Month: July 2004 (Page 1 of 2)

“That’s The Hugest Stomach I’ve Ever Seen!”

No one actually said that, but I thought the hostess at the Cheesecake Factory said that as we approached her desk last night. Fortunately, S. didn’t hear her at all and asked her to repeat herself. “That’s the cutest stomach I’ve ever seen, you should be pregnant all the time. I’ve had four and I never looked that good. This must be your first?” Thus began another unsolicited conversation between a random woman and my wife. I’ll take it in exchange for the lack of strangers coming up and touching her stomach. This is the third such encounter at the entrance of a restaurant, so there’s something odd about eateries and the desire to talk to pregnant women I guess. S. thanked the hostess, and I told her I say she looks good all the time but she doesn’t listen to me.
“That’s because all men lie.”
Whoa! Here’s an odd turn in the conversation.
“My husband told me the same thing and all he does is lie to me.”
Warning, tread carefully.
“Well, we’ve only been married a year, so don’t ruin it for me.”
“I’ve been married seven and my husband’s a liar.”
Great, could you like seat us, pronto so we don’t have to listen to you, crazy woman?
We were seated before any additional uncomfortable exchanges.

I’ve had a couple people ask me about the whole phone tree thing. All the planning I had done so far involved assuming I would phone a post into the blog as soon as I’m able after the Little Girlfriend arrives. If possible, I’ll audioblog the fact we’re at the hospital to begin with, but since these things can happen suddenly, I can’t guarantee anything. So keep your eyes on this space for first notification. Hopefully I’ll have a more exact plan in place for more personal communication in the next couple weeks.

 

Weird Way To Sell Out

I missed Lance Armstrong’s destruction of the Tour de France field today while I was at the dentist getting a filling. There’s not much cooler than catching a world-class racer who had a two-minute head start then beating him handily. The Legend of Lance grows.

While letting the Novocain take effect, though, I did see something very odd on the TV at the dentist’s office. I was staring at the ceiling during a commercial break and heard the most excellent “That Great Love Sound” by the most excellent Raveonettes. Why would such a great song be played on network TV during the Wayne Brady Show? Turns out the Scandinavian duo have sold the rights to their current alterna-hit to K-Mart of all people. I’m not sure how stellar indie rock that recalls the best days of The Jesus and Mary Chain has anything to do with highly discounted goods, but it did get my attention, so I guess it served the intended purpose.
While I hope this means a broader audience for the Raveonettes, more album sales, and greater concert attendance, I’m a little concerned with their choice of sponsorships. What happened to getting a Nike or Coke commercial? Or give Apple a call and do whatever it takes to get into the 4G iPod commercials for crying out loud. Perhaps being from Denmark, they don’t realize how low on the retail totem pole K-Mart falls. Conversely, perhaps this is Danish irony and I just don’t get it. Oh well. Using iTunes, MusicMatch, or whatever legal music service you use, I highly suggest checking out some of the R’s tunes.

By the way, worth noting that all our corporate e-mail and many of our internal applications have been fried for over 24 hours. Not sure if it was a massive hardware failure, the nasty virus that’s been going around, or a combination. I blame the insecurity of the Windows world regardless. Can you imagine, 24 hours without e-mail??? Thank goodness for home accounts!

 

Insomnia – Changes

Insomnia struck me again Monday night. We went to bed around 11:20, which when you factor in that I had been awake since 7:00 AM and had gone for a three mile run in the afternoon, should have been late enough for me to lay down and be comfortably asleep within 10-15 minutes. Not that night, though. Thoughts bounced through my mind, my mental stereo changed songs every few seconds, and I lacked the ability to relax (I generally know I won’t be sleeping anytime soon if my mind jumps among thoughts and background music like a caffeine fiend flipping a remote). So I came downstairs and half-typed a post that seemed to be going nowhere, then surfed for about an hour while I drank a stout to calm the system. It was roughly 2:00 before I was finally able to fall asleep.

Insomnia is nothing new to me; I’ve suffered from Sunday Insomnia my entire life. That’s what I call the lack of rest on Sunday nights after my sleep schedule has been altered over the previous two nights. The weird thing about that, though, is on Monday mornings I’m never tired. My body has stored up enough sleep and I can get away with 4-5 hours of sleep for one night. I’m one of the few people who wake up in a better mood on Monday morning than Friday (that should not be mistaken for some strange desire to get to work on Mondays). I’ve had periods of more extensive insomnia throughout my life as well but I’ve learned to embrace those spells: read books, watch some movies, find ways of using the extra time to my benefit and understand that after a few nights, I’ll wear down and get back into a regular routine.

