Monday, June 29, 2009

Worth a Thousand Words... and a Million Bucks

With such an abundance of nothing going on in my life, I've been looking for things to do. To that end, Inky and I rearranged our living room the other day. While we were at it I came across an envelope filled with pictures that had been living in our coffee table for the last few years, and the gem you see here was one of them.

I'm kind of a sap when it comes to the good old days, but even more so when it comes to my old man. I have lived my whole life with people telling me that I was his spitting image, and all I've ever wanted out of life was to be like him. Naturally, those feelings have only intensified in the nearly 7 years since his death. Plus, I have really had to grapple with how he would have felt about me getting laid off from my current job. He worked hard to be sure that his family lead a good life, and, by-and-large, we did. He was a thoughtful person, who tried his hardest to make life easier, happier and more rewarding for those around him. He was a complex man, who was always painfully aware that he only had a short time with which to make an impact.

This picture was taken on October 11th of 1997. The family had gatherd on the occasion of my brother Frank's commitment ceremony with his partner Mike. (note: I'm not that good a brother, I remember the date because Mike Mussina struck out 15 in game 3 of the ALCS and the Indians still managed to win 2-1 in 12 innings. Frank, Inky and I spent quite a bit of time watching the game throughout the reception on the tiny TV behind the bar) My brother was understandably nervous when he came out to Dad and I, as his father and brother, but Dad was great about it. And I think anyone who reads my blog would know that I love the gays.

So there we were, father and son, watching our son/brother commit himself to the person he loved most. In keeping with my family's style, everyone had a great time that night, and at one point a bunch of us ended up on a M-1 Abrams Tank, but that's another story for another day. I don't know just what was going on at the exact moment this photo was taken but I couldn't love it more. It's hard to tell from the look on his face, but Dad is just about to break out in his trademarked "big smile". My face is classic "Anthony is telling a story and may be fudging a few of the finer points to get a bigger laugh." Every time I look at this picture, I smile, and that's even before you account for the yellow lollipop in my hand and the mop of hair on my head.

That's the wonderful thing about memories of happy times; they can serve as a booster shot of happy in an otherwise gloomy time.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Comeuppance, Thy Name is Car Bumper

It may come across as cruel, but this kid totally deserved the face full of Detroit steel he got. I'm not some cranky old man who tells the kids not to have any fun. They can smash all the mail boxes they want, just don't video tape it. Because, when you do, you know your friends will be obliged to put it on the web, and then we'll all have to make fun of you for being a giant douche.

In my day this event would have only spread, and rapidly at that, by word of mouth in school or over our land line phones. Now when you fall out of a car while trying to hit a kid on a bike with the door, everyone will see it on YouTube within an hour and a half. For example: At my senior prom, I sat at a table with a kid who took a javelin to the neck. I had heard the story a thousand times, hell, even David Letterman did a bit about it, but I didn't get to see his pain over and over again in video form. Although I really wanted to. Now a days, that would have been caught on two or three different camera phones and cut together Tarantino style for all to enjoy.

I guess what I'm saying is: these days, you can't avoid your mistakes... or breaking your face on a brown POS a few blocks from home.


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Show Review: Camera Obscura at the 9:30

We all have a list of things we can't believe we haven't gotten around to doing. After Sunday, my list is one thing shorter. It was a small thing, but I'm happy to say that I finally got to see my favorite band of the '00s live and in person. Inky and I made our way down to DC to see them play at the world famous 9:30 Club, but not before we met up with Emerald for dinner first.

We had originally planed to eat at another famous DC institution, Ben's Chili Bowl, but found the lines to be way too long, and the seating options to be scarce. So we went next door to eat at Ben's Next Door, which is a bit more upscale, but also has great food. As not to miss out, I had a side of chili with my burger, so the visit was complete. After nearly two hours of catching up with Emerald, it was time for Inky and I to make our way up the street to the 9:30.

