Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Not Exactly the Clinch I Was Anticipating

Sometimes Lady Luck smiles upon you when you least expect it.  In a very quick turn of events on Monday, I learned that Sitcom Kelly’s mom was able to get her company’s seats for the Orioles game on Tuesday.  And because the O’s won on Monday, a win Tuesday would clinch the American League East division title for the first time since 1997, and the first time in their home park since 1968.

Rather than going to our usual pre-game bar, The Bullpen, we went to our regular happy hour spot near my office building.  Sitcom Kelly was tired of eating nothing but nachos and fries, which was the only meat-free fare they had there. 

Naturally, she got nachos anyway.  Frankly, I stopped trying to understand her ways.

But for me, I got their game-day special, The Oriole Dog… a large dog with mac & cheese, and crab.  Man, that was good.  I wish I had taken a picture, but as you might guess, the window of opportunity was rather small.  Having devoured the dog, I helped Sitcom Kelly out with her nachos.  Had to be careful not to have too many jalapeños though.

As you may recall from prior posts, Sitcom Mom’s seats are primo; 10 rows back, directly behind home plate.

Our view for the night.

Only downside is the netting, which makes the players look like they’re in some kind of zoo exhibit.  But on the upside; there were no screaming foul balls smashing into our faces.

I was nervous about the Orioles starting pitcher, Ubaldo Jimenez.  He was a high priced free agent signing this winter, but has been generally atrocious all year.  And he didn’t give me much confidence as he walked four in his first couple of innings.  Luckily, he settled down and only gave up one run.

A three-run homer by Steve Pearce in the first inning helped set my mind at ease, as the O’s jumped out to a lead, which they would never relinquish.

Steve Pearce being congratulated by Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis, after his 3-run jack.

As the game went on, and the Orioles gradually padded their lead up to 8-2, I could feel a subtle change occurring, something I could feel in my gut.  No, it wasn’t the impending celebration of 17 years’ worth of losing coming to an end.  It was literally something happening in my gut.  Sometimes, Lady Luck can be a fickle bitch.  Who knew both the Orioles and I would erupt with the runs?

I was getting sharp pains that came and went, accompanied by lots of “soap-bubble gurgling.”  By the 5th or 6th inning, I began to suspect that something I ate was about to cause me some distress.  I don’t know if it was the jalapeños or the crabby mac dog, but something was about to make me lose containment.  It felt like I was trying to process a bowl full of ground glass.

About the 7th inning, I realize that I was going to have to do something drastic; something I’ve always tried my best to avoid… sitting down in a stall in a crowded public restroom. 

I tried to get in there while the game was going on, but it was fairly well occupied nevertheless.  When someone opened the door to the stall I was lined up behind, I got a peek inside… Ew.  No, I NOT going in there.

I quickly jumped into a urinal line and made a quick pee, so as not to look like a restroom lurker.  Then when I left through the restroom exit, I circled back into the entrance and ducked into a different stall.  It still required some cleanup, but it was marginal.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t produce what I was hoping to, but at least I “took a little off the top.”  I hoped that would get me through the rest of the night.  But alas…

As the game wound down, the vibe in the ballpark was electric; like the soul-crushing effects of years of losing baseball seeking to break free.  With a six-run lead, it seemed like the game was a done deal.  They just needed another couple of outs.

I tried my best to hold my camera steady as I shot video of the last batter, but just as surely as I knew the O’s would win, I knew I’d have to take another stab at hitting the bathroom.  I could barely stand; there was no way I would survive the subway ride home, let alone the penguin-walk I’d have to take just to get to the station.

The last batter grounded out to first, which commenced the big celebration.  It was my first time attending such an event, (other than Super Bowl XL), and it was really something special.

Think these moments don’t mean anything to jaded, high-priced professional athletes?  That’s slugger Nelson Cruz, with a GoPro camera duct taped to his hat.

As the O’s retreated to their clubhouse, I indicated to Sitcom Kelly that A) we really needed to go because B) I really needed to “go.”  It was too bad because after the players champagne celebration, they came back out on the field to celebrate with the fans, most of whom were still there.