What’s caused the current bout? Life changes are the most logical basis. Even though I’m quite excited about becoming a father, it’s going to be a massive life change. There’s lots of night before Christmas-type excitement involved, there’s also plenty of subconscious trepidation in there too. Monday night, though, I was kept awake by something a few of you know about that I can finally publicly reveal. My employer informed me, and everyone else in my position, in late June that our role was being eliminated. On the surface, that’s awful news. What a time to lose your job, right before you’re about to become a parent! For me, however, in many ways it’s a blessing. I have a month scheduled off in which I can spend lots of time working on my resume, sending it out, and networking. I can spend the time bonding with my daughter discovering what it is that’s really important to me as I carve out the next steps in my career path. Most importantly, after six and a half years with the same company, I was already feeling the itch to do something different.

Since it is, all things considered, a positive step, I’m not stressing about the change. I am, however, having a hard time determining how to plot my first steps. Some people are blessed with a gene that allows them think about their career three steps ahead of where they are today, leaving them prepared for the unexpected and building towards something greater. I tend to lose myself in what I’m doing, whether I enjoy it or not, and have a tough task at review time when I’m supposed to write down what my goals are. Now I’m forced into a situation where I have to examine my values, discover what pleases me, and create a new set of goals. It’s exciting, but a bit frustrating at the same time.

There is still a chance that I will remain with my current company. They are making an effort to place as many of us as possible in new positions (no doubt so they can avoid using the term “layoff” or “job cut backs” in an election year when a board member’s wife just happens to be running for office). I’ll be exploring those options over the next few weeks, but odds are favorable that I’ll either emerge from my paternity leave unemployed, or with a new job.

So what was I doing while battling insomnia and nerves Monday night? Examining websites of two local universities, doing some early research should my process lead me back to school. (There’s a blog poll: What should I study? Talk about fun for the loyal readers and the interlopers alike!!) I checked out websites of a couple retail stores that I enjoy making purchases at to see if there were career opportunities there. And being the geek I am, I examined used iBooks in case I do decide to continue my education and need a laptop to cart around!

Changes. Like last summer, I’m trying to pack as many large ones into as small a time frame as possible, although in this case one of them wasn’t totally planned by me. Is it any wonder I can’t sleep?

Note: I’m intentionally not mentioning my employer by name at this time. This news just began to be released publicly Tuesday, and I don’t to be responsible for clients to find it in an accidental Google search, nor do I want to disparage the company while I’m still receiving paychecks from them. Should anyone comment, I ask you to please refrain from using the name as well.

 

Monday Ramblings

Happy Monday to you all. Another week, another seven days closer to being a father. I had really reached the point where I was greatly excited about the whole thing and the elements of fear were disappearing. Then we had to invite a coworker of S. over for dinner last night. Jennifer and Jason are proud parents of a three-month-old boy. He’s a total cutie and was well behaved throughout the night. However, there were some issues with his delivery (no long-term issues for him) and his mother being a pediatrician felt obligated to share all sorts of fun details. Funny thing about being married to a physician: they tend to think you want to hear all kinds of medical details. I think it’s part of the Hippocratic Oath, to be honest. “I promise to share complete details of all medical procedures with non-medical people, first in highly technical terms so they’re confused, then in plain language to build on the confusion with disgust and fear.” Or something like that. Anyway, I remain excited about our girl’s arrival, but some of the trepidation about the delivery process has returned. Remind me to pack a flask in my bag for the hospital.

We took a day trip to Bloomington Saturday and I used the occasion as a chance to explore some of my new photo sharing options. I’ll be providing a link to some of the pictures later today.

