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.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

71 and 8

No, friends, that's not the record this sorry excuse for a ball club will have to post the rest of the way to break even this season.

Rather, it's the running tally of exercise sets and walks to work, respectively, that I've racked up while allowing the muscle strain in my lower right leg to heal. Rest assured that Your Humble Narrator will not be invoking a piddling little high-ankle tweak toward the end of excusing himself from his stated summer mission. A little more ice, a little more Ben-Gay, a steady diet of Advil and a new pair of tennis shoes and he'll be right back in the game — and just in time for the yearly D.C. wave of ungodly, oppressive heat. Gonna be a fun June, that's for sure!

Anyway, since moaning about the Orioles has long since passed the point of fun grumbling and entered into the realm of the massively redundant, here's some other news:

This photo comes courtesy of one Pat Ostrye, who attended the May 26 contest at which the Baltimore brass apparently decided to wholeheartedly embrace the laughingstock-of-the-league image the Birds have cultivated by way of their play on the field this season.

I'd say more about it — and there's a lot to say; just look at the position ol' Bobblehead Reimold's assuming to, er, make that catch — but I can't put it better than Pat himself, who writes:

Also, when I got home and opened it, it was broken. They were basically handing out metaphors for the Orioles' season last night. 

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Fantasy injury update

Mike Laws (undisclosed lower-body injury) walked to work yesterday but will refrain from doing so again pending improvement in his condition, which is not thought to be serious but is somewhat bothersome to the lad,'s Le'Chaim Slaw reports.

SPIN: While the mystery ailment, which is believed to involve the tibialis anterior, could derive from any of various stressful activities to which this jackass subjects himself on a weekly basis — an awkward decelerative maneuver during today's 6 a.m. pickup-hockey session at the Kettler Capitals Iceplex, perchance, or improperly performed lunges the night preceding (to say nothing of the admittedly idiotic beach bonfire-jumping competition of Friday last in Ocean City, Md.) — it is hoped by both the Blueliners of Laurel, Md.'s Gardens Ice House and the Wombats of the aforementioned Kettler Iceplex that the center/winger-cum-tragically devoted Orioles fanatic will recover in time for this weekend's slate of (largely meaningless, early-season) men's league hockey match-ups.

ADVICE: We wouldn't bench the kid just yet, though do keep an eye on him; this sort of whiny, self-obsessed drivel points to his being a more or less total pussy.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

In defense of napping

No, the whole dust-up surrounding the report that Ken Griffey Jr. was asleep in the Seattle Mariners clubhouse when called on to pinch-hit over the weekend doesn't have anything to do with the Orioles — aside from the fact that said Mariners are currently in Baltimore for a three-game set, that is.

Hell, I'll take it. It's not like there's anything new to say about the O's, who are still booting balls and losing games and, in two-out RBI situations, looking about as comfortable as an Englishman on a nude beach.

So I hope you'll indulge me for a moment while I step up onto my soapbox ...

My feeling about Griffey slam-dancing with the Sandman mid-Mariners game is essentially this:


First of all, I don't think this would be a big deal even if it'd involved one of the game's lesser lights — like, say, a middle reliever from Kansas City or that sixth Molina brother or anyone batting sixth through ninth in the Baltimore lineup. (And if it'd been Manny Ramirez, you can bet your ass folks in Boston or L.A. or wherever he's currently making a mockery of our pastime would've already shrugged and chalked it up to — ugh — "Manny being Manny.")

But in the case of Ken Griffey Jr., dude's earned it.

Look at it my way. I'm an inveterate napper. I've been at my current job now for three and a half years, during which time I've proven myself more than adept at whatever work's come my way (which, breathe a sigh of relief, I won't bore you with the details of). I didn't sneak naps at first — probably not for the first two and a half years, even. But now I've got absolutely zero issue with ducking down for a quick Z at my desk. Don't even care when I wake and lift my woozy head only to find a full-force flooger extending from my lower lip down to the forearm on which it'd previously rested.

Point being, Mike Laws : his job  ::  Ken Griffey Jr. : professional baseball, and we're both allowed to nap if we're knackered and not busy and need to recharge our own personal Duracells.

But the bigger issue here is that baseball, let's face it, can be really, intensely, undeniably fucking boring. Anyone who's sat in a press box every day over a whole summer can tell you that — tell you how, despite their love of the sport, they'll still show up at the park each evening, arrange their notes, fill in their scorecards, open their laptops, then pray for a 1-0 pitchers' duel. Get this thing over ASAP. My guess is the players (who, after all, have shown up at the park far, far earlier than your typical newspaperman) don't feel much differently.

