Saturday, June 25, 2011

Give Peace A Chance

By now anyone who keeps an ear to the ground in the world of professional sports has either seen the mushroom cloud looming ominously over the city of Los Angeles (not just smog), or felt the after quakes for the atomic bomb that was Laker-forward, Ron Artest, filing to legally change his name to "Metta World Peace." Ron Artest, with a track record about as clean as James Harden's shave, has taken a lot of heat from sports analysts and fans alike for what seems to be yet another Hollywood distraction for a clearly out-of-sync Laker squad. I, while not usually a huge fan of Artest, beg to differ.
A few quick side notes before I jump into the meat of my argument.
1. "Metta" is a Buddhist word for "kindness" as far as I know. In addition to learning my World Religions professor loved Chocolate and hot sauce (not together), we also did a fair amount of learning.
2. The fact that this is such news underlines the state of sports media today and its apparent dependence of sensationalism. This is neither a good or bad thing, but it's impossible to talk about without pointing that out. I'd love to tell you more about that. If you want to hear more, let me know. I wrote a 20 page paper on it that I promise isn't boring. My 20 page papers on Illegal Immigration and Fluctuating Moralities in Thane and Lady Macbeth... are a different story.
3. Did anyone give World B. Free this much of a hassle? I mean you'd have to cite number 2 when talking about the difference between the two, but here we see two players who made similar life choices albeit in two very different times, but one is mocked while the other is lauded. Here we see Ron Artest's past coming back to haunt him.
However, while we're at it, let's take a closer look at the Ron Artest we've come to know and... know. We all know Ron the tenacious, one of a kind defender, the hot head and ticking time bomb responsible for the infamous "Malice at the Palace", a rap album during his suspension, multiple techs and post game interviews we'll never forget. After a Houston Rocket loss, I remember being left speechless and uncomfortable as he talked about seeing a man murdered with a piece of a bench on the streets of New York after a foul call.
But then, there's LA Laker Ron Artest. A Ron Artest who has acknowledged his mental issues and raised awareness to benefit kids similar situations. He even sold his championship ring to benefit his cause. Now, I don't think Ron's change in behavior has anything to do with his change of scenery, but while still not a guy I'd invite over to dinner, he's quite a different guy (publicly) than he was back in those days. It's a shame that analysts seem to prefer the former Artest rather than the latter.
Regarding the distraction, I don't really think there is one. I mean, how does a name on a jersey impact the team. He's still the same player. The media will go nuts for a week or two once they see him play in it, but then things should be business as usual. I've heard this equated to Chad Johnson's name change. I disagree there as well. Chad's name change was clearly something tailored for stroking his own ego. It's cliche, but his name says it all. While "Metta World Peace" is a name for from drenched in humility, the name expresses some sort of larger belief system. A crazy one, maybe, but it's more than just an ego supplement.
Great athletes like Kareem, and Ali changed their names because of their beliefs. I know that this point is strained and would never be my primary argument, but the point, while flawed, has merit in my opinion. The name is nuts, the man has issues, but this is not the kind of life choice that should fall under such scrutiny. Lamar Odom is the one with the reality show. Let him do what he pleases with his name.
A few people are saying that this a last stitch effort of a setting star to be in the spotlight. I'll say this. Ron Artest out of the triangle offense will have a much better season. He'll be more involved offensively and, I think, therefore more inclined to commit on defense like the Artest of old. Instead of him shooting threes, he should be put on the blocks and be the on-the-court bully we expect. Artest on the blocks will be anything but peaceful. By the way, I'm not saying the Lakers will be better necessarily, but Ron really should.
In conclusion, quite simply, cut the guy a break and let his game do the talking. Hopefully Ron Artest will let you.
Besides, who, in their heart of hearts, doesn't secretly want an NBA jersey with "Peace" on the back of it.
Song of the Day: I Still Care For You- Ray LaMontagne
Jazz Song of the Day: But For Now- Jamie Cullum

Thursday, June 23, 2011

There's Nothing Wrong With Being So Quiet

This past weekend, I made the trip out to Astoria to visit Ben and Jake. The trip yielded a few stories that I won't grow weary of recounting for quite some time.