Meanwhile, I had to take another crack at using the stall.  Now, for a guy who never uses a public stall unless the whole restroom is empty, having to go with a whole crowd in there was somewhat traumatic.  However, an unexpected upside was that all the celebration and commotion provided a nice masking effect of my own little calamity.  This time around, it was a full-on jailbreak.  Before I went in, I should have put a sign on the stall door that said, “Don’t even line up. You don’t want any part of this.”

As I left, I hoped I’d taken care of the problem, but I swear, I didn’t get 3 steps away from the restroom when the bubbles returned.  I met up with Sitcom Kelly, and we walked directly to the very next restroom so I could repeat the process.  At least that time, she was close enough to the right field flag court that she could get some shots of the players lapping the field.

Darren O’Day, relief pitcher and next candidate for Sitcom Kelly’s Silence of the Lambs pit.

The subway ride was uneventful, although I chose to stand the whole way.  Sitting down made the top of my jeans dig into my gut, which was not helpful at all.  The troops began to amass along the border again, as I drove home from the station.  Needless to say, I drove “briskly.”  Any officer attempting to give me a ticket was going to have to chase me right into my bathroom.

I made it without a moment to spare, but at least I was on home court.

So, I know what you’re thinking.  What are the mojo considerations of all this?  If you go to a playoff game, would you still go to the local bar and get an Orioles Dog, knowing your team would win but you’d get a case of the screamin’ meamies? 

The answer is, “Oh hell no.  I might take one for the team, but not four.”  They’re on their own, next time.

Unless, of course, the real culprit was the ham sandwich I had for lunch…

Looks like I better start a new spreadsheet…

Monday, September 15, 2014

Odd Bits - The Asterisked Edition

I was watching some of the Palladia music channel over the weekend.  They often have some really good stuff, like major acts in concert, from past to present.  Saturday night, I tuned in to see Guns ‘N Roses.

To perfectly honest, it really should have had an asterisk after the name, because the only original members were singer/maniac Axl Rose, and rhythm guitarist Izzy Stradlin.  Guns ‘N Roses without Slash, Duff, or one of the old drummers really ought to be called Guns ‘N Roses*.

A fair Guns ‘N Roses tribute band.

Watching this lineup was like seeing the Rolling Stones* without Keith Richards, Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts.  Or like seeing AC/DC* without Angus Young, Phil Rudd and Cliff Williams.  Van Halen without Eddie or Alex.  Or the Beatles*, without John and Paul.

Sure, Guns ‘N Roses* pretty much sounded the same, but they lacked that visual swagger that guys like Slash, Angus and Keef bring to the stage.  But it was good enough to switch to during commercials.

The Old Switcheroo
Speaking of switches, there was more trouble in the NFL this week, as Vikings’ running back Adrian Peterson was deactivated for a game, essentially for spanking his son.

Now I know there’s a very public anti-football player violence jag going on, but I think they should tread carefully here.  There’s a big difference between cold-cocking your fiancé and spanking your child.

Obviously, there were extenuating circumstances; in this case, it was that Peterson used a “switch,” or in other words, a tree branch stripped of its leaves.  He left marks on the boys butt and legs. 

Was he too rough for a 4-year old?  Probably. It wouldn’t have been my choice to use a switch.  But whose decision is it on how a child should be disciplined?  While I’m usually against “slippery slope” arguments, this one seems like it’s covered in oil.

When does an outside party get to decide how a family maintains order?  And who gets to be the arbiter?  Those are some serious questions to be answered before we start meddling in how families function.

All I know about switches is what I learned from Richard Pryor.  According to Pryor, it wasn’t just getting beaten with the switch, it’s that they made you go out and get it from the tree yourself, and bring it back to them.  That’s some psychological drama, right there.

I don’t know about you, but I got my little ass beat a couple times, but good.  Dad never used any other implement but his hand, and believe me, that was enough.  I believe I got spanked twice.  Why twice?  Because I didn’t want a third.  The message was received.  But that was the culture in the 60s.  It was perfectly acceptable to smack disobedient kids not only at home, but at school.  And if you talked back to the neighbor, they’d give you one too.

