Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Funniest Story Ever Written (by me)

Times They Are A’Changin’

It all started when I read the chilling words in the email:

Can you watch the boys this Saturday?

My sister-in-law was asking me to babysit my two nephews at their house in Catonsville while she and my brother went to Annapolis for a Navy football game, the Saturday before Labor Day. I’ve watched the 7-year-old, Daniel, before and knew that he is no sweat and is just a joy to watch. The new wrinkle was 11-month-old baby Sam. I’ve never cared for a “baby” baby before.

Of course I would help them out… I would do anything for my brother and his family. I just hoped they knew what they were getting into… or at least what they were getting me into: my first confrontation with… cue the “Dragnet” music… a diaper full of ca-ca.

I’ve never changed a diaper before. In fact, I usually leave the room where it’s happening, and at minimum, avert my eyes and hold my breath. I immediately started thinking, “what would be a bigger mess, Sammy’s butt staying in a dirty diaper, or getting the dirty diaper in the trash but leaving hurl all over the floor?” What’s an Uncle to do?

You see, I know what this boy is capable of. Seven months earlier when we were all riding home from Pittsburgh, I was in the back seat with Daniel and Sammy when the baby dropped a major 5-alarm bomb. This was evil. It had a half-life. I mean, even people in other cars were giving us a wide berth. (Although I’ll allow that this may have been due to the sight of my contorted face pressed up against the glass.) My poor sister-in-law had to change him up in the front seat, in the dark, which must have been a real test.

Not that I’d know firsthand, mind you, not how I was sitting there with my leather coat over my head. What I should have done is cracked the window, put the sleeve out, and tried breathing through the armhole. But anyway, what I’m saying is that I knew I had every right to be apprehensive. I’ve seen what kind of damage the boy can do. I’m thinking I’m going to need the full Mr. Mom Haz-Mat Suit.

I was in denial at first…

Maybe he won’t have to go,” I thought, “maybe it’s a night game, they’ll put him to bed, and all I have to do is watch movies with Daniel and keep the house from burning down.”

Then the other shoe dropped. They were leaving at 1:30, for a 5:00 game, and would be home afterward. Well, there was no denying it now. There would be poo.

The next thing I know, I’m barreling through the remaining 4 of the 5 famous stages of grief*:

  • Anger: How dare they make me do this? My dad never had to change a diaper…
  • Bargaining: If he can only just hold out until I’ve had dinner…
  • Depression: God, I hope this isn’t the high point of my holiday weekend…
  • Acceptance: An Uncle’s gotta do what he’s gotta do… OK, let there be poo…

So I sought advice wherever I could. One friend sent me a URL for a helpful, step-by-step guide to baby changing. I got other helpful hints from a former nanny I met at happy hour. I got sympathy from my male friends.

OK, I can do this.”

I got to the house at 12:30 and began my indoctrination. I learned how, and when, and what to feed the baby, where all the supplies were, the emergency phone numbers, (brother’s cell, pizza delivery place…) everything a prepared babysitter needs. Finally, it was time for the Changing Lesson. My sister-in-law demonstrated with a dry run… Pick up the feet, off with the old, on with the new. Wide Velcro tabs in the back, pouch in the front. Easy!

Yeah, I can do this.”

At 1:30, I bid them goodbye, and off to Annapolis they went. Then I decided I should lay down the law with the boys.

OK guys, rule Number One… No Pooping!

I was very specific about this. Sammy gave me a wide-eyed look and a goofy smile, as if to say, “You’re new here, aren’t you?”

I don’t think he was buying it. Anyway, the first order of business was to break out the DVDs I brought to keep Daniel and me occupied: Gremlins and Men in Black. Young boys love monster movies. Old boys do too.

Somewhere near the end of the 2nd feature, I heard Sammy fart. It didn’t seem to slow him down much from his busy schedule of crawling into every corner he wasn’t supposed to be in and pulling stuff off shelves, so I didn’t think much of it. Besides, it was too “airy.”

Shortly after the movie was over, Daniel told me, “Uncle Bluz, Sam pooped.”

Off in the distance, a lone cricket chirped. Somewhere, the sun was shining, children were playing in a meadow and all was sweetness and light. But there was no joy in Catonsville tonight...

Are you sure he didn’t just fart?” I asked Daniel.

No, his farts don’t smell like that,” he answered matter-of-factly.

A brother knows these things, I guess.

I picked Sam up for the “smell test.” Yup, no doubt about it. It was time for my baptism of fire. At best I was hoping to handle it with deftness and aplomb. At worst, I was hoping not to yak on the baby.

I carefully laid out my supplies… fresh diaper on the floor on the right, a couple of baby wipes just above that. I laid the baby down; put a toy in his hand…

OK, I’m going in…”

I pulled back the Velcro, lifted the feet, and took a peek.

Oh my God.”

It was like a mudslide. It brought to mind what the last people on Mt. St. Helens must have seen. I couldn’t believe a single diaper could accept so much stress without bursting. I wasn’t even sure that I could. It was like the gates of Hell had parted with a choir of demons crying, “Everybody out!” I was tempted to pull my shirt up over my nose, but I didn’t want him to think he was being changed by a terrorist.

I moved the offending diaper out of the way and reached for the new one. But wait! If I lowered him back down before I’d cleaned him off, he’d get the fresh diaper dirty. So it was then I realized that this wasn’t quite as easy it seemed in my tutorial. There’s a big difference between switching out a clean diaper, versus trying to remove 2 pounds of toxic waste from a squirming baby. So as I continued to hold his feet up, like I was showing off a prize-winning trout, I started in with the baby wipes. I burned through the two I’d laid out in no time, and realized I had barely made a dent.

I tried pulling more out of the dispenser, but they didn’t seem to want to break free. Now, where’s that 3rd arm when you need it? Or, where’s that other nephew when you need him? Looks like Daniel got out of Dodge while he could. I resorted to holding the box with my knees and managed to wiggle out a few more baby wipes to finish wiping out the old DMZ.

Cleanup detail completed, I was finally able to lower Sam’s little bum into a nice clean diaper and send him crawling off in search of more stuff to pull off the shelves.