And let's not forget the alternative to catching a quick clubhouse nap. If you're going to mandate that your players be wide awake for each and every inning of all 162 games season in and season out — even the rarely called-on relievers, the bench players, that sixth outfielder who doesn't even bother with BP anymore — you can expect some pretty unsavory behavior. Remember the whole "greenies" issue? Remember how much it turned out ballplayers enjoyed a good line of the ol' Bolivian marching powder to ward off boredom and fatigue? You might prevent players' napping, but soon enough you'll be forced to listen to Felix Pie telling Craig Tatum all about snowflakes being the key to the fifth dimension.

So let's give Griffey a break. He was sleeping. Alone. And not in a room featuring portraits of himself as a centaur.

Friday, May 7, 2010

An alien in orange

They're out there.

On a park bench on a path on the Mall — under canopied cover of leafy summer green, thick dark tangled green splashed with ocher-tone where the unruly oblique light slashes through — there they silently sit, lipless and snarling and backlit by the setting sun, they're all teeth, the rest is shadow at this sinister hour.

You latch onto the things that give them away, the facts of their being that not even the collusion of light and haze and shadow, not even the craning reptilian contortions of their heads atop their necks, can conceal: neon shorts unveiling knobby knees, neon fanny-packs slack and limp like a synthetic second gut, cheap plasticene visors probably procured only hours earlier from a nearby vendor.

You have to remind yourself: These are creatures of harmless comfort, pudgy and soft with late-middle age, ladies with varicose veins and carbuncular pre-cancerous skin-tags who've sought out this place to sit in the shade — this twilit respite from screaming kids and photo-crazed Japanese tourists and sad-eyed, slow-moving vets hawking their wares, their pins and T-shirts and sew-on patches: VFW, RIP, POW-MIA.

You have to stop doing this to yourself — selecting as your soundtrack for the long walk home these icy, glass-encased anthems, Mirrored by Battles, "Echoes" by Pink Floyd, austere atonal dirges like alien laments for our doomed, dying planet — and what's worse, these are funeral marches with real climaxes that never fail to synchronize in some fatidic way with the long walk itself: how "Echoes" chugs up and out of chaotic cacophony and into that final verse just as you stride out of the forest and onto the huge flat tiles below the Lincoln Memorial; how Battles' "Tonto" coalesces into its mammoth stomp precisely as you separate from the madding crowd and pivot to get your first view of the Memorial Bridge back to Virginia.

Because up until that point, when you've left behind all the tubby tourists in their bright clothes and the packs of Neoprene'd joggers and the screeching kids on their field trips — when you're heading back to the Old Dominion on the leg of the walk where you're unlikely to encounter another living soul and you're on those disused cracked sidewalks and the music's taken another turn — it's too easy to forget who's been the alien all along, isolated under wraparound headphones and behind Saigon-mirror shades in his orange Nike Dri-Fit, his worn rubber soles.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Mail time!

I never thought I'd be saying this about a 7-and-18 team, but I have nothing to complain about today — not after the Orioles completed a weekend sweep of not just any team, not the Royals or A's or Indians, but the Red Sox — and did so in dramatic fashion, a pair of 10-inning barn-burners bookending the three-game set and a wild, 12-9 slugfest providing the sweet, sweet meat in this particular grinder.

Which, of course, meant a lot of red-eyed Red Sox fans hanging their heads on the way out the gates on Eutaw Street. Fenway South this ain't, kid. Your team looks wicked awful.

Anyway, in lieu of the usual self-pitying splenetic venting, and on the heels of a real interview with yours truly in re: this ridiculous and ill-conceived idea for a blog, I thought I'd answer a handful of questions I've received from you, beloved readers. Don't say I never did anything for ya.

Are you really watching every inning of every game? Aaron Blake, Washington, D.C.

Fuck, no! Aren't the long walks to work and repetitive exercises punishment enough? You think I actually want to pay attention to this team? Nah, brah, if there's anything else worth watching on TV — a Penguins playoff game, an MS telethon, reruns of "Saved by the Bell: The New Class" — that's what I'll be doing from 7 to 10 most nights. Then in the morning, I'll go find a box score and add up the walks issued, errors committed, strikeouts against, GIDPs, etc., and get down to business.

What do you do for weekend games? — Elsbeth Mantler, Baltimore, Md.

Well, Els, as you well know, I'm something of a closet karaoke freak, and come Friday that freak flag gon' fly. Which usually means sublime renditions of Sublime at Summers. Which usually means I'm in no shape to do any walking or working out on a Saturday morning. Point being, I've decided to give myself Friday and Saturday games off, as I don't work weekends anyway and thus couldn't be expected to walk downtown following a loss. Sunday games do, however, count against me — and remember, this is a team that, over the past two seasons, has gone a combined 14-and-37 on Sundays.

