A Short Play About Junk Food

Me: You better take those jellybeans with you, I don’t need any more Easter candy.

SB: No way, I’m leaving them here.  This is payback for you leaving the Double Stuff Oreos at my place last week. I ate the whole package!

I should object here that he ate the full package minus the 4 cookies that were in my Oreo sundae (our Valentine’s Day dessert, and why I brought the cookies over in the first place). In other news, our respective attempts to eat healthier are … not going so well.



On Albert

After I got over the sudden sinking feeling in my gut when the link first appeared in my RSS feed, I was doing fine for about an hour.  We had plenty of work crises and meetings this morning to distract me, I was rationally discussing it online with SB and Lady Bee, I was going to be fine.  Then it occurred to me that I was just typing all these words, that I hadn’t actually said out loud to anyone, even myself, “Albert Pujols is going to be an Angel.”

That’s when I needed a moment.

Though I’m pretty much in agreement with Will Leitch’s gut reaction (I’ve never actually met Leitch but we were both commenting on a now defunct Cardinals blog back before Deadspin launched; as non-St Louis native Cardinals fans who now live in New York, it sometimes feels like we’re living oddly parallel lives), it was actually a piece I read this morning before the news broke that best captured my feelings. Posted on a White Sox blog after their home-grown star player, Mark Buerhle, signed with the Marlins, I read it thinking “this is how I will feel if Albert signs somewhere else.”  Thirty minutes later, the news broke that he had.

For those of us Cardinals fans who aren’t quite old enough to remember the team’s run of success in the early 1980s, who clung to McGwire’s home run chase only to see it soiled by the steroids accusations, who fell for Rick Ankiel’s early promise as a pitcher only to watch him implode in horribly public fashion, Albert Pujols was the first real sign that the Cardinals were finally returning to prominence, to playing October baseball that actually mattered instead of being sacrificial lambs to the Braves every year (if we made it at all).  Moreover, we were going to do it with a player found in our farm system, who seemed destined to become not only a Cardinals legend, but an all-time baseball legend.  When he signed that first big contract 10 years ago, I still remember that now defunct Cardinal blog enthusing, “Can you believe he’s ours?  That we have him?”

And now we don’t.  And yes, “we” never did, which is what makes sports fandom so hard, so frustratingly stupid at times: the rational part of your brain knows the player isn’t trying to hurt you — he doesn’t even know you.  The emotional part can’t help feeling like 10 years of adulation ought to be worth something.

I’m glad that the Cardinals won two World Series with Albert on the team — it feels less like he’s abandoning us for greener pastures, then that he’s a 31 year old who has worked for the same company his entire adult life and wants to try something new.  I’m glad that he’s going to the Angels — a team I have such fondness for, I wrote a short story in grad school organized around their first World Series win — and not the Marlins, who not only have ugly uniforms and construct their teams in a way that feels like they are gaming the system, but are covered frequently in the New York media as a divisional rival of the Mets.  Still, Opening Day 2012 — a day that should have been about watching the Cardinals get their championship rings — is now going to be about enduring the spectacle of Albert in his new uniform in Yankee Stadium.  For the first time in a long time, I welcome the long months of the offseason.

About that Very Big Baseball Game That is Happening Tonight

These are the opening lines of the email my friend Sarah sent me at 11:43 PM Thursday:

Hey sorry about the cardinals! The only good thing is it won’t conflict with Stevie Wonder.

At 12:51 AM Friday I wrote her back:

I think you reverse jinxed us.

So, thanks to the weather postponement on Wednesday, and whatever the hell happened last night to save the Cardinals from their final strike not once, but twice, the first Game 7 in almost a decade is being played in St. Louis after the craziest World Series game I have ever seen and I HAVE PLANS.

Not, “oh I can reschedule because I can do this some other time” kind of plans, either.  Once in a lifetime, seeing-Stevie-Wonder-in-semi-private-concert-at-the-Waldorf-Astoria-for-free plans.

Stupid Mother Nature.

So here’s what’s going to happen:  I’m going to SB’s for the first hour of the game, then running to the Waldorf Astoria (it’s a short walk) for the concert, while SB DVRs the innings I’m missing, then coming back and trying to catch up.  You are probably better off not texting or emailing me until the wee hours of Saturday morning, but I’m going to turn my phone off just in case.

Also I may be wearing a Halloween costume.  I bought it for a party a few years ago, a party that was also scheduled on the day a Game 7 might have been played, had one been necessary.  In 2006.

And What Does All That Mean?

