On Life: An Update

November 29, 2012

I’ve written about my general sense of dissatisfaction and unease about life previously.  It’s not a particularly cheery or inspirational outlook, but it’s mine, so I own it.  It’s brought me to the point where I am now; a teacher, coach, Master’s student, and nattily dressed sophisticate.  All things considered, I should probably feel a lot more content about life than I do.  I have a great job, summers off to travel and live life at my leisure and boyish charm and good looks that drive women wild.

This is how I imagine myself in my head.

If you would’ve told me in 2001 I’d be teaching in my hometown, I probably would’ve thought that was the cat’s pajamas.  However, in 2001 I also thought ‘Idle Hands’ was a great movie, so maybe I had yet to develop a suitable sense of perspective on anything.

Idle Hands

The hotness of Jessica Alba can’t make up for… well, everything else this film lacks.

Someone once asked me if this unease was because I thought there was always something better out there for me.  If I was worried that if I settled with something that I’d be supremely unhappy because there’d always be something else I wanted or at least the potential to want something else that I didn’t have.  After chewing on that for a few days, I came to the conclusion that I do think some of that may be true.  It’s a big world out there and I haven’t explored a lot of it, so how can I really know what I want?

There are times where I look at the people around me and ask myself that question about them.  How can someone buy a house or take a job there?  What an awful way to live; trapped in a place because you bought a house.  But in that same respect, I’m envious of those people.  Those people who have enough confidence to say, ‘This is what I want and I know that for a fact.’

It’s a brazen thing to say with confidence that you want to make a commitment to something, whether it be a house, a car, a relationship, or the like.  I know what my perspective on things is and I know there are more people out there who probably share similar feelings, which makes me wonder how so many people end up with houses that they hate or in relationships that end in divorce.  I get people change; I totally understand that.  I’m a completely different person than I was five years ago.  But then the only conclusion I can draw about people who rush into those early commitments is that they truly have little perspective on the decisions that they’re making.

For example, when I moved back to Pennsylvania from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, I had the means relative to the cost of living in the area where I moved to buy a house immediately.  However, after four years, I still balk at the idea of permanently owning something because how am I to know what opportunities might present themselves to me in the coming weeks, months, or years?  What if I were offered a dream job, like, I don’t know, watching baseball in a state of the art Fan Cave in downtown New York City?  If I had to pass up on the opportunity of a lifetime like that because I was worried about a mortgage payment… well, that’s probably the most cruel and unfair thing I could imagine doing to myself.

All things considered, I definitely think I’m going through life the right way.  I haven’t rushed into any life altering decisions, sans a car payment and student loans.  If I needed to uproot myself to go pursue something elsewhere, I haven’t hamstrung myself at all.  And I suppose that would be the best advice I could give to a younger person with a lot of their life ahead of them still: don’t rush life.  It’s going to come at you plenty fast enough once it gets going.  Go find out what kind of things you enjoy.  Find a lifestyle that fits you, then figure out how all of the other stuff fits into your life.  If a house fits in your lifestyle, sure, it makes sense to purchase one.  If not, renting is a hell of a lot easier than owning.  If cohabitating with someone else for the rest of your natural life tickles your fancy, maybe battening the hatches and getting hitched is something worthwhile to pursue.  If not, why not keep dating and enjoy your time together?

At thirty I don’t have all the answers.  However, in my advancing age, I feel like I’m definitely learning a lot more about what the questions are.  That to me, has been one of the biggest keys to being happy.

Take your time.  There’s plenty of time to settle down later on life.  For now, just enjoy the ride.


Fantasy Baseball 2012

November 4, 2012
Fantasy Baseball Points 2012

This is how my team finished the 2012 season. Underachievers.

Its was a solid 2012 season in my Fantasy Fan Cave (formerly known as Pirate-Pack-Heel Nation).  Our commish kindly changed the name of our league as I was an MLB Fan Cave finalist this year.  Before we start looking at the players and their numbers, you can check out my 2011 pitchers here and my 2011 hitters here.