Anyway, I’m not saying what Peterson did was right or wrong.  I’m just saying it’s not like the kid’s life was in jeopardy.  There are serious cases of abuse and neglect out there, where intervention is warranted.  This doesn’t seem like one of those times, to me.  And where’s the next step?  Will someone be called out because a third party didn’t like what he served for dinner?  Or what the kid is wearing?  Where does the non-parent parenting stop?

To be brought into the police station and arrested, and then to be suspended from your job, because you did to your son exactly what was done to you and generations of other kids across the country, seems like a big fat case of “Mind Your Own Freakin’ Business.”

If we’re going to collectively dictate how parents raise their kids, I also want action taken when someone’s little angel is running amok in public, while Mommy or Daddy is yapping on the phone, or peering intently at their next purchase.  If someone’s rugrat is screaming and tearing around my store,  moving stuff around, and smearing their sticky little hands all over my merchandise, I want that parent suspended… from their job, or from the ceiling. 

Rice Appeal
I read that the NFL Player’s Union is appealing Commissioner Goodell’s indefinite suspension of Ray Rice, following last week’s TMZ video meltdown.  At first I was alarmed; like how can they possibly be so dense?  But then it came to me.

They have to appeal if they want concrete terms.  I suppose if I was a player, I’d have a problem with an “indefinite suspension” too.  Indefinite can mean anything… until next week, next year, or forever.

The league and the player’s union need to come together and agree on specific terms of discipline for domestic abuse, child abuse, and any other abuse that might turn up on TMZ.  That should take the mystery out of any disciplinary action.

The fact that the Commissioner has basically unchecked authority to do whatever he wants, leaves a huge gap in the pursuit of consistency.  Not only do the players need to know the consequences of any future actions, but so do the fans and media.  So when the next incident occurs, the league can point to the agreement and say “Here’s what is going to happen, IF AND WHEN the appropriate legal steps are completed.”

That way, the players are protected from an unreasonable media or fan base demanding action before all the facts are in, and society has predictable recourse from out of control, self-entitled jocks.

So appeal away and get the terms defined.  Then we can evaluate if the NFL is getting serious about their athletes’ behavior, or if it’s just so much window dressing, designed to mollify the masses until the heat dies down.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Our Parents Had it Made

I saw this article online this week, entitled “5 Things our Parents Did That Would Get Them Arrested Today.”  It was an interesting read, albeit a bit misleading.  Some of their examples were one-offs, or something that rarely happens now, which makes it technically possible.  Possible enough for the click-bait headline, anyway.

Regardless, I thought I’d give it a lookover and see how many times MY folks would have hit the pokey.

1. Taking Naked Kiddie Photos.  The article reports of one couple in Arizona who in 2008, had the photo shop call the cops on their kiddie bath-time pics.  The judge immediately dismissed the case.  This is one of those one-offs.  I just wonder who in the hell was still taking film photos in for developing in 2008.  That’s the crime here.

The Verdict: Guilty.  Just like every other parent in the 60s.  Everyone took pictures of their kids running around bare-assed, or sitting in the tub.  (In my case, I was usually surrounded by toys called “Soakies,” which were cartoon and super-hero shaped bottles of bubblebath stuff.) 

Judging from Facebook, it’s still going on now though.  Cassie, you haven’t heard from the cops yet, have you?

2. Leaving Kids Home Alone.  They mention that several states have laws stating you can’t leave your child home alone until the age of 12.  (14 in Illinois.)

The Verdict: Not Guilty.  None of us were ever left home alone until I was in junior high.  In 7th grade, I was in a split shift school, and my shift didn’t start until noon.  Mom would go off to work and I would get myself ready for and then off to school.  No biggie.  I would also babysit for my younger brother and sister occasionally when my parents needed a break from our bullshit went out to eat. 

However, we certainly weren’t supervised once we were out of the house.  We pretty much had full run of the neighborhood during the summer or after school.  And we had watches and knew enough to get home for dinner.  There was no such thing as a “play date.”  I would die of embarrassment before I’d let my mom arrange for me to play with some other kid.

