22 July 2009

Baseball Tour, Part One

Note: The pictures from the blog: SF and Oakland are from our seats, Petco is from the hotel room.

I am in San Diego right now, and this is one of the most amazing towns in America. It reminds me a fair amount of San Francisco, with all the b
ridges, the Bay and the rolling fog in the mornings, but the fog burns off faster and it' s warmer. I'm staying in a part of town called the Gaslamp District, and apparently, this is where the movers and shakers come to fully enjoy San Diego. All of this is interesting to me, but not as interesting as getting to go to Petco Park tomorrow with my girlfriend. The baseball park tour was her idea, which is only a small snapshot why she's the best. And to think she was concerned it wouldn't be appreciated as a gift, she really wasn't sure how I would receive it.

This is the best gift ever.

The tour starts in San Francisco on the 4th of July, where we get to sit in a box at AT&T Park, which is an experience in and of itself. The parts of the ballpark the average guy can't get into, well, all I can say is, they're really nice. The guy on the Miller High Life commercials makes fun of the people in the Box, insinuating they don't follow the game, and it would be really possible to do so. But every real fan should, once in their lives, pool some loot together with some friends (i think it takes about 12) and get a box at the game. I got to see Tim Lincecum, the All-Star game starter, the reigning Cy Young award winner, pitch a gem of a baseball game against the Houston Astros. For those of you that have not had a chance to see a game at AT&T anywhere in the park (don't get it twisted, I've watched games from the nosebleed seats, from the field level, as well as been a bleacher bum, so i don't discriminate, it's all baseball, so it's all good), you definitely should do so. I've been to a few of the new stadiums, and AT&T rivals any of them, with the backdrop against the bay, as opposed to a downtown setting.

The next ballpark we went to was the Oakland Colis
eum, a place I have seen probably 40-50 games over the course of my life, but this was particularly special, as I got to watch my favorite team play, the Minnesota Twins. Our seats were amazing, first row along the first base (my visiting Twins) side. I got to take some cool pictures of some of the players, and I got a chance to see the best hitter in the American League, the 1997 American League MVP, and a game with 39 hits, two grand slams, and a play at the plate to decide the game that may be the spur to get instant replay for plays on the bases in addition to home runs. My team lost, playing one of the worst games I'd seen them play in almost a decade, giving up a 12-2 lead from the 3rd inning to the 7th inning, made three fielding mistakes that couldn't be classified as errors, and even though he was safe at the plate, there's no reason to send Cuddyar to the plate from second on a passed ball- maybe you send Gomez (who was on first, pinch running, so we had speed for the winning run but not for the lead runner), maybe you send Denard Span, if you send anyone at all (I probably make Young succeed or fail, and I think it's easier for that run to score with runners on 2nd and 3rd with two outs, but that may be why I was watching in the park) . Even with my team trying to punch my experience in the junk, it was still an incredible experience, the tickets were amazing, and even though my team lost, I don't dislike the A's, and would root for them if they weren't playing us.

Next, we left from the Bay Area to come down to San Di
ego, relax a little and see the San Diego Padres play on Wednesday at Petco Park. I've never been inside the park, and I imagine I will have more to say about the park after I've been inside. But I can speak about the park a little now, as I am looking into the park as I type this, as our hotel room is overlooking the park and has a waterfront view of San Diego Bay. The ballpark, from the outside and from the air (the bar at the hotel allows you to watch the games in a Wrigley Field roof type of thing) is amazing, in line with many of the new stadiums. More importantly to me, it's just another ballpark I can check off of the new baseball tour (I started one with my dad, and he died before we could get to all the parks, so when I started the new tour, I decided to start the slate clean, and start at zero ballparks). This just means I have to go to the new ballpark they'll build in Minnesota because I won't have the chance to see a game there before they close the Metrodome, as well as old Shea and old Yankee Stadiums don't count, which is awesome, as I'll get to see the new spots, even if it takes awhile. Once again, I digress...

...once we are done in San Diego, we will drive up to Los Angeles, and have a relaxing day in LA. On Friday, we go to Chavez Ravine to Dodgers Stadium, to watch the hated Dodgers play at home against the Florida Marlins. This also gives me a chance to see one of the best young players in the majors, Marlin shortstop Hanley Ramirez, and this kid is amazing. A true 5 skill athelete, and I have been to Chavez before, and if you can forget that it used to be a predominately minority neighborhood before they tore it down for a baseball stadium, it's an insanely nice place to watch a game. Getting to hear Vin Scully call a baseball game is one of the best things in the world, and I'm even considering picking up an AM radio so I can listen to Vin. It was one of the pleasures of living in Santa Barbara for college was getting to pick up Dodger games on the radio, and this is from someone that doesn't even like the Dodgers, but does appreciate a great play-by-play guy...

