Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Corn Is Found In Camden And Your Soup

As a four-time participant in York College's Intramural Football program (a career totaling roughly 50 yards receiving, 2 first downs, 293 mediocre football jokes, and a memorable touchdown, the awesomeness of which was eclipsed only by Nick Pappas' awe-inspiring leaping ability), I would say that it's a pretty safe assumption that I'm fit to talk football in pretty much any capacity. At long last, my expertise has been called upon as I had the honor of covering the first Rocky Point football game for the Patch. Despite the obviously fascias tone of the above, a really did handle the responsibility pretty well and if you're that interested you can find the article on the Patch website (which I fully endorse for all your local news needs in the Miller Place-Rocky Point area).
I bring up the football game because I found it so interesting to be a part of such an atmosphere. The electricity of the crowd was wild as they shouted for their kids and team, and shouted at coaches and refs. It was a scene that I never really was a part of in high school, in terms of playing those sports, having given up the pursuit of basketball in seventh grade for the lipstick and eyelin-- I mean, ruggedness of the theatre. As a result, I never really had that kind of experience in high school. Drama was like that in a way, but it's not like somebody yelled out in the middle of the show, "Hey, Kramer, take Policastro out. He's kind of struggling with the Harvard accent and has the dancing abilities of a jar of pitted olives!" (At least they were pitted.) Drama definitely had it's own buzz and I wouldn't change a thing about the experience, but an activity with a little more audience involvement definitely has its merits.
So, as mentioned in my previous post, I spent this past weekend in Philly and Camden to see and Incubus show. I'll pick up right where I left off.
Amber dropped me off and I was walking towards the station where "the most illustrious man in college radio entertainment", Dennis Madden, was to meet me. He got in touch while I was en route and we worked it out to meet on the street instead. It was bizarre to see Dennis suddenly turn the corner and give the greeting of "The Brotherhood" and then walk together to his car with the faulty driver's-side door lock and hop in. To say it was emotional is a severe overstatement, but it really was kind of a surreal outer-body experience for a minute or two. It felt like I was thrust back in time a year and was getting a ride after our radio show.
Of course, no trip to Philly is complete without sampling the customary cuisine of the cheese steak. We went to Tony Luke's to grab the grub. Now, at Geno's and Pat's (Philly's landmark Cheese steak eateries) they're pretty strict about the way you order and pretty much narrow down the entire process to one breath and three syllables at most. If you fail to order properly, you're promptly, and not so gently, told to get to the back of the line. My last visit to Philly with Jay, Wong, Denny, and others, we went to Pat's where we all handled the pressure well and got our steaks without incident.
Now, at Tony Luke's they're much more lenient about the style with which you order. I was relieved not to have such an ominous threat of exile hanging over my head as I ordered, but I wound up seeing just why Pat's and Geno's function the way they do. In my affable innocence and casual mindset, I wound up approaching the register and asking for a "cheesecake" rather than a cheese steak.
My embarrassment was immediate and I half expected to be either pummeled to death on the spot, stealthily sliced with a throwing star in the shape of the Eagles logo, or tarred and feathered in the spirit of our founding fathers. Fortunately none of the above occurred and the guy just smiled and said he knew what I meant. Sensing my obvious frustration, he also consoled me by saying that same mix up happened pretty often.
Later on that evening, we met Dennis' friend, Liz, at the speedline and took our lives into our hands as we entered the fair city of Camden. When traveling in Camden, it's almost unanimously agreed that everyone should travel in packs and keep their eyes vigilant and simultaneously straight ahead so as to avoid attracting the attention of strangers. Treat the city as if it's one big elevator, except your chances of being wounded are considerably higher (unless it's and M. Night movie). Liz (whom it was great to meet and put a face to the soup) and I seemed pretty experienced in this mode of transportation, but it was Dennis who failed to make it through the walk to the venue unscathed. He was shot and killed.
Just seeing if you were paying attention. Dennis accidentally locked eyes with a man moving our direction and subconsciously reached out to shake his hand. The man grabbed Dennis' had shook it firmly and brought it to his own forehead. Dennis remained pretty speechless and Liz and I walked away enough to not be involved while staying close enough to keep an eye on him. (That's what friends are for.) Dennis at last released himself from the man and caught up to us. We passed a couple of moments in silence to allow him to collect himself. When I later asked why he did that he said he "just froze". That may be so and I feel bad that was the case, but I told him that in the future it was important to freeze up while keeping both your hands at your sides.
The Incubus show was really, really, really good. Great would be a little bit of a stretch, but saying just good is a hell of an understatement. I have to say that next to Jason Mraz, Brandon Boyd might well have the best live voice I've heard at a show. The man was just belting and it was really impressive. They played songs from mostly Morning View, Make Yourself, and Light Grenades, but they made room for Certain Shade Of Green, so you can't complain too much. Highlights of the show were me calling the exact moment Privilege was going to be played, the Doors nod during Are You In?, and as cliche as it sounds, I did get chills during the Pardon Me encore.
My issues with the show were few, but with the exception of Switchblade and the single, the songs from the new album kind of sucked the energy out of the space. Also, I feel like this is almost hypocritical, but the songs, with the exception of Dig, sounded essentially just like the album. To an extent that's admirable, because that can be the consistent and whatnot, but with talent like DJ Killmore and Mike Einziger (whom I love in Time Lapse Consortium), I wouldn't have minded some jamming. That's not to say that every group I see has to suddenly jam out like Phish, but every solo was like a tease that left you wanting more, and I wish we got a dose of that. I guess the point of any show is to leave you wanting more, so I shouldn't really moan about it. They really did deliver and I recommend the show to anyone who finds Incubus in their area.
A great time with good friends. Until next time.
Song of the Day: The Horse-Phish
Jazz Song of the Day: Spanish Fantasy Part I-Chick Corea

