Monday, September 26, 2016

Double Stuff Orioles

I know you’d think that I’d write about the big First Presidential Debate tonight, but for one, it’s tonight and I’m writing a post now.  I’d rather see it first before commenting.  The other thing is that I got to do something this weekend that I’ve always wanted to do.

No, I didn’t get to throw out another First Pitch.  I’m pretty sure I only get one of those per lifetime.  It was actually a much humbler goal.

Now, I’ve known I was going to the Orioles game on Saturday since before the season started. The Arizona Diamondbacks were coming to town and they were the last MLB team that I haven’t seen play in person.  Figures that they’d be here for the last home series of the year.

In addition, they were having a good giveaway that day: an Orioles hoodie.  But not wanting to take chances with unpredictable weather, I waited until last week to actually buy a ticket.  Found an “orphan” in the first row of the upper deck, looking down the 1st baseline.

Then on Thursday, Sitcom Kelly let me know she got her mom’s company seats for the Sunday game.  I hate to pass up a chance to sit in the Mom Seats, so I figured I’d do a back-to-back, to finish out the year.

But then I remembered that this was the perfect situation that I’d been looking for all year.  I’d been looking for an opportunity to see back-to-back weekend games and stay downtown at a hotel in between.  I never seemed to find the right set of circumstances throughout the year, and then BAM, it drops in out of the blue in the last series.

So I promptly booked myself a room at the Eyesore Hilton, right across the street from the ballpark.

Director’s DVD Commentary: That’s how I refer to this particular hotel because before they built it, there was a very nice view of downtown Baltimore, from the stadium.  Now the only thing the entire 1st base side of the stands can see is that damned hotel.

I figured it would be a nice change of pace from taking the subway home after the game (only to return the next morning).  Plus, I could use some of the credit card points I’ve been stockpiling, so it wouldn’t be much more of an expense than if I’d come home. 

So I checked in around 4:00 on Saturday and got my room. 

That orange jersey is one I bought new at the beginning of the year, but this was my first chance to wear it.  I usually match what the O’s wear and they only wear orange on Saturdays.  I’d only been to a couple Saturday games this year and they were in late July and August when it was too damned hot to wear a jersey.

In addition to just the room, I chose the option that provided a breakfast buffet for Sunday morning.  So I was surprised to see that they gave me a card for two breakfasts.  Damn, now I have an option for if I get lucky in the hotel bar after the game.

Come with me, honey, and I’ll buy you breakfast…” 

Yeah, right.  Instead, I texted Sitcom Kelly and asked if she wanted to meet me a little earlier, for breakfast.  She accepted, citing her love of free stuff.

Around 4:15, I headed over to my usual pre-game stop, The Bullpen.  On my way, I could see that the front entrance was jammed with people lining up early for the hoodie giveaway.  They wouldn’t even open the gates for another 45 minutes.

Was pretty bad over at the side entrance too, which was visible from my perch at The Bullpen.  So I had to choose between a giveaway hoodie and a couple hours of drinking cheap beer.  It wasn’t exactly “Sophie’s Choice.”

This was going to be the last times I’d see my regular bartenders until next spring, so before leaving (on Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday), I’d tell them as I paid my tab, “You know, everybody says this to military guys but no one ever says it to bartenders and I think they should, so let me just say, Thank you for your Service.

The line outside the ballpark started to die down around six-ish, so dismounted my barstool and headed over.  Lo and behold, I got a hoodie after all.  There weren’t many left; they were working on the end of one box and had only one more box left.  So, SCORE!

It got chilly by the end of the night, so the hoodie came in handy.

So yeah, I finally get to see Arizona play, and whaddya know?  You can hardly see them play.  Look at these uniforms:

Not really liking the gray over gray.  They looked like they’re in their jammies.

I spent most of the night talking with a couple from Los Angeles, who were on a stadium tour.  Had been to Boston and Philly, and was going to The Burgh the next day.  It’s fun hearing outsiders’ opinions of the place, and I got to play ambassador.  Makes me feel somewhat useful.

