wine by the color

Friday, April 28, 2006

I know it's been a few days since Brett Lorenzo Favre confirmed he would return for the 2006 season, with no mention of it here. That's a bad job by me, but the past few days have been a blur of trying to finish a huge project at work, a date with Mr. Springsteen and friends in Asbury Park, a round of golf and a trip to AC (where, for perhaps the first time ever, I actually managed to take home some of Mr. Trump's money).

Anyway, yes, the nonstop coverage of "will he or won't he be back" has been a bit annoying, and he could have made the decision earlier. Who knows whether the Packers will be any better this season. One would hope that they couldn't be any worse, but you never know. Favre may well throw 50 interceptions. Despite all that, I'm fired up that he's coming back. Even when he's sucking it up, which certainly happened more than once last year, he's still entertaining to watch and I'd rather watch him play poorly than the majority of the rest of the league play well.

This also means that at some point during the 2006 season I will travel to Chicago to pick up my girlfriend so we can head north for a visit to Lambeau. Beer, brats, Brett and a babe from Sheboygan - I'm already dizzy at the thought of what an adventure that will be.

And speaking of football, the draft starts tomorrow and I can't wait to see how the Jets will screw up the fourth pick. Their draft history isn't exactly stellar. Better than the Browns, of course, but still not good.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

I usually make it a point to avoid any sort of political commentary, but I must address just how bad this gas situation is...

What I’d really like to do is drive to Circuit City at lunch to buy the new Springsteen CD. But instead, I’m thinking I should wait until after work, since I have to drive that way anyway to go to my brother’s house, and pick it up on the way.

Basically, the high price of gas is costing me four hours that I could be listening to the new CD.

Damn government.
I am by no means a supporter of the Philadelphia sports teams and I never will be. But at Citizens Bank Park for the Phillies game last night, they had me at hello: Yuengling drafts and $1 hot dogs.

Someone needs to talk to the powers-that-be in Flushing.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Joe Pendleton has been singing the praises of the Dunellen Theater for a while, and we finally checked it out Saturday. Joe Pendleton is a genius. We took the crazy nephews to see "Ice Age 2: The Meltdown," which was amusing enough. More entertaining, particularly for the two adults, was the pizza and the pitcher of beer we enjoyed during the show. The theater is attached to a tavern, from which you can order food and cocktails, and they bring it right to your table in the theater. And to top it all off, tickets were only six bucks.

We will definitely be returning to this house of cinema.

Other than that, the rest of the rainy weekend was spent inside spring cleaning, which was highly productive and a satisfying use of two days. Because loud, energetic music always makes chores like cleaning the bathrooms more tolerable, yesterday's musical accompaniment was this and this. I didn't realize just how loud it was until late in the day, when I walked outside to take out the trash and recycling I'd accumulated. I hope my neighbors like Swedish pop and African music, because they heard a lot of it yesterday.

Speaking of my palatial estate, today marks the 10-year anniversary of the day I purchased Casa Magnolia. Just about this time on April 24, 1996, I was sitting at a table with two lawyers, signing away my financial freedom, wondering, "what the HELL am I doing?" I think I had about 60 cents left to my name when I was done with the closing. But everything's turned out well and I now own a home that's worth almost three times what it was when I bought it. Good times.

But while this milestone really only means I've paid 33.3 percent of my mortgage, it's made me strangely reflective. In 10 years, there have been many changes, while other things have remained blissfully the same. I'm essentially the same person, although I would consider myself much wiser. I considered compiling a list of the things I've learned in the past decade, but frankly, I just don't have that kind of time. It would be a looooong list. So instead, I bring you...

The Top Five Things Jersey Girl has Learned in 10 Years:
1. I have learned that having two nephews who adore you (and vice versa) is the best thing going and that there is no better sound on earth than their little voices saying "I love you, Aunt Jersey Girl."
2. I have learned that family and friends are the keys to a happy life and that there's a special joy in being able to consider family members as friends.
3. I have learned that making less money working at a job you love is much better than earning a ton of money at a job you hate.
4. I have learned that it's okay to realize you deserve better.
5. I have learned that no matter how far my travels take me, there's no place like home. Unless it's Hawaii.