The trip itself was quite memorable. Against all things convenient, Sean Taylor asked to be picked up in Massapequa. Jay and I set forth to pick him up on what would, on any other day, be a rather long, but painless, journey. However, heavens were not nearly as accommodating as we would have hoped, and some of the hardest rain I'd ever seen tumbled down. The weather caused most everyone to creep along Sunrise Highway as though we were trying not to wake a sleeping giant. In spite of even our most thorough of safety precautions, we and those around us hydro'd a couple of times as thunder and lightning crackled around us. In the face of imminent peril, Jay and I resorted to passionate vocal renditions of "Don't Worry Be Happy" upbeat Marley songs, and of course, "Stand By Me." While we both got a kick out of the juxtaposition of the scene taking place outside the car with the scene within it, neither of us ventured to tempt fate with a performance of "Singin' In The Rain."

Oddly enough, the hardest part of the whole trip was finding Sean Taylor's office. Sean was unfamiliar with the actual street names near his office, so we spent a fair amount of time going around in circle looking for a "place next to a Sleepy's." Things worked out fine, but I think we were both a little frustrated that we survived darn near swimming to Massapequa and were nearly sunk by a Sleepy's.

Astoria is a beautiful place. It's so full of color and life. You're near most anything you could look for and there is an active young population. So many different people coming together to make a great collage of humanity. A really chill spot where I could definitely see myself one day. We spent most of the time relaxing in Jake and Ben's great pad, playing some games and whatnot. Then we went out to a bar with some other folks. Along the way I saw an office for an accountant by the name of, John Constantiniou. You can't tell me that it's not hilarious to be an accountant and have "Constant I.O.U." in your name. What's more, is that the name is in huge letters that intentionally draw your attention. Now I admit to being a little quirky when it comes to word-based humor, but you can't say that's not funny on some level. Jay and I enjoyed the coincidence quite a bit, or at least Jay enjoyed my reaction quite a bit.

Sean Taylor showcased his True Grit by mounting a mechanical horse and riding it like the wind while waving to passersby and flashing the now all-too-classic horns all the while. I think all would agree that it was a 50 cents well spent.

"Sean Taylor" has now become an adjective for "way too drunk" amongst our group of friends. The fact that such a moniker has caught on is as hysterical as it is unfortunate. Sean was in rare form and having apparently drawn the short straw, I was assigned the task of walking him home. The trip was a stumbled one, during which we made a stop at a convenience store where I held him upright and offered chip flavors for him to accept or decline. It felt like an episode of the Bachelor (not that I've ever seen that......) except with chips and not roses. In the end it was the BBQ chips that won out, but the romance was short lived, as Sean got down to business and ate the chips the next day.

In true Sean Taylor fashion, we got back to Ben and Jake's where I had to coax him into bed (by himself, of course) and when I wake up, he is sleeping on the floor in the next room. When Sean woke up that morning the first thing he said to me was, "How did that happen again?" I laughed pretty hard.

Not to be out done by himself, Sean started off the next morning with a refreshing bagel and four loko. He then starting taking business calls as he lamented his position and longed to do nothing more than "tell everyone to fuck-off and go lay in the sand." Sean's seamless transition from Mr. Taylor on the phone, to Sean drinking a Four Loko at ten in the morning was a little eerie.

Later that night, I had some friends over to celebrate the night and we had a good time. The deck was full of friends, a few strangers, and some old friends that I'm glad to see back in my life again. Only one person got "Sean Taylored" so things worked out.

Sean Taylor himself understandably ran out of steam and missed the party. The man, the myth, the legend. There's always this weekend.

Song of the Day: Treat Me Right - Grace Potter
Jazz Song of the Day: Space Track- Freddie Hubbard

Monday, June 20, 2011

There's A Cost When You Radiate Sunshine

I've been busy in the best ways possible. I'm really not sure how to properly express so much in hopefully not too long-winded blog-post, but I sure will try.

First things first, the Dallas Mavericks became the NBA champions a couple of weeks ago. It was a sight for sore eyes for Mavs fans all over the world following the unexpected collapse in 2006 that made Dwayne Wade a household name for all the right reasons and Dirk for all the wrong ones. Dirk and the Mavs are all validated at this point, as well as their fans to a certain extent. I could not be happier for a more deserving bunch organization. My initial reaction to the win was a bit more understated than even I would have expected, but I was in a semi-emotional stupor from about the final two minutes onward. I'm not going to sully the Mavs' accomplishment by talking about the Heat, but I will say that the better team won, the Heat were not the most classy bunch throughout, and it was weird to suddenly be part of such a majority group of "Mavs fans" who were simply rooting against the Heat. I guess we all got what we wanted, but I was proud to root for the Mavs rather than against the Heat.