After the game, I made for the bar at the Hilton, but it wasn’t the experience I’d hoped for.  There were plenty of people, but most were grouped up and talking among themselves.  The only way to break in would be just to dive right in and join the conversation, but that’s just not me.  Nor is paying 8 bucks for a 12-oz beer.

But I had a fallback plan:

I brought my own hootch.

This is practically a family heirloom.  It’s one from a set of three flasks, which we used to use back in The Day, to sneak booze into Cleveland Stadium for the Steelers/Browns game.  One year I killed this whole flask full of brandy, by myself.  I don't remember much of the day after that.

Being older and wiser now, I just poured myself a nightcap and watched a little college football before bed.  Alone.  Sure had a lot of room, though!

Sunday morning, I met Sitcom Kelly downstairs for breakfast around 10.  It was a really nice buffet, which included an omelet station.  I love those! But we had to be careful; we couldn’t get too full for beer.

After breakfast, we eased back over to the Bullpen, to commence our final Cheap Ass Beer session of the season.  Sunday’s Orioles giveaway was an O’s flag hat.  This is one I’d have passed on, but they were for all fans in attendance; there was no escaping the ugly.

The Oriole Bird just doesn’t coexist peacefully with the schizophrenia of the Maryland Flag.

But the Mom Seats were great. 

Featuring the Eyesore Hilton in centerfield.

It dawned on me that, once I took a couple of game pics, we’ve never sat there for a day game before.  The sunlight allowed me to get much better action pics. Like this”

And this:
Usually the relatively low lighting gives the ball a tail, coming in.

The other thing I learned, this weekend, is that Arizona has some serious names on their ballplayers.  Saturday night, they substituted in a guy named Socrates Brito.  All I could think about was:

So-crates, the bodacious philosophizer.

Director’s DVD Commentary:
“True knowledge is knowing that you know nothing.”

“Dude, that’s US!”

Then I looked at the rest of the first names:

They got Welington, Yasmani, Socrates, and Tuffy.  Tuffy Gosewisch. Seriously.
The night before, they pitched a guy named Silvino.  Now that’s a diverse group of dudes.  Contrast that with the Orioles lineup:

These names look like the whitest fraternity on campus.  (Although Manny could be the old guy who runs the deli.)

We only stayed through the 6th inning, because I wanted to get back to my other bar, to see the Steelers/Eagles game at 4:30.  Probably should have stayed at the baseball game, though, because the Steelers got their asses handed to them.

I’ll have to make a note of that for next year… no combining baseball and football!  But that wraps up my Orioles season.  I went to 26 games this year, which is a new personal record.  I saw all but three teams that came to town.  I missed the Rangers because I was in Ohio that week, the Indians because it was in the upper 90s that weekend, and the Yankees because, well, eff the Yankees.  (Although I did see them later in the season.)

Now I’m just going to have to settle for football.

But don’t worry about me.  I’ll survive.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Odd Bits - The Sweatshop Edition

If you’ve been around here long, you know I have a thing for game jerseys.  I religiously track my jersey-wearing as it relates to my team’s won/lost record as I try to determine the best mojo.  Because it wouldn’t be much of a challenge if I only had one or two jerseys to choose from, I tend to have a steady influx of new jerseys to try out.

And because I am not filthy rich, I can’t afford to spend $300 a pop on sports jerseys, so I usually go through one of those “cheap jersey” websites, featuring unlicensed wares from the finest sweatshops of the Far East.

As I’ve documented before, it’s hit and miss as far as the quality goes.  But you have to know that going in.  That’s why they’re not $300.

So periodically, when I’m down at the sports bar, a friend or acquaintance will ask me where I get my jerseys, and when I tell them, they ask if I can get one for them.  I’m usually happy to help, as long as I know how to find them when the bill is due.  But I’m happy to front the money via credit card, and reap the points.

At the end of the last football season, I had a couple people ask me to get them a jersey.  I said I’d probably do my next order in the fall, right before the new football and hockey seasons start.  One guy wanted a Washington Capitals hockey jersey and another guy wanted a Ravens jersey.