...on Saturday, it's Anaheim to watch the California Angels, um the Anaheim Angels, um, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim play against my Minnesota Twins. In Oakland, it's a little different- there's no real animosity between the teams. In fact, the Twins-A's thing is much more of a love fest, with both teams seeing a little of themselves in the other team. Both teams have had to sell off mad talent to stay afloat, both team have made excellent decisions in the front office, being on the winning side of a variety of deals (the A's traded away Mulder, and I don't think Mulder has five wins since the deal, where Danny Haren (the main component in the deal) won a substantial amount for the A's and was traded for a truckload of Arizona Diamondback talent, and we all know of the fleecing of the century, the Giants traded Boof Bonser, Francisco Liriano, and Joe Nathan for a catcher we had no need for, as we had Joe Mauer in the wings), and both teams are consider small market teams, even though Oakland is in the 4th largest market in America. This is not a concern with the Angels, who have in the last few years with Arte Moreno as the GM, have moved into the Red Sox-Yankee area for free agency spending, and if you're from a small market team, there's nothing you hate more than those free spending MF's that just try to buy a World Series. So I'll be in my Twins Road Pinstripes, rooting for my team more vigerously than in Monday's game. After four games in 6 days, it'll be homeward bound, knowing that baseball will be in my dreams and in my heart, and that my girlfriend had the idea and wanted to make it happen, so he did.

This is the best gift ever.

21 July 2009

Why I write...

Once again, it's been a couple of days since I've sat down at the computer to write. I have been a little busy, as I have started the baseball tour that is the gift of my girlfriend, and a better gift, i couldn't imagine. Baseball was something that I did with my dad growing up, so it's something that is dear to my heart. It's the reason I haven't gone to baseball games with most of my friends, because even though they are friends, baseball games are a little different, and they hold a little weight. It's not that I couldn't enjoy a Giants game with my peeps, but I would be carrying a little extra baggage, baggage that may affect how I veiw the game and the experience surrounding it, possibly making an uncomfortable situation for all involved. Going to baseball games with my girlfriend is going to baseball games with family, and that makes me happy. It means something I enjoy that I assumed would die with my dad gets to live on, and I get to share it with the person I love most in the world.

However, this has nothing to do with why I didn't write.

I'm pretty sure the reason I haven't been writing has little to nothing to do with my activity, as there have been times, especially during the year, when I have five burners going and I still find slivers of time to write (i know it's not an issue, because I seem to be able to find to play poker, follow random websites, play video games, etc.). When I started writing this blog, I imagined it would be a place for me to tell some of the random stories I've heard or have happened to me over the course of my life, a place for me to rant about sports, and some discussions of politics and race, the things it seems encompass my life.

It did start that way, and at some point, it became more cathartic, more of a place for reflection and confession than I ever assumed it was, as I'm pretty much a close to the vest kind of guy- even people that I would consider my friends don't know very much about me (if I didn't think this kind of shit was retarded, I would create a "how well do you know Doug Dennis?" quiz on Facebook, but then all of my "friends" would make fun of me, and I would be the fodder for a toxicculture.com Facebook blasting post), so when I go back and read some of these posts (I don't read them as I write them, which is why the spelling is sometime suspect), I find myself in utter disbelief sometimes, asking myself first, if I actually wrote some of these things, and secondly, why i would think anyone reading this would care either way about the stuff I care about writing about. More importantly, I wondered why I was writing about the things I was writing about, what was leading me to expose parts of myself I was unwilling to expose before...

...the only answer I can come up with is pretty straight forward, and it seems to jive pretty well with my personality, generally. I write what I write because, I feel like it. It is a blog, and in general, people can make their choices on what pages they read (it's the reason NAMBLA has a website, if you don't know what NAMBLA stands for, it's probably for the better, but you should Google it, but not from your own computer), and if people read my blog and aren't feeling my discussion of the Holy Cross mission and faith, or discussions about me missing my mother, hell, if you're not feeling R to the MF H, then feel free to surf other blogs and websites. I'm not really writing this for anyone else. I'm writing it becasue I feel like writing it, and that means sometimes, there will be topics you're not feeling. on those days, feel free to not read it. It occured to me that I enjoy writing this most when I don't even think about what someone would think if i wrote that, or why would anyone care about that, a but instead just sit down, look at the blank screen, and just write...

...but that does mean sometimes I write about things that are draining to me, reflecting on my mother is helpful, as I feel better at the end, but it's more disclosure than is the norm for me, which means it's much harder for me to pick up and write the next day, because for me, the discloure is exhausting, and sometimes I just don't have the energy to get it done, so I instead sit around and watch TV and/or play video games, essentially replenishing myself....so if there happens to be some lag between posts, just assume I'm refueling from something draining. But if it makes you feel better to assume I was just watching NCIS, then so be it....

18 July 2009

It doesn't have to be Mothers Day to miss your mom...

I miss my mom. Not for any particular reason- it's not her birthday, or Mother's Day. It's just Saturday morning, close to 1:30am, and I miss my mother. This is one of those things in life that just sucks, as there is no way, no real means of resolution. It's not the first time it's happened, I mean, she's been dead for some time now, but it is the first time I've ever really written about it. And the spur seems to me to be kind of random- my dad's mother just had double bypass surgery, and made it through the surgery with flying colors (I should preface this with my belief that if there's any type of heart surgery that you're not dead at the end, you've made it through with flying colors), only to die of pneumonia a couple of moments ago, and her death got me thinking about death, and about life. But her death caused me to start thinking about my own mother (i guess it's wierd for me to think about, as my mother and my dad's mother, hated each other- in that Minnesota/Green Bay, SF Giants/LA Dodgers, Dallas Cowboys/Washington Redskins kind of way). But when I start thinking about my mother, it makes me feel the need to let people get to know a little about the woman that helped make me the man I am today...

