wine by the color

Friday, October 31, 2008

Not only do I wish you a Happy Halloween, but Bruce Springsteen does too!

There's a lot to talk about - including a spate of recent social outings, capped by last night's trip to Asbury Park to see a friend's band play the Stone Pony and today's Halloween festivities with the crazy trio - but then you come across something that blows your original plans right out of the water.

Might I introduce exhibit A to illustrate my point. (And special thanks to Freakgirl, who sent this my way with the words, "because no one enjoys elegance and class more than you." Indeed).

Sometimes an article is such an embarrassment of riches, you just don't know where to start. So I'm going to skip any flowy introductory text and go straight to the photo...

Ho. Ly. Crap.

Honestly, I don't know where to start. The story really says it all. Really nicely written, might I say. You have to love those witty Brits.

Despite my four trips to the UK over the years, I wouldn't call myself an expert when it comes to the subtle differences in the language. However, I'm pretty sure that "traveller" means carny and "caravan" means RV.

If I had a party to go to this evening, I'd wear this. But my plans call for an evening of trick or treating with the crazies and a wagon full of liquor, then a late-night gathering with my favorite fools and ghouls at the South Side.

Happy halloween to all.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

By the way, weather doesn't get any nuttier than it was in central Jersey today. I was in a meeting around 9:30 this morning when I looked at the window and saw what I thought was snow. "Nah, can't be," I said to myself.

Oh, it was.

It was damn near a blizzard, and it went on for hours. I never thought it would stick on the ground but it did for the majority of the day. For someone who has "as much skiing as possible" on her to-do list for the upcoming season, today's winter preview really whet the appetite.

Of course, by Friday it's supposed to be back to 60 degrees. Just in time for trick or treating with the crazies.
Normally, I'd rip Pam Oliver for this...

Honestly, who hasn't done this? It sucks that it happened while she was on the air, but I lose my train of thought mid-sentence all the time. She had the good sense to shut her mouth. I usually keep on speaking.

But then, compare that with this...

(For some reason I can't get this to embed but if you go here you can watch it. It's worth it. I promise.)

I'm alternately horrified that a reporter could make such a terrible mistake (although my opinion of television journalists couldn't get much lower, so perhaps I shouldn't be all that surprised) and laughing out loud at this classic line from Francesa...

"Number two, Bill Walsh didn't call Mike. Bill Walsh is dead."


Monday, October 27, 2008

After last week's putrid loss to Oakland, this is what Coach Mangini had to say...

There's a lot of things from the game that I am happy with but it comes back to the same issue of you can't have three turnovers and you can't have these self-inflicted wounds, whether they're turnovers or penalties. Those are tough to overcome.

This statement was made with all the fire of someone with a blood pressure of 70 over 30. No change in his tone of voice whatsoever. No emotion.

This is what new head coach Mike Singletary had to say after the Niners' loss to Seattle yesterday.


My favorite part of this is when he takes a breath, gets ready to continue and then stops himself, opening it up to questions. A member of the media core in the room shouts out, "you're doing great." The Niners' beat writers are no doubt all sitting there thinking, "covering this guy is going to be fantastic." It's always more fun to cover someone who has something to say, and it's clear Mr. Singletary has a few things on his mind.

This makes the days of Herm and "you play to win the game" seem tame.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Until you've been to one of our tailgates, you can't fully appreciate what a nice setup we have. Four hours of grilled meats, adult beverages, good friends and random conversations. Thanks to the Jets' ongoing struggles in recent years, our group has made sure to enjoy the tailgates, knowing that may well be the highlight of the day.

Today was no exception.

Yes, the Jets eked out a win, although the term "winning ugly" has never been so accurate. But on a beautiful autumn day in East Rutherford, the real winners were those who gathered along the median in section 13A.

Plenty of good friends, including a dear friend of mine who was making his first appearance...

The usual cast of characters...

Characters indeed...

Grilled meats, all prepared by the Professor, who came to the tailgate and manned double grills for four hours despite not being able to stay for the game...

Good conversation ... for example, this group was debating the merits of Jeff Bridges' career. While it might not seem that would make for an interesting discussion, it was rather spirited. (As an aside, it's hard to argue against the man who starred in the Big Lebowski, but that's just my two cents.)

