August 31, 2007 - Like A Peacock The People You Meet: It would seem logical that beggars in New York City would have a better gift for what they're doing than those in other cities ... it's like getting called up to the big leagues, per se.
On the train in New York, there were two that stood out for me. The first was a woman who carried a drum, sitting herself down in the middle of each train car and playing a song as a request for change. I don't remember the whole thing, but really, there wasn't much beyond the chorus.
"I'm broke! It ain't no joke! (drum solo)"
The other was a kid walking around with a box of Peanut M&M's, who wasn't so much begging for money as looking for a way to make extra cash without breaking the law.
"Instead of robbin' and stealin', I'm candy dealin'!"
Of course, neither crossed paths with my favorite person on the train, the stereotypical midget bodybuilder Yankee fan who couldn't stop screaming everything he had to say, and who berated another female Yankee fan who tried to speak when he found out she was actually originally from Vermont.
"No wonder you don't make any sense! Go make me some maple syrup!"
Yes. Because only in New York is it considered a benefit to have been originally born in New Jersey or Long Island.
This has been kicking around on my phone since before I left. It's from a trip to the supermarket, which of course features a trip to the supermarket checkout.
I'm pretty sure the correct answer is not what I think the foolproof answer is: you catch him in bed with another person in his rectum.
(Edit: According to this, apparently one of the foolproof signs is having a counterclockwise hair whorl. The other: "if he gets off on male-on-male porn."
Sounds like I've got a career in investigative journalism after all!)August 27-30, 2007 - Malm Men
Perhpas it was the cosmos' way of saying, "You're not going to get off that easy."
They were three neat and tidy games by Sox-Yankees standards -- none were shorter than three hours, but none were longer than three-and-a-half. No extra innings. No crippling late-inning shifts that screw up previously half-written stories. The most intriguing game, what with the ejections and the fat pitchers throwing at hitters (maybe), came in the afternoon, leaving plenty of time to get post-game quotes.
As easy as it could have been, it was pretty easy. Even the ride out of town on the Metro North to Stamford ... I missed the express by a minute and got stuck on the local, but getting further stuck in a car with no lights or air conditioning wasn't the end of the world.
It taking FIVE AND A HALF HOURS to get from Stamford to Whale City by car? That, that was the end of the world.
Four times on Route 95 between Stamford and New Haven, the main thoroughfare in the Northeast thinned from three lanes to one for construction. All separate construction projects, all apparently pressing enough to need two lanes closed. The first two, I thought about finding a shortcut, but didn't think they'd be that bad.
The other two, I'd already moved past the point of caring, given I was looking at a post 1 a.m. arrival home. I just didn't think it'd be 2:30 a.m.
The last piece involved this accident, which briefly closed Route 195 after Providence. I couldn't really be mad at that point, though, since it was pretty clear given the condition of the car and the number of emergency personnel there that someone had died. A rare moment of maturity in a week where I basically played XBox 360 repeatedly while shunning the trappings of America's largest city.
Notes from the trip, which I'm sure will be updated as I remember things I forgot about:
-- Transportation calamities started right off the top Monday, when I missed the 10:18 p.m. express Metro North into the city by about two minutes, forcing me to sit in a near-empty station for about two hours.
It was during this period I called Vito, who I was crashing with, and asked what he thought the chances were I could drive into Manhattan and find parking near his place. He said they weren't good, so I toughed it out.
Of course, when I did get to his place around roughly 1:30 a.m., there was a parking space literally right at his front door.
I can only hope the call was fate's way of saving me from a traffic accident or something.
-- Vito and I saw very little of each other during the three-plus days, since I was always working and he was always at the U.S. Open (because his job gets him free tickets). My annual trip to New York is usually to go to the Open with him, during which I also do as little touring of the city as possible.
New York City and I have reached a very good place. I now feel completely comfortable navigating my way around it, and would go so far as to say I respect it for what it is. I still don't want to live there under any circumstances, but I could definitely see it happening if there was some really good reason.
-- I needed a hair cut for the duration of my stay, and as I waited for Vito to meet me at his place, I noticed he lived right next to a salon.
They had a sign in the window: "Men's Haircuts: $40 and up"
I still need a haircut.
-- For all of my bitching, as Vito pointed out, I've only had to actually sit in the Yankee Stadium basement twice, watching a game I traveled to cover on television. For two of these three games, one of the writers at the Hartford Courant clued me in to their paper having an extra press-box seat, which they told me I could use.
-- The light! It burns!
I'm now officially spoiled, since the Yankee Stadium press box is both open-air and perfectly positioned. Not to mention their media meal is both cheaper and better than what the Sox offer, especially since they don't have the ice cream machine which alone is responsible for a large chunk of my not-exercizing weight gain.
-- The number of comically hot women -- shockingly, most are blonde -- who work in New York television is even higher that you'd expect for the No. 1 media market in the country.
This also seems the place to note I'm almost positive I saw an actual model on a subway train. Not only did she look as though she hadn't eaten in several days -- most noticeable in her feet, which had right angles in them I'm not sure God intended -- she was wearing an almost dress and carrying a small dog like a purse.
-- But to me, the trip is centered around Malm. Built around, even.
Perhaps the most-told story of Vito and my friendship is the time I cleaned his Boston apartment. For some reason, we ended up at Vito's place once, and it was then I noted he seemed to like cooking with lard. This wouldn't have been an issue had his cooking with lard not meant that he had open containers of lard all over his kitchen, lard congealed on the side of his sink, a film of grease over everything, etc. As kindly as I could, I told him that I would take it upon myself to clean his apartment, an offer which he accepted more because I think he felt I was joking.
So Meg took the bathroom and I took on the kitchen, using so much Formula 409 I got a rash on the back of my hand that didn't go away for months. But God damn, his place was cleaned.
I think I got an apple pie out of it. He may even have baked it himself.
So I get to New York, where I learn Vito was entirely serious about not having a couch, but having a bar. He'd just moved into this new place in the East Village, and in trying to deal with having less closet space, he gave away a bunch of clothes and bought an Ikea dresser.
He'd gotten as far as Step 1, where he couldn't figure out how the assembly went together and stopped.