I packed up the offending diaper and lit out in search of the garbage can, which was outside. Funny, I felt like I should be working out with the load I was carrying. (Here’s the new exercise craze, “Pumping Poo!”). Carrying that load at arm’s length was a good workout for the old deltoids. That kid must have just lost about 10% of his body weight. I really had no idea that babies contained so much poop.

Now, out with the old, in with the new... it’s time for feeding. This part was easy. I was told that Sam just opens up and you drop in a spoonful of food. This proved to be essentially correct. What I wasn’t told was that it would be a moving target. It almost became like a carnival game, trying to get the loaded spoon into a bobbing, weaving little mouth, without dotting his cheeks like a Raggedy Andy doll. But again, we got the job done.

Finally, it was time for Daniel and me to eat… “Helloooooo pizza!

Well, eventually. While trying to keep one eye on Sam, pick the pizza phone number and dial with the other eye, I accidentally picked the wrong “emergency” number and called my brother’s cell. Took me a second to figure out what I’d done… but he must have known it was me and was probably wondering what the hell I’d done now.

I put his mind at ease right away… “It’s OK… no problems… just dialed your number by mistake…” I gave him a quick rundown of the day’s events and atrocities and got on with obtaining our pizza.

Everything was pretty much a breeze from there. Oh, Sammy loaded up another one for me. (“Where the hell does it all come from?”)

Luckily, it wasn’t quite as voluminous as the first one. This one was changed with a minimum of fuss and crying. From me, I mean.

Actually, Sam never cried all day and I really thank my lucky stars for that. I don’t know what I’d do if I had to deal with constant crying, in addition to conducting decontamination detail. He ate well, took his bottles well, occasionally napped on my lap, and otherwise occupied himself quite nicely. Daniel was a big help as well, keeping an eye on little bro when I had to prepare the bottles or heat up Sam’s food.

Putting Sam to bed didn’t quite work out, so I had to abort that effort, figuring he’d conk out when he was good and ready. Mommy and Daddy came home around 11:30, to find Sammy asleep on my chest, and Daniel and I watching King Kong, a picture of family bliss. But now it was time for me to make a break for it.

I was happy that I was able to pull it off, but was left with a sense of amazement regarding parents. How they live like that day in and day out is incredible. I learned how draining it is to stay in such a constant state of high alert. It’s a wonder any of us ever lived to grow up at all, let alone had siblings. But it was all good. Tomorrow would be Sunday, and I’d need that day of rest.

*The “Five Steps of Grief” is from the noted book “On Death and Dying” by Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, 1969. (This is a book I read in college. I find it helps to appear scholarly when writing about poop.)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Award Dance

I've had such a good time this year with writing this blog. And I'm having an even better time now that there are a few people actually reading it. Regardless of the hubris it inherently takes to publish your thoughts on news, politics, pop culture and sports events, I'm really humbled that anyone gives a flying fig what I have to say, let along makes the effort to come and see.

In the course of reading and commenting on the blogs of others, I've come to be e-friends with several, who in turn read and comment on mine, thus encouraging my behavior:

Tiffany at
Talk to Tiff
Cassie and Carly from Sisters from Different Misters
Gina from My Very Last Nerve
One-Eyed Dick from I Came to Sarasota
and The GUYS from The Guys' Perspective.

All have written stellar blogs and have been good friends to me. (Their links are always on the blogroll to the right; check'em out)

But this morning I heard from my most tireless cheerleaders, Rich and Cher from
AskCherlock. They were talking about their community of blogging friends and decided to give out a “Circle of Friends” award to 4 bloggers plus yours truly. They wrote:

“Honestly, there are times when I feel as though we are all sitting at the kitchen table, or in our case the breakfast nook, having coffee and discussing life’s quirks or the ravages of politics. So pass the sugar, and know how much we value all of you. We would like to pass this along to a few of our blogging friends.”
Thank you, Rich and Cher, for inviting me into your circle. I shall strive to be as literate and thought provoking as your blog is day after day.

OK, maybe I’ll just strive to rant and bellyache about sports and politics, tell some bawdy stories and try not to make too many spelling mistakes. Call me the Poster Boy for Lowered Expectations.

Deep bow

Monday, October 26, 2009

Steelers Recap - Week 7

The Steelers/Vikings game was on Fox, yesterday… God, I hate that freakin’ robot they use. It takes every negative aspect of the real players then makes it even cockier.

Another assault on the senses: Tony “the Hutt” Siragusa is doing commentary from behind the end zone. I hope the fans gave it to him good, what with him being the former Ratbird who once said in the media that Ratbird fans, when they encounter Steelers fans in their stadium, should follow them into the rest rooms, where there are no cameras, and “take care of business.”

Great, he advocates fan-on-fan violence in the stands. Thanks for the update, Goose. Now go back to committing violence on the Fox pre-game buffet. Go talk to Brett Favre who once asked the you while on the field, “How do you get all that face in a helmet?”

The other game on TV is the Patriots/Buccaneers, from Wembley Stadium in England. I read that Commish Roger Goodell wants more games played in England and possibly a team based there.

I can see playing some games there, rotating the “honor” through all the teams. But having a team based there is a horrible idea. Any team based there would be at a tremendous disadvantage, what with all the traveling. Unless they played 8 straight home games then 8 straight away games, the travel time is going to kill them... or they meet in Iceland or something. Besides, we don’t need the fans here getting any new ideas for stadium violence from all the soccer hooligans there. Leave well enough alone! Blimey!

OK, let’s go to the game notes:

* I knew James Harrison was in for a good day when he ran down Adrian Peterson from behind on the 2nd play from scrimmage. 92 ended up with 2 sacks on the day and was a force all over the field. James Farrior also had a big day, with 15 tackles and a sack.

* Analyst Darrel Johnston said that it was a “confidence booster” for Favre after he’d thrown an incompletion to a receiver that appeared open, because he’d been protected.

Huh? What about the previous pass, where Farrior knocked him into next week? Just like Fox to spew nonsense at one conference over another… I blame Rupert Murdoch.

* Minnesota may need some help at punter. I hear Mitch Berger is available. When a guy like Mitch “35-yard punt” Berger would be an improvement over your current guy, you have problems. The Vikes’ first 2 punts went 30-some yards and then 19. And no, he was not pooching it to the goal line. He didn’t even get it out of his own territory. Yeesh

* I love how they’re getting William Mike Wallace into the game.

