04:45pm: Hey look, it's me again! Sorry for not being here--it's just that I write so much for the interweb during the day that I wind up neglecting the 'Bomb. I shouldn't. It's cruel and wrong. But hey, listen--I'm gonna be restarting Holy Goddamn! on a regular basis come early March (once I return from Ye Olde Englande-e), and I'm gonna give you a makeover then, too. Wouldja like that? Huh?

'Kay, so I went to the doctor yesterday morning--basically for a routine checkup, but also to inquire about something that's been giving me trouble of late. I have this thing just below my chest. It's not an alien waiting to burst out, although it feels like that sometimes. It's a pain that emerges if I eat and/or drink more than I should, or if sit in a weird position (which my current desk almost requires me to do). And on occasion, it attacks me in the middle of the night--say I wake up awkwardly positioned from a crazy dream, my elbows flailed over my head or my left foot bent under the ankle, so I try to adjust myself into a more comfortable position and RRRRRRRIP, it explodes. If you imagine all the little muscles in your midsection as tiny, peaceful Third World hamlets, this pain is like precision napalm bombing one particular muscle/Viet Cong village back into the stone age. It hurts like hell and it burns and it won't go away--but only in a very, very tiny trapezoid right below my chest and abutting the extremities of my ribs.

And don't say it's gas, 'cause it's not gas. I know what gas pain is like (trust me), and this ain't it. It's definitely muscular. For one thing, the spot is often sore for hours after a Napalm Attack--not the sign of gaseousness. And I can feel that it's muscular when I wake up in the middle of the night, and I have to move but I know if I move in a particular direction at this particular moment, it will flare up. You can't cause (or worsen) gas pain by moving in a particular manner--unless that manner is bellying up for more beer and baked beans.

So I asked the sawbones what it might be. He, of course, insisted it might be gas-related. I did my best to describe the purely muscular feel of the pain, but either I didn't choose my words properly or he didn't quite understand me. The more I insisted it was a muscle, the more he insisted it was gas (hey, what the hell does he know?). During my exam, Doc examined the area, first by probing gently, then by punching me in the back. I mean, he literally punched me in the kidney/liver type area. His intent was clearly not to do harm, but if you ball your fist and then use that fist, with a considerable amount of force, to impact another person's flesh--I don't know what to call that. He assured me that, whatever the pain was, it wasn't due to kidney or liver damage. It will be now, I thought.

His diagnosis was gastritis, or possibly a minor gastric ulcer. For the time being, he suggested cutting down on certain foods. Curtail my intake of anything too fatty, or fried, or spicy.

Okay, no problem, I eat relatively healthy.

Also, you may wish to cut back on alcohol.

No biggie. I can limit myself to weekends, no sweat.

Oh, and I would cut down on the coffee. A lot.

Come again, Doc?

Yes, a high intake of coffee would definitely contribute to your discomfort. So I would cut that out completely, if I could.

I see. You guys don't have one of those Kevorkian machines around here, do you?

Maybe it's not so much that I drink gallons of coffee every day, but more the brand of coffee I drink, which is Bustelo. Café Bustelo is the coffee of choice in most Latin households, introduced to me by The Wife. It's the best thing human beings have ever done. It's dark and rich and beautiful, and when you drink it, there is no god damn doubt in your mind that you are drinking COFFEE. It has so much caffeine in it, it brews itself. If you IVed it into a man who'd been dead for three days, he'd wake right up. Shit is like crack, except cheaper and more deadly.

But I thought to myself, Isn't it worth it to give up something you enjoy so that you aren't cursed with searing pain on a regular basis? And I decided, yes, that was probably a smart thing to do.

So what did I have for dinner last night? Several beers at several locations, followed by two Crif Dogs--one of which was wrapped in bacon and sour cream--and a basket of cheese fries. 'Cause hey, Valentines Day comes only once a year.

I feel awesome today. I'm a smart, smart man.


03:30pm: I'm a dork. I make no bones about it. I freely admit to getting REALLY into REALLY stupid things, in a manner completely contrary to coolness. I realized this a long time ago and have been able to live with Terminal Dorkness, with the help of medication and support of my family.

Thing is, I'm a controlled dork. I know when to pull back. I don't get super-caffeinated excited about something when I'm with people who I know won't be super-caffeinated excited about that particular thing. I can recognize that just because I love something, that doesn't mean it's the only worthwhile leisure activity in the world.

There's a different variety of dork not blessed with as much self restraint or societal awareness. These are the kind of people who will corner you at a party or go on and on about the latest Mac OS. Or perhaps you remember them from a junior high lunchroom, commiserating with their fellow dorks to the exclusion of all other human contact, hoping not to get hit with a launched Slurpee. I empathize with these people--there but for the grace of whoever go I. And because I can see in them what I could easily have become, these True Dorks make me enormously uncomfortable.

The lady and I received tix to "Spamalot" as a wedding present. I was a huge Monty Python dork as a teenager, so I was anxious to see it. The show was what you might expect from a musical crafted out of Monty Python--plenty of weird, non-sequitir moments, while at the same time catering to the tourist/middlebrow tastes of the typical Broadway audience. It could have been more Python-y, but then would it have been playing at the Schubert Theatre? Doubtful.

Unfortunately, we sat next to a Very Large Dork (in several senses). The man was not obese, but he was very tall and felt he had oil drilling rights to my wife's armrest. When King Arthur first appeared, he was confused because it was not the original cast member. "That's not the same guy anymore, right? The guy from that movie, whatsit, 'Horror', something 'horror'." The dork's companion couldn't answer his question, so he just started talking much louder (he'd started loud to begin with). My wife yelled out "Tim Curry! You're thinking of Tim Curry!" just so he would shut up. This is in Act I. It went downhill from there.

Very Large Dork repeated every single line of the play in an extremely audible tone. He hooted and whoo-hooed Homer-like whenever a famous line of dialogue was recited. I don't come from the Fancy Class, but I was raised to stay quiet in a theatre, aside from applause and occasional laughter. You just don't talk when there are several hundred people around you watching the same thing at the same time. And if you must, whisper, instead of booming out THIS IS THE PART WHERE HE SAYS 'I'M NOT DEAD'! LOOK! HE'S GONNA SAY IT!

I don't know if this person was just such an enormous dork that he didn't realize what a scene he was making, or if he's just a product of Our Cellular Age. People barely recognize the existence of others in their own personal universes anymore. With cel phones, iPods, SUVs, Fresh Direct, and NetFlix, they don't have to. Now, everywhere you go is your damn living room, and when you actually have to interact with your environment, you still behave as if your actions impact no one else.

No, I'm pretty sure this guy was just a dork. He yelled along with the whole "you've got two coconuts and you're banging them together" bit. I understand--I used to torture my friends by retelling Monty Python routines at length. But eventually, I realized this was torture and I stopped doing it--I'm pretty sure by age 16 or 17. This dork was 30, at least, and had not yet learned his lesson.

I'm gonna do this the next time I go to the theatre. If I see "Death of a Salesman," when Willy Loman says, "A man is not a piece of fruit!", I'm gonna pump my fist and yell "That's right, bitch!" Then I'm gonna stab the guy next to me in the head.


03:51pm: My new year's resolutions, presented in no particular order:

* I pledge to finally finish the novel I've been working on for far too long. I abandoned it midway through last year, depressed by agent rejection and overwhelmed by my complete lack of free time. Since January rolled around, I've been working on it in earnest again, with a renewed sense of purpose, a sincere focus, and a newborn belief that the book doesn't completely suck. Target date: mid February.

* I pledge to begin work on both a new novel idea I've had for some time, and a non-fiction book whose nature shall go undisclosed for the time being. Hope to have first drafts of both by year's end.

* I pledge to return to comedy, because I miss it. Hope to start taking the next level of improve classes by the spring.

* I pledge to start writing music again, because I miss that as well, and because I've acquired some equipment that will enable it.

* I pledge to restart Holy Goddamn! on a regular basis in time for baseball season.

* I pledge to care way too much about the Mets, a group of men of varying ages who earn more money in a month than I will see in a lifetime, whose exploits, regardless of outcome, bring me no appreciable profit, who don't know I exist no matter how loudly I yell at my television, because I am an idiot and a masochist.

* I pledge to not pledge to play fewer video games, because I recognize my limitations.

* I pledge to continue to go to the gym, as I have for nearly a year, despite the fact that I hate it with every fiber of my being.


03:20pm: Here's a bit of advice from me to you, young'un, garnered from years of experience. If you still feel a little "under the weather" thanks to overdoing it on Christmas, and you have to work on Tuesday, and you think it would be a good idea to have a Guiness and shepherd's pie for lunch, you're wrong. It's the toxins talking. You might as well eat a pound of turkey laced with 'ludes. The Sandman is knocking at my cubicle, and I'm trying to push him away with a Bloc Party album, but it's not quite working. There's so few people in the office today, though, I think I could pass out and start snoring, and no one would notice.

I was so unbelievably hung over on Xmas Day +1. No headache, no twirly stomach, I just felt queasy and dizzy and ill all day. It was like being drunk but robbed of all the joy of inebriation. The last times I felt so bad, alcohol-related, was Bachelor Road Trip and Bachelor Evening.

Bachelor Road Trip: We arrived in Cooperstown, with nothing to do but play cards and drink, so we did, for like 12 hours. I woke up the next day, without having eaten anything but a Cinnabon the afternoon before, and I seriously felt like I was dying. It hurt to be alive. I was saved by a very large cheeseburger and a few rounds of World Series Baseball 1999.
Bachelor Evening: After an evening of Italian food, old school video games, karaoke, and burritos, I woke up the next day with the most lingering hangover I've ever had. It wasn't the worst, but it was the one that most refused to leave, no matter how much Vitamin Water I fed it. And for some reason, my neck was killing me. It felt like someone turned a little dial at the back of my head and tightened every single muscle and tendon in my neck. It was so bad I couldn't go to sleep that night, because I couldn't find any way to lay down that wasn't excruciating. To alcohol!

The only thing that's made me feel human was "Hulk: Ultimate Destruction," which my cousin got me for Christmas. Here's the premise of "Hulk: Ultimate Destruction": you're the Hulk and you break shit. Yeah, there's missions and stuff, but it's a lot like Grand Theft Auto. Why bother accomplishing goals when there's a whole world you can turn to rubble? It's a game that demands to be played in a room full of people, so you can all laugh your asses off while watching the Hulk throw a terrified scientist at a helicopter.

Speaking of awesome things that are awesome, I got my brother the "Warriors" PS2 game, which is possibly one of the worst things I've ever done. See, before I played it, I could pretend that I didn't need it, that I had plenty of video games already. Now I've seen it in action, and I hunger for its touch.


05:19pm: I know what you're thinking: where can I read another whiny blog entry about the NYC transit strike? Look no further!

I woke up at 3:30 this morning, pretty much at the exact moment the strike was called. Following this piece of awesome news, I could not go to sleep. My brain was too busy calculating all the possible ways I could get to work. It ran over all the terrain of Greenpoint/LIC, as if there was some secret tunnel to Manhattan that I hadn't discovered yet. Like I was little and still playing "Zelda," and wondering why I couldn't beat that level boss. "Maybe I really didn't set fire to that one bush. Maybe Dodongo really doesn't dislike smoke."

Some time between then and 6:30, I managed a couple of minutes of sleep. Then I slapped myself awake, put on 12 layers, and set out with The Wife (c) for our commute. Our plan was to make the long walk over the Queensboro Bridge and hoof it on our separate ways from there. But after we crossed the Pulaski , we were accosted by two women driving a Mercedes SUV. "You goin to Manhattan?" they asked us. When we said yes, they practically tied us up and gagged us to get into the car. They needed two extra bodies in their car to allow them to use the Midtown Tunnel, and we would provide those bodies. They were nurses who worked at Bellevue, and had been turned away several times by cops enforcing the 4-person minimum (the bastards!).