When I arrived, not only were a lot of his clothes all over the floor, the pieces of the dresser were scattered about. I had Tuesday morning all to myself, most of which I spent playing XBox on the HDTV I myself can't afford.
Until I started thinking about the dresser, and noting that the reason he'd been unable to assemble it was a simple mistake about where he'd put pegs and where he'd put screws.
So I fixed that, and looked at the clock.
And built his entire dresser.
As a kid, I loved those Lego sets where you'd get a book of directions that were exactly like assemble-yourself furniture directions: here's a picture, now build along with what we draw. I did the framework of the dresser before going to the Tuesday Sox game, then all the drawers when I got home.
Then I went to sleep on my old pillow and sleeping bag on his hardwood floor.
No wonder I didn't find the baseball all that painful.August 26, 2007 - Maybe I'll Bring My Own TV Apparently, Logic Doesn't Sail: Regardless of the reasons outlined in this story, I find it mind-numbing that there's never before been a pessenger ferry that goes between the Hawaiian islands.
The protesters and environmentalists argue that the ferry's plan to ply 400 miles of Hawaii waters each day endangers whales, threatens to spread invasive species and will worsen traffic and pollution.
. . .
Superferry supporters say the ferry is being treated unfairly because other harbor users such as cruise ships didn't have to go through extensive environmental reviews.
Superferry officials say the ship's water jet propulsion system means there are no exposed propellers to strike aquatic animals.
How is it they can already be smart enough to sell T-shirts, while the Las Vegas Monorail has still never figured it out?
Lost in the weekend clutter were details about the familial meeting of the weekend, at the "Jack and Jill" of Julie's younger sister, who's wedding I'll miss if there's a Game 6 of the ALCS.
Apparently, the Jack and Jill is a Northeast creation, where an engaged couple has a party in their honor expressly to make money. It definitely sounds like my kind of deal, but this one had a DJ who would have been annoying had he not lost his voice several days earlier.
To me, have the buffet, have the bar, even have the raffle, but just put a bucket somewhere and let people throw money in it. Maybe plug in an iPod. I don't need a proud Puerto Rican proclaiming every five minutes that white people can't dance.
Even if they really, really, really can't.
There are photos from Friday night, but I'm not posting any of them ... even I have my limits. At one point, my mother -- last noted for crying as I bought the engagement ring -- both made me dance with her and then attempted to grind her butt into my groin. This, logically, led to Julie and her sisters, plus Julie's former roommate, surrounded me in a corner of the dance floor the same way I would expect most prison murders start.
I don't even remember what song was playing, so let's just presume the DJ saw what was going on and turned on a dilapidated calliope to be the soundtrack of my nightmares. But I digress.
Toward the end of the evening, there was a raffle. The big prize was a Chopper-style bicycle, which sadly was not won by anyone grandmother, but the rest were all various items I would not buy and don't really need. Wine. Hard liquor. Crafts. Candles. Oddly, a toilet seat with an eye and some curly Qs painted on it.
Of course, I not only won, but won near the very end, meaning I'm not the proud owner of a E-Z Bow Maker Deluxe.
The highlight was Julie's sister, in announcing that my mother's name had been pulled, proclaiming "my sister's future father in law" on the microphone. Chris Couture could be a guy, but really, her handwriting's even more girly that mine is.
Mom didn't care ... I can't imagine who would really get bent out of shape about something like that. That she got wine on top of it was just a bonus.
I love that I spent a good half-hour tonight researching when and where I would have to get on the bus to go that way from Providence to New York City before realizing both that the paper won't care if it costs more to drive and how little I wanted to make that trip by bus.
Also, that if I'd told them the division lead would be at least seven games when the series happened, they'd never have wanted me to go in the first place. Panic can work in one's favor, sometimes.August 23-25, 2007 - Lots of Jack While I generally speaking would like to keep up the once-a-day plan here, there are some times where it just doesn't work. Like this weekend, which really felt like the sort of thing I should savor because I went home for the first time since the engagement, seeing both sets of parents.
Perhaps more pressing is that I leave on Monday for what will surely be three hellacious days covering Sox-Yankees in New York. Never mind the actual stress of deadline, which never really bothers me but can be fun in a place that hopefully now has wireless like everywhere else in the universe.
In all likelihood, I'll be sitting in the basement, watching the same damn television feed I could watch here without the joys of the subway, the Yankee fans and all the rest.
This is going to be great. Usually I don't get a good lather going until I'm actually there.
As such, here's a handful of notes that may or may not be entertaning to anyone:
The People That You Meet: On Thursday, sitting at the computer, a large SUV pulled up outside the window in the parking lot. As one would expect, the female that got out of the car, then clambered down was far too small for her vehicle.
She lifted a Pomeranian out of the car, and in the process of kissing it as she carried it down, I noted she noted she not only had a "Tramp Stamp", but flames running all the way up her bottom of her multicolored dyed hair.
She was done with whatever it is she had to do in less than a minute, going up the street and back while screaming at her dog to follow her. As she started the car back up and left the parking lot, I noticed a small sticker on the back window:
Would Someone Please Give Bush A Blowjob So We Can Impeach Him?
I think I know my first nominee.
Movies That Rock (In An Ironic Sense): I'd imagine Showgirls is on VH-1 with some level of regularity, but I'd never seen it before. It was entrancing, and not for any of the reasons I'm sure people who saw it in the theater thought it was entrancing.
Given the premise of the film, there was a good amount of slash editing, which made the whole show. Entire swaths of dialogue and scenes appeared to be gone, making big chunks of the movie non-sensical -- I suppose the only way it could be better would be if it was really written like that.
I'd never before seen CGI brassieres used in a film, but damn if the staff didn't earn their money on this one. It almost made up for the fact that the main character appeared to be too stupid to live, never mind commit multiple felonies and passively aggressively have a problem with doing overtly sexual things. I know if I ever tried out for a topless show, I'd be offended if the director asked me to ice up my nipples.
Reading that Wikipedia page, I think I actually am enjoying it that much more. It's got "Rocky Horror Picture Show" beaten in spades.
Real World:The Big E, as has been their custom for several years, is keeping the "American Idol" veterans in work again.
Champion Taylor Hicks, whose Ford commercials are not missed during Red Sox games, will be doing a free show one of the nights.
