Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Rhapsody Post

For just about a year now I have been avoiding the posting a retrospective post about my time in York’s a cappella group, Rhapsody. Part of the reason for that was just because I had no real context to do so, not having been back to see the group in over a year. Mostly, though, I just didn't want to rush into a nostalgia piece that at least I would consider near and dear without really grasping the context of my life without it. I realize that’s not necessarily the clearest sentence.
 I guess the best kind of analogy I can come up with is when Vh1 tried to capitalize on the success of their “I Love the (Insert Decade Here)” by doing one that focused on the early 2000s some years back. The show rang as pretty stupid because they were referring to things and trends in pop culture and world events that were still a bit too fresh to really pass judgment on. If someone graduated from high school and one month later said, “I can’t believe the person I was in high school,” unless that person has a heck of a story behind their lives, you’re going to be secretly rolling you’re eyes at them.

Anyway, in the wake of a splendid weekend catching up with good friends and Rhapsody alums and seeing one incredible Rhapsody show, the timing at last feels right to scribe somewhat of a Rhapsody Reflection. (Here comes the thesis statement) In this post I’m going to REALLY BRIEFLY describe the show and what it was like to be back and whatnot, but no one would want read me spilling my guts about that (for too long anyway). The primary purpose of this post will be to list, in no particular order, my top 10 favorite Rhapsody moments of all time. I feel like this is a much more fitting tribute to my four years than me blathering on and on about how much people and the experience meant to me. Only an absolute sentimental fool would write about that.
The people and experience of Rhapsody mean the world to me (hopefully you laughed at that). I would hope that goes without saying. I arrived in York pretty much just on time for the show and I was pleasantly surprised by just how many alumni made the trip. You all know whom you are, and me attempting to run down the list of who was there and just how great it was to see them would be a paragraph in and of itself. The three things I will say are that you would never know Emily was there because she didn't have her ID on her, I’m fairly certain Allison and I have planned for ourselves a very lucrative career in show business, and I still find Jaci insufferable.

The group sounds incredible. It’s just that simple. A bunch of new arrangements and a ton of talent in the group, to say the least.  The group has grown quite a bit since when I was a part of it, which was the long term goal, of course. (I won’t get into the ins and outs of this.). It is great to see the changes that both Jaci and Tyler and other e-board members have made to keep the group active and growing in the right direction. The numbers have greatly increased and you can just hear the difference in the layers, and admittedly in a couple cases, quality of the sound. One comment I made to the one and only Greg “Poppyseed” Sullivan post-show is just to take the time to imagine how awesome we could have made the already quality “In the Air Tonight” sound if we had 8 to 10 male voices instead of 5 to 6. It was really eye-opening and the whole experience blew me away.
The arrangements were far and away some of the most high quality and complex I’ve ever heard and the group handled them wonderfully. The buzz word of the night was “layers.” I can’t stress enough the quality of the sound.  The group even had a couple of scatters among them, which, of course, got me incredibly hyped and longing to hop up there and trade some fours with them. I feel like when the first cat started scatting, I felt the eyes of just about every alumnus in attendance dart to me to see my reaction. I dug it. I dug it.
Like I said, the sound was incredible and I know the word choice is strong, but I really felt blessed to be there with good friends and a great group. I mean, it may be all in my head, but I swear when I saw them perform and some of the things they were doing musically, I could almost pick out where members past and song renditions past kind of influenced a song’s sound and feel. Maybe I’m being a little too romantic about it, but I really don’t think so. I really picked on a sort of ripple effect of generations. Shout out to Greg for having two arrangements withstand the test of time.  With that behind us, let’s get to the list.
The following list consists of my favorite Rhapsody memories. With a couple of exceptions, I wanted to limit this list to group events and milestones. Lord knows, if narrowed it down to memories with individual members of Rhapsody and the inside jokes and whatnot we’ve shared, this list would go on forever. Also note, for the 10 memories I’m about to list there is about another 100 that make honorable mention and another thousand great moments that I’ll never remember. Simply impossible to do justice in a blog post all of the gifts this group has given me.

Again, in no particular order:
It only seems appropriate to begin the list with the way I heard of the group. Not as serendipitous as you might think. Incidentally, this story also serves as the first time I ever spoke to Addy DiFabio, who wound up being a good friend indeed. This is a story that I’m sure haunts me much more than it does her. Anyway, here it goes: It was my first semester of college of college and I was walking into my first or second day of Opera Theatre Workshop, my one musical elective at the time that I picked to break up the monotony of common core courses that were not even yet focused on my major. Now, I don’t think I’ve ever been one to be stuck in shell since about sophomore year of high school, but nonetheless, I was still very much in a reserved feeling everyone out mode socially and the only person in the class I really opened up to at all early on was a sweet girl named Raisa that sadly enough I don’t think I’ve spoken to since the class wrapped up. (Looking back I laugh at how much time Sharnell and I spent in the class without saying a word to each other. We missed some golden opportunities.) Anyway, one of the group’s leaders at the time (I’ll leave out the name because it’s not the most flattering story.) was talking to someone else about how Rhapsody was hurting for some male voices and saying things akin to “I would take any guy with a pulse and so on and so forth. I was pretty cool with the rhetoric at first. I mean, I appreciated the honesty. It’s not so much the desperation of the group that turned me off. What turned me off was moments later when she came up to me and said, “Hey kid (not asking for my name), you should sing for Rhapsody, we need guys and at this point we’re willing to take anybody with a penis (Yesternow milestone: First use of the word “penis.” Take note.) She carried on her sales pitch of sorts and, while I’m not necessarily one who needs to be wooed, it was just a really abrasive and condescending invite to join the group and frankly, if that was any indication of what the group was like, I wanted nothing to do with it. I came up with some excuse about how I couldn’t read music and was borderline tone deaf (a stupid move in hindsight because over the course of the class I would eventually have to sing) and I was here more for the acting training. She eventually backed down and moved off and I leaned over to Addy, to whom I had never spoken a word and said, “Between you and me, I actually can read music.” Addy replied, “Oh yeah? Why did you say you couldn’t?” I said unabashedly, “I don’t know her too well, but that was pretty obnoxious. That group sounds like an absolute shit time. (I would pick this moment to be one of the 20 times I cursed in my four years of college.) For a good 15 seconds, Addy says nothing. After the silence that I didn’t realize was awkward elapsed, she said very calmly, “Well I’m in it, so…” At that point I wished I had a literal shell to crawl into and immediately thought, “Way to go, Tom. That’s one friendship you’ve ruined off the bat.” Pretty comical to look back on that now and remember just how vehemently against joining Rhapsody I was for a while. It was my roommate, Steve, who wound up joining and changing my perspective on the group. Among the many things in college that wouldn’t have happened were Steve not my roommate, try to imagine four years of college where I never set foot in a Rhapsody rehearsal. Madness.
The “Large Hat” theme for a concert, as much as it was my half-baked brainchild, really was more of an intentionally bad idea that took on a life of its own. With varying degrees seriousness, for three and a half years I stood on my soapbox calling for large hats, easily the silliest thought I could come up with. I was shocked when the group actually elected to run with this idea, given how I was the idea’s biggest supporter and even I went back and forth on just how seriously to take the idea. If we had the time and skills, I wanted to build a giant hat above the stage that Rhapsody could collectively be under as we performed. Sadly that never came to fruition, but it was a great time nonetheless. I’ve got to believe the group threw me a bone there to get that theme selected, since it was my final gig and all, but I’d like to believe they had a great time with it, too.

