Sing-Along Study Break

Things have gotten busy for me lately, as evidenced by the fact that it took me two weeks to report on my one day spent in Philadelphia.  The school work at NYU has really picked up!  Since Friday, I’ve had a major presentation and one mid-term, with another test soon to come.  Never mind the fact that I’m already being inundated with e-mails about registering for next semester’s courses and further planning out my course of study.  My time for adventuring and jackassery has been significantly curtailed!

Still, I’m really enjoying the program.  I’ve learned some very interesting and useful things, and I’ve met some great people.  The course work isn’t so daunting, as long as I keep things in perspective.  For example, whenever I felt my eyes crossing as I reviewed the minutiae of First Amendment protections ahead of last night’s exam, I would just take a moment to refocus.  And I find a very simple way to do that is through song.  I don’t know if any of you other students out there agree, but even if this method doesn’t work for you, watching me apply it might have the same effect.

Wish me luck on my second (and likely tougher) mid-term!  And feel free to offer up suggestions for a song to rock out to during finals!

~ T

The Big Cheese(steak)

Last month, my cousin Dan graduated from his culinary arts program in Philadelphia.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t make it to his graduation or the subsequent shindig.  I felt bad about that, seeing as how he worked very hard to get his diploma, and how he and his branch of the family tree always hauled ass across the tri-state area for any of my academic accomplishments.  Thanks to Christopher Columbus and the lay-about work ethic of show business, I had a three-day weekend to burn earlier this month, and I decided to spend part of it with my Jersey relatives in America’s revolutionary center, having some belated celebrations.

Food-adelphia

As a native near-New Yorker, equipped with all the appropriate municipal snobbery that comes with that, I have to say that I never really thought of Philadelphia as having any claims to fame beyond its neat historical sites and self-flagellating sports fans.  I wasn’t surprised that there was a culinary school for my cousin to attend there.  It’s a major cosmopolitan city, after all.  What I was surprised by was the variety of food you can find in Philly, and the obvious love its citizens have for food.

For proof of this, go no further than the Reading Terminal Market.  Formerly a busy train station, the Reading Terminal Market is now a permanent indoor marketplace, where you can order cuts of red meat while daintily enjoying your crepes, or have a gyro while browsing the fresh organic veggies.  This rollicking food orgy is a complete overload on your senses, what with all the sights, smells, and crowds.  This is where I first met the rellies upon arriving in Philly, and in the near hour we spent gliding up and down the narrow aisles on trails of our own gluttonous drool, I don’t think we saw half of what the Reading Terminal Market has to offer.  If you like to eat (and if you don’t, we should probably stop associating with each other), this place has to go on your bucket list.  I endorse it, and so does my cousin, the chef.

(For the record, I purchased a large turkey sandwich with cranberry, stuffing, and horseradish sauce.  Essentially, it was Thanksgiving dinner on whole wheat bread.  Oh, and I got a side of creamed spinach.  Just because it was there.)

Foot-adelphia

Another thing I take inordinate pride in as a city-dweller is not having a car.  I walk everywhere.  When I have to, I use mass transit; but I enjoy walking around, especially in places I haven’t been before.

The center city portion of Philadelphia is very pedestrian-friendly.  From Reading Terminal Market, we walked north to my cousin’s apartment, then meandered back into the thick of things along Walnut and Market Streets.  By the end of the day, we had covered about five miles.  Hardly an adventuring record, but still a nice taste of the neighborhood.

While the sidewalks on these main thoroughfares can’t compare to those along the wide avenues of Manhattan, Philly wasn’t crowded that weekend, which made our explorations easier.  I also have to applaud those residents of Philadelphia who were present for understanding that in a thriving metropolis, it is never permissible to do the mall crawl.  Thank you, my friends on the northeast corridor, for knowing how to use your legs properly.

It was a gorgeous day and a holiday weekend, so there was plenty to see as we wandered.  Somewhere between Rittenhouse Square and Independence Hall, we found ourselves walking through a street fair.  We couldn’t figure out what the purpose of the festivities were, until one of my cousins remarked that he had seen ads for the upcoming Philadelphia OutFest.  Confirming his assumption, my aunt and I spotted a sign inviting everyone to return the next day for the “Homo Ho Down”.

City of Brotherly Love,  indeed.

Phila-drink-ia

Though my aunt and uncle have long been the family sommeliers, Chef Dan has nosed in, pun intended, with his new-found professional knowledge of libations.  When it comes to alcoholic beverages, my palette only has two settings: good and bad.  That’s not to say that I didn’t appreciate the many glasses of wine and beer that were consumed throughout the day.  My relations only drink the best!  Most of our drinks were had at the famous Monk’s Cafe, where my cousin has been honing his culinary skills.  This should be a definite stop for the serious foodies who visit The Honestly Blog.  I was still full from lunch, but I wish I’d had room to sample stuff on the Monk’s menu.

Phila-dance-ia

After our pit stop at Monk’s, my aunt and uncle headed home, and left us young bucks to revel in the city for the night.  My other cousin, Tom, was playing with his band at a bar with the hilarious name Kung Fu Necktie.  We drove to the bar, given that he had an entire drum set carefully packed away in his four-door sedan.  Kung Fu Necktie is in a corner of northern Philadelphia that is eerily similar to 161st Street in the Bronx, what with the overhead train tracks and drivers’ complete disregard for traffic laws.  I helped Tom unpack the car, which meant I got to add this evening to the scant list of times I’ve been able to say to someone in a position of authority, “I’m with the band.”