Daughtry, whom he handily beat during the show's run, will be performing a seperate admission show at $38 a pop. I have no doubt it will sell out.
I can only hope they somehow meet on the grounds -- what the hell else is Taylor Hicks doing? -- and some sort of stilted, uncomfortable conversation happens. Perhaps Daughty successfully picks up Brooke Hogan, whose appearance I can only hope means Hulk Hogan is going to be traipsing around trying not to stand out as an eight-foot-tall blond monster.
Here's the entire Big E musical lineup for this year ... truly fitting for "New England's Great State Fair."
Daughty Trade Adkins Montgomery Gentry Ludacris Joan Jett Taylor Hicks Brooke Hogan Josh Turner
Also, a lineup whose death I would only mourn in passing.August 22, 2007 - Yes, I Stole This Gifts That I Needn't Open: This Boston.com message board, entitled Name Tom Brady's Baby!.
The idea behind the Dane Cook-voiced actober.com ad scheme is a frightening possibility: Let baseball fans relive their favorite moments in the sport's history, ensuring someone can try to ruin Kirk Gibson's 1988 World Series home run for me and invaliadate 20 years of watching baseball.
I'm sure those are out there. But fortunately, there's also this.
Not necessarily more or less funny than the slalom gate to the groin. Just a different kind of funny.August 21, 2007 - Jerk Jerk Jerk Jerk ... The New Obsession: During the brief phase of Japanese baseball obsession (circa Oct. 2006), I discovered the Pawapuro baseball video game series. Between reading how accurate the game plays and finding some YouTube videos of footage, I became very intrigued.
Course, I can't read Japanese, nor do I own a video game system that can play Japanese games.
Developed by Konami Digital Entertainment, Inc., and based on the best selling "Power Pro" baseball series in Japan, MLB Power Pros will be published by 2K Sports in North America and will be available in Fall 2007.
Solid gameplay features and responsive controls provide an exciting baseball experience in MLB Power Pros. The easy pick-up-and-play mechanics in both pitching and batting allow for instant fun. Amazing animations will be seen in the field with incredible double plays, diving catches, and even home-run-robbing wall catches.
MLB Power Pros will be available on the PlayStation 2 computer entertainment system and the Wii home video game system from Nintendo in Fall 2007.
There's about 100 screenshots off that link, and they're certainly helping the obsession along.
-- I wonder if virtual Mike Mussina does crosswords in the dugout.
The translation appears so pure that looking at those menus has made it possible for me to play one of the SNES versions from 1998 via the magic of emulators.
As with most video games, I'm awful, but I'd imagine I'll score a run one of these days.
Regardless, the Times makes it that much better by including themselves in the parade of red-handed catchings.
The New York Times Company is among those whose employees have made, among hundreds of innocuous changes, a handful of questionable edits. A change to the page on President Bush, for instance, repeated the word "jerk" 12 times. And in the entry for Condoleezza Rice, the secretary of state, the word "pianist" was changed to "penis."
Never let it be said that the people of the Gray Lady can't enjoy a little groin humor now and again.August 20, 2007 - From Becks to Benefits Over At Last: This afternoon, the goatee died its final death after a couple hours shy of a month.
It was a slightly elaborate process to shave it off, especially considering I'd never gone more than three days without shaving before this, but there was time for a little extra experimentation.
-- Actual quote: "You look like Abraham Lincoln! Or that guy from Anthrax, if you grew it out."
I had the goatee long enough that it actually seems a little weird to be without it, but I'm sure that'll pass. I seemed to like it a lot more than some others, but whatever ... maybe I'm the only one who thought I needed to look slightly older.
It will now probably never happen again. Fortunately, no major life changes occurred during its stay, so it'll quickly be forgotten or laughably remembered, like when Rob Schneider shows up in an Adam Sandler movie to scream, "You can do it!"
While I'm here, let's clean out the camera phone.
-- Now former Whale City Fishwrap boss Dan, ensuring we have a headshot of him for future use.
-- My favorite part of the Patriots' practice complex: the stunt goalposts.
-- ... which apparently has had problems with pranksters and the ignorant.
August 19, 2007 - Did The Pioneers Use Bleach? Child Abuse, Tonight at 9: I just got more interested in "Kid Nation," the CBS reality show I didn't know existed until someone wrote about how people think it's child abuse.
Several children required medical attention after drinking bleach that had been left in an unmarked soda bottle, according to both the parent and CBS. One 11-year-old girl burned her face with splattered grease while cooking.
The children were made to haul wagons loaded with supplies for more than a mile through the New Mexico countryside, and they worked long hours == "from the crack of dawn when the rooster started crowing" until at least 9:30 p.m., according to Taylor, a 10-year-old from Sylvester, Ga., who was made available by CBS to respond to questions about conditions on the set.
Now, I was a pretty stupid kid. I once fell out of a tree I was climbing onto a hornet's nest, with hilarious slapstick-like results. I thought quitting smoking "cold turkey" meant you actually ate cold turkey, only learning it wasn't that after announcing it to my sixth-grade science class. I once sprained my wrist, then took my soft cast off so I could take gym.
But I'd like to think if I were confronted with a bottle of bleach, WHICH PRETTY CLEARLY SMELLS NOT LIKE CHERRY COKE, I would not drink it. I'm pretty sure in the time it took me to get the liquid in my mouth, I would notice the lack of bubbling (and the smell of bleach) and think, "Hey. This probably isn't Sprite."
(In college, I think I once nearly drank my roommate's chew spit under the belief it was Snapple. Please forget I ever told you this.)
As reality producers have been forced to reach further to invent something new or exciting, many shows have apparently left reality behind. The Discovery Channel last month said it would re-edit some episodes of "Man vs. Wild" after a British television network reported that the show’s star, adventurer Bear Grylls, was staying in a hotel on some nights when the show depicted him sleeping in the wild. -- You mean I shouldn't leap off cliffs if attempting to stay alive?
The Oxygen cable network heavily promoted a reality show that featured the actress Tori Spelling investing her inheritance from her television producer father, Aaron Spelling, in a bed and breakfast that she was to run with her husband, only to have it later revealed that she never actually bought the property. A lawsuit filed in New York last month charged Gordon Ramsey, star of the upcoming reality show "Ramsey's Kitchen Nightmares," with faking scenes, including hiring actors to pose as customers. The parties were ordered to go to arbitration by a Manhattan judge.