3.       As much as the Large Hat theme was kind of my own little piece of satire on the idea of a concert theme, the Clue Theme was indeed a true masterpiece. Creating our own little murder mystery on stage was one of Rhapsody’s first forays into the idea of having a show within a show (a mantle which the group has taken on quite aptly I must say). We used the board game/movies’ classic characters, along with a few others we made up along the way (Agent Orange being my personal favorite) to create a pretty legitimate storyline that involved candlesticks, rope, revolvers, and even some audience participation. The original plan was to have the entire event result in a one-song “Hodge” *cough* Hodge reunion, but unfortunately some of the original Hodge members were a little touchy about that, which you have to respect. It was easily the most legit theme ever, I don’t mind being immodest about that. I do, in hindsight kind of regret that we didn’t take some photos in costume to include in the program instead of just a name listing and introducing ourselves at the start of the show, but other than that it was straight up sweet and I’m glad we saw the idea through and did it justice.
Ah, but alas, not all of my exploits resulted in triumph. I’ve had a great many lowlights that while in the moment felt excruciating, have shaped some of the funniest memories I’ll ever have in general, not just in this group. If you thought the story with Addy was bad, never have I ever shoved my foot in my mouth as deep or as hard as the following moment…  Rhapsody was in the midst of auditioning solos for the Michael Jackson Medley. Now, chances are if you’re reading this, you’re quite familiar with the audition process; everyone tries out, the group votes, the top two vote getters go out in the hall, the remaining members discuss the two options, everyone votes again. Well, with this particular tune, there were multiple solos up for grabs and instead of treating them all like individual solo auditions, which would have taken forever, and would have kind of eliminated the opportunity for a member who got one solo to try out for another, (I realize that sentence might not make any sense. You’re going to have to take my word on that one. It would have been tricky.) we kind of let everyone sing for anything and everything they could want at the same time and selected based on that big picture sample size. As a result, we were sending out two people at a time for solo deliberations while other solos were still undecided even though people had auditioned for them already and the final two were listed on the board. Essentially, we narrowed down the final two in every solo and then started to send those duos out to deliberate one at a time. That hodgepodge of a backstory that nearly does justice to just how messy that audition process was, leads us to a point where Courtney and someone else are out in the hall and we, as the remainder of the group, were left to decide who would have the solo. We went back and forth for a while and whathaveyou and at last, Renee definitively states, “I liked Courtney, I think overall she nailed it.” I, with no inhibitions whatsoever, jumped right in and said something to the tune of, “Yeah, I feel you, but did you hear her on that ‘Billie Jean’ solo (a solo we hadn’t decided yet)? She absolutely killed it. It wasn’t even close.” Now for a split second I’m wondering why Renee suddenly looks crestfallen. Then, for another split second, I’m wondering why the room suddenly fell silent. Then for yet a third split second, I’m wondering why absolutely no one other than Renee is looking me in the eye. As a matter of fact, Sharnell and Nate were freaking me out with how intensely they were looking STRAIGHT AHEAD with this kind of spaced out expressions on their face (I later learned they were trying not to laugh.) I used my fourth split second to look at the blackboard behind me to notice that the second name listed under Courtney’s on the “Billie Jean” solo was none other than Renee Murray. To say my blood ran cold would be the world’s largest understatement, as I immediately felt like a horse’s ass as I apologized profusely and muttered more expletives to myself than I ever had before. Renee, of course, was a class act about it, although I’m sure part of that had to with the fact that I was likely as red as a fire engine. Eventually, the group kind of sputters back to somewhat normalcy, but I’m still pretty distraught. Tyler eventually leans over and says, “It’s okay,” to which I say, “I just feel like that was one of the rudest things you could ever do to someone.” Tyler, keeping things in perspective and being a realist says, “Oh no, it was… but you didn’t mean it, so there’s nothing to be said really.” From that point on, the wounds began to heal.

My history with arranging tunes is that of crests and troughs. Over the course of my tenure, I took the time to arrange three tunes, Portugal The Man's "Colors," which came out pretty poorly, The Pixies' "Where Is My Mind?" which I'll give myself the benefit of the doubt and call a solid "average" arrangement, considering everything I every arranged was all by ear and involved less formal looking up of chords than they probably should have in hindsight, and The Police's "Walking on the Moon," a number which sputtered out of the gate, because the arrangement was a pretty simple one in the first place, and plus a lot of my musical philosophy was to say "Here's the arrangement, this will give you idea of what we're shooting for, but I don't want to put the song in a cage, so just kind of have fun and do what you feel." That kind of generalization about an arrangement while still calling for a quality sound (That is to say that my/our standards for the sound of the piece were not as passive they sound.) was a bit of an adjustment for some of the members of the group and I give them all the credit in the world for continuing to work at it and eventually nailing it. This favorite memory pays tribute to the first time it finally clicked and an otherwise very repetitive and basic arrangement finally hit its potential. I remember being in the middle of the track and thinking, "Holy Christmas, this is actually swinging." The truth is, I very nearly forgot to jump in on the fade out part just because I was so lost in the rest of the tune. I remember reaching the end of the tune and hearing some murmurs of approval from the group and Diane, as she often did, said aloud what everyone else was thinking: "That sounded different this time. That sounded awesome, I get it now. POY everybody!" Really validating and just plain cool. I suppose I'm as biased as a guy can get, but while it was nowhere near our most consistent song, when that song was on point, I genuinely believe it was the most underrated track in our set. 

6 One place where picking up arrangements by feel was never a problem was in the guys rehearsal room when the guys and girls split off for their gender specific tunes. I recall with great fondness how hard the girls worked as they pounded away gathered at the piano to crank out an arrangement which, don't get me wrong, always wound up sounding incredible, but the male portion of our group, which I labeled "Zoop" ( a moniker nobody but myself actually stuck to) about 11 out of 14 times just kind of hopped into a piano room, came up with a general idea, kind of said "Yeah that's a good base, and then we're just kind of going to see where the music takes us. Against all odds, this philosophy worked like a dream, as we casually cranked out solid renditions of tons of tunes with a little bit of musical intuition, a ton of creative liberties, and just the desire to have a good time singing with each other. That kind of attitude was contageous. I remember one of the eleven times thinking, "Well that wasn't very good after all," but even so, you've gotta love that percentage. One of our more formal song sessions came I believe my freshman year, when we were to nail down a version of "In the Still of the Night." Let's be clear, I couldn't be the musical director of a kazoo choir, so I give Greg all the credit in the world for taking it upon himself to lead us. With that said, this was in 4/4 and the bass part opened up on beat 3. Now, instead of counting us in like "1-2-3-4 1-2 *Begin*" Greg kept counting like 4 to 5 full measures aloud before giving us the 1-2 *begin* and unintentionally faking us all out and frankly wasting a lot of time. This became as entertaining as it was annoying, as I've never seen so many people genuinely annoyed at someone without being able to stop smiling. On top of that, there was a point of the song where the tempo dropped suddenly and Greg very dramatically called our attention to this by flailing his arms, holding them out in front of himself a la Frankenstein and saying on pitch with a wild look in his eye: "Watch me. Watch the ritard." We all know what word that sounds like and we all know that not very PC, but I can also tell you that we meant nothing malicious. We laughed for the better part of five minutes. "One cannot help but smile when Greg is musical director."

