t have anywhere to go just yet, he still has potential.

So now: WTF????  Any of you amateur Freuds out there want to take a shot at what that meant?

Freud and So-crates… the Dream Team

First of all, me? Playing soccer???  I haven’t played a competitive game of soccer since gym class in junior high, and that was a one-off.  Where in the hell did that come from?  Just because I was a fan of Mia Hamm, doesn’t mean I wanted my lunch meat sliced.

My first instinct is to tie it to my experience of my boomerang relationship that just bounced out of the apartment.  Could that have been my brain processing the loss of autonomy that the relationship represented?  But if so, why did I have the dream when it was over, rather than when it was still going on?

Maybe it had something to do with my anti-vegetarianism, by making me consider a life without meat.

Or maybe it was a message for me to be less cocky.

Either way, you can bet your ass I’m never playing soccer again.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Shifting Out of Neutral

On Friday, my apartment became my own again.

As you may remember, following my split with Pinky, I plummeted headlong into another relationship, with a girl from my distant past.  She moved into my place in January, but was packed to leave by mid-March.  Since then, I’ve been kind of stuck in neutral, or limbo, if you will.  She was gone, but all of her stuff was still here, boxed up and crammed into corners and along walls.

At least I could get to my computer desk.


Getting to the hallway bathroom was a challenge.


Good thing I rarely need to get to my CDs.


And I still had use of the FrankenCouch.

She flew into town on Thursday night, we picked up the truck Friday morning, and were loading it up by 9:00 AM.  We got most of the boxes and bins onboard before our hired help showed up at 11:00.  After doing all the unloading ourselves, the first time, these guys were worth every penny, to move her furniture.

The biggest problem was getting her desk out of the back bedroom.

That’s her desk by the window.

We had just barely gotten it in the door of the back bedroom. (Remember, there’s a closet bump-out right in front of the door, so you have to make a hard left to get it in.)  I know we took some paint off the door frame while doing it, but we were eventually successful.  The trouble was; neither of us remembered how we did it.  The movers tried a number of angles, and they were always about an inch too wide.

We even took the door off the hinges, but they still couldn’t get it through.  I was trying to match up the shaved paint from the door frame with the paint marks on the edge of the desk, to try to recreate what we had done.  Finally, turning it every which way, they got to “right-side up,” and it eased right out the door.

I hate it when you spend a half hour on intricate solutions, only to arrive at the obvious one.  It’s like looking all over the house for your glasses, and then finding them stuck on the top of your head.  But once we took the door off, there was plenty of room to slide it out the easy way.

Everything else was a breeze after that, and while we had booked them for 3 hours, we were done after 2.  She had said she wanted to be on the road by 2:00 and I didn’t think that would be even remotely possible.  But there we were, at 1:55, saying goodbye through the truck window.

I spent the next hour vacuuming and putting some of my things back where they had originally been.  It was so unbelievably nice to re-establish some sense of order.  I was so happy to have my place back, I went right out to the local sports bar to celebrate.  (Jilly’s, the place where I go to watch the Steelers when they’re not on local TV.)  They were kind of surprised to see me; after all, it was 3:00 on a Friday, so I’m usually at work at that hour.

I promptly struck up a conversation with the 22-year old kid sitting beside me, talking mostly about the different ballparks we’ve been to, and whatnot.  I really have to do that more often… just go out and talk to whoever is around.

I did that Wednesday night too.  I had tickets to see the Orioles after work, and was meeting my boss down at Camden Yards.  But first, while I was sitting at my favorite ballpark bar (where Sitcom Kelly and I have VIP cards), I inserted myself into a conversation that was going on around me.  There were two frat brothers from Purdue, one of which had recently moved here, there was an older guy with his smokin’ hot daughter, and a very slick guy from LA, wearing a Yankees Suck t-shirt.  Next thing you know, we were all drinking together and sampling appetizers, and talking about ballparks we’ve visited, and sports in general.  I was having so much fun, I almost didn’t want to go the game.

Like I said, I really have to do that more often.  I see this becoming an integral part of the Summer of Bluz.

