Sunday, June 22, 2014

Time Will Tell Us Who Is Trying To Sell Us

A very specific story drives back to these pages. (Posts, I guess, but pages sounds cooler and makes me feel more like an author.) I made it out to see Matisyahu last night for the first time since 2008's Ram's Head visit, where his family and friends were in attendance and consequently, we were treated to an extra special and extended set. That was the night that this duo of buds were inordinately excited to see the Flobots and, much to my puzzlement, chanted the name of their album repeatedly before the group was even on the stage. Now, as it turns out, their premature praise was warranted, as the Flobots exceeded every expectation I had and about six months later, when I stumbled upon a free Flobots show in Vermont, I was indeed the guy chanting the name of the album before the group even made it on stage. I made and lost a few friends that night, needless to say. 

Anyway, I will get back to the Matis show, but first there are a couple of other things to skim over before jumping into, as my weekends of late have actually entailed much more than catching up on sleep and work. A rousing four weeks ago, I made it out to the land of the swimming Whittys and soccer playing Pappases (man that's cool pluralize... seriously, try to say it aloud without smiling), Baltimore, Maryland. The one and only Nick "Lord Baltimore" Pappas was kind enough to open the doors of his kingdom to me as we went to check out the beautiful Camden Yards and see our beloved Os in action. The game itself was nothing much to speak of, as we were thoroughly trounced by the grinning Indians of Cleveland, 9 to 0. Truth be told, I caught an intentional nap late in the game that carried me straight through the seventh inning stretch. I eventually rallied. The Orioles did not. A shame to be sure, but with the great company of the Lord and the ever kind, gracious, and all-around awesome duo of Poppyseed and Emmy, it was hard to be blue for too long. In truth, at one point the game had become so listless that our group ventured to help me in playing what can only be considered the most pathetic game of Name That Tune in all of history. Not worth going into in detail, but let's just say they were very patient with me as I sang the same three notes over and over again trying to place the name and artist of a song that we never did figure out. Also, Nick and I got the chance to re-enact the now infamous "Bud Light drone." As noble a Camden Yards tradition as singing along to John Denver, in my opinion. 

After the game, we said good-bye to Greg and Emmy and Nick and I went back to his place to play some basketball. To an extent, home court advantage came into play, but it would be a diservice to Nick not mention that he actually kicked my butt in some L-O-R-D games. Won't happen twice...

Poor Nick, one of my best friends on this planet, mentioned many times throughout the day how excited he was to have someone in town to talk and watch basketball with. At the time the Eastern Conference Finals between the Heat and Pacers were very much raging and a game was taking place that evening. We definitely took care of the basketball talking. It was the watching that proved more difficult than anticipated.8:30 pm struck, put my feet up in the family recliner, watched the Pacers score the first four points of the game (a couple of nice jumpers by David West), and promptly went out like a light and slept straight through the remainder of the game. I felt so bad and continue to apologize to this day. The Lord, as you would assume from someone with that nickname, handled it with the utmost class. A solid billiard session and an impromptu visit to my aunt in Delaware, put a nice bow on a very solid weekend. 

The following weekend featured yet another thrilling excursion for which I stayed conscious the entire time! *fist bumps self* I ventured with yet another gentleman of lore, Matty Matura to see Dave Matthews Band. Each Dave concert is special, for sure. With that said, what made this show extra special was that this time around, DMB is strumming two sets of great tunes. One acoustic, one electric. Also, this was my first sojourn to SPAC (Saratoga). One of the great Dave venues. From a musical standpoint, the band was on point of course. My analysis of the show is not why your reading this blog, so I won't go into too much detail, as it would be a post in and of itself. Very quickly, I got my first "Pay For What You Get" which I was elated about, got my first "Say Goodbye" which next to a particularly choice "Dancing Nancies" was the highlight of the show. Also, I don't think there's anything in music, much less DMB, that gives me chills more than the vocal build/riff that Dave goes during live renditions of "You Might Die Trying". Awesome. 

From a venue standpoint it was actually pretty straightforward once you got inside, but what made it incredible was the fact that you were parked very literally in the grass of this beautiful park environment. Easily the most fun I've had prior to a show. Great meeting new people, playing music, sipping brews, and playing frisbee. In one of the highlights, or lowlights depending on how you look at it, of the day, Matty and I stepped up on the  Kan Jam court (Court? Field? Playing area? Zone?) and made it clear when we were introducing ourselves that we were good friends and we would be playing as a team, known each other from high school, etc. So after a great deal of talking each other up, it's finally our turn to step up. Right out of the gate, Matty proceeds to use two hands in slapping one of my tosses, which we all know is a no-no. It drew a hushed ire from those around us and I was quick to mention that we weren't actually that close.... Just kidding, Hydro. 