The only price for my ride--other than the toll--was being taunted with The White Guy Voice. You may remember the White Guy Voice from such black comedians as Chris Rock, Dave Chappelle, and Every Black Comedian at Every Open Mic Ever. It sounds like a cross between Richie Cunningham, Boo-Boo Bear, and Data*. Apparently, my willingness to walk to work was taken as an especially "white" thing to do. You know us crazy white folks, we loves to walk! When we got to the toll booth, it was pointed out that this would be one of the few times "I could drive around with two white folks in my backseat and not get pulled over." The Wife protested, "Hey, I'm Puerto Rican!" Thanks for throwing me under the bus, honey. Ah, marriage.

Thanks to the ride, I got to work criminally early. I was one of the few people to make it into work, and the whole city was deathly quiet. The street where my building is located is normally choked with buses, trucks, and angry cabs, but the cops had it completely shut off. It reminded me of one of those days when the city comes to a standstill thanks to snow. Minus the white stuff. Just as cold, though.

My early arrival allowed me plenty of time to rest up for the walk home, which involved a tram, a rickety Roosevelt Island bus, traipsing through Noreaga country, and miles upon miles of hoofing. The Wife's commute was much, much more hellish for reasons that are so stupid and annoying I refuse to recount them, lest I fly into a rage. But we are home safe and sound now, and looking forward to another wonderful MTA-free day.

I support unions and their right to strike. I have lots of city employees in the family. But this strike leaves a bad taste in my mouth for a lot of different reasons. First off, the union voted to strike as soon as the contract was up. There are a ton of city agencies who have worked without a contract and continued to negotiate--some are doing that right now. Agencies more vital to public safety/health than the MTA.

I'm all for the classic Flint Michigan Norma Rae fuck the Big Boss and his ability to make money kinda strike. That's not what this is. The MTA--as douchetastic as it is--is a public utility, not operated for profit but for the public good. By crippling its activities, a tiny minority has crippled an entire metropolitan region. And I think some of the union's demands are ridiculous. Do you know any job where you get an 8% annual salary increase? ("Super hero" and "Money maker" are not jobs.)

There's plenty of blame and hate to spread around. The MTA has done some really shady shit in recent memory. Regardless of who's right or wrong and to what varying degrees, 10 million people are getting super-fucked right now. And I'm trying not to think about it too much, because all the anger in the world won't make my long walk tomorrow any shorter.

* You may choose whether you take this to mean the robot from Star Trek: The Next Generation, or the obscure Simpsons character.


05:19pm: 'Round this time last year, I inveighed against "The Little Drummer Boy," a holiday song that drives me insane--not just because it's a bad song. I'm actually not opposed to it on a purely musical level. And even if I was, I don't think that's a good reason to pen a diatribe. For instance, "Jingle Bell Rock" is one of the most retarded things ever recorded (including "Do the Retard" by El Trio Retardo), but it's just a bad song, that's all. "The Little Drummer Boy" I find distasteful, hypocritical, and intelligence-insulting. If you don't remember or don't feel like digging for last year's post, my basic points were thus:

(1) Where the hell does a "poor boy" in Biblical Palestine get a drum from?
(2) How is a young boy flailing away on his drum a present? Mary probably just got the infant to sleep and up comes Ancient Teenage Would-Be John Bonham to wake him up. Good job, douche.
(3) The baby "smiled" at you? Y'ever seen a newborn? Thing can barely open its eyes. Newborns don't smile--they cry and feed and shit. That's it.
(4) The song expresses a touchy-feely religiosity that means nothing. If the idea of Jesus makes you a little bit uncomfortable, hey, here's a cutesy little story involving children that doesn't appear in the Bible. It's the same reason why people believe in angels--it makes no demands on them at all, raises no uncomfortable questions. Angels don't cause/allow hurricanes and terrorists. Hurray!

This year, I've decided to tackle a more modern tune: "Do They Know It's Christmas?"

Seriously, I never heard this song until maybe last year, possibly two Yules ago. I'd heard of it, but I think it took the mass OMG I HEART THE 80S movement to bring it back into heavy Xmas rotation. Another 80s holiday song similarly revived: the truly rotten Paul McCartney song, "Simply Having a Wonderful Christmas Time." That piece of crap sounds like it was recorded by Nerf. Nerf instruments, Nerf compressors, Nerf reel-to-reel. But like "Jingle Bell Rock," it's a bad song, no more, whereas "Do They Know It's Christmas" has a little more going for it in the Suck Department. Although production wise, it's just as bad as Sir Paul's tune. Too much Yamaha DX-7, no low end, and terrible "drums".

Okay, I know this one was a "We Are the World" kinda thing, recorded to raise dough for Ethiopian famine relief. But I'm pretty much opposed on principle to anything that helps Bono feel even more sanctimonious. And it's got a little bit too much "White Man's Burden" in it for my taste.

"And there won't be snow in Africa this Christmas time." GEE, YOU THINK?! You know what would happen if it snowed in Ethiopia? First of all, it would melt before it hit the ground, but assuming it started to blanket the earth, the starving people would only think God had blighted them further. "Great, no food, no water--and now I have to shovel."

"Where nothing ever grows/No rain or river flows" Kinda harsh, don't you think? If Ethiopia was a place where nothing at all could grow and there was no precipitation, nobody would live there (see: The Sahara). The great famine of the 80s was caused by drought and exacerbated by a corrupt Stalinist government warring with nearby Eritrea--which was further worsened by American-backed Eritrean forces that controlled the ports, thus cutting off the nation from what little trade it could manage. But, you know, it's hard to rhyme about Cold War sword rattling and geopolitical maneuvers.

"Do they know it's Christmas time at all?" Well, that depends. There's plenty of Christians in Ethiopia, so they probably know--or rather, they know about their own Orthodox Christmas, which is January 7. Muslims and animists probably neither know nor care. The same would go for the smattering of Ethiopian Jews left in-country. But I would hazard a guess that for most of the nation of Ethiopia, December 25 holds no significant meaning.

Also, not every damn country in the world has a month-long orgy of shopping and debt accumulation--not every country in the world has a consumption/debt-driven economy, as do most Western nations now. Not only that, but the idea of a Season of Magic and Wonder and Whimsy is largely a Western creation, fostered by Charles Dickens and the Hollywood myth makers. A good chunk of the world, regardless of religion, doesn't spend an entire month feeling jolly. What we think of as Christmas is something that's sprung up in the last 100-150 years, something that hasn't taken hold everywhere in the world. So even in the best of times, would Ethiopians know it's Christmastime? Not the way we do, and they'd probably be okay.

"Tonight thank God it's them instead of you." Geez, for a bunch of do-gooders, you guys are sure acting like dicks.


05:10pm: Maybe it's wrong to really like stuff that I wrote, but I'm particularly fond of this. It just makes me laugh. And the thought that about only five other people will think it's funny makes me love it even more.


11:37am: Some dickless piece of shit rammed my car sometime last night, knocked off my front license plate, and said nothing. Not even a damn note. And I'm kicking myself now because the car was parked right outside my window, and around 7 o'clock I swore I heard something, the crunch of plastic being snapped. I knew some car had rammed another car, possibly my car from the sound of things. But I was too lazy and too engrossed in a game of MVP Baseball, so I did nothing.

I know this is just one of the many hassles of urban living, that random strangers constantly threaten your good mood with acts of non-malicious ignorance. But the thing is, I don't even think of this car as my car. It was my grandfather's, and I still feel as if I'm taking care of it for him. He had it for 14 years and put a grand total of 60K miles on it. He used to have a little notepad in the glove compartment, where he would write down when he filled it up and how much, so he could tell if it was losing mileage. So if something bad happens to the car, even if it's minor and even if it's not my fault, I feel like I've failed him in some way.

I also don't want to be one of those people who drives a total banged up piece of crap car with a coat hanger antenna, garbage bag taped to the passenger window, and rusted out paint job. My car is not sexy--it's about as a grandfatherly car as you can get without painting a picture of Matlock on the side of it. But it's in good shape for its age, both in appearance and performance, and I'd like it to stay that way. I don't want to drive an "excuse car", where you have to hand your friends a lengthy disclaimer every time they climb into the backseat. "Yeah, the heat's permanently on at full blast, but the windows go up and down randomly, so it all evens out."

My desire to be like my grandfather in his automotive care is also a desire to not be like my father in the same regard. He went through cars like Kleenex, blowing his nose on a Rabbit, then a Capri, then a Passat. Whatever vehicle he could lay his hands on was not long for this world. He smoked like a chimney, and before long any car, no matter what color the interior once was, would turn into a dull yellowy-gray from all the ash caked into it. The backseat would become a rumor, buried under unreturned library books, manila pads with one used page, and the last three months of the New York Times. And if you could prove to me that he ever popped open the hood to check any of the fluid levels, or added any oil to any car he ever drove, I would drop dead from shock. He never met a car he couldn't destroy through neglect and bad decisions.

But he and cars seemed to have a bad relationship. You know how you can have two friends, probably from different parts of your life, who are great individually, but who are a total disaster if they're in the same room? That there's just bad vibes and unending problems if they're forced to be together? That's how it was with cars and my father. He tensed up behind the wheel of a car, and this insane rage that he displayed in almost no other aspect of his life would come boiling out of him. He seemed to know that no matter how well he tried to drive, something bad would happen to him when placed behind the wheel of an automobile.

One weekend when I was about 10 or 11, we had to return a video game to a rental place about 20 miles away. This particular place had a larger Nintendo selection than our local video rental joint, and was slightly cheaper (how much extra gas you burned getting there was not factored into the cost). Why Dad took me on this trip, I can't remember. My mom was probably at a soccer practice or something with one of my younger brothers. I tried to avoid getting in the car with my father because his car--whichever one he happened to have--was always a disaster area wrapped around a transmission. I was at an age where I didn't like to put myself in places that felt bad, that just had a bad vibe to them. Dad's cars felt like being in a nursing home near dusk on a wintery day. Depressing as fuck. But it was either go with Dad or pay late fees (which, I was told, I was liable for). So go with Dad it was.

At this point, my father had a stunningly ugly car, white with maroon exterior. Add the remnants of several thousand smoked Camels and the acrid smell of old newspapers and it made for a thrilling ride. The awesome-est thing: I'm almost positive he rented the thing. My dad had such atrocious credit that any car dealer would have to be a jonesing meth addict to sell him anything. So he managed to take a butt-ugly vehicle and ass it up even worse--and he didn't even own the damn thing.

I remember every single detail of this trip, crystal clear. I could friggin' write Ulysses recounting this day. Stately plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead, bearing a copy of "Bad Dudes". But I will spare you the minute details. Suffice to say, amazingly, we got to the store without incident. Even through most of the return trip, my father was not the basket case he usually became behind the wheel.

Then, halfway home, as we went into a slight curve that was also the top of a hill, a dog came out of nowhere. I mean, I have never seen something not named Reggie Bush move so quickly. It shot through a bunch of trees and tried to cross the road. There was no time to react, and my father hit the dog at full speed, connecting on the driver's side of the grill. There was a hideous sound of THUNK-A-THUNK, broken glass, and weird bounces of metal and plastic along the asphalt. Dad let out some inscrutable obscenity--in times of stress, he would often lash out at our Lord and Savior with a throaty JESUS CHRIST ON A STICK! He pulled over to the shoulder to examine the damage and see how badly the animal was hurt. It managed to reach the lawn on the other side of the road, where it twitched and bled. This was a busy-ish road with not too wide a shoulder, so it wasn't a place he wanted to linger for too long.