I met my boss in the “Misty” seats, which are definitely too good to pass up.  (My Blog Sister Misty gets a ticket package for the O’s each year, but can’t always go to all the games.  I’m her first call when she needs to get rid of the seats.

Can’t pass up Club-level seats…

But back to Friday night… As I was sitting down to relax, after a long day, I swear, every time I’d get up to pee, I’d smile like a monkey, knowing I no longer had to squeeze through the hallway, just to take a squirt.  I mean, have you ever tried to suck in your gut when you really have to pee?  I don’t recommend it. 

So I’m enjoying my nice cleaner, crisper place.  I still have to get some stuff back up on the walls, but I’m not going overboard.  This time around, I want to keep it classy.

My new, more open dining room, and reconstructed sectional couch.

I need to get something up on the wall there in the dining room, but I think I’m going to have a couple of my photographs I’ve taken put onto 16” x 20” canvas, and hang them there.  I saw a deal on Groupon…

I probably want to get a table or something for that spot beside my CDs, where that pile of stuff is in the 2nd picture.  And I don’t quite know what to do with the open spot in the bedroom.

By the way, it’s the camera that’s at an angle, not the bed.  Otherwise, I’d roll out every night.

I used to have a big wardrobe on the far left, but now I want to keep it on the right, so when I replace my TV, the old one can go on top of it.  (It won’t work on the other side, because I don’t want to have to run the cable across the floor.)

She had an easy chair and a ottoman on that side.  I really liked using the settee to sit on when I put my socks on, so maybe I’ll get one of my own.  Any other ideas for something to put along a mostly empty bedroom wall?

The back bedroom is completely empty.  I used to use it for storage, but I don’t want to junk it up again.  I plan to get a top-shelf air-mattress and find a small dresser, so I can make it an acceptable guest room.  I haven’t had an actual “guest” since 2009, but you never know.

Regardless, I’m excited about my new start. I’m sure it will get old being alone all the time, but for now, it’s just what the doctor ordered.  I have to remember to force myself to leave my cave though, otherwise I’ll just spend my days hiding out in there, and miss everything as life trundles on. 

Like today… it’s 60 degrees and sunny out, and I’m here typing away at my desk.  Perhaps a trip to Home Depot is in order.  I feel the need to spruce up the cave.

It’s time to get out of limbo and back into the fray.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The MOD Squad

This won’t be my usual kind of post.  And coming from me, that’s saying something, because I have a lot of different kinds of “usual” posts.  This won’t be an old story, new adventure, sporting event or political screed.  I don’t even intend any goofy word-play, but I can’t promise anything.  Sometimes things just pop out.  Word things, I mean.  Dammit.

I’ve always hated fundraising, ever since I was forced to when I was a kid, because it was required by my Little League teams.  I’d have to go out and knock on doors, trying to sell candy bars or leaf bags or something.  I hated every second of it.

I hate it even more now, because today’s kids aren’t allowed to knock on strangers doors to do their fundraising.  Their parents have to do it for them and hit up all their friends and co-workers.  Granted, I’m only mad about that now because I didn’t get to take advantage of it.  I think my parents made me go out there because they were secretly hoping I’d get kidnapped.  Then they’d move.

So since I’ve been a grownup, and especially since I’ve worked in an office environment, I’ve always stayed miles away from any fundraising activities.  At times, I’d be one of the few in the department that didn’t play.  Part of it was because times were tight and I didn’t make much.  Another part of it was I didn’t want to be sucked into the “machine.”  It’s one thing to buy some bake sale brownies or raffle tickets.  It’s another to put your name into the online registration site, knowing you’ll be pestered about it for the rest of your days.

Our company has two major drives each year, where the various departments compete against each other.   One of them is for the United Way.  I think I mentioned here before that last year, I finally ponied up with a contribution, because I found that I could funnel my donation into one of my pet projects (Planned Parenthood), to which United Way contributes.  (I picked the Planned Parenthoods of various states where their conservative governor and legislature are cutting funding.)  I figured that if I give to them anyway, why not at least stop being a mark against my department.

The other drive is for March of Dimes (MOD), which provides help for premature babies.  Now, I’m not one that gets all misty at the idea of “Oh, save the babies, oh my God, the babies.)  I’ve always been more interesting in preventing the babies, if you will, via Planned Parenthood.  I consider that ensuring the baby is wanted is the first vital step.

