Saturday, October 6, 2007

What would my "Buy it Now" price be?

I'm in the middle of disposing myself of just about every stupid thing I ever collected or bought in my life. I think part of the reason I held onto most of the stuff is because I never had an efficient way of getting rid of it - without throwing it in the trash. That would have been efficient, but difficult. I always think I'll "need" something or that it is some sort of commemorative item that I would be stupid to toss. So I carried them around for about 30 years until something efficient and easy came along.
And this is the thanks I get - Ebay. I have to take pictures of all this crap and make up an ad that makes it look like what I have is what you want. I've sold some old camera lenses for more than I thought they were worth and some books and CDs for much less. Maybe my ads are not attractive enough? As you could imagine, I stay away from the flowery language and exaggerated descriptions.
It's a Pearl Jam CD.
These are the songs.
This is the price.
CDs are hard to sell. I've put lots of them up for four bucks and most of the popular ones don't sell. The ones I sell are the oddballs that completests have to have - they think. They're where I was 30 years ago. Wait a while and all that junk will go up for bid again.
What galls me a little are all the fees. I find it interesting that Paypal charges a fee for a transfer, then pays you 5.21% on your account. But they make money. I realize that Ebay and Paypal are not non-profit organizations, but you have to sell a lot of cheap crap to make up for the selling fee, listing fee and Paypal fee. That's a chunk out of 4 bucks. I'd price them lower, but I think it's ridiculous to pay more to ship something than you paid for it. And by the time I got done with the fees, it's hardly worth selling it at all.
I should just throw it in the trash.

I have (almost) completely whored myself out.

I am a complete emotional prostitute. Everything I do or say has one focus. Can I blog about it?
I have found that over the past year and a half that the things I do fall into two distinct categories...
Can I or can't I blog about it? If I can, I am more reactionary, since I wish to continue the story to its logical end and I need an ending. If I cannot blog about it, I tend to let it slide. What's the point if I can't use it for the blog? The Blog Whore.
Since the good stories involve encounters with strangers, they never know that they're being inspirational, which is a shame because I never get to thank them. The Blog Ranger.
They ride into town, do something stupid while engaging in an otherwise innocuous activity and get picked apart like lint from a sweater. If they could only read about themselves, they'd never get over it. I think there'd be a Jerry Springer kind of thing going on if I could arrange that. The White Trash Blog Show.
Sometimes I get a little panic stricken over some unforeseen lack of ideas, as though a day without a post is like a little bit of me died. That's borderline psychotic I know, but sometimes I have to exaggerate a point to make it. It's like a little bit of me farted. Is that better?
So now, here I sit waiting on my next Blog Adventure. I'm like that crocodile guy, except that I'd never mess with a crocodile for the blog. I have my limits. I know that sometime before midnight, a wandering stranger will waddle into my life and cast attention on themselves and make that little gleam come back into my eye. It's Blogging Time.
That's how my brain is working now. Ones and zeroes. On or off. It's pathetic. I need some violin music in here. I don't think you'd want it to be all "ones", because that would probably gross you out. Be thankful that I throw some "zeroes" in there.
You're welcome.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Don't you wish you had dreams like me?

The Scene: A fancy dinner party. Mingling guests munching Hors d'oeuvres and drinking champagne out of those thin weird glasses that make you look like an alcoholic when you have to drink the last bit. And cheese. Lots of cheese. A conversation ensues:

ME: Hi. I'm Anthony, I couldn't help but notice your jeans.
REMSEN: I'm Michael Remsen.
REMSEN: The same.
ME: It's an honor to meet you. I was just talking to Baxter...
REMSEN: ...the "Baxter Low Rise Slim Boot". Hack.
ME: That's what I told him. I said, 'Your cliche'd faded legs are so ... out right now.'
REMSEN: Nice. What did he say?
ME: Oh, like he never heard of Remsen. I said, 'You couldn't tear a pair of jeans for Remsen!'
REMSEN: Then I bet he went into that whole bit about 'I was tearing jeans when you were suckling your mother's teat!' thing, right?
ME: So totally.
REMSEN: Call me a 'teat sucker' will he?
ME: What are you gonna do?
REMSEN: I'm gonna tear him a new one.
Then I woke up.

Tell me where to go.

