wine by the color

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

This story about the impending Jayson Williams retrial gave me a bit of a chuckle. Not that the situation is funny, of course. The whole mess is awful, and his ass should already be in jail.

But this line is what made me snicker...

The shooting occurred while Williams was giving friends and family a tour of his Alexandria, Hunterdon County, estate in February 2002.

It's so misleading. It makes it sound like he was walking along, giving a dignified tour of his home's fixtures, furniture and carpeting, when all of a sudden, he turned and blasted someone with a shotgun.

I've given the tour of Casa Magnolia many times and never once felt the urge to shoot someone. Maybe that's because my tour only traverses 1,360 square feet and Williams had 27,000 square feet to cover. That might fray anyone's nerves.

Monday, October 30, 2006

So how was the Hunt, you ask?

I'll just let the photos tell the story (you can click on them to make them bigger to see the full mess)...

Rivers of mud flowed through the rows of revelers...

Some of the younger attendees decided to amuse the crowd by diving into and body surfing in the mud (and trust me, we were entertained)...

My feet are somewhere down there in the muck. ..

But I didn't really care...

An abandoned shoe. More than once, we'd see someone have a shoe sucked off by the mud, look down, say screw it and walk away...

And hey, look who dropped in!

Ok, not really. But that was about the only thing missing from Saturday's festivities. Rain, wind, mud and all - very good times.

Not good times? The Jets' effort against Cleveland Sunday afternoon. Ugly.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Tomorrow is one of my favorite days of the year, the Hunt. Its proper name is the Far Hills Race Meeting, but no one calls it that. It's just known as the Hunt - 50,000 people drinking, eating, drinking and drinking while horses race around the swell of humanity, all in the name of fundraising for the local hospital.

It's a terrific day to catch up with friends and enjoy the fall colors. All we need now is a relatively nice day, and we'll be good to go.

Tomorrow: A steady, heavy rain in the morning. Showers continuing in the afternoon. High around 60F. SE winds shifting to WSW at 15 to 25 mph. 1 to 2 inches of rain expected. Locally heavier rainfall possible.

Stench. The local weatherwoman used the word "Nor'easter" this morning on the news. Not promising.

The Captain and I went to the Hub City last night for dinner and cocktails. After eating here, we headed to Gaebel's. As we walked in, I picked up a postcard advertising DJ Nice/DJ Johnny Freeze, who'd be spinning R&B, Hip Hop, Dance and Reggeaton that evening.

No, I don't know what Reggeaton is either. Whatever happened to Reggae?

When we first walked in, it was the usual mellow evening at Gaebel's - low lights, candles, jazz playing, about eight people at the bar. But armed with the postcard, we knew the threat of a dance club breaking out at any moment existed, so we enjoyed the peaceful environs while we could.

While we sat, a young Hasidic man walked in, complete with spiraled hair and the appropriate headwear. He promptly grabbed a bar stool next to me and started chatting with the bartenders. It turns out he was practicing his Halloween costume, which became apparent as soon as took his jacket off to reveal a left arm completely covered in tattoos. He's been planning this for months - he even grew a beard to make it look authentic. He and his girlfriend, who is black, are going to a party this weekend. He'll be dressed as he was last night. She'll be going as Hitler. I think they'll be a big hit.

The DJ finally showed up and got things rolling, which was a sign that it was time for us to leave. But he threw us for a loop with his first song. Hip hop? Reggeaton? Techno? Nope. Journey - "Don't Stop Believin.' " We left shortly thereafter despite this sleeper musical start.

I've already fielded an inquiry as to my loyalties for Sunday's Jets-Browns game. It's a no-brainer - J-E-T-S. Now, come Dec. 3rd, when the Jets (and I) travel to Green Bay to face His High Holiness at Lambeau, that will be another matter altogether.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Not that I feel the need to explain why I no longer support the National Basketball Association, but this headline supports my stance nicely.

Is anyone watching "30 Rock?" If so, I'd appreciate hearing what others think of it. I think the show is hilarious, but I'm concerned that the fact that Alec Baldwin ranks high on my list of guilty pleasures (right up there with Kelly Ripa and Mariah Carey, a story for another day) is clouding my judgment.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Is candy corn an acceptable breakfast? Can someone advise me here?

Saturday morning, perhaps thanks to dietary indiscretions such as the one listed above, I decided it was time to kick start my autumn exercise program with a little run. I left Casa Magnolia and started up the road, and the next thing you know I was 3.6 miles away, at my brother's house. When I walked in his front door, we enjoyed the following exchange:

Him (giving my sweaty, limping body the once-over): "How did you get here?"
Me: "I ran."
Him (shaking his head): "What the hell is the matter with you?"