7. Tis the season for freezing cold weather. There have been three very generous people who, over the course of their time in Rhapsody, were kind enough to drive me back to my respective dorm/house after nearly every rehearsal, a service which value spoke for itself in the winter time. Those people who deserve my utmost thanks are Aimee, Jade, and dare I say it, Jaci. Jaci's wheels were extra special because, quite simply, the car was a tiny, tiny little blue vehicle that could barely fit a driver inside much less passengers. Yet, day after day, week after week, Jaci Sharnell and I crammed into that glorified clown car. Believe me, a warm, albeit cramped, two minute ride home was always better than a 15 minute frigid walk home with plenty of leg room. I more so felt bad as Jaci apologized on behalf of her car on a nightly basis. Good times. I miss those rides. Anyway, this care was a very distinct dull blue color and one day I happened to pick up on the fact that Jaci was dressed head to foot in the very same color of her car. Knowing me in general, especially given the nature of Jaci's and my friendship, I leaped at the opportunity to make a snide comment about the coincidence. However, I then noticed that I, too, was dressed to the toe in the very same hue. At that point our wheels started turning and we came up with the plan to take a photo of ourselves seamlessly camouflaged on the hood and in the car. To this day, it remains one of my favorite snapshots. 

9. Speaking automobile travel and finely crafted and effortless (Jade slips). One year, Rhapsody had this idea to wear our Rhapsody shirts, which read, "YCP Rhapsody" (we're a creative bunch) every day for five days leading up to the concert. Needless to say, Friday was a little rank. Anyway, the reason I bring up the occasion is to explain why Sharnell, Aimee, and I were all wearing the same shirt when we rolled up to a thrift store trying to find some secondhand items for our concert costumes. All is going well and we're actually all set to leave, waiting on line to check out, when we're approached by a very curious and pleasant woman who notes our matching shirts and asks what they are all about. We mention that we're a singing group and I guess we kind of took it for granted that we looked like college students. She then asked, "Are you guys from the prison?" At that point I think we all thought she was messing with us. I mean, these shirts weren't the most stylish, I guess, but they sure as heck didn't look like orange jumpsuit equivalents. Now, thankfully none of us laughed all that hard at the idea and we just kind of chuckled and said no. She insisted noting the YCP and thinking it stood for York County Prison. She then said that her husband was in the jail (I want to emphasize there's nothing wrong or funny about that), but then she asked if we knew her husband even though I think we made it clear we were from the college. At this point all three of us are in a weird, is she messing with us, or is she serious kind of mindset. One of the most entertainingly confusing exchanges I've ever had. 

9. On our way to a Rhapsody Halloween party, I'll never forget poor Aimee running a stop sign and getting pulled over by campus police. Fortunately no one in the car had sipped a drop of alcohol (yet), so other than the inconvenience of getting our night held up some, there was no real negative to the situation. What was awesome about the situation is that there were several people crammed in a car dressed in Halloween costumes. I couldn't help but smile as Aimee, dressed as Lucille Ball, handed over her ID, and I smiled even wider as one of the public safety officers leaned into the car and said aloud referring to my costume, "Oh, he's Two-Face, awesome." (Much more than a guy in a suit, Steve.) And truthfully, I just about lost it fantasizing about the scenerio of one of the officers speaking to Sharnell, who was dressed as a male pimp, complete with fake facial hair.

10. No Rhapsody post (at least one written by me) would be complete without the mention of one simple syllable, which, from very literally nothing, came to certain define my time with Rhapsody and also somewhat of an era of the group. That syllable being: Ants. Never has a song had such a tangible impact on my life, as even just about a decade before I ever set foot on the York College campus the music of Dave Matthews Band shaped my beliefs and attitudes on music and life about as much as a bit of pop culture can. I remember kind of passively mentioning to Brett one of my first couple rehearsals that a lot of these songs we were singing were decidedly pop based. I just kind of posed to him that we should start working on some getting some different, but still recognizable songs and genres into our repertoire. Brett agreed and mentioned that there were more songs in the now infamous file cabinet and on a break during rehearsal I dropped in to see what I could find. Now, just so you know that this wasn’t the perfect fairy tale finding, the first song I found that struck a chord with me was Aeroplane by The Red Hot Chili Peppers. I was told that arrangement was a bit more whack than it seemed. (I wish I wasn’t paraphrasing… “whack” needs to make a comeback) I then found Seal’s “Kiss From a Rose” and was told that the key was never quite right and that they’ve tried a couple of times to get it going, but it always failed. Now, admittedly if you told me that two years in, I probably would have lobbied for it harder, but this is about my fourth rehearsal with the group, and I don’t even know the songs in the existing catalogue yet, so I set it down and don’t ruffle any feathers. Then I see it and did about a triple take. I ask the group about that song and again it is more-or-less quashed, although less vehemently than the other two. Probably foolishly, I push the issue asking why it’s so bad. The arrangement looked pretty clean to me.  At this point Caitlyn makes it clear that it’s not so much the arrangement that stinks, it just kind of always sounds lame with the solo. At this point I know in my head that one way or another we’re going to sing this tune. I again say that we should give it a try and am not meant with any enthusiasm for yay or nay votes. It is at that point that Dennis “Gloves” Madden (Yes, that Dennis “Gloves” Madden) sees what I’m holding and lobbies for the track as well. Two passionate yeses versus 13 or so indifferent shrugs had us auditioning the track a couple weeks later. The rest, as they say, is history. I take great pride in the fact that I was a big part of bringing a song back to life.  And I’m flattered and amazed that the song kind of precedes my reputation well after I’m gone. I’m even more flattered that most Rhapsodians seemed content to retire the song with me. I hope that’s not the case, though, I would love to hear someone else’s take on it. The only thing that I admit sounds kind of cool is if the song remains dormant as an homage (again, an homage I’m not worthy of in the first place) until no one in the group has even heard of me, only to be found by some other kid who pushes for it like I did, and I get to see it as an alumni five years from. That’s what Rhapsody is all about. The sum being greater than the whole and a never ending cycle of good times, good people, good music, and great memories. Thank you to everyone I’ve met over the years. I hold you very dear (except Jaci), it was a once in a lifetime experience I was proud to be a part of.   

Two honorable mentions to the time we visited E-Town for a take a stand against violence against women fundraiser and that guest speaker said something amiss. I'm sorry to be vague here, but I don't want my words taken out of context, so I'm going to settle for a subtle nod to those who know to what I'm referring. Also, to the time I was in the house of person A and person B, both female, and Person A and I were assigned the task to find Catchphrase in Person B's room. I said aloud that I was not comfortable just rifling through a girl's belongings. Person A said, "Relax, it's Person B we're talking about here. She has nothing to hide!" As she said this Person A opened a dresser drawer to reveal a box of pregnancy tests. "Except that" said Person B, as I excused myself from the room.