Tom and his guys were performing in the upstairs venue at Kung Fu Necktie, which alternately made me feel like I was in a frat house or the canteen at sleep-away camp.  There was a pool table and some video games, but also lots of beat-up furniture, bros, and, of course, beer.  The fact that the first band sang a special kind of full-throated “no one understands me” metal just amplified the sensation that I had time traveled into someone’s basement.

I went down to the main bar to wait until Tom’s band was on.  I got to catch up with one of my college friends who now calls Philly her home, as she was kind enough to journey out to this particular corner of town for a visit.  More beer was had, and even before Tom’s band went on, the dancing had begun.  Kung Fu Necktie isn’t particularly conducive to dancing, especially not in the smaller upstairs area, but Lauren and I had our fun nonetheless.

Tom’s band sounded great, even through the ear plugs he correctly insisted we wear.  They cleared out for the fourth and final act.  More beers were had.  There was a bit more dancing, and some amusing photographs were taken (none of which were really suitable for publication here).  By 1:00, the drums and Yours Truly were both safely loaded into Tom’s car, and by the time the car was in drive, I was fast asleep.  What do you want from me?  It was a long day, I’ve never had a high tolerance for alcohol, and like most babies, I find the motion and hum of an automobile to be incredibly soothing.

I returned home the following morning, once again surprised at just how much adventure I had been able to cram in to a measly twelve hours.  Congratulations again to Dan, and thanks to him and the rest of the fam for showing me a good time in Philadelphia.  You see, readers?  There is life beyond New York!

~ T

Post-Season Predictions from Tripp

As promised, I’m going to be featuring some guest writers here on The Honestly Blog.  Our first guest writer is an old favorite and prior contributor, baseball enthusiast Tripp Williams.  Tripp did me the immense favor of offering up his post-season predictions from all the way across the pond.  At press time, the first round of play-offs are under way, and current results will be included below.  As always, content has been edited for space, grammar, and Yankee bashing.

Yesterday, it seems, we were waxing poetic about the hopes that each baseball fan enjoys in March and April, when Spring intoxicates us with “Up and coming prospects!” lists and “Top Ten Reasons why your team will make the playoffs this year” adverts.  Now, at the other end of the proving ground that is the regular season, most of us find our proverbial team ships of hope battered and wind-blown, scuttling back to the harbor for a winter overhaul.  Only the lucky few – yeah, Tyler, you’re one of them – get to see if a turn on the open ocean will bring post-season glory.  But who will last?

ALDS: New York Yankees vs. Baltimore Orioles
I expect the Yankees to compete in their series, like they normally do. I have a sense that the Yanks have been looking over their shoulder for a good part of the season, eyes widening as the Orioles kept pace right until the bitter end.  The Pinstripers won’t be intimidated, of course, but then again I don’t think the Orioles will be either.  The O’s are young enough to not know any better than to think they’ll win the whole thing this year – kind of like the Rays in 2008.  This will be an intriguing match-up, but I’ll go with the Yankees by way of their knowing how to win.  I’ll be more than happy to admit the error of my ways if the Orioles advance, though, and will likely cheer for their exuberance and passion as long as they’re in the playoffs.  I mean, honestly – who doesn’t like to root for a team, and a city, that’s been irrelevant for over a decade, the roster of which is made up of kids who play their hearts out?  Except for Tyler.  Prediction: Yankees in 5.
(The Yankees currently lead the series, 1-0.  So, suck it.)

ALDS: Oakland Athletics vs. Detroit Tigers
The Oakland A’s have pulled off one of the sneakiest division title victories in quite some time.  Buoyed by all the talk of Moneyball, and the acquisition of Yoenis Cespedes (you be the judge which had more of an impact), the A’s carried the banner this year for mid-market franchises and go into the postseason, one would think, pretty darn confident.  I like the A’s… but the firepower of the Tigers is tough to ignore.  Detroit seemed to do just enough throughout the year to make it into the playoffs, and now, like an experienced marathon runner, seem ready to let loose the kick they saved for the last stretch of the race.  I think the A’s still have a good shot, considering their consistency throughout the year and their grit and toughness.  This will be a good matchup, especially in the middle games of the series.  I admit it – I saw that the Tigers won Game 1.  All the same… Prediction: A’s in 5.
(Detroit currently leads the series, 2-0.)

NLDS: Cincinnati Reds vs. San Francisco Giants
The NL presents a Reds-Giants match-up that is a little bit off the radar, if for no other reason than because the Reds had a sneaky great year and are a darn good team.  They ended up just behind the Nationals with the second best record in baseball, which isn’t an accident.  With playoff experience from last year, their young lineup will likely be well positioned to make a run this post-season.  The Giants come into the playoffs off of a strong finish to the regular season, but they have some uncertainties in their rotation.  If Timmy had had a good year, like any of his last four, I would be quick to explain that the Giants present a nasty playoff pitching rotation.  But that assertion doesn’t ring nearly as true when Matt Cain is the number one, instead of the 1A, and Timmy is dropped down to the starter for Game 3.  Without the confidence in the pitching staff going into the playoffs, the Giants are vulnerable.  Both offenses can hit the ball; like in every series, this one will come down to pitching.  Loyalty requires that I go with the Giants.  I have no misgivings. Prediction: Giants in 4.
(The Reds currently lead the series 2-0.  This could be a tough deficit to surmount; but if anyone can be a hero, it’s little Timmy.)