...my mother was the person that got me into Speech and Debate. I tell my students this the first day of class, and I think it helps them understand a little about me, but more about the act of talking in public. My parents thought, in my youth, that I didn't talk enough. Apparently, the reports from school indicated that I was pretty bright, but I had what my teachers called "an irrational fear" of talking in front of people. It still exists today, as anyone that has seen me in a large group of people I don't know- I do a pretty good Ralph Ellison. That being said, my parents knew that doing speech would require me to have to stand up in front of people and speak, which would obviously resolve my fear (to me, this seems like finding out your kid is afraid of heights, taking him some place really high and leaving them there to find their own way down- effective until someone falls to their injury and/or death). They asked me if I wanted to join Speech, and I said no....and we continued this for about three weeks, until my mother just asked:

"what's it going to take to get you to join? We think you'll like it, but we know you need it. How about I give you $1000 if you join the team, compete and stay all year. At the end of the year, if you don't like it, feel free to quit. This is a no-lose situation for you..."

she was right, this was the definition of a no-lose situation for me. All I had to do was go to a couple of meetings, attend a couple of tournaments, and at the end of the year, $1000 of cold, hard cash would be mine. This would be a good deal now, but in 1984, when I was a freshman, this was an enormous amount of money, large enough to get me to do something I would not have had the courage and/or desire to do. In short, my mother bribed me to join Speech and Debate. Inevitably, it worked. When my mother was on her death bed, and I had just made the decision to stay in debate after I graduated from college, I asked why she essentially bribed me to join. Her answer was simple- you needed it, you'd like it, and I knew you'd never do it if I didn't offer an incentive. She then went on to remind me of a story when I was little in a restaurant someplace in New England, and I was really skeptical on this white soup she was asking me to eat (up to this time, the only soups I'd ever eaten were clear broth soups, and I didn't have any idea what a chowder was, and i knew I wouldn't like clams). That bribe apparently only cost her a quarter, but I can say that Clam Chowder (pronounced chow-dah!) is one of my favorite foods in the world, one I'm willing to just fight through a lactose intolerance issue. When I was younger, I just thought it was cool my mother was willing to give me access to that large a sum of money. As I got older, it became more apparent that these "bribes" were just offerings for me to step out of my comfort zone, and to explore other things.

My mother is the base of my spirituality, taught me about The Bible, and taught me to have Faith. My Faith is something I haven't always felt very comfortable speaking about and/or expressing.I clearly don't live my life like Jewish Rabbi, a Southern Baptist Pastor or a Catholic Priest, so it's obviously not something I advertise. Even thought a major facet of Christianity (or, really any religion) is the idea of spreading the word, or witnessing. The combination of not wanting to be "that guy," the guy that makes his friends listen to a bunch of stuff they don't care about and/or are not interested in. For as long back as I can remember, I had been going to Church- it was something we did every Sunday, and there was no excuse (if you can go out with your friends on Saturday night, you can get up and give thanks to the Lord on Sunday morning, man, I can still actually hear her say it). I can say, with some degree of guilt now, I made my mom's life a living hell about "the Church thing," and being a debater, learning base argumentation and the power of the concession made every Sunday morning like round 8 of the NDT for me, and like "getting a root canal" for her. I would ask, every week, for like 10 years, why I had to go, and she'd always say the same thing.

"My mother made me go to Church, said she didn't want to be responsible for me not knowing the word of God, and me spending life in Eternal Damnation. Once you're an adult, you can make your own decisions, stay home, not believe and burn in hell. But until then, you'll be going to Church."

This was true, even when I went away to college, and would just be coming home for the weekend. There were no choices, no options. You went to Church or you didn't stay in the house. This Gestapo-type means of indoctrination was one I held in much disdain, and for years, I took out my distaste for not having a choice into a pretty healthy hatred for Religion, across the board. It took quite a twist for me to accept religion back in my life, a decision to work for a Catholic school. I had worked for a Catholic school before (actually, a Catholic Military School, because Catholic or Military alone wouldn't provide sufficient discipline), so it's not the idea of being around religion that made me re-think my stance (that school, ironically, felt entirely like a Military school, and it seemed the facets of Catholicism that were present either escaped my line of sight through cognitive dissonance). I think I could even pin-point when I saw myself differently, not by a time, but by a recognition. I realized, while I was working for my current institution, that there was one over-arching thing that seemed to tie the students together, and it was just a feeling that almost all the students I encountered had something not found in a lot of people, but harder to find that clean diamonds among high school students. They all seemed to have something that I assumed was a debate word until I saw it in action, an ethic of care, a true compassion about them, and it was something they all seemed to have, from the kids that had clearly grown up in the Catholic church, to the kids that openly call themselves agnostic or atheist, but it was something I recognized from my days in the Church, and it provided me something it hadn't done in the past, it offered me comfort. It just seemed right.

I have an issue with change and a problem with inertia, so much so, sometimes I think I should be a Republican. This combination sometimes means that things I know I will enjoy doing once I get out there and just start doing, sometimes never get off the ground, as I come up with reasons why I shouldn't bother. I have some good friends that live not very far from here, and I don't see them enough. It's not because my girlfriend won't let me out of the house, as I am sure sometimes she wishes I was gone more than I am. It's not that I won't have an excellent time with them if I were to go, as I always have a good time with them. It's not even that gas is teetering around $3 a gallon in the East Bay (it cost money to live in paradise). It's just that, when I am trying to mobilize to act, sometimes I just find myself convincing myself to stay home. I used to think it was just laziness, but it seems like it's more than that, because laziness seems like it's not pro-active. Laziness seems to be a reaction to some action you didn't feel like doing (you're supposed to be doing homework, you react by not acting, i.e., being lazy). This issue I seem to be having is much more proactive, in the same way that someone in your head tells you to not get out of bed, it's Saturday, and you can stay here all day long, with no ramifications. So, since I have that guy among the voices in my head, it sometimes means that things that aren't required don't ever get accomplished...