Friday night, S. was working, so I made a trip to Best Buy then decided to swing by the mall. It was still early, only 6:00 or so, and the mall I went to doesn’t have a theater attached, so I didn’t expect it to be overwhelmed with teenagers. It wasn’t packed, but there were still lots of upper high school and college aged kids cruising about, mostly girls. Here’s the thing: almost without exception, these young ladies were dressed like whores. I realize that may be harsh, but really, isn’t there a point where you’re showing too much skin if you’re not at a pool, in the privacy of your own living space, or “paying your way through law school” at the nearest go-go lounge? I’ll admit, the first 4-5 deeply tanned girls I saw in ridiculously short shorts, stomach baring/cleavage showing t-shirts, I didn’t really mind. But when I realized pretty much every girl in the mall was dressed that way, I started to get a little uncomfortable. I know trends are always changing, times are different, and I’m getting older, but what’s going on now is ridiculous. So I came home and drank to excess to forget that I’m complaining about attractive young women showing off their bodies (meaning I’m old) and the fact I’m about to have a daughter of my own. I’ll tell you right now, no daughter of mine…

I’ve been enjoying VH1’s latest series, I Love the 90s. For obvious reasons, this show hits closer to home than I Love the 70s or 80s. The 90s were our generation’s time to come of age, dominate pop culture, and make our voices heard. Thankfully, we did a few things right, but there’s still plenty to make fun of. Like the Macarena. I remember a female friend asking me if I had done the Macarena in the summer of ’96. I wasn’t sure if I was being propositioned, offered some new designer drug, or what. When I admitted my ignorance, she explained that the Macarena was this great new dance that was “soooooo much fun!” Soon I saw the Macarena in action and I wondered, “What’s so fun about that?” At least YMCA is campy. This was just dumb.
Some shout outs and put-downs for the VH1 crew. First, big props to Media Gadfly Mo Rocca for appearing in a beautiful, blue Rock Chalk Jayhawk t-shirt. I know of no formal connection between Mo and KU, so he probably just has exceptional taste. Either that or the KU alum that is a producer at VH1 slid a freebie over to him. Big thumbs down to Stuart Scott, as always. He’s an idiot. He must come cheap, that’s the only way I can explain his continuing appearances on VH1 programs.

While we’re on the subject of crappy ESPN announcers, Mike Tirico did a great job of making me not want to watch the British Open over the weekend. I first started to hate Tirico back in his late night Sportscenter days. I was neutral towards him until hockey season rolled around. Each night, when it was his turn to start the hockey highlights, without fail he would say, “Now for the night on frozen pond.” When he does golf now, he perpetually refers to the 18th hole as “the last”. Both are completely appropriate terms, why do they annoy me? Because they’re terms that should be used infrequently to mix things up, not at any and every opportunity to make it seem like you’re some great trove of hockey/golf knowledge. Use “the last” once per broadcast and it would be fine. But I heard him use it four times in 90 seconds Saturday. I had this image of Ian Baker Finch, Nick Price, and the other current and former golfers sharing the booth with Tirico rolling their eyes each time he used the term.
By the way, more Windows problems with the work laptop today while the Mac hums along happily. Be watching for pictures here later.

 

 

Down With Martha, Up With Lance

A fine start to Friday with Martha Stewart getting prison time and Lance Armstrong making a big statement in the mountains of France. I don’t really care much either way about Martha, but I’d much rather hear her give a defiant speech against an adverse ruling than hear her gloat if she had got her way. Meanwhile, Lance gained back nearly half of the time he trailed the overall leader of the Tour de France by, jumping to second place overall, and left several of his prime rivals well behind him in another classic Armstrong climb.

I owe Billy Belford credit for sharing the Brushback link I posted earlier in the week. He forwarded the “story” about the sick child wanting Barry Bonds to get kicked in the nads to me.

One of the things I hate about getting older is how language changes. I’m not talking about slang, which you’re pretty much locked into repeating what your age group said when they were 26. I’m talking about everyday identifiers that change. Example: I’ve never been a big flip-flop sandal guy. Part of it comes from having gnarled toes after years of abuse through running and basketball. Also contributing was the lifetime contract I signed with Nike many years ago. I enjoy rocking sneaks rather than sandals. Working from home, however, caused a change of heart last year, and I’ve become quite fond of padding around the house to the gentle slap-slap of my Teva flip-flops. Where I run into problems, though, is in what to call them. I last regularly wore flip-flops when I was about five years old. At the time, they were called thongs more often than flip-flops. For whatever reason, my mind is having an extremely hard time with the change of terms and I often tell people I’ve really enjoyed wearing my thongs. Only when they give me a funny look do I correct myself. Remind me to never again start doing something I haven’t done for 20 years again in case of future changes in language that cause me embarrassment.