When we actually got in to see the show, Matty and I actually split up a bit, as I hit it off with this great group to my right and Matty branched off with another, more existential group to our left. I spent the show in the front row of the lawn section listening to tunes with good people. Matty wound up spending the show with a group intent on listening the the music and discussing the microcosm that is "life." I think I got the better end of the deal, but we both left with stories we'll tell for the rest of our lives, I'm sure. We spent the whole show within eye contact, so I consider the experience a shared one. 

Lastly, a fight broke out during "Crash Into Me." I didn't even think that was possible. 

Okay, now we find ourselves back full circle at the Matisyahu gig. The man is very talented, just to lead with that and it was great to see him again. In a rather cool twist of fate, I caught a drumstick at the show and got about as excited as a seven-year-old opening his first Gameboy on Christmas morning. Hopefully that puts things in perspective. 

The show is great, moving along, and again, through a series of rather deft dips, dives, and swoops. I find myself in the front row of the show. (All modesty aside, I'm deceptively smooth when it come to things like that.) We reach a point towards the end of show where Matis addresses the crowd and says that "we need some people up here." At that point the backstage area pours out and floods the stage. In addition, these two girls to my right (admittedly much prettier than I am) slide through the security gate and hop on stage. Now again, I'm deceptively slippery and not one pass up this golden opportunity, I, too, slide my rather "slender" frame through the blockade and hop on stage. I groove for a good 15 seconds before I realize two security gentlemen neither as slender or friendly-looking as I we coming at me (to their credit, pretty casually, I don't want to paint them to too negative a light) "urging" me off the stage. I'm no hero and I accomplished what I wanted. I hopped right of the stage without coaxing and/or struggle. I was promptly escorted out of the main audience area and watched the remainder of the show... wide right... where the sight line was kind of bogus, but the sound was still great. For what it's worth, I apologized to the security guy, explaining that he asked for people up on stage. I saw people hop on and I wanted to be a part of it. The guy understood and actually apologized himself. It's amazing how many doors open for you at these places when people realize you're sober and rational. I wound up hitting it off with the security guys and we had a decent time watching the rest of the show. 

Great, great time. 

One final note here. I guess this would qualify as a soapbox moment, so brace yourself, but I don't quite mean this as vehemently as I'm sure this comes off in type. As I'm sure most know, the Rangers recently had their memorable post season run brought to an end in the cup finals. I noticed a great deal of Ranger fans lashing out at "bandwagon" fans and essentially perpetuating a kind of fictitious "turf war" over who was wearing the red and blue first. I mean, I understand that bandwagon fans very much exist, but I don't really see the point in calling people out on something like that. The fact is that the local team was playing some great hockey and had the chance to join the annals of history. I don't see why you would try to make that experience exclusive. It was a special time for New York and I for one was of the opinion of the more the merrier. I'd be pleased that the sport was reaching such a wide audience and that the team was a part of something arguably bigger than the sport. I mean, you true fans know who you really are. In my opinion, that should be enough. What's cool is I'm sure that a lot of true fans were born through this playoff run and I'm sure they'll be lamenting every three game losing streak during this upcoming season. That's pretty sweet, I think. 

I feel I have the right to say this as a Mavs fan. In 2011, we very suddenly became America's team as the nation watched intently as we clashed with the then despised (not much has changed, but back then the animosity was at a fever pitch) Miami Heat. Very suddenly, there were a lot of pro-Dirk voices sprouting up from near and far. You and I both know people were more rooting against the Heat than rooting for the Mavs, but at the end of the day, it was great to have the support and I knew who I was as a fan. It was great to have people along for the ride. 

The way I see it, as long as a bandwagon fan doesn't try to sound like an expert overnight, welcome to the party. We'll leave the light on and the door open for you. 

Song of the Day: "Desert Sunrise" - Brett Dennen
Jazz Song of the Day: "Body and Soul" - Gary Burton

Sunday, February 2, 2014

It's Not A City, It's An Equinox

Warmest salutations during the coldest of winters dear friends and Whitman enthusiasts in the midst of self-celebration before they say "So Long!" (I promise that's as funky as the post gets.)

A great deal has come to pass as 2013 took its final bow and welcomed 2014 into our datebooks, but while it pains me to no small degree to all too casually skim over holiday homecomings and festivities, good times with good friends, a Phish show, Felice Brothers show, and a meeting of worlds in Philadelphia for New Year's Eve, not mention some creative facial hair presentations, I must with a heavy heart fast forward to this past weekend. A weekend spent in lavish fashion darting around the NYC area in celebration of Whitman (just kidding), in celebration of the birthdays of two dear friends, Rich and Becky, and then one day with Grebe..for no reason at all...because we're tight like that. 