...This is why my mother was awesome (well, one of many). She seemed to know about my own specific, personal demons, no matter how large or small, and knew the way to make me get beyond those demons. When she died, I was concerned I would not be able to handle these kinds of things, because my mother was the person I would talk to about this kind of stuff. But somehow, in all those random discussions on thousand mile road trips, and all the little tidbits of information she would give me all the time, and the dressing downs in public and in private for not holding up my end of the bargain, somehow all filtered through my brain and it seems to be sufficient to aid me in making these decisions.

I guess this is what she meant when she said that, even when she was gone, she'd still be here, because she'd always be here.

17 July 2009

Health and responsibility

I'm a guy that loves a soda. There's something about the carbonation and the high fructose corn syrup that just makes me really crave them. And I recognize they aren't good for you, and they're probably the largest repository for under the radar calories you can imagine (for example, the 20 ounce Sprite has 240 calories, which is approximately 12% of the 2000 calorie intake target people in the know say we should be aiming for. However, after I open the soda, and have the first couple of ounces, I am reminded these aren't very refershing, they never seem to resolve the issue I have with thirst. So recently, I have decided to make an effort to drink more water...and am finding out that bottled water costs more than Coke. At some point, I see myself having the uncensored rant about water, bottled water and what that really says about us, but as I said, that's for later.

This may not be a surprise to many of you all, as you may have been buying bottled water and getting beaten for years. But for me, this is new. I've bought many a bottle of water, but I guess I never really noticed- actually more likely is that bottled water has increased in price more recently, which seems to make sense in the supply and demand world. But I guess for me, it just seems water is just another thing being made close to inaccessible to the poor...

I went to visit my uncle a couple of weeks ago, and he lives in an area affectionately called "the hood." This is a part of town where one's safety can't be guaranteed, where crime is an everyday part of life and an area most people make an effort to avoid (my uncle, a man of sufficient means, chooses to live in the hood, speaking of the people as more genuine. "These people may try to steal from me, but more likely they will just ask for something of they need it. When I lived "on the hill," I always felt people were waiting for me to leave, but smiling and being considerate to me to my face. Better to be comfortable in "mi barrio" than to walk on eggshells to live where you live." But I digress...when I left his spot, I wanted to find a grocery store to pick up some things before I went home. I got my first lesson in city planning when it concerns the poor. There was no grocery store in the area, it required one to travel 3.3 miles to the city center, which is where the closest store happened to be. I decided to instead go into a local store, one of the corner markets. The place I walked into was just a racket disguised as a store. Everything in the store was more expensive, and there were just less options. Not very many name brands, which is neither here nor there, but the store was charging name brand prices for generic brands, and there weren't very many options. For example, the store I'm referring to didn't have any wheat bread. 100 different blunt wraps, but no wheat bread.There was no milk. There was an extensive fortified wine section, but no milk. No eggs. No butter. A ton of candy and sweets- Little Debbie snack cakes everywhere. I just assumed it was a shitty store, and that these things could be gotten at another store in the area. The next time I talked to my uncle and told him about my store experience, he told me that was "Standard Operating Procedure" and that even the grocery stores in the area were terrible. He said if he needed anything, he had no problem getting in the car and going "up the hill" to go shopping for the things he can't get in the area (Sunday Paper, Vitamins, Fresh Fruits and Vegetables and Juices, Meats) but that still didn't resolve the issue for his neighbors. He then asked a question that I know he knew the answer to. Why is it harder for people in my neighborhood to get the things necessary to be healthy?

Because, in a nutshell, people for whom the acquisition of money is their main objective, tend to not give a fuck about people that can't help them in those endeavors.

This rings true at the political level, and I had always known that. I just assumed, for what appears to be no reason at all, that it would manifest itself in other ways, or not at all. The corner store has no need to make sure you get access to all four food groups, it is an individual responsibility. But if you're blocked access from these things, if the stores you use sell Orange Drink and not Orange Juice, if you only have access to unhealthy foods, how would one meet their personal responsibility? You can't, which just means you can't get healthy.

No wonder 25% of the population is obese...

16 July 2009

There are Facebook friends, and then there are real friends...

"I wish Phil Ivey was on Facebook so I could be his friend"- Actually said at a poker table June 30, 2009 at the Golden Nugget Poker room.

I have a Facebook account. There's a fair amount of shame affiliated with my initial decision to jump into the fray, and the shame magnifies itself each day i don't just un-register myself from that God-forsaken site. One of the funny things I find about the website is that it allows you to create a list of "friends". I looked at my "friend list" and realized that I had over 300 friends. I find an enormous amount of humor in this, purley by the numbers alone, so i decided to look at my "friend list" and see who these people were...most of them are people I wouldn't consider not friends, which to me has a very specific definition, they aren't really even acquaintances, they're just people who were recognized as pieces of my past and thus, listed as "friends" i feel a little badly, since the first day I signed up for FB, there were like four or five people that wanted to friend me, and i turned them down because, well, i didn't know them very well, and didn't really think of them as friends. As part of my list of "facebook friends" are:

1. A girl I purposely left at a frat party in college, as leaving her there meant I didn't have to deal with her (friend requested me and I accepted without even knowing who it was)
2. A kid I got in a fight with in 7th grade because I asked if his sister was "actually" retarded or just "functionally" retarded
3. over 100 people i've never had a full conversation with
4. friends of friends of friends who post funny stuff
5. 43 people I can honestly say I never really liked in any other capacity than the one FB allows me to have...