Friday, April 21, 2006

rehearsal n. The act or process of practicing for a performance.

If this was the rehearsal, I can't imagine how tremendous the actual shows on the tour will be, because Bruce Springsteen and the Seeger Sessions Band Rehearsal 1 at Convention Hall in Asbury Park, N.J., last night was one fantastic evening of music.

There's something special about seeing Bruce in Asbury Park. I first saw him at Convention Hall in December of 2001, for one of his holiday fundraiser shows. It was at that show that we first heard "My City Of Ruins." Convention Hall is just old school. It's a small, intimate hard-core venue that only holds a few thousand people.

Last night's crowd was somewhat tentative when the band came on stage, and I think that's because many people didn't know what to expect. Frankly, when we saw it advertised as a rehearsal show for the tour, we figured it would be a very casual performance, with the occasional stoppage when things weren't working. That was not the case. It wasn't perfect, but it was really, really damn good.

The crowd got over its hesitation immediately, as the band launched into a spirited "Oh, Mary, Don't You Weep." From there, we got a boisterous, rollicking evening of everything from folk to bluegrass to gospel to swing. The band was so large it was hard to tally how many people there were - at most, I believe I counted 18 on stage simultaneously. The horn section was tremendous, and Soozie Tyrell, in particular, was unbelievable on violin. Bruce was in fine form - loose, clearly enjoying himself, energized by the amazing musicians on stage with him.

As a reporter said: "If you like music, you're going to like this show." Amen, brother. My clapping hands and dancing feet didn't stop for two hours. The music from the upcoming album was outstanding, but what he did with some of his own songs was equally impressive. A version of "Adam Raised A Cain" that would have been unrecognizable but for the lyrics. The horns on "My City of Ruins," which made it more haunting than usual.

This immediately takes a spot on my list of the top three Springsteen shows I've seen, joining the aforementioned Dec. 2001 show in Asbury Park and the March 2003 show in Atlantic City. It's going to take an amazing amount of self-restraint to not go again next week. I just don't know that I'm that strong.

The setlist:
Oh, Mary, Don't You Weep
John Henry
Johnny 99
Old Dan Tucker
Eyes on the Prize
Jesse James
Adam Raised a Cain
Erie Canal
My Oklahoma Home
Devils & Dust
Mrs. McGrath
How Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live?
Jacob's Ladder
We Shall Overcome
Open All Night
Pay Me My Money Down
My City of Ruins
Buffalo Gals
You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch)
When the Saints Go Marching In

Thursday, April 20, 2006

A while back, I expressed an interest to the Good Doctor in someday seeing an opera. He tucked that away in a corner of his mind and then surprised me on Valentine's Day with the promise of an outing to the Metropolitan Opera. Due to my ridiculous schedule and our shared interest in seeing one of the classics, we didn't actually go until last night.

After some parking adventures in Newark, we finally got into the city, where we enjoyed some wonderful soul food at Jezebel’s. From there, it was on to Lincoln Center, where the "Nozze di Figaro" ("The Marriage of Figaro") was being performed at the Met.

Given my proclivity for dozing off in theaters of any kind, there was a good deal of concern that I would not make it through the entire show without dozing off. Upon arriving in the opera house and learning the performance would run three hours and 45 minutes, I realized the likelihood of napping was high. Things started well - I made it through the overture, which was extremely familiar and which I later realized served as the opening music in "Trading Places" - and then settled in to enjoy the show.

But shortly into the first act, the head bobs started. I'm not sure why, but I was having trouble going between reading the subtitles and watching the action onstage. There were also a lot of characters and, to be honest, I think I was just having trouble keeping up. And, of course, it was dark, which is usually the kiss of death. But at no point did the Good Doctor have to elbow me in the ribs.

And after that, it was smooth sailing until midway through the fourth act, when the head bobs returned briefly. But I rallied and made it to the end without major incident, unlike the folks next to me, one of whom was snoring.