What if it's raining during your walk? — Ambassador Henry Imbabwetumba, Yamoussoukro, Côte d'Ivoire

I'll just do what the pros do and postpone the walk for a later date — possibly even a double-header, in which case I'll walk both to and from work, burning calves and battered feet be damned! Speaking of which, I'm also now greatly looking forward to days the Orioles have off — just like the players themselves, I'm betting.

In any event, the MO here is to keep a running tally of rain-delayed walks; currently my magic number is two. I do likewise for the exercises, as I've been advised that one shouldn't engage in such lifting every single day of the week. I currently "owe" seven sets, which figure I'll add to tonight's totals — sure to be hefty (no pun intended), as CC Sabathia's pitching — and blast out in the a.m.

If the Orioles sweep the Yankees or Red Sox, shouldn't you give yourself a day off from walking, like a Get out of Jail Free card? — Chad Ford, Salisbury, Md.

Best idea I've heard in a long time. My magic number is now, officially, one.

Thanks, BoSox!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Who are the ad wizards ... ?

Back in the halcyon April of aught-five, when I was about to graduate from college and spring had just sprung and the Orioles were tearing up the league, having gone 16-7 for the month and even sweeping the Yankees in a four-game set — in short, when all seemed right with the world — I chanced to come across a local-TV ad for the lowly Kansas City Royals.

Because I was in school in Providence, R.I., at the time, I figured I'd try out this crazy newfangled package, which allowed the user access — grainy, choppy, largely unsatisfactory access — to whatever out-of-market game his baseball-besotted heart might desire. Using an S-video cable, I'd Bogart the downstairs TV of our senior-year house, watching my then-surging O's intently and shouting drunkenly at what I thought were blatant bad calls and generally bugging the shit out of my roommates.

Anyway, one of's side-benefits (or -drawbacks, depending on how you tend to look at these things) is that you never really know whose broadcast the service is pulling from, your team's or the opposition's. So on one of these fine April days — I believe it was a game in which Geronimo Gil keyed a late rally, if you can believe that ever actually happened — during one of these broadcasts I caught an ad encouraging ... no, beseeching ... no, begging Royals fans to come out to Kauffman Stadium. In this endeavor — I thought shamefully — the spots employed the voices of various little kids, who talked about playing on the fun slides and monkey bars in the park's jungle gym or hanging out with Slugerrr the Lion or, you know, tweaking out on cotton candy — in short, any- and everything not having to do with Royals baseball itself.

Now, at the time I found myself tsk-tsking. How sad, I thought, for an organization to find itself reduced to selling the experience at the ballpark over the product on the field. My Orioles, as bad as they'd been since '98, were surely on the upswing now; we had our coterie of flashy free-agent signings (Miggi, Raffy, Javy, Sammy) to lure folks back into Camden Yards; no way would we ever hit the bottom Kansas City had.

Ah, but fate, as Morpheus once put it so eloquently to Neo, is not without a sense of irony. Because today I find myself praying ... no, imploring ... no, begging the Orioles brass or MASN execs or ... whoever to please get these infernal "Defining Moment" ads off the air.

Look, MASN broadcasts are already plenty painful. To say nothing of the actual play on the field (I'll let the 3-16 record suffice), we have to put up with Gary Thorne, who in another life was a fine play-by-play guy — for professional ice hockey. When Thorne's out, we get the pleasure of Jim Hunter licking Jim Palmer's ballsack for nine innings at a time. Then there are the constant fuck-ups: the wrong counts, the wrong number of outs, a three-run homer against the Birds that was actually a grand slam against the Birds.

Long story short, the commercials should offer a reprieve between bouts of prime, grade-A suckage — suckage infesting everything down Oriole Way, from the field to the booth to the truck. Instead, we get these ridiculous, unwarrantedly braggy ads in which Orioles fans, huddled together on a Baltimore rooftop, mitts on and all, taunt an opposing pitcher, daring him to throw the heater. "The faster it comes in, the farther it goes out," one guy says, shit-eating grin splayed across his mug.

These spots wouldn't even be cool if we were, say, the Phillies or Rays right now; wouldn't we want to be more magnanimous in victory? But let's not get ahead of ourselves. We're not the Rays or Phillies or Yankees or Cardinals. We're 3 and 16. Three and sixteen. Can't we film a quick series of ads that play up the charm of the warehouse or the cheap Natty Bohs or the Bird's killer blow jobs?