The show was just about everything I could have hoped it would be. Not even the couple standing in front of us practically fucking one another the whole show could distract from my enjoyment of getting to see one of my favorite bands in person at last. What made the show even more enjoyable was the fact that Tracyanne and Co don't mess around when it comes to playing a set. They are like a relief pitcher that eschews the wind up and always pitches from the stretch. It was just rock and fire. Or, pop and fire in this case. There wasn't a whole lot of banter between songs and as such they did a 16 song set in an hour and twenty minutes.

The set consisted of seven tracks each from the last two records, Let's Get Out of This Country and My Maudlin Career as well as one track each from their first two. From 2001's Biggest Bluest Hi-Fi they did "Eighties Fan" which just happens to be one of my favorite songs of all time. Then to top it off, the track they played from Underachievers Please Try Harder, "Teenager", was my favorite from that that 2003 record. Perfection!

They wrapped the show up with "Razzle Dazzle Rose" which is the perfect way to end a perfect show. All in all, it was a great way to spend the first day of summer, and I'm glad the planets finally lined up and allowed me to be in the right place at the right time to see this fantastic Scottish group live.

Set List

1. My Maudlin Career
2. Swans
3. Tears for Affairs
4. The Sweetest Thing
5. James
6. Teenager
7. Let's Get Out of This Country
8. Honey in the Sun
9. Eighties Fan
10. Country Mile
11. French Navy
12. Come Back Margaret
13. If Looks Could Kill

14. Other Towns and Cities
15. Lloyd, I'm Ready to Be Heart Broken
16. Razzle Dazzle Rose.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Just For the Record

I love to pick up a program or scorecard at sporing events. I've been doing it ever since I was a kid and I learned how to keep score at baseball games. So when Inky and I went to a couple of Aussie Rules games during our trip to Oz last year, I had to pick up their program: The AFL Record.

The Record is a weekly magazine that is sold at all 8 games each and every week. There is standard content that is printed for each week, including feature stories, looks back on the history of the game and even fantasy footy tips. Then, there is the center portion that is specific to the game you are at. That section includes club records, history, stats and rosters for each of the sides you will be seeing at the ground on that day.

I'm quite sure that hundreds of copies of the Record end up in the bin at the end of each game. Some probably get left on the tram while still more make it home only to be throw away after a week or two. Not mine. I carried the two copies of the Record I picked up all the way back to the US. Once home, Inky and I read through them over and over again, since they represent our only tangible Footy media. For well over a year now, my two copies of the Record have stayed in high rotation in my WC reading repature.

I've learned tons of info about the four teams we saw live on that trip. Interesting nuggets include: who their all time goal leaders are, who they've sent to the Hall of Fame and when they won titles. More that that, however, I've had a bona fide piece of the Aussie football experience in my hands, and that has made me happy. I feel the same way about the countless NFL, MLB and College programs I've collected over the years, since each one of them comes with a story and a memory. Of course, I can go to an O's game, or a Redskins game again without too much trouble. My next Geelong game is a bit harder to pull off, however.

So, until the next time I'll just have to be content with my imported, and now out of date, copies of the Record. Thankfully, they've just started publishing it on-line, so that will have to tide me over till the next time I can hand over two gold $2 coins for the real thing.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Excuse Me, You Got Your Bacon in My Peanut Butter!

Inky and I took a little jaunt into the Big Apple yesterday as a kind of a day of fun before my paychecks stop. It was a full day of experiences including seeing a movie that mentioned the theater we were watching it in, a guy walking up to me and getting in my face on the corner of Bowery and 2nd and a pb&b...&b. That's a peanut butter, banana and bacon. There are so many wonderfully complex things to try in New York, it's refreshing to see someone take the ordinary and make it extraordinary.