"I didn't think it was physically possible, but this both sucks and blows."
- Bart Simpson
The Phillies ... oh, never mind. Soon, my evenings will be free. And theirs, too.

If you ever wonder whether you live in a more phucked up town than Philadelphia, there is a current story that would tell you, "No, I do not." Other than the fact that it's called a "Commonwealth", which should speak volumes about its nature, there is this:

HARRISBURG - After months of wrangling, state senators have crafted a viable draft of a bill that would change where and how Pennsylvanians buy beer. Although it has a ways to go before becoming law, the measure could make it possible for consumers to easily pick up a six-pack virtually anywhere in the state.

You can re-read that if you'd like. I'll wait. [tapping foot]

In case you're unaware, Pennsylvania has this State Store system and some other wacky deal about buying alcohol. There are distributors and package good stores and ... never mind. They put beer and wine in another category because, they figure, you have to swill a lot of beer to get as messed up as you do on a little whiskey. OK, I'm not sure why beer and wine are in a different category. What has always confounded me is that distributors can sell cases of beer but not 6-packs. Duh? The system is so complicated that I'm not sure government understands it.
I'm amazed when something that most of the rest of the world is doing is so hotly debated. What can be so wrong with the way liquor is sold in New Jersey or - geez - Ohio that the good folks of the Commonwealth would think that their method is so fantastic? There must be so much money tied up in that old system that there aren't enough zeroes to finish it.

I'm also constantly amazed at how superstitious people are. They think that some innocuous thing that they do somehow influences events far away from them. What they wear to games, what they say or where they sit are all contributors to a team's success - so they think. I find myself wondering what year it is and whether there's a burning bush, cloven-footed beast or mystical eight-armed God around that I should turn and pray to. I wonder why people who have such a major influence on athletic teams without actually participating have real lives that are so screwed up?

I'm one of those lucky bastards that has Monday off. By the way: Isn't it interesting that we can take an actual anniversary and transform it into a three-day weekend that is celebrated on random days every year? Try that with your wedding anniversary and see how it goes over. "Happy Second Saturday in April, sweetie."
Since the blog has become something of a diary of odd behavior lately, I feel like I should take a day-trip someplace so I can have another week's worth of posts. I'm having trouble deciding where to go. It has to be within one-day round trip driving distance from South Jersey. My choices:
  • The Baltimore Inner Harbor. Always good for a day. Great places to eat, scenery and it's in Baltimore, 90 minutes away.
  • The Art Galleries on the Mall, Washington, D.C. One of my great stress relievers. This is probably best done on Amtrak, for the complete relaxation feeling. The National Gallery, Hirshorn and East Building. Rothko and Pollock.
  • New York City. Please don't tell me to go to New York. Stress capital of the world.
  • West toward Gettysburg. There really isn't much to do west of the city. I just added it to cover the direction. If I go this way, I'll get lost sure as shooting. This would be good if you like photos posted, with really boring stories.
  • Ride the new Camden Riverline train. They put this thing in last year and I haven't been on it yet. It runs up the Delaware to Trenton. I'm not sure what happens after that.

Those are some choices. There's always Philly, or I could just sleep in. That's relaxing too. Or maybe you have a better idea. You can tell me where to go.

Dream come true.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

What a revolting development this is.