Still, I guess it could be worse. At least it was the Nats who got the worst of this series of ads. Um, yeah, we do know who Wil Nieves is — by your own admission, a guy who will never, ever do this again:

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Let's stay together

Dearest Orioles,

Let me preface what I have to say here by telling you I love you. Always have, always will. It's not going to be easy to write what I have to write to you today, but just know I'm doing it for the sake of our relationship — for the sake of salvaging this beautiful thing we once had, and could again.

The truth is, things haven't been the same between us of late. Of late, hell — not for the past 12 seasons (and counting). It's like you just stopped trying after 1997. Sure, you'll say I changed around that time, too, but mostly I just couldn't support what you were doing: how you'd come into all that money; the lavish spending sprees that ensued; your flirtations with bad boys like Albert Belle, staying out all night. I know I started to lose my cool, what with the constant bickering, the shouting at you, that time I got drunk and told you I'd been fantasizing about the Blue Jays. And I'm sorry for all that. But you know and I know that you stopped taking care of yourself and your true needs. You lost your Oriole Way.

But we had it so good before that, baby! Remember those wild early days? The pennants, the playoffs, the lineups chockablock with future Hall of Famers? God, I was so smitten with you. And you, for your part, truly reciprocated. Lately the best I can get out of you is Matt Wieters T-shirt night; time was, the Bird would blow me in the back of a cab.

Maybe I was just young and naive. I was the new kid on the block in October of '83, all green behind the ears at 1 month old, and you were this sexy, experienced team ready to usher me into a world, and a World Series, the likes of which I'd scarcely know again. You showed me what it was to live.

And based on that promise, I stayed with you through the thick and the thin — through '88, the first time we almost broke up; through '89, when all of a sudden we made it work again; through the lean years of the early '90s and the heady vintage days of '96 and '97. That's why I'm still with you now, girl: We've weathered it all, you and I, and I know we can get back to that good stuff. You're my soulmate.

But I need you, please, to stop doing these things to torture me. You've made me walk to work every fucking day this week — and I wouldn't mind that; in fact part of me likes doing it, if for no other reason than to show the world my devotion to you. But yesterday you knew I was coming up on two consecutive days of hockey games, and you picked that day of all days to get totally smoked, 9-1, including a whopping 21 negative events, such that I'd have not only to walk downtown today, but also to nearly cripple myself lifting weights before doing so.

That's just cold, baby. Still, I'm willing to forgive and forget and move on with you; to grow old with you; to die with a love for you and you alone in my unwavering heart.

Just please, for the love of God, win a couple ballgames.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Opening night

All right, Mike Gonzalez, I'm willing to forgive and forget — so long as you don't make this a regular occurrence.

Turns out a nice long walk was just what I needed: the sun beating down, the a.m. temperature already a breeze-free 75°, packs of tourists like wild Nikon-wielding beasts skulking around the steps of the Lincoln Memorial — forerunners, all, of what'll doubtless be a long, hot, sticky summer.

And of course that reminded me of all the games yet to take place — 161, to be exact (I'm assuming the Orioles won't be playing any more than that, but prove me wrong, kids!). So while this one smarted, especially since it was opening night and the other pitching performances were so stellar and all the young dudes (Wieters, Jones, Markakis) were hitting the ball on the nose, I'd decided, by the end of my meditative five-mile jaunt, that Mr. Gonzalez deserves to be judged by his work over a full season, and that comparisons to Jorge Julio* or Armando Benitez are premature at best.

(By the way, that's a rather pleasant catch-22, eh? Gonzalez's performance, and his performance alone, undoes all the hard-fought at-bats, all the wriggling-out-of-jams of earlier in the game, is itself the sole reason I had to walk to work today — and yet, by very virtue of that walk to work, he's forgiven.)

Shifting gears ... I'm seeing the Arctic Monkeys in Baltimore tonight and thus felt it'd be appropriate, over the course of the walk, to revisit the band's debut LP, Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not.

The verdict? Despite the title (which, like the band name, is shockingly awful, especially viewed in light of Alex Turner's considerable gifts as a lyricist), the album holds up fairly well, though I think I'll go and take a piss or hit on that bartendress with the lip-ring if they decide to play "Riot Van"** or "Perhaps Vampires is a Bit Strong But ..."*** or "Still Take You Home." Happily, on the other hand, "The View from the Afternoon" and "When the Sun Goes Down" still rock like all hell, the latter of the two, in this author's humble opinion, offering a sign of things to come once Turner turned his penetrating gaze away from the public house's bathroom mirror.