When this past Friday's proverbial work whistle blew I braved the elements in the freshest of Dirk jerseys (likely the lone glimmer of vanity in my life) to see the Dallas Mavericks (my team since Fin-dog donned the blue, green and ten gallon) take on the recently surging Brooklyn Nets, embarrassment at the hands of KD and the Thunder notwithstanding. While this occasion alone is worthy of much pomp and circumstance, I was also able to share the game with my good bud, Rich Arleo who agreed to catch the game with me in celebration of his birthday. Never one to hide his true colors, Rich was clad in the orange and blue of the Knickerbocker true. Our seats were pretty great, I must say, and we had a great time taking in what turned out to be a great game, and unfortunately for Mavs fans, the game of Mirza Telenovic's young career. The lone upside of the game was my coining of the phrase "Mirza-rable." A play on words I hang my hat on proudly to this day.  

To keep the basketball talk brief, we missed a ton of free throws and had about four fouls in the final four minutes and a glaring technical on Dirk. Not to sound like a doubting Thomas *slaps knee*, but even though we only lost by one (a last second three by Monta made it look a bit closer than it was) you never really got the sense that we were going to win. Meanwhile, just a couple brief train rides away, Melo was dropping 62 on the usually pretty stingy Bobcats. Go figure. Nonetheless, always great to see the Mavs in person and the quality of Rich's company nearly goes without saying. 

One thing of merit happened at the game beyond the game of basketball as early on the game, this young and seemingly quite brash cat made mention of the seats in which Rich and I were, well... seated. He said to his pals that he thought their seats were *gestures to Rich and I* right here. We, of course, paid him little mind until he addressed us directly and asked us if we were in the right seats, a perfectly legitimate question. We said we were and then the guy proceeded to say in a very condescending way (like we were five years old) Are you sure?" I definitely wasn't angry, as that's too strong a word, but I was a little miffed about how this guy was going about finding his seats, trying to make us look foolish pretty intentionally. It was the sweetest of poetic justice when the usher checked out his tickets as he continued to point to our seats and notify him that he was three, count'em three, sections off and escorted him to his seat. I wanted nothing more than to walk over to him in the middle of the game and ask him if he was sure he was in the right seat, but cooler heads (and the fact that I never found him again) prevailed. 

Prior to the game, Rich and I grabbed some suds at what can be considered my only Brooklyn staple, The Black Sheep Pub, a place that has never failed to provide me with friendly faces conversation and memorable stories.This time was no different, as Rich and I had the chance to catch up, I ran into a friendly fellow Mavs fan, (We travel pretty well.), a stopped on a dime and greeted a momentarily confused Christina Oswald, and I met a bizzaro version of myself. Well, maybe not a bizzaro version. The only tangible pop culture analogy that comes to mind is that episode of "Friends" when Joey finds his hand twin. For the record, though, I played it much cooler than he did. I was in the fabled Black Sheep Pub, or as we regulars call it "The Sheep" (Nobody calls it that...what are ewe doing tonight?...I wool be there) and making my way past the foosball table, where four guys whom I can only assume were longtime buds were involved in a spirited game and one of the guys scored and the guys cheered, his opponents cursed him etc. a real authentic and crudely charming moment when it happened. In the middle of good natured calamity, this one guy says clear as a bell: "Boy you really shot that from afar," and my heart instantly went out to him. I had found my "hand twin" as I'm always the guy to take a perfectly cool time and add just the right amount of lameness to it with some silly expression or word choice that is just subtle enough not to ruin the moment, but noticeable enough for everyone to silently acknowledge. Against all odds, my friends love me anyway. I have once been described as this: "Poli, you're the only person I know that can pull up with Jay-Z blaring out of your car and make it seem not cool, but you're also the one guy in the world I know that can can pull up with Miles Davis coming out of your car and make it seem like the most badass thing the world." It's a unique gift I've been cursed with, ladies and gentlemen. 

The post game festivities brought yet more bar-hopping and stranger greeting and the chance to meet up with Jamie, and I slept through the entire search for a parking spot, which apparently was pretty involved. The next day was largely spent in leisure, I must admit, as I even caught a nice nap during the Islander game, but not before a trip to the bagel store worthy of an Onion article. 

