Thursday, July 30, 2009

I Disagree...

I love hearing someone say "I disagree with what you say but I will defend to death your right to say it" because I have to question their commitment.

Are they really going to defend me when I say the most inflammatory thing I can possibly think of to the death?

Whose death, then? Mine, to shut me up before I say another inflammatory thing? Or are they going to die protecting me from someone else who doesn't like what I have to say?

If they are in the military I'll buy into their statement. Their duty is to protect the citizens and the Constitution. Otherwise, I'll just assume they are REALLY pissed off with what I'm saying and use the statement to calm themselves down like counting to ten.

That's when I shut up.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Ten Years Ago...

I remember vividly the day that JFK Jr died. No, I wouldn't give two thoughts about him otherwise but I remember the day because that was the day I had my ill-fated engagement party with my fiance.

I was in a relationship with a woman that was about to enter its sixth year. I had made the decision that it was time for us to get married. She waited too long for me to do the right thing and I was in my most financially secure at this point in our relationship. The time was now.

I proposed to her on Mt. Rainier and yes she accepted. I was relieved. It was late May 1999 and we had plans to get married in August of 2000. We were in our 30s and it made sense to start a family. I'm old fashioned enough to think marriage comes before kids. Not necessarily 9+ months before kids. Just before the kids.

We decided to have a party to celebrate our commitment to each other. We set a date in July and invited our friends to a party at our house in Federal Way. It was to be on a Sunday. This made it possible to have my co-workers at Billy McHales restaurant to attend since Sunday is a slow day. All was going according to plan but my fiance's co-worker Matt, a person I have mentioned in a previous blog entry, decided that Sunday wasn't good for him, and we had to scramble and re-invite everyone to come on Saturday. We gained Matt but lost everyone I had invited from work because Saturday was the busiest day of our week. I had to beg for the day off of work.So we had a net loss of about 6 of my friends.

Oh, well. So, the party was on, filled with co-workers of my fiance's, mutual friends from the Jaycees and old friends of my fiance's. Who was missing? Well, anyone I had made friends of independent of my fiance. My friends were from my school years and were on the east coast or in San Fransisco. My co-workers were the only friends I had at the time in the area. So that meant the only people at the party were my ex's friends from work, people we knew from the Jaycees (Yeah, I know) and her old school friends.

The party was was on his way when we heard the news that JFK Jr. had crashed his plane and was likely dead. Some of the guests were watching the news but it didn't really affect the party. I was the cook of the bar-b-q set up. Matt was the wit of the party, commenting on the large bottle of olive oil I had in the kitchen. Oh, the bafflement he expressed how one person could use so much olive oil. Of course being a cook and using it to cook at home might not have occurred to him.

So, the party goes on with people split off in their little groups. One of the groups were My ex's co-workers. This group didn't include Matt but it did include a young punk ass who fancied himself a rock star. I wasn't a fan of his tuneless music and he shunned me at the party. Just as well, he was a dullard and I ignored him. Turns out I should have kept my eye on him.


Well, unknown to me at the time, he had designs on my fiance and was in the process of breaking up my relationship with her. They worked together at a software company who was best known for a game involving a pervert known as "Leisure Suit Larry". He was a programmer and my ex checked for bugs. Her job paid pretty well for the time but involved lots of hours during crunch time. So, she wasn't home much during the this time and my theory is that she fell away from me and went to rockstar. This must have been visible at the offices and I now believe that I was the laughing stock at the party and it wasn't because Matt pointed out I was wearing slippers.

The party was fine otherwise but for the next few weeks, something was in the air I couldn't define. It came to a head a few weeks the night before my ex broke up with me after a disastrous party we attended.

I might tell that story but it's very uncomfortable.

So, yeah that's why any reminder of JFK Jr's death sets me on edge.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

On My Bike Ride...

I've had three most excellent days of bike riding. Tuesday, I rode my bike to Sandy Hook's Gunnison Beach, had my fun in the water, thought some one stole my stuff, which would be a nightmare but I just got disoriented and was looking by the wrong lifeguard stand. It was hot but good for riding.

Wednesday I went the length of the Henry Hudson Trail, veered north to Aberdeen and saw a brush fire. Stopped at a diner for lunch and at WAWA for orange juice. Another good ride.

Thursday, I had the first non raining three day weekend since the weather got warm. So, I decide to do another biker ride, this time mountain back riding at Hartshorne Woods Park. It was the most fun I've had in a long time. It was a bit hot, very humid but amongst the trees pretty pleasant.

