Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Shanah Tovah

Happy New Year everybody.

Me, I'm celebrating with a one-game playoff for the American League Central Division title.

What I am NOT celebrating is Christmas. Not yet. Why would I? It's September. And yet, when one of the VPs brought in some M&Ms to the office today, they were the Green and Red 'Holiday' version. New record for extending the Christmas marketing season, in my experience. Sheesh!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Vegetarians Beware

Those of you interested in graphic art and design, and uberhip toys, may be interested to know that Jeremyville is having a signing on Thursday Oct. 2, at Kidrobot New York (Soho store). Mr. Ville has been written up in a bunch of the art zines, and designed for all kinds of rad events and clients.

Here's Nightmare in Jeremyville, one of the things he'll be signing next week.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Yankee Stadium

Tonight, you may be aware, the Yankees and the Orioles are playing the final game that will ever be played in Yankee Stadium.

I'm a Red Sox fan. You all know this. I've been one for many years, and I'm proud of it. Which normally means that I'm rooting for a) the Red Sox and b) whoever is playing the Yankees. But not tonight. Tonight, I want the Yanks to win. I want their last appearance in their legendary park to be a victory. Next year - what am I saying? tomorrow - I'll go right back to maintaining that every loss for the Yankees is a victory for civilization, but tonight, I want them to win. I'll even go so far as to say that I want Johnny Damon, a former Red Sox and hero of the '04 Postseason, to be the last Yankee to hit a homer in the Stadium. Mr. Demon may have a special chamber in Hell reserved for him, but it would give me a kind of joy watching him be the hero tonight.

And speaking of heroes, let's take this evening to pay a small tribute to a few of the great Yankees that have given baseball some of their best moments.

First of all has to be the man who Built the Stadium. Another former Red Sox, and one of the greatest ever to play the game. The Sultan of Swat, Babe Ruth.

Career Batting Average .342, Home Runs 714, Slugging Percentage .690 (Major League Record), On-Base Percentage .469. He hit 60 homers in a single season, and was by far the most dominant power hitter of his time, some would say of all time. And, incredibly, he was an exceptional pitcher as well. Still holds the record for longest complete game victory in a World Series (as a Red Sox, as it happens) for the 1916 game in which he held the Brooklyn Robins to 1 run over 14 innings. 14!! But it was those homers that made him arguably the most feared player of all time. By way of perspective, he regularly hit more home runs himself than entire Major League Teams. Including the Red Sox, for 10 out of the 12 years immediately following his sale to the Yankees.

[Side note - if there ever was a curse, people, we broke it in 2004. I like to think that we broke it in Utah, while we were simultaneously reversing the Curse of the Scottish Play, but that's another story...]

The Pride of the Yankees, Ruth's teammate, Lou Gehrig.

His sadly shortened career saw a Batting Average of .340 and On-Base Percentage of .442. Won the Triple Crown in 1934. He was a great team leader, and held a record that people called unbreakable when I was growing up - he played in 2,130 consecutive games without a day off for any reason. Although the great Cal Ripkin, Jr. did break that record in '95, it scarcely diminishes Gehrig's achievement, especially when you consider that Lou suffered 17 hand fractures during that stretch of games. And of course that iconic Farewell Speech. It's tough to find a player harder to dislike than Lou Gehrig.

The Yankee Clipper - Gehrig's teammate Joe Dimaggio.

Career Batting Average .325, he was a top-notch outfielder and baserunner as well as a great hitter. The Yankees had some of their best seasons, and won the World Series in each of his first four seasons in the majors. He was a three-time American League Most Valuable Player, and might have been so honored more than that if he hadn't served in the military for three years during World War II. He had another one of the records that people sometimes call unbreakable - in 1941 he had an unparalleled 56-game hitting streak. Since then, only Pete Rose has had a streak even as long as 40 games. Less heralded, after that one game when he didn't get a hit, he then had another 17-game streak, meaning that he hit safely in 73 of 74 games. Some people call him the greatest ever, and while I don't necessarily agree, I can see where they're coming from.

The Mick, Dimaggio's teammate Mickey Mantle.

Whether he's the greatest of all time or not, he's he's a whole lot of people's favorite player. His Career Batting Average was 'only' .298 over 18 seasons, but his On-Base Percentage was .422, he hit 18 home runs in 12 World Series (think about that - 12 World Series in 18 seasons!) and hit 536 home runs over the course of his career, including some of the longest balls ever hit. He had a great glove and an arm like a cannon. He was a big guy, but one of the fastest baserunners of his time, evidenced in his trademark drag bunts - how many power hitters bunt effectively these days? Amazing in the clutch, hitting from both sides of the plate, the poster boy for hard work and playing through pain (and maybe for hard drinking and good-ol'-boy hellraising too).