I didn't have a good answer for that. But it wouldn't be the last time that day someone looked at me like I was a crazy person...

Later that evening, I went to a wine-tasting party. Although a seasoned veteran of wine drinking and trips to winieries, I've never been to an actual wine-tasting shindig, so I didn't know what to expect. I figured everyone would sit around and sip different wines (in this instance, from the Piedmont region in Italy), and then perhaps talk about them.

Oh no. Perhaps the invite should have read Wine-Guzzling Party. Bottle after bottle disappeared, and in a relatively short time frame. I'll admit to a bit of a headache Sunday morning. But well worth it, as the wines were all excellent.

Anyway, during the evening, another attendee and I were discussing the concerts we've attended, with a special focus on our respective headbanging days. I mentioned my infamous moshing during a Metallica show at Lollapalooza many years ago, which ended with me sporting a bit of a black eye.

One of our co-hosts, who was born in Lithuania, seemed puzzled by how one obtains a black eye during dancing, which led to this:

Me: "Moshing is when everyone kind of runs around in a big circle and slams into each other" (with arms flailing about to help illustrate).
Her (with a slightly bewildered look): "Huh. I see."

I don't think she did see. I guess some things don't translate well into other cultures.

Yesterday was a lovely day in East Rutherford, and featured an appearance from my brother, his first ever at the tailgate and a Jets game. For the first time in four home games, there was no visit to Section 331 from Meadowlands personnel. I forgot to mention that there was another fight during last week's game. We were not involved, but again someone went head first over a few rows. This time, the person who fell apparently landed on someone, and punches were subsequently thrown.

But this week, no incidents. No fights, no falls, no vomiting. Apparently the Jets' surprising success has mellowed everyone. A winning record seven weeks into the season. I sure didn't see that coming.

And finally, please indulge me. I get the feeling I won't see this man smiling too many times this season.

Man, do the Dolphins suck.

Oh, one other thing, speaking of teams who do NOT suck ... it is so strange to look for the Rutgers score on Yahoo sports and find it on the college football home page because the Scarlet Knights are in the top 25. Strange, but nice.

In his Monday Morning QB, Peter King offered a scenario in which OSU and Rutgers could meet for the national title. That's almost beyond comprehension, given that it wasn't so many years ago that OSU was the preseason #1 and R-U was #117 in the SI poll.

Very good times in the Hub City.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

As anyone who knows me is well aware, math and I are not good friends. But let’s try a little this morning…

I decided to calculate how many hours I’ve spent watching sports over the years. This is obviously an approximation, and dependent upon mathematical acumen most eight-year-olds can surpass, for which my mother continues to blame my seventh-grade math teacher. I think I just don't like numbers.

For the purposes of this exercise, I’m using 25 years as my baseline for length of viewing. While I haven’t watched all of these sports religiously for 25 years, it helps to average out periods in my life when all I did was watch sports (college, in particular), when these numbers would skew much higher, and other periods (such as the brief relationship I had with a guy who once said to me, "I can't imagine anything more boring than sitting around watching football all day") when there might be a viewing decrease. It also tries to average in the countless hours I have spent watching sporting events in person.

So let’s do some math…

Baseball = 3,000 hours (1000 games x 3 hours each)
Basketball = 4,000 hours (2,000 games x 2 hours each)
Hockey = 750 hours (250 games x 3 hours each)
Pro football: 2,550 hours (6 hours per week x 17 weeks per season x 25 years)
Pro football playoffs: 1,125 hours (15 games x 3 hours each x 25 years)
College football: 2,600 (8 hours per week x 13 weeks x 25 years
College football bowl season: 750 hours (10 games x 3 hours each x 25 years)
Miscellaneous (including Golf, the Olympics and the Miss America Fitness Pageant): 1,875 hours (75 hours per year x 25 years)

So, I have used approximately 16,750 hours of my years on this earth watching sports. Hmm. That seems low. But that’s what the numbers tell me, so I won’t argue.

And why is this important?

Because in those 16,750 hours, I have never actually vomited while watching a sporting event. My closest call probably came on Jan. 3, 2003, during the first overtime of the OSU-Miami Fiesta Bowl national title game, when Craig Krenzel’s pass to Chris Gamble fell incomplete in the end zone. During the few seconds before the penalty flag for pass interference sailed through the air, I was certain I’d be sick.