I took some pictures on Wednesday at Aberdeen, I believe. I was fascinated by a style of house that was in plentiful supply there. I'm guessing they were built in the late 50's and early 60's. They may have been originally for summer home purposes back then but for the most part are year long homes.

They are done in a ranch style with a car port. Over the years the owners put their own stamp on the houses. Here's some of them.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

That Dreaded "In Between" Time.

I hate moving. I needed to move closer to work and I needed a bigger place. I found an apartment in a house, a bigger apartment in a smaller house in Union, New Jersey. I wanted to move to Millburn but this place was so nice and I was willing to pay for both my place in Atlantic Highlands and the new place this month. This allows me flexibility in which place I would stay. Summer st the shore is the place to be but that's only for about three months of the year.

Now I'm at the stage where neither place seems to be my own. I don't have enough usable items in Union and my place in AH is starting to look empty enough that it reminds me of my previous place where I had only a computer on the floor and a couch to sleep on and I was hoping to rekindle my failed relationship.

Now, I like to move myself and not burden anyone. I can easily do this with anything that fits in my car. I pile up stuff in Atlantic Highlands and dropped it off at Union.

I've only slept at my Union place twice. My bed's still in Atlantic Highlands. I get anxious thinking about yet another new start but when October rolls around, the shore is a dismally depressing place. Union and the access to NYC will be to my advantage when fall rolls around. Now, AH is not as bad as say, Seaside Heights, Pt. Pleasant or Belmar off season, but the shore shuts down for about 8 months of the year. Those monthsa are the appealing months in NYC. I'm just bummed I'm moving away while summer is at its peak.

Another thing is, I have no clue how to fill up my new place. I can fit all my things in one room and now I have three, plus a small niche room where I plan on doing some real artwork in the coming months. I've lived a spartan lifestyle since high school, the only exceptions were when I lived with someone. I got rid of much of my things when I moved from Seattle and had to get rid of more things when I moved to my teeny tiny place. I don't know how much I should change my attitude about possessions because I find it almost virtuous to live small. Plus, I hate having a bunch of things I don't use gathering dust because it looks pleasant.

I've been wanting to move out of this place in AH since I moved in after a nasty breakup that left me very short of funds. I took the place because my landlord didn't need much information from me to move in. He asked me where I worked I said "UPS" and that was enough. I didn't tell him it was my "in between" job from working in a restaurant and my current job working at the airport and that it was part-time and paid so little. Two years ago I felt ashamed at my situation. My ex-girlfriend was good at making me feel that way. Now, a few places I was able to afford rejected me because I didn't make enough money. Of course that was when the economy was at the housing bubble peak right before the crash. So maybe they would be more accommodating these days.

I like the town of AH and I like the proximity to the shore but there is a racist element in towns nearby that's a little disturbing. I hear it in the post office and have seen bumper stickers on pick up trucks saying their boss is a painter from Austria. It's a bit more right wing than I like and during the election of 2008, I heard an earful.

Union is a bit more diverse, it has a movie theater walking distance from my place like I've had in AH. I'm closer to a better super market and closer to New York City. I'm closer to my brother and my nephew. I'm not sure how the bike riding is going to be, I'm not going to be close to a rail trail like in AH. The Henry Hudson Trail is great and I'm gonna miss it. The trees outside my window and the far off view of New York City from my bathroom window is a treat I'll miss too. Every view from my Union place is a bit duller, where will I sit in my new place?

Oh yeah, In front of my computer monitor.

Union, is close to all these colonial old towns that pepper Essex, Union and Morris county. This will be fun to explore the next year on my bicycle while I set up plans to transfer to Seattle. Maybe, the next year will be good enough if I chose to contact with old friends that I have re-established through Facebook that I'll stick around.

I'll be closer to them now. I'll be close enough to work to hang out a little on Friday and Saturday nights. Old movies in Jersey city, here I come!

Sill I really, really, really want to move back to Seattle but my three year old nephew, whom I don't really see enough is the person I think about more than anyone these days. I felt I missed out on having children by my failed relationships and failed work career. There is still time but I don't want to be Tony Randall. In the meantime Sean fills my needs to spoil a kid.

I wish I could combine both experiences. Seattle just makes so much more sense than NY/NJ these days. It's affordable, clean, and ahead of the curve when it comes to progress. A city of the future, not a city of blue bloods.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Oh really, Rush?