As many of you know, I’m in a career-planning phase. I’ll say more about it publicly once official word comes down from the powers that be, but suffice it to say that I’m in a mode of thinking about what the next stage of my career should entail. I was playing around on monster.com yesterday and ran across some of those quizzes that ask a series of questions, and then offer a generic industry that your personality, values, and work ethic seem predisposed to. First, I hate these things because they are so generic. Second, they offer a paragraph synopsis of what my ideal field is, then say if I want more information, I need to pay them some money. In one case, it was only $19.00, which I’m sure was for a general career guide with a page added showing my test results. Another, however, asked me to drop nearly $400 on a complete career assessment that included live, professional assistance. Why don’t they tell me this up front? I really should know better, I guess. Oh, one test told me I was analytical and another said I was best suited for a career in writing/journalism. I needed a test to tell me that?

Most of you should have received a message from my new .mac e-mail account earlier this week. That made me think, how many e-mail addresses have I had in my life? Allowing for the fact I first got on-line in the fall of 1994 (Yes, a full retrospective of my connected life will be issued to mark the occasion), and I spent several years on AOL, where you can add/change/delete accounts as easy as breathing, it’s really quite a daunting task. However, a quick jog of the memory puts me between in the range of 15 accounts. Really quite ridiculous, and totally indicative of the fact I was looking at things for most of the 90s I really don’t want my wife and daughter to know about. Breakdown is something like this:
Work accounts: 1
Free Internet services (Yahoo, Hotmail, etc): ~3
Non-AOL ISPs (RoadRunner, .Mac, Mindspring, etc): ~5
AOL: >5
I can always tell our tech department my work account is getting swamped with SPAM and they can issue a new one to me there.

I’ve got thoughts on the Shaquille O’Neal trade and the Pacers acquiring Stephen Jackson I’ll share later.

 

All-Star Game

A quick confession. Despite moving to the Mac, I’m still using Microsoft Word to type up my posts. Apple Works just isn’t fun to use, plus this way I can shoot files back and forth between my laptop and the eMac. Just so you know. I feel better now.

I watched very little of the All-Star game last night. By the time we got home from our belated anniversary dinner, it was already 3-0 AL and we were focused on getting our infant car seat bases installed in both of our vehicles. But the All-Star game really doesn’t mean to me what it used to. A year ago, we watched a few innings from St. Lucia before the sun fatigue and wine from dinner knocked us out. I watched much of the tie two years ago from a hotel in Colorado Springs. Other than that, the games of the past ten years are kind of a blur.

That’s quite sad, since like most young baseball fans, the All-Star game was always a highlight of the summer when I was growing up. My first gambling experience was the nickel I put on the AL against my uncle in 1979. While everyone else was in awe of Dave Parker’s epic throw from the right field wall to save the game, I sat in a corner and pouted about dropping five valuable cents. Back then, not only were the Royals good, but they routinely sent 3-4 players to the game. George Brett and Frank White were givens. Willie Wilson often went along with a pitcher or two. I still generally want the American League to win, but it’s out of tradition rather than any real preference for the players on that side. Another fun thing about the All-Star game was seeing what players would sport white shoes for the occasion. For some reason, when I was playing ball, I insisted that white shoes were the way to go. I always thought it was super cool when Frank White would take the field in his baby blue Royals uniform and some bright, white spikes. I noticed at least Alex Rodriguez was rocking white shoes last night as well. Of course, he probably did it more out of marketing than as a celebration of the freedom of the venue.

Probably 70% of the changes in my feelings towards the game can be attributed to changes in my life. I’m older and have less time to spend anticipating a single sporting event, fewer free hours to sit and watch what is supposed to be an exhibition for three plus hours. Basketball long ago became my favorite sport, although there’s still a primal draw back to baseball. My boycott of the game after the 1994 strike put a two-year hole in my baseball knowledge base, and in many ways I’ve never recovered from that. I can’t read box scores or follow the standings the way I could just ten years ago. The stupidity of the game’s management structure that I’ve documented elsewhere is more fuel to the fire. Most of all, summer is no longer a time period that’s unique in my day-to-day life. The All-Star game served as a midway milestone when you had three months to do whatever you wanted between academic years. The event was a chance to catch your breath from the first six weeks of summer, and evaluate what still needed to be done before the back to school rush. “Let’s see, I need to reorganize my baseball cards by standings, go to the pool four times a week instead of three, make sure my bike is nice and shiny, and continue to try to memorize the Pac-Man patterns.” Today, I work the day before the game, the day of the game, and the day after the game. It’s just another summer night, albeit one on which you can avoid bad reruns (sadly, we still watched Law & Order for awhile).