3. Smoking in the Car. Six states have laws on the books preventing smoking in cars with young children, due to their still-developing lungs.  Apparently it’s perfectly fine to kill your older children.

The Verdict: Guilty.  I wish they had those law way back when, because that’s one I could have used.  Mom used to smoke in the car, and I hated it.  Gave me a dizzy headache every time.  It was bad enough being cooped up in the back seat with my siblings for long car trips, where all we had to do was torment each other and try not to get swatted from the front seat.

This one went hand in hand with:

4. Seat belts.  Laws mandating seat belt use are relatively modern, but they are prevalent.  Plus there’s the car seat thing, which mandates the use of car seats until the kid is practically a teenager.

The Verdict: Not Guilty.  Technically, I can remember a time in the early 60s when our car didn’t have seat belts in the back seat.  But by the mid-60s, when we got a new car that had them, they became mandatory for us.  Of course, we hated them.  Nothing like being strapped down for that 8-hour car trip, with nothing to do but torment each other and try not to die from the cigarette smoke.

Sometimes we’d try to silently release the latch for a little breathing room, but Dad always heard the click.  It was like trying to get into the candy dish or cookie jar, only you were within swatting range.

5.  Weight gain.  Another one-off.  Three years ago, a boy in Cleveland was taken from his home because he was 200 lbs by third grade, and health officials said his mother didn’t know how to make him lose weight.  I don’t think this is a widespread thing… the child removal, not having big fat kids.  That seems to be an epidemic.

The Verdict: Not Guilty.  We certainly never wanted for food… sometimes it wasn’t the food we wantedcough-PopTarts-cough, but we had plenty to eat.  But between the well-balanced diets, only having 4 channels on TV, and the non-existence of video games, we ran off our extra calories by playing outside.  None of us ever had weight problems as kids.

So that’s the five the article featured, but I’d add one more:

6.  Providing alcohol to your kids AND all the neighbor kids. 

The Verdict: Guilty.  Once we moved out to the outskirts of Toledo and my friends and I commandeered The Barn, the drinking lamp was lit.  When we had parties, everyone in the neighborhood attended.  For the small gatherings, my buddies and I bought our own beer, but for the big events, like New Year’s Eve parties, my parents would get a keg and plenty of wine.  My friends and I were mostly over 18, (which was all you had to be at the time), but my brother and sister, and their friends and all the neighborhood kids were vastly under-age.

And that was just fine.  We had parties where my parents chaperoned (when not cutting it up on the dance floor) and we collected keys at the door.  Drinking never cause a single accident or incident at our parties.  Granted, a couple of relationships came to a messy end, but hey, that’s life.

So in summation, we have a split decision… 3 guiltys, 3 not guiltys.  Hung jury, case dismissed.  We seemed to have survived the things that would have gotten the folks in Dutch nowadays, and the others didn’t apply.

Maybe it’s time to take off the bubble wrap and let kids go back to being kids.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Opening Day and Fried Rice

It was with great anticipation that I set off for my favorite sports bar, yesterday, to partake in the beginning of a new football season.  (And a number of beers.)  

The week got off to an inauspicious start here in Baltimore, with the unveiling of the new Ray Lewis stature, outside the Ratbirds’ stadium.  (No, I did not go for the ceremony.)  I had an idea of what the statue would look like, and my suspicions were correct.  It was not a pose that featured him screaming motivation and Jesus references at his teammates, nor was it a pose of him flying to a ball carrier, nor delivering a thundering hit.  It was a statue of Ray doing what he does best… calling attention to himself before he’s even stepped on the field.

They should inscribe it right on the statue: “LOOK AT ME!” (Source)

As a football fan, I’m offended that they dared to place him in the same plaza as the statue of Johnny Unitas.  The two were polar opposites in physicality, demeanor, and class.

But I’m really kind of amused by it all, because I can’t wait to see what the local (or visiting) Steeler fans do to deface it before this week’s game.  I’m guessing someone straps a knife to his hand, or drapes a bloody fur coat over his shoulders.  There are a myriad of things that could be used to fill that gaping mouth.