Now, normally I’d want nothing to do with outfitting more purple maniacs, but they’ve made me feel at home at this particular bar and I felt it best to be helpful and appreciative, so I agreed.  I placed the order a couple weeks ago and included a couple of things for myself.

The jerseys came in this week and the first one I saw was a problem.  I’d ordered a white #48 Bud Dupree jersey for myself and while the “48” part was fine, it was another detail that was amiss.

The guy’s name is Dupree, not White.

Well, there’s nothing I can do with this jersey, short of taking it to a sports apparel place and having a new name or number put on it, which would cost more than the jersey did in the first place.  But I certainly can’t wear it like that.  Who knows what kind of mojo disturbance such a thing could cause?

I kept going through the jerseys… the two hockey jerseys were OK, then I got to the Ravens jersey.  Name and number were fine, but they sent me a Youth Large instead of a Men’s Large.
(Flacco pic)

Very few “Youths” hang out with me at the sports bar.

So now I had to start emailing with the sweatshop people, which is aggravating.  You know how American retailers almost always correct their own mistakes?  Not so much with these guys.  Their solution was for me to send them another $10 and keep the Youth jersey, and they’d send me replacements.

I lobbied for them to send me a pre-paid return sticker but that didn’t go over too well.  Ultimately, I really didn’t have much choice.  I was already into them for about $160 and only got half the jerseys I needed. They just better make sure they send the right ones this time.  I can live with shoddy stitching or an off-center patch, but the name and size have to be right.


Back in the 90s, while spending a long weekend in New York City, I went to the Warner Brothers store, where I picked up a Bugs Bunny drink stirrer.  The stirrer was glass, with a gold Bugs head on top.  I loved that thing and used it all the time.

Shortly after moving to Baltimore, it broke.  Bugs’ head came off.  I blame gang violence.  Rabbit lives matter.

Flash forward about 15 years and I find myself making more drinks that I need to stir, and wishing I still had my Bugs stirrer.  Lately, I’ve taken to putting a couple of maraschino cherries in my whiskey on the rocks, with a splash of the juice.  My Grandpa D used to give us kids maraschinos in our “drinks,” and I kind of missed them.  So now I add the cherries to honor my Grandpa (and because they’re yummy.)  There were two “C’s” in his family name, so I add two cherries.

A nice stirrer would come in handy because I was getting tired of using my finger.  I mean what if I had guests over for drinks?  I only have so many fingers.
You can see how my V&T needs a good stirring, to diffuse the cherry juice at the bottom.  My finger is just not long enough.

In a long overdue moment of clarity, I decided to find another Bug Bunny stirrer online. I checked Amazon, E-Bay, whatever, but I couldn’t find one.  I found a few pictures where I thought I had a match, but they were for items that had already been sold.

Anyway, I figured if I couldn’t find Bugs, I’d see what else there was.  I couldn’t find anything else quite as kitschy, but I did find a nice set with red glass shapes on top.  I have a lot of red in my kitchen so I think they’ll be nice.

Because I’ll want them nearby when I’m at my drink-making station, I thought I’d put them in a small decorative vase.  Only problem was that they went almost all the way into the vase and didn’t look very decorative at all.

I solved that problem by ordering a package of glossy red rocks to put in the bottom of the vase.  (I actually wanted glass pebbles or marbles, but couldn’t find a package of less than a pound, and I only needed so many.)

It’s weird… I don’t know if these are the actions of a grownup or a bored housewife (or househusband).  Next thing you know, I’ll be trolling through Etsy, looking for matching stemware.

LATE UPDATE: Here's the finished product:
Eat your heart out, Martha Stewart.


I’ve been going to an awful lot of Orioles games this summer, I just haven’t been writing about them here.  Been to 23 so far, which is a new personal record.  But last Friday I saw the best game of the year and I have to tell you about it.

I had seats in the 3rd row, just past 1st base, which was a good spot from which to take pictures, so I brought the good camera. (Instead of just using the phone.)