A good day for baseball was spoiled by a lackluster effort from our local 9 on Wednesday. True to my word, we did arrive in plenty of time, although our seats were in dead right field and we had to deal with the sun for 4 hours, since the cloudy skies originally promised by the weather guessers did not materialize. There was little or no drama this time, so I'll spare you the multi-part posts.
One thing aroused my interest, outside of the game itself. They told us that it was the second-largest crowd in Citizen’s Bank Ballpark history – 43,655. The place supposedly holds 43,647. I wondered how sell-out’s could have different numbers of fans in attendance. Apparently there is no maximum number. In the National League, they count tickets sold, not asses in the seats, so I would expect the sell-out number to be identical every time. The top 10 crowd figures range from 45,102 to 45,755; all sell-out’s with a range of 653 tickets. They probably could have sold more tickets if they wanted, so how did they wind up at that number?
It’s birthday time, (soon) and the offers are rolling in. My mailbox was jammed with exciting savings from places where I wouldn’t otherwise shop. Ten bucks off at Charlie Brown’s Steakhouse, Twenty bucks off a pair of over-priced sunglasses at the Hut of Sunglasses (which probably used to be a Hut, but is now just a Mall store) and the disgusting aide memoirĂ© that my age will soon afford me a discount to lots of things, including time left on Earth - The AARP membership card, which serves as a fervent reminder that I have endured 5 decades and am more than likely on the downside of the slope of life. Thirteen bucks a year for that privilege.
In addition to the depressing postal mail, I received a bit of electronic mail from the Phillies, telling me that I had an opportunity to purchase tickets for the National League Championship Series. The sale began at 6pm on Wednesday – or, approximately a half-hour before I and most of the 43,655 fans got home from the game. What this assured was that most of the tickets would be purchased by ticket brokers and other scalpers who will now sell them on StubHub or Ebay for ten times the purchase price. Nice going, Phillies. Would it have killed you to wait until 8 o’clock, when we were home, surfing the web looking for naked women to salve our disconsolate minds? Since StubHub is a “corporate partner” of Major League Baseball, I’m sure that the deadline was no accident. Naturally, the tickets were gone by 7pm.
For those of you who are remotely curious, this is my desk at work, studded in red and white (along with a cat and some golfers) – for at least three more days. The baseball, that is. The rest is staying.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

The exciting conclusion

I'm one of those weirdos who stays and reads the credits after the movie is over. Sue me, I like to know where it was shot and what the names of the songs are that were part of the soundtrack. Occasionally, I'll get a little bonus, like when I saw The Great Outdoors - which needed as many bonuses as it could hand out.
The movie ends (don't ask me how, but I think Dan Aykroyd and Annette Bening moved in with John Candy and Stephanie Faracy) and the credits are rolling. My date and I (hey, it was 1988) sat transfixed on the list of co-stars and the exotic filming location. Right after the part where that little seal comes up signifying the end of the reel, there's a vignette with the raccoons that spent most of the film rummaging through Candy's garbage. There's some joke, I forgot what it was, but afterward I looked around and we were the only two patrons left in the theater. One usher looked over at the other and said, "I won. There were two people left," implying that they had some wager over whether or not anyone would still be there when the raccoons appeared. With me there, it was easy money.
I think that partly explains my fascination with absorbing ambiance and staying with things until completion. I don't leave games early and I don't leave concerts before the encore - unless the show sucked.
That's why I like to get to games and shows early. I want to absorb the feel of the place and work my way into a game, and when it's over I'm not in a big hurry to run out. I'd rather linger a bit and reflect on what I saw. For some, they just want to "turn on" the game at the beginning and turn it off at the end. My friend is like that. When we watch games on TV together, he flips it off as the last out is being made. No post-game show, no pre-game show ... just game. For me, that's cutting it way too close. I don't know the inner make-up of people like that, but he's an engineer, so maybe that tells you all you need to know.
We watched Talladega Nights together, and I didn't realize that there were more jokes during the credit roll, since he flipped it off just as Ricky and his family were headed back to Applebee's. I had to see it on HBO to find out what I missed. I love stuff like that. I watch the deleted scenes on DVD and listen to the commentaries. I'm geeky that way.
I remember going to games with my dad, and we would always arrive for batting practice. He just liked to sit and watch, relax and take the place in. There's something charming in that I think. Moreso than just running in for the first pitch and running out after the last one.
We have at least one more game to attend this season. Today, the Phillies host the first game of the Divisional series against the Colorado Rockies. It's at 3:00pm, and I'm going to make it clear that I do not want a repeat performance of Sunday. I'll go myself and meet him there if I have to, but I'm not arriving 10 minutes before game time, struggling through traffic and parking in Broomall. You probably don't want that, either. You'll end up with another 4-part post, which is more than either of us can stand.
So, watch me. I'm going to put my foot down.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Phun phor Phillies phans, Phart 3