NLDS: Washington Nationals vs. St. Louis Cardinals
The Nationals and the Cardinals will be fun to watch.  DC has been playoff baseball deprived for decades, and the atmosphere in National’s Park will be electric.  The Cardinals are making their 2012 run in defense of their World Series title from last year.  They decided, consciously I suppose, to follow the script from last year – make the playoffs by a razor-thin margin – because it worked so darn well.  They are a crafty bunch, seasoned professionals way ahead of the Nats in terms of experience.  The Nationals are a good team, and they play with an energy that will only be amplified by the playoff atmosphere.  I expect they’ll get off to a quick start and stay ahead.  They will miss Mr. Strasburg.  How the Nationals managed to work it so that their number one pitcher would miss the playoffs is still just a little bit baffling to me.  All the same, the stage is set for Bryce Harper to take the next step up the ladder of stardom, and the rest of the squad will be poised to help make 2012 a positive year in the annals of DC baseball history.  Prediction: Nationals in 4.
(The Nationals currently lead the series, 1-0.)

ALCS Prediction: New York Yankees vs. Oakland Athletics
The Yankees and the A’s – David and Goliath.  This match-up would be a network executive’s nightmare but a fan’s delight.  The cross-country element makes it that much more enticing, pitting the punk Californians against the utmost professional Pinstripers.  When the Yankees win, baseball wins – more people watch, and the games just have a feeling of being that much more relevant.  But if the A’s are able to pull this off and make it to the World Series, hope will fill the heart of every Royals, Pirates, Mariners, Astros, Marlins, and every other middling team’s fan.  And for the A’s to advance while the Rangers and Angels watch on TV?  What could be sweeter for anyone who has ever rooted for the little guy?  Fun fact? The Yankees’ two highest paid players (Alex Rodriguez and CC Sabathia) make more ($30 million and $24.2 million, respectively) than the entire A’s roster ($49.1 million).  When you have a team who hasn’t spent the coin required to sit in the proverbial luxury box of professional sports, and yet DOES win?  It’s a great game. Prediction: for baseball’s sake, Yankees in 6.  What I hope for?  A’s in 7.

NLCS Prediction: San Francisco Giants vs. Washington Nationals
The Giants and the Nationals will feature two high-energy teams hungry for the NL crown.  The match-up will be pretty even on paper: decent pitching that drops off further down in the rotation, a couple of hitters in each lineup that can strike fear in the hearts of opponents (Zimmerman, Werth, and LaRoche for the Nats; Posey and Sandoval for the Giants).  Because of the parity between the clubs, I would expect this to be a long series.  The hole left by Strasburg will seem even larger in this series, as he would have been able to have a greater impact over the course of seven games.  Similarly, Timmy’s struggles will be more acutely felt – lining him up to pitch games 1, 4, and 7 isn’t an option.  Matt Cain is an able number 1, but any team that can have two top-tier pitchers share the physical and emotional burden of being that team’s go-to guy is better off than normal.  I’ll be happy with either team winning.  For the intrigue of the match-up, I’ll choose the Giants in 6.  I’ll be far from unhappy, though, if the Nats pull this off.

World Series Prediction: ??? vs. ???
The Oakland A’s and the Washington Nationals.  To think that either of these teams, let alone both, would make the World Series, let alone the play-offs, is pretty wild.  And I would love it.  The energy would be great, with each city capital-C celebrating their team’s return to competitiveness.  I mentioned earlier that baseball wins when the Yankees win; ratings climb, national coverage seems better, etc.  But maybe what baseball needs is a World Series featuring two upstarts like the A’s and Nationals, two teams that kind of defy the odds a little bit in their respective climbs to the top.  You may argue that the Cardinals played that role last year, or that the story line isn’t nearly as exciting as I’m playing it up to be.  My rejoinder would be twofold: 1. The Cardinals are an extraordinarily successful franchise.  They won the World Series in 2006.  For them to be successful is neither unexpected nor new. 2. Last year’s playoffs, even with the very successful Cardinals winning it all, was incredibly exciting.  The A’s and the Nationals could provide baseball with the shot in the arm it seems to need pretty regularly now, injecting enthusiasm and hope into all the other markets and fanbases who have mired in obscurity for several years.  I speak from experience – the Mariners have mastered the art of finishing under .500.  For rejuvenation’s sake, let’s see the A’s and the Nationals! Prediction/hope: A’s in 7.

Tripp Williams is currently studying at the London School of Economics, which will become a crucial point on his resume when he runs for president in twenty years.  As a Seattle-area native, he has acclimated flawlessly to the London weather.  Contrary to popular reports, he is not dating Pippa Middleton.  Yet.

Presidential Debate Bingo

Hello, citizens!  Ahead of tomorrow night’s first presidential debate, I thought I might encourage you to be an active participant in your democracy by turning what might be a droll 90 minutes into a healthy competition amongst friends.

Below, you will find all the materials necessary for Presidential Debate Bingo!  Here’s how to play:

1) Open and print out the Presidential Debate Bingo boards and the Bingo Word Bank from the links at the bottom of this post.
2) Choose one of the two candidates, and take the board with that candidate’s name at the top.
3) Using the choices within the Word Bank, fill in the empty squares of your board with the words or phrases you think will most likely be mentioned during the debate.  One item per square, naturally.
4) When your candidate says one of the words or phrases on your board, mark off the corresponding square.
5) Keep playing until your achieve Presidential Debate Bingo!

So tune in tomorrow.  I promise it’ll be fun.  Play with friends.  Have your own Presidential Debate Bingo Party!  You can easily turn it into a drinking game, if that might attract more people to your gathering.  When have alcohol and politics not mixed well?

Oh.  Right.  Never mind.

Game on, voters!