Then, at the exact right time for the perfect comedic timing, a pair of rosy cheeked children--one boy, one girl--ran up the lawn across the road, wailing for their injured pet. FLUFFY, NO! they screamed. Of course the dog's name was Fluffy. It couldn't have been Killer or Tree-pisser or Ball-licker or something unsavory. My father had stumbled on the last vestige of Norman Rockwell America, and he'd just accidentally shit all over it.

My father's rage at his own dumb luck had to be tempered in the face of the grieving kids, who looked to be a few years younger than me. If there's anyone who was emotionally unequipped to deal with such a situation, it was my father, but he was forced to say something to the kids. He tried to assure them that there was nothing he could have done, that the dog came out of nowhere. He asked them if their parents were home, but they apparently were not. I couldn't make out too much of what the kids were saying between the sobs. So he gave the kids his information and told them to give it to their parents. Then we gathered up the shattered pieces of the grill--as if he was going to repair anything--dumped them in the trunk and drove off.

The weirdest thing happened to the car after the accident: the left turn signal would not stop blinking. I've never heard of such a thing, before or since, but I swear to God the left turn signal was permanently on after my father hit Fluffy. My father frantically tried to stop it, switching the signal indicator up and down maniacally. Then he pulled over again to look at the light, as if he'd have any clue how to fix it. The whole trip home, people beeped at him to let him know the signal was on. I KNOW, I KNOW! he screamed at them, as if they could hear.

Haunted by the ghost of Fluffy, that car was soon gone, never to return. My father would get a citation for leaving the scene of an accident, which I'm not sure he ever addressed. As far as I know, the town of Salisbury Mills is still looking for him.

Me, I rented Zelda II that day, but never finished it.


11:25am: Feeling a bit sicky-poo post-work, the Bride and I decided to recline at home in the sylvan splendor of our pre-lit Xmas tree and some old school hip hop. NYCTV has a weekly (I think) program called "The Bridge," which features rap/r n b videos circa 1988-1992. It's hosted by Ralph McDaniels, if by hosted you mean, "stands in Union Square and says, 'Here comes another hot joint atcha'." The selections lean heavily toward the Native Tongues groups (Jungle Brothers, A Tribe Called Quest, etc.) and they are all awesome.

The hip hop you'll see in these videos is nigh unrecognizable from the hip hop of today. Everyone seems to be having so much damn fun. Not the slightest hint of menace. Hip hop songs from the late 80s/early 90s are not interested in beefs or revenge. They're pretty much not interested in anything that wouldn't get you on a dance floor. They tackle a limited number of subjects:

1) partying
2) How awesome I, the MC, am
3) broads
4) social injustice, both actual and perceived

The Bride, who grew up with this stuff via Video Music Box, feared we like it just cuz it's from our collective childhood. But for me, it's not nostalgia that makes me prefer this hip hop to the dreck being produced today. I never heard groups like A Tribe Called Quest until I was in college. It was virtually impossible to hear stuff like that where I grew up unless you (a) were willing to watch Yo! MTV Raps quietly in the basement when your parents weren't around; (b) had some hip friends/relatives; or (c) had enough deaux to indiscriminately buy albums that were supposed to be cool. I didn't have cable, all my friends were as white as me, and money? /flatulent dismissive noise

I just find the hip hop of this era to be infinitely more interesting melodically. It's due in part to the fact that, before rappers started getting the shit sued out of them, DJs could sample with impunity. So songs constructed back then by DJ Premier and Prince Paul and their ilk have a gazillion layers to them, a lot like the Phil Spector masterpieces of the 60s. I find most of today's rap mind-numbingly simple by comparison. Exception: pretty much everything El-P or Danger Mouse produce.

The naked greed in a lot of today's hip hop really bothers me. Fine, yes, we all wanna be rich, but you rapping about how much money you got, how much Cristal you gonna drink up in the club--what the shit do I care? It reminds me a lot of the scene in "Goodfellas," when Henry Hill and his coked-out wife buy their "dream house," and they fill it with the gaudiest, most tasteless shit constructed by the hand of man. You got the sense that even the Hills hated it, but it was EXPENSIVE and therefore GOOD. Its only function was to prove to the world--and themselves--that they weren't poor anymore.

The message given out by a lot of hip hop nowadays is the same given out by hair metal in the 80s. WE ARE GODS AMONG MEN, they say, AND YOU COULD NOT POSSIBLY HAVE WHAT WE HAVE. EVER. When 50 Cent is "Up in the Club," you can not party with him. If you're lucky, you might catch a glimpse of him from behind the velvet rope. Ludacris just wants you to "Get out the Way". Jay-Z had a hard knock life, but now he just likes rapping about his watch. DMX would pull a Lizzie Grubman on you if you dared get too close. And P. Diddy? The less said about him, the better. Like the 80s metal bands, they live in a Valhalla of excess, removed from the masses, to be admired from afar but never to be equaled or even approached.

Contrast that scene to a video for a song like, let us say, "Say No Go" by De La Soul. Filmed in what looked to me like Long Island City. Just Posdnuos walking around the streets in B&W, wearing nothing fancy, no bling, no nothing. The small crowd occasionally glimpsed is just a bunch of regular folks, in the regular fashion of the day (Cross Colors, Batman hats, etc.). The members of the group are dressed similarly. The message: We're on the same level. There's no difference between you and me. You could do what I do. Why don't you do what I do? It's an ethos closer to punk rock, which may be why I like it so much.

Then again, the Native Tongues stuff wasn't super mainstream popular; no rap was at the time, really. In their own way, those groups were as underground as Fugazi. So it may be unfair to compare something that was underground in 1990 to something Top 40 in 2005. Pop music has always had a ton of garbage in it, that's the nature of the beast. But I have a feeling that in 20 years, we'll be listening to a lot of today's mainstream-ish hip hop the same way we listen to 80s metal now: in that ironic, can you believe people liked this shit?-sorta way. Who would you bet stands the test of time better: "Whanksta" or "Scenario"?


03:55pm: My cousin, who works in the same vicinity as I do, informed me that the Original SoupMan has set up shop somewhere nearby. I had no idea who that was, until he said, "You know, the Soup Nazi". I wondered at first why he didn't just call himself The Soup Nazi to avoid confusion. Then I realized that most people don't like referring to themselves as Nazis. Also, it would probably be very difficult to get a business license with the word NAZI in the title.

"Okay, Mr. Jones, your paperwork seems to be in order...Excuse me, what is the name of your business?"
"Nazi Town."
"And what kind of business is it?"
"A shoe store."
"I see. Why not just call it Shoe Town?"
"That's already taken."
"Okay, but why Nazi Town?"
"I don't know. I just like the sound of it."
"You like the sound of 'Nazi Town'?"
"Yeah, it's kinda catchy"
[long pause] "Get out of my office."

Is there a compelling state interest in preventing a business from using a highly offensive word/phrase in its title? I imagine that any business that chose to employ the word NAZI, regardless of its aim, would find itself on the receiving end of a lengthy and loud protest. But would the gubment be allowed, constitutionally, to prevent you from naming a business whatever you wanted to name it, even if the name was deemed highly offensive by a large portion of the population?

Say, for instance, I wanted to call my bait and tackle shop Fuck Your Moms with a Rusty Hammer. It's a highly impractical name--it says nothing about my extensive supply of nightcrawlers, and would probably just piss off a lot of people, too. But if I set up my shingle on Main Street USA, and that shingle said Fuck Your Moms with a Rusty Hammer, could the Long Arm of the Law stop me?

Is there a legal precedent for this kind of thing? I would love to know, because I am a dork. And I'd like to know if any of these business names could fly:

Pol Pot's Place
Uncle Hitler's
Footbinders 'R' Us
The Happy Gelder
Dirty Sanchez
The Rapery*
The Auto-Erotic Asphyxiation Pub
Tina Bulimia's Eating Disorder Palace
Ethnic Stereotype Warehouse
National Wholesale Liquidators

* For a long time, there was a store downtown that once upon a time sold drapery, but the D had fallen off, and this was what was left. It may still be there, for all I know.


03:47pm: I just realized that it's been over two months since my last update to the ol' S-bomb. That is shameful and wrong and I should be punished to the fullest extent of internet law. No more Buffy slash fanfic for me!

My long absence was due mostly to my paid web writing gig, which is going swimmingly, thank you very much. Traffic and response has been good, with an occasional OMG spike when I write something for the main MSN page. Plus, I am fully encouraged to be silly, which I like to think I'm good at. I love that I'm not only not discouraged, but fully expected to post things like NFL picks by Wesley Willis.

But the MSN Sports Filter gig and my other dough-earning obligations leave little time in the 9-to-5 to write Me Stuff (c), and Scratchbomb.com has unwittingly suffered, which is not only regrettable, but also wasteful, since I dutifully pay Cold Harde Cash to rent this here space every month. So my premature new year's resolution is to return here more frequently than I have.

I also plan on reviving Holy Goddamn!, now that my nuptials have successfully been completed. It was without a doubt one of the best times I've ever had in my life. I successfully fed a constant stream of food and libations to my friends and relatives, encouraging them to gorge themselves on all manner of unhealthy items. We set a land-speed record for fastest ceremony ever in order to cut as little as possible into eating and drinking time. The DJ was awesome--played all the kind of stuff he should have, very light on the schmaltz, and THANK CHRIST no "Electric Slide". Pretty much everyone who I wanted there who isn't dead was there, and they all seemed to have a blast. The Ol' Ball and Chain* and I are not big on ceremony. If we just wanted to get married, we coulda gone down to City Hall.** We put on a big show 'cause we wanted our friends and family to have a great time. And it came out exactly how we wanted it to. It's quite rare that I can say I tried to do something and it came out exactly how I wanted it to.

No joke, I feel better right now than I have since I can't even remember. About everything. My job(s) are good. I'm getting paid to write on a regular basis, on a subject (sports) that I love. I won the office NFL pool this week (14 pix = hello Xmas deaux). My wedding turned exactly how I wanted it to. The Mets are winning the free agent sweepstakes. And I don't have the creeping suspicion that all of these good things mean I'm overdue for a Big Bad Thing (mostly 'cause the events of this summer have indemnified me against Big Bad Things for a good year or two).

I kinda feel like Patton Oswalt did in his last Comedy Central special, when he mused about how he's amazed he's still funny because he's in love. "Bush is a fascist and the whole world's going to hell, but you know what makes it better? Snugglin'. Am I right, people?"

* The wife likes this nickname, btw, practically insists on it.
** My god, the city clerk's office, where you have to go to get a marriage license, makes the DMV look like friggin' Disney Land. If you set foot in that crypt of an office and witness shells of human beings register hopeful spouses and you still wanna get married, then you really wanna get married.


03:39pm: Folks: Here's the deal. I'm currently working on material for a new and improved version of Holy Goddamn! This new and improved version would be structured like a sports radio station, with all of the ridiculous commentary and unfounded analysis contained therein. It would fit in nicely with My Other Gig, I think. Here, submitted for your perusal, is a sampling of a piece that will be performed as part of the New and Improved Holy Goddamn!, an editorial by The Regular Sports Guy.

I have a few words to say about Terrell Owens and his "contract dispute".

Listen, I'm like most Americans, a middle of the road kind of guy. A meat and potatoes man. I'm a traditional, old fashioned guy, but I believe in progress too. I wouldn't say I'm a liberal, but I wouldn't say I'm a conservative either. Not a sensitive guy but not a macho man, either. I like steak, but I can eat a salad now and then. I like a liberated woman, as long as she can cook. I drive a midsized sedan that gets okay mileage. I see action movies the first weekend they come out and never think about them again. If something is fried and has cheese on it, chances are I'll eat it. Odds increase if shrimp is also involved somehow. I speak to the same 10 people all the time, and they always agree with me.

I hate people who take life too seriously, and I also hate people who believe in "causes". I believe in God, in a completely passive way that makes no demands on my free time. I don't like anything obscure--it has to be completely overexposed, or else get it out of my sight. I like to think of myself as a hard worker, but not too hard like some kind of nerd or something. Cities make me nervous. I think people should live where they were intended to live, in outer ring suburbs with big box stores.