As the game wore on, it became obvious to even the towel-wavers among us that the Mets were going down to defeat. All the Phillies needed to do was to win and they were the Division champs. With the score 6 to 1 in the seventh inning, we started counting the outs. The Phillies half of the inning was the more excruciating part. Never mind all those pitching changes and base hits, we just want to get 9 more outs and get on with the playoffs. Somebody tell the Nationals to stop trying to win this game, or worse yet, make it look like they were trying to win – which is a waste of everyone’s time.
A small group (including my friend) had retreated to one of a TV near an empty concession stand to watch the last 3 outs of the Mets/Marlin game. As the Marlin squeezed the final out, the ballpark quickly got the news and the place erupted. By then, Brett Myers was on the mound closing out the game for the Phillies, with their 6 to 1 lead virtually insurmountable. The place was about to erupt again. At 4:35pm, Myers struck out Willy Mo Pena and the party officially began. At 4:36 my friend turned to me and said, “So, you ready to go?” I really wasn’t thinking about it, since there were fireworks going off, players dancing around on the field and fans screaming and high five-ing each other.
I said, “It’s been 14 years since I’ve seen a baseball team dance around on the pitcher’s mound. I’d like to watch this for a minute.” There goes my ambiance.
A few minutes later, we were two of a scant few heading out to our cars while the revelers were in the ballpark watching the dancing. The players carried their celebration from the clubhouse to the field, gleefully spraying fans with beer and water, running laps around the field and making “thank you” announcements over the public address system. Or so I was told.
I saw some of it on TV at home, where the ambiance isn’t quite as festive.
Remind me not to complain about going places alone anymore. Much.
TOMORROW: The exciting conclusion.

Phun phor Phillies phans, Phart 2

I don’t mind standing. I think we sit entirely too much, and as long as the scenery is good, standing is good. I can move around, and since I’m taller than most, I can usually see pretty well.
When I do mind standing is when the people in front of me are standing while the rest of us are sitting. Early in the game, I realized that the two kids in front of me were “standers.” You know the kind - the ones who have to jump up out of their seats every time something mildly exciting happens. It’s great for them, but Hell for the rest of us. My general opinion of people like that is that they have no self-awareness. Their world extends to the boundaries of their hands and feet, with no regard to the world of the people around them. For great stretches of time, they would stand; chatting, looking around, and forming a little human wall. It’s sort of like being stuck in traffic behind a big truck. For miles, all you can see is the back end. Before it got out of hand – sometime around the second inning – I gently nudged one of them and asked, “Hey fellas, could ya?” [Motioning down with my hand] They obliged, but the guy sitting to my right seemed offended somehow. “Sometimes ya gotta stand,” he proclaimed, to which I replied, “No you don’t.”
I need a human behavior specialist to explain to me the compunction for standing, when it serves no purpose other than … standing. I think it’s rude if the people behind you aren’t standing too. Naturally, I was more comfortable in “standing room”, where there is only room to stand. It was cooler up there, too; and I also didn’t have to deal with the swinging towel of the kid sitting next to me. Towel-swinging is generally something you only do a few times a year, so being good at it takes time. The occasional towel-end to the ear is excusable once or twice, but after a dozen or so, it gets to be a bit much. With my towel on my head as a sun shield, I was powerless to swing back. Besides, the kid was enjoying himself, and he wasn’t doing it on purpose – I think.
Hey – there’s a ballgame going on.
So, as they say, if you don’t like the program, change the channel. That’s how I wound up in the standing room area. It was only a few rows further back, and it had that shade thing going. From what they told us, only 500 standing room tickets were sold. If that’s the case, then all 500 must have been in the 200 level in right field. My guess is that some of them sneaked in or were let in by friends at the gate, because I would have figured it to be more like a thousand or more.
Another thing I noticed was that there weren’t a lot of people getting up and moving around during the game. Usually, around the fifth inning, hoards of fans get up and run to the rest room or the food stands. On Sunday, they were either bringing their own food or holding their bladder, because none of us wanted to miss a pitch. I don’t know the figures, but I’ll bet that the concession stands had a bad day. There were over 45,000 people in the ballpark, and I’ll bet they threw a lot of food away. I had a hot dog and a bottle of water in the 6th inning, and the wait time was down to zero. The price, however, was not. $7.50, please. Thank you, and enjoy the game.
Now I’m fed, hydrated and cool and ready for a little history.
NEXT: The “absorbing the ambience” part.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Phun phor Phillies phans, Phart 1