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the meaning of sports in my life and how that will pass onto my kids. I hope my kids share my love for sports in general, and would be thrilled if they spend hours with daddy in the basement all winter watching basketball. But I keep coming back to the idea that there’s something special about a dad and his kids at a baseball game. The relaxed nature of being at the ballpark. The gentle rhythm of the game. The ability to explain what just happened to young ones struggling to grasp new concepts. It bums me out that I won’t have anything approaching the passion I had for the sport when I was a kid when it’s time to start that education process with my kids.

By the way, I’ve not read the paper, ESPN, etc yet. Is anyone wondering aloud if Roger Clemons served up all that slop so A) his old buddies in New York get the home field in the World Series or B) if he’s traded back to the Yankees, Boston, or some other AL contender and he’s actually playing in October, his team can have games six and seven at home instead of Houston’s rivals the Cardinals and Cubs? Can I go ahead and start that rumor if it’s not already out there?

 

I’m A Switcher

“You’re a what?” you probably ask. I’m a Switcher, which is what Apple calls people that shun the Windows world for a Macintosh. Our beautiful little eMac arrived yesterday morning. The computer Gods must have been watching, because the Dell laptop that I use for work promptly got ravaged by a virus/spyware that no one could figure out how to fix. I spent literally all day yesterday, and most of this morning, on the phone with our tech support people, or sitting watching my screen as someone in K.C. took control of the device and tried to remove the offending files. Meanwhile, my Mac sat quietly on the other side of my desk, happily cranking away at multiple applications without crashing, locking up, or doing any of the other fun things our old HP did. I’ll bore you with more Mac evangelism later; it is a cult, you know; but I feel obligated to point out regular reader E-bro in NoCal makes his living relying on the world to purchase computers with Intel processors. I’ll be happy to discuss, in great depth, the joys of the Mac world with anyone interested in switching, but keep in mind you’re helping a friend if you yield to societal pressures and stick with Windows.

Will everything that was going on last week, I somehow missed the Carlos Beltran All-Star controversy completely. Thankfully, Major League Baseball was given an out to cover their asses and wisely added Carlos to the National League roster. I could have been misinformed, but it was my understanding that despite being voted into the game for the American League by the fans, his recent trade to Houston meant that Carlos could not compete in this week’s events. He could show up and call himself an All-Star, but he couldn’t actually suit up. Was anyone really surprised by this rule? Coming from the same people who decided to let the teams play to a tie two years ago, and last season made home field advantage in the World Series dependent on the winner of the game, a rule as dumb as this seemed about right. Thank goodness it was corrected. What if the Astros had traded Carlos to Boston or New York this week, though? What then, Mr. Selig???

Another thing lost in the shuffle was the whole Maria Sharapova thing. Wow! She just worked Serena over last Saturday in the Wimbledon final. Finally, the white, heterosexual male’s perfect tennis player: hot, smart, funny, and talent on top of it all. (For the record, I’ve always been down with Serena’s looks; I don’t like to fence myself in.) In a semi-related note, columnists in the Midwest who will have to write about Kansas basketball over the next four years, were already beginning their columns comparing Alexander Kaun to Sharapova. “Like Maria Sharapova, who was born in Siberia, moved to Florida with little money and less English for the chance to play a game in the United States…” It’s going to happen, I guarantee it.

So the wife’s stomach is getting really, really big. Noticeably bigger over the past week, in fact. This poor girl was sticking out in so many different directions last night that S’s stomach looked like a misshapen pumpkin: smooth angles here, right angles there. As an added bonus, neither of us can sleep all the way through the night now. S. wakes for obvious reasons. I have no idea why four nights in a row I’ve woken just after 1:00 feeling like it’s 7:00 and spend the next 60-90 minutes either tossing and turning or down on the couch reading.

One of the best things about being a prospective parent is shopping for baby clothes. Not for the process itself, but more because you get to say funny things. For example, anytime we see clothes, mobiles, anything baby-related with a monkey on it, we say, “Haven’t you always wanted a monkey?” How is that not fun?

Something I forgot to mention in my mini book review Sunday was the fact the copy of The Sweet Forever I read was a signed copy by the author. Now why the Carmel-Clay public library needs signed copies of George Pelecanos novels is beyond me. I just hope my tax dollars aren’t being wasted here.

