New Orleans: 2012

August 20, 2012

“Remove all metal items.  Empty your pockets.”

As I patted my pockets, I felt the comfortable bulge of my flip wallet, but in a moment of sheer panic I realized that my other pocket was empty.  That was because there wasn’t a cell phone in it.  That was because my cell phone was in the middle console in Ross’s car.

This was either very fortuitous because I was attending a bachelor party or a cataclysmal event that could tear the very fabric of reality to shreds because the bachelor party was in New Orleans.  I was nervous about the prospect of going off the grid in a city of questionable moral standing like Nawlins, but with most of my friends averaging the size of an NFL linebacker, I felt fairly certain that if I purchased a child leash and attached myself to one of them, I would make it home safely at the end of the trip.

Baby Leash

It’s for my own good.

Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport is about half an hour from downtown New Orleans, and the drive made the surrounding areas seem like the suburbs of every other major US city I’ve visited; worn-down neighborhoods, strip malls, billboards advertising DUI attorneys.  As we approached the city however, things changed, and in a drastic way I’d never seen before.  Most cities have something unique that welcomes travelers coming into town; some feature that is unique and showcases the city.  Pittsburgh has an amazing skyline.  Cleveland has a Great Lake.  Hollywood has a mountain with its name on it.  As we bore down on New Orleans, what stood out to me was that on either side of I-10 on the ride into town, you saw cemeteries.  They stood out because they were full of mausoleums.

Just like the drinks, dying isn’t cheap in the Big Easy.  But I suppose that’s part of the cost of living in a city below sea level.

Above ground cemetery new orleans

Welcome to New Orleans: Enjoy our lovely skyline and bone-chilling above ground resting places!

We arrived at the Westin downtown unscathed, sans a hefty Taxi cab bill.  After checking in and finding my room on the 24th floor, I set my bag down and, like the tourist I am, desperately wanted to see my view for the next few days.  Having never been to New Orleans, I had no idea where we were staying in relation to anything in town.  I pulled back my blinds and was greeted with a panoramic view that was magnificent.

Mississippi River Westin Hotel Downtown New Orleans

Photograph courtesy of Super Dave’s Photography, 2012.

Now that I knew I was only a few hundred yards from the Mississippi, I was comforted knowing if I got lost, I could just float down-river back to my hotel.

Traveling with a bunch of big guys who hadn’t eaten all day, everyone wanted to seek out some food.  Like a pack of wild hyenas, we were on the hunt.  Now, let me preface things with this: once we left the safety of the hotel and the touristy things in the immediate vicinity and ventured out into real New Orleans, everything looked like a dive.  I’m from the rust belt, so this concept isn’t lost on me.  Some of the best wings in the United States are in places that have ‘tetanus shot’ listed as an appetizer.  But when you’re in a big city like New Orleans with block after block of dives, it’s hard to discern between the bars and restaurants that are dives because it’s trendy and the dinginess is now a part of the culture of that specific place, and the ones that are dives because they indulge the seedier patrons of town.

Fortunately for us, our friend/tour guide survived his undergrad at Tulane, so we immediately went to the first of many palate-pleasing meals at a place called Mother’s.  [Insert mom joke here]  When I walked in, I knew exactly what I wanted: jambalaya.  Not my traditional sodium-packed box of Zataran’s from a Wal-Mart shelf.  I wanted authentic, New Orleans jambalaya.  That’s exactly what I got, and let me tell you, it was worth every penny and painstakingly long bowel movement thereafter.  I can’t tell you what places in New Orleans do to their food to make it taste more delicious, but there is definitely something about it that separates it from food I’ve eaten elsewhere.  Every meal was either delicious in a unique way (jambalaya, gumbo, po boys) or flat out better than food I’ve had elsewhere (the burger at Port of Call is the best burger I’ve had to date). In fact, after all the meals I had in New Orleans (we ate out for all of them, obviously), there was only one that left me underwhelmed, which was breakfast at The Camellia Grill.

Delicious Restaurants in New Orleans

“The food alone is worth the trip!”

Day two was highlighted by my favorite part of the trip, a New Orleans Zephyrs baseball game in our own box suite.  The Zephyrs are the Tripe-A affiliate of the Florida Marlins, and I actually had a chance to watch former Erie Seawolf Jacob Turner pitch, as the Detroit Tigers shipped him to Miami in a deadline deal this season.  The bachelor and one of our good friends who came were both exceptional baseball players growing up, and both of them played at the University of North Carolina, so I always enjoy getting to sit down and talk about the game with them.