Amazing that reality TV isn't actually real at all. This is clearly all Survivor's fault ... they should have let a castaway or two die along the way, just to make sure the whole world knew that unless stupidity isn't taking lives, there's probably something fishy going on.
Fortunately for all involved, the children in this ghastly desert apocalypse promise to forget everything the experience taught them.
"Everyone usually had a job," said Mike, an 11-year-old from Bellevue, Wash., who participated in the show. Among them were cooking, cleaning, hauling water and running the stores, where, he said: "It was hard work, but it was really good. It taught us all that life is not all play and no work."
Taylor, from Georgia, agreed. "I learned I have to work for what I want," she said.
Please resume helping your parents sue CBS for the show which they agreed to let you be on.
On the plus side to all of this, I have no children. I've just gotten around to consummating my engagement by eating from the ceremonial Taco Bell sauce packet.
Several months ago, Julie brought this home and placed it where she knew I'd find it first: on the computer keyboard. We had a good laugh.
And I saved it, fully expecting it to get more prominent use someday.
Because of how the actually proposal happened, I didn't follow through on the plan to put it in the jewelry box instead of a ring, making Julie say yes before she got actual rocks and metal. Instead, after I got home from the Sox tonight, we went and got Taco Bell, bringing it back home so we could both eat from the blessed satchel of Red 40.
Again, it's romance. But it's a kind of romance that most people would find ... 21st century. Like I care.
I've got like 17 congratulatory messages sitting around places that I haven't replied to yet. I thank you for those, and please remember how prompt I'm being when there are wedding thank you notes not being sent out.August 18, 2007 - Sympathy For The Dry Peaceful Return to Inanity: When I needed to buy new shoelaces earlier this month, I had two choices for whatever reason. Generally, they were the same type of laces, same length, same price. There was really no reason to think one was any better than the other.
Until I looked at the packaging on the Shoe Gear: Pro Sport Oval brand, which made a promise.
"STAYS TIED. If not 100% satisfied with these laces. Return them to us within 30 days, along with the proof of purchase and we will refund your money."
Sure enough, they're the ones I bought. And they've stayed tied all along.
After two years and more than a billion dollars spent by the Army Corps of Engineers to rebuild New Orleans's hurricane protection system, that is how much the water level is likely to be reduced if a big 1-in-100 flood hits Leah Pratcher's Gentilly neighborhood.
Looking over the maps that showed other possible water levels around the city, Ms. Pratcher grew increasingly furious. Her house got four feet of water after Hurricane Katrina, and still stands to get almost as much from a 1-in-100 flood.
By comparison, the wealthier neighborhood to the west, Lakeview, had its flooding risk reduced by nearly five and a half feet.
There is, of course, slightly more to this story.
New Orleans remains a very risky place to live.
The corps has strengthened miles of floodwalls, but not always in places where people live. It has built up breached walls on the east side of one major canal, but left the west side, which stood up to Hurricane Katrina, lower and thus more vulnerable. It has not closed the canals that have often been described as funnels for floodwaters into the city.
"We have spent a lot of money and gotten some very good patches, but we're putting them on this decayed old quilt," said Robert G. Bea, a professor of engineering at the University of California, Berkeley, who is an author of an independent report on the levee failures. "We're still with this damned patchwork quilt."
As a result, the city still lacks a system that can stand up to that 1-in-100 storm, let alone one like Hurricane Katrina, which the corps calls a 1-in-396 storm. The work that could build the more robust system -- originally estimated at $7 billion, and now at least twice that -- will not be completed until 2011 at the earliest, and experts agree that even that level of protection will be less than the city needs.
No, that's not it.
The "more to this story" is that you live in a sinkhole. You're trying to keep water out of an area between a giant lake and a giant gulf. Your only enemy in this task is GRAVITY.
Having never been to New Orleans, having not grown up in New Orleans, I can not fully understand how beautiful the city is. But I also can't understand why, if you're being a given a choice, you would live there as opposed to somewhere nearby that's not beneath an area that's dry, as Patton Oswalt puts it, in definace of God's will.
I have similar feelings about seeing homeless people in the Northeast. You could be homeless here, where it's minus-20 until February and muggy as hell in the summer, or you could go to California, where it's nice 13 months out of the year.
Of course, actually getting to California isn't exactly easy, especially if you're homeless and thus probably not much of a self-starter. But I'm a pseudo-Republican ... reason's not important because it gets in the way of me being right all the time.
Semi-accurate political slam!August 17, 2007 - Calling Paul Harvey
-- Months ago. At a TGI Friday's. It seems topical, though the proposal featured no begging.
So, the rest of the story.
This has obviously been been in the works for a long time, but most notably in the past few months -- the freakout in West Florida, as I'll call it, passed quickly and laid fallow for longer than it should have. After an aborted search locally and no real desire to buy on-line, I ended up in Springfield with my mother on Massachusetts Tax Free Saturday.
Yes, with my mom. She's bought jewelry before. I didn't know "The Four C's of Diamonds," which apparently is important and explains why I had no idea what the hell I was looking at at BlueNile.
I knew what I wanted. I didn't know it well enough to really enunciate it all that well, but I had a feeling I'd know it when I saw it.
About 10 settings in, I saw it. Dead on. Right number of stones on the sides, right color, right everything. I was pleased, both because I clearly was going to be purchasing the ring very quickly and because I didn't need to go to the next stop on our tour, Costco.
I do not care that they're entirely legitimate. I would know, forever, that I bought Julie's ring at the same place one can buy wholesale jeans, gallons of mayonnaise and as much Rogaine as God allows. (Plus caskets!)
I would never forget. I would be ashamed of it forever and probably lie about it, building our life together on a foundation of deception and contractor-size crates of doorknobs. That is not right.
This was much better.
So from there, it was pretty easy. I named my price, and a very nice man came out and gave me the full shpiel on a diamond I had every intention of buying as soon as he opened up the paper it came in. The paper sold me. It appeared legitimate.
He put it in the fitting, and my mother started to cry. This was expected, since suddenly her son was doing what he's needed to do for a year, yet still a little awkward. The woman who had been helping us from the start said something about "giving my Mom a hug." I believe she got a hearty half-hug, half-pat on the back.