Do yourself a favor and check out the Snow Patrol song “Spitting Games”. Pure pop brilliance. I can’t get the freaking thing out of my head.

To close, I was pretty much sitting staring out the window yesterday morning waiting for the FedEx truck to show up with my Mac. Finally, just after 9:00 AM, it pulls around the corner, and a young guy pops the box on his shoulder and makes his way to our door. I greet him before he can get to the bell and show him in. He sets the box down and says, “This is a beautiful house, man.” I don’t know if he was just a really nice guy, or if he gets paid off by Apple to make the customer experience rewarding from the moment the machine arrives at your door. It was a nice touch, though.

 

Arts Sunday

Hey, a rare Sunday post! Partially out of anticipation of a rather busy Monday ahead of me, and also to mirror the major papers of the world that have arts related features in their Sunday editions. In this post, a quick review of Anchorman as well as some thoughts prompted by my latest Zen entry.

Friday night, we braved the opening night crowds to catch Anchorman. We bought our tickets 90 minutes early and after fine Mexican cuisine at Qdoba, claimed seats a full 20 minutes before start time, just beating the rush. Not a single interesting preview. Seriously, I’m at a loss to remember anything I saw. As for the movie itself, 90+ minutes of sheer nonsense. Utter idiocy. Fortunately, that’s what I expected so there’s no disappointment there. The movie really does feel like a series of SNL skits more than a whole piece. That’s ok, because the smaller sections mostly work well on their own. It’s loaded with over-the-top scenes, but Will Ferrell is made perfectly for those situations. His humor often projects best when he’s just on the edge of totally losing it. I was laughing from the opening credits; it took the rest of the audience a bit longer to warm up, but the “I love scotch. Scotchy, scotchy, scotch. Scotch in my belly” was clearly a line made for me. The supporting performances are excellent, the many cameos are well placed, but come on; it’s all about the Will. I don’t think Anchorman is quite as good as Old School, or as charming as Elf. But in the summer, in the midst of all the other crap at your local multiplex, it’s the rare stupid movie that’s worth the $8.75 (or whatever you pay). I’ll eagerly anticipate the DVD this fall so I can go back and digest details I didn’t pick up in the first viewing, as well as what have to be classic outtakes.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who started laughing as soon as Vince Vaughn got on the screen.

Also worth noting, some jackass drove his Ferrari to the theater. We parked next to it when we bought our tickets, and had to navigate a crowd of preteen boys who were salivating over it. What kind of ego does it take to park your quarter million dollar car in a movie theater parking lot? Or total lack of intelligence, perhaps. I don’t know, you tell me.

Another pre-movie note, after dinner we walked from Qdoba down to Old Navy. Along the way, the Muzak caught my ear. It sounded familiar, but not quite right. When it got to the chorus, I confirmed they were indeed playing Morrissey’s “Everyday Is Like Sunday”. Now I know Morrissey is experiencing quite the revival thanks to his latest, highly praised album, and most excellent single “Irish Blood, English Heart”. But I couldn’t help but wonder if some of his early solo work was appropriate for a cheery, suburban shopping center. For those not familiar with his classic mopefest, the second verse goes as follows:
“Hide on the promenade/Etch on a postcard:/”How I dearly wish I was not here.”/In this seaside town/That they forgot to bomb/Come, come, come, nuclear bomb.” Yes, that makes me want to spend money! In Muzak’s defense, they did up the tempo and attempt to make it sound much happier than the original. But anyone who knows the song couldn’t help but think of cold, dark, damp Sundays in the UK. Maybe it was a plant by the anti-development lobby trying to drive people away from the suburban shopping centers? Hmmm, worth further investigation.

Moving along, I read George Pelecanos’ The Sweet Forever over the past week. His work had been recommended to me by a Mr. D. Smith and this was my first attempt to digest one of his novels. It’s a fine example of the modern crime novel, but is probably a better example of an author painting a scene by using music and events of an era. Taking place in Washington, DC in the spring of 1986, there are references to the music of RUN-DMC, Kurtis Blow, Experience Unlimited, The Replacements, the Psychedelic Furs, and The Jesus & Mary Chain along with games in that year’s NCAA tournament. What was most striking to me, though, was the strong presence of then Maryland star Len Bias. Throughout the book, drug dealers, drug addicts, and people trying to live in their midst stop what they’re doing to watch the local hero lead Maryland in the tournament. The book ends with an addict waking up in a post-binge fog, blowing a cocaine ravaged nose into a bloody Kleenex, and thinking that it’s time he made a change in his life. On a street corner, he sees a friend watching a TV, viewing images of Len Bias, with tears in his eyes. Pelecanos leaves it at that, but anyone who was a basketball fan in 1986 remembers the significance of June 19 that year.