I watched the game in Baltimore with the almighty patriarch of Birdland himself, Nick Pappas. We had an awesome time, and the royal family is always very generous and welcoming to me. To have such an influential family still be so down to earth is refreshing and I can't thank them enough. It was a lesiurly Sunday spent watching the Lord play softball in the morning, shooting pool in the afternoon (shot terribly for the first time in a while), and shooting hoops with He and his brother Dom, who is apparently allergic to shirts. One might say that I proved to "still have it" on the court and made up for my poor showiing on the felt. We were hit by a sort of flash monsoon. Fortunately, the only casualty was Nick's phone which he had accidentally left outside. Except for that minor hiccup in levity, the trip was all positive and I hope to do it again soon.

I was in Maryland in the first place to see Phish perform in Columbia with some friends from LI. It was an incredible time, as anticipated, and the consistancy of this group to muster epic performances time and time again is absurd. For those who care, Run Like An Antelope was definitely the high point, but the whole show was really top notch.

Prior to the show, we made an impromptu excursion to the fabled rhombus of Phish-lore. The rhombus is a former chill spot of Trey's where apparently a few songs were written and is an active portal to Gamehenge. If I'm not mistaken, "Divided Sky" is about this place. It was a pretty spiritual quest. My man Ben Kraus put a lot of research into the visit and he was really happy to find it, which was cool to see from my perspective. With that said, I got a little chuckle at him being pretty nervous to come down from a height that wasn't very intimidating. Also, when we entered the place where the rhombus was (which I don't think I can mention due to a code of honor) we stopped at an information booth to get directions to the specific rhombus area (lxwxh...kidding). A very exubarent Ben said, "Don't worry, I'll bet they get this question all the time." Emily imidiately deflated him as only a sibling can by saying, "No, Ben, I bet they don't." The delivery of such a chilling line had the whole car in stitches and still makes me laugh when I think about it. Emily was right, by the way.

Now, I'm not nearly as upset by this as I'll probably sound, but it is an observation of mine that I do feel the need to mention. One the special things about most any concert, especially a Phish one, is kind of the underground marketplace that forms. Cats looking to buy and sell tickets shirts and drugs. To have interactions and a trade system so informally and, honestly, pretty cool. Now, I don't do drugs other than some occasional drinking in any context, but I have good friends who do. If I had my way I'd legalize pot and whatnot. Drug use is all about managing yourself, which, sadly, some can't do effectively and it ruins it for others. I only bring this up to underline the fact that this is not a rant on how drugs are silly or bad, just not for me.

My frustration lies in a few conversations I overheard from those around me. Phish is in the middle of rocking the house and people are talking about the quality of their buzz, when to take more, etc. We're not talking a quick, "How are you feeling?" we're talking full blown conversations. Like I said, I have little issue with drugs as long as you're not driving or doing something dumb, but the fact that some people were valuing their buzz over the great tunes being created was kind of annoying; not pinfuriating or anything, but it didn't entirely sit well with me. Drugs are fine, but as soon as they become a priority over what's right in front of you, I consider that a very important line to be crossed.

I flew from Baltimore that Monday, it was quicker and cheaper than a train. I didn't have bags to check, so it was one of the smoothest airport experiences of my life. While I was on line waiting to board a young couple was in front of me. The gentleman had earphones on that were apparently a little loud because he was unintentionally shouting to his wife, "Is this the right section!" She said, "Yes." He appeared to be unaware of her response due to his out of control earphones and said, "Yeah, but is this the right section?" Her response made my week. She said, "shh, yes." Her tone was such to say, "shut the fuck up you idiot, I just said we're in the right place," however, it was still a tone of unquestionable affection. It was an infectiously charming moment that I instantly fell in love with. The three of us shared a hearty laugh over the situation, as I couldn't mask my staring, and indeed grinning, at that point.

It was a great trip with great people. Look for a post within the next couple of days about my trip to Astoria. I don't want this post to be longer than it already is.

Song of the Day: Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes- Paul Simon
Jazz Song of the Day: First Time Long Time- Medeski Matin and Wood.