Bingo Obama Board
Bingo Romney Board
Bingo Word Bank

~ T

Put Me In, Coach

Late last night, an announcement was made that the NFL had reached an agreement with its locked-out referees.  This marks the first time that officials in a sport have received louder cheers from the fans than they give for the players.  It’s likely that no one would have really noticed that the NFL’s official officials were off the job, had their replacements not screwed up as frequently and as obviously as they did.

This was one for the ages.

Yet I hold a tiny bit of empathy for the replacement refs.  If nothing else, they demonstrated just how hard the job of officiating a game actually is; and that got me thinking.  There’s no chance I could ever play a professional sport…but could I officiate one?

When considering the four major American sport leagues, my options are narrowed down pretty quickly.  I can’t skate, so there goes hockey.  I don’t know enough about basketball to call anything more than traveling or a three-second violation.  Plus, I’d probably get winded real fast moving up and down the court.  I think officiating basketball would be like doing the world’s longest shuttle run, and that would make me loathe to suit up and don my whistle.  Football has a thicker rule book than the Securities and Exchange Commission does, and the corresponding sign language would stymy even Helen Keller.  Plus, there’s entirely too much to keep track of on the field at any given moment.  So that leaves baseball.

Should Major League Baseball ever find itself in a situation where they needed me to be an umpire, I think they’d be in good hands.  I wouldn’t go so far as to say I could lead the crew and call balls and strikes from behind home plate.  For one thing, I doubt I could accurately judge the placement of a baseball as it came towards me in excess of 80 miles per hour.  For another, home plate umpires take the most shit.  Sure, you can toss a guy from the game if he’s giving you too much lip, but truthfully, if I had someone like Brett Lawrie or Ozzie Guillen screaming in my face, I’d probably just collapse into the fetal position outside the batter’s box.

I couldn’t be the first base umpire.  Too many close calls there, which could also lead to confrontation.  Second base umpire doesn’t seem as stressful, but you constantly have to be getting out of the way of the action.  It wouldn’t be too long before I got clocked with a line drive or tripped up Chase Utley on his way to throw the double play to first.  So that leaves me at third.  Third base seems like a good fit.  You stand in foul territory, so you can’t really louse up a play.  Statistically, there are far fewer close calls to be made on that side of the ballpark.  Your only real moments of judiciary supremacy come from a checked swing.  And depending on your schedule, you’d be guaranteed at least a few nights standing next to these handsome fellas.

But what about the other popular sports in America?  Could I earn my zebra stripes as a ref in one of those?  Soccer’s out.  If I couldn’t handle running the hardwood at an NBA game, I’d be hard pressed to keep up on a playing field as massive as soccer’s.  Golf doesn’t have referees, thank God.  Can you imagine?  That’d be just about the only way to make golf more boring.  There are no refs in NASCAR because there are no rules in NASCAR–and at the risk of losing my redneck readership, it isn’t a sport anyway.  I’m entirely too squeamish to call a boxing or MMA match.  So that leaves me with one other alternative.

Yes, tennis.  And I wouldn’t be one of the line judges in the back court.  No, sir.  I’d be the chair umpire.  Why?  You get to sit in a giant lifeguard’s chair, which is not only shaded but full of hiding places for snacks and beverages.  You get a ridiculously large microphone.  You govern not only the behavior of the players, but of the crowd , as well.  And you’re in an excellent position to throw things at those poor orphans the ATP uses to scurry after balls when they’re hit into the net.

Donk!

(I’m kidding about the orphan thing.  Maybe.)

Even if it would be fun to umpire in baseball or tennis, I think I’ll leave it to the professionals for now.  Besides, there are plenty of things I already excel at judging: musicals, cake, and, generally, people.  Why would I leave all that behind?

~ T

The Three Amigos

The only downside that I faced when I enrolled for my studies at NYU was that it would mean a significant reduction of my spare time, and thus fewer opportunities for adventure.  Three weeks into my program, I already have a lot to handle; but sometimes, the Powers That Be throw you a bone when you least expect it.  So it was that I found myself reunited with two of my best friends from college this past weekend for a brief twenty-four hours.

Readers might recall my previous adventures with Kevin, the aspiring doctor who’s more Bruce Banner than Jonas Salk.  This visit with Kev would be all the more special because it would include our pal Brian.  I met Brian during my sophomore year of college.  He transferred to our school and joined the soccer team, and quickly fell in with Kevin.  They were a complimentary duo: Kevin, the gregarious alpha dog, tripping over his own paws to be everywhere at once; Brian, the lone wolf, who couldn’t be a nicer guy, but always preferred to keep a little distance between himself and the shenanigans he was often led to.  I was usually somewhere in the middle, which worked out well; any time I thought one of Kevin’s bright ideas was crossing the line from awesome to life-threatening, Brian was usually there to second my concerns.

File Photo: November, 2005. Our combined weight has remained the same. I’ve just decided to share the wealth a little more.

The reason I was so excited to have Brian included was that he is notoriously difficult to get ahold of.  Yes, it had been a while since I’d seen Kevin, but that was because he was studying overseas.  Brian is just plain elusive.  I saw him more frequently when he lived in Harrisburg, PA than I do now that he lives in Brooklyn.  Giving credit where credit is due, I will say that he was the one who instigated this most recent adventure.

I met Brian at noon on Saturday to take the Bolt Bus to Boston where Kevin would be waiting.  (Side note: “Bolt Bus to Boston” would be an excellent name for a Depression Era musical revue.)  I’ve somehow managed to go this long without using the Bolt Bus, and I have to recommend it.  My only complaint was with the woman sitting across the aisle from me, who kept stuffing her face with an enormous Rice Krispie treat despite the fact that she choked more and more with each chunk she tore out of the Snap, Crackle, and Pop family reunion.