I went back to work on Monday. Two weeks of ample sleep has, at least temporarily, restored my ability to get out of the house at 8:30.  With a full half hour to walk to work, I have time to stop for a coffee and/or donut and (more importantly) time to walk the extra block to Park Ave and take the northern leg of my commute along the edge of Central Park.  This morning I was running so far ahead that I turned into the park at 79th and wandered along the paths, marveling at grass that was actually still vibrant green in August and morning temperatures that felt refreshing instead of face-meltingly hot (spending your vacation in sun-scorched, drought-ridden Oklahoma will do wonders for your appreciation of NYC summers).  The iNot, which had been shuffling through the sunnier selections on my “5 Star Favorites” playlist, decided to change things up just as I turned into the park, and offered up “Being Alive” from Company.

Three facts you should know about the complicated mood in which I suddenly found myself:

This week marks my two-year anniversary with Sainted Boyfriend.

This week also marks the one-year anniversary of one of the roughest personal and professional periods of my entire adult life.

Three weeks ago, my grandmother died.

I thought about the day a year ago when, unable to sleep, I fled to the park at an even earlier hour of morning, trying to distract myself by watching the early dog walkers and their charges.  I thought about how SB has kept this entire summer afloat for me as the news from home got progressively worse and how much emptier my life would be without him in it.  I thought about my grandmother, who was never able to visit me in New York, but loved hearing about my city adventures.  The very last time I spoke to her, I told her about spending time at the city pool in my neighborhood; she would have enjoyed a story about a morning ramble in a verdant park.

I’ve been trying to write something longer, more specific, about my grandmother but I keep hitting walls.  It helps to write, to sort things out, but I’ve stopped fretting about its lack of writerly form; someday maybe I’ll have the distance to form something cohesive, or maybe it will always just be for my own memory.  I’m doing okay, for the most part.  And I have an anniversary to celebrate.

This morning I was in the park.  Dean Jones belted one last “Be-ing Aaa-Liive!” as I looked up through a break in the trees at the climbing sun.  I smiled, swallowed hard.  I walked to work.

How People Come to Attach Undue Importance to Batting Average

Sus came for a visit this past weekend, so Friday night she, SB and I went to CitiField for the Mets-Angels game. It turned out to be a beautiful night for baseball, despite the fact that in the process of getting from work to the game I got completely drenched by rain once, avoided a second soaking only because of a well-placed scaffolding, and nearly got my eye poked out by an oblivious idiot with a golf umbrella (who did not even pause in his stride after sideswiping both Sus and me hard enough that the bouncer at a nearby bar asked if we were all right). Anyway, I ended up alone in my seat for some time while SB and Sus went to fetch food from the Shake Shack stand beyond the outfield (though they ended up with Blue Smoke, because the Shake Shack line was ages long.  Citi Field isn’t even opening all of their regular concession stands at the moment, but the outfield area is thriving).

Not having anyone to talk to, I could not help overhearing the conversation in front of me, carried on by a father and his young daughter (maybe 7 or 8), who was clearly attending her first baseball game as a conscious spectator.  Even though she seemed most excited at the revelation that Kesha was in attendance, the little girl did try to follow what her dad was trying to teach her about the basic rules of the game, with amusing results. Some highlights:

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In Which I Am The Last Person On the Planet to Have an Opinion About Black Swan

One of my coworkers has been after me to see Black Swan for months now because she wanted my opinion on the dance double controversy. After finally getting around to watching it with SB this past week, I …kind of don’t see why it was such a big deal? The dance sequences in this movie are second only to Anne Bancroft’s in The Turning Point in terms of editing around the limitations of the actor, and none of the choreography we actually see is that difficult anyway.  During the famous fouette sequence in the Black Swan coda, shots of Portman never show her supporting foot and upper body at the same time, which makes me think she may have been doing most of them on half-pointe (and this wouldn’t have been the first ballet movie to splice together a string of fouette turns anyway, Center Stage). Portman clearly worked very hard and is completely believable doing what she’s asked to do, but she’s not really asked to do that much.  I can understand Sarah Lane being irked that her work was pretty much ignored, but one might have thought Portman was claiming to be firing off entire variations in a single take, when truthfully there’s no dance sequence in any part of the film that lasts longer than 30 seconds except for the barre exercise (during which no one dancer is a focus for more than 5 seconds at a time). Portman made me believe in Nina’s transcendent final performance almost solely with her eyes and body language, which is why the controversy is so beside the point in the first place.

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A Short Essay on Bedtime and Nostalgia

We’ve reached the point of springtime where I spend most of the day in a pollen induced fog, only to wake up after the sun goes down and the air quality improves.  As a result I’ve been going to bed later and later, which just makes me more sleepy during the day, and so on.  So I’m determined to be in bed before midnight tonight.