I have slight issues with emotion. This is not news.
From there, business was attended to. Shockingly, the guy told me he'd call me later that afternoon to pick the finished ring up, which he did. Matty Cooch came with, and he was impressed. I ruined the moment, I'm sure.
We then went to a family high school graduation party for a cousin whose birth I legitimately remember ... we made a posterboard and put it on their steps as a welcome for when she came home.
That she is now going to college and, well, a cute and popular teenager, sparks the first point in my life where I felt old. I suppose that makes it fitting that everyone there knew I was ring shopping.
I celebrated by drinking and allowing one the same young relatives who beat me up every Thanksgiving to pummel me with dodgeballs. In reverse order.
Fast forward to Thursday morning. I'd hidden the ring in the kitchen closet, which is full of boxes and generally blocked by more boxes. I'd passed on the initial instinct to propose at her grandparents house on the North Shore -- they are grandparents, and there's been some concern on all sides that something tragic would happen before I got off my ass.
I passed on the idea of doing it in any sense at Fenway Park, which would have been nice because Julie and her best friend Emily were there as a celebration of the latter's heading south to work on a hospital ship in Ecuador.
The Jumbotron was never an option, because I'd have had to shoot myself in the face afterward.
I'd told our departing managing editor, one of my mentors and the man directly responsible for my move to sports, that I'd bought a ring. We were both headed to a lunch celebrating his time in Whale City, and I had a slight concern that someone might say something unintentionally ... I was more worried about making someone feel awful when it clearly wasn't necessary.
Of course, Julie proceeded to linger in the kitchen for most of the morning, eventually standing by the sink cleaning the diamond circle necklace I'd bought her previously.
And just like in the store, I knew that was the moment.
Not particularly romantic, yes. But really, it's me. And it's her. And I have issues with emotional displays. Plus, when I told her she could move in with me at a nice formal dinner, I almost had a panic attack.
Not really. That didn't come until the night after she moved in, and we went grocery shopping together, leading me to think that would be the rest of my life. My mind works very strangely, as you've been able to tell.
I froze up, and I almost didn't do it ... in her e-mail about it, she said I "was kinda lurking." And then I said, simply, "Hey, wait a minute. I have something else for you to clean."
NOW THAT'S ROMANCE!
It was in a box with a ribbon around it, which she couldn't get open at first. It opened to show the ring case. She looked at me, opened the case and then just about choked me with Xs and Os, as they write in the greeting card game.
At no point did I actually "pop the question," which I want noted if I need a contractual out for any reason in the ensuing months. Through tears, she did eventually say that her answer was yes, which was nice.
Then we went to lunch. There's more to that story too, but I need clearance for that part. Plus, if there's anything that screams "MySpace Bulletin," this is it.
Well, this and surveys about I met my Top 8.August 16, 2007 - So, This Is It When it became clear to me that this site was actually going to last, and that posting once a day would be far less of a chore than it often feels now, I started to think about how certain posts would be written.
For example, and this says about me whatever it says about me, I thought about how my family or someone would go on here and dutifully post something I dictated to them on my death bed. I mean, hell, if Anna Nicole Smith's Web site can be updated upon her choking on vomit or whatever the hell happened, the least my next of kin could do was post some withering screed I rifled off before it all went black.
We'll probably never get there. But there is one post that I'm ready to make the exact way I planned on making it.
So, I'm engaged.
-- Not my hand. Not my camera phone. Just my paychecks.
Hopefully it works out as well as I'm sure it will for Jenna Bush. Covering the Red Sox is going to Panama, right?August 15, 2007 - Cannoli Jokes! Great Moments in Marketing: Company forced to pull pool cue when gay community protests.
What's their beef?
The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) today condemned a grotesque, violent new product marketed by actor Joseph R. Gannascoli and Rockwell Billiards. Gannascoli, who played the gay character Vito Spatafore on the hit HBO drama, The Sopranos has authorized his name to be used on a pool stick branded with the phrase "A Cue to Die For." The new product plays on the fact that Vito was beaten to death on The Sopranos with pool cues and then sodomized with one (because he was gay).
Rockwell Billiards, an Oregon-based company, proudly announced the new line of pool cues in a recent press release stating, "The cue is named 'A Cue to Die For' following in Gannascoli's theme from his cookbook novel, 'A Meal to Die For' and the way he was killed. Gannascoli played Vito Spatafore; the gay mobster, in HBO's hit series The Sopranos.
Yeah. I can see how no one figured out that might have been a bad idea. After all, it's not like people are paid thousands of dollars to prevent such things from happening.
Current, the actor in question has signed on for the "Meal to Die For" cookbook, "Cue to Die For" pool cue and the "Cigar to Die For" cigar.
How tolerant. Normally, a big fat Italian guy wouldn't be so comfortable with having made out with other guys on national television.August 14, 2007 - Eh. The Easiest Joke in Pop Music:Amy Winehouse had to go to rehab. Yes. Yes. Yes.
That's not even low-hanging fruit. That's something the "Access Hollywood" staff wouldn't even use.
-- Cute at 10 months. Suspension-worthy at 10 years.
Andrew Nee, 10 months, sports an "I Brake for Boobs" t-shirt as he walks holding on to the legs of his mother, Amanda Nee, at a unique Guinness Book of World Record attempt on Wednesday. (PETER PEREIRA/The Standard-Times)
"I'm really pro breast-feeding," Ms. Aranjo said, adding that one time, she was politely "kicked out of Wal-Mart for breast-feeding in public" after another customer complained.
Danielle Levesque, Ms. Aranjo's best friend and a co-organizer of the event, was shocked to hear about Ms. Aranjo's experience.
"Massachusetts is one of the few states with no breast-feeding protection legislation," she said. If women are breast-feeding at a private location, such as a department store, owners can ask women to stop or else charge them with trespassing.
I am absolutely floored that a woman tried to breast-feed her child in the middle of a Wal-Mart. Actually, I'm more floored that it wasn't during my rare, depression-filled shopping trips there, and that I didn't walk in on it.
It helps to keep a sense of humor. Amanda Nee of Bourne, dressed her son Andrew, 10 months, in a homemade T-shirt that said, "I brake for boobs." Ms. Nee said she had seen similar shirts on a Web site but didn't have time to order one. So she created her own.
