Monday, November 24, 2008

Count the blessings, and the turkeys, too

I lead a blessed life and I know it. And Thanksgiving is perhaps my favorite holiday because I get to celebrate those blessings with the people who both provide them and – most importantly – are counted among them.

This is quite possibly the best Thanksgiving ever, with the largest gathering of those people that we’ll probably ever assemble. I’ll soon offer all kinds of details and photos.

Meanwhile, it’s time for our annual pause to reflect upon some of those blessings. And we’ll look at the turkeys as well, because without them running around making things difficult, we’d forget just how special the good times and people are.

I’m thankful: That I got to experience one last game at Shea Stadium. My awesome cousin Tim and my awesome parents provided the tickets, and we watched Johann Santana almost beat the Yankees in the middle game of the final Subway Series. It was such an emotional day. But I made sure I got one more look from just about every possible vantage point that security would allow – and some that it didn’t. The Mets lost, but that barely detracted from a very, very special day I’ll remember forever.

Turkey! Derek Jeter. It’s known that St. Derek the Intangible manages to appear on this list each year. It’s also true that there is no obvious reason for including him this year. People who get SNY might disagree after watching that Edge ad over and over and over and over. But I regretfully don’t get that station, so I can’t join in their pain. This leaves me to conclude that one of two things is possible. Jeter might finally have learned his lesson and straightened up, living life the Met Way. Or, Derek has finally become proficient at keeping his misbehavior away from our vigilant eyes. I vote for the latter. Don’t let Jeter outside in the rain, because he’s a turkey!

I’m thankful: That I was able to see the Mets four times this season. I actually have many benefactors who look out for me. Long-suffering best friend Will and his lovely sidekick Laurie provided seats at Wrigley where the Cubs got one over on the Mets. That was followed by the weekend at Shea, where, of course, they lost. Then the executives indulged me by making a July 19 game in Cincinnati our annual Executive Game, and, of course, the Mets lost. I extended my trip a little and bought a single seat for the next game. The Mets went up, then allowed the Reds to tie then went ahead in the 10th inning, holding on for a 7-5 win, shattering a 17-year, nine-city personal Mets losing streak. I’ll always be thankful for Robinson Cancel, who had the big hit.” And next time I see the Mets, I can boast that I have a one-game winning streak!

Turkey! Alex Rodriguez. ARod, the reluctant Yankee, was caught leaving Madonna’s apartment. Now, we don’t know for sure what Alex was up to. But it’s fun to speculate. I didn’t notice him carrying his Jenga or Travel Scrabble games in the photo. It was too late in the season to serve as draft consultant for her fantasy baseball team, the Blonde Ambitions. And if the Material Girl had a Wii,, Alex would have stayed longer because the bowling part of Wii Sports is addictive. Beat my high score of 244, Alex! But I digress. Hanging out with Madonna, whatever the reason, does nothing but whip the tabloids into a frenzy and create a distraction for his team.

I’m thankful for: Costco! My camera started to expire in the middle of our Key West vacation, so naturally I went to the Best Store Ever for a replacement. It was pretty cool, too, though I learned the zoom lens was not especially good when my Dad was able to zoom in on Mr. Met taking down the Shea Countdown number in centerfield from our seats in the loge, and I tried to zoom in and had most of the outfield remaining in the shot. But it was still a decent camera. Alas, it was a casualty of the game in Cincinnati. The streak was broken, but so was the view screen. I think someone stepped on it by mistake. But I bought it at Costco, and was still a week away from hitting the 90-day deadline to return electronic items. The store happily accepted the broken camera, and I walked out with an even newer camera with a much better zoom. Costco rocks!

Turkeys! People who drive while using the cell phone. My son is learning to drive, so we are keenly aware of other motorists, especially those with bad driving habits. It’s used to be that when you saw someone ahead weaving and driving slow, you’d see that it was one of our senior citizens wearing those oversized sunglasses that fit on top of their regular glasses. But now, the vast majority of the time it’s some doofus using a cell phone. We’re at the point where we can pick them out from a distance. And this happens every single day. It’s only a matter of time before this stuff gets banned. Years from now we’ll be telling kids, “I remember when you used to be able to use your cell phone right when you were driving,” and they’ll look at us with the horror folks of my generation reserve for people who don’t wear seatbelts. End the call, turkey!