I think America is the greatest country in the history of civilization, even though I don't know much about other nations, or history, or different forms of government. The thought of politics makes me break out in hives. I believe almost everything my father believed. I've never been to a foreign country, except for Cancun on spring break, and I don't plan on going overseas either. I support our troops by saying "I support our troops".

I live no more than 50 miles from the place I was born in, and I'm pretty sure I'll die there. I'd like to meet a nice regular girl, settle down, have kids, and teach them my vague grasp of my own values someday.

I have nothing to hide and nothing to be ashamed of. All of my opinions are based on things I've already heard people say. I have never done, spoken, and or even thought about anything controversial in my entire life.

So I just think this whole thing with T.O. is crazy.


10:55am: Even though this is somewhat sports related, it's not really the kind of tale I can tell at my paid gig. It's not a spot for first-person reporting, so I bring it to you here, oh loyal Scratchbomb reader.

Went to the Mets game last night (trouble already). Although we had decent seats, we managed to sit near the only Nationals fan existence. That's not really true. He wasn't even the only Washington fan in our section, but he acted as if he was last man on the battlements, daring us all to take him down. And oh, how we were tempted. He wore a Brad Wilkerson jersey (WTF?), a W cap, and would not sit down or shut up for the entire game. I have no particular beef against the Nats; I really don't have any beef against any team except for the Braves. I wanted the Mets to win, sure, but I had no hate in my heart against Washington. But because of this man, I wanted every single player on the team to burst into flames right there on the field. Late in the game, when manager Frank Robinson argued a call, got thrown out, and stayed on the field for way too long jawing with the umps, I kept yelling to the blues HIT 'EM! HIT 'EM! HE'LL DROP LIKE DON ZIMMER! This man made me wish for an umpire to knock out a Hall of Fame slugger.

I don't think I can truly express to you how annoying this man was. He looked like your typical 19-year-old punk ass, and he had a whole crew of 8 or 9 friends with him, all of whom were wearing Beltran t-shirts. He was obviously The Friend We Have to Keep an Eye On. The kind of person who says THAT'S WHAT I'M TALKING ABOUT like he invented saying it. We kept baiting the guy, if only to see how ridiculous he could get, and he rose to every occasion. When the Nats smacked around Tom Glavine in the third, he pranced around in his seat, pulling on his jersey like Jay-Z. My brother yelled YOU GUYS USED TO SPEAK FRENCH. Bro just kept calling him "Beanie Siegel" and "gangsta" for the rest of the game, because this guy obviously thought he was the biggest, baddest motherfucker who ever lived. Rooting for team that played in Montreal a year ago. Yessir.

Other people ignored him until he yelled, "Betcha y'all is Jets fans, too." Then everyone started yelling back at him. Don't fuck with the Mets AND the Jets at the same time. That shit ain't right. Not in our house!

But yeah, I guess in our house, since the Mets played like they just stumbled off the tee ball field. And while this asswipe preened and cackled and yelled at an entire stadium, I wondered what kind of personality feels the need to do such a thing. What void exists in a man's soul that this makes him happy? So we just started making up reasons why he feels compelled to berate the home team's fans so loudly and consistently.

"One time, I peed the bed, and my Dad made me drink it!"
"Last night I jerked off to gay porn, told myself I didn't really mean it, and cried myself to sleep!"

But I'm pretty sure the reason was, he had some girl laugh at his penis, and now had to do crazy shit to prove his enduring manhood. "And tomorrow, I'm bungee jumping off the back of an Apache helicopter!"


11:53am: In the last five years, I've watched time and again as the Bush administration did something unbelievably colossally corrupt and stupid. And each time I thought, this is it, this is finally it, these guys fucked up so bad they can never recover. Each time, somehow, they did. Whether it was their handling of events leading up to 9/11, or PlameGate, or the naked corruption of buddies like Tom DeLay, Bush and Co. wriggled out of every single mess.

I pray that if nothing else remotely positive comes out of the horror in the Gulf, that it will nail the coffin shut on these greedy, arrogant, ignorant sons of bitches. It is unconscionable to me that it takes six days--SIX DAYS--in the richest, most powerful country in the world, to get even a semblance of relief to the Gulf. That in one breath Bush will call the response "unacceptable" and then praise the idiot responsible for cocking the whole thing up. Oh, and Lab Partner's last job? Running an Arabian horse breeding association--which he was fired from for gross incompetence. And to have the 800-lb. balls to blame the victims for staying behind. And to have a briefing on a tarmac in Alabama that you could have had in DC, simply for the photo op--conspicuously missing any officials from heavily Democratic Louisiana, or NO mayor Nagin, who'd probably rip off Bush's head and shit down his neck right about now. And all of these travesties don't even address the fact that Bush cut funding to the levees, or that we'd have a lot more National Guards around to keep the peace if they weren't patrolling the streets of Baghdad instead.

I wish pain to no one--not even Dubya, that spineless chimp. Not even Condi Rice, who was too busy buying shoes as recently as yesterday. Not even Dick Cheney, who's, um, where? Nobody seems to know. And not even Dennis Hastert, who suggested it made no sense to rebuild a city that's just gonna get flooded again anyway. All I want is some straight up justice for 'em. Resignations and jail time, starting at the top. Because their callousness and incompetence have cost tens of thousands of lives. Thank god CNN has grown a pair in the last few days--the reports of correspondents on the scene is so full of rage that I expect Anderson Cooper to join the Black Panthers.

I am absolutely disgusted and ashamed to be an American today, and I will continue to be so until these fuckers get what's coming to them. Long time coming. Straw, meet camel's back.


11:53am: Three weeks ago, I watched a man die. There aren't any words to describe what that experience is like. I can only say I've done everything I can to block it out of my consciousness since then. But watching the footage of Hurricane Katrina, particularly footage of New Orleans, is a lot like it to me, because it's watching a life--a way of life--be washed away. And while I'm watching it, I think of every memory I have of the place. They all zip by one by one, like slides, and I think to myself, it's over, it's all over.

I've spent more time in New Orleans than any other place in this country, and it's the only city I could have imagined living in other than New York. It had all the laid-back-ness of California without all the golden self righteousness. It was a place of laissez faire hedonism, where you would be left to go to hell with yourself in the fashion of your choosing. When the Big Apple would piss us off, the Lady and I would wonder, Why not just go there? Life seems so easy there. But then we'd think, where would we work, what about the crime, blah blah blah. Oh yeah, and there's that whole below sea level thing.

I'm grateful that I got to the see the city that was, and that I had friends there who could show me the real city. And I'm grateful that my friends are safe and sound. But my heart is sick. I've seen too much death in the last year, and as distant as this tragedy is to me, every sight of it stabs me.

Forget terrorists and fanatics. Time is biggest bastard of all.


12:27pm: Me and birthdays, not really friends. When you have a summer birthday and you can't act like a bigshot in school on your Big Day, it engenders a sort of resentment against the whole process. Plus, my family didn't celebrate birthdays for a good chunk of my youth, so that bred a lot of the life out of it. We were those people that knocked your front door on Sunday mornings. It was real fun.

I was born the day Elvis died. I mean, the very same day, like within hours. So another annoyance of the date is that the big news story of the day is almost invariably a candlelight vigil outside of Graceland, because nothing much happens news-wise in August. Except the start of World War I. And World War II. And Hiroshima. And NFL training camp.

What usually happens year to year is that fail to remind friends that my birthday's coming up, so I call at the last minute, and like three people can hang out. Or, like this year, it falls on a Tuesday, and even the most dedicated of alcoholics stay inside on Tuesdays, and by the time everyone's ready to party, my birthday grace period has passed (anyone looking for Birthday Love five days later is officially lame).

The only cool b-day I had as a kid was one spent at McDonalds. A lot of my friends had had McDonalds parties, and I had decided this was the pinnacle of coolness: to spend a whole day eating Chicken McNuggets and playing in a jungle gym that looked like Mayor McCheese at a McDonalds on Route 9W in Vails Gate. So I got my wish, though I'm sure even this proletarian splendor strained my mother's pocketbook. I don't remember too much about it, except that I had an awesome time. Pictures exist that document the event. It's funny to look back at it and point out the fates of the chubby faces, like I'm settling their destines: "Oh look, she got pregnant, he found Jesus, he rolled his Nissan Sentra senior year, he's in Dannemora..."

I will celebrate this evening with drinks with relatives. Then perhaps a round MVP Baseball Online, so that complete strangers may mock me. Every birthday should have at least one humbling event, to remind you that even on your special day, life is nasty, brutish and short. Cheers!


12:27pm: Apologies for not posting lately. Various factors removed me from the interweb, most of which I'd rather not discuss in this forum. One I can discuss, however, is another blog that I am now writing, as of this morning: the Sports Filter at MSN. It went live this morning and I'm pretty excited about it: now I get to rant about sports on an unprecedented national stage! I feel like the Mad Dog, without all the foaming at the mouth. Check it on out when you get a chance, and if you have suggestions or comments, lemme know. If you comment on the site, keep the jack-assery to a minimum (but I would never ask you to remove all jack-assery, of course).


04:32pm: I've been following the whole Karl Rove/Leaking National Security Secrets for Freedom Scandal in a way I usually reserve for off-season trade rumors. Instead of looking at ESPN.com for updates on draft picks and player swaps, I keep hitting Dailykos.com to see the latest piece of dirt dug up on that fat pig--all in preparation, hopefully, for opening day, otherwise known as the federal court proceedings. I feel this is the way most politically aware Americans, regardless of their ideological bent, look at issues nowadays: a constant checking of power ratings, who's up, who's down, who's in, who's out. Pretty soon, candidates won't have strategists; they'll have offensive and defensive coordinators, special teams coaches, and the like. I don't think this is necessarily a bad thing. If you could get most Americans as angry about politics as they are about draft picks and trades, we'd have much more involvement in the political process. Even the angriest Dittohead does not call up Rush with the same fervor he'd use to address Mike and the Mad Dog.

I won't waste any of your time (or mine) expressing my opinion on the matter of Rove. I'm sure you could guess it anyway, and the web is awash in virtual ink on the subject. But it is satisfying to see the Bush administration, usually so poised, usually so smugly sure of its stranglehold on the national dialogue, reel around like a punch drunk boxer. It is very pleasing to see professional liar Scott McClellan get bitch slapped by the suddenly powerful WH press corps. And it is heartwarming to see the president make the huge mistake of having Rove in the background of every single recent press conference and photo op, further bolstering the public belief that what Rove does, Bush approves.

These things are satisfying because these are not the kinds of mistakes that the Bush team used to make. As in sports, there is always a moment when a great dynasty makes a fatal error, when a once infallible player begins to age and falter. The reason so many lefties are giddy right now is because it is painfully obvious that, if nothing else comes of this, Bush may very well have crippled his lame duck agenda. He has to either (a) dump Rove and lose his best political thug, or (b) hang on to him out of loyalty and further risk destroying the remainder of his term. Either way, you can smell the faintest whiff of a change of guard in the air.

04:32pm: A thing of beauty shall be defined, from this point forward, thusly: Leaving work 'early' to attend a Mets game, watching David Wright hit two home runs and also make the most amazing unassisted double play I've ever seen (live or otherwise), watching Cliff Floyd pull a Jeter and dive headfirst into the stands to pick off a foul ball, watching lion-in-winter Mike Piazza knock a three-run opposite-field home run, watching Braden Looper not blow a save, and, above all else, watching the Mets do all these things against the Hated Braves.