Monday, September 12, 2011

Nordic Kiosks and the Irish Miles Between Them

There's a big ol' display set up in my local Stop and Shop that features a new kind of flavored water type of stuff or juice. The name escapes me, however, the sight of the display does not. Why, you ask? Well, the picture on the display features a very poignant photo of one Alex Rodriguez staring mysteriously and dare I say, seductively off into the distant abyss of the future manifested in a glowing sun as he stands in quiet poise in the middle of what appears to be a winery. For at least the day, A-Rod has ditched the cleats and form-fitting pinstripes for khakis, a polo, and sweater-vest. Indeed, were he not holding a glass in his hand I would swear he were promoting the Van Hausen clothing line. The hope expressed in his baby blues is failed by language entirely. He must have a heck of a poker face. Impressive, but didn't make me thirsty. I bought toothpaste and left.

On top of this Rockwell-esque display of decadence, the tagline for the product: "Hydrate Naturally." This was entirely too much for me to bear. The thought of anyone in baseball promoting the implementation of any verb "naturally" was quite laughable. To be fair, it never said "build muscle mass naturally".

This past weekend I had the pleasure of spending time with a couple dear friends of mine in Dennis "Gloves" Madden and The "Czar" Amber Heaps. I took the train to get to Amber in Philly, a time I'll get into shortly. First I want to get into the train trip itself. Given the gravity of the weekend (I don't want to be too poetic about something so real, but my heart goes out to those who had their lost loved ones, and my thanks to those who came to aid) I wanted to make sure I got to Penn plenty early just in case security was out of control or something. So anyway, I wound up having plenty of time to kill in the Amtrak station and no place to sit down and read my book. I was really missing my man, Steve Murillo, with whom I always manage to make train rides memorable for better or for worse.

Anyway, the bottom line is that I was hurting for something to do, and I got caught up in watching the promotional video on how it was your duty to be on the lookout for suspicious activity on loop. Then came the strange realization that I was so wrapped up in watching the video extolling the necessity of staying vigilant that I had consequently become completely oblivious to my surroundings. I then lost further minutes of observation as I pondered the conundrum I'd just stumbled upon. Mercifully, the train arrived and got me out of my own head.

Got to Philly without much of a hitch and after somewhat of an ordeal, found Amber on the street. Her initial advice as to how to find her was to "leave and go right." Far too fatigued to point out that there were multiple exits to the station, I simply complied and realized something was amiss when I saw signs saying only MTA officials and police were allowed beyond this point. Needless to say, we regrouped. Given how devious the Czar can be, I momentarily considered the possibility that she was watching me this whole time and trying to get me arrested. Fortunately that wasn't the case and eventually we met up.

When we first hopped in her car and started heading towards some of Philly's sites, Amber said we were going through something I thought she called "Sinner City." I expressed confusion, and frankly, concern and eventually we got to the root of our miss-communication and I discovered she was just saying "Center City" with next to no emphasis on the "t". However, no sooner than two seconds after fixing the issue, my first official sight of Center City was an adult-movie theater. Nothing says "Welcome to Philadelphia" quite like three huge Xs promising nudity.

Amber and I saw plenty of sights including the much more appropriately rated theatre, The Walnut, boat cars that promised rides with ducks, a couple churches, horse pulled carriages, Congress Hall, an museum type place called "The Garage" and a mall called the "Gallery" which made me wonder if I should go to McDonald's for healthcare and the Emergency Room for fast food, and the Liberty Bell. Seeing the Liberty Bell was really cool. I was always pretty aware of the bell's significance in American history throughout the generations, but how much of a global symbol the bell was, I must admit, was kind of news to me to an extent and made the sight all the more moving. It was pretty profound and I enjoyed it thoroughly.

While heading into the Liberty Bell, a security guard noticed my Mavs hat and said congrats and asked me to approach two other guards who were Heat and Laker fans respectively. I agreed and their reactions were memorably deflated. The four of us then spent a couple of minutes talking about various Boston Celtic notes. A very random, but very good moment of the trip. Later on that day, I locked eyes with a fellow wearing a Nowitzki jersey. We crossed the street to meet each other, shake hands, and go about our days. The City of Brotherly Love" indeed.

Also that day, Amber and I encountered a random guy who looked relatively well off, who said hello to us pretty earnestly. Though a little confused, we reciprocated his greeting. I figured maybe he thought Amber was pretty and wanted to be nice, or maybe he took "brotherly love" to the next level and thought I was good looking, but he gave a similar greeting to the people behind us. What a city.

Without question the highlight of the day took place within the Independence Mall visitor's center. In the center, on one side of the hall there is a life-size cardboard cutout of our first President and American legend, George Washington, with not a soul within three feet of him. On the other side of the hall was a full-size, full-color, statue of the Philly Phanatic with what looked to be (though I doubt it was real) a golden Phillies jersey on. Obviously there was a line to get a photo with him. The volumes that speaks about America is sad enough to be hilarious. It was easily the bittersweet highlight of my day.

Overall, in spite of the company, a tremendous time in Philly with Amber, where the only stone I left unturned was not hopping into a stranger's wedding photos (at Amber's discretion).

Look for a post tomorrow as I recap my visit with the Illustrious noble gas himself, Dennis Madden including our time at the Incubus show.

Song of the Day: Gorillaz-Every Planet We Reach Is Dead
Jazz Song of the Day: Billie Holiday-I Loves You Porgy