After watching a baseball game as a king with eight other friends, I’ll never be able to watch one at a stadium the same ever again, sitting with all those simple yokels.  We had all the hot dogs, burgers, chili and chips our little hearts could desire, an air conditioned box (a wonderful commodity in New Orleans), and fantastic outside seating along the third baseline.

Bachelor Party Welcome New Orleans Zephyrs

Photograph courtesy of Super Dave’s Photography, 2012.

That night we went out to Bourbon Street.  I had been preparing myself mentally to bear witness to anything for the previous few weeks.  Babies double fisting mixed drinks, homeless people eating their own feces, dogs birthing cats.  I was ready for whatever weirdness New Orleans’s degenerates and their decadence could throw at me.  We stopped in a place called Tropical Isle and my buddy told me there was a drink there that I had to try.  It was called a hand grenade and it was a staple of the Big Easy.  I asked why it was called a hand grenade.  He smiled, and returned with this:

Hand Grenade

People in New Orleans are very good at naming things.

While I feel the food in New Orleans is priced reasonably (i.e. you will pay $9 for a bowl of jambalaya or a sandwich, but you leave the meal satisfied), the drinks are probably under-priced.  One or two adult beverages in New Orleans goes a long way.

So as we’re talking of the day’s shenanigans, our friend left to go to the bathroom.  When he returned, he had a panicked look on his face.  I asked him if he was okay.  He said no.  He said he couldn’t believe what he saw in the bathroom and that I should go check it out.  Understanding that someone who has seen something  that frightened him in a bathroom in New Orleans may have seen a wide range of weird or awful things, I was concerned.  But curious.  Eventually my curiosity outweighed my fear of the unknown and off I went.

I hesitantly walked through the bar, turned the corner down the hallway, and began my approach to the men’s room.  I took a deep breath at the door, bracing myself for what I was sure would burn the corneas right out of my eyes, reached for the door, and paused to make sure that I really wanted to see what was on the other side.

In that moment of hesitation, the door opened.  What stood on the other side closely resembled this:

New Orleans Devil

“Gaaaaaaaaaa!”

My heart skipped a beat and there was a moment as I stood at the bathroom door staring at the devil, him staring at me, where I thought to myself, “I hope I’m not dead on the floor in front of a bathroom in New Orleans and that’s why the devil is here greeting me.”  Yes, the gateway to the 9th Circle of Hell, I discovered, was in a bar in New Orleans.  The devil could see the panic in my eyes as I stood there slack-jawed at the men’s room, and with a cunning grin, he walked down the hallway and out the door.

At this point I was too panicked to actually use the bathroom, so after checking my pulse, I walked back with that same dumbfounded look my friend had.  He started laughing and asked, “Was he in there?”

“The guy in the red suit with horns?” I said.  “He was on his way out on my way in.”

The food and drinks of New Orleans were fantastic.  The city is steeped in a rich history that provides plenty of opportunities for things to do during the day, and obviously Bourbon Street offers a wide variety of activities at night.

And while this trip overall was one of the more enjoyable and entertaining trips I have ever experienced, my favorite part was getting to see all my friends together.  As we get married, get promotions, and start families as we approach and pass the thirty year marks of our lives, we have fewer and fewer opportunities to get together like this anymore.  I’ve learned to appreciate the time that I have with my friends, because I know it’s a nonrenewable resource and I want to make sure that I don’t take it for granted.

New Orleans was a fun city.  But it was only fun because of the people I went with.  I know that when I see them in a few weeks or months or years, I have one more memory to share, and some great friends to share it with.


Maverick Sabre – Let Me Go

July 3, 2012

A young lady introduced me to some popular London underground music this past weekend.  Because she’s so in on the hip London underground scene [humble brag], and took the time to introduce me to some of the good stuff coming out of it, I was able to find Maverick Sabre, an R & B act from across the pond.

Apparently this Irish chap is working with some of the “hottest producers” and has toured with Cee Lo Green, Plan B, and Snoop Dogg.  That’s according to his website.  I don’t know why he’d lie.

Enjoy.


Framing Hanley

February 13, 2012

One of the best covers I’ve listened to lately.  Lil Wayne’s songs are the best when they’re mashed up or covered.

 


It’s nice to see someone at ESPN still has a sense of humor.

January 16, 2012

So ESPN, being the mass-market sports giant that they are, has created a branch of their empire known as ESPNW.  ESPNW is dedicated to serving females athletes and fans by highlighting women’s sports.

ESPNW logo

I know you're trying, but no one cares about the WNBA.