So, time marched on, my place in life became more stable, and most importantly, I picked up a new responsibility at work, in running the A/V equipment for various town halls, meetings and events.  That’s what put me in the room for the MOD kickoff event a couple years back.

People I know from my company got up and spoke very eloquently about their experiences with premature babies, and the direct help provided by MOD.  That year, I went online and for the first time, kicked in a couple of bucks.

Last year, my boss got up and spoke of the premature baby that she lost, of whom I had known nothing about.  There wasn’t a dry eye in the house, including mine.  Luckily, the event organizers had enough foresight to distribute boxes of tissue around the room, ahead of time.  I went online to donate again, and upped my donation to the level where I could wear jeans every day in April.  (I actually had to go buy some more jeans.)  I was signed up for The March for Babies, technically, but I never intended to go.

Today, we had another riveting speaker, who had also lost a baby who was barely over a pound, at birth.  But more importantly, she had a second child, whom she was able to keep in utero longer, due to the treatment provided by the MOD. 
So this year, aside from donating, I decided that I’ll actually join the March for Babies in early May.  With my “Summer of Bluz,” I’ve been looking to do something to break out of my self-imposed ruts, so this seems like a good start.  I’ve been assured that I don’t actually have to “march;” regular walking will be fine.  Plus, they’re holding it downtown, so there could be the opportunity to have some drinks when it’s over.

The walk isn’t over yet… what are you doing at Hooters?”
Seriously, I have to re-hydrate!

The March is four miles; I think I can do that.  I know I walked three miles about 10 years ago, when I had to walk home from the subway. (I couldn’t get a cab).  Of course, I was good and pissed off, so I probably didn’t even notice the soreness until I was almost home.

My boss also spoke at today’s meeting; this time to suggest various ways to raise funds through our online accounts.  Now, in the prior years, I refrained from asking anyone for anything.  I have the hardest time with that.  I’d rather be anywhere than asking for something, especially money.  I know times is still tight.

But one of the ways she mentioned was through social media, and after careful consideration, I figured that was something I could do.  So here I am.

Now, I’m not going to hector you or harass you or try to cajole you out of your hard-earned dough.  I’m going to ask you once, and what will be, will be.  If you care to help me out here, or more importantly, provide help for parents like (most of) you, who are just trying to give their baby a shot at growing up, please click this link to go to my MOD page.  From there, you can use a credit or debit card, PayPal, or even cash and check, to make a donation in the amount of your choosing.  Five bucks, a hundred bucks, whatevs.  It all helps.

I promise, after today, (well, probably this weekend), I’ll go back to being the same crusty, cantankerous, raconteur you’ve come to know and love.  Or at least tolerate. 

Saturday, March 29, 2014

A Scene from The Summer of Bluz

Looking into my murky crystal ball, I might see something like this in store for me this summer:
 

Those ran a couple years ago and became my instant favorites, especially this part:


 I saw something in the paper on Friday that looked to contribute to the Summer of Bluz.  I’m not much one for concerts anymore; I’ve pretty much left those to the days of my youth.  I takes a perfect combination of criteria to get me to go to a show now.  But what I saw fit the bill.

In August, the rock group Boston is coming to an outdoor amphitheater down on the Inner Harbor.  It’s perfect for me because:

·    Boston is an important band from my teen years.  I know I wore out several cassettes of their first album, and they made an appearance at every Barn Party.  (I can still totally air drum to More Than A Feeling, beat for beat.)  (I know, “Nerd Alert!”)  To me, their sound is timeless, and the recording techniques they used back in the mid-70s still hold up today.  Next time you hear one of their songs on the radio (ha), turn it up.  Listen to how crisp and clear every instrument sounds. 

·    They’re playing right here in town.  In fact, I can walk there right after work.  (The show is on a Tuesday night.)  All I have to do is find a way to kill some time before show time.  Maybe there’s some kind of establishment nearby, wherein people will bring me drinks in exchange for money.  I notified Sitcom Kelly of an upcoming happy hour. 