Leave to Rush to put Michael Jackson's life under perspective:

He said

Michael Jackson “flourished under Reagan,” “languished under Clinton and Bush,” and “died under Obama.”

Of course he fails to mention that Michael Jackson's best album "Off The Wall" happened under Jimmy Carter.

He also fails to mention that Michael Jackson looked like this when Reagan won in 1980...

A confident young man who had a huge hit album and a slew of great songs at the ready for his next album.

Then he and the rest of the world went through eight years of Reagan and he ended up looking like this...

He adapted a fake face, Stringy, greasy hair and his music output was already on the wane. He was well on his way to his "Wacko Jacko" phase. He bought his Neverland ranch and starting doing who knows what there.

But if he's going with the "Obama Killed Michael Jackson" routine, then Richard Nixon was a serial killer with Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, and Jim Croce to name a few.

Not to mention that as soon as Reagan got elected, John Lennon was murdered. Coincidence?

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

New Yankee Stadium...

The year was 1992, The Baltimore Orioles opened up a new ballpark in Camden Yards. It set a trend in baseball park building that combined modern amenities with classic architecture style. It was such a hit that almost every baseball team followed suit. Texas, Cleveland, Colorado, Atlanta, Detroit, Seattle, San Fransisco, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Philadelphia, Washington, Milwaukee, San Diego, and Houston to name most of them have built new ballparks prior to 2009.

Would New York get a new stadium? Certainly the Mets needed one. The New York Mets have been talking about a new stadium for a long time, as far back as the mid 90's when this trend started. Shea Stadium was aging, charmless and a dump. The Mets were trying to work out public financing for years and then 9-11 happened. Priorities in the city would not include stadium financing. So, the Mets put their plans on hold and waited out any opportunity to bring it up again.

The Mets opportunity came when the New York Yankees were crying out to replace Yankee Stadium "The House Ruth Built"with a new one. The Yankees had the advantage of having "America's Mayor" Rudy Giuliani on board to sell the plan. In a typical Republican move, he used the bully pulpit to wrangle sweetheart deals involving tax payers money, the destruction of Macombs Dam Park, cheap electricity and tax breaks one can only dream of. All to please the most profit making team in all of sports. This made it easy for the Mets to demand half as much money and construction permits to build on their own property in Flushing.

But this entry is about Yankee Stadium. In New York it's about the Yankees. They are the icons. And apparently they are iconoclasts. "The House That Ruth Built" was no good anymore, not even a massive renovation would be acceptable. They could have played at Shea Stadium for a few years, set attendance records in the Mets own ballpark while waiting for the real Yankee Stadium to be finished. But no, it had to be a new ballpark, built to the same dimensions of the old one across the street. All for 1.5 billion dollars.

Last night was my first chance to see the new ballpark. The Mariners were in town, they're the only team I'm willing to go to Yankee Satadium to see. I took the bus to the Port Authority, and grabbed the D train up to 161st to the poorest district in the state of New York. My first impression was not good. The neighborhood hasn't improved much since I was last there 20 years ago. It didn't rise up in glory like New Shea. The gray exterior didn't wow me at all. I've been to 7 of the new ballparks and New Yankee gave me the worst first impression.

It reminded me of a dying neighborhood putting in a new supermarket and going half-ass building it. I looked around to take pictures of the old stadium. Unlike Shea, The Yankees are taking their time taking down the old place. It still looked good enough not to be replaced. It fits the neighborhood better. The Red Sox can live with Fenway and the Cubs can live with Wrigley. The Yankees easily could put up with the house that Ruth built.

Anyway, I went inside and got a better impression. First thing was getting a free "Inaugural Season" T-Shirt. One thing that is essential in building a new stadium for the Yankees is it has to be grand and majestic. Although it comes across like a McMansion, Yankee fans will appreciate the Great Hall with pictures of Yankee greats from the past. The black and white banners were pre-60's and the color ones were of the 70's-80's era, the "cool" era. It's here that you'll find Steiner collectibles selling the remnants of the old stadium.

I turned a corner to walk the main concourse. This is the best feature of all the new ballparks out there. The Yankees have two concourses on two levels. ALL the fans have the opportunity to see the action up close while walking around the perimeter. It's much less the dungeon the old stadium was. Another good feature is the wideness of the concourse that came in handy when the clouds erupted with rain. Heavy rain. The rain in Yankee Stadium went on for two hours, delaying the game for an hour.