Andrew hammed it up in the tee, smiling and toddling around the parking lot with mom in tow. According to Ms. Nee, the shirt spoke the truth.
"He'll pretty much take a boob whenever it's offered him," she said.
Glad the new laptop got here, because my old box just exploded.
News Corp.'s Rupert Murdoch said today that he plans to divest Dow Jones' Ottaway newspaper group. The news came during the company's fiscal 4Q conference call with financial analysts and press this afternoon.
"We will be selling the local newspapers fairly quickly," Murdoch responded when asked by an analyst. "Outside of that, we are keeping everything and developing it."
Today, I found out they're sending me to New York for the Sox-Yankees series from the 28th to the 30th.
I might force myself to enjoy it. It's quite possible the days of that are drawing nigh.August 11-13, 2007 - It'll All Make Sense Eventually Tax This: It was a pretty eventful weekend.
I got a couple nice notes about the Bonds column as well, which was, well, nice.
So much happened this weekend -- dodgeball games with young cousins, narrow misses with the FedEx guy, almost being given a photographer's bib at Gillette Stadium, jokes about soccer with fellow Red Sox writers, calling someone a whore and having it fit into the conversation, Julie making me wave at her from the press box as she bounced around Fenway Park during a near no-hitter.
I'm going to limit myself to this. Tonight at the game, I saw several of these shirts:
There are so many jokes that can be made, I actually think I should make none of them because I guarantee I know someone who owns this.
OK, I will not limit myself to that. This list tells me that BC spends double what BU spends on athletics, but that BU somehow outspends UMass.
And Wyoming outspends them both. I suppose it's a concept of "Well, there's nothing else going on. Let's go watch a women's soccer game!"
Also, when someone referred to David Beckham as "The Carl Pavano of Soccer," I just about spit soda on myself.August 10, 2007 - At Least He Had A Driver A New Way To Injure Onesself: Tonight was Matty Cooch's 23rd birthday, and to celebrate, he rented out a private room at the local Boston Billiards. I couldn't go because I had to work, but I did get home while he was still awake.
Playing drunken Nintendo Wii.
I think I watched him for an hour prancing about playing Mario Party 8, and I assure that's the word I'm looking for. Apparently there's a method of spinning the controller that makes your character heckle other characters, and Matt kept doing it with the panache of someone conducting the London Philharmonic. Though I don't think anyone's ever taken the baton in a Hawaiian shirt uglier than any other one I've seen on a person who doesn't need to make their clothes out of drapes and bed sheets.
Twice, he almost fell over furniture. Never did he slam his hand into the ceiling, which is low enough in the living room that I've done it twice in the past year.
It never ceases to amaze me how humorous drunk people usually find their drunkenness. Unless they're me, and they've become just sober enough to be keenly aware they've bought themselves a killer headache the next morning.
As happens every so often on the highway that goes in and out of downtown Whale City, the state and city police set up a sobriety check point. I'd never seen them before I moved down here, but they're apparently common everywhere. Cops stop every car, do a check on the driver, maybe do a full-on test if they deem it necessary ... I saw a woman get arrested while I was waiting in line.
I'd never actually been caught in one before, so I was kind of interested to see exactly what would happen, since I was just leaving work on my way to Western Mass. and clearly had not been drinking. Or so I thought.
The officer came to my window, shined a flashlight in and explained what was going on.
Then, he looked at me a little closer:
"Your eyes look a little bloodshot. Where you coming from tonight?"
I saved him the part where I went home, packed up the car, said good-bye to the cat and noted the large amount of beer Julie had bought because her family's in town visiting for the weekend. "I'm coming from work" seemed sufficient, so I told him I worked at The Standard-Times.
The slightest level of alarm at confronting a possible drunk went away.
"That's the second person from The Standard-Times to come through here with bloodshot eyes!"
I hope he enjoyed the rest of his night, because he made the two-hour drive portion of mine.August 9, 2007 - Cobbles Do Not Help Skateboarders Things I Would Probably Do, But Totally Different:There's a giant picture of Matt Damon on Matt Damon's house.
The billboard (which is actually one of those scrims that get fastened to a building's exterior) shows Damon's character, Jason Bourne, walking with a gun in his hand. As seen in the below photo, the advertisement-which is about 15 feet wide and 50 feet high--notes that on August 3 (the day the film opened), "Bourne Comes Home." Home being the United States, not the 3500-square-foot loft occupied by Damon, his wife, and their daughter.
Why America Loves Wal-Mart: For reasons that aren't important, this afternoon I bought an electric razor, shoelaces and a bag of Doritos in the same building, at the same time.
This sort of stuff always fascinates me, in the same way every trip I ever make into a Wal-Mart depresses me deeply. The people who shop in a Wal-Mart are your neighbors and peers.
That includes the woman behind the counter who, when presented with a 12-pack package of cat food, proceeded to SCAN EVERY INDIVIDUAL PACKAGE as opposed to one 12 times.
But they did have all the stuff I was looking for. Take that, Walgreens!
Call this "Adventures in the Whaling City."
I went for a walk around downtown this evening in an attempt to run some errands. One of those errands was trying to find myself a meal. I would have gone to the tremendous No Problemo for a burrito, but there was some sort of downtown skate festival that had the restaurant (and everywhere else) just overrun by skateboarders.
We're talking "elderly person's nightmare" level. It was tremendous, complete with some local Fall Out Boy derivative (that may have been these people) rocking as kids boarded in a temporary skate park.
So I was left with the option of getting in the car and driving somewhere for food or going to the downtown Subway, my refuge when walking to work.
I gave it a shot, and came upon this at the door:
"We will be back in 5 minutes.
Thank You, Subway
PS: Grace, give me like 5 minutes or less. I will be right up. Wait here!
I think I enjoy the secondary note, complete with PS, more than anything else. But really, it's a tremendous testament to a place that's actually made me wonder, "So, is making sandwiches actually a difficult process?"
I ended up at a D'Angelo, which on Aug. 9 had it clearly posted on their windows that they were open "Winter Hours."