The Braves are the only baseball team I truly hate. As a Mets fan, I am occasionally resentful of the Yankees, but I wouldn't say I hate the team itself or any of its players--with the possible exception of Alex "Two Shrinks" Rodriguez and Garry "Clubhouse Cancer" Sheffield. At the very least, I respect the Yankees, their traditional excellence, and their piles of money. But the Braves, despite an as yet unbroken string of 13 division titles, do not earn my respect. In fact, they elicit within me an anger and loathing I usually reserve for war criminals. There is, for one, the casual racism of their name--an old name, I know, but it's the 21st century for cryin out loud. Consider also their inability to get it done in the playoffs--despite all those division titles, they've only made the World Series four times and won it once. The home crowds in Atlanta are so jaded and pissed off about their post-season incompetence that last year, they had to offer 2-for-1 playoff tickets to avoid the embarrassment of not selling out the games at Turner Field. Plus, they employ an infielder who willingly goes by the name Chipper. Any adult who chooses to be called Chipper--who even prefers to be called Chipper rather than his perfectly serviceable first name--should be shunned by polite society. He should be sent to some institute where he can be studied and cured if possible; if completely incapable of rehabilitation, confined to a rubber room.

Twas not so long ago that the Braves-Mets rivalry was matched in intensity only by the animus between the Yankees and Red Sox. Of course, a good rivalry can only be truly maintained when the two teams are on generally equal footing, and for the past few years the Mets have sucked, to be generous, while the Braves continued their thoroughly boring string of success in all months but October. But in the late 90s/early 00s, going to a Mets-Braves game was quite an experience. Especially after Braves relief pitcher and social commentator John Rocker outlined his Final Solution for the 7 train. Wow, a loudmouth redneck with racist/homophobic views? A NYer could not ask for a better enemy. In my weaker moments, I almost miss the inbred lunatic.

But even in their best years, rooting for the Mets to beat the Braves was like rooting for the Indians in a 1950s Western. The Braves always seemed to get the upper hand, somehow, and in the most pussified way possible--like the '99 playoffs, when they won the NL championship over the Mets by scoring the winning run in the 14th inning on a bases loaded walk. Any self-respecting team woulda said, "No, that's okay, we'll take another pitch; we're gonna win this game like men." Not the Braves, no siree. Getting beaten by a well-placed hit, or a barrage of home runs, or a stellar pitching performance, these kinds of defeats are acceptable. Being defeated by a bases loaded walk is like scratching on the eight ball. It's like a DA losing a conviction against a murderer because the cops forgot to read him his rights. It's like getting your manuscript rejected by an agent because you use far too many similes.*

Last night was probably the first time in a very long while that a Braves/Mets game had something close to the old intensity.** Once the Mets came back for good, the crowd did a mocking version of the Tomahawk Chop. In case you've never seen it, this is an unsightly bit of Braves fan nonsense completely stolen from the Florida Seminoles. (Braves fans not only suck, but they are unoriginal. They also eat kittens; I read it online somewhere.) It involves cranking your arm in an axe-type motion while chanting a Hollywood version of an Indian war whoop. As a 'rally inducer', it's just as shit-witted as the Angels' Rally Monkey or the Twins' Homer Hanky, and has the added bonus of being incredibly racist. Imagine if you sang "La Cucaracha" for a team called the Wetbacks, or twirled imaginary pizza dough for a team called The Ginzos. Again, it's the year 2005. Just drop all the Indian stuff, call yourselves something like the Bed Wetting Chokers, and move on.

I hadn't heard/seen something like what I saw last night since the 2000 playoffs. I went to one of the games the Mets played against the Giants, one that was won in exciting fashion thanks to a home run by now-forgotten Hawaiian player Benny Agbayani. Toward the end of the game, the scoreboard displayed the news that the Braves had just been eliminated by the Cardinals. At that point, the crowd erupted into a perfectly synchronized mock-Tomahawk Chop. It was a beautiful display of mass schadenfreude, disguising the horrible truth bubbling beneath the surface: had the Mets faced the Braves in the playoffs that year, the magic 8 ball would have landed squarely on OUTCOME UNCERTAIN. The series probably woulda gone 7 games, with the Mets losing on a two-out, two-strike balk to bring in a run from third. Or, ahead by five runs in the bottom of the ninth, John Franco would somehow manage to give up a six-run home run to Chipper Jones (if anyone could do it, Franco could).

But last night, as I walked down the exit ramps, the whole stadium continued their Tomahawk Mock, all the way out the stadium and into the 7 train. No one dared suggest that the worm had finally turned, that the Mets were finally gaining the upper hand. It was good enough to know that, at least for one night, it was easier to be a Mets fan.

*Then again, at least some blame must be placed on the head of the man who walked in the winning run--Kenny Rogers. Yes, even before his recent crusade against the media that helps pay his salary, The Gambler was a flaming asshole. You hear that, Kenny? Fuck you and your fried chicken.

**For obvious reasons, I discount the first game played after 9/11, which I also attended. The Mets beat the Braves that night much like they did last night, on an eighth inning Mike Piazza home run, but it felt almost wrong to celebrate it too much at the time.


08:14pm: There is a small eatery near my place of employment, which purports to purvey Healthy Food. Its intended clientele is the weightlifting set, or so I assume, since it sells enormous shakes with supplements like creatine. But in reality, most of the people I see in there are just hassled office workers (ie, me) who want a small-ish lunch that isn't swimming in grease and guilt. They use whole wheat pitas, fat-free tomato sauce, low-octane mozzarella, stuff like that. How healthy it really is would be up to a nutritionist to decide. But since I eat there 2-3 times a week, and I've been able to maintain my girlish figure, I assume it can't be all that bad.

As remarked on above, this place is small, not really the type of joint you can eat in. It is also very popular and located in a high-population-density area. Plus, the things they make tend to have longer prep times than your average McMonstro Colon Plug Burger, so unless you order for pickup, it is not at all unusual to wait 15-20 minutes for your order. While doing so, you can stave off claustrophobia by staring at the wall of signed celebrity photos. Keith Carradine has shown his love, as has John Leguizamo, Cindy Adams, and Jane's Addiction. Then there are those Mystery Celebrities, who probably aren't famous at all but bullshitted their way into trading an autographed 8x10 glossy for a veggie burger.*

This afternoon, while I wait patiently on line to pick up my order, a harried woman enters. Upon seeing the length of the queue, she sighs loudly. This is not the kind of small sigh one exhales in the face of minor annoyances--this is a broadcast to the world that this woman is ANNOYED and someone, somewhere, should do SOMETHING about it. She turns to me--because these people always turn to me--and asks if I've ordered already. I explain that yes, I have, I called ahead. But she takes this to mean that I've ordered and am just standing around, rather than waiting on line to pay for my meal, and she charges up to the counter, ignoring me and the three people ahead of me. The woman is of a certain age, well-dressed, and her hair is dyed a shade of coppery-red not seen since the crazy hippie demons on the cover of Santana's Abraxas album. She is the Older Professional Woman--a woman who lives in an environment of Self-Perpetuated Hassle the way fish live in water. There is one of her in every office: The Woman Who's Been There Forever, The Woman Who Takes Three-Hour Lunches, The Woman Who Asks You the Same Question About the Fax Machine Every Fucking Day, The Woman Who What the Fuck Does That Woman Do Anyway? The answer: she doesn't do anything; she came with the office.

So the woman grabs a menu and studies it like a Talmudic scholar. By the time I reach the cash register, she is ready to order. The cashier, who I think knows me as a semi-regular customer, insists that I had arrived first. But since I'm feeling magnanimous--and I want to see the resulting chaos--I insist that the woman go first. She proceeds to make an order of such arcane detail that it sounds like prep work for a North Korean hostage rescue mission. The order can't be properly captured in words. It would best be represented visually in the style of MC Escher, with staircases winding in on themselves, waterfalls flowing up, in a land where the laws of physics are openly mocked and given wedgies.

Once the woman has completed Operation Delta, Strike Team: Lunch, I then try to pick up my food, but she almost immediately interrupts my transaction. "You use free-range chicken, don't you?" The cashier can't hear her, and asks the woman to repeat herself, so she adds another dictum to her query. "You use free-range, organic chicken, don't you?" The cashier responds in the negative, and of course, the woman is thoroughly annoyed. "Someone said you did!" she retorts. So rather than read the menu, or look at any of the signs in the place, she chooses to rely on the indelible word of someone for a bit of dietary information obviously of great importance to her. I'd hate to see what would happen if someone told her rat poison was tasty.

Predictably, the woman cancelled her order and walked out in a huff. I was free to make my purchase. She was free to head back to the office and yell at some unpaid interns, forever putting pilgrim-like faith in vague bits of information plucked from the air. A wondrous thing, faith is.

*For you ex-NYU students, it might remind you of going to the Waverly Diner and pondering the identities of the framed headshots that line the upper molding, just below the ceiling. A friend of mine posited that this celluloid population was at least 40% porn star.


12:52pm: Lord a mercy, what a Sunday. This week was the Kickball All-Star game at McCarren Park, which was basically just a buncha people from the different teams choosing up sides.* Three bands played on the sidelines, shaded by a very tall tree. During a set by the band Giraffe, a kickball flew straight at the guitarist while he was playing a solo. Without even stopping for one split second, the guitarist trapped the ball and kicked it back onto the field. Rock n fuckin roll! Also, the Turkey's Nest kept the local populace well lubricated with enormous beers and margaritas in to-go Styrofoam cups. Is this completely illegal? Of course. How do they get away with it? I don't know, and I don't care, because it means I can drink a 32 oz. draft beer while watching a kickball game and listening to awesome bands outside, and not have to worry about getting hassled by The Man (c).It's so very easy to get jaded and annoyed about living in the city, what with all the daily encroachments on your dignity, the neo-Puritan Bloombergian blue laws, the enormous price of everything, and the constant threat of CHUD attacks. But on a day like yesterday, I can forget about all that and be glad that I live in a neighborhood where it's possible to walk to an afternoon of cheap fun.

People who hate cities feel that way because, at least on some level, they hate people. They hate having to constantly interact with large amounts of very different human beings. They want to live in a suburban bubble with a very small, selected group of friends, family, and coworkers. This protects them from being confronted by maniacs yelling about Jesus on the subway, and rude douchebags screaming on their cell phones everywhere they go. But it also insulates them from anything fantastic. If you want to live near great things, you have to be able to tolerate, or fight through, the terrible. If you want to completely avoid annoyances, you have to be willing to accept a world without wonderful things, a completely mediocre universe. And if that's the way you wanna live, fine, but don't tell me it's better, or that people are truly meant to live that way. Me, I'll put up with subway breakdowns and raving lunatics to be able to enjoy the sylvan, drunken splendor of the Kickball All-Star Game.

Fifteen minutes ago, a lost looking young lady stopped at my cube--these types of people always stop at my cube. They must confuse my name for Information Desk. She asked, a bit frazzled, "How do I get out of here?" How do I respond? Christ, woman, I been asking myself the same question for weeks.

* Last weekend, at Shea Stadium, while filing out of the stands following a disappointing Mets loss, I saw a fan wearing the uniform of one of the kickball teams. This made the defeat much less painful.


05:59pm: Phil Knight deserves a special spot in hell, his entrails turned into strings for demonic tennis rackets, his legs ripped off and used as bats in an interleague softball game between Nazis and pedophiles, his eyeballs taken for pool balls in Satan's billiard hall, all the while with a shrill imp sitting on his shoulder screaming into his timpanic membrane JUST DO IT! JUST DO IT!

Knight, the head of Nike, already deserved some harsh karmic retribution for turning a blind eye to sweatshop labor, as well as helping to spread the hoary tide of conspicuous consumption across the globe, and in general doing his part to make this world a more soulless and ugly place by stamping the obnoxious SWOOSH into the brain of every living thing. But he has surely invited unholy wrath upon himself for, ultimately, being the man responsible for this.