Kevin picked us up in Boston and we drove to his brother’s house, where a large party was already under way.  Kevin had sold this to me and Brian as a birthday party for himself, but it became pretty clear that this was just a gathering of his brother’s friends, and Kevin used it as a (perfectly valid) excuse to have us come visit.

Kevin is the youngest of his siblings by a wide margin, which meant that most of his brother’s friends were attending with their spouses and children.  Add on the fact that Kev’s an uncle many times over, and you can get an idea of just how many lil’ pookas were running around.  In addition to the small children, there was one large dog at the party.  Kevin’s brother Chad is a police officer, whose specialty is heading the K-9 unit.  This has meant that every time I’ve visited Kevin and his family, Chad’s household has included one or two German Shepherds that were larger than any actual Germans I’ve known.  This visit was no different, with Buzzy the police dog, who was just as eager to join the fun as the kids were, and just as clumsy.

Good Buzzy. Stay…stay…

When we weren’t taking turns at the buffet Chad had set up (an impressive spread that included heroes, hot dogs, and the most comically over-sized rectangular pizza I’ve ever seen), the three of us sat by the fire pit in the backyard.  As the night got colder and the party-goers got bolder, the fire grew with each passing object that was tossed into it.  When chopped wood was in short supply, stray branches and twigs were used to keep the flames going.  Eventually empty beer cases, old carpeting, and a decaying shrubbery were all sacrificed to the pit.  Since half the people in attendance were police officers or firemen, we felt safe with this otherwise questionable activity.

In addition to Kev’s girlfriend, Kristen, we were joined fireside by our fourth Musketeer, Kevin’s six-year-old nephew, Evan.  Brian kept Evan entertained by spinning some wildly convoluted story about he and Kevin as little kids, which was parts Twilight Zone, Treasure Island, and even The Picture of Dorian Gray, liberally shot through with instances of young, fictional Kevin peeing his pants in terror.

When the party ended, the original plan was for Brian, Kevin, and myself to sleep in Chad’s camper, which in my eyes was story-telling gold.  Unfortunately, I was denied this narrative jack-pot, as we wound up staying at Kristen’s house; because as we’ve all learned, Kevin is easily frightened and might pee his pants if left alone in the dark.  Kev’s weakness wound up being to our benefit, as Brian woke up sick, a situation that would have likely been made worse if we had slept in the great outdoors.  He wound up being all right, of course.  I only mention it as an opportunity to use this GIF file, which is pretty much definitive of how I saw future doctor Kevin caring for ailing Brian, and of their relationship as best friends.

Our ride back from Massachusetts was incredibly fast for a Sunday afternoon, which was another blessing for Brian.  I was back in my apartment by 5:30, astonished at how much I’d just managed to cram into the weekend.  I always jump at any chance to see Kevin and Brian, no matter how brief the visit might be.  They’re those special kind of friends who, no matter how long you may go without seeing them, when you’re with them it feels like no time’s passed at all.

Even if it’s clear that time has, indeed, passed.

~ T

The Comedy of ER-rors

After spending the better part of Sunday soaking up the last bit of summer sunshine, I returned to my apartment to do some homework and to honor my pledge to author content for The Honestly Blog once a week.  I was going to write about my first week as a student, stepping back into the world of academia after six years; but frankly, I wasn’t convinced that would make for enjoyable reading.  Since brainstorming, like most human functions, is always improved by eating, I decided to make some dinner and hope that inspiration might leap up from the stove top.

Among the ingredients for Margie’s Mexican chicken (recipe available upon request) are black beans.  I always buy the tiniest can I can find, because even the tiniest can seems to hold a whole harvest’s worth of beans.  Because these cans are so tiny, they come equipped with a little pop-top pull-back ring, since your average can opener would mangle them.  Last night, however, the roles were reversed, and I was the one who was mangled.

The cut across my finger didn’t seem particularly deep, and it wasn’t even that painful; but this thing bled like you wouldn’t believe.  It was almost comical the amount of hemoglobin I was spraying into the sink.  Trying to stanch the flow with some paper towels was like taking an old janitor’s mop to the Ninth Ward after Katrina.  Since the wound showed no sign of clotting on its own, I called out to my roommate, Vignesh.  This was not a scene he was expecting to stumble upon during a leisurely evening spent watching tennis.  His eyes widened to softball size as I, still bleeding like a comparatively lucky member of the Crazy 88, asked him to see if our downstairs neighbor, Greg, was home to drive me to the emergency room.

I think the poor kid took the stairs three at a time.

Fortunately, Greg was home.  Jersey City Medical Center isn’t far from our building, and I was able to avoid staining the leather interior of Greg’s car during our brief drive.  Considering that I had no way of gauging the true severity of my wound, I was in a comparatively jovial mood.  The only real frustration I felt, beyond making the initial bone-headed injury, came when I hopped out of Greg’s car and my left flip-flop broke apart.

Now imagine you’re the receptionist at the ER.  In walks a young man, a wad of blood-soaked Brawny paper towels held tightly over his left hand, with no shoes on.  You’d be forgiven for giving him a strange look, or even laughing.  Maybe you’d want to ask some questions.  But the receptionist at the ER on Sunday evening was too sweet to do any of that.  She took down my basic info and had me take a seat in the waiting room.  Seated directly across from me was a guy with his ring finger similarly bandaged, though without the blood stains.

“What happened to you?” I asked after we had acknowledged our similar predicaments.

“Got caught in a ladder,” he replied.  “You?”

“Cut myself cooking,” I said.  I was still a touch embarrassed that I had been felled by packaged legumes.  He didn’t need every last detail.