That said, if they don't play "Cornerstone," I'm demanding my money back.

And finally ... I'd like to apologize to whoever was in the adjacent stall in the office bathroom when I used mine as a personal changing station****, proceeding to strip, wipe myself down with paper towels (and then, having run out of those, with wads of toilet paper) and re-dress in the work clothes I'd portaged in my backpack. I can see how it'd be weird to look beneath the divider and see bare feet — weird enough, possibly, to stop an otherwise-pleasant bowel movement midstream. Part of me hopes you'll see this just so you know I'm not a homeless.


* Speaking of Jorge Julio, I was surprised, a couple of days ago, to find myself in a conversation with a fellow bar patron in which the subject of his conceding a home run to Jack Wilson — yes, that Jack Wilson, the sure-handed shortstop who hadn't homered since 8-year-old league, probably — came up. Mostly I was surprised that any non-Orioles or -Pirates fan (and let's face it, there aren't many of either, or at least not many who'll admit to it) would remember this moment, being as it happened on June 7, 2005. But I remember, mostly because that was the death-knell of the Baltimore season, which had gotten off to a rollicking start (16-7 in April) but was bound to fall back to earth at some point. Anyway, to that guy at the bar, I just want to say: So glad you remember.

** The only good thing about "Riot Van" is how perfectly it segues into "Red Light Indicates Doors Are Secure." Which doesn't justify the Arctics' trotting either out in Baltimore tonight.

*** That track was never as winning or lovable as, say, Eminem's early stuff in its prediction of the undesirable trappings of future success — success that itself had yet to be attained, mind you — namely the press shitting all over you, which, it should be noted, never really happened to the Arctics.

**** Ordinarily, when I use a stall for this purpose, the bathroom is otherwise empty. I'd've used the back stairwell, except then I would've had to close the door to said stairwell behind me, and I happen to know that the doors in this building lock from the outside, which nugget of wisdom I gleaned when, early in our then-covert courtship, I spirited a certain lovely co-worker back there for some thrillingly dangerous making-out but then, less suavely, found that I'd gotten us both locked out and that we'd have to descend nine flights of stairs to get to the lobby and take the elevator back up. (By the way, if you're a boss or a building manager and you're reading this, I totally made the whole thing up. Poetic license.)

Friday, March 26, 2010

The dry run, Part II

View Larger Map

It strikes me as a rather happy accident, or possibly no accident at all, that the route I've chosen requires roughly an hour and a quarter to traverse.

Which is the exact amount of time, plus or minus a couple minutes, it used to take to get to this same job from my old apartment up on the 20th story of the Horizon House in Baltimore. Down that slow, rickety elevator, out the door, up Calvert I'd go, presently cutting over to St. Paul to race-walk north for a block or two, Penn Station's grand stone archways already visible up the street, framed by a gantlet of red-brick rowhouses.

And then it was on to the MARC, that lonesome hourlong trip to be made twice each weekday, from Baltimore to D.C. and back, the bulk of these many hours (a year and a half's worth) thoroughly uneventful and numbingly dull: all sleeping or reading or staring out the window at the gray-green swampland the color of uncooked scrapple between the two cities.

And maybe it's no accident people thought that was just as ridiculous a commute as this new idea.

But I've missed it. Like Joan Didion says, we tell ourselves stories in order to live. The stars of our own movies, the protagonists in our own running roman-à-clefs, it's when life becomes static and romanceless that things lose their luster. And what's more romantic than beginning and ending each day in a largely deserted train station in a totally different city from that in which you work? In the spaces between the two — waiting at the depot, waiting on the track, exiting the station into the night air — in the spaces between you see yourself from above; you lose yourself and all your petty petulant workaday worries; for an hour and a quarter you're Don Draper, alone and unknowable, anyone and no one. Tutto e niente. Alive with mystery, things pulse, pregnant with purpose.

So yes, maybe this new effort is a way of regaining that vital buffer between office and home life, of restoring those restorative hours of quiet self-effacing contemplation where work's a distant worry and things slow down and unfurl before you, offering themselves up for your unthinking, childlike attention:

The way the roadway glints in the sun, it's not the matte slab you see from your car, it's pocked with pearl.

The adjacent parks crisscrossed with bike trails, redolent of honeysuckle and fresh-cut grass.

Damon Albarn's voice in your left ear like he's coming in over a land-line a continent away, bringing his disaffected apocalyptic tidings.

That one lamp-pole sliced in half on the Memorial Bridge.

Bikers in neoprene Spandex, bikers in fingertip-cutoff gloves, bikers looking Slavic beneath angular shades.