Right off the bat, the Orioles gave up two 2-run homers in the first two innings, go fall behind 4-0.  Solo homers by Pedro Alvarez and Chris Davis made it 4-2 midway through the game.

Crush Davis crosses the plate after bombing one.

Seventh inning, O’s load the bases and first-year Korean player Hyun Soo Kim crushes one over the centerfield wall.  Unfortunately, the center fielder leaped up two feet over the top of the wall to knock it back into play.  Instead of a grand slam, only one run scored.  But still, the place was rockin’.

The comeback continued into the 8th inning when the O’s scratched out two more runs to take the lead.  Top of the 9th, they sent in the closer, Zach Britton, who has not blown a save all year.  He got an out and then gave up a fly ball to deep right.  It was caught on the warning track, but not before giving a heart attack to the hometown crowd.

With two outs, the next batter hit a grounder up the middle, but before the second baseman could make a play on it, the ball ricocheted off the base, putting the tying run on first.  Next batter laces a shot into the left field corner.

The outfielder hit the cutoff man with the throw, who then spun and threw the runner out at the plate.  Game over.

It was one hell of a ride and a great ending.  Plus, I got these socks.

My only problem is I can’t decide whether I should wear these with my charcoal suit or the gray one.  You can wear argyle with pinstripes, right?

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Who Knew I'd Rue a Lack of Hot Air?

The end of summer has been a bit of a slog.  Things just seem unsettled with me.  Granted, a lot of it is work stuff, but I know that will work itself out eventually.  But the home stuff has been dragging out too.

Yes, I know, I live alone and have a simple life with just me, myself, and I.  But shit happens.

Like, a couple of weeks ago, my dryer died.  (The laundry dryer, not a hair dryer.  Like I would use a hair dryer where a soft cloth would do.)

You may remember, I had to replace my washer about a year and a half ago and argue with Best Buy about buying their required but not really required hoses.  Well, the dryer lasted only this much longer before it stopped heating up.  The drum would spin, but there was no heat, so the clothes never got dry.  I had to hang stuff up all over the house, so it looked like I lived on a sock farm. 

I can’t complain, though.  I got almost 19 years out of that dryer so I got my money’s worth.  So back to Best Buy I went.

I got a cheapish dryer; I only wanted something simple.  I mean damn; some of the control panels on the upscale dryers looked like the dashboard of a 747.  I just needed a cycle dial and on/off button.  Also got free delivery, and 12 months same-as-cash.  I did have to buy a new vent hose and connector, and get this: an electrical cord for the dryer.

When the saleslady told me that, I was like, “I have to buy the cord to plug it in, separately?  WTF?”  She explained that there are different kinds of electrical systems in different areas and the manufacturer (Whirlpool) wanted maximum flexibility.

OK, fine.  Whatever it takes, you know?  So we got the deal done on a Saturday and I asked them to deliver it the following Friday when I’d be working from home.

Cut to Friday, they show up right on time, swap out the dryers and all was well and good... until I went to do a load of laundry the next day.  The dryer didn’t heat up.  I tried all the different cycles and settings, and let the damned thing run for an hour and a half, but no go.  Back to the sock farm I went.

I called Best Buy the next day and spent 23 goddamned minutes on hold before I could explain my situation to someone, who then transferred me to another department where I went straight to voicemail.  I left a message, but no one ever called back. 


I was about to go down there right then, but I remembered that on Monday (Labor Day), I’d be in the neighborhood anyway when I made my annual trip to the State Fair.

Now, I’m notorious for going off and forgetting to bring things I need.  I combat that by laying everything out in my staging area, where I gather my shit before leaving the house.  That Monday, I had to be sure to bring my receipt and paperwork from the dryer, and a functioning pen to use at the track (at the Fair). Bastards charge you 50 cents for a stubby pencil at the gate.

So I got my dryer documents and pen laid out with my wallet and the hat I wanted to wear for the day, so I was all set.  Then after getting showered and dressed, I came out of the bedroom, made sure I scooped up all my shit and went out the door.  About a millisecond after the door latched, I realized I forgot my keys.  I was locked out of my apartment on a weekend.  On Labor Day.