Song of the Day: Dumpster World- Band of Horses
Jazz Song of the Day: Just For The Record- Dave Weckl Band



Sunday, December 1, 2013

When In Rome, Avoid the Use of Cliches, Off Kilter Jokes About Pisa, And Quoting Your Own Tweets From Weeks Earlier

Earlier in November, a ten day stint abroad in the "Eternal City" brought about the culmination of months of hard work and headaches as the much ballyhooed (I feel like that word was invented for this very event) Celebration of Success finally took place. 500 plus of our company's finest descended upon Rome, Italy and I don't doubt that the city will never again be the same, I know I won't.

Before we even set foot on Italian soil, I must make mention of one brief note concerning our inbound flight. Now, me being as well versed in travel and sarcasm as I am, I was in awe of the fact that there were individual television screens in the back of each of the airplane seats. I went in expecting nothing but a bag of peanuts and was holding out hope for the complimentary cocktail, but of course had to keep my poker face intact as the wonders of technology again eclipsed my wildest expectations. The only reason I bring up the silly televisions on the plane is for the following story to have some context.

Being that I was flying on an Air Italia flight, it should be no surprise that was seated next to an Italian guy around my age that I had the pleasure of speaking to a bit (years of high school Italian paying immediate dividends) and he was watching "The Shawshank Redemption." At first, I, much like you never gave it a second thought, until I suddenly had a though occur to me that soon consumed the entirety of my attention. Bear in mind that on a nine hour flight you have some time to dwell on the little things...

What exactly does Morgan's Freeman's voice sound like dubbed over in another language?

I implore you to halt your reading for a moment and really let this idea sink in. For in Morgan Freeman we have an actor whose voice has become as distinct and embedded in pop culture as the very roles he portrays. For a spell I toiled with the idea that Morgan Freeman was secretly the most multi-lingual man in the world and simply provided his own voice overs in a very "Inception-esque" kind of way. I think we can all agree that in a perfect world that's the way it should be. Anyway, as much as this may disappoint a few of you, I couldn't bring myself to spoil that fantasy and figured I could only be let down by the reality of the situation. I never did listen to Morgan Freeman in Italian. Ignorance is bliss; smooth, velvety, dulcet toned bliss.

Fear not, I'm not going to over-generalize here, but Rome was/is a wonderful place. The business aspect of the trip was indeed a bunch of hard work, but it was also largely considered a resounding success. I met some wonderful people over the course of the trip that I can't wait to see again and a couple people I'm really relieved I only have to work with once or twice a year. The plus side of the trip was that when you were working you were really working your tail off, but when the group had downtime, you had downtime, provided you didn't run off to Venice for the day. I got the chance to see all of the sights Rome had to offer, including the Trevi Fountain, Keats Museum, and Colosseum, among other things. With that said, oddly enough I never got a photo of  the Colosseum, as I kind of assumed I would get the chance to get my Kodak on during one of the couple of tours we'd planned for the group. Lo and behold, both times the tours came about, I found myself busy with something work related and unable to attend. A shame, but although a picture is worth a thousand words, the memory is worth a lifetime.

I made it a point not to look like a tourist as much as possible and refused to walk around with a map in hand. On one occassion, this resulted in me walking from the front door of my hotel, getting somewhat (quite) turned around and somehow winding up at the Colosseum. There was the most fleeting of moments where I was thrilled at my serendipity of stumbling across one of Italy's wonders of history and archetecture, but no sooner was I crushed by the latent realization that I had really strayed from the beaten path and had an eternity's walk before me to get back where I needed to be.

The way ancient history and modern metropolis collided in Rome has to be one of a kind. It's wild to see ancient ruins across from a main street and H&M store and some of the worst parking situations you've ever seen. Seriously, I think you were better off in a horse and chariot in certain areas than trying to zip around in these mini-cars they had rolling around over there. The food spoke for itself. I'm not going to turn this into a culinary blog, but let's just say everything was fresh and put all Italian food I've ever had to shame. It was great to speak Italian again for the first time in years. It certainly came in handy when speaking to locals and the bus drivers. After about a week I was starting to really get back in the habit, but I can't lie, a lot of my communication (with the exception of three notable instances) consisted of me choking out hackneyed Italian and being greeted with polite smiles saying "I know what you're trying to say, we can speak English now, if you want." Grazie.

This next bit I seem to have a hard time putting into words, because in print it sounds like the most obvious statement...ever. Brace yourself...

The Pope is a big deal in Rome.

There, I said it, it's out on the table. To clarify, obviously the domicile of the leader of all of Catholicism is anything but inconspicuous. I expected a great deal of religious gravity and whathaveyou in the area, but I guess what took me by surprise is how the papal presence seemed more like the Beatles rolling through town than the figurative right hand man of a deity. Seeing Pope calendars, hats, posters, key rings etc. didn't necessarily offend me, but it certainly took me aback. When I was outside the walls of the Vatican, I felt more like I was outside of a sports stadium. Totally surreal feeling. I will say, seeing/hearing about people clawing over each other trying to get a good look at Pope Francis, while babies were handed off like footballs to get blessed by the man did seem a little juxtaposed to his teachings. Wild stuff.

For anyone making their own travel plans to the area, for what my opinion is worth, I really fell in love with the Piazza Navona area. A little expensive, but some great shops, cafes, and street performers in the area. Beautiful fountains and just a great vibe in the spot as well. An underrated Russian population in the area, too.

Overall an exhausting but rewarding time in Rome. As fun as it was, I'm happy to have it in my rear-view mirror. The nightlife was solid, too, but I'll save those stories for when I see you in person. Great to get to know our people.

Song of the Day: Schism-Tool
Jazz Song of the Day- Truth is I've been scouring YouTube for jazz renditions of "Pure Imagination" of Wonka fame and have been ensnared by a few of them. These versions are my collective song of the day.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

"You Got Lucky This Time"

Simply put, the past few weeks have made my life seem deceptively interesting, as I've logged yet another Phish show, a much ballyhooed meeting of worlds in Rome, Italy, and an extended city stay, which indeed made me look about as worldly and carefree as Jacques Cousteau, minus the pruning. Attempting to catalog these three weeks in one post would be a fool's undertaking on my part, so therefore I will attempt to chronicle and cut these past three weeks into thirds (conveniently enough) and fill you in on all things existence.

With that bit of pretense aside, we will now jump into the date of November 1st, as I went straight from work to my second home of Astoria to, as is custom, visit and catch a night's rest at Ben and Deanna's. It is often that I laugh about how when I had barely a penny to my name I found the money and time to get to Astoria with friends about once every two weeks and now, with all modesty aside, I have the money to make that trip daily and simply the different direction life has pulled our group have made such gatherings and trips a rarity.

This trip had a twist, however, as while I was indeed in town for the Phish show in AC the following evening, I made it a point to arrive a day earlier in order to christen the new abode of a freshly donned Astorian Kevin Montgomery of York College infamy. Now, Kevin was well aware of my plans peruse his pad, but others present at the housewarming shindig considered my arrival quite spontaneous. As a result, I'd like to believe pleasantly surprised a great many York and Lancaster faithful that had sojourned from near and far to wish Kevin well including, Doug, who made a point of telling me he had been enjoying the party's festivities long before I arrived, Addy, the great stilted one, Brett, and of course, my one and only partner in shenanegans, Steve Murillo. In addition, Ben was kind enough to make the journey with me, which was thrilling because I never feel like there are enough activities that connect York with Long Island. The bottom line is I had a great time seeing some of my best friends and took a cliche, but nonetheless cherished photo with all York alum atop an Astoria rooftop.