A spent condom on the asphalt dead-center of the exit to PENTAGON PARKING NORTH.

Damon sing-speaking, Nature's corrupted/In factories far away.

People in cars, people on buses, more bikers. People sipping coffee in the driver's seat, people screaming at co-workers on Bluetooth headsets.

The empty refreshment stand encircled by empty park benches on the lawn just south of the Lincoln Memorial, how it's exactly like you pictured the opening scene in The Master and Margarita.

Honest Abe perched like a god over the Mall, petty tourists striving about under his huge legs.

Cart-side vendors hawking trinkets commemorating various national sadnesses.

Group after squealing group of kids on field trips.

The wall, smaller than you remembered, festooned with wreaths.

Damon saying, Up on melancholy hill/ There's a plastic tree/ Are you here with me?

Friday, March 19, 2010

The dry run, Part I

... Though truth be told that title's a total misnomer, as this, my inaugural five-mile walk from condo to office, was to be neither dry nor a run.

Even at a slackened pace — if not quite leisurely, today's rate of speed was a far cry from my usual clip, which onlookers have likened to that of a meth addict toward the end of a four-day tweak — even slowing things down this good couple notches, I still would've failed the Sure/Unsure test by, oh, about the time I reached the Navy Annex:

View Larger Map

Like I said, I'm a right sweaty bastard. Thing is, today was actually chilly at 8 a.m., when I started this test-walk, cold enough to gnarl the fingers on the hands between which I passed the one-gallon jug of Deer Park I fill from the cooler at work and sometimes take home at the end of the day, which may or may not be in contravention of company rules, it's kind of a gray area — but, oh yeah, so anyway, no more than three minutes in on this nipply morn I was still suffering from sweat down my back like a layer of frost. (And yes, I'm plagiarizing "Trainspotting." Big whoop. Wanna fight about it?)

Point being, I shudder to think what's going to happen if the Orioles pull their usual dog-days swoon.

That said, I have to report that the, er, sudorifery notwithstanding, I quite enjoyed the walk to work. I rag on D.C. a lot — how it's got no skyline, how it's got no native inhabitants, how the inhabitants it does have are oftentimes total tools — and while I don't want to get too misty-eyed and gushy here, suffice it to say that it's tough to beat the view from the hillside just east of the Air Force Memorial in Arlington, where Columbia Pike curls north and crests down toward the Pentagon — a view that includes, in one wide panoramic sweep, the southern boundary of Arlington National Cemetery, row after perfectly spaced row of identical white markers on a sloping verdant bed; the southwest wall of the Pentagon, its new section patching where the plane went in a touch more lightly shaded than the surrounding concrete; and off across the river, of course, the Monument and Capitol beyond, shadows shrouded in the gauzy a.m. sunlight.

Ah, shit, that did get kinda misty-eyed, didn't it?

To be continued ...

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Number crunchers

Man, that was a great game, huh? Remember? So damn fun. Plus it taught me my prime numbers (though to this day I'm not sure about 2). I once actually pissed myself midway through class because I didn't want to leave the computer lab during a particularly good run through the Factors level. I'd love to be able to tell you that was way back in third grade, but it was actually junior year of college. No, I'm just kidding. It was third grade. In my defense, I was really drunk.

But that's actually not the game to which this post refers.

Rather, this is where I take a look at the Orioles' team stats from last season, an analysis I should've  by rights conducted before devising my scheme, and either (a) begin to get really, really freaked out about the Punishment Plan or (b) thank my lucky stars things fell so righteously into place.

See, when I put the regimen together, I drew on only the roughest of estimates to conclude that the five negative events would average a total of about 12 per game. I figured O's hitters would get rung up about four times per game and ground into a double play maybe once; the pitchers would walk three guys or so and concede three or four extra base hits; and the fielders would boot a ball just about every other game. Hence the 12 exercises; your average Orioles ballgame would put me through my paces for one set of each.

So what do the numbers bear out? Using 2009 figures — and remember, most experts believe the club will be significantly improved this season — the Orioles averaged:

6.25 K/game
.808 GIDP

3.37 BB and 0.31 HBP
3.72 XBH

.555 E

Total average of negative events per game = 15.013

Not too shabby, huh? Plus, you've got to figure the pitching — benefiting from the addition of vet Kevin Millwood and the experience young bucks like Brian Matusz accreted last year — will hold opponents to fewer doubles and home runs this year; that's where the Orioles were godawful last season.

Comparing the Birds to the Yankees, 2009's World Series winners and thus the gold standard for the league, and limiting the comparison to the above statistical categories, Baltimore actually fared as well or better in every measurement except team fielding and extra base hits.