Throughout our brief bonding, which in my warped perspective recalled an early scene in something like Stalag 17 or The Dirty Dozen, this man’s wife was staring at me and my hands in absolute horror.  She’d occasionally fix me with a disapproving gaze, as if I was flaunting my injury, trying to show up her husband.  This isn’t a contest, ma’am, I was thinking.  Your husband’s finger probably looks like Alpo underneath his bandages.  How about a little less judgment and a little more sympathy?

A nurse took me inside to get some more vital statistics and to properly dress my wound.  While his handiwork may have been prettier, it was no more successful in stopping the bleeding.  I was sent back out to the waiting room until another receptionist called my name and directed me to a small office where I would be formally processed as a patient.  This involved giving the hospital employee my emergency contact information, my insurance information, and so on.

Now, this piece of writing wasn’t intended to be an expose on the American health care system, and I’m sure that on a scale from zero to shark attack, my injury was far from the worst thing that this emergency room has seen.  But it did seem slightly disjointed to me that I was being asked to fill out paperwork regarding treatment before actually receiving treatment.  When the woman asked me to sign, I said, “Do you have a pen you aren’t particularly attached to?”, and held up my splayed red hands, looking for all the world like a zombie Bob Fosse.  “I’ll just find you before you leave,” she said, pulling her papers away from the splash zone.

About fifteen minutes later, I was taken back to a proper examination room.  While I waited for a doctor, my phone buzzed.  It was neighborhood hero Greg, texting to check in on me.  His kind-hearted message was immediately followed by another which read, “I just realized that texting might be difficult for you right now.”

Greg wasn’t the only one to rib me about my predicament.  When I explained to the next nurse I saw that I had lost a fight with a can of beans, she sighed and said, “Now why would you go and do a thing like that?”  And when the doctor arrived and heard my tale of woe, she smirked and said, “Well, now, that was a silly thing to do.”  Thankfully, neither of them inquired about my missing footwear.  Perhaps it was just too easy a mark.

Much to my surprise (and theirs), removal of my bandages revealed that the bleeding had finally stopped.  This was a relief, since it seemed as if I had already lost about four Capri-Suns worth of blood.  It also meant they could get to work repairing me.  They told me I wouldn’t need stitches, which was good news.  But then I wondered how exactly they planned to fix me, since this was more than a band-aid and some neosporin could heal.

The solution?  Tissue glue.  From a tiny, liquid chapstick-looking packet, the doctor began painting my fingertip with what she described as “crazy glue for the skin”.  Holy fuck, science!  Skin glue?  This kind of thing exists?  What other treasures from the future are hidden in emergency rooms across the land?

While the glue began to dry, the nurse began aggressively bandaging my finger.  As a result of her thorough handiwork, my left hand now looks like it has four fingers and a marshmallow.  She also put a splint on it to keep it immobilized, since the cut was close to a knuckle, and because she wanted me to get maximum sympathy from friends and co-workers.  I told you these people were funny.  The only downside to this is that I have to keep my hand perfectly dry for at least 24 hours, and caged inside the splint for the better part of the week, which means no exercising.  I thought maybe I could get away with doing some running, but then I remembered that the only bodily expulsion I experience more profusely than bleeding, apparently, is sweating.

Fully treated, and no longer looking like an Act V Lady Macbeth, I went back to the waiting room to finish my paperwork.  Greg was kind enough to come pick me up when I was finished.  The whole ordeal took about two and a half hours.  After I let my mother know what had happened (because I’m a good son that way), I went back into the kitchen and finished making Margie’s Mexican chicken, because otherwise the terrorists win.  I also made sure that Vignesh wasn’t suffering from any post-traumatic symptoms.  He’ll be fine.

There are quite a few lessons to take away from my first visit to the emergency room.  For one thing, I’m not nearly as big a wuss as I thought I was.  Good neighbors are a blessing.  The staff at the Jersey City Medical Center is friendly, helpful and humorous.  And given the incredible circulation of blood through my hand, it seems the crude old adage is true: beans really are good for your heart.

~ T

Version 3.0

Hello again, readers new and old.  It’s your friendly blogmaster, returned after an extended absence from the interwebs.  We’ve got a lot to catch up on!  I’ll start by explaining exactly why The Honestly Blog has been dormant for so long.

The main reason that I wasn’t blogging this year was because I was spending most of it undertaking a project that I wasn’t comfortable having on the public record.  That project was applying to graduate school.  From Christmastime through the middle of February, I was hitting the books for at least 90 minutes each night, studying for the GREs.  After that, springtime was spent working on application essays, accumulating writing samples, and seeking letters of recommendation.  My applications went out right before Easter, and I am happy to report that it was about a month later that I found out I had been accepted to the School of Continuing and Professional Studies at NYU.  Starting very soon–Tuesday, in fact–I will begin my course of study towards my masters degree in public relations and corporate communications.

The eternal flame of knowledge…or an albino artichoke

Now you might be thinking, “But Tyler, that’s awesome!  You write so well and you’re so engaging and so effortlessly handsome that this program sounds like it’s tailor-made for you.”  (You are thinking that, aren’t you?)  “Why wouldn’t you be shouting that from the digital rooftops?”  Well, you rascally flatterers you, the reason I was keeping this under wraps was because I hadn’t told anyone at work that I was pursuing this.  To be as frank as I can be, this has not been a very good year for me on the job.  2012 has been a year of extreme ups and downs in the office. Our normally slow summer was upended by the much deserved yet unexpected retirement of one of my bosses.  It was only in the last two weeks that we wrapped up the majority of the unfinished business left in her wake, and it was only then that I felt comfortable sharing with my remaining employers that I would be spending my evenings learning how to make myself a more marketable applicant to other businesses.  Since I can only afford to go to school at night if I keep my job during the day, the whole situation has required a level of decorum I usually wouldn’t have to keep.