And then, it was into the stadium, where I witnessed a lot of this...

And a lot of the ball going from His Holiness' right hand to the hands of Chiefs' defenders, which I don't need to revisit in photographs. These words tell the tale...

It reminded some of the halcyon days of Browning Nagle and Richard Todd. Passes flung carelessly into coverage. Passes thrown on crossing routes where the receiver had broken off his pattern. Passes flung on deep flys with no receiver (but two defenders) in sight.


While searching for a photo that captured the offensive debacle on display today, I came across this one. I have absolutely no idea what's going on here...

Is that dancing? I just don't know.

The Jets are now 4-3, which means they have already matched their win total from the 2007 season. But on the heels of last week's horror show against the Raiders and today's lackluster win against Herm, a quarterback named Thigpen and the worst defense in the league, it doesn't feel as good as it could.

Fortunately, a post-game trip to Steve's Sizzling Steaks helped lift the spirits.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

8:04 p.m. - I can't guarantee I'll blog for this entire game. And I'm not going to guarantee an OSU victory. But I CAN guarantee that no matter what happens, I won't enjoy anything else this evening as much as I did dancing in the kitchen earlier to Marvin Gaye's "Got To Give It Up" with my niece (including her self-proclaimed "booty shaking") and then having crazy nephew #2 snuggle under the crook of my arm and announce "this is my favorite thing." So while I obviously want OSU to win, it's not the end of the world if they don't.

Remind me I said that in three hours...

8:15 p.m. - I am more than twice the age of OSU's starting QB. That stings a little. But he just ran for a sweet first down, so I'll get over it.

8:17 p.m. - Instead of cheering "Go Buckeyes," Crazy nephew #2 (who should be in bed) is chanting "Go Butt-guys."

8:28 p.m. - Listening to Herbie talk about penetration reminds me of the flick "Wildcats," when Goldie Hawn screams, "Do you know how to get good penetration?" Underrated movie.

8:36 p.m. - Speaking of Herbie, my first-round attire is my favorite "Kirk Herbstreit knows football" shirt. I have a change of clothes, should I need to change to help the team's fortunes. Of course, I tried that during the title game against Florida two years ago and that didn't help at all.

8:42 p.m. - Ooh, "Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown." Note to self - remember to watch that.

8:43 p.m. - I hope no one is actually reading this for game analysis. There won't be much of that.

8:48 p.m. - My brother has just made the first anti-Musberger reference of the evening. Something about shoving a microphone up his cornhole.

9:00 p.m. - I can't say I'm thrilled with this field position. OSU at its own 3. This is where bad things happen.

9:01 p.m. - Wow, Michigan lost to MSU by 14. The folks in Ann Arbor cannot be happy. OOOH - but here's who is happy - OSU fans. Great catch and run across midfield.

9:04 p.m. - Well, I've just dropped my first F bomb as in "What the fuck was that?"

9:10 p.m. - Amazing. Less than five minutes left in the first half and no scoring thus far. Let's hope that's not the kiss of death...

9:12 p.m. - Son of a bitch. That's what I get. I'll keep my mouth shut henceforth. Not that they've scored, but they are certainly knocking on the door.

9:17 p.m. - I don't know who's running the music at ABC, but I wholeheartedly approve of the Zeppelin heading into commercial.

9:21 p.m. - If I could punch just one person with no repercussions, I think it might be Musberger.

9:28 p.m. - I wouldn't have guessed this game would be tied 3-3 at the half. There will now be a brief break from this scintillating live blog for halftime, during which I will visit Crazy Nephew #1, who has been yelling for me from upstairs for a while.

10 p.m. - I know the game has been back for a while. I have been too but just haven't had anything to say. I mean, let's be honest. This game is a bit boring. It's a good match-up, but boring.

10:17 p.m. - I don't want to say this game is losing me, but I'm currently clipping coupons. And that is not a euphemism for anything.

10:30 p.m. - Uggghhhh. I need more wine....

10:31 p.m. - My college roommate just sent me a text that reads: "Fuck!! This game!!"