Problem is, they were much worse in terms of giving up the gapper: An eye-popping 9.5 percent of plate appearances against Baltimore hurlers resulted in a double, triple or home run. That's 604 XBH against. The Yankees? Only 7.7 percent, or 481 XBH against. Yes, the new Yankee Stadium's a better park for pitchers, but that's still a massive disparity.

Point being, let's take a cue from the Yanks and really get behind each other out there:

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The 'before' photos

No, I'm not a tease, if that's what you're thinking, Michael Bluth.

Oh, there's a good couple thousand words' worth of (blurry, rather amateurish, cell phone-quality) pictures below, but in the interest of keeping things Safe for Work I thought it'd be best to pad this entry with enough of my own verbiage to keep you, Dear Reader, a security-scroll away from any scandalous shots of Your Humble Narrator in the semi-buff.

Which explains the oddly timed line-breaks and parenthetical insertions.

Just padding.

That's Mike Laws — always looking out for ya.

(Though I do apologize for using the word insertion in a post such as this.)

(And sorry in advance if I spoil anyone's breakfast with my man-panties or general hairiness.)

There, that should do it. On to the photos! (WARNING: You may want to dim the brightness on your monitor or throw on a pair of sunglasses. I'm blindingly pale.)

Now, let me be clear: I'm not in terrible shape going into this project; you're not going to bear witness to anything remotely resembling MTV's "True Life: I Shed a Small Horse," where the intrepid subject forgos liposuction and begins an exercise regimen, modest at first but increasing in intensity, completely turning his life around along the way, and by the end of the show we petty viewers feel really good, having lived vicariously through this amazing overcoming-of-all-tall-obstacles, and the only question left as the credits roll is what to do with all the residual flapping folds of mottled flesh that hang loose like sleeve of wizard.

But yeah, nothing like that here. There was a time in my life, now five years gone, when I cracked the 200-pound ceiling — pretty heavy for me, at 5-foot-9-and-a-half, and the result of a steady diet of beer and Buffalo wings. Here's a picture:

And yes, I did proceed to finish both plates. Anyway, since those sad days I've become obsessed with ice hockey, joining two teams and playing three to four times per week. I also set about on a more sensible diet, one heavy on salad and lean meat and sushi and with very little in the way of anything red or deep-fried (though I'm still a sucker for Wendy's). I weigh in now at 160.

Lest this sound like so much self-congratulating, my point is that I've gotten off to a decent start but seem to have plateau'd — understandable, being as hockey, up till now, has represented the be-all-end-all of strenuous physical activity in my life. Hence, then, the shocking dearth of musculature in the above photos; hence the pectoral muscles, or lack thereof — I've logged countless sweaty hours on the ice, and all I got was the chest of a preteen Korean boy. Worse, playing one sport and nothing but one sport has left me lean and hard and ropy in certain places (the outside of the thighs, the upper abdomen, the shoulders) but still slack and doughy in others (pretty much everywhere else). Hockey, God bless it, has done to my entire body what tennis has done to Rafael Nadal's arms.

So that's another reason behind The Orioles-Fan Punishment Plan: to find that extrinsic motivation for completing the job, as it were, and turning this —

— into this:

Er, minus the swastika ...

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

A word on the walk

Before getting to the promised Before Picture, I wanted to address those of you who, kindly expressing concern for my safety and/or sanity, wrote on my Facebook wall or IM'd or e-mailed privately to suss out whether I was seriously considering flagellating myself by way of a 4.5-mile walk to work following every Orioles loss in 2010 — and, as a corollary, whether this would eventuate in my hating these formerly beloved Birds by, oh, say, the All-Star break.

Let me rejoin the first query by saying that if you think it's nuts to schlep it from South Arlington to downtown D.C. after each O's loss — and even crazier to rouse oneself at the ass-crack of dawn to do so — well, then it's about to get really bat-shit insane up in here.

Because it turns out this is more like a six-mile trek.

See, on the way to work yesterday (from the comfort of my Civic, I should add), I cased the route Google Maps had suggested for anyone dumb or ignorant enough to proceed by foot from lower Arlington to downtown Washington. Google's helpful caveat — Use caution: This route may be missing sidewalks or pedestrian paths — turned out totally spot-on in this case. Not only that; it appeared my best option, if I preferred not to traipse about in the path of oncoming traffic, would be to carve a shortcut across freakin' Arlington National Cemetery. Hmmm ... get smacked by a bus, or trample on the final resting places of fallen national heroes? Thanks, Google!

