Thursday, December 9, 2010

Shut up and swing

The title of this post notwithstanding, I'd actually like to thank Luke Scott for doing something, anything, to divert the baseball world's collective attention from where it might otherwise wander w/r/t the Baltimore Orioles.

Because what Luke's sweeping under the rug, by way of his wild idiocy, are two recent reinforcements to the O's lineup that ought to do nothing to convince anyone this club has seen the error of its ways.

I'm talking about signing free agents who had one good year (that good year being in the NL) and whom anyone not observing the situation through the orangest-tinted of shades would have to admit are in decline. I'm thinking of you, Garrett Atkins, and now I'm looking at you, Mark Reynolds and J.J. Hardy. (By the way, Mark, thanks for keeping my fantasy squad from its first-ever league championship last season. I knew you were gonna strike out a lot — like, a LOT — but just seven stolen bases? WTF?)

Anyway, thanks, Luke, for the distraction. We needed it. Plus, your wild rant just might end up doing some good: People are now forced to remember there's a baseball team in Baltimore. Hey, that can't hurt ticket sales, can it? And as an added bonus, you've managed to shut up for five minutes about how much you love Jesus, which I find refreshing.

So to sum up, big ups to our B-more Birther buddy! Now go sock us some dingers! U-S-A! U-S-A!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Courtesy of the friendly folks at the Lancaster Condominium, Part III: One final (fried) pickle


Because I hadn't had an apartment into which to toss them, my bags from the trip were back in the trunk of my car; and because that car had by now been towed — and me still locked out of my condo — I had no real option other than to continue to wear what I'd worn on the flight, meaning I was to be, for the rest of this ordeal, clad from head to toe in polyester sportswear: Under Armour tee under Under Armour hoodie, plus then a pair of Manny Ramirez-baggy Adidas pants whose slippery side-pockets, it turns out, aren't much good at safeguarding whatever precious items one might have erred in stowing there.

But hold on: That part of the story doesn't come till later.

Could I have changed after the locksmith, a Pakistani chain-smoker of Marlboro Reds, let me into my unit (this had to be done by completely removing the deadbolt, by the way — a disfiguration of my door I continue to be silently thankful for, as it means Sam/Roger/et al can never lock me out again)? I guess I could have. But at the time I felt every second counted, and maybe I could avoid incurring additional tow-yard fees if I got myself, however shittily attired, over there as quickly as humanly possible. And so on I ventured into the sweaty late-summer night, to catch a cab, out there among the sharp-dressed and heavily cologned Friday revelers, themselves looking for taxis to clubs downtown or else up in Clarendon, and me still smelling like a stale fart, like the sick-sweet recycled musk of an airline cabin.


Behind bulletproof glass — for fairly obvious reasons, these places always feature a wall of bulletproof glass — behind the glass the ladies have been hungry for whole hours, shooting down each other's ideas for where to order from, the pregnant younger woman highly particular, understandably, about how to sate her wild cravings; and the other, older woman, the pregnant lady's plump carbuncular companion on this graveyard shift rolling her eyes a lot and almost lighting a cigarette but then not and muttering Well we gotta pick sumpin.

"I could jess run down McDonald's."

"I'm tarred a McDonald's."

"Well pick somewar then, girl!"

Their voices are tinny, distant, muffled by that thick pane of glass, and every so often they look up at me warily, maybe to gauge my reaction, like this is a show put on for their observer, something to distract from or dissipate the cloud of animus that'd otherwise choke the air in the tiny office-trailer overlooking the yard. No one, after all, ever enters this place happy.




"Hail no."

"Fuckin' Pizza Hut?"

"Now that's a thought ..."

A man unlocks the back door to the trailer, pokes his head into their half, says he's got to take the truck over to the Hooters for a job.

"That still open?" asks the pregnant girl.

Be open till 2, he suspects, says the man.

"Now how would you know that?" asks the old woman.

"Never mind that," says the girl. "If they're open, we gon' get some them fried pickles."

"Fried who?" says the woman, eyebrows arched.

"You ain't never had no fried pickles?"

"They fry the whole pickle? What, you put sauce on it then?"

"No," the girl says. "They juicy nuff just plain."

The old woman snorts, looks up at me.

An expectant silence as the pregnant girl, too, shifts her gaze my way.