Special shotout to Adam Stamm, a great friend I met in my brief time in Lancaster. My best and most sincere wishes to Adam, Kevin, and Nick on their new digs and continued success and good times within and beyond those walls.

Following the houseparty, Ben and I made our way back to his place and I had a conversation with he and Deanna, which I admittedly have little recollection of. As my head hit the pillow, I had faint thoughts that we were going to track down video evidence of Abe Vigoda's Halloween escapades, but my mind and body had other ideas, as I passed out like a light.

I wish I could say I awoke after a restful slumber, but it was indeed the call of duty that stirred me from my sheets at a most unenviable hour. It seems that one of the trips I'd planned had not had their group booked for a night at a hotel in Boston that evening. To say I wasn't feeling so hot would be an understatement, but what was a bit more the proverbial (in this case) head, was that the arrangements were pretty spontaneous and not the result of a screw up on my part. In other words, if I were up early and under the weather as a result of me messing up some arrangements, I wouldn't be thrilled, but at least I would know I made my own bed. The fact that this early morning work was thrust upon me through no error of my own was frustrating to say the least.

With that said, I'm not trying to throw my own personal pity party, as these things happen in both business and life, but I truly felt bad for one Ben Kraus, whose laptop I had to borrow in order to complete the multiple tasks before me. This laptop could only be accessed through the use of his specific fingerprint, so, long story short, I had to bop into his room on at least three separate occasions to get him to (re)activate the laptop for me, disturbing both he and Deanna a great deal as a result. I did do their dishes after the seas had calmed as a 'thank you' (I had stumbled into the aftermath of chili night), but I feel my best efforts of gratitude fell short. A thousand apologies.

After all had woken of their own accord, I very casually brought up my vague idea for a Phish shirt (as all of the best Phish shirts are homemade) entailing the universal men and women's room sign detailing the sleeping positions outlined in Phish's brief ditty (Ben wouldn't like that I called it a ditty) "Lengthwise." The idea quickly took on a life of his own as we were waiting out the arrival of Jeremy anyway, who would obviously be joining us for the trip...

Tangent: Recounting the ins and outs of this would be a silly, but Jeremy showed up in Astoria a bit later than all would have expected and cared for, and as a result Ben was a little hot under the collar. Nothing about that is funny, but when Jeremy did arrive and mentioned he had an EZ-Pass, he was a little unclear as to whether the device would work. Ben essentially let the car know that if the EZ Pass were to fail and Ben were to get pulled over, we would have to get to work promptly on Jeremy's obituary; Again, not a laughing matter. However, when we rolled through our first toll without any negative repercussions and Ben very flatly and unappreciative-ly said this post's moniker, I couldn't help but be tickled to death. Speaking for myself, it broke any residual tension and I knew we were in for great night.

Ben and I went to a shop to grab a quick t-shirt in order to bring my vision to life, where we waited on an inordinately long line with inordinately abnormal people. Yet again, Ben Kraus' reaction to the situation makes it worth all the hardship as he makes in clear that waiting on that line had been excruciating and he came very close to ditching me at the store and in addition he felt entitled to not wait on line. Now as much as I sound like I am bombing on Ben, I can't say my thoughts were dissimilar, but his willingness to say whatever is on his mind at any given moment is at most admirable and at the very least entertaining.

As if I needed proof, Ben and Deanna then displayed just how much they're some of the best friends I have in the world. The mornings events had finally caught up with me and was overtaken by the desire to sleep. Ben and Deanna were kind enough to keep and bring my vision alive as I napped quite peacefully, that is until Ben stepped on Deanna's foot, but that's another story all together.

Once we got to the show, we enjoyed it quite thoroughly, as the group has really been a pocket lately. I feel like if I went into too much detail about that I'd be out of line, because I feel like DMB is the only group I have the right to really critique, but their renditions of "Funky Bitch" "Theme From the Bottom (a first for me)" "Tweezer" Down with Disease (believe it or not)" and Character Zero" were simply awesome, and the rest of the gig was equally groovy. The one thing I will say is that it was my first time seeing the group indoors and it was cool to see them in that sense because it felt as though people had gathered more for the music that the atmosphere, if that makes any sense. A great time with all involved.

After the show, we did indeed toil around the casino scene, being in AC and all. Regrettably, I did lose 200 bucks. Not a thrilling feeling, but I lost it playing four card poker. My only true regret is that I don't think everyone I was with knew it was a game of luck and I think they thought I lost 200 bucks because I wasn't good at the game. Suffice to say, my pride hurt more than my wallet and if this post accomplishes anything, let it serve as the clarification that I lost my chunk of change on a game of chance.

Following my beating at the hands of fate and fortune, we met up at a karaoke spot, where I admit I dabbled in The Police's "Walking on the Moon" (briefly interrupting a girl clearly trying to get a record deal out of her showing) and fell in love with Rihanna's (probably not spelled correctly) "Man Down" which Deanna and I quoted ad nauseum for the remainder of the trip. The rest of the trip was largely uneventful, but did include a grilled cheese incident and a point where elevator doors stayed open a bit too long, which I'm glad Laura witnessed with me. Essentially there was no room for this guy on the elevator, but the doors stayed open for a solid 20 seconds as we awkwardly stared at the poor guy seeking passage on the vessel. You kind of had to be there, which is why I'm being a bit vague about it, but it really was a highlight of my time.

Great times with all, as Phish shows and circumstances never fail to disappoint. More to come concerning Rome in the coming days. A big thanks to Ben, Deanna, Emily, Laura, and a freshly showered Jeremy for making my time so wonderful.

Song of the Day: Ringo - Umphrey's McGee
Jazz Song of the Day: Solar - Keith Jarrett

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Lavishly Bohemian

I have played these chords before. It is with my tail between my legs that I return to you, a prodigal son, who at last has the time and inclination to set about carving the rhetoric of everyday life that in hindsight seems anything but ordinary. My life has evolved at the expense of the very outlets that set these wheels of advancement in motion in the first place. It is with this post I apologize for my absence and promise never to leave for so long again. 

To put it much less pretentiously, "Hey, how's it going?" 

It has indeed been a spell and it's rough to put the past half a year in perspective period, much less in the context of a blog post, but I'll be brief. 

I'm currently at the reigns of a Project Manager position for an established International Company.involved in the business of education, and indeed it is an business... and it is indeed an education. Why did I feel like Al Capone after writing that sentence? 

You'll excuse the cloak and dagger routine with these job specifics, but I'd rather not this post or any other content of mine pop up on any unsuspecting Internet searches. Other than gratuitous spelling errors and a rather questionable phone of me in a giant cowboy hat milking a Grebe donned in a cow-costume, I have nothing to hide regarding my Internet fingerprints, but at the same time, I'd rather at least strive for a shred of privacy. 

The bottom line is that I'm fortunate to be involved and excelling in an incredibly interesting business and have had the privalege and opportunity to work with and get to know people from all over the world. The implications of such a globally interwoven workplace unfortunately results in a job that can very much immitate a 24/7 obligation. As a result, sleep is at a premium and creative pursuits that once sustained me and indeed, in some cases, had succeeded in taking on success of their own have fallen, not necessarily by the wayside, but certainly to the proverbial back burner. Such is life and growing up and that's more bitter than sweet some days, but when it comes down to it, I'm thrilled to have gone from running customer service at a local Stop & Shop, to running business trips to Boston and planning trips abroad. Plus, my office is a really supportive place filled with great people. As cliche as it sounds, at the end of the day, my job is to help kids see the world and shape their futures. I'm not saying I go into work singing Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah" everyday (or any day), but I can't help but endorse and admire that idea. It feels great to have gotten where I am on my own steam and to have my hard work rewarded. 

