Hello to one and all and a happy new year, for what that is worth. My apologies for not corresponding too often in recent weeks. The NBA season has begun and I was working on a play for a about a week and a half or so that is finally done with the exception of some proofreading. In the face of the NBA season and commitment to a creative project, Yesternow kind of took a backseat in my writing life. Combine that with having a life beyond the laptop and the holiday season, there wasn't all that much time to scribe recreationally. As I said, the play, and obviously the holidays, are behind us, so hopefully that means some more frequent posts to satiate your curiosity or drive you to block my posts all together. Before I jump into the post, a quick plug for my new NBA twitter @sagercraig where I do my best to make the NBA comedic. I like what I'm doing with it so far, I could afford to post on it more, I admit, but on the positive side I'm not over posting with sub-par things to say. Whatever... if you're into the league, look it up.
Okay, here we go. I suppose no online compendium of life episodes can avoid mentioning the holidays, so just to get it out of the way, they were solid. It was great to give family the things they wanted, and I received a kindle fire which I just yesterday realized I had not properly been shutting down since I've had it. (You need to hold the button down, for anyone with the same problem.) Needless to say, the learning curve has been steep. I received a couple of O's hats to represent what can only be assumed to be the greatest city in all the world, a couple Dave albums (the collection is getting ridiculous), and a new Dallas Mavs shirt which I rocked for opening day and promptly removed and nearly buried following the blow-out loss to the Heat. I'm sure it was coincidence, but I got a real kick out of the fact that I was getting Christmas texts steadily all day until about the second quarter of the Mavs game when they stopped almost entirely. Only Brett ventured a mid-game text and apologized for the Mavs poor play that afternoon. Surely all of my friends were aware that this was a sensitive time. By the way, the only reason I didn't dispose of the Mavs shirt is because I realized that I was wearing my turtle slippers that I can only imagine were hexed in some way by the one who gave them. I would have ditched the slippers, but my grandmother was raving about them, so I was stuck between a rock and snugly place. Needless to say, I've resolved never to where those slippers during a Mavs game again.
The real reason for this post is to celebrate the return of Alex Wong to Long Island and the rest of the tri-state area. Wong has been away catering to the business end of the pronghorn antelope in Arizona, and it was my first time seeing one of my best friends since maybe last spring, if that. I figure if I can write a poem for Sean Taylor, I can certainly dedicate a blog post to Alex Wong. (A quick tangent: I almost regret writing Sean Taylor's poem because I feel like every single time I see him I can add something new and just as important to the piece that's obviously not in it now. I feel like an ode to Sean Taylor should be written with my dying breaths to ensure that I encompass everything that is the one and only. Sean Taylor's poem, when complete, would be an epic. My goal is to make him the Odysseus of the 21st century.)
Wong got home a bit before Christmas and the evening after he got in I hopped over to see him. It was great to see him, obviously. I loved hearing him talk about his work and what he's involved in Arizona. There's not much in this world I enjoy more than listening to people talk about getting involved with something they truly dig. The way their face lights up and they kind of lose themselves in life's big picture for a while. It's something that I find endlessly inspiring and I'm happy and proud that he seems to be finding that for himself. One of the last things he said to me that night before everyone else popped over to say hello was, "I know this isn't a party, people are just stopping by for a while. I'm not going to get crazy or anything." Three hours later, Wong was passed out in the middle of his basement and while Jay and I hoisted him to a mattress, he made Toad spin out impressions from Mario Kart 64. Indeed, Wong was home.
Over the next couple of days, we hung out when he was much more... present and it was a solid time.
The day after Christmas, I set out for a local coffee shop to get to know my new kindle. As I was en route, I got a call from Wong asking if I wanted to go to the mall with him to get his iPod fixed. As it turns out, the initial O's hats I got were a bit too small for me (which is surprising, because you'd think that manufactures would take into account that fans of all things Maryland have some of the most swelled heads I've ever seen), so I had to make the trek to the mall myself. With that said, I wasn't exactly pumped to go to the mall the day after Christmas, passing up hot cocoa and kindle experimentation, but for Wong and his brief visit, it's worth it.