Wallace hits for a first down catch, then seeks freedom around left end for another first down. When you have 3 clutch receivers, plus a tight end that catches everything, your passing attack is truly formidable.

* Adrian Peterson broke a couple of decent runs but was basically bottled up for the day. 69 yards on 18 carries? Coke-a-Cola doesn’t bottle it up any better than that. I also like that even when the Steelers didn’t sack Favre, they were still knocking him down quite a bit. He’s going to feel it in the old Wranglers on Monday…

* Ben bombs one to Wallace for a 40-yard TD.
* That was just a huge defensive stand by the Steelers… First and goal at the 1-foot line; I was amazed, much like the rest of the viewing, reporting and blogging public, why they didn’t run the #1 rusher in the NFL more than once from there.

* Next possession after the goal-line stand, Ryan Clark just mashed Percy Harvin to separate him from the ball. I think it had something to do with his being called “Percy.” Kid’s probably been living with a target on his back all his life.

* Santonio had a brilliant run after catch for about 45 yards, making at least a half dozen Vikings miss him. Too bad there was no payoff. If I were Tomlin, I’d fine Mendenhall every time he tries to leap over people. I noticed that after that fumble on the 4 yard line, Mendenhall did not see the field again.

* Insert your own joke about Skippy’s “OlĂ©” wiff on Harvin’s kickoff return for touchdown. Dude, “Percy” just made you look like a drunken foul dwarf… no wait… pre-existing condition. I did NOT want to see the Vikings come back to life. Not with #4 still breathing.

* Cue the Big Plays. (Yes, I know that one of them happened before the run-back. I’m trying to condense here.) I love the escort that both Woodley and Fox got on their long-ass fumble/interception returns. Nobody really came near them. The boys just plowed the way.

I know Favre still has a gun, but even at his advance age, he still hasn’t learned to pull it back on the short “out” pass. No sense in drilling a 5-yard ball to your running back. Keyaron Fox just took out the trash.

* Any more thoughts of last minute comebacks were put to rest with James Harrison’s shoulder pad to Favre’s kidneys. The End.
Mojo Analysis: The 92 Throwback and Steelers jammie-pants worked pretty well. Will definitely keep them in rotation for home games watched at home.

Next week is “Bye” week and I have something very special planned. You’ll like it, I promise.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Mojo Boogie - Week 7

Today the Steelers have the 1:00 game against the Minnesota Vikings. This is a big game and most of the country will be seeing it, including Baltimore. I’m warming up Samson as we speak.

In a somewhat risky maneuver, I’m trying a new jersey for this big game. I just acquired a couple of new Steelers “throwback” jerseys: a #92/James Harrison and a #83/Heath Miller. I’m opting to go with the Harrison because our defense really needs to shine today against the likes of “Purple Jesus” Adrian Peterson and the "Rapidly Aging" Brett Favre.

The last 2 times Favre played the Steelers, they knocked him around pretty good. We were actually at the last game, a couple years ago in Green Bay. My parents still lived there so my dad was able to get a fistful of tickets. I suppose I should save further comment on that day for when we actually play the Packers, but to some extent, Favre and the Packers have always seemed to be one and the same.

The last time the Vikings were in Pittsburgh, we saw that game too. That was in December of 2001 in Heinz Field’s inaugural season. The Steelers beat the Vikes in that one 21-13. I remember that there was a huge goal-line stand near the end of the game, with the Vikings threatening down in the South end zone. That was the loudest I’ve ever heard a stadium. That was also the first time a game left me speechless. I was literally reduced to a whisper as a result of screaming my head off for the entire game. Sadly, this was before I learned the
“Jack Bauer” Technique.

So here’s today’s ensemble: Harrison jersey and Steelers flannel sweatpants, with Steelers socks, although you can also add the gold Steelers Tee that I plan to wear underneath, that I forgot to include in the shot but am too lazy to redo.
Here we go Steelers, here we go!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Wedding Stories

Like I mentioned on the last “wedding” post, I realize that a bunch of crap about someone else’s wedding is usually sleep inducing. I will try to keep this limited to some fun stories about the occasion

I started off pissed at myself. I forgot to bring my dress shoes home from work. I keep them at work so that I’m not slogging through rain, snow and slush in them, so that they stay new-looking longer. The down side is that I have to remember to bring them home when I have a rare “dress-up” occasion. So I failed miserably here.

I went into my closet and found an old pair of cordovan loafers. (Cordovan = a dark maroon/brown color) I was planning to wear my charcoal suit and a dark red shirt anyway, so some of the damage was mitigated. As this was to be a “casual dress” wedding, I considered wearing my sneakers. The problem is; the definition of “casual” can vary greatly. I did not want to call attention to myself by wearing my blindingly white sneaks, while everyone else was looking all dapper and debonair. I also considered just bringing them in the car, so once I had a look around to check the prevailing trends, I could bust out the comfy shoes. In the end, I decided against it all and just went with the cordovans.

So as we got out of the car and approached the wedding place, I caught a look at all the groomsmen gathered outside the door. Then I saw what they were all wearing:

Chuck Taylor high-top sneakers… all of them, groom included were wearing flippin’ Chucks. I came thiiiiiis close to going back for my sneaks…

I have to say that my cousin and his new wife are very cool people and their wedding fit them. They have a son together that’s about one and a half. Her father was the chuch official. They had a string trio playing the wedding music, and the bride walked in to the theme from “Juno.” (Pinky pointed this out to me or I would have completely missed it.)
The ceremony was just how I like them… short! Just long enough to make it a meaningful event, but not so long that you’re just dying to get it over with. It was kind of funny though, when you have one guy giving the bride away, AND performing the ceremony.

I loved the wedding cake topper. Remember when I explained how my family takes their sports very seriously? Behold:
There was a serious cookie table as well. There is always a cookie table at an Italian wedding. And they’re always fantastic! During dinner, Pinky and I sat with my brother, a cousin and his wife, and my second-cousin and his wife. Over dinner we talked a bit about their wedding, which took place way back when my brother and I were boys. I prodded my brother to tell a favorite story from that occasion, when the second-cousin was trying to get my brother, who was about 9 at the time, to dance with a little girl at the wedding. We were out in the parking lot and my brother said, in a very composed and worldly manner, “Second-cousin, I’d do anything in the world for you… but I won’t dance with that girl.”