·    Tickets were relatively cheap… got my seat for $63.00 (including $13 in assorted fees).  OK, it’s outrageous compared to what I used to pay for concert tickets, but in today’s market?  Not bad.

The only down side is that I’m going alone.  I suppose I could have gambled on finding accompaniment, but I have rotten luck in buying extra tickets on spec.  It rarely works out.  (And before you ask, Sitcom Kelly already declined.  It’s not really her kind of music, plus she’s saving up for the Hall and Oates show the next month.)

I thought about taking my nephew, with whom I was I had tickets to see Van Halen two summers ago, before they cancelled the show.  But this show will be during the last week of August, and I’m pretty sure that will be his first week of school.  No way will his mama let him out late on a school night, especially with his Black Sheep Uncle.

I suppose I could have gotten an extra in case I meet someone this summer, but I know my track record.  That’s not something on which I would bet $60.

So, I’m hitting this one solo.  I used to go to concerts by myself all the time, and I still go alone a lot of baseball games.  I also found out it’s easier to get a good seat when you only need one.  In fact, I was just about to finalize the purchase of a seat, but backed out, because it was probably too good.

See, I’m concerned about my hearing.  And it’s not for nothing… since last summer, I’ve had a constant whistling in my ears.  (It’s called tinnitus.)  So the last thing I need is to go to some blasting rock concert, right?

Here’s the seating chart:

In the publicity pictures, Boston founder and guitarist Tom Sholtz was on the left side of the stage, so that’s where I wanted to sit.  I found a single open seat in the first row on the aisle of section 109 (marked “A”).  I was about to lock it down when I realized I’d be smack in front of a giant stack of speakers.  Even with the foam earplugs I plan to wear, that could still cause a problem.  (I probably wore ear plugs to most of the concerts I’ve ever seen, ever since I found myself at the front of the stage for George Thorogood, with my right ear about 10 feet from a giant Marshall stack.  My ear rung for 3 solid days afterward.)

Instead, I looked one section back, and found one in 204, third row on the aisle (marked “B”).  I figured I’d still get a decent view, and the sound shouldn’t be quite so jarring.

I saw Boston play the Richfield Coliseum when I worked in Cleveland, back in 1987.  (I was comped, but the ticket price was only $18.00.)  They were on tour for their third album, “Third Stage.” 
I had a chance to go backstage and meet them, but the label rep only had one backstage pass.  Because I was there with a friend, I felt I couldn’t go off and leave her alone, so I declined.  (Dumbass!)

They’ve got a new album out now; I suppose I better check it out, so I’ll know what they’re playing.

Anyway, I’m pretty excited about this adventure.  Now I just have to hope it’s not one of those steamy Baltimore August nights, with temps in the mid-90s and 80% humidity…

[…he says, whistling past the graveyard…]

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

How Tonsils Lead to Comedy

I was reading a post from my Blog Sister, Red Pen Mama, yesterday, about how she’s considering having her young daughter’s tonsils removed, to help address a chronic sinus problem.  That got me thinking about when I got my tonsils and adenoids out. 

And when I hear the word “adenoid,” all I can think about is this:

You know Domino’s created a memorable ad campaign when it’s still rattling around in your head almost 30 years later.

I was about 4 when I got my tonsils and adenoids out, and come to think of it, that was the only time I needed to go to a hospital until my first heart procedure, roughly 35 years later.  I guess I had quite a run. 

I don’t remember being especially sick beforehand, other than having various allergy-related maladies.  But Mom told me I was having problems breathing through my nose.  (Yes, I was a little mouth-breather.)  I do vaguely recall being frequently told to close my mouth and breathe through my nose, but I guess it didn’t work very well.

As everyone knows, the way parents get little kids to cooperate with surgery in a big, scary hospital, is to promise them all the ice cream in the world they can eat.  As someone who was consistently deprived of Pop Tarts and the “good” cereals, this was like hitting the jackpot.  So I didn’t put up much of a fuss at all.

What strikes me as very strange, now that I think about it, is that they admitted me to the hospital the day before my surgery, and I stayed overnight.  I can’t fathom that now… it was a routine surgery even back in the mid-60s.  I don’t know why I had to be there a day early.  I guess hospital stays were a lot cheaper then.