As expected, the mall was an absolute zoo with the only store that wasn't packed to the gills being the ironically titled "Christmas In New York" shop. The Apple store was perhaps the worst crowded stop in the place and Wong was informed after a bit of a wait that he would not be able to get his pod fixed without an appointment. We were both disappointed and Wong considered grabbing a baseball bat from Dick's and coming back to see if any openings had spontaneously sprung up. Fortunately I still had my hats to exchange, so the trip was not for naught. I spent some time in Lids looking for a basketball hat and Wong sought a tennis hat that didn't look too "golf". Relative to nothing, but I didn't find a hat because I'm actually not too big of a fan of the snapback craze and those were the only NBA hats they were selling. Bummer, but two "bird hats" in hand are better than one bird and a snapback. (For the record, I made myself laugh pretty hard on that one.) Before Wong and I hit the trail, we stopped for some lunch in the food court and speaking of birds, we had to scavenge quite a bit to grab a table. As we were munching, we caught sight of our good friend Matty and his friend, Natalie. Matty warmly introduced us and I went to shake her hand, she pointed out that I had just been eating french fries and declined the gesture. After seeing that Wong didn't venture much of a formal greeting. Moments later, the duo departed and we carried about our shopping experiences. I'm not sure the awkwardness of this episode comes across in type, but take my word for this one. What a time.
This holiday season, the kindle fire appeared to be the present of choice as Jay and Sean Taylor picked up fires of their own and seem to enjoy feeling them out. Jay uses his to keep us ever abreast of the fantasy basketball score; a service for which I'm very grateful. Our preoccupation with the fantasy league was never more apparent than when I was trying to carry on separate conversations at once; one concerning Adam's new band we were going to see that night and the other concerning the then flailing Phoenix Suns. In a moment of utter confusion and confidence, I loudly exclaimed that I was excited to see Adam's new group, Hakim Warrick. I had to take a few seconds to recover my bearings. Jay was tickled to no end and we've been joking about it ever since. Later that night, we did in fact go see Adam's group, Hollywood Drive By (easily mixed up with Warrick) and it was a good time to hear new tunes and see musicians at work.
One of the bands that went on before HDB had a song centered-around/inspired by T.S. Eliot's "Love Song of J.A.P." I, of course, sober as a bird, but forgetting my surroundings screamed like a twelve year-old girl at a Bieber concert (albeit not as high-pitched). I'm pretty sure Wong and Jay physically took a big step away from me at that point and needless to say, no one even cared about the reference. Jay was again entertained by my attempt to explain the poem to the crowd in ten seconds or less. Rock on!
Another return was noteworthy this holiday season as Ben Kraus returned to the open mic of the Velvet Lounge. Everyone who knew who he was was pumped to see him come back and play some tunes. There was definitely an energy in the room and even though we were the last people to play that night at just past 1am, it was one of the coolest jams I've been a part of there in a long, long time. There was a lot of talent on the stage and it really seemed to click. Jay's cousin, Max, was so moved by the performance that he took the time to congratulate Jay on his sound with a handshake after each of our five numbers. That had me chuckling to no end, to be honest. Wong also expressed his appreciation and in a tribute to the great Edwina, chanted a "Bogdan on the horn" chant that sadly no one really joined him on. A night and experience that was anything but bland.
Then came the much debated and looked forward to New Year's Eve. We all met up in Astoria before going our separate ways, but not without a memory worth cherishing for the rest of my life that will undoubtedly find form its own stanza in the ever under construction poem of Sean Taylor. Before we got in to Astoria to meet at Ben and Jake's, Sean Taylor wanted to make a few shopping stops, which I was certainly okay with because he was willing to do the favor of driving us all in. We made a stop at Roosevelt Field Mall (a first for me, believe it or not). Lenny, Wong, Jay, and I killed some time around the mall while Sean did some suit shopping. Jay and I saw this AWESOME Joker basketball jersey, which I will own one do (a la Mike Myers: Oh yes, it will be mine.) and to my shock, a basketball signed by Kevin Garnett is worth more than a ball signed by Bill Russell. I was absolutely blown away by that.