Back at the bar, I’ve worked hard of the last few years, to build a rapport with the locals; even the Rattie fans.  Lucky for me, there are also a number of fans of other teams too.  There’s one guy I see every week, and every single time I stop by for lunch on a non-game day.  Dude must have a locker there.  But he’s a die-hard Tampa Bay Buccaneers fan, and enjoys harassing the locals as much as I do.  So we usually cheer (loudly) for each other’s team while we’re there.

This week, as we had discussed a month or two ago, I brought him in a Steeler jersey of mine, for him to wear and keep.  (It was a Lamarr Woodley jersey, which I was unlikely to wear ever again, ever since the Steelers cut him after last season.  It was a knockoff, but looked like the real thing.)  I tell you, it was totally worth it just to see the look on the face of the crusty guy he sits beside every week.  Anything I can do to sow a little discontent…

That’s him there in front of the window, sandwiched between Ratbird fans.  And that’s me taking up the left half of the shot, sporting my new Ryan Shazier jersey.

I assumed my usual spot on the end of the bar, in the well between the overhead video screens.  I’ll admit, it’s kind of a challenge to keep up with all the games, so I try to focus on just two.

The Ratbird game is up in the middle, and my Steelers are there in the lower right.  There are also two more screens to the left of the big screen, and 4 more to my immediate right.

This week had a mixed bag of omens for me.  On the bright side, there were 3 other Steeler fans, sitting directly behind me, another fan sitting upstairs, and a whole table full of Steeler fan moms sitting on the railing of the 2nd level behind me.  That meant a lot of high fives whenever my boys scored.

On the down side, they pissed away a 24-point lead to the Brownies in the 2nd half, although they hung on to win on a last second field goal.  Could have been worse, I suppose.  But compared to the Ratbirds, I got off light.

First, they lost to the Bengals, and looked pretty bad while doing it.  And then this morning, TMZ released the rest of the video they had, showing Ratbird running back Ray Rice cold-cocking his then-fiancée in a casino elevator.

I wrote about that situation back in August, making fun of the whole “Oops I made a mistake” defense.  Like he “accidentally” smashed a woman in the mouth.

So with the unvarnished video out in public, the football Powers That Be had to make some bold moves to save face, following the embarrassingly light punishment they handed out.

Early this afternoon, the Ratbirds cut Rice, and the NFL followed by suspending him “indefinitely.”

It was a total joke; one that never would have come to be if there hadn’t been video of the incident.  When the story first broke, the league and the Ravens tried to soft-pedal it, and intimated that Rice’s fiancé bore some responsibility for what happened.  They let it come out that the video documented her role in the brief skirmish, and that would make Rice look more sympathetic.

What the video showed was that they were all full of shit.  If you haven’t seen it, you can see the two of them get on the elevator, quarrelling.  Ray kind of bump/pushes her, she shoves him and runs toward him, then he hits her in the jaw with a straight left cross that would make Mike Tyson proud.  She falls like a sack of potatoes.  1-2-3 out.

The Ravens and the NFL both claimed they had never seen the second video, but a report on Deadspin tells another story.  Months ago, two national sports reporters, Peter King (SI) and Chris Mortensen (ESPN) had sources tell them that both parties saw the video and described the contents, which the video release just bore out.

I believe that they both did see the video, but rather than take the publicity hit by coming down hard, they tried to downplay the savagery of the attack and throw some blame on the woman.  Unbelievably, they were counting on the video never coming out.

Never coming out??? The video always comes out.  Always has, always will.

But the thing is, even if they never did see the video, (which I absolutely don’t believe), it shouldn’t have made a difference.  Did they seriously think there was any other conceivable way the future Mrs. Rice gets knocked unconscious by benevolent means?  As my friend the Carpetbagger said on Facebook, “Did they think it was a tickle-fight?

The NFL had one chance to do the right thing and they botched it completely.  And now they’re trying to put the toothpaste back in the tube, un-ring the bell, and close the barn door after the horse ran the Kentucky Derby. 