So as we continued to tell more stories, our second-cousin’s wife said to me, “When you’re telling a story, you remind me so much of your Grandfather.” She was talking about my Grandpa on my mom’s side, who she remembered from his attendance at her wedding.

I was stunned. I thanked her for those words, saying she had no idea what that meant to me. My Grandpa, who died in the late 70’s, has always been a personal hero to me. Grandpa was a storyteller. I had so many memories of him holding forth in dens, family rooms, basements; a bunch of men gathered around him. He’d tell stories about his crazy family or growing up during the Depression, and just kill the room. I remember guys telling him to stop so they could catch their breath from laughing. And I remember thinking, “That’s the guy I want to be.”
That’s my Grandpa on the right, at his 35th Anniversary Party, singing with his friends. I love how they all dressed up for parties back then. (mid 1960's) He also had a number of retirement parties too. I swear he used to keep getting new jobs just so he could have another retirement party. In addition to telling stories, he also used to play guitar… a big blonde electric guitar. He’d have other guys over who could play accordion or harmonica and they’d stay up all night singing standards and old Italian songs. His harmonica-playing friend played with an amp and it was always fun to watch them sneakily turn each other’s amps down. Grandpa could also play harmonica and kept several of them in his lower desk drawers, where his grandkids could find them.

That desk was a marvelous thing, full of cubby holes and compartments containing his draftsman’s tools, pads, pencils and other cool stuff. It’s no accident that I now have that desk in my bedroom.

The art of storytelling seems pretty much lost nowadays. People don’t seem to gather round just to talk any more. I try from time to time, but there are so many things that get in the way… A lot of storytelling (and joke telling) is all about rhythm and timing. Throw any of them off and the impact dies. Phones go off, the TV is on, people interrupt and step on punch lines… it’s frustrating.

It’s my Grandpa I have in mind when I tell my stories here and I hope it makes him proud. So when she said that to me about Grandpa, it was the best compliment I ever could have had.

Later that night, a cousin was talking to my other Grandpa and recording it on video with her digital camera. I don’t think Grandpa knew what she was doing.

My dad’s father is old school Italian and all of 93 years old. He’s so old school that sitting outside the Old School, they have a statue of him. He’s as staid and buttoned down as my other Grandpa was flamboyant. He doesn’t say much, but when he does, it’s usually something good. So after about 10 minutes of talking, my cousin asked him, in conclusion, if he had any words of wisdom for his grandson, the groom.

Grandpa said, “Tell him that if he takes after his Grandpa, he’ll be just fine.”

Oh, snap. Grandpa lays down the old world smack. I love it!
This is the Mack Grand-Daddy with his granddaughters. I have no idea what they were doing with their fingers. Must have been that IC Light memory block.

It’s just not a wedding reception until you get a baby out on the floor. Little Gabe, who belongs to the bride and groom, decided to go all Tony Manero and take over the dance floor.

Another wedding concluded, we got up Monday morning and checked out of the Fairfield. I didn’t partake of the free breakfast because I knew where we were all meeting up for lunch:

Yep, Segnari’s again for lunch. Like I said before, it’s just what we do. After lunch I got 2 more fishes to go. Gotta strike while I can. We probably won’t be back until next year. I would always regret the fish not eaten.

The trip home was much nicer than the one coming out. The sun was out and the leaves sparkled. The trip wasn’t without some controversy though. Pinky says she doesn’t like Monty Python. I maintain that it’s because she hasn’t heard the right sketches. I had a “right” sketch at the end of a mix CD we listened to. She remained unimpressed. “I liked 2 sentences at the end,” she said. Bah!
This bit always reminds me of when my friends and I get together and start remembering our past. Every time a story is told, there are another couple of asses getting kicked in it.

Now you tell me this isn’t funny…

Yeah, I thought so. Now I’m off to clean the lake.

The Retroactive Mojo Boogie & Recap – Game 6

I hate doing these so far after the fact, but I hate omitting them even more.

When we last left our hero, he was getting drunk in the lounge of the Neville Island Fairfield Inn.

I got up Sunday morning all happy because I knew there was free breakfast downstairs. Nothing fancy, but I got me a couple of bacon, egg and cheese muffins to take back to the room, along with some pastries for Pinky.

Is it me, or would “Pastries for Pinky” be a good name for a pop band? It puts me in mind of Josie and the Pussycats. (The cartoon only, I don’t acknowledge the live-action movie that came 30 years later.) When I was little, I totally wanted to “do” Melody, the drummer. Not that I knew what “doing” was… I just know I wanted it. There’s something about girls with cat-ears. (See: Catwoman,
Favorite Villains post from March.) Mrowr!

I was to go to my Aunt’s house for the game, so I had only some very simple mojo, my “popcorn” knit Steelers polo:
This is my “go-to” mojo when watching the game in non-standard or “one-off” venues.

There was a real full house for the game and it was fun to watch with my family. I could only watch until into the 4th quarter because then I had to go back to the hotel and change for the wedding. One of the bonuses of being back in the Burgh was that I could tune in the Steelers radio call with Bill Hillgrove and Tunch Ilkin. I like them a great deal, but man, I miss Myron Cope. The guy made every game interesting because you never knew what he was going to come up with. There will never be another one like Myron, I tell you. One day in the future, I’m going to have to do a Myron post.

On to the (very brief) game notes:
* Here we are again, playing around with an inferior team. We should have done to the Browns and the Lions what the Patriots were doing to the Titans that weekend… beating them 59-0. Or at least come close to that before choking out the clock. That’s what championship teams should be doing. The Steelers seem to do juuuuust enough to win, against good teams or bad.

OK, on second thought, we haven’t even beaten any good teams. We thought the Titans were good, but it turned out that were not. The Bengals and Bears are kind of good and we lost to them, although we were in position to win both if not for 2 missed field goals and a dropped TD pass.