I’m thankful for: Two Mets books, one that was published this year and another that’s on the way. Crane Pooler Jon Springer and Matthew Silverman penned “Mets By the Numbers,” which is a fascinating telling of Mets history through uniform numbers. Turns out numbers are an indicator of a player’s destiny. If you’re handed No. 43, for instance, don’t unpack your bags. I’ve already glossed this tome to be the best book ever, and not just because Jon asked me to submit a photo of my Mercury Mets jersey. Fellow blogger Greg Prince will take a run at that that designation with his “Faith and Fear in Flushing” book that should hit the shelves as pitchers and catchers hit St. Lucie. I can’t wait!

Turkey! Then we have writers we don’t like so much, like Bob Klapisch. Klap’s a known Met hater and was exposed as a Yankee lover when he wrote a column suggesting that Yankee closer Mariano Rivera should start the All-Star Game.

"No, the real way to commemorate Yankee Stadium in what could be its final marquee event is to let Rivera start the game: Allow him to bask in the thunderous standing ovation, and let him know what it feels like to have a million flashbulbs go off in his face upon delivery of that first cut fastball.But Rivera would only throw one inning; that would be the stipulation. One inning, and he gets to stand on the mound and let the ovation cover him like a soft rain. It would be a reminder of better times in the Bronx, back when the Yankees really did rule the world.”

It was the “ovation covering him like a soft rain,” that sent me over the edge. It’s become a catch phrase!

I’m thankful: That I had some very nice students in the college journalism class I taught. I know it was a learning experience for me, and I hope it was for them, too. The students were patient, and one even won an award for a story she wrote for my class, so something good must have been happening. None of them turned in something with soft rain ovations, either. And the tossing-the-baby-sock-at-the-governor incident is now part of college lore.

Turkeys! Mets bullpen, I’m looking at you. All of you. Heck, one of you even screwed up the All-Star Game. Blame Willie’s slots and Pedro’s short starts all you want. But you guys stunk up the joint, especially on the very last day when we needed you to stink less than normal. Tim Lincecum needs to send each of you a slice of his Cy Young Award, because Johan Santana would have won it had you goofballs not blown so many of his games. I suspect that Omar is spending the winter trying to get most of you in a different uniform by spring training. And he should.

I’m thankful: Then again, some of them pitched better than I did in some coed softball games this season. But we still had a lot of fun, taking third place in the consolidation round after coming within one out of ousting the eventual league champs. I am very grateful the church folks allowed me to coach again. I founded and coached our newspaper coed team in Flint for nine seasons, and it was fun to break out the Coach-a-matic 2000 magnetic lineup board and lead a team once again. Well, most of the time.

Turkeys! I’m disappointed, if not openly bitter, at how the Mets and MeiGray are handling the auctioning of Shea Stadium memorabilia. Actually, the auctions don’t bother me because if things get bid up, that’s the way it goes. But it the fixed-price items get my goat. You’d think the Mets would want to have something at every price point so just about everyone could have a piece of Shea to treasure. But bricks are selling for $50, and that’s just crazy.

I’m thankful: Then again, who needs a Shea brick when Cousin Tim honored me with a piece of new Citi Field! The Mets even send a duplicate brick that serves as a beautiful display in the family room. It’s comforting to know that in a small way, I’m right there with the Mets.

And I’m very, very thankful to you, gentle reader, for spending some time here. It’s an honor and a responsibility.

We joke a lot around here, but I do realize and appreciate that the Lord has taken good care of me even though I might not always recognize how he is working. I wish you and your family a wonderful and safe holiday.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Macy's, Marley and the rest of the Friday Five

To me, it’s not officially Thanksgiving until I catch at least a part of the Macy’s Parade on television. Like the parade kicks off the holiday season, it’s also going to kick off this week’s Deezo Friday Five.