10:40 p.m. - In what seems like the ninth hour of this game, there is finally a touchdown. Unfortunately, OSU did not score it.

10:40:30 p.m. - Holy crap. What the hell just happened? Does the freshman need the challenge of leading the offense 95 yards down the field? I don't think so.

10:48 p.m. - Here's been my verbal commentary for the last minute: "Fuck. Shit. Fuck. Dumbass. Fuck. Fuck."

10:49 p.m. - Wow, the World Series game in Philly actually started? That is going to end LATE.

10:58 p.m. - Down seven with 1:07 to go. I wonder which Jets team will show up tomorrow.

11:06 p.m. - I wonder what channel the baseball's on...

So tonight is the big game. As soon as the aftermath of last night's six-hour happy hour wears off, I'll be getting fired up and donning my scarlet and gray.

College Gameday is in Columbus this week and while it's always nice to have the crew in town for a big game, I'm a little worried. The game doesn't start until 8 p.m. It's currently 9:11 a.m., and the good people of Columbus are already out in full force. That means they're looking at 11 hours of carousing (plus whatever they've already managed this morning) before the game starts. The chances they'll maintain a high energy level for the duration of the game aren't good.

I'll be watching the game at my brother's house. The other day, my friend Scotty asked for my thoughts on the game. I offered the following:

-I think that my blood pressure has the potential to skyrocket.
-I think at some point I'll probably throw something at the television.
-I think my beer intake will be high.

I'm considering live blogging the game. We'll see.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

I don't often belly laugh while reading articles in the NY Times, but this one about something called Mail Goggles is a classic.

There are multiple giggle-worthy gems but I think my favorite quote is: “If you’ve completely lost all motor skills, Mail Goggles probably isn’t necessary,” Ryan Dodge, a dating blogger who lives in Brooklyn, said in an e-mail message. “But there’s a dangerous point of intoxication where you’re lucid enough to operate a keyboard, but drunk enough to think that professing your love via Facebook to that girl in your 11th grade homeroom is a stellar idea.”

Perhaps they can develop something called Bloggles next. Not that I've ever done that, of course...

Monday, October 20, 2008

A quick note about the Jets, for that is all they deserve...


The good folks at the Jets Blog did a nice job recapping yesterday's debacle, as did the Daily News.

Any Jets fan worth his (her) salt knew the Jets were capable of playing down to the competition and losing that game, and that's exactly what they did.

When you get a second chance like Gang Green did with the second field goal at the end of regulation, you simply have to take advantage.

His Holiness seems to have a "What the fuck is going on here" look about him. Welcome to the Jets, my friend. This is what happens.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

In my many years as a sports fan, I have seen hundreds of live events. Baseball, basketball, cycling, field hockey, football, golf, gymnastics, hockey, horse racing, lacrosse, rugby, skiing, soccer, swimming, tennis, track and field, wrestling. Hell, I've even seen figure skating live. But I had never seen a boxing match. And I'm a long-time boxing fan who often watched heavyweight fights on pay per view back in Tyson's heyday.

Well, I can cross boxing off the list. And I shall cross it off again. And again and again. I sent a text message to the Sandman late last night that read: Live boxing may be my new favorite thing.

I'm hard-pressed to remember a more entertaining, exciting evening.

An old college friend e-mailed to say he was coming to Jersey to see the Pavlik-Hopkins fight in Atlantic City and might I be available to join him and his buddy. Pavlik hails from Ohio, a Youngstown hero who scrapped his way to the middleweight crown. While it would mean skipping the Hunt for the first time in years, it sounded like a potentially good time.

So I drove down to AC Saturday afternoon and watched the Buckeyes manhandle Michigan State while enjoying a few Guinness. We wandered over to Boardwalk Hall and bought tickets, then returned to the casino for a little gambling (which effectively resulted in a decrease of the price of my ticket for the fight, which was a nice bonus) before returning to the hall for the fights. We watched two of the undercard fights, which did a nice job warming up the crowd for the main event, which finally started around 11:30 p.m.

I knew the fight was a fairly big deal but didn't realize just how big until Michael Buffer appeared to do the introductions. Michael Buffer's here? I am ready to rumble!!!