(I should in the interest of full disclosure mention that there was illness later that night. But that was compliments of a lot of high-altitude celebrating. Very good times. And perhaps the last time I’ve gotten sick due to drinking. But I digress…)

This is all noteworthy because last night, with Billy Wagner on the mound in the top of the ninth, my stomach had another close call.

The Mets makeshift pitching staff was actually getting it done, thanks to a brilliant performance by John Maine (JOHN MAINE?!?). Wagner then came in with a four-run lead and promptly gave Mets Nation a heart attack. My cousin and I went to last Friday night's game and that was just a train wreck. For a few minutes, I thought last night was going to be a repeat.

If Wagner had actually blown the game last night, I would have fully expected Maine to take Wagner onto the field to whup his ass in front of the crowd. I would have DEMANDED it.

But he managed to hold on and the Mets live another day. I'll be sure not to eat anything spicy for dinner this evening, lest there be a repeat of last night's excitement.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Fifty-six days.

That's how long it took me to finally look under the desk in my office for my glasses.

I can see. Carry on.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Part III: My Mortgage Company

Lest ye think it’s only those responsible for sharing the printed word to raise my hackles, today we’re going to talk about the financial institution to which I have been making monthly mortgage payments since April of 1996.

(Actually, that’s not wholly accurate, given that banks seem to change hands every seven months. I think I’ve made mortgage payments to eight different institutions in 10 years. But that’s not the point here…)

During the midst of a lengthy road trip in September, I realized I hadn’t paid my mortgage. I realized it the day it was due, so I called the bank and asked what my options were. They said that for a $15 charge, I could make my payment by phone. That seemed like a no-brainer, so I went ahead and did it, providing the routing information for my checking account at the credit union to the mortgage bank. The customer service representative assisting me was surprisingly competent and everything went without incident.

Or so I thought.

Three weeks later, I received a letter from the bank indicating that my check had been returned for insufficient funds. Despite my lack of affinity for balancing my checkbook, I knew that was impossible. So I called the mortgage bank to find out what happened.

It took a while (including me being putting on hold for 11 minutes), but we finally found the problem. It seems that when I made the payment via telephone, my checking account number somehow got entered incorrectly. So when the mortgage bank tried to remove the funds from my credit union account, it did not go through because it did not recognize the account.

Which meant that now, in addition to the September and October mortgage payments, I now owed a $30 returned check fee and $30 late payment (because as far as they’re concerned, I have not made my September payment, and thus owe a late charge). And don’t forget the $15 fee I originally paid to make the payment via phone.

In a polite, almost friendly tone, I expressed my dissatisfaction with being charged for the late fee, which she said she would waive. I then asked about the returned check fee and the $15 phone payment fee, which led to this exchange:

Her: “Well, we have no way to know whether the information was given wrong or entered wrong, so we can’t do anything about that.”Me: “So you automatically assume the customer made the error?”
Her: “Um…”

She stood firm on the lack of possibility that I would be receiving a refund of the $45. I indicated that I guessed I would simply have to bend over and accept that, although I found it rather unfortunate and would probably negatively affect their chances of being the financial provider of my next mortgage.

At this point, she asked the following…

Her: “Would you like to make the payment now?” (asking if I’d like to pay the two months via phone).
Me: “Well, I think I’ve learned my lesson about the effectiveness of making payments to your bank over the phone, so I’m going to pass.”

And this was the end of our conversation. It should be noted that this and the Sports Illustrated phone calls were made within the same hour. I figured if I was going to risk elevating my blood pressure dealing with customer-service representatives, I might as well get it over with at the same time.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Part II: Sports Illustrated

Our local rag isn’t the only publication to raise my ire recently. The folks at Sports Illustrated are also guilty.

My relationship with Sports Illustrated is my longest-standing literary affiliation – I’ve been a subscriber since the 1980s. I used to read every word of every page. The magazine has suffered in the last few years as it tries to avoid losing younger readers to the abomination that is the Evil Empire’s magazine. (As an aside, I was a charter subscriber to that publication, back before ESPN turned into the magnificent crapfest it is now. I had high hopes for the magazine but after four issues, I called customer service and told them to cancel my subscription immediately, as I didn’t want their shitty magazine sullying my mailbox again. True story.)

Anyway, as the quality of the Sports Illustrated has suffered, I read less and less of it. But one thing I do read without fail is a section called Golf Plus. I found out about it after I started my job, and have now been receiving an issue with the section for about five years. A few weeks ago, however, I realized Golf Plus had disappeared and been replaced by a Fantasy Sports section.

So I called SI customer service to investigate.