I smile. "Fried pickles are the shit," I say, pleasantly, by my own estimation, looking from one to the other.

"Hmmm," the old cow murmurs, frowning, incredulous. Then she swivels on her chair and taps an acrylic nail on the little metal ashtray-slot carved into the wall beneath the glass. "Be one-fifteen," she says.

Sighing, I pass my credit card through.


I re-enter my apartment with a strange sense of accomplishment and in a remarkably good frame of mind, though I am briefly reminded of the Chris Rock bit about people always wanting credit for things they're supposed to do — in my case, it'd be for things that never should've happened in the first place, and that had sunk me even deeper into the red (by a grand total of $265, as a matter of fact).

But I push this fleeting shadow of a thought out of my mind before it has a chance to form fully. For now I can exhale. My apartment's still clean and vacuumed from before the trip; the dishes are all done; there's an acceptable number of non-perishable and thus edible items in the fridge. I crack a window; the air at this point, just after midnight, wafts in on a pleasant, temperate breeze redolent of honeysuckle, which reminds me, in the way only scent can, of long-ago summers back home in Salisbury. I inhale sharply and feel deeply satisfied.

All there's left to do, the final returning-home ritual, is to unpack. I empty the contents of my pockets (wallet, keys, ChapStick) onto the desk, where they take up their usual positions. Out of its case comes the ol' laptop. Next to it, the stack of $2 CDs I picked up from Amoeba on Haight Street in San Francisco. Finally there are clothes, tennis shoes, toiletries, the battered copy of the book I'd read on the plane.

Having emptied it almost completely, I'm about to toss the Adidas duffel back onto the shelf in the closet when I remember the various chargers I left in the side-pocket: one for the computer, one for the iPod, one for the phone.

Speaking of which — the phone. It's not in my pocket. It's not on the desk. I run out to the lot, to the car. It's not in the coin tray or cup-holder or map pocket. It's isn't wedged into the seat or fallen onto the floormat.

Now I'm grinning a grin of total abject disbelief and nodding to no one, the way you see the faithful nod in affirmation of a sermon.

Looks like my night isn't over just yet.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Courtesy of the friendly folks at the Lancaster Condominium, Part II: Or, Welcome back. Now BLEED!


So, then: After it'd become apparent Sam wasn't going to budge on this point — he was by now shrugging a lot and repeating, "It's not my fault," which seemed beside the point (it wasn't my fucking fault, either) — and after I'd similarly shrugged and called Sam an asshole and gone upstairs to try room 213, all to no avail in re: procuring a master key to my deadbolt, I gnashed my teeth and did what had to be done: called a locksmith.

(By the way, the entire time I'm on the phone with the various locksmiths whose numbers I gather from 411 in what turns out to be a vain search for a reasonable price — every quote I receive is within a dollar of $150, making me wonder about collusion within this small local industry — the whole time I'm pacing out in front of my unit, which is what I do when I'm worked-up or angry or whatever, there's this girl, probably somewhere between about 14 and 17, the kind who shops at Hot Topic, probably, on her cell phone on the couch in the lobby very literally narrating my every move and telephonic comment, like providing a play-by-play of everything Mike Laws does for whoever it is on the end of her line, e.g., "Oooh, he just called him an asshole" and "Oh, his name's Mike — he just gave someone his name, did you hear that?" and "He just hung up and now he's dialing Directory Assistance again." This is incredibly obnoxious and distracting, and I shoot her various glares, which she ignores, so I give up and take my conversation outside.)

So now, resigning myself to having to fork over an unnecessary $150, and by this point parched from arguing with Sam and haggling over unnecessary condo-entrance-related expenses, I figure I'll kill part of the hour it'll likely take the locksmith to arrive by running over to CVS for something to drink.

The worst part about what follows is that I could've gone anywhere on Columbia Pike to accomplish this — the Texaco station, the Rite Aid, Bob & Edith's diner, any of several Thai restaurants — but for some reason am drawn, as if magnetically, to the CVS and, having turned into what I can see is a horribly overcrowded lot, am determined (by dint of inertia, maybe) nonetheless to park there and acquire my refreshing beverage from there and only there.

And so but yes, I admit it, I park illegally in a spot on the extreme-far-east side of the lot, just behind the tiny Salvadoran pupusa place (closed, at this hour) and across a chain-link fence from several trailers set up for workers doing construction on the new apartment complex/Giant going up in the adjacent lot. My thinking is that there's no way I'll be here more than 10 minutes, so I should be fine.