Overall Fantasy Stats 2012

Not a bad season by fantasy baseball standards.

I’m going to go with a little different format this year.  Below are all of the hitters and pitchers who logged stats for my team during the 2012 season. These are the stats that players accumulated when I started them, not their final stats for the season.  Also, don’t mind the squiggly red lines underneath the players’ names.  Apparently my table in Microsoft Word doesn’t recognize any names.

After all of my hitter’s and pitcher’s stats, I’ll delve into some of my hitter and pitcher keeper options for next season.  As always, in this league we have a 30-Man roster and get to keep 21.  It pays to do your homework because if you can jump on an up-and-comer like Jason Kipnis right before he’s called up, you have total control of him for as long as your little heart desires.  There are no salaries or limits on how long you can keep players.

To me, this makes our league a much purer form of fantasy and I love it.

Fantasy Fan Cave Hitters 2012

Not bad hitting.

Now for the pitchers.

Fantasy Fan Cave Pitchers 2012

My bullpen killed me.

One lesson I had to learn the hard way this season: while you can chase saves on the waiver wire, a lot of times you’re going to pay with your ERA when you have shaky bullpen arms in your starting lineup.  Francisco Cordero and Francisco Rodriguez come to mind when I think of relief pitchers who killed my ERA.

Keeper Options for 2013

Hitters

DL Victor Martinez, C-1B [DET] – Acquired via draft, 2008

I held onto Victor all season on my roster because we have three DL slots and I could afford to slot him in one.  I’m excited to return him back into my lineup because his .300 average is something that my roster missed dearly this season.

Yasmani Grandal, C [SD] – Acquired via waiver wire, August 26, 2012

Grandal hit an admirable .310 for me over 84 at bats this season.  I sorely missed Victor Martinez’s average this season (especially since Carlos Santana did me few favors in the average department), but it’s going to be tough rationalizing three keeper catchers, even in a 21-keeper format.

Update: The 50 game suspension for performance enhancing drugs has made this keeper decision a lot easier.

Carlos Santana, C-1B [CLE] – Acquired via draft, 2010

I won’t go as far as saying that Carlos was a disappointment this season.  His final line in games started for me was .260/16/70 with 68 runs and even 3 stolen bases.  Carlos hit a cold stretch during the middle of the season that had my team catcher’s average hovering at the .220 mark.  I benched him for Grandal at one point during the 2012 campaign, which kept his average for me above his season line of .252.

Freddie Freeman, 1B [ATL] – Acquired via trade, March 4, 2012 (Joel Hanrahan for Freddie Freeman)

I could have used a little higher average from Freeman (.258 for my team versus .259 for the season).  Freeman, much like Carlos Santana, had some very cold stretches during the year, which were tough to suffer through.  Ultimately he finished with a .258/20/84/84/2 (AVG/HR/RBI/R/SB) final line in games started for my team, which was more than helpful.  Next season I’m hoping for some production in the area of 25-27 HRs and a .270 average instead of the 23 and .259 average he provided this year.

Mark Teixeira, 1B [NYY] – Acquired via trade, June 10, 2012 (Cliff Lee for Mark Teixeira)

Dogged by injuries in 2012, I need Tex to be a top ten talent at first base for my team next season.

Adam Dunn, 1B-LF [CWS] – Acquired via trade, 2008 (Robinson Cano for Adam Dunn), Reacquired via draft, 2012

I dropped Dunn this offseason after his well documented abysmal 2011 season.  All the while I was hoping to pick him up at a discount, which I thankfully had the opportunity to do in the 5th round (which would be the 26th) in our 2012 draft.  I sat Dunn against a few lefties this year, and of course he mashed a couple of homers, but he still managed to hit 37 of them for me.  Now, if only I could figure out how to get him to hit higher than .203…

Martin Prado, 2B-3B-SS-LF [ATL] – Acquired via draft, 2010, Reacquired via draft 2012

Prado isn’t sexy.  And at the beginning of this season he only had 3B and LF eligibility, which made him expendable.  However, when he was there for me in the first round of our draft (22nd round overall), I immediately jumped on him.  I was rewarded with a .306 average (which my roster desperately needed), 7 homers, and a surprising 16 stolen bases.  By the end of the season, Prado had obtained SS and 2B eligibility, which makes him almost a sure keeper going into 2013.