Then the fighters came out amid boisterous parades of fanfare. Unbeknownst to us, Pavlik was fighting a Philly native, who had major support in the crowd given the short travel time down the AC Expressway. Given that Pavlik is white and Hopkins is black and the fans of each seemed to follow suit, there was also an undeniable racial undercurrent in the building.

Half the world seemed to be in the ring prior to the start of the fight...

And then, it was fight time.

I was absolutely mesmerized by the action. Honestly, I was on the edge of my seat for an hour. You know when you're watching a football game and your team is driving and the anxiety of whether they'll score is almost more than you can take? That's what the entire fight was like. Just knowing that at any second, someone could unleash one punch that could put his opponent on the floor was incredibly tense. Would it abruptly end in the second round? Would it go all 12? I could not take my eyes off the ring, waiting for that punch to land.

Ring girls. There were two who swapped every other round. The other one had legs that seemed 8 feet long, but I didn't think to take a picture of the side show until prior to the 12th round, and it wasn't her turn. They both received the obligatory amount of whistles and catcalls.

For reasons I could not understand, a large number of people left at the start of the 12th round. If you've stayed that long, why not stay until the end? Where did you have to go?

Anyway, when the fight concluded, a small melee broke out, as by then the entire world seemed to be in the ring...

In the end, Hopkins was a unanimous victor in a fight that didn't seem as close as it was scored. No one ever landed that knockdown punch. But that was almost secondary for me. I was hooked. I learned a ton about the sport from my friend's buddy, a huge fight fan and Youngstown native who took the loss fairly well.

But just like that, it was over. An hour of unbearable tension, gone. We quietly walked down the boardwalk on a chilly, windy evening and returned to the Trop, calling it a night shortly thereafter.

Now, the fight, it should be mentioned, was only half the show. There was also the fashion show.

First, if you are looking for a well-dressed black man, go to a fight. I'm not kidding. A sea of nattily-attired black men, everywhere I looked. By and large, their white counterparts accorded themselves nicely as well.

But the women...

Let's say the crowd was 95 percent male. That means of the 13,000 spectators in the building, 650 were female. Of those 650 females, 610 of them were dressed like hookers, rap video dancers or Kim Kardashian. I found myself openly gaping at my fellow female fightgoers because I just could not believe what they were wearing. At least 20 times, I found myself wondering, "Where would you even buy something like that?" I could smack myself for not taking a few photos of the outfits. That was just poor planning on my part, and I apologize.

But to my delight, today I discovered Freakgirl is a big fan of boxing as well (you're friends with someone for 25 years and still can learn something new - who knew). So next time I go, I'm bringing her with me. And I assure you we'll properly capture this other part of the experience.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Yes, I know this isn't the most timely of game-day reports but I've had a busy day doing a whole lot of nothing. Thank you, Christopher Columbus. I have honored your legacy well today. You discovered a new land. I managed to do a load of laundry and boil two eggs.

Yesterday's game wasn't pretty, but the day sure was. Weather just doesn't get any nicer. It led to an unusual amount of eating, along with the customary high level of drinking (although almost none from me, perhaps a first). As for the Jets, the offense couldn't be called crisp. At times, it was actually somewhat ugly. But a win's a win, even if His Holiness wasn't exactly on the money.

But here's what was on the money - my view of our QB. My friend Mikey, who sits behind us, brought his binoculars. He watched the action. During breaks, I would watch Favre. Highly entertaining. It was like sitting across the room from him. This was essentially my view...

During one such moment, while the dancing hos known as the Jets Flight Crew were gyrating in the end zone, he was tapping his feet along with the music, which I found highly amusing.

This is just about the time a Jets fan can start to get in trouble. Gang Green is 3-2 and it's reasonable to think they could be 5-2 in two weeks, with the Raiders and Chiefs next up on the schedule. Thoughts of the playoffs start to dance in the head, and that is just getting way ahead of oneself...

As if we hadn't enjoyed a fine enough day, given the weather and the win, we decided to extend the merriment and dine at my favorite restaurant. We bellied up to the bar and watched the Cowboys-Cardinals game while enjoying meat and Guinness, as Sinatra played in the background. An excellent end to a lovely day.