Don't worry, I also wish a slow, chancre-filled death for the traitor who proposed this ad idea in the first place. Anyone who recognizes the Minor Threat album cover, and sees in it not an eternal symbol of youthful rebellion or memories of their own punk rock days or simply a kick-ass album, but rather a way to sell more sneakers, can not leave this planet soon enough for me. It is the kind of mind that holds nothing sacred, that believes that everything ultimately can be turned into a gateway drug for the blissful high of spending cash--that this, in fact, is the ultimate goal of all human activity. I swear by every god ever devised that if I were to meet you in any setting, and know that you are the hollow beast responsible for this abortion of my youth, that you will walk away with a mouthful of loose teeth--if you're lucky.

Who's with me?


04:22pm: I can't manage it every day, but when possible, I try to repair to the break room during lunch, to eat my meal in peace with the company of a good book. Right now I'm working on "Spanking the Donkey" by Matt Taibbi, a chronicle of his chronicles of the previous presidential election. Aside from having an awesome first name, Mr. Taibbi is a killer writer. Reading his stuff while at work is both edifying and depressing: the former because it's good to know someone is carrying Hunter S. Thompson's mantle without so much of his drug baggage; the latter because it's exactly the kind of stuff I could be writing at this very moment if my life had taken a different turn, if I had but world enough and time.

While enjoying my few moments of unmonitored peace, some tightwad dipshit comes into the break room to purchase snacks. The machine craps out on him, prompting him to bang on the glass ineffectually. Soon, a small committee of Tim Allens descends on the machine, each of them offering advice as to how to fix this quandary. All of the advice translates into banging and shaking the stingy machine some more. I recognize their voices. They are the Strange Tall British Men who helm one of our bigger publications. Their accents are universally northern, so that they sound like the Beatles; hearing them talk, you would expect them to jump out on the fire escape to the tune of "Can't Buy Me Love". Except that I'm sure the Beatles didn't scream and drop the c-bomb every time they were unhappy with a retouch job on a photo.

Though the beefeaters stand literally inches behind me, I don't dare turn around and look. I know that if I do so, they will ask me how to fix this machine. When you're a Big Shot, any non-Big Shot person in the vicinity is immediately called upon to solve a problem that involves getting dirty or using brute force. This is how I wound up being the de facto copy machine repairman/tech support guy in some of the smaller offices to employ me over the years. The last thing I want is to become Snack Machine Douche because a bunch of cheap limeys who pull in six figures can't be bothered to eat 50 cents and go to a deli to get a bag of pretzels.

I immerse myself in my Taibbi, focusing on the struggles of the campaign trail. Eventually, Dexy's Midnight Runners give up the Great Pretzel Struggle and I am left alone for a moment. But the silence is subsumed once more when a trio of interns takes up a table nearby. I don't have to worry about being accosted by them--they are far too fashionista to even notice me. Even though they don't talk very loud, however, they sit close enough that their conversation intrudes my auditory canal, making it hard for me to focus on my book. The girls discuss upcoming weddings they must attend, and of course, the crippling diets they're on in preparation for the Happy Event. "Do you ever get...cravings?" one of them asks, like she's sheepishly talking to her mother in a Summer's Eve commercial. The other girl reassures her, "Oh yeah, sometimes I just totally feel like having a hamburger, AND I HAVE ONE." This would be a killer sarcastic response, but the second girl's tone indicated that this admission was so NAUGHTY, so EVIL, oooh, someone should SPANK HER!

These girls encapsulate another, non-British faction of the office, which is the Girly Contingent. Real Sex and the City types, the kind who go nuts after work with a couple of apple martinis or mojitos and try get their hooks into a lawyer or someone else equally well-heeled and boring as fuck. The kind of chicks who will forever dot their I's with little hearts, who truly think feminism means being able to buy whatever you want, for whom Paris Hilton is a spiritual leader. People with these kind of sensibilities are responsible for the horrible layouts in some of our magazines, where it looks like a Crayola 96 box threw up on the page, and every conceivable color is used simply because it exists and it looks BRIGHT and FUN and OMG IT'S SO FUN TO BE PART OF THE MACHINE!!!1! Boxes of green on magenta? Three drop shadows, each a neon color so it makes your eyes tremble to look at it? A design scheme constructed by someone with attention deficit disorder? THAT'S HOT! (c)

I can only look to Mr. Taibbi for advice, and he summed it up well when talking about his experiences on the press plane that followed around Kerry:

From the very first moment I stepped on the plane, I knew I was in the presence of profound ugliness. It was a tangible, visceral thing that I was conscious of every minute, like cold air or a bad smell. It was not an amusing kind of ugliness, not kitschy like a Brooklyn social club full of mobsters. This level was a serious ideological threat to people like me, that is, small-time losers. But what exactly the source of it was, it was impossible to say.

Matt, I would trade your plane for my lunchroom in a heartbeat.


03:43pm: This Saturday I gave the best athletic performance of my life. The Mark Bar softball team had already secured a victory via forfeit, but the remnants of the conceding squad rounded up a few stragglers and felt like playing a scrimmage. Gracious in victory, we agreed. I was penciled in at catcher, pretty much as an afterthought. I used to catch in Little League and have not since then, but I must say that it's a lot like riding a bike--if riding a bike forced you to hunker down while having balls thrown at your crotch. I regained my crouch very easily, and actually caught 90 percent of the pitches thrown to me (in a game of boozy adult softball, this is a more than acceptable success rate). I was the second half of an extremely awesome double play--the batter popped out to the deep infield, and a runner on third decided to test our second baseman's arm and my glove by tagging up. I fielded an excellent throw and tagged the runner out with centimeters to spare.

But then came the ultimate face rocking moment. Tie game, top of the tenth, man on first and one out, and I step up to the plate. I'd already gone two-for-three with some decent cuts, but I had trouble hitting the ball out of the infield. This turn, I decided to open up my stance, thinking I was fancy and could do something like that. This was kind of like bringing your own professional grade cue in a velvet lined case so you could play pool in your friend's basement. Well, I guess I am fancy, because I knocked the pitch way down the third base line for a long, long hit. Keep in mind this is a public park, and there are no fences, so one can not hit a home run per se. You can only hope you hit it into the adjacent field, or that the ball keeps rolling into someone's picnic blanket or hollowed-out barrel barbecue. My hit was as close to a clean home run as you can get under these conditions--it sails far and long, then chops away with several big bounces. I thought home run all the way. The left fielder had a good arm, so he had a marginal shot at throwing me out at the plate, but I was running so I hard that I actually scaled the backstop after coming home. Later, we tacked on another run, and set 'em down in the bottom half to pull off a come-from-behinder.

I used to be a very good catcher, if I do say so myself, at least at the Little League level. But at some point I stopped hitting, and I couldn't progress up the ranks. I still don't know why. I think it was a combination of a) worsening eyesight abetted by intense reading; b) onset of overweight-itude that plagued most of my adolescence; and c) the classic batting ailment: overthinking. Always at the back of my brain, however, I've thought that it's something I should have pursued, at least for fun. I let self-consciousness and nerd defeatism keep me from doing something I really enjoyed--neither the first nor the last time this would happen.

Any illusions I might have about getting called up to the big show have been completely erased by the searing pain in my legs. Even though I'm in better shape right now than I have been for years, none of the exercises I do prepare me for crouching for ten innings. When I sit down or get up, I have to brace myself against something sturdy. When I walk, it takes me fifty paces to get up to a decent speed--if you can imagine trying to pedal a Big Wheel with a completely scuffed front 'tire', that's how my pins are operating right now. At the same time that this pain is a mark of my hard work, it is also the death knell for a naïve childhood fantasy. Perhaps if I stuck with it and stayed in shape, I could have caught for longer than I did. But it's a young man's game, and my legs tell me that I'm already too old for it.


12:55pm: I had to re-register this domain name yesterday. Turns out I've had this web site for five damn years already. OMG! LOL!!!!1! The domain holder (sounds like a major player in the RPG world) had lots of outdated, arcane contact information for me, so I had to tell them that they had my pager, telex, and smoke signal numbers wrong. Anywhoo, it's all cleared up now, and you can enjoy Scratchbomb.com in peace and tranquility once again.

Monday was another horrible work day, so long and annoying that I vowed once I left the 7 train I would purchase a tallboy from the local bodega and drink it as I forded Newtown Creek. Of course, as soon as the larcenous side of my brain hatched this plan, the law-abiding side panicked. See, I firmly believe that one is a law breaker or one is not. If you think you can get away with things, or you truly don't give a shit one way or another, you live your life accordingly. If not, you live in constant fear of getting caught up in the criminal justice system, even if your only offense is jaywalking. I belong to the latter category. Many laws that others flout with reckless abandon, I adhere to strenuously, more out of fear of Murphy's Law than anything else.

Foolishly, I heeded my Fuck The Pigs impulse. I did not get caught. I did, however, remember that I don't like beer in cans. And that I don't like Budweiser, period. And that walking and drinking beer at the same time is the expressway to heartburn. Plus, the bodega I went to must have been operating on half power this hot, humid day, because my beer was barely cold. I wound up taking only a few illicit sips on the Pulaski Bridge. All in all, it was a waste of my stomach and a hard-earned buck-fifty.

I got back to the neighborhood a little past midnight. Tired as I was, I needed to move my car immediately to avoid further brushes with the law. I walked down the last block of Green Street, a weird little block with abandoned shopping carts and wild weeds shooting from the ground, and I saw a potentially legal spot blocked up with a bunch of wooden garbage; old pallets and such from a nearby warehouse. So I cleared the refuse, throwing it on the curb and kicking it with my tired feet. But by the time I retrieved my car, I pulled up to the spot just in time to see an asswipe Honda Accord with Florida plates take the space I made. At the end of this very long day, pissed is not the word I'd use to describe how I felt. I managed to park not too far away, but this was an issue of principle.

So I did what all Americans seeking justice have done throughout the years: I stalked. Thoughtless Accord Man strutted--I swear he strutted, the motherfucker--from his car and down Green Street. He had a horrible hipster white boy fro, and his step was light and springy. He put his left hand in his jeans pocket, his over-washed novelty tee almost see-through white. I hated this man instantly, even more so when he strutted his Keep On Truckin' walk down my street. The thought that he could possibly live on my block, or even know someone on it, filled me with a deep and fiery rage.

But I'm better now, at peace with the world and its beings. So much so that I was able to create this beauteous Photoshop pun: Shea Guevara.


03:34pm: Last night, through serendipitous encounters and the generosity of an acquaintance, my Special Lady Friend (c) was able to partake in a tasting held at the home a professional chef and CIA graduate (Culinary Institute, not The Spooks). When I arrived home after a 15-hour day at the office (no, I'm not a migrant worker, and no, 'the office' is not 'an orange grove'), she described its every nuance in delectable, almost erotic detail. Each course--of which there were approximately 37--was accompanied by a different wine of subtle and exquisite vintage. It sounded like a scene from the warmup to a Roman orgy. Nubian handmaidens fed grapes to the diners between fork-bites. A dancing girl burst from the stomach of a roast boar. Eunuchs stood guard at the gates to keep the rabble away. It was the kind of meal, her description said, that made Louis XIV's courtly rococo look like Howard Johnson's.

At the time the lady was enjoying this sumptuous repast, I was in an office building kitchen, heating up a Lean Cuisine lasagna Florentine. Four minutes in our microwave heated the edges to dessicated pasta-plastic. The bottom of the container was hyperheated , so I had to carry the thing daintily with both hands (as if eating a Lean Cuisine wasn't enough ceding of my manhood in the first place). I've been developing a cold over the last few days, so I'd also poured myself a glass of water from the cooler, and was carrying the plastic cup in my mouth. I do stupid things like this all the time, because I hate to make multiple trips. This was the hour in which the cleaning ladies zip around the carpet with industrial vacuum cleaners, the kind that can turn cats inside out and make more noise than Concordes. Just as I was leaving the kitchen, I tripped slightly on a vacuum cord, and a tiny drop of water flew from the cup and landed right in the middle of my quote-unquote meal. I had no illusions about what kind of joys could be gleaned from such a dish, but neither did I wish to water down what little taste it had.