Honestly, I know that your favorite posts of mine to read entail playfully over-analyzed anecdotes, but I simply can't even begin to cover the scope of these months in that regard. I continue to have great times with great friends and this new position has allowed me to appreciate just who is important to me and just how important they are. I thank them for that. 

The good news is, I am going to make a conscious effort to be more involved on this blog and with the NBA season fast approaching, re-immerse myself in all things roundball. I'm working on a new project and hoping this winter (when I've been told my job finally relaxes some) I'll be able to get "Horseplay" galloping again. (See what I did there?) The only true disappointment of this new chapter of life has been having to cut the cord on that project as it was genuinely starting to blossom. Ideally, this winter will give me the chance to rectify that. Anyway, consider this the boring welcome back piece and do be on the look out for more posts in this medium, basketball, and creatively as I continue to reach for the brass ring of a life perfectly toeing the line between commitment and contentment. 

Song of the Day: Granny-Dave Matthews Band-Live at the Gorge '04"
Jazz Song of the Day: Autumn Leaves-Keith Jarrett Trio-Live at the Blue Note '95

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

No Tequila Since March, No Meat Since August

Around my birthday this past March, my good bud and brother, Matty Matura, was kind enough to select a spirit (Patron) for our friends and I to sip upon to celebrate the occasion. My longstanding relationship (questioning that word choice) with Patron is well documented, from the time I drank a glass of it last summer and the moment of silence that followed...

Matty: "You were fine and all, but I've never heard you be that quiet for that long after you took that shot." 

... to the time I got to work on the agave based libation following a Christmas-time shift at Stop & Shop and wound up overrunning Wong's stairs a bit and after likely a very dramatic-looking couple of balance maintaining flails wiped out flat on my back in front of the entire (modest) party in attendance. That last one, I assure you, sounds worse than it was, as I popped right back up after fending off my own fit of laughter. However, obviously tequila was at the root of the minor mishap. 

Anyway, Wong's actions the night before my birthday ensured that no one was in a mood to christen the gift that night. Since that point, the occasion to open the bottle hasn't really come about. I drink pretty moderately, to say the least, and as you likely know, when you opt for tequila over more... modest... drinks you're kind of making a commitment to the night that you're not always up for backing up, so to speak. As I headed to York College for my first post grad Alumni Weekend experience, I figured it may well have been time to at last pop the cork on that bottle of Patron. Alas, or fortunately depending on your perception, the Patron still remains unopened atop my dresser. However, another notable streak did come to an end this past weekend, and with that somewhat coarse interlude, I recount my York experience.

Just in the general sense, because I don't think I'll necessarily get back to it once I start zooming in. Always a great time to be in York and especially at YCP. The Alumni weekend brought back some familiar faces and I also got to see some friends who've yet to leave. Feels like a home away from home and brings up some of the best memories of my life. Really blessed to have known and, as this weekend proved, still know such good people. I'm gushing, I know, about a pretty dangerous area once you get beyond George, I know, but it's just a special place.

With that brief bit of blathering behind and alliteration ahead, I actually didn't have to wait long, or even ask, to relive some collegiate memories. York's current and my former a cappella group, Rhapsody, found themselves somewhat divided between the obligations of the school's musical, "She Loves Me," and a performance at the annual Relay for Life. When a couple members heard that I was heading to York that same day, they reached out to see if I could help them out and sing with them at the Relay for Life. It's a bit of a stretch to say they "needed" me and by no means am I under that impression, but I know that they were grateful to have the extra tenor/bass with knowledge of the catalog close at hand and, from my perspective, by no means was it an inconvenience to sing with them. I found myself rusty, to say the least, jumping the gun on a "Buttercup" entrance. (The one song each Rhapsody member should be able to treat like riding a bike.) Learned a song on the fly and handled it pretty well, and despite the group being in about three different keys during "Africa", blew the dust off that high harmony pretty impressively if I do say so myself. (I assure you that's the extent of my self-exultation.) The group did throw in some dub-step inspired changes to "Crazy" that pretty much hit me like a ton of bricks mid-show, but I still got to throw in my "HA-HA-HAs" so all was well that ended well.

I will say, I wish I had left to arrive in York a bit earlier in the day. I made great time traffic-wise and with about a half hour to spare before a pretty casual (especially for me) call time. With that said, I did want to make sure I got into York early to square away a couple of errands. My trip was, by my standards, pretty last minute, so I wanted to make sure to confirm with some various hanging and indeed sleeping arrangements. Basically, check in with the few cats banking on my arrival. I also wanted to make sure to drop off some "Horseplay" related material to Professor Mott before the hurricane of a weekend swept me away. Specifics of "Horseplay" are for a different post all together, if at all, as I feel that's the only bit of my writing that I get a little repetitive with, so mum's the word for now.

I'm sure most could relate that after spending enough time in a car, especially driving, you kind of zone out a bit mentally and suffer from something I would call "drive lag" after you get out, where you're physically out of the car, but not so much mentally. I was definitely suffering from this ailment, as nonexistent as it my be medically, but I thought little of it as I bounded towards Wolf Hall, prepped to drop off my script and such and just kind of rest up for a bit. Lo and and behold, though, two of the four people on main campus at the time were my good friends Justin Rivera and Renee. Obviously sounds like it was a negative to see them; nothing could be further from the truth. I just felt bad because I met their enthusiasm and embraces without really being able to string words together cleanly. A pleasure to see them both, I just kind of socially wasn't ready for it. Pretty laughable in hindsight. Got to clear the air a bit later that weekend, but I don't doubt I looked like a deer in the headlights and sounded Ozzy Osbourne with a New York accent for a bit there.

After the Rhapsody "gig" I got the chance to see "She Loves Me". Great all around. Always cool to see friends and other performers in their element. Some real talent on the stage and I'm sometimes in awe that these people are in my life.

*That last bit is a little syrupy, even for me, and I don't mean to be all that sentimental about it, but the bottom line is that I'm friends with some talented people, and that's, like, really cool. I definitely think the above has over romanticized my thoughts a bit. It's not like a weep openly every time Jay strums a guitar chord, Steve harmonizes to the radio, Joe Mayes lays out a sick bass vocal solo, Allison draws a picture, and Sean Taylor and Grebe talk about something financial that I succeed in following for about five minutes.  Essentially, I just don't want to take for granted the talent and skills of the people around me. It's a proud to be among them kind of thing.

After the show I met up with Steve, Doug, Angela, and many others and really got the alumni festivities started. The blow by blow there would bore you, but I was getting as much of a kick out of catching up with just casual familiar faces as I was old friends. What I mean to say is, it was cool to run into people I wouldn't consider buds of mine and just kind of saying "Hey, you're that person I used to see all over campus, but never said two words to... You noticed me? I noticed you, too!... How's it going?....Cool, have a nice life and/or see you next year!" Really interesting vibe on top of catching up with dear friends. More to the night than that, including catching up with the newly-svelte DeJesus and Dunn, Rita driving over to say hello, and finding out Kyle Minogue is living in our old Jackson house, but tough to put all that in a sensical and concise paragraph. Great times.