After listening to the Baseball Today podcast on espn.com the other day, I found a video that caught my attention.  It features hard-hitting reporter Jordan Zucker as she takes to the tailgates to ask Miami fans the tough question:

Is it okay to suck for Luck?

Jordan Zucker suck for Luck

Who will suck for Luck? Find out by watching the video!

Jordan Zucker’s sigh is practically audible when she’s kicking off this video.  Either her producer has an awesome sense of humor or he really hates Jordan Zucker and wants her to fail.  Don’t worry Jordan, even Erin Andrews had to start somewhere.


Fantasy Baseball 2011 Part 2: The Arms

November 26, 2011

You can check out my pitchers from last year for comparative purposes here.  All-in-all, I feel great about my arms going into 2012, especially with the additions of Mat Latos and Gio Gonzalez.  While it would have been totally unfair to expect my pitchers to run out there and put up numbers similar to my staff from last year, deep down I was kind of hoping that they would.

Cliff Lee, SP [PHI]Acquired via trade, 2009 (Chone Figgins for Cliff Lee)

Yep.  I just enjoy reminding Kyle annually about this one.

Roy Oswalt, SP [PHI] Acquired via draft, 2008

3.69/93/1.33 in 139 innings.  It was a great run, Roy.  I hate goodbyes.

Ubaldo Jimenez, SP [CLE]Acquired via draft, 2008

Ubaldo certainly wasn’t the stud he showed he could be back in the early spring of ’10.  I’m going to write this season off because of finger problems and the shift to the AL and hope he can improve on his 4.68/180/1.40 in 188.1 innings in 2012.  I know I’ll be making a few trips to Cleveland to keep an eye on him.  A lot of my success next year is going to be tied to Jimenez’s ability to produce like 2010.

Brandon Morrow, SP [TOR] Acquired via draft, 2008

4.72/203/1.28 in 179.1 innings in 2012.  Morrow shows flashes of brilliance that are so tantalizing, it makes him worth holding onto year after year.  That being said, this may be the year I have to cut ties with Mr. Morrow.  That will leave me full of sorrow.  I’ll think on it tomorrow.

Jamie Garcia, SP [STL]Acquired via draft, 2011

A late round steal in our fantasy redraft, I think that Garcia has solid #2 upside.  In 2011 he posted a 3.56/156/1.32 (ERA/K/WHIP)  line in 194.2 innings.  He also won me 13 games.  I like groundball lefties like Garcia because they match up well with just about every lineup every time time they step on the bump.  There’s something to be said for consistency.

Mat Latos, SP [SD] Acquired via trade, August 13, 2011 (Starlin Castro, Drew Stubbs, and Mark Trumbo for Alexei Ramirez, Chris Young, Gio Gonzalez, and Mat Latos)

The time to start reimagining my team was the time I realized that Roy Oswalt is never going to be the same pitcher that I remember him as in my head.  So looking to improve on my rotation, I moved some big, young bats for some young, impact arms.  Will owning a starting pitcher from San Diego ever get old?  Not unless they move the fence in over there.  Because Oswalt will be getting the ol’ heave-ho at the beginning of next season, I needed to figure out how to deepen my starting rotation.  While I think Starlin Castro will end up being the future at shortstop in real and fantasy baseball, I think that Mat Latos and Gio Gonzalez will end up being top tier fantasy starters in the next few years.

Over his last eight starts of the season Latos threw 54.2 innings, struck out 55, and posted an ERA of 2.63.  He doesn’t make me forget about Matt Morris, but almost.

Gio Gonzalez, SP [OAK]Acquired via trade, August 13, 2011 (Starlin Castro, Drew Stubbs, and Mark Trumbo for Alexei Ramirez, Chris Young, Gio Gonzalez, and Mat Latos)

With the acquisition of Gonzalez and Latos I have locked up (fingers crossed) two of the premiere arms on the West Coast.  Gonzalez pitches in the friendly confines of the Coliseum, which is great.  Coupled with his last nine starts of 2011 in which he threw 60 innings, struck out 55, and posted an ERA of 2.82, I’ve got a great feeling about my pitching staff going into 2012.

Joel Hanrahan, RP [PIT] Acquired via waiver wire, July 28, 2010

Fantasy baseball is about a little risk-reward.  If you went into Pirates’ closer race at the beginning of 2011 with Evan Meek as your bet, you lost.  Big time.  Hanrahan threw 68.2 innings and struck out 61 while only walking 16.  His ERA at the end of the season sat at 1.83 with a 1.04 WHIP.  The only downside to Hanrahan’s season was his lower K rate.  Last season in 69 innings Hanrahan struck out an awe-inspiring 100 batters.  If Hanrahan posts a 1.83 ERA and saves 40 games like he did in ’11, I think I can live with that.