Despite the head bobs, I rather enjoyed the opera. The performances were outstanding, and the Met is an amazing venue. Here’s the NY Times review of the show.

To completely switch musical gears, BAM and I are going to Asbury Park tonight to watch Springsteen’s first rehearsal for his upcoming tour. I have only seen Bruce in Asbury once, at a holiday fundraiser show back in December of 2001. Convention Hall is an old-school venue and I’m fired up for this evening. I don't think there will be any napping, but you never know.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

A special thanks to Freakgirl for alerting me to the online availability of the entire upcoming Springsteen CD. After listening to almost the whole thing, I'm considerably more excited about this disc.
I just used the words "That's total crap" in a meeting about a publication I'm currently editing. How professional am I?

I was referring not only to the publication, which is a disaster, but also the ideology behind some punctuation in the publication. This feature story mentions that a person has 11 children, five of whom are his biological children and six of whom are adopted. But it refers to his "biological" children and adopted children. Biological in quotes, no quotes for adopted. I was told it has something to do with being sensitive when discussing biological vs. adopted children.

This struck me as strange. So I opened one of my favorite books, the Associated Press Stylebook, which informed me that quotations should be used for the following instances: direct or running quotations, dialogue or conversation, composition titles, nicknames, irony or unfamiliar terms.

Are biological children ironic?

Monday, April 17, 2006

To celebrate New Jersey's new smoke-free policy, we hit our favorite bar Saturday night, which was until then the smokiest establishment we know. The difference in just one day was amazing. But now that the smell of smoke is gone, we noticed that it absolutely reeks of stale beer.

A great line from my cousin's roommate: "Hey, now that I won't smell like smoke, I can wear these clothes again without having to wash them."

There should be a state law that if your band is playing in a Jersey shore bar, you shouldn't be allowed to cover Springsteen tunes unless you have the talent to do so. Saturday night's band butchered "Rosalita" so badly I considered going onstage and asking them to stop immediately and never sing it again. I'm sure the bar's patrons would have applauded such a move. The televisions in the bar were airing plastic surgery, pro wrestling and soccer, and people were far more interested in that trifecta of dubious entertainment than in the band.

Finally, I think the Tom Cruise is Crazy world tour has reached epic proportions. At one point this weekend, there were three different stories about Tom/Katie/their soon-to-arrive offspring on the Yahoo entertainment page. I now know that the baby will not be baptized in the Catholic church, that Katie is a Scientologist and that she can make noise during childbirth, although no one else will be allowed to. I also know that Tom has been running seminars to educate his family about the new baby.

I know all about the attention-whore behavior of celebrities and usually have no problem with it (see: my TiVo season pass for "Being Bobby Brown"). But this just seems completely over the top. I fully expect to see the following headline in the next few weeks: "Tom Cruise not sure what to do with placenta."

Friday, April 14, 2006

During my recent California travels, I stopped at a gas station to fill up the rental car before I returned it to my friends at Hertz. Unfortunately, the receipt printer was broken and no one was actually working at the station (truly, there was not a soul in sight), so I had to explain to the folks in the accounting department why I was missing the receipt.

Fast forward to the Oregon/Washington jaunt. I again stopped for gas en roue to the airport, to the tune of $30.50. Anything above $25 requires a receipt. When I filled out my expense report yesterday, I realized I didn't have that receipt. A quick search of the memory bank provided the answer as to why and led to this note being written on my expense report...

So this time, I don't have a receipt because I accidentally stopped for gas in the hood. In my haste to get out of said hood due to some potentially criminal goings-on at the station, I forgot to print the receipt.

I doubt they see much shtick in expense reports, so I'm just trying to brighten their day. But it was NOT a nice neighborhood.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Spring has finally arrived and it is ridiculously nice in central Jersey, which makes me doubly glad I took tomorrow off to play golf. And I picked my bike up from its spring tune-up yesterday, so that should get a nice workout as well this weekend. It's only three weeks until Bike NY, so I should probably start "training" or something.