As for Mr. Rice, I’m sure he’ll become “unsuspended” sometime late this season, or for next season, and another team will pick him up.  Probably the Raiders or Browns. 

As for the league, they’ll recover from the PR hit.  They always do.  I mean, I’m still watching and so are zillions of others.

And as for the Ravens… well, I’ll let you know when they plan to unveil the new Ray Rice statue.

Maybe first, they ought to stop drafting guys named “Ray.”

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Inconsider This

Our culture is a mess right now.  Every day I read about or experience another episode that tells me how this place is swirling straight down the toilet.  And I also found the common denominator: inconsideration.

Look at the two airline incidents where passenger squabbles over reclining seatbacks were so severe, the flights had to be diverted and landed.  With the first one, a guy was using a device designed to prevent the seatback in front of him from being reclined.

Note: As a tall guy, I am completely on his side.  In fact, I think they should bring out a model that has a taser setting built right into it.  I’m completely sick of people jamming their seats all the way back, so that my knees are trapped in place.

Anyway, my point is that the person in front, the recliner, assumed it was her unalienable right to recline, regardless of rights of the person behind her to maintain the minimal space he was assigned.  “Me first.”

Look at the problems I had at the Boston concert, (and numerous other concerts and sporting events) where certain people claim because they bought a ticket, they have the right to stand up whenever they please, regardless of what’s going on around them.  They paid their money, so it’s “Me first, screw you people behind me.”

Look at the myriad of traffic incidents that happen across the country on an hourly (if not minute-ly) basis.  People who don’t use blinkers, or who cut you off in traffic, or who pull out right in front of you going 10 mph slower than you were going are saying, “Me first, screw you.  I don’t have time to wait five seconds for you to pass, but you can certainly wait behind me while I drift along 5 mph under the speed limit.”

I’m convinced that the reason so few people use their turn signal is that there’s nothing in it for them.  It’s all to benefit others, so why bother?

Look at the people riding public transportation, and take up two seats on a crowded vehicle, with by lounging across both seats, or spreading out their shit and daring you to say something.  “Screw you.  I need a place for my giant bag far more than you need to sit down after a long day.”

After which, they get on the escalator, pull up on the left beside someone else, and stop, forcing everyone who has someplace to go or little time to get there, to cool their heels while they enjoy the ride.  “Screw you.  I don’t have to take a step to my right and let you pass, because you need to dance to MY tune.  In fact, I’m not even aware you’re there.”

Look at the retail experience, where customers abuse clerks because they disagree with a price or the return policy, or clerks ignore customers so they can finish a texting session with their BFFs.  “Screw you, my concerns are far more important than yours.

If you look at it, most criminal activity has inconsideration all over it.  Theft, violence, destruction of property… it’s all a big “Screw you.”  They’re saying, “I get to do what I want or take what I want, no matter how badly it hurts or affects you.”

All of this is why we keep seeing stories in the news about long “Pay it Forward” chains, 6-year old girls who raise money for animal shelters, or other random good deeds… because they’re so rare.  If it happened all the time, in proportion to our population, it wouldn’t be noteworthy.  When someone does something nice for someone else, it goes against the grain of what our culture has become: a breed of people obsessed with ourselves, and utterly convinced of our own inflated worth.

Now I’ll admit, I could be under the influence of the East Coast Effect.  I seem to remember people in the Midwest looking out for one another a little more.  Or, maybe that was just a different time.

So what’s next?  Beats the hell out of me.  But I know we’d all be a lot better off if we looked around once in a while, and cut the people around us a break.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

We Are Killer Nuts

What a busy week it’s been… I had to pass up dinner with my folks last night, just to rest up after the afternoon Orioles game.  (The game being played in a humid, low 90s sauna didn’t help.)  I hope I remembered to close the blinds before lying naked in front of the fan.  I didn’t get a call from the landlord, so I probably did.