I think I may have helped myself with this goal by watching a few episodes of Cheers on Netflix.  I remember virtually none of the Shelly Long seasons; Thursday nights at our house in the 1980s meant we had to get ready for bed as soon as Family Ties was over.  In those pre-VCR days, however, my parents usually left the TV on as they supervised our tooth brushing and pajama finding.  We lived in a small house and the sound carried pretty well; I wasn’t usually paying enough attention to make out the dialogue, but I knew the title song and end credits music by heart.  Hearing it again tonight, I was back in that little house, kissing my father’s cheek with its whisper of stubble, feeling the nubby pile of the carpet under my feet as I walked up the hall, finally launching myself into my bed as the headboard’s cupboard doors admonished me with their rattling.  A general overall feeling of well-being and peace: it’s a nice place on which to end a Monday.

When Hill Street Blues and St. Elsewhere hit Netflix, I’ll have a similar reaction. What part of that reaction is based in pure nostalgia, and what part is the gentle pace of those three particular themes, I’m not sure.  I could see children in 2011 having a similar reaction to The Office theme, perhaps, but not the frantic pace of 30 Rock or the moody non-melody of something like Bones  or Fringe.  Then again, parents of 2011 probably just DVR all their TV shows and play them after the kids are in bed. I would advise those parents that, if you hang pictures in your hallway, your 10 year old may try to use the reflection in the glass to “watch” TV just out of your sight when she is supposed to be in bed. Watch out for that.

Dear Jim Nantz,

The fact that Jeremy Lamb’s dad as part of VCU, once beat a Calhoun coached team in the NCAA tournament is not in any way a “paradox.” I believe the word you are looking for is “coincidence.”

Also a coincidence: the fact that UConn and Butler played the first two rounds of this tournament at the same regional site and stayed in the same hotel.  You used “oddity” which is closer, but still makes me wonder if you have some sort of mental block against the word that literally means “the occurrence of events that happen at the same time by accident but seem to have some connection.”

That said, I am amused by how you and your announcing partners gave up pretending both these offenses didn’t suck tonight before the first half was even over.

Love (kinda),


P.S. Would you please consider letting Gus Johnson have your Final Four slot next year?  Just think — you could go down to Augusta early, and not be hoarse and half-deaf during the practice rounds.

P.P.S. Dog puns? Really?  You were going to use the same lines for the Butler Bulldogs, weren’t you?

A March Madness Post (Mostly) Devoid of Actual Game Commentary

Because my family has gotten so spread out geographically of late, I set up a private group on ESPN to run our annual bracket.  My parents are currently on vacation and not near a computer regularly, so this morning I had to pester them to send me their picks so I could set up brackets for them.  I can clearly remember being about 8 years old and Dad calling me while I was sleeping over at my grandmother’s house to get my picks. (Yes, my family has had its own NCAA bracket pool since I was 8. What?) I can’t decide whether I’m more amused by the role reversal or the fact that my dad sent his picks by text message, while my mom used the Gmail app on her phone.  I don’t think it’s even been a year yet since they got the Droids.

Continuing in the technology vein, how is it that CBS is lagging behind when it comes to making their regular shows available on the internet, but has such well-functioning and elaborate interfaces for live sports?  I don’t have that much bandwidth in my apartment, but with the new computer I’ve had very little problems watching any game I want.  I did notice that whoever designed CBS’s system this year made all the controls lock up every time they cut to commercial so you can’t just flip to another game every break — but since I’ve been watching two games at once all evening (one on the laptop and one on CBS on the TV) it’s not that bad of a trade off.

The only tiny complaint I have is that the live scoreboard that displays over the video if you watch the game on the web is actually live — which means if your video starts running behind (which mine occasionally did), the scoreboard can give away what’s about to happen. At the end of the Vanderbilt-Richmond game, I resorted to making the video full screen so I could hide the scoreboard, but I could only do that if I didn’t want to talk to Radio Brother or SB over GChat.  Still, it’s a very tiny complaint that is vastly outweighed by my delight in watching the cable channel games online with no restrictions — something I can’t do with ESPN3 or during the MLB playoffs.

Now, if you’ll excuse me Michigan State has pulled within 4 and I actually have an interesting game to watch.

Just In Time For …

A) Baseball Season

B) My Birthday

I followed a trail of links (I believe it started at Rob Neyer’s new SBNation blog) and discovered these lovely baseball scorebooks being designed and produced by a graphic designer named Bethany Heck.  I have long intended to purchase a scorebook at Modell’s or some place since the Mets and Yankees, unlike my beloved Cardinals, do not sell separate $3 scorecards and expect me to shell out upwards of $12 for a program just to get at the one sheet of paper I’m actually interested in.  Plus, how cool would it be to have all the baseball games you went to catalogued in a certain period of time in one place, like a little game diary?  I even like that they’re a bit smaller than average, since I’m usually taking mass transit to games these days. (Apparently a larger version is in the works.)

I want one of these so bad I’m not sure I can wait a week to see if I get one for my birthday. Of course, if I wound up with two, I guess I’d just have to go to more baseball games.

Orders are being taken through the project’s Kickstarter page, which is here.