I'm only in there a little longer than I'd expected, the result of becoming stuck in line behind 1) a woman who's opted to do what looks to be about a month's worth of grocery-shopping and 2) a trio of Central Americans who want to use a coupon for a 12- and a six-pack of Coronas and are presently being told that that special has expired, which development they are none too happy about, believe you me. I'm out of there in probably under 15 minutes, though, still, and you can probably guess what happens next.

The weirdest part, when I get outside and cross the lot and see the empty space where my car used to be, is I'm not really even all that angry about it. I curse aloud, sure, but it's almost like I'm willing myself to anger rather than actually feeling it in my bones, the way it usually happens. Part of this is probably due to this whole evening beginning to take on the aforementioned hue of karmic retribution — the reaction is less Fuck, you've got to be kidding me! and more Oh, right, of course. How else could this have turned out, really?

There's also the speed with which the tow truck performed the operation; whoever this was, he was a goddamn ninja. This guy was so fast, in fact, that by the time I call the towing company (whose number is posted, helpfully, on a panel mounted to the side of the CVS, such that it's only a matter of seconds involved in placing the call), they've already got the car in the tow-yard. And this place is a couple miles away. I never even saw the tow truck.


Saturday, August 28, 2010

Courtesy of the friendly folks at the Lancaster Condominium, Part I

The following tale, I'll freely admit, has nothing whatsoever to do with baseball. It is, rather, the story of how what should have been a petty and easily remedied annoyance, when met with a total failure of good-Samaritanism, begot a true-blue comedy of errors — a series of ever-more-ludicrous (not to mention -expensive) occurrences that, even in the moment, began to feel ... cosmic. I don't know which god I pissed off, but probably one of the more major ones, is my guess.

The should-have-been petty annoyance was that I disembarked from a five-hour coast-to-coast Virgin American* flight and took a taxi from Dulles to my girlfriend's place out in McLean, where I retrieved my car and bid the girlfriend a temporary adieu and headed home to unpack and maybe cook something quick and generally decompress a bit before meeting up with some buddies to catch up on what I'd missed D.C.-wise over my deeply needed and most-excellent vacation in San Francisco with said girlfriend the past week. I pulled into the circular drive outside the lobby to my condo building, entered with bags in tow and turned the key in the lock — but no go. Someone — whoever'd let the electrician in earlier in the week to repair and upgrade the decades-old fuse panel — had, in addition to locking it, deadbolted the door.

For reasons that've never been entirely clear, I don't possess the key to the deadbolt of my own condo.

Of course, this sort of thing had happened before, and (as I've said) has in the past been only a petty annoyance. I called Roger^, the property manager, at his home in Falls Church; he suggested I try units G12 or 213, as members of the Board of Directors live in those condos and have access to the building's office, wherein there's a master set of keys useful for letting in locked-out residents or ushering electricians into units whose owners are off gallivanting around the Bay Area (as the case may be). I figured G12 is right down the hall; why not try there first?

Which is where we get into the decidedly-bad-Samaritan chapter in the story. Sam**, a probably 50-something Peruvian I've seen around the place a time or two, answered the door to G12, looking frazzled and bothered and generally not thrilled to be answering his door at 10 at night on a Friday; his attitude didn't improve much from there. Despite my assurances that yes, I did in fact live in G1 and had lived in G1 for over a year and had in fact just gotten off the phone with Roger, which conversation after all had been the impetus for knocking on his (Sam's) door, Sam said he'd have to call Roger himself and shut the door in my face. He then disappeared for five minutes or so, during which interval I could hear through the door what sounded less like Sam's half of a phone call to Roger and more like an unidentified female yelling in an unidentified language^^ at Sam. Upon his reappearance, Sam, sounding defensive, as if he could foretell the pique what he had to inform me would inspire, informed me that he could not open my door for me; to do so (he claimed) would contravene Board of Directors policy regarding (he claimed) the level of acceptable access to the building office (this though Roger, whose office it is, actually works for the Board).