So yes, I've definitely come around from last season's "The Mets are dead to me" stance. They have a really nice team with some exciting players, and they're off to a great start. But things like this make me extremely nervous.

Tell me this isn’t the team that’s finally going to break Atlanta’s 14-season stranglehold on the NL East.

I don’t think you can.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

A special thanks goes out to my cable provider, which during my time in the Pacific Northwest added the new SportsNet New York channel to my cable lineup. Not only does this mean I'll be able to torture myself with nonstop Mets and Jets programming, but more importantly from time to time we'll apparently be able to amuse ourselves watching Joe Pendleton on "Daily News Live!" He did a fantastic job today, offering commentary on NY sports teams, while nicely pulling off a pink oxford.

Without question, his line of the day: "I think some of the beer guys at Yankee Stadium might make more than some of the Royal players, which is depressing." And entirely accurate.

In honor of his appearance, here's a little gem someone sent me. It's a super combination of the actual live call of the bottom of the 10th inning of game 6 in the 1986 World Series and RBI Baseball animation.

And speaking of programming, I was extremely fired up to get a rental car with Sirius Radio while I was out west. I figured I'd go between Howard and the all-Springsteen, all-the-time channel. But I couldn't find it. They only launched Bruce Radio last fall. Is it gone already? If it is, that'll make me extra glad I didn't spring for Sirius.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

In case you were wondering, Darlene Cates, who played the mother in "What’s Eating Gilbert Grape," is still alive.

I know this because at dinner tonight there was a woman at the table next to me who was a dead ringer for her. Not the size of her, but her face.

So upon my return to the hotel, I did a little research and was mildly surprised to hear she’s still among the living. And has her own web site.

I do love the internets.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

This has been an action-packed stretch, and things won't get any better for another week. After a three-day stop at home, I fly back to the West Coast tomorrow, where I'll spend a few days with Tege in Portland before heading up to Seattle for meetings on Monday and Tuesday. In the past week, I have visited a friend in LA, spent several hours and several dollars in Amoeba Records, watched one friend win a tourney thanks to a miracle shot on the 18th hole, followed along as another teed off in the Masters today, had a dinner date with Crazy Nephew #2, and gotten a bevy of things done at work, which is necessary because my appearances in the office are currently sporadic at best.

In the midst of all this, there was opening day at Shea on Monday. Originally, the plan called for our group to enjoy a day of sun-filled drinking. Then KJ's job interfered and she had to cancel, so I took Adam, better known as Crazy Nephew #1. I love that kid more than life itself, but sometimes he has his moments. Monday was one of those times. And given that I was fresh off the redeye and sleep deprived, I probably wasn't at my best either...

Things were going fine. We drove to Newark and took the train to NYC, and then took the 7 out to Shea. He loves the subway, which always surprises me because he's not usually good with tons of people around. We got there and for the first few innings, everything was great, albeit ridiculously windy and cold. This led to Adam sitting on my lap, because he was chilly, which eventually led to him falling asleep around the top of the fourth inning. As he dozed off, I was given instructions to wake him if: A) "the guy with the baseball head shows up" or B) "the apple pops up." Mr. Met made an appearance during the fifth, and David Wright cranked one out in the sixth, and he was notified both times.

By the top of the seventh, he was well rested and had perked up nicely, dancing with the stadium music and animatedly watching planes fly overhead, yet fortunately ignoring the assortment of new-for-him phrases being yelled in our section (most notably of the M-F and ethnic slur variety). At the top of the eighth, he looked like he was freezing, so I decided we'd get a head start on the journey home. And this was where the trouble started.

Really, I'm to blame. I did not understand that a five-year-old boy could drink enough apple juice and Pepsi to cause a small flood, yet not have to empty his bladder. I was under the mistaken belief that he would have to go, particularly since he had mentioned he had to shortly before we arrived at Shea, prior to the game. But once in the stadium, he said he didn't have to, and I decided not to press it.

But before we returned to the subway, I decided it was time. I had to go, and I'm four times his size, so I figured his little body would welcome an evacuation of fluids. I planned to take him to the Toys R Us in Times Square on the way home so we could ride the Ferris wheel in the store, and used that as the bribe.