Meanwhile, I took in as much of the place that wasn't reserved for the "elite" fans. Did you know that the Yankees won 26 World Series? Well, you get reminded of that at every turn. 26 titles. Yankee fans have been reminding us that for almost ten years now. I'm sure they'll mention the 26 number for the next 50 years.

We can hope.

Also, the Yankees are quite generous in retiring numbers, retiring 15 numbers for 16 players. In the near future Mariano Rivera, Joe Torre and Derek Jeter will have their numbers retired, With Jeter and Torre, there will be no opportunity to wear a single digit number as a member of the Yankees in the future. Except the number "0". No Yankee will be allowed to wear that number, even if Al Oliver comes out of retirement.

Anyway, the rain let up, and the game between the Seattle Mariners and Yankees would resume. I was impressed that there were cheers for Ken Griffey Jr. and Ichiro when they walked on the field. It then dawned on me. In the 14 years I was in Seattle and with all the games I saw in the Kingdome and Safeco, I witnessed at least 4 future hall of famers play for the Mariners and three of them were on the field last night. A-Rod will go in the Hall Of Fame as a Yankee unless somehow the Yankees are able to move him. this is the second time I've seen these two teams meet live and not once was it in Seattle. I hate to say it, the Yankees are a much bigger draw in Seattle than the Mariners are in New York.

I bought the cheapest tickets available and went to my seat to take in the view. I was in the very last row, sheltered from the trickling rain behind the celebrated frieze. Guess what? The view was quite good. I saw all the field. It was far away but it didn't seem bad at all. It wasn't obstructed like the last row at new Shea. So I recommend getting these seats. As far as I'm concerned it beats the 2000 dollar seats. You get a great view of the whole stadium and of the neighborhood around the park. There is still boarded up structures across the street. I highly doubt that the neighborhood will benefit by the presense of the new building.

I never got a chance to see Monument Park because the rain made the line too long, that it shut down before I got in. The museum on the other hand was okay. It was cool to see Thurman Munson's locker and yes the World Series trophies from the six times they had received it since it was created in 1967.

The game? Well, the hometown fans got what they wanted. As a Mariners fan, I did not, of cours. Still it's cool to see Ichiro and Junior in a different setting. I left before the game was over, buying only ice cream for the souveneir helmet from every ballpark I've been to recently.

So, my ranking of this park to the other 6 new ballparks I've been to? (Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Seattle, Mets, Baltimore) I rate these based on several criteria.

Was it necessary to build?

Is it an improvement over the old park?

Does it improve the surrounding areas?

Is it more fan friendly?

Is it more comfortable?

It's the worst. It's the most expensive of all of them and doesn't look like it from the fan's point of view. I heard the players have it great, but I'm not a player so that means nothing to me.

It's way too gray. All the other parks I've been to have some splash of color. The gate signs outside the stadium looks cheap. The cracks on the floor is aleady out of hand and already the garbage is piling up.

It doesn't improve the surrounding area. They tore down a park and haven't brought in new businesses. It seems it was built for people who will never set foot outside in the neighborhood. There were several bars and restaurants I wasn't able to enjoy because I didn't have the right ticket. They have these places right out there to remind the average fan how they don't matter.

They spend 1.5 BILLION dollars for a new ballpark and they don't change the layout one bit? The concourses are an improvement but the merchandise stands are generic, looking more so because the Yankees are one of the most generic team out there. A black and white color scheme limits the look.

The beer selection was poor and expensive to boot. Maybe there was a good selection in the clubs I wasn't allowed to go into.

There were some good parts...

Yankee fans will like this place. A lot of space is dedicated to Yankee history. The Mets struck out in this department. The World Series highlights and a scene dedicated to Yankee MVPs is terrific.

The food is good, if you have money to burn. A carving station is something unique and fit for Yankee fans.

It is majestic. The frieze is back and looks great from the farthest seats in the house. The stadium is well lit and there is a good spot to watch the action from right field but that pales compared to the Pepsi Porch at New Shea and the other ballparks I've been to.

The Mets play in a ballpark named after a corporation that got government handout. The Yankees on the other hand named it after themselves...

Wait a minute, the Yankees ARE a major corporation that gets government handouts.

In short, New Yankee stadium was unneeded. The new one doesn't break ground and doesn't improve the neighborhood, all at a cost of 1.5 billion dollars.

Thanks, Rudy.

New Pipe Dreams Cartoon