I was so concerned with not forgetting the other shit, I forgot to go to Part Two of my staging area, the Key Rack.  It was just like back in 2014 when I did the same thing.  Only this time, I had my cell with me, so I wouldn’t have to bother my neighbor, Daryl (Licht).

Last time, after I got Daryl to call for help, I found that the back bedroom window had been left unlocked, allowing me to slither in.  This time, I figured I’d check things out before I alerted anybody and almost immediately I remembered something else I’d forgotten.

It had been a really nice morning, so I had my kitchen window and back patio sliding door open for some cross breeze.  I closed the slider before I left but forgot all about the kitchen window.  So there was my “in.”

I raised the screen, raised the window higher, and ninjaed my way in.  The bottom of the window is at ground level, but is 3-feet off the ground on the inside, so I probably shouldn’t have gone in feet first, facing up.  Next time, I’m going to have to remember to go in feet first and facing down.  It’s much easier to bend that way.  At my age, I’m lucky I didn’t end up in traction.

So, I had a nice day at the races… bet nine races and lost about $25.  Hit two exactas and a daily double, but none of them paid much; I think eight bucks was the biggest one.  But it was fun.  I also took this picture:

Caption: I was curious what the effect would be if I went down to the rail and take an iPhone Panorama shot while the horses were running by.  This is it… Kind of trippy.

After the races, I headed over to Best Buy to talk about defective dryers.  At least they were nice about it.  I figured they’d want to send someone to look at it, or question me on what I had done.  But they just said they’d replace it right off.  We scheduled it for the next Friday when I’d be working from home again.

Friday came, they swapped dryers (again) and the dryer did not heat up (AGAIN).

I’m like, “What in the holy fuck is going on with these stupid dryers?

Because we had tested it before the delivery guy left, I was at least able to discuss the situation with someone this time.  The guy said that while it was possible that there was a bad batch of dryer elements floating around, it was more likely that there was something wrong with the electrical outlet or the fuse box.

I thought that was weird, and said, “If the outlet was bad, how come the barrel turns at all?

He said he’d seen it before where a breaker had flipped and cut the usual amount of juice needed to run a dryer.  I’d never heard of such a thing, but hell, I’m no electrician.  And because I’m an apartment dweller, I can call the landlord’s office and have them send someone out to have a look.

I also told the driver about my experience on hold the previous week and expressed my reluctance to get on that train again.  He then gave me an “inside number” that would fast-track my call the next time.  (No, I’m not telling.)

By this time, it was late afternoon on a Friday and even though I called the landlord as soon as the delivery guy left, there wasn’t enough time in the day to get someone out before the maintenance staff went home for the weekend.  I knew I’d be off on Tuesday (following a Steelers Monday night game) so I asked for them so send someone out then.

At least I’m on a 2-week laundry cycle, so it wasn’t like I was running out of undies.  I had time to play with before things would get serious.  But still, I’m uncomfortable when things are left up in the air.  I still didn’t know why my kitchen was becoming the Bermuda Triangle of Dryers.

So this afternoon, some maintenance guys came out, I explained the problem, and they checked the breaker box.

One-half of the dryer double-breaker was tripped.  They reset it and the dryer began producing heat.   

I had them show me which one it was and what to look for in case anything like this ever happens again.

I’m glad my household is settled again, but of course, I still have one regret…

I probably never really had to buy a new dryer in the first place.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

A Tale of Two Stories

Two stories surfaced in the last week or so; one that everyone is talking about and probably shouldn’t, and one that no one is talking about, but probably should.


Even people who don’t follow football know who this guy is now, and probably have an opinion about him.  Colin Kaepernick is the player for the San Francisco 49ers who decided he will no longer stand during the National Anthem any longer, to protest the treatment of minorities in this country.  And people have lost their minds over it.

The usual battery of old white people and life-long military apologists and police fetishists have gone ape-shit over this display of disrespect to the nation.  (Translation: to the nation’s white overlords.)