And I think that's OK, and for people like me, FB seems to serve my needs very well. There are people I can honestly say I could get a fuck less about that I have listed as FB friends, and in the series of months I've been on the site, I've found out all the necessary information about them I needed- I know that one of my peeps from high school, you know, one of those friends you say you'll never lose touch with that I haven't seen and/or heard from since Graduation, is married and has a kid, which is descriptive of most of the people I went to High School with. But these people, most of them anyway, are best held at the lenght FB allows you to keep people at- the occasional comment on some random post that ends up on your home page (for some reason, someone at FB assumed you'd want to see everyone's comments on your home page, and I can't imagine why I'd care about most of the totally assanine things I see on the home page. I will give you a small snapshot of the stupid things posted...i'll take off the names, but if it's one of yours, well, that's too bad, stop posting stupid shit, I clearly post about 50% of the things I post for only my benefit, and if it bothers you, just HIDE me, as I have hidden over 125 people because reading their shit just KILLS ME- it's how I resolve the not just un-friending that annoying girl that talked too much in HS and posts too much on FB now, just reliving a former experience in a different format. But anyway...here is but a snapshot of stupid shit...

1. Why do I have Barry White on my iPod? Oh, that's right...I own a Barry White album. Huh?
2. ...is about to watch "so you think you can dance."
3. What Calvin alter ego are you?
4. What badass animal are you?

This was actually a random snapshot of the stupid stuff, I initially was going to do a hour-by-hour walk through the wall of shame, but I actually may use this as the base for many, many things I write about. These are things from people that I haven't just taken off my basic feed. here's a snapshot of some of the things I just hide so I don't have to read this...this will be a surprise to me as well...once again, i will remove names to protect the not-so-innocent...

1. i don't know where that Debbie Allen has been on SYTYCD (So You Think You Can Dance), but I could watch her every night!
2. winding down with a laptop and TV. Plan to post my thoughts on Tweetdeck soon to Audioboo.fm
3. I love Utah fry sauce.
4. Why do I tweet and heart PDX?

These people are clearly not people I talk to very much, now or at any other point in my life. They are, for the most part, people that either annoyed me or I thought were stupid and/or useless, and for some reason, I have them as "facebook friends." I have a couple of FB friends that I only friended because I wanted to find out how possible common friends are doing...but now that we've talked a little about FB friends...I talk to my classes about friendship, and i usually start the conversation by asking how many friends the kids in class have, and we generally start off with a number like 20, and usually go up from there.

The last class I did this in, there were over 15 kids that claimed to have over 300 friends. I had to ask, because I didn't even think I knew 300 peoples names, less had 300 friends, and they all used FB as their measuring stick. They then asked me how many friends I had, and my answer was between six and nine, all depending on how stringent a definition you were using. My definition of a friend is someone, when standing at the crossroads of need, will choose to do what they can to help the person in need at the time (usually me, sometimes determined on how they treat people I happen to care about). This seems like a relatively simple standard, yet I have a limited amount of friends. I think it has something to do with this statement: "

it's really easy to be a friend if you never have to give up anything. The moment it becomes a me vs. you trade-off, it's really easy for you to rationalize and justify acting in your own self interest. it's that moment when you find out who your friends are not, and consequently, who your friends are, as well." It's one of those things my mother told me when i was like nine or ten years old, and had no idea what she meant, because i was friends with my whole school, which in retrospect was a ludicrous claim. Now that I'm "grown" it all seems to make more sense to me.

There are two refelctive quick statements about friendship, one comes from my boy, Steve (you all should jump over to his blog, 2oldformaxim.wordpress.com), who believes he's met his friends. "I'm not trying to meet new friends. If my boy or my girl has a friend, I'll be open to them, and that's probably the only way I'm picking up new friends." This is pretty much how I roll these days, although not really open to those groups, either.

The other is a condenced story of a friend of mine, who had an out of town guest that, in a nutshell, didn't really appreciate the efforts being made to keep them entertained and happy, and it's something that had happend on more than one occasion. It reminded me of a joke my dad told me...

"What do you call a friend that takes and never gives and is acts entitled rather than appreciataive?"
"Not a friend, an asshole."

15 July 2009

The All Star Game- I'm a fan

I watched the 2009 Major League Baseball All Star Game last night. It was awesome. There are a thousand reasons someone could have agreed with me, from the new, vastly improved Busch Stadium, which has some of the more breathtaking views of downtown as any stadium could offer, to the Albert Pujols Show, to getting (or having, if you're a true baseball fan) to listen to President Obama talk over the bottom of the second inning of the game, an inning where the National League scored their only three runs. How much would that suck for you, you make it to the game, you're playing, and you get a hit, and there's no reference to your hit, at all, in the television broadcast? Maybe I'm a glory hog, but...come on! Give the players their moment, as well. But all things considered, if I had to come up with a reason I really enjoyed the game is because it was actually a baseball game...baseball has figured out that placing some real meaning on the game by making the winning team of the game the league that gets the right to home field advantage, the right to have Game 7 in your home ball park. This means the managers, who were in the World Series the previous season, have added incentive to win the game...this being said, the American League won, again. They haven't lost an All Star Game since 1996. A list of things going on in 1996...