The Steelers will need to bring their “A” game if they’re going to beat the Vikings this weekend. And just about the whole country will be watching this one. It’s going to be tough to stop Adrian Peterson without Aaron Smith in the lineup. Brett Favre is also going strong right now, although the Steelers have had his number in the past.

* I’ve said it before but Heath Miller and Hines Ward are having career years. Both are totally money when the ball is coming their way. Heath was just a monster against the Browns. Hines had a great game and would have had an even better one if the refs didn’t make a hinky overturn on one of his TDs.

This is why I love Hines Ward: “You can’t catch me, I’m the Gingerbread Man!”

That shot from the Post Gazette says everything you need to know about Hines… Everything he does, he looks like a guy enjoying a day at the beach. I was commenting from the couch during the game that you can see him smiling as he’s running with the ball. I wish I had that much joy about everything in MY life…

* I can’t believe we gave up another kick return TD to Joshua Cribbs. Dude just scorches the Steelers. Why the heck were we even kicking it to him? And even more importantly, why the heck can’t Jeff Reed put a kickoff into the end zone? With the size of his thighs, he should be able to put the ball into the stands!

I don’t have much to say about Skippy’s post game run-in with The Law. From the news reports, I gather that he was coming to the aid of Matt Spaeth, who was being busted for peeing in public. Matt Spaeth is 6’7” and 270 pounds. Does a gorilla like that really need any help from the likes of Jeff Reed? I can just see the cops going, “Hey, who ordered a
Foul Dwarf?”

Anyone that squares off against the cops is just asking for the old “wood shampoo.” Skippy is lucky they didn’t knock his ass onto the disabled list. They had all those punks to practice on during the G20, after all.

* Yes, I mentioned that the refs boned the call on Hines’ TD, but I have to say, they messed things up for both teams pretty badly. The Steelers did what they often do in such situations… they overcame it.

In all the fuss about the measurement that looked short but was called a first down, the announcers seemed to be leaving off one very salient point. Unless the camera is shooting straight down the line at the first down marker, you can’t really tell if it’s a first down when it’s that close. In this case, the camera looked to be off-line. Suffice it to say, no one has a better angle then the ref, so I have to defer to him. Of course if it was the Browns getting the same call, I’m sure I’d be all pissed off about it.

Mojo Recap: The polo came through, albeit weakly. One never knows if the polo turned a loss into a close win, OR held the Steelers back from a larger margin of victory. Perhaps if I had worn a jersey, they might have given the Brownies a good wallop!

Hence, the never-ending study of mojo.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Back to the Burgh

Time now for my second trip to Pittsburgh in as many weeks, for another cousin’s wedding. The wedding was on Sunday, but on Saturday night, we were going to see the Penguins game.

This time, I would not be traveling alone. My girlfriend (aka Pinky or Little Red) was coming with me. This is a picture of her sunbathing, earlier this year, at my parents’ place in Pensacola, Florida. I call this shot, “How Redheads Tan.”
Saturday was a really crappy day for a drive. It rained from the time I left Baltimore until we were past Breezewood. Then it merely drizzled the rest of the way. We were staying at the brand new Fairfield Inn on Neville Island.

When I mentioned to Pinky that we were staying on Neville Island, she asked me if it was some kind of resort. (Pausing now for my Pittsburgh friends to stop laughing.) For those unfamiliar with that little corner of Western Pennsylvania, here’s a shot of some of the beautiful scenery for which Neville Island is known:
About 20 miles from Breezewood, we came to a complete stop on I-70. Uh-oh… that’s never good. Judging from the ambulances I spotted heading the other way and the utter lack of movement, I’d say there was an accident.

After about 15 minutes of sitting there, I got out of the car to walk up and see what was going on. Naturally, the cars began moving at that very moment. Yes, there was indeed an accident… there were about 3 cars smashed up. You know, at the speeds we all drive, it’s a wonder that there aren’t more of them. It’s really just a matter of blind trust that we manage to operate our vehicles at such speeds, mere feet from one another, without bumping.

We stopped at Wendy’s again to enjoy lunch and a little rest. I know it was a gamble whether to eat or not, given how we usually get forcibly fed once we hit my relative’s house. But I was unsure of the plan and there was a good chance that I wouldn’t be getting together with anyone until late in the day.

We got to the Fairfield Inn without any trouble. I was especially impressed by their helpful concierge.
I talked to my dad and received the plan. We were meeting for dinner before going to the game. Where?

Where else?
We were going to meet up with the family for fish sandwiches and whatnot. I packed up my Pens game mojo and we lit out for Segnari’s in Coraopolis. But wait…

Before we even got out of the parking lot I had to turn around and go back. The Pens were wearing their powder blues tonight, and I did have my blue Pens hat on. But it was my “Three-Time Stanley Cup Champions” hat I had been wearing during the drive out. That breaks my mojo rule about sporting championship gear to a game. I packed a plain blue Pens hat with the old logo to wear to the game.

On my way back up to the room, I noticed a bus full of Steelers fans disembarking. I went up the elevator with some of them and I asked where they were coming from. They said they were from Albany NY.

Holy crap… I used to live there, from 1990 to 1997, back when I was married (chill crawls up spine). We agreed that it was a small freakin’ world.

So, back to the car and away to Segnari’s we went. Hugs were shared, beers drank and fish sandwiches inhaled. After dinner, my mom, dad, brother and I headed for the Igloo.

We were in section C30, under the deck about 3 rows from the back. We could see all of the ice, but not the scoreboard. This was our view: The zoom helped pull the shots closer, so that you didn’t see the deck above us.
For the past couple of years, I’ve read the Pittsburgh Post Gazette’s outstanding “
Empty Netters” blog, written by Seth Rorabaugh. We’d corresponded enough over that time that we were familiar with each other, so I’d dropped Seth a note earlier in the week, to see if we could get together before the game. Seth was gracious enough to agree, so I texted him once we got settled.

Ten minutes later, there he was, having come from the other side of the arena. I was happy to be able to introduce him to my dad, but unfortunately, we didn’t get to talk for more than a minute or so, as people were trying to get around to their seats and Seth had some pressing issues to attend to… little things like having to haul ass back to the press box and live-blog the game. But it was great to get to finally meet up. It’s a testament to him that he even bothered to come down to mix with the riff-raff.