The air might be cleared now, but that doesn’t mean that I can go back to being a blogging machine.  Given the amount of schoolwork I have coming my way and the rigorous standards of the program (less than 3.0 each term and you’re out on your ass!), I’m afraid that my postings may not be as frequent or as lengthy as in the past.  Couple my course load with the fact that I’m also going to be actively searching for new employment (that retirement doesn’t seem to be yielding any promotions), and you can imagine just how little spare time I  might have.  But I also recognize that the months ahead are going to be very strenuous, and I’m going to need an outlet, a place to turn when I near a burn-out, a way to exercise the wackier parts of my brain, a place where everyone knows my name…wait, scratch that last one…

So my game plan for The Honestly Blog is to write one post each week; a weekly installment of the shenanigans and sass you’ve come to enjoy over these past few years.  I’m hoping to write about a wide variety of things in an array of different styles; maybe have some guest writers; perhaps even experiment with video content.  I hope you’ll continue to drop by.  I’ve also become quite a Twitter fiend this year, so follow my bird to get some giggles on your smart phone in 140 characters or less.

Before I give you the abridged run-down of my 2012 adventures thus far, I have to give a special thank you to my family and friends who persisted in getting me back to writing this blog.  Special shout-outs go to the kickball gang (especially fellow blogger Jill), my bestest best friend and budding blogger herself, Lauren, and no less a cewebrity than the talented J.T. Riley, whose prodigious and enjoyable output can be tracked via his Twitter.  Mille grazie, everyone!

So, what else was I doing while operating in Sith-like secrecy?  Well, the first thing I did after taking the GRE was to get on a plane bound for Austin, TX!  Literally, I went from the test location to the airport.  A handful of Hobos and I went to the liberal center of the Lone Star State to cheer on one of our own, Stacy, while she ran the Austin marathon.  She set a new personal best with her running, and I set a new personal best eating ribs.  Success all around!  Other far-off adventures this year have included a visit to Syracuse and its surroundings to see my pal Stef, an extra-long Fourth of July holiday in the Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts with most of my cousins, and more trips to the Long Island beaches than I can recall making in previous summers.  There were many more local adventures as well: nights out in Hoboken and Jersey City, and the annual multi-borough epic affair known as Handicapable Ice Cream Day, a weekend whose history would require a posting of its own to fully explain.

An aquatic event on this year’s Summer Olympic-themed Handicapable Ice Cream Day

There were sporting events aplenty.  My brother and I sat twenty rows off the floor of the Prudential Center when Blake Griffin and the Clippers came to town to play the Nets, I made numerous trips to both Yankee Stadium and Citi Field, and I even won a few shekels at the Belmont Stakes.  Sadly, my kickball days are over, as my NYU schedule won’t allow enough time for that much drinking athleticism.

There were cultural outings, as well.  For every excellent book I read (Chad Harbach’s The Art of Fielding being the best among them), I saw a terrible movie (Honestly, Prometheus?).  I saw musicals good (Now. Here. This.), bad (Merrily We Roll Along), and ugly (Leap of Faith).  I made my first trip to the Metropolitan Opera.  I also hit a few concerts, including my favorite one to date: the incomparable, insatiable, insane Scissor Sisters.  Don’t take my word for it; Anderson Cooper was there right next to me.  (No, really, he was.  I got a drink at the bar, turned to walk away, and bam–Silver Fox!)

Scissor Sisters having a kiki at Bowery Ballroom

And if, like me, you’re in your late twenties and actively maintaining a social life, you probably spent your summer going from one wedding to another.  I know I did, and I wouldn’t have wanted to spend those weekends any other way.  Each celebration was special in its own way, and each of them was an absolute blast.  Congratulations again to Christina and Charlie, Matt and Jess, and Kaitlyn and Matt!  May you spend Summer 2013 judging other people’s nuptials against your own.  They’ll be tough to beat.

That about brings you up to speed, faithful readers.  It’s Labor Day weekend now, the unofficial end of summer.  Big changes are about to take shape, and I’m looking forward to them.  Stay tuned.

~ T

A Winter Update

Bless me, bloggers, for I have sinned.  It has been six weeks since my last posting.

I should know by now that my writing output is one of the most obvious things to suffer during my self-imposed hibernation.  But just because I haven’t been reporting on my goings-on doesn’t mean that they haven’t been happening.  Let me fill you in…

I’ve stayed active.  Knowing that my metabolism slows as the temperature lowers, and that there are plenty of treats to be had this time of year, I’ve added in extra work-outs with my buddy, Alex.  He finally wore me down and got me to agree to try the Insanity Workout program.  So here’s a taste of what he and I get up to three times a week.

Insanity Workout

A more leisurely athletic accomplishment came just before Thanksgiving, when my fellow agents and I finally defeated the casting directors at show biz softball!  I went 4 for 4 at the plate during our 17-7 drubbing of our dreaded opponents.  There was the typical trash-talking and dirt-kicking, but when all was said and done, we still got together at a dive bar on Avenue A to enjoy pitchers and wings.

Yeah, I look like I need that pitcher, don't I?

But outdoing me on all fronts was kickball legend Stacy, running her second (or was it third?) New York City marathon!  She’s gone from Ol’ Whiskey Lips to Ol’ Whiskey Hips!  Way to go, Stacy!