Ok, up to now you won't get much argument from anyone on these choices. I think just about everyone you'd ask would mention those four guys when you ask about the greatest Yankees of all time. But who's going to get the fifth spot? Yogi Berra, who was on 10 World Series-winning teams? Whitey Ford, who won 236 games (including a record 10 World Series games) and threw 1,956 strikeouts? Possibly even a current player like Mariano Rivera, with 480 saves (and counting) and a 1.16 World Series ERA.

With all respect to those greats, I'm going to go with Mr. October, Reggie Jackson.

Yes, I have a sentimental weakness for a man who was one of my favorites growing up, but - 563 Homers, 1,702 RBI, and performance in the clutch that led to 5 World Series Championships and of course those three home runs on not just three at-bats, but three swings of the bat in game 6 in 1977 - an almost indescribable achievement. I think it's a defensible choice. [And as it happens, Joe Morgan just backed me up with his inclusion of Jackson on his own personal top Yankees list.] The only thing that makes me second guess this is that, unlike the Berra, Ford and Rivera, more than half of Jackson's career was for teams other than the Yankees (including 3 of those Series wins - with the Oakland A's.) Still, it's the Yankees who retired his number, and the pinstripes he's wearing in the Hall of Fame.

Sure, it's easier to say all these pro-Yankee things now that they are essentially (though not mathematically - remember '78) out of the running for the season and there's slim to no chance that there will be some horrific reprisal at the House that Ruth Built. And you may notice that there is one particular personage whose name will go unmentioned in this entry. And we're not even getting into the Stones concerts and boxing matches and Papal appearances. But I'm a baseball fan even before I'm a Red Sox fan, and the ballpark in the Bronx deserves a tip of the cap.

As a postscript - the Yankees won, beating the Orioles 7-3. Johnny Damon did hit a four-bagger last night, but not the last one. That honor goes to Jose Molina. Who knew? Not a titan of power at all - this was his third home run of the year - or even the Yanks regular catcher but for the fact that Jorge Posada is injured. But history is made up of singular occurrences as well as larger-than-life figures. So Molina gets to be a trivia answer that will be harder to come up with than Jeter or Rodriguez would be. But not for you...

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Hike

This was taken from some writing I did the evening of 9/9, the night of my Rainier hike.

Got a late start today, and had a bit of a wrangle with the GPS, which took me through a bizarre maze of suburbia before finally leading to the highway, then led me to do some truly inexplicable things like exit the highway only to re-enter it immediately. And it was really unhappy with me about the route I chose to take and kept chirping at me about it, so - "F you GPS, you're going in the glove compartment." Which actually felt kind of good.

As I approached Rainier, I realized that I might not have enough time to drive down to the Paradise trailhead, and so made the impromptu decision to hike Sunrise instead. The drive itself was pretty incredible - I'd round a corner to face what appeared to be a vertical wall of evergreens. The road is carved into some truly fantastic landscape.

And the hike was awesome, of course. After a small inner debate, I opted to go for one of the "strenuous" hikes: not too long, distance-wise, but pretty steep at parts, with 1000 feet of elevation handled in just over 5 miles, and starting at 6,700 feet. After the first half mile or so, which was one of the most sustained steep inclines of the whole hike, I got over my "man, you haven't hiked at altitude for a while!" feelings, found my rhythm, just took in the landscape and communed with it.

Met some kind people - a senior citizen in the parking lot who was fascinated by my camelback; a father and son who make annual trips to Ranier from Seattle (credit the father for that photo of me); a through-hiking couple whom I was able to help with directions (!) and a couple of guys who may or may not have been stoned whom I wasn't.

Faced a couple of along-the-way decisions of the "do I take the short route back? do I extend this hike"-variety, and one or two "wait - am I still on the right trail??" moments. I was on the right trail, I kept going, and I did extend the hike a little, though not by much. The most significant crossroads came at the spot where I met the couple I was able to direct. Could have gone with them through the backpackers' campsite, which would have been a fine hike, if slightly foreshortened. Or I could make what was visibly a pretty steep ascent and continue around the Burroughs Mountains. I went for it, and it was definitely the most challenging & rewarding part of the hike. The landscape was tundra, very rocky and rugged, only the hardiest vegetation. Very very cool, but this was when I started really feeling it in my legs. It was an almost 3/4 mile climb, followed by a mellow stretch and then by a not-quite-as steep descent. The views all along were spectacular and stunning, but this was also the part of the hike where I felt the solitude the most. This was by far the rockiest and most hazardous part of the trip: a good chunk of the descent was a narrow (3'-4') path bordered by loose rock and leading to an extremely steep decline of nothing but jagged rock. Not good for those suffering vertigo: "one false move could really ruin your day" territory. Slipped on a loose rock and realized that I'd be in for a rough time if I had a fall or even pulled a muscle at this point.