1) Some people think that’s odd, but there are some parts of my New Yorkedness that I’m just not willing to give up. And that means the Macy's Parade is playing in the background while I start working on the turkey! An added highlight is some of the worst lip-synching ever in the firs hour, when all the performers do their thing in Herald Square. When we took the kids to New York in 2003, we could see that section of painted street from the observation deck of the Empire State Building. I have a cool musical snow globe with the skyline circled by the balloons. Check out this shot from 1979 with the UnderDog balloon.

2) I’ve been getting ready for our glorious reunion cruise by listening to music of the Caribbean. I’ve tried getting into Bob Marley. After checking out a bunch of his stuff from the library, I decided that I’m not much of a reggae guy but “One Love/People Get Ready” is simply beautiful. Son Ziggy’s “Tomorrow People” is a great song, too.

3) The reggae isn’t quite connecting, but I’m all about the steel drums. I find them relentlessly happy! Seriously, can you imagine a sad song played on a steel drum? It does seem to spark anger in some family members who think I've been playing too much of the drums this week.

4) Our ship, Freedom of the Seas, has a monstrous climbing wall. I’m throwing down the extended family challenge to get to the top. Sure, last time it took me three tries. But now I have experience and know the secrets – don’t look up, don’t look down, use plenty of powder – I’m going to be ringing the bell on the first try.

5) We had our first snow here in Michigan, which is not good. But it’s nice to see grass finally down at Citi Field, which means that Opening Day is at least on the distant horizon. Though not the kind of grass Marley was into. Tom Kaminski of Chopper 880 at WCBS radio took this neat shot, and he a bunch of others that include both Citi and what’s left of Shea, which is bittersweet. It’s sad to see Shea looking as it does, but I have to say the Citi is looking beautiful

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Mets and Mary Lou rejected, but Dad's Rush memories makes the grade

The 16-year-old announced he wanted some classic rock posters for his room. Since I saved almost everything from my youth – or at least I thought I did -- I offered to pull the poster box up from the basement.

I had some pretty sweet posters as a kid. The record store in downtown Massapequa Park was a hangout, and Neil, owner of “The Wax Museum” frequently offered me the promotional posters from my favorite groups.

And I had concert shots of Led Zeppelin and Aerosmith, and a whole assortment of Kiss classics.

Plus, there was a tremendous collection of Mets posters, too. None of which interested him.

But there was much to enjoy as we unrolled memory after memory.

One of the first was one of the oldest, from the Evel Knievel phase. My poster has this photo, but with a horrid poem. Oh, the joys of screaming down the block in my blue Evel cape, getting enough steam for the bike to clear a ramp for what then seemed like a death-defying stunt. Alas, Evel was rejected by the son.

Then we found the oldest, and most classic, of the Kiss posters, the “Spirit of ’76.” Mine is similar to this one, with another shot from this photo session. Kiss and patriotism, a combination that can’t be beat. It, too, was rejected.

I did not find the amazing Susan Anton Golden Girl poster that I promised him. I never saw the movie. Unlike the infamous Farrah Fawcett swimsuit poster, this one featured Ms. Anton with lots of hair posing in running shorts and a tank top.

Therefore, I could claim a tenuous sports link. This wasn't a tacky cheesecake poster. I did in fact appear on the spring track team, and was showing support for my sport. Actually, I went for the team because A) It was a coed team, and B) It was a no-cut sport, and C) It was a coed team. Which was important. I now realize that my parents were probably not fooled.

I offered my son my Mary Lou Retton Wheaties poster instead. He recoiled in horror, as did my wife and daughter.

He also rejected the Alive II-era poster of Ace Frehley, complete with Gibson Les Paul belching smoke. I was stunned by this, because it really is a great poster. The foil "Love Gun" poster was shot down, too.

Finally, we found one that captured my son’s interest. It was the promo poster for Rush’s “Moving Pictures,” with shots from several previous albums along the bottom. This is probably my favorite album cover of all time, largely because it contains my favorite album of all time. This poster moved from Massapequa Park to the Missouri dorm room to our apartment and back. And sadly, there was significant wear and tear, mostly tear.

The son was bummed, and I promised a restoration project would be in the works with a framing to preserve what is left of it for the ages. But that will have to wait until after the holidays.

