Wednesday, April 29, 2009

I Coulda Been A Yankees Fan...

Well, today I went to New Shea. It's called Citi-Field for now, but I can guarantee that it will not be called that when the contract is up in a few years. I took the bus from down the street from my house in Atlantic Highlands,NJ. For eleven bucks that took me trouble free to the Port Authority. then a walk to the 7 train that took me straight to Willetts Point, New Shea.

The view from the 7 train was graffiti strewn once we entered Queens. How I hate graffiti. So, when New Shea finally came into view it was like a oasis that beckoned me in. The surrounding area and the parking lot around the entrance was beautifully landscaped.

And what of Old Shea? Well, the remains of Old Shea is in a small pile of concrete and re bar in a corner near the subway entrance. Nothing in that pile suggests the historic blue monstrosity that had been there less than six months ago.

I hope they will mark off the spots where significant moments in Shea history when they finish the parking lot. The spot where Cleon Jones made the last out of the 1969 world Series, The spot where the Mookie Wilson's ball trickled through Bill Buckner's legs in 1986, and the spot where Jimmy Qualls got his single that broke Tom Seaver's perfect game in 1969.

Anyway, New Shea looks great on the outside. Old Shea had the ugly blue walls with the uninspired neon sculptures that replaced the tacky, but endearing blue and orange panels. New Shea has a definitive entrance area and brick work inspired by Ebbets Field with a rotunda dedicated to Jackie Robinson, A guy who never played for the Mets.

Outside, however there are banners outside dedicated to Mets history and players of the past like Tug McGraw, Rusty Staub (circa 1973), Dwight Gooden, and my favorite, Ed Kranepool.

Now, a feature that is in every new ballpark built in the last 15 years is a field level concourse which every ticket holder has access to, I did a walk around to take in the scenery. The field, funny enough doesn't look as good as Old Shea yet. But the shape of it is very interesting and close to the fans. New Shea has a second concourse on the 300 level that almost goes fully around the park. I did that before I sat down to my assigned seat.

Since I'm a cheap bastard, I paid twenty dollars for eleven dollar tickets. That got me a ticket in the very last row in the left field bleachers, Section 537. Wouldn't you know it, but it was an obstructed view, very obstructed. My view was blocked by the rest of the league's scores. If I was at Old Shea, I would have to sit here the whole game if I wanted to see any action.

I sat in my seat for the first inning. By the second batter, I knew I wouldn't be seeing a no-hitter. The Mets were down 2-0 by the time the Mets came up to bat. And by the end of the first inning it was clear to me that New Shea was going to be a triple paradise. One each was hit by the Mets and Marlins.

There are several public gathering areas to enjoy the game at New Shea. My favorite was on the Pepsi Porch near the replica Pepsi-Cola sign. A little acknowledgement of Queens. A great place to enjoy a beer.

Beer, Ah yeah, nothing like an over priced beer to fulfill the ballpark experience and New Shea doesn't disappoint. There are no taps to be had, but one beer stand had a variety of decent brew from around the world. 24 varieties I believe. $7.50 a bottle, Which is less than what I paid once in a bar in Manhattan, so it didn't bother me that much.

What bothered me was that after the Mets came from behind and were winning 3-2 they blew the lead. The bullpen has been good this year and I don't need flashbacks of Aaron Heilman. And yet that's what I saw.

True to form, the Mets weren't clutch. David Wright in particular is driving me nuts striking out when we needed a hit. The Mets had the winning run on second base! They pinched hit Ramon Castro without having anyone ready to bat, it took about three minutes before Santos, another right handed hitting catcher stepped up to the plate to pop up to end the game, what a drag.

Still, I look forward to seeing the ballpark again in two weeks with my co-worker friends. New Shea is great, better than the new Phillie park, not quite as good as the Pittsburgh park. I rate it as good as the Mariners park. Both have three good sides to look at and one bad.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Benny Fits.

When you live near the Jersey shore, The winters are long and empty. Many of the towns shut down, businesses are closed for more than half a year. It's hibernation season. So, it's the summer season that keeps these towns afloat and you think the locals would be happy with all the tourists and visitors that helps their towns prosper.

You would be wrong. Many a sign can be seen at the shore that says "Benny Go Home!" or "Bennys Go Home" The term Benny is a "Backronym" for residents of Brooklyn, Elizabeth, Newark, and New York. or add the S to include residents of Staten Island. I've learn this term in recent years since I lived here. I hear their complaints about why Bennys are undesirable. They're loud, obnoxious, and make a mess. In other words, they're like the locals, just a lot more of them in the summer. I've worked with the locals of Belmar and they embody much of the "Benny" behavior they complain about. Very xenophobic, bordering on racism at times.