1. Derek Jeter wins Rookie of the Year
2. Milwaukee Brewers still in the American League
3. The Mariners have Randy Johnson, Ken Griffey Jr. and Ichiro is still balling in Japan.
4. I was still debating.

...the game having meaning makes it a much better watch than most of the other All Star exhibitions. The game starts off with the American League scoring two runs in the first inning when starter Tim Lincecum generates a typical 3-6-1 double play when Albert Pujols (pronounced poo-holes, which means he's got to be the truth for nobody to make the thousands of shit jokes) boots it, which opens the door for the first two runs...the best example of this competitive framing of the game comes in the top of the 8th inning, when Detroit Tiger Curtis Granderson drives a ball over the head of baseball's newest 5 tool player, Justin Upton, and legs out one of baseballs most exciting hit, the three bagger of the San Diego Padre closer, Heath Bell (who apparently Charlie Manuel had faith in, but somehow had played his entire career and never made an all-star team of any kind, not American Legion, not Little League, not the minors. He currently leads the league in saves for a team that's numerous games under .500, which means he's not saving any games of value. Why would you assume he'd thrive in the biggest situation of his life- the 8th inning of the All-Star Game? I wouldn't have, but that's probably why I'm miserable at Fantasty Baseball, much less the real game)...but anyway, with a man on 3rd and one out, a situation that would normally involve bringing the infield in, which increases a batters average by over 100 points. Rather than do that, they intentionally walked a batter, to create a possible force play, and create a double play possibility, which would have gotten them out of the inning without sacrificing any runs. The strategy failed, as the next batter flied out deep to right, allowing Granderson to score the go-ahead (and winning) run. The strategy didn't work (Adam Jones deep fly out to right field allows Granderson to tag up and score on the sacrifice fly) but the fact they even used strategy made it seem like it was just a baseball game with really good players, rather than an exhibition game of a bunch of primadonnas. and since the All-Star game is the only thing in town when it's on (really, how'd you get that lock down- no other major sports yesterday), it should at least be entertaining and strategic, you know, like baseball.

10 July 2009

Another different post...

I haven't written because i have been attending a Holy Cross Mission Seminar. Initially, I went to fulfill a requirement, hopefully get some Salt Lick BBQ, a Freebird's burrito, hopefully see a friend or two and get out of town. I was pretty sure the conference was going to be a boot to the junk, and that I would be the non-catholic guy here, wishing I was somewhere else.

The Lord works in mysterious ways.

At the beginning of the conference, I can honestly say I had no idea why I was asked to come here, and was pretty sure it would be a little awkward, not being Catholic and being still relatively new to the school. I tried to come in with an open mind, but for the first day and a half of the conference, I did feel a little out of place, a little out of my element, my comfort zone. And, as with so many of us are apt to do when not in optimal situations, I put my nose to the grindstone, and had just made the determination to just take my notes, absorb what I could, and board the plane on Friday, knowing someone else at my school could have gained much more than I.

The Lord has a way of making you realize things you’d be to blind to notice yourself.

I found out on Thursday that my grandmother had a heart attack, and needed to have double-bypass surgery to have any chance at living. It should be noted my grandmother is 94 years old, and although she’s a healthy 94, the chances of survival through the surgery were grim to say the least, and it forced me to think of a scenario where I would have to make the call to terminate someone’s life. This was much more than I could have imagined I could handle, and was in the throws of a mini panic attack when Laura Sanders approached me in the hallway, and asked me what was wrong (to give a snapshot of where I was mentally, I thought I had walked to a separate part of the building, to avoid being around people). I explained the situation to her, and she immediately reached out the hand of compassion, the hand of Holy Cross. The response of the entire conference community was so genuinely helpful, asking me what I needed from them. What I needed was space to make the arrangements I needed to make, and to think and to pray. In that thought, and through that prayer, it occurred to me that this was the lesson I was here to learn. I had listened to everyone explain how their school was like a family. And I know that’s the thing about St. Francis that I most appreciated. But it never really occurred to me that this concept of family would extend to me, in my time of need. I have no problem extending my hand to help someone in need, but it has always, always been hard for me to take the extended hand, always afraid the hand I reach for will be rescinded in my time of most dire need. But the hand reaching out to me at this time was genuine, and it wasn’t going anywhere.

If this hand can be extended to some guy that works for a school under the same umbrella, some guy you all don’t know, and one that for awhile was pretty ambivalent to being here with your unwavering compassion, then it will be easy for me to reach out to the kid in class that may have been slipping- it should be easy for me to go above and beyond one’s typical call of duty, as there should be no call that is typical, and even thinking so does everyone a disservice, not just the person in need, but yourself as well.

Whereas 48 hours ago, I had no idea how I would convey the message of the conference, that’s no longer an issue.

06 July 2009

poker, the evil temptress...