So we made our way to the West Village and had a late lunch at Peanut Butter & Co. on Sullivan, just south of Washington Square Park. PB&Co is just what it says: a place devoted entirely to peanut butter concoctions. Their menu ranges from the tried and true BP&J, or "Lunch Box Special" to the wild, such as the "White Chocolate Wonderful" which is white chocolate peanut butter and orange marmalade. Inky and I both opted for the "Elvis" and a glass of cold milk. The king of all sandwiches, the Elvis comes with classic peanut butter (we both picked chunky) and is stuffed with banana, honey and bacon. The sandwich gets griddle treatment, just like a grilled cheese, so the peanut butter gets warm and melty and the banana softens.

The result is a combination of sweet and savory fit for a king, or, the king. I would have never thought of putting bacon on a peanut butter and nana, but it really works. It's also very easy to enjoy in this quaint little shop, replete with all the classic peanut butter ads from the days of yore. Since it's in the midst of the sprawling NYU campus, I can only imagine that it is filled with college students most of the time, but when Inky and I visited at 3:00 yesterday afternoon, we had no problem getting one of the 7 tables in the joint. Plus, it's just a short walk from the subway or the Path, so it's easily access able for all of us non-New Yorkers. In fact, it's just a short walk from the West Village location of Grey's Papaya where XL and I dined on my birthday.

Now, for your enjoyment, here is what my Elvis looked like just before I demolished it:

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

I'm in a Funk

After months of bringing you weekly news of my most recent solitaire triumphs, I'm sad to say I have fallen into a bit of a slump. I haven't posted a score, high or not, since I racked up my 82 second game a month ago. It's not that I haven't been playing since then, because I've had plenty of free time on my hands, believe me. It's just that I haven't been able to reach the rarefied air of my past clicking conquests.

I've played tons of sub two minute games, but they aren't really worthy of blog based self praise once I reached sub-90-second territory. Sadly, and quite unexpectedly, I haven't played any double digit games since that 82 second effort in May. The best I could muster is the 100 second game you see above, which I played on June 5th. All of this failure is almost enough to make me hang up my mouse and retire from the world of speed solitaire all together. Almost.

I'm going to keep at it, because perseverance is all I have right now. I'm just a few weeks away from being sans paycheck and I've been getting about the same response from my resume sending efforts as I have from my solitaire playing. But I can't quit and I won't quit, on either front.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Song Spotlight: Camera Obscura "Honey in the Sun"

Last month I posted a track by track intro to "My Maudlin Career" the new record by the Scotish group Camera Obscura. In that post I mentioned that my favorite track on the record was Honey in the Sun, which was partially writen in Brisbane Australia. While that's not the reason I love the song, it doesn't hurt to hear Tracyanne talk about seeing the Southern Cross for the first time. I'm now just two weeks from getting to see CO live for the first time, and I couldn't be more excited. Plus, if YouTube is to be believed (and why not, it's never lied to me before) than I should be seeing Honey played live, since there are multiple fan videos up from recent shows.

Now, for your enjoyment, here is Honey in the Sun:

A half full moon in Mexico City I think of you
And when I saw the Southern Cross I wished you had too

I wish my heart was as cold as the morning dew
But it's as warm as saxophones
And honey in the sun for you

I've been spending half the year
In a plane going up and down
And you've been seeing other people from a nearby town
Been obsessing and getting depressed about us
Excess baggage and other stupid band stuff

I wish my heart was cold
But it's warmer than before
I wish my heart was as cold as the morning dew
But it's as warm as saxophones
And honey in the sun for you

When you said the veins in my left hand
Were shaped like a tree
Was that the very last time you really looked at me?
I'm in training to become as cold as ice
I'm determined to protect my feelings, to disguise
And when I said I didn't love you I told you a lie
Because there no one above you although I try
Would you laugh at the time I spent calling your name
Over and over and over and over again?