We did uncover two sweet Twisted Sister posters, one a collection of concert shots, the other a promo piece for “Come Out and Play” with Dee Snider peeing out from under a manhole cover. Both of these were proudly displayed in the dorm room, along with Mary Lou. My family is contemplating sending a letter to the Pope asking that my roommate Tony be considered for sainthood.

The rejections came fast and furious. New York skylines, St. Louis Arches, Mookie and Buckner, the 1969 champions, Islanders with the Stanley Cup, final game at Comiskey – all of them carefully rolled back up.

He scoffed at the life-sized versions of Harold Baines, Frank Thomas, Kelly Gruber and even Darryl Strawberry.

“Dude, you did want posters? Right?”

We never did find Zep or Aerosmith.

Finally, one met his approval. It was a oversized promo poster for Rush’s Permanent Waves album, again with smaller versions of previous albums along the bottom. It’s a darned good cover for an excellent album and was in reasonably good condition considering I was in junior high when I acquired it. Off it went, upstairs and on the wall.

I have to admit, he’s got pretty good taste.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Happy Tom Seaver Day

The Franchise was born today in 1944.

Amazingly, my efforts to make this a national holiday are not yet successful. And I had to spend much of the day in a Board of Education work session.

But I was able to wear an appropriate baseball tie to commemorate the occasion.

So go forward and think glorious thoughts, and hoist a glass of nice wine -- or Diet Coke if you are covering school board meetings -- to salute the best player ever from our team.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Our long, dial-up nightmare is over

This has been an object of great unrest, particularly among the teen-aged contingent. And it leads to this week’s Deezo Friday Five.

1) I’m loyal to a fault, and we’ve had the same, Michigan-based service provider for as long as we’ve had service provided.

When the company started offering high-speed service, I called to sign up, only to be told it was not available in our area and to be patient.

Mind you, it’s not like we live in the boonies. In fact, I think people in the boonies actually have the service. We’re apparently in some sort of high-speed black hole that can only be accessed by the cable company.

This went on for a couple years. One time the staffer on the phone let it slip that the higher-speed customers were actually paying less than we were for dial-up. He threw in a free accelerator program to calm me down.

All the while, the teen-ager faction would drop hints, ask politely and sometimes outright demand that we switch companies and pay more for the higher speeds. The junk mail from the cable company arrives often, and the teen would all but tape these to the fridge.

Apparently he is some sort of outcast among his Halo-playing buddies for this shamefully slow Internet.

Last week, I accepted the new mantra of "change" and called our company to make one final bid. Once again, I was told to be patient.

Then I discovered that the cable company’s bundle of television, Internet and phone service was cheaper that what I was already paying.

So now it won’t take all night — and I do mean the overnight — to download an album from iTunes. And I might be able to get blogs posted more quickly!

2) This is just wrong on so many levels.

According to the Long Island Business News, a funeral home in Smithtown is selling these caskets with Mets logos on them. Supposedly they sell Yankees versions, too.

Where to begin.

I see a "certificate of authenticity" in there. Why? Is someone out there doubting that it is an authentic casket? Are we checking its price in a new version of Beckett?

Then I see a Mets logo on the pillow, and another on the inside of lid. But the one on the lid is turned for the benefit of the viewer, and not the guy in the casket. Can we show a little respect for the dead here?

And supposedly there are also Mets logos on the handles, too.

Between you and me, this guy is going to sell a lot more Yankees versions. Mets fans are smart enough to know that they sell caskets at Costco, and you can buy a Mets pillow just about anywhere. You’ll have something like looks a heck of a lot better for half the price.

And, you won’t have to place the certificate of authenticity next to the remembrance book.

3) I have to give Jerry Manuel props for assembling a rather colorful coaching staff.

The Mets announced Friday that Luis Alicea is the new first base coach. Nothing too special about that, except that he’ll be joined by Razor Shines on third, clearly a superior baseball name.

Then we have not one, but two Sandy Alomars, with Sandy Sr. serving as bench coach and Sandy Jr. responsible for the catchers. Considering there are only two catchers, that’s a pretty interesting catcher-to-coach ratio.