Jordan Walden, RP [LAA]Acquired via draft, 2011

Jordan Walden was the Mr. Irrelevant of our fantasy baseball league.  I used the last pick in this year’s draft on a hunch that the flamethrower would get a crack at the job at some point.  Remember how I said that fantasy baseball success stems from doing your homework, then having the Baseball Gods smile upon you?

Walden recorded his first save on April 5, and though he hit a few bumps in the road, he was never really in danger of giving the job to Scott Downs, Fernando Rodney, or (last years unsung hero) Hisanori Takahashi.

Chris Perez, RP [CLE] – Acquired via waiver wire, June 14, 2010

This Miami product is crazy.  Clearly.

His K/9 dipped from 8.7 to 5.9, which is worth noting and keeping an eye on.  However, he’s a consistent source of saves, so I’m on board as long as he’s shutting down games.

Daniel Bard, RP [BOS] Acquired via trade, April 18, 2011 (Andrew Bailey for Brandon Belt and Daniel Bard)

Ah, my muse.  I owned Bard in 2009 when he struck out 63 in 49.1 innings pitched.  I knew he was destined to inherit the closer role from Papelbon when Boston decided that they didn’t want to pay him, but I couldn’t afford to keep him, and thus lost him in the 2010 draft.  When I learned that the manager who owned him this year was looking for saves, I quickly became more giggly than Anderson Cooper talking about poop.

From April 20 until July 31 Bard was everything that I had hoped he would be.  He pitched 44.1 innings with an ERA of 1.02 and 43 K’s.  However, to my dismay, Bard completely fell apart down the stretch.  From August 1 until the end of the season, Bard pitched 22 innings and posted a 6.95 ERA.  I’m hoping Boston figures out what ails Bard so that he can become a consistent source of saves for me.  Looking at him before his August implosion, I would’ve said without question that I would’ve traded Andrew Bailey for him.  However, watching those painful last few innings of the year, now I’m not so sure.

Bobby Parnell, RP [NYM] – Acquired via waiver wire, August 19, 2011

He’ll never be the real deal.

Steve Cishek, RP [FLA]Acquired via waiver wire, September 22, 2011

Cishek was a speculative pick up.  He did nothing.  The end.

2011 Boneheaded Move of the Year

Continuing to play Adam Dunn long after he demonstrated he wasn’t going to produce.

Adam Dunn was so bad in ’11, I feel I had to mention that twice.  In all honesty, I feel like I managed the hell out of my pitching staff.  Maybe trading Andrew Bailey for Brandon Belt and [the guy who I thought would inherit the closers role in Boston] Daniel Bard.  Even though Bard imploded down the stretch, he’s still got a shot at the stopper gig next season, so I look at this move as still a high risk-high reward trade.

2011 Snake in the Grass Award

Drafting Jodan Walden with the very last pick in our 2011 redraft.

Knowing that a kid can throw 100 MPH in an unstable bullpen and is going to break camp with the Big Club clearly paid off crazy dividends in 2011 as Jordan Walden, fantasy baseball’s Mr. Irrelevent, went on to save 32 games in 60.1 innings.  He also put up a solid line of 67/2.98/1.23 (K/ERA/WHIP).  His ERA+ was 128 and he was an All-Star.

Not bad, rook.


On The Gregory Brothers

September 1, 2011

The original 'Backin' Up Song' by The Gregory Brothers.

The Gregory Brothers formed in 2007 and haven’t looked back since.  Their Autotune the News caught fire with classic favorites like ‘Bed Intruder Song’ and ‘Backin’ Up Song’, which also spawned its own hilarious covers by other bands.  Since catapulting to fame, The Gregory Brothers have worked with Daniel Tosh and Weezer and  have been a staple on the World Wide Web.

The Gregory Brothers version.

The cover of ‘Backin’ Up Song’ by Walk Off the Earth.

My favorite song, however, is ‘Best NASCAR Prayer Ever’, in which a Southern minister gives thanks for:

1. The Dodges

2. The Toyotas

3. The Fords

4. GM Performance Technology

5. R07 engines

6. Sunoco racing fuel

7. Goodyear tires

8. His ‘smoking hot wife’ (Seriously. At the :50 mark.)

He was also most thankful for Roush and Yates partnering.