The game itself was great. The Penguins dominated early and the outcome was never really in doubt. That means my mojo is 1-0. (at least when the Pens wear blue)
OK, here are a couple shots, just because what else am I going to do with them?
Yes, I know these aren't that great, but I posted my most meaningful shot in the last entry. (Dupuis in the process of deflecting a Gonchar shot into the net.)

We got out of Dodge easily enough and I was back at the Fairfield by 10:30. I knew Pinky would be asleep in the room, so I was kind of inclined to linger in the lounge and watch the end of the Yankees/Angels game, maybe with something cold and foamy in my hand. Didn’t know where I was going to get any beer though… the Fairfield doesn’t have a bar. So I walked in and there were some of the Albany people sitting around watching the game. I noticed that they all had 6-pack containers with them. I asked someone, “Um, were did you get that sixer?”

They said, “At the King’s Restaurant, right out front.”

“Whoo Hoo! I’ll be right back.”

Picked me up a half dozen IC Lights (don’t laugh… I like it and you can’t get it in Baltimore) and went back to the lounge. I spent the rest of the night talking Pittsburgh sports with the displaced Burghers from Albany and catching up on some of the news from another of my “old neighborhoods.”

I always forget that it’s not a good idea to drink a bunch of beer immediately before bed. Someday I’ll learn. It was kind of an up and down night, but a very good day.

Next: Brief recap and mojo results for a 4-day old Steelers game.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Hold On...

I'm back safe and sound from The Burgh and good times were had by all. Eats were eaten, drinks were drank, mojo was executed properly and I hardly ever got lost.

I have a gazillion pictures to process and upload and I'll try to get some sort of post up Tuesday or Wednesday evening. If only I didn't have that pesky job and they'd just pay me for fiddling around at home on my computer.
To demonstrate my good intentions, here is a picture of Pascal Dupuis about to deflect Sergei Gonchar's shot into the net.

We were sitting in section C30, about 3 rows from the back. We were under the deck and could see all of the ice, but not the scoreboard. So you'll have to forgive the lack of nice, up-close face shots.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Humble Number Forty-Three

This weekend, all info points to Troy Polamalu playing after spraining a knee in the season opener. To celebrate this occasion, I am printing a poem, recently written by my dear cousin Angela, in honor of the esteemed #43.


for Troy Polamalu

Your jersey covers many.

Our proudest layer,
your humble forty-three.

Your movements mesmerize.
Hair that whispers fire,
your famous banner flies.

Quiet teacher, you speak
against acts of greed.
Silent prankster, you steal
smiles shared with your team.

Your talents amaze.
Even muppets sing your name.
Fans marvel how you honor
faith and family through the game.

Your jersey warms a city.
A bright gold blessing,
humble number forty-three.

I had to run this, you see, because Angela and a friend won an episode of “Fear Factor” a couple years ago and she’d probably kick my ass if I didn’t.

Naah, I’m just kidding. I think she’s drawn to Troy because she has the same qualities: amazing talent, gorgeous, and humble almost to a fault. I’d post her picture but she’d probably die of embarrassment.

Now let’s hope Troy stays healthy. I’ll see if Angela has anything for Aaron Smith.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Mojo Boogie - Week 6

This weekend, it’s back to the ‘Burgh for another wedding. The wedding is at 4:30 on Sunday afternoon and the Powers That Be have kindly arranged a Penguins home game for us to attend on Saturday night. In case you may think that 4:30 is an odd time for a Sunday wedding, consider that the Steelers game is at 1:00. See, it’s not just me… My family takes great pains to avoid the all-important conflict with the game.

Which reminds me of a story… (I know, what else is new?)
My grandmother had been ill for some time, suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, before finally succumbing to a stroke a couple years ago, around New Year’s. This was my dad’s mom, who made the most magnificent feasts, knitted her grandchildren comforters and size-12 black and gold slippers, and just shined love down on all she knew. I think all of Coraopolis turned out for her funeral.

We all cut our holidays short and traveled to Pittsburgh for the viewings and the funeral. The family viewing was on Friday night and that’s were we said our goodbyes. But there was also a public viewing on Saturday afternoon that we were expected to attend, which happened to conflict with a Steelers/Bills game. That it was the last game of the year and the Steelers had nothing to play for did not alter the fact that I still wanted to follow the game. This was January of 2005… the end of Ben Roethlisberger’s rookie year. The Steelers had been on quite a run and I didn’t want to miss any of it.

I hatched a plan that I thought would work… I was going to use the radio feature of my MP-3 player to catch the radio call of the game. I’d keep the player in my pocket, and run one earphone up my back and into my ear from behind, like the Secret Service do. Then I’d just stand in the back of the room and look somber. I wasn’t really trying to be covert, but I didn’t want to be obvious. I just hoped my dad would understand.

So there I was, one ear on the room, one ear in the game. Everything was working like a charm… Then my dad hustled up to me, looking exasperated.

“Oh, geez, he’s pissed at me,” I thought.

Then Dad said, “Well… I can’t find a TV anywhere around here… we’re going to miss the rest of the game.”

Phew! Number One Son to the rescue! I showed Dad how I was wired up and he heartily approved. So I spent the rest of the afternoon sidling up to various uncles, cousins, siblings and one dad, saying things like, “Willie just ran for 25,” or “TD pass to Hines”. I was a one-man version of a sports ticker crawl.

Now don’t you go all tut tut on me… We paid our respects the night before. And given my grandma’s health in her last year, she was in a better place now. It wasn’t a sad thing. Life soldiered on and the playoffs were looming.

Now, we move onto the mojo. I have a bit of a problem here… I don’t know from where I’m going to be watching the game. That means I can’t design the most effective mojo apparel and photograph it right now. What I’m going to have to do is take a variety of things and make the decision on the fly. I might see the game from my aunt’s house, or from our hotel room, or from the hotel bar. Each would dictate a different outfitting. What I’ll do is post it after the fact, once I return from the trip.