Long story short, the route's now looking more like this:
View Larger Map

In related news, I'm taking suggestions for the tracksuit/headband ensemble I'll be donning to make these walks. (Anyone who knows me knows I sweat profusely just sitting on my biscuit all day — I don't own an undershirt that's not caked piss-yellow under the arms. So no way am I walking six miles in my work clothes.) I'm thinking a "Royal Tenenbaums"-inspired look with Günther-style shades. Any input would be greatly appreciated.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The mission


For those of us who take our sports entirely too seriously, the modes of grief are almost never constructive. It’s a cliché now, and so we dismiss it as hyperbole, but think about how his fellow cave-dwellers might’ve reacted when the first knuckle-dragging sports nut of all time (call him the ur-fan) shook his head, sniffled, cursed the pagan gods and — thinking back on his favorite team’s heartbreaking loss in last night’s game of some unnamed contest that probably looked a lot like modern rugby — grunted something along the lines of How can they do this to me? I live and die with these guys. Taken literally, the second half of that phrase represents a pretty grave threat.

But maybe that’s a bad example, too hypothetical, colored too heavily by a certain series of car-insurance ads that used to be funny but quickly (to invoke another cliché) jumped the shark. So how’s this: One of my very earliest, foggiest memories is of my dad, in what must have been 1988, after what must have been yet another Orioles loss, clicking off the TV and making that disgusted teeth-and-tongue pteh sound and proceeding to throw an empty beer can at the set. (To be perfectly honest I don’t remember whether it was beer or Diet Coke or, you know, Tab, but it’s a better story if I say it was beer.) Possibly this was one of the 21 straight losses with which the O’s had started their monumentally, almost gloriously awful season; possibly it was Loss 21 itself; I can’t rightly say. The point is that this is what losing, lots of losing, can do to an otherwise well-adjusted fan: It can make him act like an out-of-control, wife-beating drunk — even if it is only Tab he’s drinking.


It’s with all this in mind that I decided I’d try a little experiment: what I’m calling the Orioles-Fan Punishment Plan. Rather than sulk with each fresh Orioles loss — rather than sigh and crack another beer every time Miguel Tejada grounds into a double play or pick a fight with the loudmouth Red Sox supporter in front of me at Camden Yards who’s got the gall to boo our relievers for throwing over to first — rather than abuse myself on account of what’s destined to be a .500-or-below team, I’m going to ... um, abuse myself on account of that team. But in a good way.

To wit:

Over the course of the 2010 season, each time any of five negative in-game events occurs, I will perform one set’s worth of a rotating series of exercises. The negative events are:

Pitching events: Baltimore pitcher issues base on balls/hits batsman; concedes extra base hit.

Hitting events: Baltimore batter grounds into double play; strikes out.

Fielding events: Baltimore defender commits error.

The exercises are:

Pushups (20 reps = one set)

Core circuit: Sit-ups (40 reps), recumbent leg lifts (12 reps), recumbent pedal-twists (20 reps)

Plank (hold for 40 seconds)

Swinging shoulder press (10 lbs; 10 reps)

Dumbbell standing press (20 lbs; 10 reps)

Dumbbell lunge (20 lbs; 10 reps per leg)

Dumbbell rotation (20 lbs; 8 reps per side)

Bicep curl (20 lbs; 10 reps per arm)

Forearm curl (20 lbs; 30 reps per arm)

Single-arm dumbbell swing (20 lbs; 10 per arm)

If it seems like I’ve kept the weights and number of reps low, remember that (a) these guys play every night and (b) I’m kind of a pussy. Also, I own no more than a pair of 10- and a pair of 20-pound dumbbells and don’t plan on expanding that collection — and besides, the idea is to keep the exercises reasonably low-impact so as to be able to perform them over and over and over, such as the Orioles’ suckage this season may be.

If you still think I’m going easy on myself, there’s also The Biggie: Following every O’s loss in 2010, I will walk to work, weather permitting.

This is a 4.5-mile walk, per Google Maps, and that’s assuming the route is actually passable by foot — doubtful, given the paucity of sidewalks and/or shoulders on the relevant stretches of Columbia Pike and Washington Boulevard. I’ve never, ever walked to work before, so this should be interesting.


Anyway, that’s the idea behind this blog: to chronicle my efforts at channeling what’s ordinarily a negative experience (watching the Orioles) into positive results (a kickass body), and to subject you, Dear Reader, to all the musings, be they brilliant insights or half-formed, half-retarded brain droppings, that chance to drift across my transom.

Next up: A word on my health going into this — with pictures. Be ye fairly warned, womenfolk.