I told the rep my situation and she indicated that “if I wanted to receive the Golf Plus section, she could help with that.” I told her that I HAD been receiving the Golf Plus section for five years and was curious as to why it went away. She ignored that and said she’d be more than happy to get me signed up for the Golf Plus issue. So I asked again why my subscription was changed and she indicated that “perhaps when your subscription was renewed, it automatically made a change.” So I asked when my subscription was last renewed, and was told “May, 2005.” So I asked one final time how the switch was made, because at this point I felt we were playing a game. She completely ignored me and instead told me I was all set to receive the Golf Plus issue moving forward.

Credit must be given, because she stood firm and would not admit they just arbitrarily changed my subscription. I’m not the only one to whom this has happened – I’ve spoken with a few colleagues who also had their subscriptions changed. But she took care of it immediately and that's all I really wanted, so Sports Illustrated was immediately removed from my shit list.

Now, if only they could do something about the content...

Sunday, October 08, 2006

(Editor's note – I was working on a minor rant and it turned into a lengthy, rambling outburst, one that went on for a few pages. Rather than subject readers to the whole thing at once, I decided to break it into four parts. That not only considerately lessens the reading required in one sitting, it also allows me to stretch content over a few days, always a key while I’m busy on the road. So without further ado…)

A Rant In Four Parts

Part I: The Local Paper

I’m quite concerned about the nice woman who lives next to me. She recently traveled to Thailand and apparently had a serious brain aneurysm while there (this is how it was described to me – I would think all brain aneurysms are serious). Her family was having trouble getting information about her condition because they couldn’t get anyone on the phone who spoke comprehensible English.

When I left town last week, I left my cell number with another neighbor so I could be updated, but I’ve not heard from her. Unfortunately, things didn’t sound encouraging when I left, so I’ve been keeping an eye on the worst-case scenario, checking the obit section of the local paper. But I can’t do that anymore.


Because the assclowns at said paper have completely screwed up the web site. This week, the paper started to require that visitors enter simple demographic information before accessing content on the site. I didn’t think that was unreasonable, so I went ahead and entered my gender, my year of birth and my zip code.

Then, per the instructions, I hit ‘Submit.’ And … nothing. I clicked ‘Submit’ again. And again. And again. Nothing, nothing, nothing.

I thought perhaps it was my computer, so I went to another. It’s not me, nor my computer. It’s them.

Why in the name of all that is holy do they have to make things so damned difficult? I just don’t understand. I possess the technological skills of a nursery school-age child, yet I’m able to design web pages for both personal and professional use. How in the world can the ninth-most circulated newspaper in the most densely populated state in the nation not be able to design pages that people can actually use? It’s truly beyond me.

(By the way, I did actual research to determine it’s the ninth-largest paper in NJ. It has 11,000 fewer daily subscribers that the one that used the "Roasted Nuts" headline a few years ago. Humorously, while trying to find a suitable article to link to regarding that situation, it led me … here.)

If it isn't fixed by the time next week’s high school football podcast goes live, someone in a Route 22 West office can expect a strongly worded communiqué from the Wine By The Color headquarters.
Thanks to my cousin for passing along this gem...

If only I knew someone at the Daily News, so I could congratulate them on their fine work...

Friday, October 06, 2006

Yes, it's late Thursday night, and I still haven't mentioned Monday night's Packers' debacle. Let's pretend it didn't happen, shall we? It was not a pretty sight - me banging my head against the bar as my new friend, who I think we'll be calling The Captain, watched with concern. A nice first half, followed by as ugly a half of football as you will ever see.

Let's move on...

The Mets, using a pitching rotation just a few steps above the one featured in our Sunday softball games, are 2-0 in the NLDS. Amazin's, indeed.

While reading my USA Today in a Georgia hotel yesterday, I came across this feature on Jackie Earle Haley, who starred in two of my favorite movies of all time - "Bad News Bears" and "Breaking Away." To my amazement, he's appearing in a few current movies. I'm not surprised he's still acting (ok, I am). But I was more surprised to hear they made a movie of "Little Children." I'm an enormous Tom Perrotta fan, but I didn't think "Little Children" was his strongest effort. The book started very well but kind of fizzled three-quarters through. After solid, in-depth character and plot development, it was like Perrotta got bored and thus wrapped things up really quickly to be done with the book.

If you want to read a great read, check out "The Wishbones." A fantastic book, one I give often as a gift. "Joe College" is also great. And I think I'd believe both were great books even if I weren't from Jersey. But as always, that helps.

And finally, tonight I was reminded that it doesn’t matter how much you drink at work functions, as long as you’re sitting next to someone who’s had more to drink than you have.

Good times!