I wish my heart was cold
But it's warmer than before
I wish my heart was as cold as the morning dew
But it's as warm as saxophones
And honey in the sun for you

The trouble is I got me close to hating me
When I wake up in the morning it’s your face I see
Oh you once made me feel less afraid
You've got me pouring myself all over this page

I wish my heart was cold
But it's warmer than before
I wish my heart was as cold as the morning dew
But it's as warm as saxophones
And honey in the sun for you

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Missed It By That Much

Inky and I really need to work on our timing, at least when it comes to the quickly disappearing sights of Australia's southern coast. Back in '05 we set out on a drive along the Great Ocean Road with a goal of seeing the 12 Apostles, which are rock formations that rise out of the water like little islands. Unfortunately we were beset with rain, and it was slow going for us on the twists and turns of the Ocean Road. So, we turned back for Melbourne, promising that we'd see the Apostles on our next trip. All of them.

Well, we missed out. A few weeks later one of the rock formations just crumbled into the sea leaving a pile of rubble that was visible when we did return 3 years later. So on our 2008 trip we made sure that we got to see the Apostles in all their splendor. We arrived at the park just before the sun went down and were amazed by the beauty of these rock stacks jumping up out of the Southern Ocean.

By the time we got back in our car and started to head west, the sun was just about down. So when we passed the turn off for Loch Ard Gorge we decided that the Island Archway (pictured above) would have to be one of the things we see on the next trip. "It's not like it's going anywhere" I said, "We'll see it in 2011." But, once again, it is not to be. Last night the span of the arch gave way and fell into the foamy see beneath it, leaving two apostle-like towers behind. Sigh.

Oh well, I guess we really have to start seeing these things when we are there huh? If only Oz wasn't so damn far away!

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

It's Like Armageddon vs Deep Impact or Volcano vs Dante's Peak

This week two new shows premiered that are very similar to one another. They are also a ripoff and a spin off of the popular E! show The Soup, respectively. Tosh.0 and Web Soup follow in the long tradition of ripping on what someone else does rather than doing for yourself. I'm not being critical, mind you, because that's all I do with TGWOOfY. Rather than focusing their attention on televised shenanigans, these two shows bring us the best and worst of the interwebs.

In the end Tosh.0 emerges at the far superior product after the first week. With both of these shows having common sources material the only thing that was going to separate them was the talent, and production. They are both done in front of a green screen, like the Soup, so in the end it was all about the stars. Daniel Tosh didn't seem 100% comfortable at times, but he was very funny and seemed to be doing his own thing. Whereas Web Soup star Chris Hardwick seemed to be doing his best to be a mix of Joel McHale and John Henson.

The real coup de grace for Tosh.0 is their original programing. In the first episode they featured porn Star Bree Olson playing extreme beer pong with Dave Attell, which was pretty funny. The real star was the recurring segment: redemption where Tosh gives a viral victim the chance to make good on the mistake that made them infamous. In the first episode he offers Afro Ninja the chance to stick his back flip for the cameras, and, he does. Next week's installment promises to be even better as Tosh offers Miss Teen South Carolina a chance to answer her pageant question again.

I can fully recommend that you watch Tosh.0, but I still wish the best show focused on the web was still around. Web Junk 20 aired on VH1 in '06, and it was hilarious. Once again, as is the case with Tosh.0, the host really made the show. When it began Web Junk 20 was hosted by Patrice Oneal, and he was downright hilarious. Then came Jim Breuer and it wasn't as good.


Saturday, June 06, 2009

"Hey everyone, come and see how good I look"

I went to a baseball with a friend of mine today. When we got to the game it was a bit overcast, but by the middle innings it was a bright sunny day. While I love nothing more than seeing a ballgame on beautiful summer day I wasn't fully prepared. See, I forgot to take a hat of some kind, which is bad because I am... follicly challenged.