Not that I’m complaining, mind you…  I had a blast.  I was in a big room with about 6 other boys who were getting their tonsils out too.  Our room must have looked like play time at the monkey house.  Each of us had a big, tall bed, with “crib” railings on it, which snapped up and down, depending on if they wanted us caged up or not.

That’s the first time I learned that grownups can be really sneaky.  I remember running around with the other boys, when a nurse waved me over and told me to hop up into the bed/crib.  I ran over and jumped up, the edge of the bed hitting me just about belt high.  Before I could squirm all the way up, she said, “Stop right there,” pulled up my hospital gown and hit me with the thermometer.  You know, the one they don’t put in your mouth…  She skewered me like a little Bluz-ka-bob.

Well played, Nurse Ratchet, well played.  But I’ll have my revenge…”

Eventually all the parents disappeared, I assume they went home to put my siblings to bed and drink martinis, and the rest of us bunked down for the night.  But do you think we went to sleep?  It was hard enough to go to sleep at home with my one brother in a room, in my own bed.  But a room full of other 4 and 5-year olds?  Please…  We were talking and carrying on like it was a slumber party.

But suddenly, and quite urgently, I had to pee.  The nurses told us that if we had to pee in the night, we were to call them, and they’d bring the bedpan (which really looked like a big tin jug).  But I was too shy to yell out from the dark, to some stranger, about my bathroom needs.  And I had seen where they put the “jug.”  It was on a lower shelf in a cabinet between our beds.

After consulting with my roommates, and with their enthusiastic approval and encouragement, I decided I should get out of bed and use the jug.  The railings?  Seriously?  I was up and over those like a tiny ninja.  (Young boys really are part monkey, I swear.)

I went over the bars, found the jug, used it, and put it back in the cabinet.  As I ninja’d back into bed, I wondered if anyone would even notice.

They noticed.  And I noticed they noticed the second I opened my eyes that morning, and found a net over my bed/crib.  I mean it… a big, freakin’, white net.  I assumed that mean the nurse was not amused.  Of course, I hadn’t been amused by her temperature-taking tactics, so… “touché.”

It wasn’t until this very morning, while I was emailing with my mom to firm up the details of the story, that I learned that she was the one that discovered my late-night jailbreak.  She ratted me out to the nurses, and they put up the netting.

“Et tu, Mommy, et tu?”

First I’m deprived of Pop Tarts and am forced to eat eggs, pancakes, waffles and good-for-you cereal, and then I’m caged up like a wild, stealth-peeing animal?  For shame…

Anyway, they wheeled us all in for surgery that morning and we all made it back out.  I remember waking up and feeling foggy and sore-throated.  I could barely even say “ice cream.”  I think the hospital gave me a measly little cup of institutional vanilla, with which I was aggressively unimpressed.

I think they took me home that night… I don’t remember another night in the cage.  As a present for my recuperation, my parents got me a new Bill Cosby album, the one that has a long bit about getting his own tonsils out.  It hurt to laugh at first, but by the second day, I was pretty much back on my feet and up to no good. 

Director’s DVD Commentary: I cut my comedy baby-teeth on the old Bill Cosby records.  I’d listen to them over and over… I didn’t even “get” a lot of the jokes, but they were still funny.  No one can describe being in the midst of chaos, like Cos.  The Tonsils bit was a favorite, as was Buck-Buck (which contained the origins of Fat Albert), Kindergarten, the Chicken Heart, Bill’s no-good little brothers, Noah and the Ark, The Great Go-Kart Race, Karate Schools, playing football for Temple against Hofstra University, and his masterpiece album, “To Russell, my Brother, Whom I Slept With.” 

The title track took up an entire album side, and was all about him and his brother messing around when they were supposed to be in bed, fighting with each other and trying to avoid having their Dad come up there with The Belt.  It’s no understatement that this one hit home with my brother and me.

If any of your kids have an interest in comedy, these albums are still available.  I’ve even downloaded a bunch of them as MP3s, because for “some reason,” the old albums are all scratched up.  I’m sure some of the references will be a little dated, but they’re funny, clean, relatable to children, and contain nary a swear word.

I mean, I grew up on them and look how I turned out!

OK, never mind.