As if the weekend weren't already ripe with memories, Saturday morning saw the beginning of a story-ful day as Melissa, Doug, Rita, Steve and I went to grab some breakfast. Now, as you'd expect, a great deal of reminicing was occurring and, not surprisingly, Jamin's wedding came up. I, thinking with my stomach as I often do, casually brought up that the chicken fingers at their wedding were genuinely some of the best I've had in my life. Obviously they paled in comparison to the bride and groom, sanctity of the day, etc. etc., but it would a total lie if I said the chicken wasn't one of the top five memories of that day for me. Moose, if you're reading this, love you guys.

Steve then said something to the effect of "Oh, I wouldn't know, I was eating broccoli the whole time. I asked why and Steve replied, "I haven't eaten meat since August." Here's where it gets interesting.

Up until that point, the conversation had been very jovial, light and, dare I say, bubbly. Steve's meat claim was by no means rude, pointed, or condescending at all, but it was said very seriously and matter-of-factly. It ran in contrast to the rest of the table talk and was therefore very punctuated. That morning, Steve ordered a "Western Omelette"  that the menu clearly stated had ham in it. As I looked down at the omelette  now half eaten, I noticed these pretty large pink chunks of ham in it that couldn't be mistaken for onions if you squinted. At that point became so confused I felt as though I was listening to Sean Taylor and Grebe talk about financial stats. Can't emphasize enough how overwhelmed and lost I was in that moment. Steve was flagrantly eating meat and I found it impossible to believe he wasn't aware of it.
Surely he read it on the menu.
Surely he sees the giant pink chunks in his breakfast.
Surely he at the very least tastes the ham as he's chewing it.

Surely he sees the door coming up. (Last one not relevant)

I really thought Steve was just kind of making a joke that I didn't quite get. A feeling to which I can certainly relate and sympathize. My brain was left with a "fight or flight" moment to gently call him out and get to the bottom of the statement, or ignore the statement entirely and keep eating. I opted for the latter and Steve and I both resumed eating. About three minutes later, Steve realized that he'd accidentally soiled his voluntary vegetarian lifestyle and was no longer meat free since August. He was pretty floored and the table was similarly flumouxed by how he got three-quarters through a ham-filled omelette. I think that cloud of confusion was the only that kept me from busting up at the situation. Not trying to be too hard on Steve. Lord knows he's seen me be pretty boneheaded. I think moments like that just serve to remind us both how important we are to each other. Tomorrow is a new day and the start of a new streak. I will say, ten years from now, when you ask me to describe my first alumni weekend, this will be likely the one story I remember off the top of my head. Truly a golden moment.

After breakfast, I wanted to make sure to set aside a good chunk of my day to basketball. I turned down a couple of plans specifically to make sure I had plenty of time to get a good run in with all the students and what have you. The Grumbacher has never really had the reputation for being too packed on a weekend day, but for some reason I thought alumni weekend would be the exception to that rule. Unfortunately, I found that some things never change as I wound up shooting around... a lot... and eventually playing some "21" equivalent that took forever to finish, and finally some twos with Le Von (no disrespect, not sure if that's how he spells it) and a couple of his friends. That was a lot of fun and certainly better than nothing. They were good dudes. On a personal note, my chest was incredibly tight from a Thursday workout. I think the day in the car on Friday didn't let me properly stretch it out and bottom line my chest was tight as a snare drum on Saturday and my first few shots were about three feet short. I held my own, though, to say the least, and actually wound up winning I think all but one game I played, but I didn't really loosen up until it was about time to go. Couldn't help but think if I was shooting this well feeling awful, how well I could have played if I were feeling up to snuff. Oh well, just pick up games anyway and a little petulant on my part, but in the interest of full candor, it was nagging on my mind.

The guys I played with happened to be black and my good friend and Grumbacher mainstay, Rachel, happened to see some of the game. Later on that night, I met up with Rachel at the bar and as Le Von passed by he was nice enough to mention how cool it was to play with me etc. Rachel and he then proceeded to talk about how this skinny white dude walked into the gym and pretty much showed them up. They were both exaggerating a bit (not that skinny) about how I showed them up. I played well, but didn't dominate or anything. Anyway, my point being, I was called "skinny" and "white" about 15 times in 30 seconds, but it was hard to be offended because they were being so complementary. Good laughs there great to see both Rachel and Le Von again.

Prior to the bar, I went on a bit of a bar crawl with Dunn and Big Phil. Great time and featured some great live music at the White Rose. Could be in my head, but York College seems much more open to planning things with a pretty buzzing surrounding community than they were when I was a student. That bodes well for those businesses and the college crowd and enrollment if that teamwork continues. In a couple years, hopefully there will be more of a weekend crowd to  play ball with indirectly is what I'm saying.

Hard to segue into this, so I'm just going to have to apologize for the short tangent. I think due to the West Coast schedule and my lack of a smart phone, I gave about five people inaccurate Orioles scores and stats. I was seeing highlights from the night before and thinking the game was live. It was really a mess. My bad on that. Idiot move. Steve should have fun with that one.

Great to be back at YCP with such great friends. I look forward to my next visit.

Song of the Day: "I Should Go"- Good Old War
Jazz Song of the Day: "Whither Must I Wander"-Dave Douglas

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

I Think That Girl's Throwing Up

Grebe's not so subtle observation on the streets of New York City's Little Italy momentarily landed us in some hot and foul-smelling water. More on that later.

Ladies and gentlemen, it finally happened. After years being one of the Metropolitan area's biggest Dallas Maverick fans and grinding through a couple of heartbreaking seasons, a great many solid seasons, and one magical championship run, I, Tom Policastro, have finally seen a Mavs game for myself. The game itself was a tremendous experience, though, I'm not sure if ironic is the proper word, (I'll ask Nick Pappas later) but I did find it interesting that my first Mavs game comes during a season of transition, where for the first time in many years not only are we not dark horse title contenders, but not even playoffs bound. That sentiment's a touch defeatist, but I'm also a realist. With that said, didn't leave my pride in the team or excitement for the contest the worse for wear. 

I probably should have mentioned whom they were playing and where and whatnot. Anyway. the Mavs were in Brooklyn to take on the Nets and Wong had the great idea a couple months back to get a big group of our friends together to see a game. I would have went regardless of the matchup just to see NBA ball, unless the Bobcats are playing, but to see Dirk, Trix, VINCE CARTER, and the rest made the entire trip irresistible.

Wong, his friend Matt, and I made the journey to the BK out of Ronkonkoma, and as most of you know, train rides rarely fall short in producing memories as lasting as the times had at your destination. This time was no exception as no sooner was I in the train station ordering tickets (just in time for the rate hike. Yes!) than a laughably exasperated woman cut the line and began scolding/shouting at the man behind the window for giving her the wrong ticket. Now, as a customer service rep myself, my heart instantly went out to the guy. I really don't know if the woman was right, or the guy behind the window, but I've seen the extremes of a customer being right and a dick about it, right and a sweetheart about it, wrong and a dick about it, and wrong and sweetheart about it. Mistakes happen. No matter who makes them, Customer Service wouldn't exist without them. I will say this, though, the fact that this woman...