Over the Thanksgiving weekend, I made my first trip to the movies in ages to see The Muppets, which I thought was absolutely delightful.  Writer and star Jason Segel imbued the film with the love and reverence of a true fan.  It keeps the spirit of the old Muppet films and TV shows but gives it enough modern sourness and self-awareness to mesh with today’s comic tastes, so as to not feel like a stale reboot.  And the songs by Bret McKenzie were a wonderful surprise.

I also did some reading these past weeks.  A duo of works by Hollywood’s hardest-working funny ladies, Ellen DeGeneres and Tina Fey, were enjoyable as expected, but surprisingly opposing in style.  Ellen’s Seriously…I’m Kidding is half comic essays on her life of late as an established celebrity, and half left-over material from her talk show monologues (I say “left-over” because they honestly weren’t that funny).  But Tina Fey’s Bossypants is a full-blown memoir in which the good-natured author reveals that, after spending half her life climbing the show biz ladder, she still holds a handful of axes to grind.  And like any good writer, she doesn’t mince words (“The definition of ‘crazy’ in show business is a woman who keeps talking even after no one wants to fuck her anymore”).

I also reached a benchmark in my American history reading, having now cleared the Civil War era.  My latest selection was Eli N. Evans’s Judah P. Benjamin: The Jewish Confederate.  Evans’s biography of the most powerful pre-twentieth century Jew in American politics is deeply interesting.  Benjamin, born to modest means in the British Caribbean, wound up becoming a United States senator and one of the architects of the Confederacy.  As Jefferson Davis’s most trusted professional ally, Benjamin was right at the heart of the Confederate machine.  But for all his skill as a politician, it was his legal talents that he was most remembered for.  It was how he made his fortune as a young man in New Orleans, and how he later supported himself–quite comfortably–in England, following his escape from the South.  Since Benjamin destroyed most of his papers during and after his flight from America, Evans is forced to explain Benjamin’s life from some interesting perspectives: as a friend of Jefferson and Varina Davis, and as a prominent Jew living in a place and time in which anti-Semitism soared among the populace.  Benjamin proves to have had a powerfully analytic mind, and seems to have had a disturbing ability to apply it to his personal life.  His marriage to the notoriously unfaithful Natalie St. Martin was worth increasing his social standing; his adherence to his faith waxed and waned as necessary given the personal or professional company he kept; his wholesale rejection of his time at the forefront of Union and Confederate politics was simply a bit of show to impress his British colleagues.  Everything was a means to an end; and as such, his loyalty to anyone but his beloved brother-in-law, Jules, and his daughter, Ninette, appears to have been completely flexible.  Given the incomplete source material, Evans has done a good job in painting a full portrait of a man who apparently was content to have been forgotten.

Finally, you’ll be happy to know that in a week or so, I’ll be posting some outrageous tales of adventure, as I am leaving soon to visit my best bud, Kevin, in tropical St. Maarten!  This is the biggest adventure of 2011.  I aim to close the year out with a bang.  Stay tuned, readers!

~ T

Farewell to the Boys of Summer

In a sure sign that the best of times has passed us by, the 2011 baseball season came to an end last week.  I know, I barely noticed it myself.

I’m sorry, I don’t mean to sound bitter.  Sure, it was exciting that the World Series went the full seven games, particularly with the dramatic heights of Game Six.  But honestly, the St. Louis Cardinals and the Texas Rangers?  I wasn’t the only one underwhelmed.  The earlier games of the fall classic earned piddling ratings.  This was no great rivalry, no storied match-up with a history to elevate the stakes.  And call me crazy, but when a game between the two alleged best teams in baseball ends in a 16 – 7 rout, I question the veracity of those records.  Still, I tip my hat to Tony LaRussa and his Cards.  Despite being a fan of the winningest team in American sports, I appreciate when the hardware gets spread around.

So in my final baseball posting of the year, I thought we’d dip back into the archives and see how The Honestly Blog’s official baseball correspondent, Tripp, fared with his post-season picks:

Tripp’s Picks
AL East: Red Sox
AL Central: Twins
AL West: Rangers
AL Wild Card: Yankees

Final Division Standings
AL East: Yankees
AL: Central: Tigers
AL West: Rangers
AL Wild Card: Rays

Well, once again, Tripp sold my boys from the Bronx short.  It’s okay, you can’t hate him for being persistent.  The Red Sox and Tigers, though, proved to be the victims of epic collapse.  Is Tripp’s benediction now a curse to ball clubs?  Let’s see if he jinxed anyone in the National League…

Tripp’s Picks
NL East: Phillies
NL Central: Cardinals
NL West: Giants
NL Wild Card: Cubs

Final Division Standings
NL East: Phillies
NL Central: Brewers
NL West: Diamondbacks
NL Wild Card: Cardinals

Ever the optimist, Tripp picked the Cubbies to win the wild card.  In fact, they only finished ahead of the Astros, the most anemic team in baseball.  There wasn’t much doubt that the Phillies would reign supreme in the east, and Tripp had faith that the Cardinals would make it, one way or another.  Of course, his fantasy World Series for 2011 was the Twins defeating the Phils, which proved to be way off; but I give him credit for foreseeing that the Cards and Rangers would be fixtures of the post-season.

So, now we wait through winter’s dark and gloomy hours until spring training starts again, shortly after that wretched groundhog scrambles out of his hole to taunt me with six more weeks of suffering.  Until next time, baseball fans.  Stay warm around that hot stove.

~ T

P.S: I almost forgot!  This may not really be the last baseball post of the year.  I did find out earlier today that on November 20, Yours Truly will be playing in the third annual show biz softball game between casting directors and agents.  The Sharks are 0-2.  This is our year!  Watch out, CSA!