And don’t forget that Howard Johnson is the hitting coach.

HoJo’s teammate from the 1986 champs, Randy Niemann, is the bullpen coach. Niemann famously pissed off former Mets General Manager Frank Cashen by dousing him during the clubhouse celebration.

Dan Warthen rounds out the coaching collection, and he hasn’t done anything colorful yet.

4) At least our coaches won’t have to suffer the indignity that are the new Orioles uniforms.
Orioles fans have for years been clamoring for the team to restore "Baltimore" to the road uniforms. But owner Peter Angelos balked, supposedly because the team was marketed to those in nearby Washington, D.C. as well.

But with the National now in place, the Orioles are once again remembering where they play.
It could have been so easy. But no.

Why do the letters get so small by the end of "Baltimore?" Why does the team name and city name appear on the sleeves?

There’s a new flag patch, too, and it’s circled by the city name. But if they’re going to use the city name on the patch, shouldn’t they also use the city flag instead of the Maryland flag?

New Yorkers, of course are smart enough to avoid this whole city/state dilemma by giving them both the same name.

5) My off-season television viewing is pretty much limited to DVDs of old shows as treadmill viewing and cable news shout-fests.

But my wife’s tastes are more varied, and she insisted that I watch an episode of something called "Chuck."

I’m not entirely clear, but the plot seemed to be that Chuck was an undercover agent working in a store like Best Buy.

There was something about an old-school cabinet video game being central to the story, and how to reach a certain level.

Chuck hunted down the inventor, and it appears that the key to solving the game was to hit the buttons in sync with Rush’s "Tom Sawyer."

Suddenly, everything made sense.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Wolf Blitzer, Jedi knight, and other Star Wars people in the Friday Five

I’m mired in the post-baseball season, post-election blues, trapped in that middle ground between the to-be-glorious vacation and the holidays.

Hence, we get a late-evening Deezo Friday Five that might somehow lift the spirits.

1) What the hell is this? Seriously, what the heck is going on at CNN?

I spent election night bouncing around the networks watching red turn to blue, and discovered that CNN took a break from cheerleading to introduce "reporters" — newspaper bias in place — appearing as "holograms."

But without the benefit of R2-D2 doing the projecting, this looks really dumb.

"Help me, Wolf Blitzer. You’re our only hope!"

Come to think of it, Wolf Blitzer sounds like a Star Wars kind of name. So does Barack Obama.

2) One of the benefits of the election being over is that the official campaign sites are offering buttons on clearance.

The McCain campaign offers 20 pins for $10. Obama doesn’t have anything in bulk, but some shirts were half off.

3) I don’t know why teams let me buy a ticket.

The Grand Rapids Griffins had not lost a game in regulation all season — until my son and I visited Saturday to claim our McCain and Obama bobble heads.

I had a pretty good idea McCain was in trouble when the team gave away 1,000 Obama bobbles and just 876 of the McCain version. You’d think the lipstick-wearing pitbulls would lean the other way.
I knew the Griffins were in trouble when we saw the sweet uniforms worn by the Milwaukee Admirals, showing off a logo that is so minor league, and so cool at the same time.

4) Luckily the Mystery Science Theater 3000 20th Anniversary DVD set arrived last week.

The Crow T. Robot figurine alone is worth the price of admission. But having some of the classics finally on DVD is a good thing.

Like "Future War," for example. You get dinosaurs sent from the future to chase down some martial arts guy who ends up with some Tracy Nelson-wanna be conflicted nun in a half-way house full of beefy guys, all chased by big-chinned actor Robert Z’Dar who doesn’t actually get any lines.

All of this is red meat for Mike and the ‘Bots to riff.

5) I’m a big "Survivor" guy, but I’m having trouble getting into this new season in Gabon.

I missed the first couple episodes, so I was trying to pick things up on the fly. But this seems to be a pretty unlikeable group of castaways.

Crystal seems to be cranky all the time, Ace isn’t any fun and Sugar appears to have forgotten to pack her brain, and she's not gonna get that in any reward challenge.

Maybe if there was an Anderson Cooper hologram appearing at Tribal Council things would go better.