No one likes a sunburned head, which I learned first hand when I shaved my head after the senior prom. I did it on a whim and, being 17 and stupid, I didn't think about it when we went to Six Flags the next day. Needless to say, my virgin scalp burned up really good after a full day in the sun with no protection. Later, when my black stubble started to grow in amid my red skin my head looked purple. Sufficed to say, my mom and my girlfriend gave me a lot of crap about it and I had a few awkward weeks of pealing scalp to deal with. So I never wanted to sunburn my head again.

What was ironic about me not wearing a hat the day after the prom, was that I wore one just about every other day of my life back then. I couldn't be troubled to do anything with my hair, so I either covered it up with a hat or cut it all off which I did once more a few years later. It's like Joni Mitchell said 'you don't know what you got till it's gone" and I sure didn't.

I had a beautiful head of thick black hair, as you see in the above shot of me reporting for WABU TV in Boston during the summer of 97. In other words, Greazy Tony was the balls. Inky used to love to run her fingers through my raven locks, which I didn't really get. Of course now, I'd love the chance to run my fingers through my own hair, but, it's gone forever.

That summer in Boston was probably some of the best hair I've ever had. It's no joke to say that on-air TV personalities take their hair just about as seriously as anyone on the planet. While I was there some of the talent helped me out with my mane before I did some field reporting and got the chance to anchor a few late night news updates. If only they could have helped me out with some make up, oh yeah, and a tee shirt and a jacket too:

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

My 15 Minutes

It's been said that we all get about 15 minutes of fame in our lives, and this post is about mine. It was during the Spring of 1997 and XL, Yoda and I were going down to Camden Yards to see the O's take on the Red Sox. From the Spring of '95 till the spring of '98 we saw scores of O's games, usually from the center field bleachers thanks to our college student's bank accounts. This day was special however, so we sprung for front row seats in left to honor XL's 21st birthday. If we hadn't I might not have had 4 or 5 of my 15 minutes.

It was April 25th of 1997, which is funny because XL's birthday wasn't till the 29th and mine wasn't till May the 31st and yet we were still drinking like fish. The O's were off to a scorching 12-6 start en route to leading the AL East each and ever day of the '97 season. On this particular day we had the pleasure of staring at the asses of Troy O'Leary of the Red Sox and Tony Tarasco of the Birds all day long, and they would both play a part in our shining moment.

In the 7th inning with one on, two out and the O's on top 2-0, O'leary hit an opposit field shot right at us. We rose to our feet and I stretched out my glove to make a play. At the last moment I caught a glimpse of Tarasco camped out at the wall and I pulled my glove back, exposing my two boys to possible perril... and I'm not talking about XL and Yoda. Tarasco rose up and gloved the ball for the final out of the inning and the O's went on to win 2-0, improving to 13-6 in the process.

With the elevation of the wall at Camden Yards I could have easily reached my glove over Taraso's and gone home with a souvenir. Just 6 months earlier another kid from Jersey, Jeffrey Maier, did just that to Tarasco, and helped the Yankees to win a playoff game. It is arguably the thing Tarasco (and Maier for that matter) is best known for, and I had the chance to do it to him again, but I didn't. As and O's fan that souvenir would have been very costly to my team, and I was happy to forgo it. It was the 3rd out of the inning and the least Tarasco could have done was to flip me the ball as a thank you, but I don't like to complain too much.

The O's announcing team pointed out that it was good fandom on our part to pull back from the ball, and it was even mentioned on This Week in Baseball the following week. That's all I really needed. Well, that, and the video I used to make these pics which I got a few months later from the Red Sox broadcast network, but that's another story for another day. For now, take a look at the pics:

Here are XL and I in the red circle doing what good fans do at a baseball game. Jeff Maier and Bartman: take note.
If tombstones have video screens on them in the future (and I hope they do) this play will run on a loop on Tony Tarasco's and probably Jeffrey Maier's.
More of XL and I giving way. Really when it comes down to it, we are nothing but givers.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Twin Dongs

As I stated in my last post, I was trying my best to live up to the tremendous birthday standard I set last year. For my 32nd I was in Sydney, LA, Chicago and Philadelphia, which may not mean a lot to 99% of the people out there, but I got a huge kick out of it. So for my 33rd I had XL come to town to join me in a noble, yet massively foolish quest. As we left York PA at 10:00 AM on Saturday, It was our quest to fill ourselves with weiner. By which I mean: we had a progressive hot dog lunch at a few of the best places to get tube steak in the world.