The sandwich was great. That's more than I've come to expect in general, which was nice.August 8, 2007 - Wrong Right Turns The Latest in Ineffective Deterrents: The Samuel Adams Web site asks user to verify their year of birth not once, but twice, before they let you enter.
At no point did they stop me from getting the directions to the brewery wrong, though. Which I suppose they can't be blamed for.
This space intentionally left blank.August 7, 2007 - ************* (Feel Better?) After All, They've Already Gone After Murder: The New York City Council, who apparently made saying the n-word illegal earlier this year, is now trying to ban 'bitch'.
Not from their meetings. Not from City Hall. From the entire city of New York.
The term is hateful and deeply sexist, said Councilwoman Darlene Mealy of Brooklyn, who has introduced a measure against the word, saying it creates "a paradigm of shame and indignity" for all women.
But conversations over the last week indicate that the "b-word" (as it is referred to in the legislation) enjoys a surprisingly strong currency -- and even some defenders -- among many New Yorkers. -- We call these people "normal human beings."
And Ms. Mealy admitted that the city's political ruling class can be guilty of its use. As she circulated her proposal, she said, "even council members are saying that they use it to their wives."
What the story doesn't say is what the penalty would be for saying "bitch" within city limits. Could you be cited by a police officer? If a car drives by one with the windows down, blaring a rap song with "ho" in it, who'll be charged?
Or is the point of a "symbolic citywide ban" simply to fill the rolls with more laws that no one ever enforces, so that 100 years down the road, whomever comes next can look in the rolls and laugh about when it used to be illegal for pigs to drive taxis and to say "bitch" on a public street?
Speaking of Fun Old Laws: As someone who's told this story, it saddens me to learn it's apparently not true that more than four unrelated women living together in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (or city of Boston, which is how I think I heard it) is technically a "brothel."
The state's law criminalizing prostitution was changed then after a group of female prostitutes sued in federal court with claims that the Providence police were discriminating against women in their arrests.
The law at the time made prostitution a felony. The General Assembly amended the law to the current version of loitering for indecent purposes, a misdemeanor. The law targets the streetwalkers, their pimps, and customers who solicit them from their vehicles. But there is no provision for prostitutes working for escort services and brothels.
Up until  1/2 years ago, the Providence police were charging women for prostitution inside massage parlors. They stopped after Warwick lawyer Michael J. Kiselica persuaded District Court judges to dismiss the cases based on the wording of the current law.
Rhode Island. And they really got all bent out of shape after Buddy Cianci celebrated his rebirth of Providence with a little racketeering/conspiracy/extortion/witness tampering/mail fraud.
In a lot of ways, 756 probably happened in the best way we could have expected.
He hit it at 11:50 p.m., when we were literally moments away from sending our final page and putting the whole section to bed. As he celebrated, we did that, then took a golf preview story off the cover, squeezed the whole thing on Page 2, and put together a little four-inch deep box across the top of the cover with a photo and as much of the first AP story as was warranted -- it was mostly all in-the-can fluff.
Any earlier, and we'd have had to tear up almost every page in an effort to build a design worthy of the effort. Any later, and we wouldn't have been able to get it in at all.
-- From the Omaha World Herald. My favorite I've seen so far.
I'm not particularly pleased with what I put together in the 10 minutes I had, but I suppose I wasn't going to be given how big a story it is. I am, however, very happy that I'll get to have been a part of what's becoming increasingly rare: a huge news story breaks, and a lot of people will learn it when they open up the newspaper in the morning.
Course, they pulled back the front page of the paper as well to tweak it and get a teaser saying he did it in. So technically, they'll learn it there and rip open the rag to discover slightly more inside.
If nothing else, my column-in-the-can has a few more hours for clean-up.August 6, 2007 - Like A Child, But Not At All More out of laziness than a definitive decision one way or the other, I did not shave today. I have no idea what I'll do when I shave tomorrow, since my opinion on the goatee seems to fly in the face of what everyone else's is.
Julie, as is her custom, has more or less told me she'll love me no matter what I choose. While endearing, it is not particularly helpful.
I have, however, done at least part of what's been suggested. I've thought of the kitties.
This is Newton. Newton is, in fact, named for Sir Isaac Newton, which makes a lot more sense when I add that he belonged to Lonnie for six years. Lonnie, as I've explained here in the past, is both a former cheerleader and a rocket scientist, which must make for a fun story at parties.
Though it would probably only be fun at the kind of parties I attend, which is to say parties in my mind where people have such conversations.
Lonnie is finally moving in with her fiance, who has a rather significant allergy to cat hair. Newton, being a Nowegian Forest Cat, has more hair than he knows what to do with. The parties involved decided finding Newton a new home would be the best option.
Lonnie sent out a note asking if I knew anyone who could adopt either of her cats, apparently unaware of the follies that ensue every time I see a stray on the streets at 1 a.m.
I couldn't take both, what with my lease having a "no pets" mandate in it. Of course, it also has a "no roommates" mandate, which I'm presuming the landlady is letting slide since they keep ignoring my unreasonable request for a friggin' screen in my bedroom window.
You wouldn't think a cat would be more noticeable than a girl, would you?
So, after a car ride which included a tremendous hairball just as we began sitting in construction-related traffic on I-93, Newton moved in on Sunday. He spent most of the first night walking around, then most of the first day hiding/sitting under the bed. I spent most of the first night trying to find online directions so I could operate his drinking fountain, then the first day coaxing him out from under the bed with food.
All parties seem to now be at peace with each other.
I look forward to including him one day when I'm forced to write wedding invitations at gun-point.August 5, 2007 - The Major Stuff Comes Later Not Major Announcement: Monday is the day when the decision is made on the goatee, so if you still want to be topical with your "there's a vagina on your face" jokes, you'll have to hurry.
At the very least, if I do shave it off, I plan on leaving several smaller hair layouts along the way. Hitler moustache being the most obvious, but I'm open to suggestions.
The Stat That Time Forgot is easily my favorite thing that I do every week that no one else may care about. So much so, my only concern when the column didn't show up online on Sunday was that I get the Stat posted here.
When Ichiro Suzuki notched the 1,500th hit of the Major League career last Sunday, plenty learned that his 1,510 hits are the most by any player this decade. Despite not coming to America until the 2001 season, the Mariners star has 33 more hits (entering Saturday) than the No. 2, Derek Jeter.