1. Cut the line in an interupting fashion

2. Was yelling at the guy like he was an idiot

3. Said "You didn't listen" literally five times before actually getting to her problem.

4. Said she was "on the clock" like her time was more important than other people's. (You'll have to take my word on her tone.)

made her instantly out of line. What was cool was, people on the line started scolding her immediately and the guy behind the window, an older man, clearly had enough clout that he didn't have to care about a stern letter or supervisor and fired right back, basically calling her out on being rude and a nut. Awesome to see those tables turn. A bit more to the story than that, but you largely had to be there. In the interest of time, moving on.

While on the train, I heard the already infamous "Harlem Shake" song. A song which, by itself, is not all that interesting or good, to put it bluntly. I did, however, get pretty jazzed when I heard it because I thought we stumbled into a viral video attempt that I, all shame and modesty aside, would have joined immediately. Regrettably, it was someone's ring tone and to make matters worse, it went off several more times on the train. Hearing the tune without the pending payoff a spontaneous dance party was irritating to say the least.

The Atlantic train lets you out pretty much right next to the Barclays Center, a wonder that lives up to it's hype. The place is state of the art, as you'd expect, but what I particularly enjoyed about it is that the surrounding area is still very much Brooklyn, with everything from run down bars and even a boarded up "haunted house" right across the way. Charming is a strong word and I think I'm over romanticizing the experience a bit, but how juxdaposed the arena was with it's surroundings was really intriguing to me.

Really not doing a great job setting up these stories, but the trip to Brooklyn also gave me a chance to catch up with a couple of York friends in Kev, Doug, and a visiting Brett. How it felt to see them as they entered the Black Sheep Pub is tough to put into words. Surreal in the best way possible, I guess. With the exception of a couple meetings with Kev, and a Jake Albus visit years ago, my York and Long Island worlds don't often collide. Again, at that point it could have been the beer romanticizing the moment, but it was great to exchange some introductions and just plain see some friends I hadn't seen in close to a year. Great to catch up with those guys in every way. Unfortunately, we couldn't quite align after the game to continue the festivities, but I look forward to our next meeting.

The game itself was pretty straightforward. I couldn't give you the play by play if I wanted to and you would want to read it if I could. We came to play, which was a relief, and a game where Dirk and VINCE CARTER carried us was about all I could ask for as a first time/long time fan. I was surprised how well Mavs fans traveled and there was definitely some more Mavs love in the stadium than I expected. It was a little hard to feel that love when Grebe and Wong shouted "sit down" at the top of their lungs every time I got up to cheer something, but I guess Dirk's appeal is pretty worldwide and I think during that title run we kind of became America's team for a couple weeks as we thwarted the then villainous LeBron and Heat. Directly behind me was a pretty adorable four or five year old yelling "Mavs stink" and other unpleasant things. I, obviously, said nothing and got the last laugh, but a couple times did look back at his parents as if to say "Are you kidding me here?" A very good-natured ribbing.

As Wong expected, our group of 14 immediately broke off from one another and I found myself with Wong and his friends from school heading back towards Manhattan. We stopped in a bar called "Coyote Ugly." Being that a movie was named after the place, I was a little disappointed with the venue. I don't know what I was expecting really, but there wasn't much to it. Not that I need my bars to have substance (other than alcohol, of course), but I guess I just expected Tyra Banks at the door to welcome me with John Goodman saving me a beer. Anyway, one thing they did have there was a punching bag designed to measure the power of your punch. All sarcasm aside, I can't say I expected to be any good at it and had no desire to get involved. Most guys who did it (not as much of a meathead activity as you might think, as the participants were pretty casual about it) were scoring between 550 and 750. The record was 920-something and of course, Wong had the idea that we should both toss our metaphorical hats into the ring and give it a try. I told him I had no desire to swing, but Wong wouldn't take no for an answer and threw in the dollar to punch away. He scored somewhere in the upper 400s and considering he had one arm in a sling, I was pretty impressed. I again told him I had no desire to swing, but he threw in another dollar and kind of forced my hand. I swung and got a pretty modest 185. I'm willing to chalk up some of that to a bad punch and the fact that my heart wasn't in it, but let's be honest, it wasn't going up much higher even if the wind were at my back. Kind of like when people don't like pictures of themselves. Yeah, I guess the photo could showcase you better, but at the end of the day it's a photo of you. Needless to say, I quickly tried to get lost in the crowd and when Wong went to talk to me about it. I said something like, "I didn't pay for it." It was the closest thing to a Pulp Fiction "they're your clothes motherfucker" as I've ever pulled off. Good times. For the record, the bouncer assured me I was nowhere near the worst score he'd ever seen. So there's that...

After that we hit a couple of bars where the dancing shoes came on. Usually my cue that the night has hit its apex and I should start winding it down. In one bar, Biscuits and I pretty much had a dance lesson/off with a bouncer where at least a couple other people who tried to join were unceremoniously shoo-ed away. In hindsight, probably the funniest point of the night, but in the moment it was just the state of the union. I then had a dance off with Grebe at the Spring Lounge. Results were inconclusive.

As we were heading back to Grebe's to recharge some, Francis took the time to pick up some Milano cookies at a corner store and was kind enough to share. We each had a couple and at the risk of embarrassing him, Frank took a spill on the sidewalk and sent his remaining cookies violently to the street without so much as getting a hand out to break his fall. Biscuits seemed more concerned about the state of the cookies than Frank, I don't think Wong acknowledged it happened, Matt dutifully checked on this friend, and Grebe and I toed the line between laughing hysterically and showing concern. Frank get pretty upset with the situation and actually threatened to go home, but Biscuits stepped up and got him some band aids and convinced him to stay.

We hung out at Grebe's for a bit and then headed back out in the night. Just outside of Grebe's apartment, we saw a girl with her friends who was a little worse for wear and was vomiting on the street while still walking. A feat as impressive as it was pathetic. Grebe in his haze (a haze we all shared mind you, not trying to paint myself as a saint here) pretty matter-of-factly stated this blog's title and sent this girl into a rage. She immediately stumbled towards Grebe with violence on her mind and venomous words flowing from her mouth. At this point she was not vomiting (now that would have been admirable and terrifying). We then stumbled over a bit more surefootedly (only a little) to get Grebe out of the area. It should be noted Grebe wanted no part of instigating her and did nothing to provoke her further, we simply turned Grebe's slow walk away into more of a jog. I can't stress enough that Grebe was not aggressive physically or verbally with this young woman. He was just kind of guilty of making a pretty sensitive observation within the wrong person's earshot while she was in the wrong state of mind. Having successfully gotten Grebe out of the ordeal, I notice Wong is nowhere to be found. I turned around and saw him about half a block back still chilling next to that girl. I doubled back to move him along and the rest of the night progressed without much incident.

Overall, a successful night with good people. Some other nuggets here and there, including Wong saying goodnight to Francis and me, and leaving with an umbrella he probably could have used the night before, but nothing worth writing home about. *laughs for sixty seconds at his own joke* I'm fortunate to have such great friends with which to share these moments and while this lost its relevance five paragraphs ago, go Mavs.  

Song of the Day: Miracle Sun-Anthony Green (The binge of this cat I've been on is remarkable, considering how casual my fandom of his work is usually.)

Jazz Song of the Day: Sweet Georgia Brown-Anat Cohen