Our first stop was at Yocco's, which is Allentown Pennsylvania's famous doggery. I told XL that if we left my place at 10 we would get to Yocco's Rt. 100 location at 11:30, and that's exactly when we rolled up. It's OK to be impressed, XL was. Knowing we had a long day of dog goodness ahead of us, we eschewed our normal order of 3 dogs and two small orders of pierogies each and went for a more petite spread. We each got two dogs with everything (a well done dog in a steamed roll with chopped onions, tangy mustard and their famous chili sauce) and one order of pierogies which we washed down with a Cherry Coke. Below, I enjoy one of my dogs:

After jumping back into the car we made for the Garden State and got to Hoboken at just past 1. We took a bit of a detour to walk on to Pier A, which is an old shipping pier next to my Dad's old office that has been covered with grass and turned into a park. On such a glorious spring day as this, you get a great view across the river to the towering Empire State building. Also on offer: tons of sunbathers who don't want to leave their urban splendor for a beach, but really want to put on a microscopic bikini and catch some sun.

Our next stop was the West Village, home to NYU, Washington Square Park and one time home of Bob Dylan, Dylan Thomas and Jack Kerouac. It had only been 2 hours since Yocco's so we walked around a bit before our next stop. We happened upon a street fair on Waverly Place and we did a bit of looking around, but no eating

We didn't eat at the street fair, because our next stop was the West Village location of Grey's Papaya, and there were more dogs to eat. We each stuffed down two Grey's dogs and chased them with an orange drink. Now those are some damn good dogs!

There are literary hundreds of great places to get a hot dog in New York. We also thought about heading to the Lower East Side to pick up a dog at Katz's Deli, but the F train was diverted and we didn't feel like doubling back. So we headed to the one place that has become synonymous with New York hot dogs: Coney Island.

Nathan's has been dishing up dogs on the corner of Surf and Stillwell for almost 100 years. So you can't go on a dog eating sojourn without making a pilgrimage to this shrine of red-hots. Despite the fact that we are two pretty big guys, we can't eat like we used to, and so we were slowing down a bit at this point. So we each had a dog and a half, and split an order of fries. They don't really taste all that different from the ones available at any other Nathan's location, but sometimes it's not just what you're eating, but where.

I must confess, I had an alternative motive for dragging XL out to Brooklyn. Don't get me wrong, Nathan's is a great reason all on it's own, but it also set me up for my birthday present. On the way back from the beach we were able to jump off the train in the Park Slope section of Brooklyn and get our hands on some other top level grub, but this time to take home and eat later. We went to Dub Pies on PPW and 15th and I bought a dozen frozen Down Under meat pies. These things are like heaven baked into a flaky crust, and no trip to the city can be made without bringing some home. If I wasn't so stuffed with lips and assholes, I might have chowed down on a pie or I might have had a dog at this place:

With the clock ticking and the pies thawing we made a bolt for the ice laden cooler in XL's trunk. We hopped back onto the F train and passed Obama's motorcade on our way from the 4th St station to the 9th St Path station. We caught the Path back to Hoboken and jumped in the car to head home. We thought we may never eat again, but once we spent an hour and 20 minutes in bumper to bumper traffic on the NJ Turnpike we made our way south to Harold’s's in Edison where we split a big ass pastrami sandwich

In all, it was a great trip and a pretty damn great birthday. Maybe next year I'll do a cheese steak tour of Philly or... ouch! My stomach and digestive tract just vehemently objected.