He was simply not having it, and thus threw a five-alarm meltdown in the ladies' room at the upper deck at Shea, insisting that he did not have to go. I kept telling him that all he had to do was TRY to go, and if he didn't have to, we could leave. I told him that if he didn't try, we couldn't go to the Ferris wheel, because they only let in little boys who went potty. Because he's smart and quick, he said, "How will they know? We could just tell them I went." I told him they'd just know.

Finally, after about 15 minutes of this sort of lying and cajoling (from me) and crying and screaming (from him), he told me that he would try, but that he wasn't going to pull his pants down. I questioned how he could try without removing his pants, but he was past the point of using logic, so that set him off again. Every time I'd give up and say we could just go, he'd ask if he was going to get to ride the Ferris wheel, and I'd say no, and he'd fall apart again. Finally, after 30 minutes, I'd had enough and we left the bathroom. He asked once more about the Ferris wheel, and I told him that it would probably be closed by the time we got there because we had wasted so much time in the bathroom. He actually accepted that answer, and off we went.

Unfortunately, during this delay, the game ended, so now people were everywhere. We still had to make a stop at the gift shop to buy something for his brother, who didn't understand why he couldn't go too. That took another half hour because there was one cat waiting on everyone. Then, it was on to the subway, where it took another 20 minutes to get through the turnstile because there were so many people waiting. It took two trains before we could get one. We finally collapsed into seats on the 7 and he looked at me and said, "I'm sorry we fighted." We then had a rather mature conversation about why it's so silly to freak out about something so minor, and how going to the potty is a good thing, and not something to avoid.

From then on, he was fine. In fact, an angel. Which was good, because due to some poor subway management, no doubt due to my level of exhaustion, we wound up in the trifecta of busy stations: Grand Central, Times Square and Penn Station. There were people everywhere and at times he was completely smushed into me, but he handled it like a seasoned rush-hour veteran. At one point, he actually told me he was having fun.

So after dropping him off around 7:30, I immediately went home and passed out on the couch. I watched approximately six minutes of the NCAA final. Monday was a sweet day for the Good Doctor. He successfully defended his dissertation and then watched his alma mater win the national title. Good times.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

When I left work today, I planned to spend the evening tackling two important tasks: finishing my taxes and writing about Opening Day at Shea Monday.

Instead, after running a few errands and going to yoga, I have caught up on So NoTORIous episodes; played video games; and e-mailed with Freakgirl about critical matters like the Eminem/Kim Mathers break-up and whether or not Katie Holmes is actually pregnant.

Overall, an evening well spent, I'd say.
While I was in California last week, the temperatures here hit the high 60s/low 70s. Yesterday, Crazy Nephew #2 and I went to the park in the late afternoon.

Today, it is mad snowing. Like, blizzard snow. What the hell?

Saturday, April 01, 2006

The Good Doctor and I were recently discussing what famous people we supposedly look like. I said that I have been told I look somewhat like Brandi Chastain, the USA soccer player well known for ripping her shirt off after scoring the winning goal at the 1999 World Cup. I'm not sure I buy that, but I've heard it several times and there are worse people you could be compared to.

So today I was walking around a golf tournament with a friend when an older Mexican gentleman approached me, put his hat in my hand and asked for my autograph. I mistakenly thought he thought I was a golfer, so I told him I was not and tried to give his hat back. But he then made a kicking motion with his foot and said, "No. You. Football." So I enjoyed an inner giggle about that, but assured him I was not Brandi Chastain. My friend Jay said I should have signed his hat anyway.

But there was one well-known athlete walking around the course in Palm Springs today. I was standing along a green when I noticed a tall, fit black man standing next to me. I quickly realized I was standing next to former NFL wide receiver/Dancing With the Stars/Pros vs. Joes superstar Jerry Rice. I noticed he was wearing a Super Bowl ring around his neck on a chain. Given that it was the size of my chin, it was hard to miss. I was tempted to ask if he might consider hocking that jewelry before signing up for any more reality television, but I passed.