About the only other thing I accomplished today was a good deal of writing and reading, including a bunch of old Sports Illustrated issues. I came across an article that mentioned the 1980 USA hockey team, which was named the SI Athletes of the Year for their accomplishments in Lake Placid. So I went to the SI Vault and found the original article, which is quite lengthy but an excellent read.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

A position I might consider my dream job recently became available. It’s a fantastic position at a Fortune 200 sports-related company in Oregon. Six months ago, I might have pursued it.

But this week, life hit me with a sweet punch in the gut. And, in the process, provided an excellent reminder of what is most important to me.

People. Family and friends.

Being surrounded by people who have a thousand questions and ask none of them except “Do you want to talk about it” and accepting “No” as the answer. Being bolstered by the one friend who knew he could get away with asking quite a few of those questions.

Realizing that while I may not make good choices in all areas of my life, I have done an excellent job picking friends.

And knowing geography is more than just where you live. It’s the people and experiences who make you who you are.

A fine example of which came last night, as I spent what was to be a quiet Friday evening with the boys talking high school football at our local tavern. It turned into a boisterous affair watching a trio of anonymous drunk women turn lyrics like “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” into “Hit Me In the Wet Spot” and “I Want Candy” into “I Want Anal.” Watching a bar full of men give a rousing round of standing applause while one of my dearest friends shouted, “I love America.” It’s not a classy scene, to be sure, but it was a spirit-lifter. The angst of this week might stick with me for a little while. But I will remember that wild scene for years to come.

And if anyone can follow how I tied turning a catchy 80s pop song into a pornographic musical romp to the importance of surrounding yourself with good people, more power to you. That’ll give you a nice glimpse into how all over the place I’ve been this week.

But I have picked myself up and dusted myself off, and I am ready to go. Which is a change from three days ago, when I drafted a post in which I told my loyal readers I was going to take a break from Wine By The Color.

Scratch that. I may not post as often for a while. I’ve got plans to revive the long-dormant book and want to focus some of my writing efforts there. But I’m not going anywhere. I am not breaking up with you.

That said, I had found my favorite clip from Friends to assist the announcement of my now-canceled hiatus. While there will be no break, it’s still worth sharing...

Regularly scheduled programming will resume soon. For now, I’ve got a high school reunion tonight and a date with His Holiness tomorrow. In the midst of my funk this week, I missed his birthday. I hope he can forgive me…

Monday, October 06, 2008

Today's mail delivery included a letter from my friends at the local Toyota dealership. Ooh, I thought, this has potential...

Dear Jersey Girl:

Greetings from all of us at our dealership! In a few days you will have driven your Toyota vehicle for five full years.

Are you getting ready to trade in your vehicle? If so, please get in touch with me. We currently have great incentives and products, and I would be happy to help you take a look at your options for your next vehicle.

Blah, blah, blah.

Toyota Man
General Manager

Well, HELLO Mr. Toyota Man. I'm surprised to hear from you. Given our history, I would have thought your dealership would have a red flag next to my name, with "Never Contact Again" written all over it.

Might I present perhaps my finest letter ever, the gold standard in my Angry Letters and Rants folder...

October 22, 2003

Local Toyota Dealership
Local Highway
Local Town

Dear Mr. President:

I received your letter of Sept. 30 and was sorry to learn you were disturbed to hear the news that I did not purchase a car after visiting you. Imagine my surprise, having purchased a Highlander less than 24 hours after my initial visit.

But since we’re addressing disturbing events at your dealership, I thought perhaps I would share my experience.

On Sept. 29, I visited your dealership with my brother and we met with Saleswoman Nancy. We test drove a 2003 Highlander, and then came back to discuss cost and the value of my vehicle, which I intended to trade in. After her initial offer, I told her I wanted to think about it. She then brought over Sales Manager Pete, who offered me what I felt was a fair price for my trade-in, and a financing rate of 3.99% over 60 months. I told Nancy and Pete I wanted to sleep on that offer, and that I would call Nancy the next day.

Early Tuesday afternoon, I called Nancy and we discussed the offer, confirming that the trade-in value would be $8500, and the financing rate would be 3.99%. I then agreed to the purchase, and she called me later that day to advise me that my car had arrived and I could pick it up that evening.