Jason Kipnis, 2B [CLE] – Acquired via waiver wire, July 12, 2011

I fell in love with Kipnis’s swing after watching a video of him mashing in Akron.  He has a sweet, sweet swing that’s made to have a little pop, which makes Kipnis an invaluable fantasy resource.

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

I still regret trading one of the hottest commodoties in Starlin Castro and Alexei Ramirez hasn’t done a whole lot to alleviate that pain.  You know what you’re going to get with Sexy Alexei and by the end of the season, he put up nearly what I’d expected.  However, those numbers came at a price, which was a middle of the season slump that crushed my overall production at short stop.  This season may have been Alexei’s last on my roster as I now have a few other options with a little more upside (Lowrie) or consistent production (Prado).

Jed Lowrie, SS-3B [HOU] – Acquired via trade, May 30, 2012 (Matt Adams for Jed Lowrie)

Fortunately I didn’t have to give up a lot to acquire Lowrie, which is good because what looked like was going to be his breakout year [finally], ended with a huge stretch on the DL and more underwhelming numbers.  A potential keeper, depending on how my short stop situation shakes out, Lowrie will more than likely end up back in the draft pool.

David Wright, 3B [NYM] – Acquired via trade, 2008 (Brett Myers/Miguel Cabrera/Josh Hamilton for David Wright/Matt Kemp/Jake Peavy)

He’s the old faithful of my roster.  Having consistent production at 3B is a commodity that not a lot of fantasy owners get to experience.  Wright contributes a little in every category and his .304 average is nearly impossible to replace at the hot corner.  He’s an annual mainstay and that’s not looking to change anytime soon.

Chase Headley, 3B [SD] – Acquired via trade, August 5, 2012 (Josh Reddick for Chase Headley)

I’ve liked Chase Headley for a while now and felt that he underperformed last season.  While Headley’s periferals didn’t really change this season (LD %and FB%), he displayed the power that a lot of fantasy owners had been expecting.  The 2012 power coupled with shorter fences at PETCO make Headley a very intriguing 3B option in ’13.  My journey to acquiring Chase started on June 26 of this season when I picked up Ben Revere off of the waiver wire for some extra speed.  I trade Revere to the [eventual] league champion for Josh Reddick, who I was then able to flip for one of, if not the hottest, players in baseball down the stretch.  In two months with my team, Headley played in 52 games, hit .313 with 17 HR, a mind numbing 57 RBI, scored 42 runs, and swiped 5 bags.  A definite lock at keeper, I’m hoping Headley builds off of his success at the end of this season next year.

Starling Marte, LF-CF [PIT] – Acquired via waiver wire, July 26, 2012

It would be great to be able to hold onto a talent like Marte because of his speed/power upside, but on my roster, he’s probably going to end up being thrown back into the draft.

DL Carl Crawford, LF [BOS] – Acquired via draft, 2008

Crawford is worth the keeper spot if he can produce at the level that everyone has come to expect from him.

Matt Kemp, CF [LAD] – Acquired via trade, 2008 (Brett Myers/Miguel Cabrera/Josh Hamilton for David Wright/Matt Kemp/Jake Peavy)

Matt Kemp was a solid contributor when he was healthy.  I needed a healthy Kemp all season to make another run at first place however, and that wasn’t in the cards.  I had a variety of center fielders fill in admirably in Kemp’s wake (Revere, Gomez, Parra, Marte), but obviously none of them can do what a potential MVP-caliber Kemp can do.