This was, as they say, the piss mayo spread on the shit sandwich that was my day.


02:23pm: Considering how much (virtual) ink I spend on the subject of the Great American Pasttime, I am considering dedicating a sub-blog for the purposes of commenting upon it, and the travails of the beleaguered Metropolitan Baseball Club in particular. At the very least, it would spare those of you bored to tears with the subject. Anyone who wishes to add their 2¢ on this subject knows where to find me.

For now, I will spare a few brief words on the subject of the Other Team, Los Yanquis, and two news stories involving them that I'm already sick of:

1: Alex Rodriguez Gets His Head Shrunk. I know that all the dough and success in the world won't save a person from depression or any other mental illness, so that's not what bugs me about this. If Rodriguez needs to see a therapist, fine. I shan't mock him for that alone (except, of course, if I attend another Mets/Yankees game; then all bets are off). But the tenor of his comments about it clearly indicate that he expects to be applauded for admitting this. I should no more praise him going to a therapist for emotional issues than him going to chiropractor for back trouble. You have a problem, you get it taken care of. You're not a fucking hero because you can talk about your emotions to a trained professional. Get over yourself.

2: Jeter's Catch Sorry, but this was not a great catch--it was unnecessary showboating. I have grudging respect for Jeter; much as I'd love to dismiss him as a pretty boy, he's a great player and a good leader on his team. But that catch was one that should easily have been made by the second baseman or the center fielder. By recklessly running for a play that wasn't his to make--and not calling it or waving off his teammates--he very nearly seriously injured Robinson Cano*, the Yanks' young 2B. Seeing it reminded me of high school gym, and those times when one hot shot jock would try to field every position simultaneously, because it's very important for the school's starting linebacker to show he can field a ground ball hit by the school orchestra's second tuba player. Jeter didn't do it out of malice--he just thinks he could and should catch every single ball. In the business world, it would be called micromanaging (a bad thing), but on the field it's called competitive drive (rah rah rah!). To me, it just shows that (a) Jeter has no confidence in the rest of his team's fielding ability, and (b) his leadership role has strayed dangerously into the territory of Messiah complex. Based on this play and the headfirst dive into the stands he made last year against Boston, I can see him this weekend against the Sox causing three broken ribs and a punctured lung on a routine bunt up the first base line. He won't be happy until he breaks his face on a runner's cleat or destroys his knees climbing the foul pole to rob a home run.

* Last Saturday, Roberto Clemente Jr., host of WFAN's Latin Beat, spent several minutes instructing the audience on how to pronounce Cano's name. This amused me greatly, so much that I've been repeated Cano in a hispanish cadence all week.


02:40pm: Has anyone else seen the ESPN commercial that shows a kid dragging a Cardinals blanket through all the stages of his life? If you haven't, it shows a dad wrapping his baby in a Cardinals blanket. Then we see (presumably) this baby as a toddler, running around his house using the blanket as a cape. Then we see the kid older, doing his homework in his bedroom, the blanket on his bed. Then, we see him playing drums in his garage, the blanket draped over the drum throne. Then we see him playing cards with his friend at some boozy party, using the blanket as a table cloth. Then, he's stuffing the blanket into a milk crate along with all his other possessions as he moves away from home. Then he's draping the blanket over him and his girlfriend as they watch late night TV. Then we see the boy-now-man wrapping the blanket around his baby girl. Then, he's pulling the girl, now a toddler, in a red wagon, as she has the blanket draped over her shoulders like a cape. The whole commercial is shot in a home movie-esque style, and has subtly sentimental music playing gently in the background. The tagline is WITHOUT SPORTS, WHAT WOULD WE HAVE TO HOLD ON TO?

Cynic though I am, every time I see that commercial I damn near bust out crying. Just describing it to my fiancée, I almost choked up--and so did she. I had to call her into the living room last night when it aired yet again, and we both were on the edge of sobbing. I don't cry easy, or even come close to crying easy. I'm easily saddened, but it takes a lot to make me cry. Usually, a groin-related injury.

You could not have made that commercial about any sport other than baseball. Football and hockey are too violent. Basketball is too showboaty. Golf is too frustrating/humorous--another, similar ESPN commercial shows a man trying to chip a shot out of a sandtrap, running over in his mind the myriad of confusing, contradictory advice he's been given. And NASCAR is too fast paced, and is also not a sport. You may enjoy watching it, and I certainly wouldn't be one to deny others a pleasure that kills no in the process (at least 58% of the time). But I'm sorry, the burden of proof falls on the people who consider turning left a sport, not me.

But only baseball has such sentimentality (= Daddy Issues) tied up in it. That's why Bud Selig and Co. got such a grilling on Capitol Hill in the steroids hearings. Not that they didn't deserve it, but only in baseball can a perceived threat to The Purity of the Game upset people so much. For many people, when you fuck with baseball, you fuck with their history, with their soul. Other games are enjoyed. Only baseball is believed in (in America, that is). Compare to football, which has had a jillion rule tweaks in the past twenty years without anyone batting an eye at all. Though now a much more popular sport, it doesn't have nearly the same burden of nostalgia--that lack of such a burden, in turn, is what allows the game to change, and is partially responsible for its current dominance at the summit of American sports.

During that dog and pony show disguised as a Congressional hearing, the sight of Mark McGwire ducking questions was absolutely pathetic. I kept thinking of his appearance on the Simpsons many years back, where he addresses a suspicious crowd: "Do you guys really wanna know the horrible truth about Major League Baseball, or do you guys wanna see me smack a few dingers?" The answer for most people, of course, is the latter. Give us stainless steel heroes who never falter, who gleam with promise and shit solid gold bricks. Personally, I'm able to continue enjoying baseball by knowing that it's full of human beings who do dumb things to themselves and others, that to demand saintliness of athletes when I expect it of no one else is preposterous. Most people don't see it that way. It's that dichotomy between ideal and reality that makes the sport such a darling of literary types. It's the only sport held up to higher standards than most people have for their gods. Hurricanes are acceptable. Sammy Sosa corking a bat is a blasphemy.

The ESPN commercial, at its core, is a manipulative thing, like all ads. But it works perfectly, because it plays on the idea of the Eternal, Blameless Game. If you know anything about baseball history, you know that it is neither, but it's the only game that thinks it is, that almost lives and dies on this notion. And the commercial works because, as the late Bart Giamatti wrote, "It breaks your heart. It's designed to break your heart."

09:51am: Up until yesterday, the coolest license plate I ever saw was on a silver Jaguar I spotted in the West Village, on one of those ancient, cobblestone, Victorian streets, where you expect to see Sherlock Holmes and Prince Albert conversing under gaslight with Jack the Ripper. It was one of those streets where it is eternally 11 am on a Sunday, well-dressed intellectuals sipping well-brewed lattes and completing another well-constructed Times crossword puzzle. The silver Jaguar was parked mere inches from a fire hydrant, because when you have a silver Jaguar, a $110 ticket is a mere pittance. The license plate: 3. That's it, in its entirety. What could better display entitlement and privilege than having a single digit license plate? If your license plate is one single character, perfectly centered on the aluminum, you surely have never even been to the DMV, waited for five hours for your plates, and had to pay the $35 registration fee by check. I saw that plate and knew, there went a man of distinction and class.

Then yesterday, while driving on the BQE, I saw a license plate that completely trumped '3'. I was making the mad dash from the Williamsburg Bridge off-ramp to the McGuinness Blvd. exit, trying to zip across four lanes in roughly thirty feet of road length. So I'm amazed that I even noticed it, but then again, how could I not? Once I finally made it to the exit lane, I spotted the license plate in front of me said BROOKLYN. Great googly moogly! The street value of that plate must be incalculable. You know how many millions of Bucktown residents would kill for that plate? You could get Jay-Z to pony up seven figures easy, plus a stake Roc-a-Fella, and he might even throw in Beyoncé, just to get a chance to bid on it.

So who had this mystical emblem? Was it a pimped out Escalade? Was it a classic Cadillac? A maroon IROC with a two-tiered spoiler? No sir. It was a mid-80s Chevy Nova, baby blue paint faded into a pale gray. And it was driven by a large, bearded Hasid. Ownership of the plates, I'm sure, was as old as the car itself, probably dating to the time when the average schmoe could first get personalized plates. I wonder if this man even knows what he has. Surely he must garage the car, or else the plates would get stolen constantly, if no reason other than pure animal rage that such a shitty car has such killer tags.

BROOKLYN got off at our exit, which considering the large Satmar population in Williamsburg did not surprise me. I lost track of him somewhere near Meserole Street, where the battered panels of his minivan faded behind me, and me and my Oldsmobeast traveled under more pedestrian identification.


11:48am: This past weekend, thanks to the city of Philadelphia, I finally viewed a baseball game in a stadium other than Shea or Yankee Stadium. Citizen's Bank Ballpark is sandwiched on the southern outskirts of Cheesesteakburg between the airport and the Titty Bar District, and is part of a brand new Stadium District that includes an arts center and a new field for the Eagles, Lincoln Financial (wow, those Philadelphians must love banks!). The non-highway approach to the stadium takes one through the city's gray, derelict waterfront--imagine the industrial parts of Bushwick or Canarsie, but even more lifeless and spooky. From this direction, it's impossible to see the stadiums until you're right on top of them--suddenly, amidst the noise and haste of cracked asphalt, enormous stadium lights appear on the horizon. Amid the ruins of industrial Philly, they looked like two mighty oaks that had survived a forest fire.

At first glance, there appeared to be ample parking; lots surrounded the stadium. But all of the asphalt was marked with special directives. SEASON TICKET HOLDERS. PREFERRED PARKING. SPACES ERSERVED FOR FRANKIE AVALON AND FABIAN. I wound up parking on the lawn of a nearby Holiday Inn for the exquisite price of ten dollars. But Holiday Inn seemed the place to be, as everyone there was in dogged and blatant violation of the myriad of NO TAILGATING signs. Someone had even rented a U-Haul, out of which they served dogs, burgers, and lots and lots of foamy amber drinks that one could possible mistake for beer at the right angle.

We arrived at the stadium at 5:15 for a 7:05 first pitch. Why? Because I hadn't a clue what to do with myself in Philadelphia before a ball game. Mistakenly, I'd thought Citizen's Bank would be surrounded by fabulous sports imbibing establishments. Instead of Tug McGrandSlam's Home Run Drinkatorium, however, the environs were truck parking lots, airplane refueling bypasses, and more parking lots. But prior to the game, they open up a fun little area called Ashburn Alley, wherein the lucky fans get to spend their money well in advance of the first inning at souvenir shops, carnival-style games, and food stands. This area is behind the outfield fence, and offers an excellent, almost field-level of the proceedings.

When in doubt, drink, I say, and so the lady and I ventured to the second level of Harry the K's Broadcast Bar and Grill (no, really), where we had a few beers and watched the Phillies take batting/infield practice. It was a gorgeous day, and I'd never gotten to a game early enough, or had seats good enough, to enjoy BP. I was shocked to see members of the home team chat amiably with the visitors, the Reds. Bobby Abreu, don't talk to Felipe Lopez! I thought, He's your enemy! Also, Ken Griffey Jr. managed to shag balls in center without turning an ankle and going down for the season. Miracle!

At first glance, I lamented that there is no ballgame experience like this in New York. Aside from both of our ballparks being older than recycled dirt, there is an assumption on the part of both teams that one should simply drink lots of beer and squeeze your ass into a hardback seat. I don't think Shea would be appreciably improved with a Guess Your Pitch Speed Game, but having some sort of field-level area where fans could watch BP would be nice. I'm not sure about Yankee Stadium, but I do know that Shea employs armed guards and attack dogs with head-mounted lasers to make sure no one without a field level ticket even thinks about venturing down there.