You can check out The Gregory Brothers here at their website.  If you’re interested in more of what Walk Off the Earth has to offer, you can check out their site here.


On the danger of wearing flip flops in public.

August 25, 2011

One of the best things about summer is that it gives my feet an opportunity to breath.  For nine months out of the year my feet are held captive by their leathery overlord, Cole Haan, and forced to sweat into a pair of Dockers Athletic Crew socks. My pasty little legs also get a bit of sun, which I’m sure some people find very pleasing.  I could care less, however.

The only time I lace up shoes from June until September is if I’m working out.  And that’s only because those bastards at the gym won’t let me work out in my flip flops.  Apparently the sound of flip flops during a five mile run on the treadmill is tiresome.  But it’s a great calf workout.

You don't like the sound of my flip flops when I run?

As much as I love wearing my flip flops during these dog days of summer, there are inherent risks when one chooses to go with the Jesus-casual look.  Let’s say that to liberate your feet from the bondage of shoes, you decide to slap on a pair of Adidas FitFoam slide sandals (a pair can be yours for $16.00 – $28.00 on amazon.com, ladies).  While walking down the street in Cleveland, you accidentally step on a needle from one of the millions of homeless junkies shooting up heroin behind a dumpster at a McDonalds and contract AIDS.  Well, at that point, you’ll probably be cursing those soft, form-fitting godsends and wishing for the hard rubber soles of your Nine West pumps.

Cleveland is still recovering from The Great Depression.

So contracting AIDS while walking through Cleveland is always a risk.  But there is an even greater risk that all men who wear flip flops must face.  It’s a risk that few people, up until now, have been willing to even acknowledge.  I’m brave enough to tackle this subject.  I won’t shy away from it regardless of who it hurts because it needs to be talked about.  Years from now, people will look at me as leader of social change because I wouldn’t back down from this topic, no matter how controversial or uncomfortable it may be.

Today I’m talking about the danger of wearing flip flops while peeing at a urinal.

While watching the second game of a double header in Pittsburgh the other day, I exercised masterful control of my bladder and managed to sit through the entire second game without having to pee.  By the ninth inning, I was ready to burst like a water balloon at the end of a spigot.  To my dismay, I walked into the bathroom to face a line.  I don’t like lines in public restrooms because they limit your ability to choose which urinal you’re going to use, and as a proxy of who you’re going to pee next to.  Like my energy companies, I like to be able to choose where I’m going to pee, and it’s preferably as far away from anyone else in the restroom as possible.  It’s a public bathroom, not a locker room.  I don’t want to make small talk, listen to drunk people mumble, or have some stranger’s lustful, wandering eyes interrupt my urinating.

After a few moments of waiting, it was my turn to trough and I got stuck in the most dreaded urinal position: next to the short urinal.  I’ll digress for the ladies momentarily, as the short urinal is common knowledge to men.  Every row of urinals are made to accommodate a man of average height, except for one urinal at the end.  This urinal is constructed to accommodate a small child, or the bartender at Casey’s Draft House.

This bar seriously looks amazing.

When it was my turn to saddle up, I was relieved to see that the short urinal was unoccupied; a weight off of my chest as I commenced.  However, to my dismay, a few seconds later, a kid stepped up to the short urinal.  Clearly too old to have his dad help him, but too young to be a seasoned veteran of peeing at a target, this kid started to pee.  Before I knew what was happening, he then started to sway back and forth erratically.

If you have a porcelain sink in your kitchen, I want you to go there, turn on the faucet, and start moving the faucet head left and right.  Everything will get sprayed.  And this is why wearing flip flops in a public restroom is one of the riskiest propositions facing the liberal shoe wearing population today.  Once I noticed the rookie next to me had complete disregard for the collateral damage he caused, I sidled up to the urinal to my right as much as I could while still trying to maintain a calm demeanor.  It may have weirded the guy next to me out, but once the novice pisser decided to give the wall his own personal hose-down, I immediately went into survival mode.  As the kid continued to squirm and spray everywhere, all I could think about was cutting off my flow and running into an empty stall.  But we all know that you can’t stop once you’ve started.  It stings.

One of the risks that all topless footwearing males have to face is how to keep their feet dry while standing rank and file at the urinal bank.  It’s a risky proposition for comfortable feet.  It’s like urinal roulette.

I know that from now on every time I step up to the plate, I’m hoping to be paired with a weak old man who’s got nothing more to offer the public restroom than dribble.

I need to go loofah my feet again.

It's a dangerous world out there for people who like to wear flip flops.