Looking up from the trail:

Looking down:

Knocked- down sign:

Greenest lake ever:

I reached a spot with a short wall built on a curve - fantastic view/photo op. So, shoot I did, including a timer shot of moi.

When I got going again, I checked the time. Holy crap! 10 to 5. A good 20 or 30 minutes later than I'd thought it was, and I still had... well, I wasn't quite sure how much longer I had. But I knew I wanted to make it to the campsite well before sundown, as I'm not exactly the most experienced camper out there.

Number of times I've gone camping alone: Zero.

So I picked up the pace (easier once I got to some more earth-like ground) and kept the camera shouldered. May have missed afew good shots along the way, but I got plenty of images. The final what turned out to be about a mile & a half went very swiftly, and I came into the parking lot feeling very alive.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Pacific Past Posting

Here's an entry I wrote the other day (September 9), but didn't post because, well, you'll see when you read it.

I feel like there has been an angel of good fortune following me around since I've been here. Not only has the weather been, oh, perfect, but my hosts have been kind and generous (not a surprise there, but still a very nice element of the trip), and on several occasions I've had the experience of wondering where to find a thing, and then turning around and having it be RIGHT THERE. "How hard will it be to get those half-price theater tickets? Oh, the booth is right there." "I wonder where that club is where that band is playing? Oh, what do you know - right there." "I'm kind of thinking it might be fun to go see the Yankees play the Mariners while I'm here. Huh? You have an extra ticket for a great seat that you want to give me for free and all I have to do is go with your kid whom I kind of love anyway? Um, ok."

So, I wasn't even surprised when something as simple as an impossible parking space turned up - imagine wanting to just dash into, I don't know, the M&M store in Times Square, and as you pull up to it, there's a spot where you can park for an hour (again, for free).

Very quick rundown of some of what I've done since I've been here:

  • Brief driving tour of city upon my arrival
  • Lunch with the Simonds/Holmes clan
  • Pike Brewery & Pub with friend from the dayjob who lives out here
  • Show at the Intiman Playhouse
  • Delicious breakfast in very funky neighborhood with Amy, more driving tour (including aforementioned parking luck at touristy but awesome fish market)
  • Baseball game with Reuben
  • Eating of best grilled salmon EVER with Young and Simonds clans
  • Black Rebel Motorcycle Club at Showbox
  • Kayaking Lake Union
  • Rented a car ("Oh, if you want to upgrade from this Kia station-wagon-looking-thingy, you can have this Prius for an extra 6 bucks a day.")
  • Sushi with Lauren
  • Slumber Party at the Youngs'
And now I'm on day four. Heading to Rainier. ("Oh, don't you want camp rather than stay in a hotel? Didn't bring gear? Brian has a garage full of the best gear available, and he likes nothing more than going through it with you, telling you more than you thought you needed to know, and loaning you everything you could possibly want and then some.")

Writing this down, I actually am staggered a little bit. And don't want to jinx anything, so I think I'm not going to post this until my trip is finished (it would really suck to end up as one of those front page articles: "New Jersey Idiot's Luck Runs Out on Mt. Ranier")

So now I'm back in the 'boken. Wiped pretty well out, but feeling good. Much more to come on the PNW front...

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Seattle, day one

Reuben appeared the moment I stuck my head out of my bedroom door. I gave him a ‘good morning.’

He eyed me with curiosity that was more anticipation than apprehension. “Good Morning!” Anticipation with a pinch of glee.

“I’m the kid of the house.”

“And I’m the guest of the house, I guess.”

Lauren surfaced and started scurrying me around – “the bagels are in the freezer, the fruit is probably bad, these veggies are looking feeble, but those should be ok, there are plenty of eggs, do you want a cup of coffee?”

Of course.

Chris was there as well, hadn’t seen him since Cat & Rich’s wedding. He looked good. They all looked good. After we exchanged greetings, Chris said to Reuben, “do you want to get the paper off the front porch, please?” They were off to Shabbat School, and needed to leave kind of right now.