I have three basic tenets that you need to know to fully understand my perspective on sports. First, I do not believe that ones affiliation with a team identifies who or what they are. Second, I view sports as entertainment much in the same way as I do a movie or television show. Third, as Dennis Quaid says (as Gordon Cooper) in The Right Stuff, I try to “maintain an even strain” when it comes to dealing with emotional issues that do not directly affect me or my life – like sports. The combination of those three things made me feel a bit out of place at the ballpark on Sunday for the Phillies division-clinching game against the Washington Nationals.
I was greatly outnumbered by people who would disagree with all three of those ideas.
What I do enjoy is absorbing mood, taking things in and good baseball. It’s part of the reason I kind of enjoy attending events by myself. I can come and go as I please, and I don’t have to feel like I have to indulge anyone else – because I don’t. Sunday’s game started at 1:35, and as the clock started winding towards 11:30am, I found myself still waiting for my friend to get to my place so we could leave for the ballpark. Had I not been waiting, I would have been in my car and headed towards the parking lot by then. On a good day, it’s 25 minutes from door to door, and Sunday, with traffic it was much worse. We didn’t leave my house until 12:30, so already I was a little tense. The game was less than an hour from starting and we were stuck in traffic on the Walt Whitman Bridge.
By the time we got near the ballpark, the easy-access parking lots were full, and we were forced to the lots at Lincoln Financial Field, where the Eagles play. When the attendant handed me my parking pass, he shouted to his co-workers, “I have 25 left!” Since there were 4 of them, I figured that they were down to their last hundred spaces, which was an accurate assumption, as we wound up parked about as far from the ballpark as possible. At that point, I figured that my ambience-soaking was going to be kept to a minimum, as we made a mad dash to our seats 10 minutes before the first pitch.
We go to at least a dozen games together each season, and it’s pretty much the same story. Lots of times, we’re walking in as they’re playing The National Anthem. Sunday, being what it was, compounded the effects of tardiness. I’m not a strong enough personality to demand leaving earlier, so it’s probably part of the reason why I don’t mind going by myself.
During the game, there was lots of towel waving. Throughout the past week, the team has been giving out white hand towels that were meant to be waved. Mine had an entirely different function. That of keeping my head cool while the hot Sun beat down on me for the better part of three hours – until I had finally had enough, and near the pass-out stage, I told my friend that I was moving up to shady climes. There we stood, for the last three innings in the comfort of the overhang watching a little history unfold on the field below.
COMING UP NEXT: More interesting human insight.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Phunny pheeling phor Phillies phans

Before the Phillies ever took the field on Sunday afternoon, the buzz was thick around the ballpark.
The Mets/Marlin game had started twenty minutes earlier, and before long, the scoreboard started the count. Four-nothing Marlin. Five-nothing Marlin. Before we were warm in our seats, the Mets were trailing 7 to nothing, and the biggest September collapse in the history of baseball had begun to wind down.
What we knew and certainly what the team knew was that all it would take would be a win against the Nationals for the local nine to be National League Eastern Division champions.
Fourteen years ago a group of hard-nosed players won our hearts with an improbable run to the World Series. Even today, after the loss to Toronto, the team is loved by Phillies fans, and with good reason. They gave us everything they had and gave us a season to remember.
The Phillies blew a six-and-a-half game lead with 12 to play. Until this week, it was the biggest September collapse in baseball history. Thanks to the Mets for killing 1964. R.I.P.
This team that trots out on the grass of Citizens Bank Ballpark is every bit as loved by the fans as the '93 team, and what lies in front of them is a smaller hurdle than what they have already been over. That's optimism talking.
Early on, it was obvious that today was a special day in Philadelphia. Jimmy Rollins (who, even before today was my choice for NL MVP) singled and stole second and third, tripled and put the exclamation point on his "We're the team to beat" proclamation. The "M-V-P" chants got louder as the game wore on.
At one point, probably after Ryan Howard added another homer, the game took on a different tone. No longer were we anxious about the outcome. Now, with a little more than three innings to play, all they had to do was finish. We started the Nationals out countdown. Seven more outs - six more outs ... The crowd took on that mood, mostly because I don't think we know how to act. We're used to being on the other side of this. It's been a long time since I've seen the Phillies dancing around on a pitcher's mound.
Once Brett Myers came in to get the last three outs, the biggest game in the history of the ballpark was a foregone conclusion. That last half inning was spent cheering or moaning every pitch, and good for us, it wasn't drawn out. Brett put them away quickly and we could start dealing with the realization of all of this.
The reality is that they have taken the first step. They open the divisional series on Wednesday, after the Rockies and Padres decide who is coming here for a beating. There is a little further to go after that.
I need to see three more mound dances.