In the meantime, let’s talk about the Pens game mojo. The team is wearing their powder blue throwback jerseys on Saturday, which leaves me inclined to match it up. I have 2 powder blues… a Sidney Crosby replica and a jersey. Given that I wore the blue Sid jersey to a game last year against the Canucks and we lost, but more importantly, my brother is wearing his blue Sid jersey, I have to go with the Pensblog jersey. If at all possible, you want to avoid wearing the exact same jersey as someone else in your party, or else you look like a couple of Twinkies.

So, here’s the Pens game rundown: blue Pensblog jersey, blue old-school distressed log Pens Tee and blue Pens slouch cap.
You can see on the back that I have my moniker there… so if you see a BLUZDUDE walking around the Mellon this weekend, do say hi.
Game on!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Steelers Recap - Week 5

OK, so I don’t have to burn my K-Mart Steelers gear. Our boys pulled out a wobbly 28-20 win over the Lions. I shall keep this ensemble in mind for the next Jilly’s game; probably November 23 at. Kansas City.

Here are some of the observations I made from my booth at Jilly’s. Yes, I said booth. The barstools were all filled up. I’m more bar-man than booth dude. (The latter of which sounds like someone saying my name after getting hit in the mouth.)

* I can’t believe Tomlin let Limas Sweed back on the field already. And how does “Plaxico-Part 2” repay his coach? By dropping a pass on 3rd down. Back to the bench with you, One-Four!

* James Harrison looked good on that first sack. I put in my notes: “92 is going to have a big game.” I wasn’t wrong. He was a one-man wrecking crew, ending up with 3 sacks and a force fumble. He was also pressuring when Culpepper committed an intentional grounding penalty. Have you ever noticed how Harrison looks when he has a free run at a quarterback? He runs with this barely controlled hysteria, like those zombies ran in “28 Days Later.”

* I bit the under-side of my tongue while eating chicken wings… hard. You could even hear the crunching sound. I hate when that happens. The wing sauce didn’t help.

* Seemed like every time we got something going, something else would go wrong. It wasn’t like the Lions were providing stiff defense… We seemed to pass and run at will. Rocket Rashard Mendenhall averaged over 5 yards per carry on the day. Offensive coordinator Arians should have used him a little more.

* I know people are complaining about all the throws in the 2nd half, but I’d still rather they keep the hammer down than slam into the line repeatedly. The Steelers are most effective when the mix run and pass. Too much of any one thing and trouble starts.
* Heath was on a rampage again. Did you see him storm in for a touchdown with that short pass. Then Hines did the same thing later. As I’ve said before, those 2 guys will kill themselves to get into the end zone. Hines sure didn’t look old turning that defender around on the reception, then pushing him back 5 yards on the run.

* Was extra fun watching the Ratbirds go down in flames today at the hands of the Bungles. The crying about the refs from the players and fans started almost immediately. Rat’s coach Harbaugh tried to snuff it out, and so has the sports media in the local paper. I will (grudgingly) give Harbaugh credit though… he seems to be a decent enough guy. Or maybe it just seems that way because he’s not this guy: All I gotta say is that the rules are the same for everyone. (Tom Brady excepted) If you don’t want the late hit and personal foul penalties, don’t hit anyone late or personally foul. You want to cry about how the refs have it in for you, maybe you shouldn’t be going around puffing out your chests and stomping around pretending to be the biggest, baddest defense, complain about the refs and throw their penalty flags in the stands. No shit they have it out for you. You asked for it, now go sign up for some Shut the Fuck Up therapy. Next!

* You want to make people nuts? Take notes at a bar. Everyone thinks you’re writing about them. A lifetime ago when I lived in Cleveland, after a long day’s work I’d retire to my favorite establishment for some wings and frosty beverages, and I would write in my journal. (journal = big yellow legal tablet… no such thing as laptops yet.) There was a TV up in the corner of the bar, way up high. So one day I was doing my thing… writing stuff down, looking up at the TV, writing stuff down, looking up at the TV.

Then this guy walks up and goes, “What are you doing? Did my wife send you?”

I was like, WTF?

He said, “I was standing over there, (points toward a spot under the TV) and you were looking at me, and writing stuff down, looking at me and writing stuff down…”

I calmed him down though, though it made me realize I’d be a lousy private eye. But I digress…

* I wrote in my notes in the 2nd quarter: “I don’t care how many fluke plays we give them… the Lions are overmatched. They can’t stop the run or pass. We’re going to win this.”

* Did anyone notice James Harrison do the Larry Foote stomp-out after his sack? I don’t know if the announcers mentioned it (the bar sound was on the Rats game) so I don’t know if they mentioned it. Later, Big Play Willie Gay did it too. As a tribute, I’m sure, to their former colleague now playing with the Lions.

* I was afraid the Lions were going to pull a Bengals maneuver and move the ball down the field and score with little time remaining. Happily, the Wizard Dick Lebeau dialed up a series of blitzes that sacked them 3 times in a row. Left them at 4th down and 34, at the 42 yard line. Ike batted the ball down to seal the game. Finally they remember how to play 4th quarter defense. Cue “victory” formation.

* Somehow, the Brownies managed to bumblefuck their way to a 6-3 victory over the Bills in Buffalo. I bet the Browns felt right at home there. After all, Buffalo is really just Cleveland, without the glitz.

* Note on a late game… And I thought the old Jets uniforms were hideous… did you see the old Broncos uniforms? Geez, they looked like flippin’ Oompa Loompas.
Their socks were striped vertically! I’m sorry, that’s just wrong. Call it a 15-yard penalty for offending the senses. Their legs looked like maroon and gold candy canes. I don’t know what kind of hashish fever dreams thought those up but I’m glad they’re gone.

I don’t have a graceful way to end this post either, so let me ask you this:

My crossword puzzle today had the following clue: Lyric to Disney song that precedes: “Darling it's better/down where it’s wetter.”

Is it wrong that I don’t have kids but I totally knew that was “Under the Sea” from The Little Mermaid? (and not dialog from some amateur porn?) Is it wrong that I have the song on my MP-3 player too? Gee, I hope not. I got “Kiss the Girl” on there too.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Mojo Boogie - Week 5

Today’s game against the Lions appears opposite the Ratbirds game, so it will not be on TV locally. That means… Hello Jilly’s!