Carlos Gomez, CF [MIL] – Acquired via waiver wire, July 30, 2012

Another waiver wire darling in the mold of Ben Revere, Gomez provided the speed that my team needed to hang towards the top in stolen bases, but with an added bonus that we hadn’t seen from Gomez until this season: power.  While Revere hit zero home runs this season, Gomez hit a surprising 19.  In 49 games for my team, Gomez managed to hit 8 homers and swipe 15 bags, making him a dark horse candidate for a keeper going into next season.

Jay Bruce, RF [CIN] – Acquired via trade, 2009.  (Pablo Sandoval/Brian Wilson for Brandon Inge/Jay Bruce)

What is there to say about Jay Bruce that hasn’t already been said.  A mainstay on my roster, Bruce continued his consistent reign as one of the league’s premiere power hitters by posting a .252/33/96/87/9 line when he was in my starting lineup (.252/34/99/89/9 overall).

Pitchers

CC Sabathia, SP [NYY] – Acquired via trade July 14, 2012 (Shin-Soo Choo for CC Sabathia)

Sabathia and Haren must have chatted at the dry cleaner about how unhappy they were about being traded to the Meekrats, because after trading for the both of them this season, they under-performed due to injuries in 2012.

Here’s to hoping for a healthy elbow in 2013!

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

The upside is ticklingly ridiculous.  The downside is that when Morrow isn’t looking like he’s about to throw a perfect game, he looks like a player that just learned how to play baseball a couple weeks ago.  I still blame Seattle for jerking him around between relief and starting, but Morrow is so tantalizing that it makes it difficult to part ways with him.

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

Latos underwhelmed at points throughout the season, and at other points, seemed to shine like the staff ace Cincinnati thought they were trading for.  With too much upside to let go, Latos will be a keeper in 2013, almost for sure.

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

An ace in every sense of the word, Gonzalez was the centerpiece in my Starlin Castro trade last season.  I’ll continue to look for improvement in his command and control, but he’s a keeper without question.

Jake Peavy, SP [CWS] – Acquired via waiver wire April 17, 2012

One of the best waiver wire pickups for me this season, Peavy showed his lat is definitely still attached and will be a keeper going into 2013.

Dan Haren, SP [LAA] – Acquired via trade, March 7, 2012 (Elvis Andrus for Dan Haren)

My SS woes stem from a desire to build a pitching Dream Team.  I thought Haren would round out my pitching staff nicely which, at the beginning of the season, featured Cliff Lee, Gio Gonzalez, and Mat Latos.  What could go wrong with a guy who’s pitched over 200 innings for the last 8 season and had never visited the DL?

Apparently everything.

Haren had a very pedestrian 4.33 ERA and lingering health problems all season long.  Hopefully an off season of rest will help him get back to his low three ERA and 200 inning career pace.

AJ Burnett, SP [PIT] – Acquired via waiver wire, June 10, 2012

Hey Yankee fans: How’d that season from Burnett feel?

Jason Motte, RP [STL] – Acquired via trade, May 20, 2012 (Alex Gordon for Jason Motte)

With a crowded outfield, I saw my opportunity to make a move to acquire a closer.  While trading a bat for a closer goes against my general philosophy of never paying for saves, I could see the writing on the wall early on in the year that my team was going to need a top flight closer to rack up some saves.  So Gordon went off to team Chupacabra and Motte joined the Meekrats, logging 35 saves and 68 Ks over 56 innings.

A definite keeper for 2013.

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

Closers are keepers when you have 21 keeper spots.  Even if they’re crazy.

Tom Wilhelmsen, RP [SEA] – Acquired via waiver wire May 26, 2012

Closers are keepers.