Lauren talked me through the keys, the car, the GPS.

“I’ll probably just hang here until you return, but thanks so much. If I do need to roll, I’m all set – you guys have really hooked me up.”

The six-year-old returned with the paper. Pointed to a photo on the front page. “This guy looks kind of like you!”

“Not nearly as handsome,” I retorted.

Chris chuckled “In town a few hours, and already made the front page!”

“Not as a good guy, I’m afraid. Evidently I ‘Kill for God.’” My Post-Intelligencer likeness has been accused of murdering six people. He doesn’t really look that much like me.

They have to get going. More pleasantries out of the way, and they get into the car and go. On their way out, Reuben shouts “You can’t use my Leapster! You can’t play Leapster unless you do ten minutes of the Word Game!”

“Isn’t there a nicer way you can say that?” Lauren is eager to make up for lost time, but can’t let decorum go unaddressed.

He lowers his voice a bit. “You can use my Leapster as long as you play ten minutes of the Word Game for every ten minutes of Leapster.”

“Ok. Thanks! See you guys at noon.”

And they’re out. I warm up the coffee and defrost a bagel. A text from Rashmi reminds me that the U.S. Open semifinals are on. I breakfast to tennis, check on my couchsurf in Portland and walk around their house. Beautiful place, set in the Northwest wetlands. Very green, the sun struggles to break through the clouds. I step up onto their wooden patio and over toward a mosquito-net tent and am faced with a spider who’s stretched his web across the deck, guarding the passage. I recall the spiders at the gas station last night: big, unmoving and plentiful. This gal is something special, however, and her net is quite an achievement.

“It’s ok, I’ll go back the way I came. Good luck out here with the flies.”

And then it’s back to another cup of really good coffee, chill and write this till they come back from Shabbat School. Life is good.

What the fuck is a Leapster?

Saturday, September 06, 2008

This is Seattle?


10-Day Forecast for
Seattle, WA

High /
Low (°F)
Precip. %
Sep 06
Partly Cloudy 71°/57° 10 %
Sep 07
Sunny 75°/57° 20 %
Sep 08
Sunny 77°/55° 0 %
Sep 09
AM Clouds / PM Sun 68°/53° 10 %
Sep 10
Sunny 70°/54° 20 %
Sep 11
Sunny 72°/55° 10 %
Sep 12
Sunny 72°/54° 0 %
Sep 13
Sunny 70°/54° 10 %
Sep 14
Sunny 68°/53° 20 %
Sep 15
Sunny 69°/54° 10 %

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Hooked on Phonics

Ok, I found this to be kind of funny, and interesting on a couple levels.

Last week we ordered breakfast from a deli down the road - got someone on the phone we hadn't spoken to before. Took a little extra time to place the order, and when the food came, we knew why. Here's what was written on the check:

Pina barh yeli sogui bret

Egg chis tos rol

Egui beiquen chis rap

The order that this reflected was:
Peanut butter and jelly on whole wheat bread

Egg and cheese on a toasted roll

Egg, bacon and cheese wrap

A couple of things worth pointing out are:
  • The person on the phone appeared to be a Spanish speaker, as are most of the cooks at this place, though the owners (who usually answer the phone) are Korean
  • The handwriting on the check was clear - better than mine (of course, that's not saying much). It wasn't particularly elegant, but I'm not guessing at any of the letters.
  • The order came through perfectly. The food was done 100% right, and delivered on time.

To me, this is fascinating. I mean, leaving aside the fact that I couldn't begin to function taking food orders in Spanish (much less Korean) I think that this shows the organic side of language in a way we sometimes forget about. Having just finished a Shakespeare play, I may be more attuned to this than usual - there was almost no standardized spelling and vocabulary in Shakespeare's time; in fact we owe a lot of our 'proper' English spelling to Shakespeare, for better or for worse. (Is 'Achilles' really better than the closer-to-the-Greek 'Akhilleus'? You tell me.)

Seems to me that it also points out the, um, challenges of spelling and pronunciation in English. This is nothing new to anyone, but take a quick look at these words:


I dare you to come up with a quick answer to the question of how 'ough' is to be pronounced.

Even though you may have to google a couple words, I bet you understand that I can go to the bodega with my bff in k-town and get an empanada, some kim chee and a 40. And when my cholo texts me something that makes me rotflmao, I'm reminded that language really is a living thing.

In other, much sadder news, Don LaFontaine has shuffled off this mortal coil at the age of 68. Or as he might have put it: "In a world with the heroes of all time, Don LaFontaine announces coming attractions to the angels."