[A brief interruption in our narrative here, Dear Reader, with your indulgence. I'm going to give Sam the benefit of the doubt and assume his actions in this case were governed not by his being a total fucking asshole who simply didn't feel like exerting the energy it'd take to walk the forty or so feet down the hall and to the building office to secure the master key and let me into my unit — though let's admit it, this seems just as likely a proposition as the alternative, which is that the guy is just a complete slave to what let's admit is a rather arbitrary Board of Directors policy re: not opening the office/letting locked-out residents in, even when it's not their fault they were locked out in the first place (and in fact a property manager or Board member had been the one to lock them out — but I digress).

In any event let's assume Sam's simply acting out of an unbending adherence to the rules and extrapolate his behavior to society writ large and ask whether we can't please stop following the writing on the walls to such a ridiculous T and actually (gasp!) use our own logical thinking brains or even (double gasp!) our hard-wired sense of, like, empathy and basic kindness to govern our behavior. Without getting into the matter of whether sticking to the rules so blindly is maybe the hallmark of stupidity, can't we agree that the alternative would make for, if not a stress-free society, at least one in which we're not burning calories getting into petty disputes with a bunch of drones sporting company jackets and photo-ID laminates whose only response when prodded to have a heart and put themselves in our position is "Sir. Sir. Sir. I'm going to have to ask you to ..."?***]



* Which, I feel compelled to add, is one hell of an operation. There's the fact we took off 45 minutes late from SFO and still managed to land only 10 or so minutes late at Dulles; also the kick-ass deceptively-simple stick-figure modern-art cartoon with which the airline reviews safety procedures; and finally the dim club-style upward-directed lighting in the cabin, all sexy pink and purple, as opposed to the sterile nerve-jangling bright-white of most modern fuselage decor.

^ Not his real name.

** Yes, his real name.

^^ Maybe Spanish, given what I was later informed was Sam's Peruvian provenance, but possibly also a Chinese dialect, Mandarin or Cantonese or other, Peru having received like basically the same number of Chinese immigrants as the American West circa the mid-1800s. The country is now home to over a million ethnic Chinese, one of the largest Chinese minority populations in the world.

*** Full disclosure: This last complaint — even some of its wording — is lifted from the venerable Adam Carolla, aka The Ace-Man, who often registers it (the complaint: what he typically refers to as the "We've deputized a bunch of idiots" argument) on his podcast, which I recommend to everyone everywhere at any time.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Scott Stapp

Could it be the tide is turning?

First Buck Showalter shows up and lights a fire under the Birds' collective backside; now we get word that Scott Stapp, late of everyone's favorite ambiguously Christian nu-metal/schlock-rock outfit — no, not P.O.D., friends, I'm talking about Creed! — now we have word that Stapp is responsible for the following crime against humanity:

Two or three months ago, fate would most assuredly have had this as the game-time anthem for the Orioles; when you're the laughingstock of the league, it's like Murphy's Law.

So this is a good sign, provided Peter Angelos doesn't decide to sign Crazy Town to do promo videos.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The saga continues; bowels uncooperative

To those of you foolish enough not to believe in the notion of karmic retribution, I offer the following cautionary tale. Behold, ye of little faith:

His convalescence from that nagging muscle strain complete, Your Humble Narrator targeted this past Monday as the day on which he'd set about cutting into all the walks to work that'd accreted over the three or so weeks during which he'd been more or less immobilized.

The weather having turned predictably balmy over that same period, a five-mile trek in the a.m. was out of the question, lest he turn up at work gushing like a BP-built undersea well and smelling like a Frenchman and generally ruining everyone's just-burgeoning lunchtime appetite. Packing his tennis shoes, Orioles shirt and Adidas drawstrings into his backpack, our intrepid — though pitiably stupid — subject resolved to make the walk home after the workday was done.

Ah, but here Fate, that cruel mistress, would interject her horrible bitch-ass self into the equation. Where our poor protagonist, had he chosen to undertake the usual morningtime sojourn, would've by rights been ravenously hungry upon arriving in downtown D.C., today, after a pleasant combination bus-and-Metro commute, he was merely a mite peckish, and so elected to keep things relatively low-calorie, breakfast-wise: Some fruit and yogurt would be quite enough to sate his innards, by this point registering no more than a low, tame growl.

The kiwi tasted odd. That much was undeniable. A few slices, maybe, were OK — tart and tangy and ripe enough they had to be chomped on a pulse or two before swallowing. But the rest were overly watery, far less than sweet, mealy. If our boy wondered whether maybe they'd sat on that little barely refrigerated counter an hour or two too long prior to his purchase, it didn't show in the way he tore through the fruit, barely pausing to sip his green tea in the process. Like we said, stupid.