Anyway, having long since eclipsed the 30 minute time limit he set for himself to return to find us, The four of us went off to search for the allusive Sean Taylor. After a stretch, we found him and I took it upon myself not to rush him and let him shop at his own pace, but I also took it upon myself not to let him out of my sight. After a while, Sean had gathered his New Year's suit and we waited about 15 minutes to get to the head of the line at the cash register. That's when the trouble started. Apparently the woman helping Sean had next to no idea how to work the register and check inventory for the clothes Sean was looking to purchase. Innocently enough, Sean attempted to walk the woman through the process, but the process was anything but smooth. After a literal half hour at the only register open in Macy's Sean looked like a mixture of rage and depression. Jay was annoyed, Wong and I were laughing hysterically (especially me, I admit. I was not a very supportive friend in that moment and feel bad even as I type this.), and Lenny was waiting the most patiently out of all of us. Wong and I offered to countdown the new year with those behind him in line should it come to that. At one point, the gentlemen right behind Sean Taylor left the line to find another register, only to return minutes later to the end of the line with no further progress made taking care of Sean Taylor's needs. I was getting a kick out of people going from nonchalantly standing, to texting with perturbed body language, to grumbling amongst themselves, to a look of defeat similar to Sean's.
In addition, on a counter nearby, someone had left 26 cents unattended. Wong and I watched as person after person stopped and examined the change, eventually to determine the impish sum was not worth snatching. Wong and I considered adding change to the pile until it was taken and we were convinced that between Sean Taylor being stuck in no-man's- land and this change enticing cheap people to theft, we were on some sort of hidden camera show. No such luck as after the half hour expired an fuming Sean Taylor left the store with only a vest. Sean was upset at the situation and our handling of it and was justifiably not in a social mood. One of the quieter Astoria drives to say the least. However, Sean did pick up some hot new sneakers and by the time we got to Astoria, the tension was pretty much quelled.
The night itself was a lot of fun. We saw some good friends and made some new ones. I kind of took it upon myself to look out for some friends, which I only mention to account for my lack of true stories to tell. To be sure, keeping an eye on Wong and others did have it's memories that I'll never forget, but I wouldn't share those over the internet. I did get one rave review on my Orioles hat from a birdland-loving cat. The bouncer and I at this one bar established a borderline friendship out of nowhere stemming from him calling me a gentlemen. (I imagine my mother would be proud too) I a saw a girl with heels far too high slip and fall flat on her rump out of nowhere, Kathy Griffin took off her top on national television, and as I said, I saw some friends, some of which I hadn't seen for a long time. I can't complain about it at all. I was happy to ring in the new year with those I care about, and I wish you all well in 2012.
The only story of that night worth its own paragraph has to do with an apartment party Sean Taylor led us to. The host of the party had actually read my poem about Sean I mentioned earlier and was quite a fan and happy to meet me. Likely the only time my reputation preceded itself. (At least my reputation as a writer) One of the other hosts of the party went about crushing ice the wrong way and wound up spilling cubes all over the floor. As I eluded to earlier, I was kind of in a helpful mood that night and took it upon myself to sweep up and clean his mess. The plus side of that is every person who saw what happened says to themselves, "what a nice guy that stranger is." Everyone who didn't see what happened, unfortunately, says to themselves, "who invited that jerk who spilled all the damn ice on the floor." Fortunately, the host was pretty gracious and did his best to inform the masses that the spill was not my fault and by the end of the night as we pulled Wong out of the room, I think my name was clear.
Like I said, good times with good friends and nothing but positive wishes to you and yours in the new year. Having Wong back was a really special time for all of us and I know I speak for everyone when I say we can't wait to have him back again.
Song of the Day: The Lying Lies and Dirty Secrets of Ms. Erica Court-Coheed and Cambria
Jazz Song of the Day: Peacemaker-Billy Harper