My ex was like that. She always pointed out the flaws of outsiders whether they were "Pennsylvania Trash", Hunterdon County Trash" or my favorite, "Staten Island Trash".

Still, when you live at the shore and are Bennyphobic, you look forward to this time of year. The warm days before the summer. A chance to lie in the sun without the crowds, without the summer residents. I prefer the time after Labor Day because the water is warmer. Still, I took advantage of the hot weather to ride the new trail that connects Atlantic Highlands to Highlands. It runs along the shore, which made the ride a little cooler. I headed to Sandy Hook but didn't go to Gunnison Beach because of my weight gain. I instead went all the way to the North Beach only to see tons of turkey vultures hovering around me enough to make me think I may be dead. Maybe my pale pallor might have something to do with it.

The water was so cold even for just my toes but I was getting my skin burned in April no less! Finally for the first time in my life I saw Horseshoe Crabs that were alive.

So, yeah I feel this is a good time of year to be here despite my inability to frolic in the water. I got to feel the burn, my annual burn before tan.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Rip Off?

I'm not a fan of the comic strip F-Minus. It's one of the many comic strips that came out in the times I was submitting my own comic strips to syndicates. It is one of the many that I feel is inferior to mine, particularly, Pipe Dreams.

Jealousy may be part of the equation, but really, It's stiffly drawn and rarely has any good gags. When it does rise above mediocrity it seems familiar. He got lucky and newspapers are collapsing since it was syndicated. Recently, this strip was published.

Guess what, When I was being published in the cult newspaper, the Seattle Scroll I did this strip in 1997. The setting is practically the same. The joke a little more involved but I can rightly say that I have been plagiarized. What do you think?

New Pipe Dreams

They're Not Even Rotating The Beer Taps

Well, I went out last night, looking good, the hair was in its perfect unkemptness, only to find that Mad Hatters was filled with the regulars I don't care for, bartenders who don't want to sell beer, and some borderline homophobes that may not have taken to my state of dress. Still, I need something to do on my nights off before I move from the Jersey Shore come August. So Karaoke night here I come.

I like the selection of songs that the KJ has but I was hoping he would put out some updated songs. Didn't matter, I knew I had time to look for songs.

First song is "Oooh Child" by the Five Stairsteps. I love this song so much. It's one of my earliest memory of hearing songs from the radio. Most younger people know this song from the movie "Boyz N The Hood" So that means I usually get a good response to it, and i do it pretty well. The clip of the song is so vintage early 70's. Live, it has a raw sound that gives new life to the song.

Ooh Child

So, I was in a Jethro Tull mood, in particular the song "Too Old To Rock and Roll..." but he didn't have it so I settled for "Living In The Past." I say "settled" because although the song is great, it has too many long flute interludes which is a drag when you are up there to sing. "Tequila" and "The Hustle" would be the biggest offenders.

The clip of Jethro Tull is for some reason a mixture of vintage Tull singing and updated footage of Ian Anderson playing his flute. Of course I prefer the older footage. It's a really good song.

Living in the Past

Another song with a long intro was the third song I sang. I saw "Adventureland" and loved it, a postcard of a past I'm somewhat familiar with. the soundtrack was a mixture of cheesy and cool songs from the decade of the 80's. "Don't Change" from INXS ended the movie on a feel good mode. I was a big fan of INXS back in the day. I am a natural baritone so it fits me well. No one really knew the song so the reaction was mellow. I love the video of "Don't Change" because it's simple and was a mainstay on MTV in its early days.

Don't Change

A really great singer came into Mad Hatters toward the end of the night, so that made me go in showoff mode. I chose "Delta Lady" by Joe Cocker because it fits me like a glove when my voice gets rough. I got a good response surprisingly because I thought no one would know the song. The footage of Joe Cocker looks like it's from a movie that is not "Woodstock" from 1970. It's typical of the time, multiple shots side by side.

Delta Lady

Monday, April 13, 2009

RIP Harry Kalas and Mark Fidrych

Boy what a bummer. I had heard that Harry Kalas died. He was the long time broadcaster of the Philadelphia Phillies and NFL films. He had a distinct baritone that made watching the Phillies enjoyable when we got cable and was able to see the Phillies back in the day. I'd watch them on the days the Mets weren't on. His distinct baritone was about as manly as it got. He narrated the NFL films giving it a power that transended what went on the filed. He was the go to guy for Campbell's Chunky soup commercials. He died getting ready for today's Phillies game.