I arrived at your dealership at 7:20 p.m. on Sept. 30. After a quick ride in my new vehicle, I spent the next 75 minutes sitting in a chair at Nancy’s desk, waiting while she sat in the glass-windowed office. At the time, I didn’t know what the delay was, although I figured she was processing paperwork for my new vehicle. She later told me that she had just been offered a Sales Manager position. While I’m happy for her, I question why that discussion was being held while two people (a gentleman, another customer of Nancy’s, was delayed even longer at the desk next to me) were made to wait so long to spend in excess of $20,000 each on new vehicles.

Finally, I met with Frank in the financing department. We reviewed the necessary documentation, and when we got to the financing paperwork, I noticed that my financing rate was 4.99%. I pointed out the discrepancy to Frank, who told me that the 3.99% was not available, and that Pete should not have offered that rate as it was not available. He also assured me that “the one point wouldn’t really make that much of a difference anyway.”

Because it was now 9:05 p.m. and I had been there almost two hours, all I wanted to do was take my car and leave. Thus, I signed the paperwork and departed at 9:25 p.m.

As far as I’m concerned, there are two options regarding the financing rate discrepancy. Either Pete is poorly informed, or he lied to make the sale. I don’t think either reflects well on your dealership. We had indicated to Nancy that my brother was in the market for a new vehicle. I can assure you that purchase will not be made at your dealership. It’s unfortunate that you have lost my family’s business over what can’t amount to more than a few hundred dollars.

My troubles did not end there. After Nancy removed my license plates from my trade-in, I asked her if I would be able to keep the same plates, as it was the same class of vehicle. She indicated that would not be a problem. Frank later informed me that I could not keep my plates. Again, did someone lie, or were they poorly informed? If it’s the latter, why do people respond to questions when they don’t know the correct answer?

As a final insult, my temporary tags expired on Oct. 20. On that date, I called the dealership to inquire about the status of my license plates. When I asked Nancy that question, she said, “Oh, I’m sorry, I should have called you. They just came in Saturday.” She also mentioned that I really had 30 days to put plates on the vehicle, and “not to worry about the expiration date.”

So I came to the dealership on Tuesday, Oct. 21 to pick them up. When I signed my name on the clipboard to indicate I had received them, I noticed the date next to my name was 10/8/03. When I asked the woman at the desk what that meant, she said that was the date my plates had arrived. She asked if I had received a phone call regarding the arrival of the plates from my sales rep, as is the protocol, and I indicated I had not.

Based on your dealership’s reputation and my experience buying a vehicle from you in the past, I came to your dealership because I believed it to be a business where integrity and honesty play an important role in how the staff provides service to its customers. I can assure you that my recent experience has destroyed that image entirely.

Mr. President, I appreciate you taking the time to read my letter and would be available if you had any questions regarding my concerns. I should also mention that despite the troubles I’ve encountered, I very much enjoy my new vehicle and am quite happy to be behind the wheel of the Highlander.


Jersey Girl

I'm really surprised you've all forgotten about me. I mean, let's not forget our later tussle about the pre-paid service contract, which someone in the sales department eventually admitted did not cover the service scheduled dictated as optimal by Toyota. That was a good phone call. Surely someone there remembers that one?

Yes, your vice president called within minutes of receiving my letter and eventually wrote me a check for almost $1,900. But I have not stepped back foot in your dealership, preferring to drive 72 miles one way to have my car serviced (the fact that it is around the corner from my parents' house might also play a part in that). They were surprised the first time I came in. Don't worry - I indeed told them it was because the dealership where I made the purchase was full of incompetent asses. They didn't seem surprised.

And I guess your latest letter shouldn't come as one either...

Thursday, October 02, 2008

When I called one of my college roommates this morning to discuss a possible girls' weekend, I expected her to throw out the usual locales - Vegas, Dublin, New Orleans.

So imagine my surprise when she offered ... Mississippi and Alabama. It seems she and I are both missing a few of the same states in our respective quests for all 50.

Oh yes, people. We're going to the promised land...

I have already started my research. Law enforcement in Mississippi might want to consider battening down the hatches for a few days in mid-November...