As I alluded to last post, I had a steady stream of activities lined up for the week, consisting of a concert, a day at the State Fair track, and three Orioles game.  But the big treat was Saturday’s Ohio State/Navy football game, played right here in Baltimore.  I haven’t been to a Buckeye game since 2003 (at Wisconsin), so it was nice to get back on the Scarlet and Gray train.

My brother Ed bought a boatload of tickets, so Mom and Dad came out for the game and we all tailgated down at the stadium.

We could tell right off that the crowd would be made up predominantly of Buckeye fans.  In fact, the night before, Camden Yards was crawling with people in OSU shirts.  There were still a good number of rabid Navy fans though... they even brought their counterparts to the legendary "Cheeseheads."
I guess these are called "Shipheads."

Because it was fairly early, we went with the “breakfast” version of the tailgate, featuring eggs, brats and breakfast sausages.  My brother combined these into a wrap, which I dubbed, “The Sausage McEdward.”

Now that’s good eatin’.

Because we had a spot right on the main aisle, we got to see the bands walk up to the entrance.  As usual, the Ohio State Band, aka “The Best Damn Band in the Land,” made a scene, chanting, “We are the Buckeyes, we are killer nuts!

This was my first game seeing one of the military academies, so I was impressed with their spectacle as well.  For the pregame, it seemed like they brought the entire Naval Academy onto the field.

That big-headed kid in the middle must be there on Affirmative Action.

If I had to guess, the entire left side of the field was Buckeye fans, and about 40% of the right.
With the white unis in the end zone, and the entire left side of the stands clad in red, you could very clearly see the line of demarcation.

As opposed to most of the football games I attend, this one seemed to have a genuine air of respect, between the teams and among the fans.  In fact, before the game, they had a handshake line, which you usually don’t see until after the game. 

The only thing missing was a flyover.  I’ve seen them do flyovers for Ravens games right here in this same stadium; I have no idea why they wouldn’t have one for a big Navy game like this.  Budget cuts, I guess.

I did have concerns about how the game was being handled by stadium management.  See, one of the cool things about college football is the excitement generated by the bands filling in the down times with music and fight songs.

I suspect the Stadium Authority hadn’t been to many big-time college games, because they kept drowning out the bands by playing music over the PA system.  I mean, who does that?  It’s not like these were paid advertisements; they were just standard rock and pop songs.  There was no point to them, and they certainly shouldn’t be squelching the extensive efforts of the bands, one of which had come clear across the half the country to perform.

Halftime was great though, because that’s where the Ohio State band got even.

First, the Navy band played a couple of songs and marched around a bit.  I could barely hear them.
They were finishing with Anchors Aweigh.

After that, TBDBITL came on to show everyone how it’s done.  No, they didn’t do any T-Rexes, or Michael Jackson moonwalks this time, but they did a nice anchor while doing Anchors Aweigh (again) as a tribute. 
The Ohio State Marching Band demonstrates some anchor management.

Then they busted out their trademark, the Double Script Ohio.  Gets me every time when they “dot the i.”

When the Ohio State band ends with double (or single) Script Ohio, it’s their version of doing the mic drop before walking off stage. 

Oh yeah, there was a football game in there too.  After a nervous first half, when the Buckeyes couldn’t get out of their own way, they finally put a couple of TDs on the board and won 34-17.  Quite entertaining.

Because the Orioles were scheduled to play that evening, and the two venues share the parking lots, they didn’t want anyone hanging around too long for post-game tailgates.  We bolted pretty quickly and got away before the lot got gridlocked.

Had a decent day at the track on Sunday; I broke dead even over the nine races.  Of course, technically, I started off $26 in the hole if you consider parking, entrance, racing forms and a Pepsi, but it was worth it for four hours of entertainment.

And because I’ve been so busy and it took me a couple of days to get this video loaded onto YouTube, I’ll include a quick clip of Boston from last Tuesday night, playing my favorite keyboard and drums extravaganza, “Foreplay.” 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Boston Comes to Baltimore

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Taken from directly behind seating area.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, August 25, 2014

License to Kill Time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well, to myself, I said that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, August 22, 2014

I Call'em Like I Hear'em

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Whatever Happened to the Show Me State?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh wait, that already happened.

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

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