Luke Gregerson, RP [SD] – Acquired via waiver wire, August 10, 2012

A nice little midseason pick up, Gregerson logged 8 saves for my roster and nearly a K an inning.  Sadly, unless something goes haywire in SD, he probably won’t be named the closer and thus, will be thrown to the wolves.

Jason Grilli, RP [PIT] – Acquired via waiver wire, May 11, 2012

Grilli put up unparalleled numbers in 2012 and could be a sneaky keeper if rumblings of shipping Hanrahan somewhere in the offseason prove true.


Baseball is a cruel, yet beautiful game

October 7, 2012

Baseball will humble you.  If you’re a player or a coach at any level, you can’t ever forget that.  No matter how comfortable you may become with your situation on the diamond, you can never forget that.  Never, ever forget that. The second you forget that is the second that it happens.  You can have all the talent in the world, and baseball will find a way to let you know that you don’t really know anything about the game.  Ryan Braun could be the best player in baseball right now.  This offseason, the game knocked him down a peg or two.  Chuck Knoblauch, a 4-time All-Star, developed a nearly paralyzing case of the yips towards the end of his career in New York.  After one of the most hyped starts to a baseball career, Stephen Strasburg’s elbow exploded, prompting a year-long recovery.

Three Baseball Stars

Teenagers, take note.  You’re not invincible.

One of the most deflating experiences is experienced by every player fairly regularly.  Standing in the batter’s box after a strikeout, that 4 x 6 rectangle quickly transforms into one of the loneliest places on earth.  There’s nowhere to hide; you’ve been bested in a one-on-one showdown and have to walk back to the dugout by yourself with no one there to pat you on the butt and tell you it’s going to be okay, other than the guy on deck who is probably anxiously awaiting his chance to tempt fate and look to drive a hanging curve into the left center gap. But for every cruel experience baseball appropriates, there’s beauty in it.  On the way back to the dugout, you should be thinking about how that pitcher got you out.  When you’re sitting on the bench before you head back out into the field, you should be thinking about what you’re going to do the next time you’re faced with a 2 – 2 breaking ball.  And then, the next time you’re up at bat, you should jump on a fastball early in the count and smile when you dust your self off at second base after ripping a ball into the gap.

I coach varsity baseball and at times I think it can be the most poetic job on the planet.  I get to deliver cliché phrases that most of the young men I coach are hearing for the first time. “You don’t know anything about baseball until you realize you don’t know anything about baseball.”

“If you’re not doing it on offense, do it on defense.  If you’re not doing it on defense, do it on offense.  If you’re not doing it on either, pick someone else up.”

“It’s the work you put in when no one’s watching that makes a difference.”  I love it.  I’m a walking truism for three or four months out of the year and, quite frankly, that’s not long enough for me.

Like all things in life, baseball is about growth.  I tell people all the time, whether it be other coaches, fans, or the players themselves, if you measure your success in wins and losses, you’re going to be upset a lot of the time.  If you measure how much you’ve grown as a player since you started playing, and you see progress, that’s where real successes are developed.

Baseball is one of the greatest metaphors for life.  Every success is built from failure.  Every failure should be a teachable moment.  It’s an ever-evolving process.  And that, to me, is where I find the most enjoyment in baseball.


On my neurosis

October 3, 2012

As I’ve aged, I’ve discovered that there’s a part of me that has mellowed out.  Nowadays I like to be back in my house at an early hour; not out gallivanting ’til dawn, hobnobbing with celebrities like I used to do.

Deb Wilson Mad TV

Deb Wilson and that guy whose name I can never remember. Just shootin’ the breeze. No big deal.

However, while there is a part of me that has relaxed, I’ve realized that I’ve also developed a part of me that gets incredibly high-strung about things as well.  If my life were like the hit Showtime series ‘Dexter’, I would call this side of me my Dark Passenger.  I can’t say specifically when I developed this side of me.  I’ve noticed it develop more like a mudslide; it started out slow, but really picked up speed on its way down.