I think the Steelers have good mojo in Detroit as long as it’s not Thanksgiving. The last time they played there was the infamous Jerome Bettis Coin Flip Flap, where the Steelers lost in OT after the ref misheard the Bus’s call. (Or Jerome misspoke or changed his mind, depending on whom you believe.)

The prior time the Steelers played Detroit on Thanksgiving was in 1983. We lived in Toledo at the time, so my dad organized a roadtrip to the game, bringing along neighborhood friends and Pittsburgh relatives. Traditionally, we always went to see the Steelers play in Cleveland. At one time, Dad was buying like 30 tickets not only for ourselves, but also for all the kids in our area that we had converted into Steelers fans. That’s back when you could actually get that many tickets just by calling the Browns box office right after the schedule was announced. Tickets were only about $20 apiece, too. We’d stay at the airport Marriott, where the Steelers stayed themselves. It was a crazy time… one which I will write up during the week we play in Cleveland later this year. So many stories… so many beers. But I digress…

We caravanned all the way up to Detroit, ready to dominate us some Lions in a nice cozy dome, but instead we got our asses handed to us 45-3. It was kind of unnerving though, watching football in a dome. I guess if we’re not sitting there in sleet, snow, or freezing rain, it just doesn’t seem like football. (Which was all we ever saw in Cleveland, let me tell you.)

The one time we went up to Ford Field, well, suffice to say, the Lions weren’t involved. When the Steelers played in Super Bowl XL, it proved to be an opportunity that couldn’t be passed up. The location was drivable, so that eliminated airfare. We still had friends to stay with in Toledo, so that eliminated hotel fare. All we had to do was get the tickets, which is still quite a tall order. Luckily, my brother is The TicketMaster. He can find a way to get tickets to anything. This wasn’t going to be cheap though. But for me, it was an opportunity of a lifetime. I’d never see circumstances like this come up again so I had to go all in. My parents flew up from Florida, my brother and I drove in from Baltimore, another friend drove from Charlotte and we took one more old neighborhood friend and veteran of the Cleveland trips. Our little crew had the time of our lives, personally rooting home our boys in a real live Super Bowl.
I intend to write that full story when the playoffs draw near this year. (Wow, that’s 2 foreshadowings in one post!)

So, back to this week... I’ve decided to test out my new K-Mart plunder at Jilly’s by wearing a black polo with gold collar highlights and a black Steelers hat with gold highlights on the edges. No sense breaking out new gear on a big game. The Lions make a good starter test for new mojo. To add some continuity, I’ll wear my customary Steelers socks. But let me tell you, if we lose this one, that shirt and hat will not see the light of game-day ever again. I might even have to burn them.
I wonder if K-Mart’s return policy is lenient enough to include cash back for scorched apparel. I bet if I brought it back to the Pittsburgh K-Mart where I bought it and explained what happened, they’d be OK with it. In fact, they’d probably take the rest of the stock off the floor. It’s a ‘Burgh thing.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Peace Out

I woke up this morning to the surprising news that President Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Naturally, I was stunned, but in a good way.

My immediate response was, “Already? This is like awarding the Best Picture Oscar immediately after a nice opening credits montage.”

From what I can gather, the prize was awarded for the sole reason that Obama is not George W. Bush. In other words, the President doesn’t confuse “hubris” with “humility”, even though they both start with “h”.

Today’s post is brought to you by the letter

I wonder if you get a trophy when you win the Nobel Peace Prize, like you do when you win the Super Bowl or Stanly Cup. There ought to be one that President Obama can keep on his desk, like producers and directors do when they win an Oscar. The trophy should be right there in the Oval Office, as if to say to all visitors, “Well what the hell have YOU done lately… Beeyoch?
“Wait until you see how big MINE’S gonna be!”

Predictably, the Republicans
registered their disagreement about 15 seconds after the announcement was made. It won’t be too much longer before Fox News sends a band of tea-baggers to Norway, in protest. Although in all probability, they’re more likely to settle for making fake reservations on Norwegian Cruise Liners.

What cracks me up is how they keep claiming that Obama hasn’t accomplished anything yet, as if it was irrelevant to regain the respect of the world that his predecessor had so cavalierly pissed away.
In an official statement, the Republican National Committee said: "The real question Americans are asking is, 'What has President Obama actually accomplished?' It is unfortunate that the president's star power has outshined tireless advocates who have made real achievements working towards peace and human rights. One thing is certain -- President Obama won't be receiving any awards from Americans for job creation, fiscal responsibility or backing up rhetoric with concrete action."

What the RNC didn’t say, but could have, was that the President would have many more concrete actions at this point if it wasn’t for those very Republicans blocking every effort to accomplish…well… anything. You can’t hold the ball and clog up the works and then complain that nothing gets done. Not with any shred of decency, anyway. But that’s been missing from the Republicans for longer than they’ve been cheating on their wives with pages, teenagers, hookers, anonymous guys in airport restrooms, staff member’s wives and Argentinean soul mates.

Another Win for The ‘Burgh
Speaking of the Stanley Cup, another news story making the rounds this week has to do with the Sporting News naming Pittsburgh the
Best Sports Town in America. I’m not going to go into all the reasons for said decision, but obviously I agree. But you should see all the comments that invariably follow these articles about it… all the complaints from people from Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Detroit and every place else that isn’t Pittsburgh. Ginny at That’s Church had a dynamite rebuttal to those clowns on Wednesday. (You can find yours truly lodging Comment #36) I guaran-damn-tee you that none of those whiners have ever actually been to Pittsburgh, or else they might have a clue how stupid they sound. Look, all I need is one stat… ahem…

It said in the Post Gazette today that for the first 4 weeks of the season, the Steelers games have averaged a 48 rating in Pittsburgh, and a 70 share. That means out of all households with a TV in Pittsburgh, 48% of them were tuned to the game. And of all households with a TV that was turned on, 70% were watching the game.

That’s incredible. No other market can smell those kinds of numbers. If you add that to the 2 straight years of Pens sell-outs, the 30-some odd years of Steelers sell-outs, the ubiquity of local sports apparel when you walk about town and all the other rampant sports mania, you get another number. Number One, baby.
Lastly, I received a link to this in an email from my dad and it just cracked me right the hell up. This is the reason that Pittsburgh is the Number One City, period… sports or not.