But then the game started, and I found I just couldn't get into it. From our seats beyond the left field fence, the field looked tiny. Maybe it was the fact that I had no horse in the race, so to speak, whereas at a Mets game I sit on the edge of my seat, even if by some miracle they have a healthy lead (10 run gaps can evaporate quickly at Shea). Or maybe it was the fact that the stadium was half empty--not entirely surprising, considering it was a battle between two last place teams. But the crowd itself seemed not all that into it, either, which again was understandable to a point, especially after the Reds ran away with the game (eventually winning 12-4).

But I have a feeling that my apathy had nothing to do with the design of the park, per se, which was excellent, but rather its intended audience: families and their kids. I've never seen so many kids at a ballpark. Just down the aisle from us was a mom and dad with an infant on their lap--a remarkably well behaved infant, I might add. I found this endearing and cute, but it also took a bit of the edge off the game. There have been times at Shea when I've begged for the sloppy drunks surrounding me to disappear, so I could just enjoy the game in relative peace. But after attending a game in a mostly obnoxious-drunk-free stadium, I've come to realize that I must enjoy that milieu, because watching a game without them was like nine innings of Sominex. Two friends of mine who invited us to the game were a tad tipsy (Makers Mark + parking lot = fun!), and if they were in NY, their shenanigans would have raised no eyebrows. But in Philly, people glared at even their mildest epithets. I expected monocles to drop from tensed eyelids, for old dowagers to tsk and retort, "well I never!"

In New York, one is treated to a bevy of drunken land monsters who, if nothing else, bring an element of excitement and humor to the game-watching experience:

Drunken Bill James: Despite heroic intake of alcohol, can spit out statistics like a Univac. Projects stats so forcefully that no one dare contradict him.
The Slob and The Apologist: A small clumsy upper deck tornado of chaos, the Slob spills his beer everywhere within a three seat radius and kicks people in the shins and groin while getting up for more. The Apologist makes excuses for the Boor, begs forgiveness on his behalf, and in his forceful mea culpas manages to be even more annoying than his protégé.
The Heckler: Screams obscenities after every missed swing and surrendered base hit. Completely hoarse by the fourth inning.
Ethnic Heckler: His first language is not English, but because he wants everyone to understand him, he croaks broken swears in his adopted tongue.
The Sloppy Pugilist: Similar to the Slob, but when his friends warn him of his untidy ways, his response is, "I don't fuckin care, fuckin take on this whole fuckin section, mufuck." Usually ejected by the third inning.
The Equal Opportunity Racist: Glances quickly at each player's name, then formulates an insult utilizing some choice ethnic slurs.
The Social Calendar: Makes post-game plans during the entire game, mostly on a cell phone and at window-rattling volume.
The Defiant Auslander: Comes to see the rival team and sports their gear in full regalia. Beaten to a pulp and thrown down a flight of stairs by the sixth inning.
Billy Graham: Inveighs loudly against the evils corrupting the game, including steroids, free agency, the designated hitter, Jim Bouton, and batting gloves. No matter who is on the field, they are less than human compared to the sepia-toned stars of yesteryear. Sobbing into his beer by last call.
ESPN Scout: On every fielded ball, no matter how routine, screams, "That's a Web Gem! That's a Web Gem!"


1:15pm: I went upstate for Mother's Day, and my car died on the return trip. Luckily, it happened only a few miles from my mother's house. I was driving down route 208, which, now that I have overly stimulated City Eyes, seems really dark and creepy at 10:30 at night. None of the trees have bloomed yet, and the bare branches look scary-movie-ish when caught in car headlights as they sweep through a curve. Roadkill of varying size is not uncommon, everything from snakes and raccoons to deer. I noticed that a caution light was lit on the dashboard, a curious one I'd never seen before with a little battery and the angry direction CHARGE. Simultaneously, I had an SUV right on my ass, shining xenon lights so piercing that I could see my bones. Every single time I've have had serious car trouble, I've either been caught in screaming, relentless traffic--one breakdown each on the GWB and route 17 in Jersey--or had some jackass riding my bumper. It is a lesser known subset of Murphy's Law: if something can go wrong, it will, and in already stressful circumstances.

The car in question is actually my grandfather's Oldsmobile, one that he took great care of. He bought it new in 1990 and only put 60K miles on it since then. If the thing was ever driven over 55, I'd be extremely surprised. It had been running a bit choppy, but I thought that was simply due to a few months of sitting idle in his garage, and I vowed I would bring it in for an oil change soon, maybe squeeze it in between eating and sleeping one of these weekends.

But on this evening, the running of the engine transgressed 'choppy' and veered into 'fucked up'. It was barely climbing up the modest hills of my hometown, and I saw that the interior lights were quickly dimming. The radio reception grew staticky and then died altogether. As one thing after another quickly went wrong, I pulled out the greatest tool in a motorist's arsenal: self-delusion. With every successive sign that something was wrong, I convinced myself that it was only my imagination, that I was being paranoid. Or that maybe the car was in trouble, but if I just clapped my hands and believed ,I could bring it back to life.

The SUV behind me was not pleased. I thought he had his brights on, but then, annoyed by my slow pace, he turned his REAL brights on, and suddenly I could see through time. But I couldn't stop to wave hi to George Washington and Pol Pot, because my car was very quickly expiring. At the moment when I realized that I could resist automotive failure no more, it just so happened that I approached the local parish, the one that my grandfather faithfully attended for the last 26 years of his life. How many times, I wondered, did Grampa chug into St. Mary's for 10 o'clock mass in this car? Ironic, in that no-it's-not-classically-ironic-it's-merely-a-vaguely -interesting-coincidence-which-dumb-people-mistake-for-irony kind of way.

As I turned into the parking lot, the car died completely. This was unfortunate because I was literally in the middle of turning into the parking lot, and a dead car means no power steering. The car was actually in a 45 degree angle to the street, heading slowly but surely for a large ceremonial bell on the church's front lawn (no, I don't know why they have this thing either). It took all my strength to turn the car out of harm's way. I managed to aim the car for a regular parking slot, but once I'd aimed the car, I had to stop it, which was difficult without power brakes. I had to do a Fred Flintstone and drag my feet across the pavement to bring the car to a halt. The little hamster who turns the wheel in the engine block told me, It's a Living.

My brother came by to give me a jump, and I seriously considered trying to drive back to Brooklyn once the car was 'ok'. But when the car stalled two more times--once when I turned on the headlights, once when I put it in gear--it was clear this car was going nowhere without a tow chain attached to it. So I got a lift back to my Mom's house. We had an awesome GTA-type moment on the trip back, when the hood of my brother's car flipped straight up, completely obscuring the windshield. He told me to direct him to the side of the road, but I said, 'Nah, keep driving, it'll fly off. It always does that in Vice City.'

So I took the NJ Transit train back to the city this morning, for the first time in a very long time. The process is so much more automated these days. You used to be able to buy tickets on the train, and you still can, but now they encourage you to purchase them from automated ticket-bots at the station by saddling all on-board ticket purchases with crippling fees. And there's finally a (sorta) direct link to Midtown, if you make a brief transfer at Seacaucus. There, you have to enter your ticket into a turnstile machine, similar to the PATH train or the DC Metro. There's an ease to it, I guess, but it's also eliminated what was the greatest feature of Jersey Transit: fleece-ability. Once upon a time, you could save some dough by buying a ticket to Suffern, even if you were getting off several stops later. The conductors barely gave a shit, and if you thought you'd landed in the same car as a Do-Gooder, you would just move down a coupla cars. When I was in college, I would even go to the bathroom, change a shirt, exchange glasses for contacts, and voila! A real James Bond move to save a few bucks, but back then a few bucks was no small matter to me.

Another thing that has ruined commuter rail travel: the cell phone. Holy Christ, train travel has devolved from pleasant to tolerable to unbearable in a very short period of time, all because of the cell phone. Thanks to the cell phone, people scream non-stop for the entire trip, whole carloads of them. Some conduct business, some gossip with their friends, but regardless of its nature, the chatter is nonstop. The man in front of me this morning yelled at his secretary for 90 minutes. Meanwhile, he had some sort of Blackberry-type thing that blared out MIDI morse code each time he got a new email. Commuter rail, like the subway, used to be a place where people pledged to intrude on one another's personal space as little as possible, and to keep as silent as possible. Now it's an unending sea of noise and data. It did not, however, prevent me from a deep, open-mouthed slumber for my entire trip from upstate to Seacaucus.

The connecting train to midtown was very late. An older lady with two young children--I presumed them her grandchildren--admonished her charges not run around on the train tracks. "We don't play in New York," she said with prim finality. One boy said, in a snotty little boy way, "We're not in New York, we're in Seacaucus."

As I made my way out of Penn Station, I found myself in the general vicinity of an Unsettled Man. He was one of those sad, weird misogynists who seem personally and deeply offended by all women in his line of sight. He was not loud, but determined, grumbling in rapid-fire succession on the subject of whoredom. The other thing that struck me was that he did not seem like a derelict per se; he wasn't well dressed, but he clearly wasn't a bum either. He had a small bag and walked as quickly and with as much purpose as all the other commuters. Maybe he was a borderline schizophrenic on his way to a job. He boarded the escalator to 7th Avenue a few people in front of me. I exited to find a crowd of eager, beaming NYU graduates arrayed in purple robes. The Unsettled Man began harassing them, in a boisterous way, with the inscrutable chant, "C'MON KIDS! FOUR MORE YEARS! C'MON KIDS! FOUR MORE YEARS!" Then I thought, maybe this is this man's job. Maybe he's a professional street hassler. There are certainly worse ways to make your dough, I thought, as I headed to my own hassle.


6:58pm: No softball this weekend, which is a bummer. We played last week and though it rained on and off, and we got clobbered, it was still fun. The Mark Bar played against the cleverly-named Balls Deep, a team led by the commissioner of the league and packed with ringers. I needed a TI-85 to calculate how many runs they scored on us (pre-calc humor!). With no hope of defeating them athletically, we opted for subtle psychological ploys; ie, taunting them with scrotally-themed insults, like calling them the Nut Sacks and the Teabags. Their uniforms were baby blue, so Blue Balls worked quite well; this epithet seemed to irk them more than any other (too close to home?), but it did not prevent them from going yard batter after batter. My only solace was, by playing right field, I did not have to field any bombs tossed against their almost entirely right-handed lineup.

At the plate, I went 2 for 3, scored a run, and ended the game by needlessly barreling into the third baseman in the bottom of the ninth, just after he fielded a ground ball. I hoped my heft would dislodge the ball, and in the split second that I committed to acting like an offensive tackle instead of a base runner, I received brief glimpses of doom. I could seriously hurt this person and get sued. Or I could seriously injure myself, and spend many moons laid up in a hospital bed. Or, I could escape unscathed but spark a brawl between the teams, and wind up in jail. As it turned out, the third baseman was made of granite, because when my shoulder connected with his pelvis, I bounced right off of him and tumbled earthward, making a three-point landing in the damp dirt of the infield. Some laughs and a small dosage of humiliation were my only consequences.

When the team repaired to our sponsor to lick our wounds with beer, we discovered that our Hated Rivals were also drinking there. I initially took this as a slap in the face. Imagine if Johnny and all of Cobra Kai showed up at Mr. Miyagi's house for a drink. Would you stand for that? Well, you would if your team just lost by twenty-seven runs (give or take a dozen). And eventually, all animosity was washed away in a tide of good sportsmanship and alcohol. Blue Balls may have won the game, but we won the Good Sportsmanship award--which, as you know, is a bent bowling trophy from the Salvation Army with the word PUSSY scratched on it s surface.



























































































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