Then I got a bigger shock when I heard that former Detroit Tigers pitcher, Mark (The Bird) Fidrych died. Now, Fidrych had a short baseball career. A classic phenom case that burned out as fast as he was on fire. His one great season was in 1976. He won 19 games, completed 24 and won the Rookie of the Year award and came in second for the Cy Young award. He was an eccentric even in the "anything goes" decade the 70's. He got injured the next year and never pitched like that again. Still, no one who saw him pitch ever forgot him. He was only 54.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Hard To Believe It's Been 15 Years

An event happened that was devastating, but hardly surprising 15 years ago today. It was on April 8, 1994 that Kurt Cobain's body was found, dead from a self inflicted gun shot wound. It marked the end of the groundbreaking Seattle group Nirvana.

I got the news from my girlfriend who called me from her job. I had crashed at her place the night before licking my wounds from getting fired from a shitty job the day before. It wasn't welcome news to say the least. I was a big fan of Nirvana. Nirvana represented a welcome trend in the popular music scene. The era of lame bands like Poison, Ratt, and Motley Crue was over. Even a great band like Guns and Roses faltered when Nirvana burst on the national scene in 1991.

I had just moved to Seattle in 1991 and befriended a guy named Mike who told me about a local band that was ready to release their second album that month. We went to a record release party at a record store called the Beehive. At the same time a new radio station started airing in Seattle called "The End". "The End" focused on an alternative music scene that was growing since the late 80's. Bands like Stone Roses, The Farm, and Blur were played along with Seattle bands like Soundgarden, Mother Love Bone, and a band that was releasing a new album, Nirvana.

It was a good thing this radio station existed, because I did not bring either my CD player or my CDs and a radio station that played better more varied music than any on New York at the time was welcome and educational. "Smells Like Teen Spirit" was the top requested song every night on "The End" on their countdown show. The opening guitar riff still sends chills down my spine from the very first time I heard it.

The album was released and I listened to it at Mike's many times before I finally got my CD player. The album was so popular and so indentifiably Seattle. This helped a band called Pearl Jam and helped increase sales for Soundgarden. The Seattle "grunge" scene was on and I was in the middle of it all, adopting the look, carousing the clubs, attending the shows and basically enjoying the last gasps of my adolescence a few years after the fact. The next few years were an orgy of fun slackerdom. The best part of it was the fact I lived for the present, I rarely was nostalgic, I wish I can say that now.

Things would soon change. In 1994, I was in a serious relationship with a woman who represented a change in my life. I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her and I had to face the fact I was getting older and I needed to become responsible. Still, the scene in Seattle was going strong. Pearl Jam, Soungarden, and Nirvana continued to release great albums that would keep the scene strong, but every good thing must come to an end. I just didn't think it would be so quick on that dreary day in 1994.

I guess it was inevitable. He tried to kill himself in Europe a month before, He wrote a song called "I Hate Myself And I Want To Die" and he took enough heroin to put Sid Vicious to shame. I guess I wanted to ride the Nirvana express until I chose to get off.

He died when he was 27. 27 is a scary year for many. It's when we start to age and when we need to get our act together in our career. It also can be when we realize life isn't going to work out the way we hoped it would. That may explain the amount of rock stars who died at the age of 27. Jim Morrison, Brian Jones, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and now Kurt Cobain. I was 27 in 1994, and was hoping it would be a transformative year for me in a profound positive way. Instead it marked the end of the Seattle scene I enjoyed, I moved to a town Federal Way, WA, that allowed me to gain 30 pounds quite quickly. I had taken on two jobs that were pathetic, just so I could survive. Plus it was the year of OJ, the baseball strike, and the Republican Revolution in November. A lousy year, transformative? Yes, for the worse.

15 years is a long time. We went through 9-11, the Bush years, Britney Spears, People not knowing the Foo Fighters lead singer was the drummer of Nirvana and other atrocities.

And one of the worst was seeing Kurt Cobain endorse sneakers from the grave.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

My Bucket List

I copied this from someone else's blog and made the proper exes.