This dark passenger is what I call neurotic and/or compulsive behavior, and he has manifested himself in a few different ways that I’ve noticed lately.

 1. Being incredibly early whenever I have to travel.

I’ve sincerely found this one to be the most debilitating behavior that I’ve developed in my advancing age.  I first started flying on my own when I was 15 years old.  I don’t remember being stressed in the least having to check bags or find terminals.  Now when I fly out of Erie International Airport, I have to be there at least an hour early.  I’ve never spent more than ten minutes checking in at that airport.  At larger airports it’s even worse.  Out of Raleigh or Pittsburgh or Los Angeles… I might as well watch a Paul Thomas Anderson movie while I wait.

However, I’ve yet to miss a flight… so there’s that.

2. I sanitize my hands like a surgeon in pre-op.

I feel like this neurotic behavior stems from working with children all day long.  When you teach, you see some filthy, disgusting things.  Watching kids picking, scratching and – yes – eating things occurs on a daily basis.  I never noticed it until one of my colleagues in North Carolina pointed it out, but anytime that I walk by a bottle of hand santizer, I squirt my hands.  I honestly don’t even notice that I do it anymore.  It’s just kind of part of the flow of my day now.

Some studies say that proper sanitizing is good and some studies say that it is bad.  Regardless, it’s now a part of my daily life, so I’m going to learn to embrace the weird that is eradicating germs with some rubbing alcohol.

3. I sneeze anytime that I go outdoors and it’s sunny.

I don’t know if this is some kind of weird Pavlovian trigger I’ve developed or if I’m really allergic to everything in the air outside, but the first time I step outside on a sunny day, I will sneeze.  Sometimes I’ll even sneeze on overcast days if the sun is peeking out from behind the clouds enough.  It’s become a point of amusement for my good friend Ross because sometimes I’ll step outside just so I can get out a good sneeze.

There are few things in my day-to-day life that I’ll enjoy more than letting out a good, obnoxious sneeze.   So if we’re ever going out the door together, make sure that you’re not in front of me.

4. I scratch my head when I get nervous.

Someone pointed out to me when I was watching the Pirates this summer that I scratch my head when I watch baseball.  As watching the Pirates play baseball is typically a stressful thing, I do this a lot during baseball season.  Once this person pointed out that I have this habit, I started noticing that I do it during the day when I start to get anxious about work or before I’m getting ready to travel (as I’ve already identified that this is a stressful event for me).

I try and make sure that I’m cognizant of this behavior so when I get nervous at important times (like before a job interview), I don’t look like a crack addict jonesin’ for a fix.  However, these neurotic behaviors are deeply rooted, so it’s going to take some work.

5. I find pregnant women gross.

This isn’t something neurotic, it’s just something I’ve needed to get off my chest for a really long time.  I watched a pregnant lady do the Charleston on the dance floor at a wedding reception this past weekend.  When I saw her go bowlegged and squat down while she slid her hands from knee to knee, all I could picture was an umbilical cord shooting out of her dress and a little baby crawling out.

Dancing pregnant ladies: gross.

On the plus side, you’re only pregnant for nine months.  So that’s a positive.


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.


Create-a-Caption: Vol. 13

August 10, 2012

I am back on ‘Duk’s good side as far as Create-a-Captions are concerned.  I actually have my fourteenth win already wrapped up, but I don’t want to post three victories in a row.  That seems like it’s crossing the humble brag line and into straight up Caption Bragging.  And I may be many things, but a Caption Braggart is not one of them.

So I’ll wait until I finish my Master’s thesis and can get back into some actual writing and break up all these Create-a-Caption victories.

David Wright Create-a-Caption

Snooki is an easy target. Like shooting fish in a barrel.

As always, you can click here to view the original article.


Create-a-Caption: Vol. 12

August 6, 2012

Not my finest work, but nothing to sneeze at.

Gerardo Parra Create-a-Caption

‘Police Academy’. Everyone gets it.

You can check out the original article here.