I was sitting in my room that morning, having just watched The Price is Right. It was a warm, humid day, or at least that’s how I remember it. I was probably debating whether to go ride my bike, go shoot some hoops, practice some chipping in the backyard, or just continue to lie on the floor and stare at the TV. I was turning 15 the next day and probably already counting down the days until I could get my drivers license. Douglas Edwards came on to do the CBS newsbreak just before 11:00. He said something about Len Bias dieing of a drug overdose. What?!?! It was true; the man who had been chosen with the second pick in the NBA Draft by the World Champion Boston Celtics only two days earlier was dead. I remember just laying there and staring at the ceiling for the longest time.

Len Bias was going to be the next Michael Jordan. Hell, at that point, we didn’t know how good Jordan was going to be and many thought Bias would be better than Jordan. He came at the very end of an innocent time in college sports. College basketball was just beginning to saturate the cable waves in the winter. While Jordan spent his second NBA year healing his broken foot, two or three times a week the highlight shows were full of Bias’ latest doings. He really seemed like he could do anything on the court. Go inside and destroy people. Hit from the outside. Blow by people and take it to the rack. I’ll never forget the look of sheer joy on his face after he led the Terrapins to a win against North Carolina in the Dean Dome. Even he was in awe of what he had done that night. If you were 15 and still believed in athletes being heroes, he shone as brightly as almost anyone that winter. And then he was gone, with so much more in front of him. The early reports suggested he had used cocaine for the first time in his life at a post-draft party. I quickly made a vow that I would never, ever use any drugs, because I didn’t want what happened to Len Bias to happen to me. Almost 20 years later, other than a nasty caffeine habit and a nightly beer or scotch, it’s a vow I’ve stuck to.

Great books don’t just tell great stories, but they connect with you. The Sweet Forever may not be The Great American Novel, but it absolutely connected with me.

 

 

Little Pink Houses

Slow day, so I’m sitting here listening to the audio feed of OLN’s Tour de France coverage. Not all that dynamic. “The wind is really playing havoc with the race right now.” That doesn’t paint much of a picture for me. Much like my attempts to listen to the BBC’s Euro ’04 coverage a couple weeks back, anytime there’s real action, the feed breaks and goes into Buffering mode. Delicious.
We stopped into Babies R Us briefly last night, and it’s the first time I’ve been there and not heard a Kenny Loggins song. I swear, last time we were in there, when we were putting our registry into the system, I heard two different Loggins songs in 45 minutes. And it’s not like they were the good songs, like “I’m All Right” or “Danger Zone”. It was that pappy sappy crap from the late 70s. I don’t expect cutting edge music at a store that caters to the parents of babies. You can’t go blasting out the latest modern rock hits while newborns are already slobbering on themselves. But a little less Loggins wouldn’t hurt anyone.
In response to Stacey’s query yesterday, the beer she was so enamored with is Sam Adams’ Summer Ale. It’s a similar brew to Boulevard’s Zon, so that’s worth checking out too. When I offered her a Summer Ale, she had reached the ideal state of inebriation: the state where everything is fantastic, like you’re four years old and it’s Christmas morning. “This beer has everything I like. If I had to pick a beer for me, this would be it,” stated Stace. Damn, we have yet to purchase a camcorder, otherwise I could have taped her heart felt testimonial and got us some free beer or something.
As for the chickens, she told the story well. We were watching this crazy beagle that had just raced across a busy street to tear across the Hebert estate, when Stace said, “Are those chickens over there?” What she said didn’t register at first, since why would there be chickens in the suburbs, right? She said it again a few moments later, and I looked up to try to see what she was talking about. All I could see were yards, shrubbery, and trees. No chickens. No other wildlife that could be confused with chickens. “How many has she had today?” I wondered. Five minutes later, I glance across the road and there are six or seven chickens wandering around. So much for my attempts to convince you I live in swanky, modern suburbs. We’ve got a corn field across the road from our neighborhood and chickens running freely through major thoroughfares. Ain’t that America?