Things you have done during your lifetime:
( ) Gone on a blind date
(x) Donated Blood
(x ) Skipped school
(x) Watched someone die
(x ) Been to Canada
( ) Been to Mexico for one week
(x ) Been to Florida
( ) Been to Hawaii
(x) Been on a plane
( ) Been on a helicopter
(x ) Been lost
(x ) Gone to Washington, DC
( ) Hugged a homeless person
(x ) Swam in the ocean
( ) Swam with Stingrays
( ) Been sailing in the ocean
(x) Cried yourself to sleep
(x) Played cops and robbers
(x) Recently colored with crayons
( ) Ran a marathon
( ) Ran a 10k
(x) Sang Karaoke
(x ) Volunteered at a soup kitchen
(x ) Volunteered for any non-profit
(x) Paid for a meal with coins only
(x) Been to the top of the St. Louis Arch
( ) Seen the Northern Lights
( ) Been Parasailing
(x) Been on TV
(x ) Done something you told yourself you wouldn't
(x ) Made prank phone calls
( ) Been down Bourbon Street in New Orleans
(x) Laughed until some kind of beverage came out of your nose
(x) Fed an elephant
(x ) Caught a snowflake on your tongue
( ) Fired a gun
( ) Fired a machine gun
(x) Danced in the rain-naked
(x) Been to the Opera
(x) Written a letter to Santa Claus
(x) Serenaded someone
(x ) Seen a U.S. President in person (Reagan, Clinton)
(x) Been kissed under the mistletoe
(x) Watched the sunrise with someone
( ) Driven a race car
(x ) Been to a National Museum
(x) Been to a Wax Museum
(x) Eaten caviar
(x) Blown bubbles
(x) Gone ice-skating
(x) Gone to the movies
( ) Been deep sea fishing
(x) Driven across the United States
( ) Been in a hot air balloon
( ) Been sky diving
(x) Gone snowmobiling
( ) Lived in more than one country
(x) Lay down outside at night and admired the stars while listening to the crickets
(x) Seen a falling star and made a wish
( ) Enjoyed the beauty of Old Faithful Geyser
( ) Seen the Grand Canyon
(x) Seen the Statue of Liberty
(x) Gone to the top of Seattle Space Needle or CN Tower
(x) Been on a cruise
(x) Traveled by train
(x) Traveled by motorcycle
(x) Been horseback riding
(x) Rode on a San Francisco cable car
(x) Been to Disneyland OR Disney World
(x) Been in a rain forest
(x) Been to Niagara Falls,
( ) Rode on an elephant
( ) Swam with dolphins
( ) Been to the Olympics,
( ) Walked on the Great Wall of China,
( ) Saw and heard a glacier calf
( ) Been spinnaker flying
(x) Been water-skiing
(x) Been snow-skiing
(x) Been to Westminster Abbey
( ) Been to the Louvre
( ) Swam in the Mediterranean
(x) Been to a Major League Baseball game
(x) Been to a National Football League game
(x) Swam with sharks, well I am sure they were there somewhere..
(x) Been White Water Rafting
(x) Written a book or screen play
(x) Climbed a huge mountain
(x) Kissed so passionately you felt as if you were floating
( ) Been to Egypt
( ) Seen the Roman Coliseum
( ) Seen ruins in Mexico
( ) Been to Africa
(x) Danced like no one was watching
( ) Been to the Great Barrier Reef
( ) Laughed until you wet yourself
( ) Seen Red Square
( ) Seen the Queen of England
( ) Been to a Presidential inauguration
(x) Saw the Twin Towers before 9/11
(x) Gotten an autograph from a movie star
(x) Eaten insects (knowingly)
(x) Performed on a stage
( ) Held a snake

Wednesday, April 01, 2009


I had a great day in NYC today. I had did a little shopping, a lot of wandering up to Columbus Circle and a visit to the Museum of Modern Art. I have been wanting to go to the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) for some time since I moved back to the NYC area. A friend from work said he would hang out but he didn't come through. Just as well, it enabled me to take on MOMA at my leisure, and man did I leise.

I first came across a Batiste Madalena exhibit. He was a commercial artist from the 20's who hand did movie posters for a movie theater in Rochester, New York. He worked about 4 years using tempera to paint 6 paintings a week for whatever movie was exhibited. When the theater was sold, he was out of a job. A few weeks later he was fortunate enough to rescue many of his paintings from the theater's trash and we get the benefit to see them at a museum.

The rest of the time I spent trying to find the many famous paintings of the last 100 years. I was spellbound by the Manets, the Monets, the Mattisses, and of course Picasso. the last time I was at MOMA was in the late 80's. I don't remember much of that visit and MOMA has done an extensive renovation. A great job, I might add, worth the 20 bucks. I was able to take some pictures of some of the better known works of art.

And some more I was able to sneak some shots at.