I’m pretty sure if any of the people loudly taking offense were ever treated the way minorities get treated in this country, the place would be in flames by now.  It’s funny how so many people have opinions about how much crap other people should take, and how they should be allowed to react to it.

Remember the riots?  Yeah, everyone was like, “That’s no way to register complaints and induce change.  You have to do it peacefully.”

Now you have a guy basically just sitting down or taking a knee, and they don’t like that either.

There have been several main avenues of hostility.  One is that he’s not really black, he’s biracial.  (Biracial just means a person has to take shit from two races.)  Another is that he’s been privileged; raised by white adoptive parents, sent to good schools, and now makes big bucks playing football.  So where does he get off complaining?

I’ll tell you why… empathy.  And that’s why there’s a disconnect.  Conservatives don’t really empathize with anyone.  They don’t understand the selfless protest.  The only other persons’ shoes they can see themselves walking in are those experiencing “reverse discrimination.”

It’s always “Lower MY taxes.  Worship MY God, in the manner with which I am comfortable.  Have that baby because of MY beliefs.  Not in MY backyard.  And no one ever gets to receive a benefit that I don’t get too.”  The concept of “common good,” is just another name for Communism.

Now, what do I think about this story?  Like all rational people, I support the right that every citizen has to protest, regardless of their socio-economic status.  My only observation is that maybe he could have found a more efficient outlet, because by picking this particular mountain to die on, the means overshadows the substance.  No one is talking about why; they’re too busy complaining about how.  That’s not effective communication.

I also think he should have defined his terms better.  I mean, what are the criteria for ending the protest?  Solving poverty and race relations nationwide?  That’s kind of a tall order.  He’ll be protesting for the rest of his days.

So I basically give him credit for taking a stand, at great personal expense, regarding an issue larger than his own self-interest.  But I think he might have been more effective via another route. 

Meanwhile, on the opposite side of the country, the Supreme Court upheld a lower Federal Court ruling maintaining that the new voting law in North Carolina was unconstitutional and ordered it scrapped.  It was a 4-4 tie which by default, upheld the lower court ruling.

The issue here was that the Federal Court found that the legislators purposefully created the law to reduce minority voter turnout, noting that it was done with “surgical precision.”

That’s no joke.  They had emails in evidence, showing lawmakers requesting data on minority voting patterns and what IDs they most often used, and then used that data to create a law to have the greatest impact on that target.  They disallowed certain IDs, closed particular voting areas, reduced early voting and eliminated on-site registration and cross-precinct voting.

There is no plausible way that any of this was done to prevent voter fraud.  The only fraud was this “monster law,” requested, designed and implemented to keep prospective Democrats from voting.

And STILL, the lawmakers involved swear that it’s all about preventing voter impersonation.  They said they requested the racial data so they could better protect minority voters.  Seriously.  That’s like the fox saying he’s saving the chickens from the farmer, by eating them himself.

North Carolina is exactly why the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was necessary.  And it’s no accident that as soon as the South came off “probation,” where the Feds no longer had to clear any changes to voting laws, this monstrosity was unleashed.  In fact, they had it ready to move through the legislature, but held it back until the Supreme Court decision was announced, that gutted the Civil Rights Act.  They knew it wouldn’t pass that kind of muster, but then they overshot and made the racism so blatant, it couldn’t be overlooked.

Well, it WAS overlooked by the four Republican-appointed justices.  That’s another crying shame.  How is it possible that four of our highest judicial officials thought it was perfectly fine to research and develop ways to keep minorities from voting?  The evidence, smoking guns and all, were right there in the case files.

That right there is why the Democrats need to win the White House in 2016.  As I said in July, Hillary’s emails don’t matter. Trump University doesn’t matter.  Her health allegations don’t matter.  His insults don’t matter.

The Supreme Court matters.  It’s the last line of defense against the dark arts of systematic, legislated discrimination.  If Trump wins, we can look forward to another decade of the Supreme Court allowing the rich to step all over the rest of us.

And THAT is why guys like Colin Kaepernick should be protesting.