Some days, I wonder why I don’t just play poker for a living. I mean, I really enjoy the game, and it seems, when allowed to just focus and grind it out, it seems that, empirically, I’ve had more success at the tables than failures. And it seems, when I’m playing, I really enjoy what I’m doing. And after a good run, I think to myself, “I’m better than most of these ass clowns, and if I wasn’t so scared, I’d just sack up, take a bankroll and either go to Las Vegas or just put it all online, and just start the process. I think that’s a good idea, until I lose one of these hands, and remember that, with a real job, there’s no possibility of going broke while at work. Let me describe what happened, and if you’re not into poker or have no understanding of the game, you’d be just as well to find another website, at least for the day…

…so I’m playing in the Deep Stack tournament at the Golden Nugget, and I’m moving up, building a modest chip stack until finally I find myself 3rd in the tournament, until I find myself card-dead (where you want to play, but have no cards worth playing, or at least not in the right position to play these cards I would normally think of playing). By the time I’m ready to act, the antes are 200 and the blinds are 1500/3000, and my chip stack is 122K in chips. I then find myself on the button (the last person to act, which allows you to see what everyone would do, which makes it the preferred place to act), with an Ace and a King of clubs (from now out, referred to as AKc). The action folds all the way around to me, and so I raise the blind to 6000 (I don’t want to raise the action too much, and get a set of folds and get no action, but I need to represent some form of strength). The small blind folds, and the big blind calls, throwing in the extra 3000 (plus the 3000 he’s already committed for being in the big blind). The flop comes down:

2c 7c 8c

The player sees the flop and gets a small smile, which to me, indicates he’s hit something, which is cool with me, because I just hit the nut flush. I forgot to mention, my opponent the top chip stack, a relatively loose player, willing to make moves with AX, which means he’s probably sitting there, with his A2, maybe he’s even got the A8 offsuit, which means he thinks he’s way ahead. He makes a move, betting 15K. This is a sizeable bet, about the size of the pot, but I’m in a pretty dominant position, so I re-raise to 50K, putting a little pressure. He makes the immediate re-raise, going all-in. I’ve been waiting for this situation all tournament. There aren’t many situations that will make me call an all-in, especially in tournament format, as I don’t really like going out in tournaments (no re-buy option, so every implication is magnified). But this is a no-brainer. I make the call and we flip over the cards. He flips over As5c against my AKc…I’m holding the nut flush, and his odds of winning this hand at this time are about as likely as flipping 1000 coins and having them all end up heads. I’m envisioning what all those chips in the middle of the table will look like in my stack, thinking about being able to win this tournament, and just being generally pretty giddy. The turn comes down, and a 9c. This makes the board:

2c 7c 8c 9c

This gives him exactly one out, which is a much better position than I imagined him being in when I made the call, and it was at that time I began to get that sinking feeling, that feeling you get when bad shit is about to happen. It was as if my entire poker life flashed before my eyes- every time when I was learning the game and would find myself in the 2-outer position, and would catch my cards to the absolute horror and dismay of my opponents, those times when I would bluff with absolutely nothing, like moving all-in with a 54 offsuit, and catch a 545 flop to catch the full boat on the flop and knock out someone’s pocket A’s, and every time I backdoor four-flushed someone, it flashed as well. With all of this happening, it wasn’t as devastating to have the 6c on the river. This makes the board

2c 7c 8c 9c 5c

That sorry, so and so moved all in with on a four-flush, 5 high. He’s supposed to lose his loot, and I’m supposed to collect the money, smile arrogantly and keep on grindin’. But instead, he catches the straight flush, by hitting the gutshot to hit the straight flush. I see him scream in elation, call me a “donk” for making the call, and said he knew he was going to win. In retrospect, I think I handled it like a man should, I collected my phone, my glasses and headed to the bar, because after a bad beat like that, you need, need to have an adult beverage. As I sat at the bar, thinking about how lucky I was-if that was a cash game, I can easily see myself losing all my money, maybe my house and probably my car in that scenario. Then I find myself being that guy, the guy that says “Oh shit, how can I go home? I can’t tell my wife/girlfriend/boyfriend/husband about this, they’ll kill me.”

And that, is why I don't play professionally.

04 July 2009

Why I love Las Vegas

I will preface this with the phrase, better late than early. I
apologize to the 4 readers of this blog, I hope to get back in the
saddle. Tomorrow's blog will be about three things I hate about Vegas,
and as much as I love the place, it has many things to hate about it...

Well, I just got back from Sin City, and sinning as the base of
consideration, I had a pretty uneventful experience. There were no
police involved, I didn't lose a shit ton of loot, my hotel room for
the 3 days cost me less than a relatively expensive dinner for one.
Got to play a ton of poker, make a little cake, I even downloaded
articles and cut some debate articles (while waiting for room
service). Not exactly The Hangover or Leaving Las Vegas, but it did
allow for a little ME time, which after the National Tournament, was
deemed necessary. The ideas for blogs have been aplenty, but when I
was at the tables, someone asked me what it was about the town I
enjoyed so much. I think I stunned her with my ability to answer this
question She did comment on how I didn't "sound black." Never really
understood what that meant- I always imagine the "black voice" as one
of those deep, resonating voices- the name James Earl Jones pops into
my head, as does Don Cornelius. Clearly, this is not what she
meant...but this is the theme of another blog...as usual. I
digress...I was asked to come up with my five favorite things I love
about LV, and three things I do not like...likes are always first, as
hate needs to simmer to be fully appreciated...