 

Weekend Roundup

Thanks to some Blogger downtime on Tuesday, an extra day off for the blog. It was an exciting holiday weekend in the Blog household, though. As mentioned Friday, the Johnson County Belfords paid us a visit. I’m afraid our fast paced lifestyle wore them down quickly, but they were troopers to stick to our rigorous schedule. Friday evening, we took them to the wife’s favorite pizza place, Bazbeaux’s in Broad Ripple. While dining under the stars, Pacers coach Rick Carlisle strode past us to pick up some carry out. It’s always a little frustrating to me to see former professional athletes who are not physically imposing. I imagine Carlisle had more talent than I could ever have hoped to posses, but his legs were near mirrors of the twigs I bump around town on. Very disappointing.
Saturday, we went to Bub’s, which is short for Big Ugly Burger, here in Carmel. If you eat the full pound (after cooking) burger, you get your picture on the wall. No one was man, or woman, enough to attempt more than the half pounder. But I was encouraged by the ease at which I threw that and about 2/3 of a basket of onion rings down. The next time I run a weekend race, I may have to give the true Big Ugly a shot. While dining, we were accosted by a waitress who is a student at K-State and no doubt spit in my Diet Coke, and later by a fellow KU alum that was sporting a Trolley Run shirt. Seeing my Kansas shirt, he came over and asked, “Do you go to KU?” I know I look young, but come on! Or perhaps my reputation for an extended academic career had preceded me. Anyway, I’ve now been to Bub’s three times, and on two occasions run into people from Kansas City. Weird.
That evening, we continued our run of eating out with a trip to Yat’s, a local Cajun eatery. I threw down a combo plate of red beans & sausage and their famous chili cheese etoufee. Excellent stuff! Following dinner, we retired to the Rathskeller for German styled beverages and conversation with friends. Rain squalls drove us in from the beer garden, but I enjoyed finally experiencing this downtown Indy landmark. First time I’ve been drunk in awhile, which is fun.
Sunday was the H family day to shine (it should be noted they accompanied us throughout the weekend). We used their backyard for lawn games including whiffle ball, whiffle golf, and bocce. John added to his reputation as a smoking savant by providing us with smoked chicken wings, followed by pork shoulder. I tried out a new recipe for barbecue baked beans which seemed to go over well.
Finally, on Monday, we ate lunch at Plump’s Last Shot, named after the player who Jimmy Chitwood’s character in Hoosiers was patterned after. Believe it or not, I had my first breaded pork tenderloin sandwich since moving to Indy. It was good, but I’m told there are places around town with much better offerings.
So it was an eventful weekend, from a food and beverage standpoint. I shudder to think what my total caloric intake was, though.

I consider myself to be in fairly good shape. I run 3-4 times a week, enough to go out and run a race in 8:30/mile pace. I’ve been going to the gym twice a week for months. Yet somehow my meager attempts to play whiffle ball just destroyed my hamstrings and glutes. I was still sore Tuesday morning and all we did was pitch and hit. There was no running involved.

We missed the cicada infestation of May-June but are finally getting some of the smaller broods in our woods. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: nothing says summer like the sound of cicadas on a warm evening.

I discovered last week if you squirt a squirrel on your bird feeder in just the right way with your Super Soaker, they scream. It’s fun. I nearly made one fall Tuesday. Some of the squirrels are smart and leap to safety as soon as I approach the door. But others wait far too long and get a good soaking, only to return in a couple minutes. Tuesday afternoon, after chasing a squirrel away, I watched some Carolina Chickadees float in to eat. Three Cardinals were eyeing me suspiciously from some low branches. And I could hear the House Finches I saw for the first time earlier in the day chatting in the leaves. While taking it all in, I looked up and saw the offending squirrel lying out on a branch, its front paws hanging below it, stomach resting on the limb, just staring at me. I blasted the hell out of that little varmint!

T-minus two days until Anchorman hits the big screens. I’ve already read one three star review on a reputable movie web site. I read somewhere last week that Will Ferrell has ten movies in some stage of production, including Anchorman. If Ferrell hadn’t called him an idiot in 2000, George W. Bush should really have thought about using the fact there are so many Ferrell movies as a sign the country is in better shape now than it was when he took office. That little tidbit just might get his approval ratings back up over 50% again. I recommend finding the Ron Burgundy audition for ESPN. I caught it on ESPNews last night. I’m sure it will be featured prominently on every ESPN program over the next three days.

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