And here's where karma really comes into play: Following his little mini-meal, the guy e-mail-forwarded this story to several friends and co-workers, taking great schadenfreudal delight in their amused, amusing responses.

Fast-forward eight or so hours. Our man, if he can rightfully be identified as such, is getting rained on by the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, at roughly the midway point in his walk. Grinning imbecile that he is, he's got his arms outstretched, pirated copy of the new Eminem album blaring over his headphones, glorying in a refreshing summer rain and blissfully unaware that this storm is an omen — nature's foreboding opening act.

And then the first wave hits him. He's way beyond public transportation now, a quarter of the way over the Memorial Bridge, when the acute pain shoots over his obliques. He shrugs and keeps walking, figures it's one of those inexplicable proprioceptive flashes, all sound and fury and signifying nothing, really.

At the base of the bridge a taxicab cuts too close to the curb and sends a torrent of hot rainwater slashing over his face. He wants to flip the guy off, but his guts seize when he turns. There is a godawful basso rumble he swears is audible over the sound from his headphones. And now the stomachache — a sharp, stabbing, low-in-the-low-intestine stomachache — now the stomachache starts.

He's still walking but now he's grimacing, hunched over, soaking wet and still two, maybe two and a half miles from home, and between him and that toilet — that porcelain fixture he'd never regarded as being so unbelievably, purely lovely as he imagines it now — between him and home is a stretch of road and sidewalk with nary a convenience store, nary a Salvadoran restaurant or motel office or even hidden-from-view alleyway to offer. Worse, this is Route 27, Washington Boulevard, there are no buses here, no Metro that runs parallel to the roadway; even worse, if the shit hits the fan (oh, God, not an image he should've conjured), he's directly adjacent to the Pentagon, and it's probably not a good idea to be ducking off the sidewalk and down some sloping patch of grass to try to pull of a quick covert defecation. Imagine the headlines for that shit: SUSPECTED TERRORIST ONLY POOPING.

Somehow, after many promises to God — about not delighting in others' misery, about trying to get to church on Sundays now and again, about being kinder and gentler and helping old ladies across the street and finally taking that trash bag full of disused garments to the Salvation Army and never again getting drunk and peeing off balconies — somehow he makes it home in just enough time to kick the cat aside and rush into the bathroom and undo the drawstring and ...


Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Phil Ewes

Look, I don't want to beat a dead horse or kick a horse while it's down or do anything generally unsavory to our fine equine friends. I've already registered my gripes with MASN's team of commentators, and I understand it can't be much fun for Gary Thorne to have to sit for God knows how many hours each day in sweaty press boxes repeating himself ad nauseam about glorified triple-A'ers being unable to pick up runners in scoring position or making untimely errors or blowing yet another save or, like, failing drug tests and getting caught cheating with one another's wives (which has to happen if this season is truly to go down in history as the quintessential baseball train-wreck).

What's more, I understand how all this might eventuate in Thorne's tendency to pour it on a little thick whenever the inevitable in-game meltdown happens each evening; it's like the guy's patting himself on the back for prognosticating the painfully obvious, gloating that (for example) Robinson Cano was just due for the hit that would continue his remarkable streak, and wouldn't you know it, the base knock came just when the Bombers had loaded them up, thereby putting themselves in position to take the lead, and at the expense of Cla Meredith, who just couldn't buy a hold this year.

So Gary gets a pass for all that, in my book. I'll even let him off the hook for his supremely irritating "three-RBI home run" call; ditto for bastardizing the surname of erstwhile O's manager Dave "Tromblay." (In a previous life, after all, Thorne was one hell of an NHL announcer, and it's gotta be tough to scrub one Yannick Tremblay from the ol' memory bank.)

But what I really, really cannot abide is the way Thorne pronounces the last name of Yankees hurler Phil Hughes: "Yoos," he calls him. What is this, Pygmalion? Do we need to get 'Enry 'Iggins up in the booth to work with Gary on speaking the King's?

Please, Gary, if we have to play — and probably lose to — these guys 18 times a season, at least heed this advice: You're a professional broadcaster. You're not beneath proper intonation of glottal fricatives.