1) America's Adult Mall
Really, what more is there to say? This is a town where a guy, with
the right motivation, means and transportation, can get a guaranteed
head shot, and not that Greta, girl in your English class you KNEW
gave up the nappy dugout, but never fucked you guarantees, but a Billy
Mays (RIP) iron clad money back guarantee. The Mustang Ranch is just a
bit out of town, a legal brothel, because Nevada is just fucking
smarter than us on this one, taxing and testing it's state
prostitutes, to make sure she doesn't catch you and leaving you
burning or give you a case of the HIV's. I, personally have never
utilized the Ranch, but in my youth it was because the alignment of
the stars required (in Vegas and drunk enough to think "hookers, let's
get some hookers" but not too drunk to get us to said location) never
really came to pass. So, for those still curious, I say "legal paid
sex good" even though I no longer seek or need paid sex (it surprises
me, too). And legal sex is only the tip of the sinful iceberg-if you
want to see a "legitimate" show on the strip, one of the many faces of
Cirque de Soelil (which has more spinoffs than Law and Order, if
that's possible) and the "Love" show. My boy says "take a date, find
Viagra, because she'll be hard to please..." Another friend told me he
went wit his family to another Cirque show and they sent the 10 year
old home at intermission, not wanting to corrupt him. This speaks
nothing of the Strip Clubs, which I will speak about at some length
later. There are also many, many, many porn shops (called adult stores)
across the town, so any devious, shady, embarrassing fetishes? do you
enjoy genre of pornography even your true friends would find utterly
disturbing? well, the two story adult store on Tropicana will be able to
fulfill every one of your desires- they're especially deep in midget porn...

2) Poker
The real reason I come to Vegas. All the things you'll read in this
would be irrelevent if Boise, ID, Texarkana, TX or Waterloo, IA were
places where I can choose from over 100 daily tournaments (my
preferred mode of play) and literally and denomination of limit, no
limit, Omaha, stud, razz, hell, I even found a 5 card draw game in
this town (Orleans). It's a poker players paradise. I've never been to
Atlantic City, but have done more than my fair share of riverboat,
Indian casino, shady backroom hoping to God the cops don't show up to
break it up, as well as gambling towns all through Nevada, and Vegas
has more games a day than most places have in a week. And it's not
just that there's a ton of game here, there are players of all levels.
If you think your game is mad tight and you want to test your chops on
the 5/10, Caesars and the Wynn are great places to go. If you're just
learning the game and play a little Everyman action, go to the
Bellagio and play a little 3/6- you could even see Bill Gates, or you
could go to Binions and play 1/2 no-limit with a $100 max buy in-
poker for all price ranges and for all skill sets.

3) Food
It's a foodies paradise. If you can think of a top tier restaurant in
the United States, you can find it in Vegas. I'm a huge fan of Emeril,
and unfortunately I don't happen to live in New Orleans, so the
Delmonico Steakhouse would normally be out of my access range- except
there is one in the Venetian. Bouchon is in the Bay Area, but it's
almost 100 miles from my house, so it's not really an option. Bobby
Flay's Mesa Grill in Caesars. 120 steakhouse in the Hard Rock. And as
good as all of these places are, Lotus of Siam has been described as
the best Thai restaurant in the country. It would be possible to eat
every meal at a top tier spot, for a month, and never hit all the
spots. Quick FYI- Bouchon's Chicken and Waffles for breakfast, Lotus
of Siam for Lunch, and 46 Steakhouse, if you only have 3 meals and
want an actual food orgasm, follow my lead.

4) Open Container Laws

The town facilitates abject alcoholism- this is a town where Jamie Foxx
is right, blame it on the a a a a a alcohol. The town does not have a last call.
Sure, some places don't stay open 24/7, but when they are open,
they're serving. This, by itself, would probably be enough to make the
list. However, it's much cooler to know you can walk the streets with
your beverage of choice in plain sight, with no concerns from the
police. This means that I find myself drinking a ton more than I would
otherwise, because I can walk out of Bill's Gamblin' Hall on The
Strip, turn in any direction, and wander, aimlessly drunk, down the
Strip without having to worry about getting your drink on, because
anyone smart is carrying their beverage with them.

5) Free Vacation possibility
It's called gambling for a reason, there's always the possibility you
could have to leave town in the dark of the night because you owe some
loan shark named Knuckles $15K and your hotel room has been ransacked.
But the flip side is also true- you can go on a great run, win
thousands of dollars, spend money in Vegas like Jay-Z or Tony Danza,
go to The Bellagio and make enough to have them fly you out another
weekend, or go to Sapphire, the world's largest strip clubs for the
dinner buffet, and stay until...well, until you have to go back home.
On a trip I took Christmas '07 with my girlfriend, a good run at a
craps table and some solid poker play meant that the entire trip
(airfare, hotel, food, cabs, massages, alcohol) was paid for (most
comped by the Venetian, the rest I just had the cash in my wallet as
we left town, so I had more money in my account upon my return than I
did upon my arrival. Now don't get it twisted, I loves me some
Disneyland (nominees for most grammatical damage to a sentence...) but
there's no possibility I can go on a run at It's a Small World or The
Matterhorn that can pay for my vacation (legally, of course, you could
just sell a bunch of smack, but you'd just end up in Disneyland Jail.)
Lots of vacation spots are intriguing, most don't pay for themselves.
Las Vegas is one of the exceptions. and the one that sucks the least...

03 July 2009

I have a Vegas blog coming,

Being the genius I am, I started the blog on my iPhone, so now i have to finish it there, which you can imagine is much slower than it would be on the computer. Haven't forgotten about it, but the iPhone is not meant for substsantial writings.