This led me to dig up the hitters who led each of the preceding decades, and the names are all recognizable. Roberto Clemente had more hits than anyone in the 1960s, just ahead of Hank Aaron. Pete Rose dominated the 1970s with 2,045 hits, almost 300 more than Rod Carew.
Wade Boggs had more hits than anyone from 1982-1989, but Milwaukee Hall of Famer Robin Yount led the entire decade with 1,731 -- a total Ichiro probably blows past next year.
The 1990s, though ... they're a true Stat That Time Forgot. Roberto Alomar (1,678) had the fifth-most, just behind hit machine Tony Gwynn (1,713), who didn't play enough in the decade's latter half. Craig Biggio (1,728) is third. Rafael Palmeiro is second at 1,747, just seven behind the shocking leader.
It's Mark Grace, the now-Diamondbacks broadcaster best known for his days with the Cubs. Grace was never dominant: he was best known for not striking out a lot, leading the 1995 NL in doubles and pitching an inning in an Arizona blowout loss.
He never had a 200-hit season in the '90s, but posted seven with at least 180. His career-high 193 in 1993 sparked the first of his three career All-Star appearances.
Nick will enjoy this, since Grace is now the Diamondbacks' answer to Jerry Remy. Though Grace has a lot of T-shirts to sell if he wants to catch up.
Then there's the cartoons and Photoshops. Yikes.August 4, 2007 - Pot. Where English Goes To Die: Because I haven't been to Japan or a Japanese neighborhood, where I would blow up my phone with photos of semi-related Engrish things, I'll have to settle for the supermarket.
-- How much money could McCormick have actually saved? One letter times one billion bottles equals ... enough for the chemicals these are made from?
Fortunately, the supermarket checkout has always had the ability to make everything OK.
-- Stars: They're just like us! Except they don't give a crap if you're fat.
Every so often, I head up toward Boston to play cards with a group of guys. This has been going on for 3-4 years, and we generally say we're playing "poker." Generally, we are ... dealer's choice as the deal goes around the table, with everyone buying in for $20 at the beginning and getting chips in denominations of a quarter, 50 cents and a dollar.
Often, though, things devolve into what are commonly called "guts games." These ostensibly have their basis in poker, but almost completely eliminate the skill aspect that regular players enjoy. The feeling that you really are trying and able to outthink people.
The other thing about guts games is they often feature a rapidly grwoing pot. Everybody antes in, the hand is played, winners draw from the pot, losers recontribute based on the rules and the game keeps going until one certain scenario happens that cleans out the pot and ends the thing.
We've gotten ourselves into trouble before with these, but we'd never gotten stuck in a loop where one game went on for an hour.
The long and the short of it is on the final hand of the day, I was basically able to get my car out of a parking garage because a card between a 4 and a queen came up. Had it not, I would have had to go to the bank for the second time in six hours. Had either a 4 or a queen come up, I would have had to empty my checking account.
Cards are fun.August 3, 2007 - Festa! The Feast of the Blessed Sacrament: One of those too-rare moments when I actually think to myself, "You know what? Whale City's got something on a whole lot of other places."
August 1, 2007 - I'm Gay Now! Webmastering Note: A new month is as good a time as any to discontinue to all-but-dead comment links at the end of each post. For the meager amount I paid that British teenager in late 2002, I suppose I got more than my money's worth, but I'm pretty disappointed it's come to this.
The most logical step would be to set up one of the proliferation of blog sites that makes commenting (and post linking) easy. That may happen in the future, but in the coming days, I'm going to roll out a Tag-Board as a stopgap.
Please use as many swears as possible when it gets here.
Cute Kitties, Out To Get You: I'm all for people smarter than me rooting out fraud in large entities. It's a rather important service. However:
HSUS president Wayne Pacelle described some of his goals in 2004 for The Washington Post: "We will see the end of wild animals in circus acts ... [and we're] phasing out animals used in research. Hunting? I think you will see a steady decline in numbers." More recently, in a June 2005 interview, Pacelle told Satya magazine that HSUS is working on "a guide to vegetarian eating, to really make the case for it." A strict vegan himself, Pacelle added: "Reducing meat consumption can be a tremendous benefit to animals."
No ... the man atop the Humane Society is a crazy animal lover? Thanks, Internet activists!
(It's nominally interesting to learn he wants to create "a National Rifle Association of the animal rights movement." But a "National Rifle Association for animals," where dogs all carry guns, would be far more interesting.
This article makes me feel nominally better about my new uncle Rupert, whom I didn't feel all that bad about to begin with.
The effects of the takeover may well be more pronounced at the Wall Street Journal than at the community newspapers the Ottaway family nurtured for so many years, first independently and then as part of Dow Jones.
Other observers are saying that the sale of Dow Jones & Co. News Corp. may mean very little in the short term to the 27 dailies, weeklies and lifestyle magazines owned by the Ottaway Newspapers subsidiary of Dow Jones, which includes The Standard-Times and The Cape Cod Times.
Dean Starkman, a former Wall Street Journal reporter who has been chronicling the saga of the Murdoch bid for the Columbia Journalism Review, told The Standard-Times, "I don't see nearly the problem for Ottaway Newspapers because editorially you guys are free to cover New Bedford as you always have.
"I can't imagine (Mr. Murdoch) would have a problem with whatever you have to do about New Bedford and the state of Massachusetts. It might be different if you went down to Wall Street and did stuff about big media."
But I think I laughed maybe three times the whole time I was in the theater. The Aqua Teen movie blew it away, easy.
I don't know what exactly was wrong with it, because I don't really think there was anything particularly wrong. As I sit here thinking back on it, I was entertained, just not even close to how much I was by the best episodes the show's ever had. Hank Scorpio? Would have made a far better movie, even if I apparently initially attach Albert Brooks' voice to the guy who ran the fat camp instead of the brains behind Globex.
For $7, though, I'm not going to complain. It's definitely worth seeing, but I'd like to think "one hundred rewrites" would have yielded something a little more laugh out loud.
This meant that "two films' worth" of finished material was cut, including cameos from Isla Fisher, Minnie Driver, Erin Brockovich, and Kelsey Grammer. -- Had to note that. Borat would want it that way.