Monday, October 02, 2006

J-E-T-S! Jets!! Jets!!! Oooohhhhh...

What a wild swing of emotions in East Rutherford yesterday.

There was a brilliant onside kick and a stunning kickoff return that went 103 yards for a TD. A bad penalty call that led to the world's tallest accountant screaming "I hope you die" to a member of the officiating crew. A game-ending lateral-fest that evoked memories of the Stanford-Cal game.

We laughed, we cried.

It was certainly the best Jets game I've seen in the stadium. When Justin Miller ran the kickoff back late in the game, it was near pandemonium in the stands. It was a fantastic feeling, and one most Jet fans probably doubted they'd experience this season. Of course, the realization that the return, exciting as it was, gave Peyton Manning way too much time to mount a game-winning drive, which he did, hit us immediately. But for a few moments, the possibility of victory existed. Good times.

Gang Green is proving unpredictable and dangerous, even though they didn't win. This is not an overly talented Jets team, but they had a chance to beat one of the better teams in the league until the last second. Mangini is going to be questioned, and deservedly so, for not kicking the field goal in the third quarter with the score tied 14-14. But he's getting a lot out of the players, and he's taking risks that Jets fans never saw during the days of Herm. It's a welcome change, and I think people can see the bright spots in the loss.

Although the Jets lost, I was a winner on the day, as I have already abandoned my pre-season decision to always pick against the Jets, Browns and Packers in 2006. After my two-win performance a week ago, I decided I needed to make some changes, so this week, I picked all three to win. The Jets, who were getting 9.5 points, easily covered. The Browns tried their hardest to lose to the hapless Raiders but managed to come back and win by three, thus covering the spread by a half-point. It's probably asking too much for the Packers to complete the trifecta tonight, but I couldn't go against Favre on Monday night, getting 11.5 points. I know. I got greedy.

In Section 331 social news, there were no run-ins with our new friend Allen. The Professor, sensitive to being called a negative fan during the home opener, went completely the other way Sunday. Whenever the Jets screwed up, he yelled, "Come on guys, try harder." Very funny stuff. I'm sure Allen knows he's being patronized, but at least he's smart enough not to say anything about it.

But I did notice something yesterday. Allen was on our case because we're always hollering at the field - at the players and the coaches. He doesn't do that. Instead, I realized that he yells at his wife. Granted, she deserves a little crap because she was wearing a pink Jets hat. Unless I've missed a press release, there is no pink in the Jets' color scheme. But that doesn't warrant having your husband bitch and moan at you every time something goes wrong. Yell at the field, not at your wife. It's not her fault Manning ran a flawless two-minute drill.

So with Allen leaving us alone, we needed to count on others to provide yesterday's shenanigans. Fortunately, they delivered. Three notable goings-on:

1. After the questionable interference call during the Colts' drive that temporarily gave them the lead, I thought the red-headed Irish dude who sits a few rows behind us would rupture a major artery as he screamed the equivalent of "you fornicating kitty cat" at the official with enough venom and hatred to turn his face purple.

2. For the second week in a row, Meadowlands staffers had to stop by our section. Instead of security, however, this time it was medical personnel, who had to visit after a woman fell headfirst over a row of seats.

Seats 1, Wrist of Woman who Fell Over Seats 0

3. But the highlight (lowlight?) came from the huge guy who sits directly behind me. Apparently, he was on a mission during his tailgating hours. Perhaps a contest of sorts involving him and a gent named Jack Daniels.

Jack Daniels 1, Big Dude Sitting Directly Behind Me 0

Sometime in the third quarter, I mentioned to the Professor that the dude wasn't looking so good, and I expressed fear that I was in his line of fire should he start vomiting. The Professor assured me, "he looks like that all the time, and never pukes. It'll be fine. He never pukes."

Ten minutes later, he was puking. Quite chivalrously, the Professor switched seats with me. The big dude resumed vomiting as the game reached its exciting conclusion, and by the time he left, he was a mess the likes of which I haven't seen in years.

So I imagine that somewhere today, he has a very large headache, but most likely no memory of what happened yesterday. Fortunately, there's a group of people sitting in front of him who'll be more than happy to remind him in two weeks.

We're helpful like that.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

If you have time to watch just one thing on the internet this week, might I recommend this (the video is to the right of the story). I saw this on the Evil Empire the other day, and it gets better each time I watch it.

Because really, who hasn't gotten completely annoyed at a fellow motorist and had an overwhelming desire to commit some sort of assault? Apparently, the same is true for race car drivers. This cat's flying, feet-first leap into another driver's windshield is something I found wholly entertaining.