Rich and I out minding our own business getting some food when this very pretty Russian twenty-something walks in to the deli in search of a cappuccino. For some reason this girl asks the cashier which cups she should use for the drink and he simply points to the coffee cups right next to the machine and mentions how their grouped by size. Handles the question like a pro. At that point two gentlemen gesture to the cups, just in case she loses her way in the three foot trek from the counter to the coffee pots. She then proceeds to tap the button to release the drink and instead of holding it down seems to be under the impression that the machine should dispense the drink automatically. The cashier explains that the button must be held down to dispense the drink, (a revelation to us all) as yet a third gentleman jumps in to demonstrate this wonderful and vexing bit of technology. Believe it or not the plot thickens ever still as it turns out that the machine is merely dispensing hot water instead of caffeinated goodness. At this point the entire establishment is invested in the situation unfolding before them and will not rest until this attractive, but seemingly dim, woman gets her beverage. The cashier swoops in deftly from behind the counter with a new container of mix to make the drink properly as yet another gentleman joins the fray to ensure that the container is inserted into the machine correctly. At last, much to the relief of all involved, this woman gets the cappuccino she so desperately craves, takes a sip as well wait on tenterhooks with baited breath for a sign that all of this work wasn't for naught. Alas! The lovely babushka is dissatisfied with the final product, insisting that the meticulously made libation was "too sweet" and discarded the cup (she took a medium, by the way) accordingly. The cashier offered to refund her the money only to be reminded that she had not yet paid in the first place. The fact that she almost left that deli three bucks richer is a testament to the power of beauty and I can only be thankful that I was immune enough to these aesthetic charms to sit back and take notes. Plus, my hands were full at the time. 

Chris, Leo, and Chris Carey made the sojourn in to see Rich for his birthday on Saturday. It's always a pleasure to see those guys and get good laughs in. I bid farewell to them pretty early in the night as I went to meet up with Grebe before heading over to "Fat Baby" (I kid you not, that was the name... and I was smitten with it) to align with Becky and friends to celebrate her birthday. The night was similarly a great and hazy time with Grebe, Becky, and Tara and Kathleen, whom when I do see is always a pleasure. I don't doubt Becky had a great time and it was great to share it with her. The conditions outside were quite snowy and the communal/dance floor was of some sort of stone and when soiled by the un-wiped feet of bar patrons became quite slick...

I know it seems like I'm planting the seed of telling the story ending in someone taking an untimely spill, but I assure you, unlike myself on the subway prior to the Phish show, and unlike the poor dude who fell like a ton of bricks into the chest of an unsuspecting Zach Sacher during the Felice Brothers gig, no one lost their footing on this night. However, I did come close. 

... At one point I was talking to Kathleen with my hand just casually on her shoulder as we weren't as much talking to each other as we were shouting into each other's ear. While in this position there was a brief moment where my feet did kind of lose traction and swim of their own accord on the floor. For the entirety of this brief moment, which I'm sure seemed like an eternity to us both, I put the full brunt of my 155-pound frame on her shoulder and watched in horror as her face morphed from one of a smile to one of confusion and discomfort. For some reason, I felt it best to ignore that this happened all together and resumed speaking as if nothing had happened. She was pretty classy about it, but there was about a ten second period where at least I was pretty mortified and I'm sure she wasn't close behind. Good times...

Grebe was kind enough to let me crash at his place after some very late night snacking and we awoke the next morning and began our day with, simply put, the best coffee I've ever had at this little Vietnamese hole in the wall coffee shop. Seriously, the best. The process, I fear, I'll botch in explanation, but they seemed to grind each bean individually and had pour the hot water over the top of it. Sounds simple enough, but somewhere in the process, greatness was added in a heaping portion. Grebe and I grabbed two cups a piece and a Vietnamese brunch in between. I learned my lesson from the Malaysian bistro and didn't ask for anything "extra spicy." A great meal. Always great to let Grebe take my taste buds on a world tour. Grebe and I then spent the day taking a heck of a walk to the high line (the first time I'd seen it) and, man, it was awesome. I mean, it was the dead of winter and we were freezing and it was still a beautiful. In the spring and summer when the fauna ("a shot from afar" saying) is in full bloom, it must be unreal. Can't wait to see it then and when the extension is complete. On the way back, this poor girl did indeed slip on some ice on the sidewalk and fall flat on her rump. Grebe and I helped her up and collected her belongings, after partaking in the outright involuntary "OOOOOOOOHHHHHHH!" which let's the faller know that indeed we saw her moment of embarrassment, and those within earshot know that they missed something noteworthy. We then congratulated ourselves for being such good Samaritans and noted that if we were on "What Would You Do?" we would have been lauded for our conduct. Maybe the Dirk jersey isn't my only glimmer of vanity.

A bit more to the Grebe visit, I suppose, but a lot of it stems from just us conversing (largely about things Grebe used to "not be a big believer in") and the fact that Grebe took the time to chase down a woman to take our picture rather than just moving on and asking someone else to do it. Not much to blog about, but I can only close this piece by saying it's always mind expanding to speak to Grebe and offers a nice buzz, so to speak. I am very fortunate to have spent such special moments with special people this past weekend and I owe them the world for being an oasis in the middle of life's madness. 

Until next time. 

Song of the Day: Close to Honesty - Good Old War
Jazz Song of the Day: Revillot - David Weiss & (Yes, Jamin, an ampersand) The Point of Departure Quintet