Saturday, September 27, 2008
One last Shea story for the week. This one takes place around 1987. I was in my early teens. It was the summer, and like every summer of my childhood, I went to day camp. As part of this day camp, we got to go on trips, and one trip was to a Mets game. We all piled in yellow buses for the trip into Queens, and though most of us were Mets fans (because the Mets were good in those days and the Yankees were mediocre), there were some Yankee fans in our group. One of them was this guy who didn't really look like a baseball fan at all; instead, he was a heavy metal guy. I can't remember his name, probably because we weren't really friends, so I'll just refer to him as "metal guy." All of metal guy's tshirts were from metal shows and had the names of metal bands on them. Almost all of them were black. Most of his shirts were Anthrax shirts, as Anthrax was metal guy's favorite band, but he had others. He seemed like all he cared about was flying V solo with a solid 4/4 behind it, but strangely enough, he was also a Yankee fan. Still, he got on the bus with the rest of us Mets fans for Shea.
When we got to Shea, I remember metal guy scowling, which was his usual expression, but it was more pronounced than normal because the Mets were doing well. (Yankees fans generally root against the Mets, and vice versa.) He was wearing a Yankees cap, and he also had one of his many Anthrax shirts on. At one point early in the game, one of the other guys in our group said to metal guy, "Hey look, there's Anthrax!" And metal guy just rolled his eyes. He wasn't going to fall for that, and besides, metal guy knew that Anthrax were Yankee fans, so why would they even be at a Mets game? But I and a few other gullible people in the group turned to look, and even I knew that yeah, those long-haired scruffy guys sitting two sections over were indeed Anthrax, wearing Yankees caps and scowling because the Mets were doing well. So we all told metal guy that maybe his friend was right. Metal guy finally looked over, saw that it was Anthrax, and started freaking out. I mean, really freaking out. This was totally out of character for him too; he was usually all aloof and mellow and pseudo-cool, but now he was acting like a tween girl who was just told that her favorite boy band was two sections over.
It took a little while, but we convinced metal guy to go over and say hi to Anthrax and maybe commiserate about hating the Mets and talk about power ballads or something. So he did, and we watched. The Anthrax guys actually smiled when metal guy introduced himself, and because there were empty seats in their section, they even invited metal guy to sit with them. Not only was this the first time I ever saw metal guy smile, but he smiled literally for the entire game.
When it was time to go, I remember seeing Anthrax shake metal guy's hand. Metal guy came back to join us, and if I remember correctly, he said that Anthrax even sprung for hot dogs and drinks and other ballpark snacks, and that they talked about music and the Yankees and just cool metal guy stuff. He was super excited at first, but then calmed himself down because being all giddy certainly wasn't metal and certainly wans't cool. I am assuming the Mets won that game, but the big news for us that day was that metal guy got to hang out with his favorite band at Shea.
Thursday, September 25, 2008
I should also add that Mr. Met is perhaps the greatest mascot ever. You can keep your Phillie Phanatic thing or your San Diego chicken, because they're both stupid.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
At some point in the week or two before the game, my dad must have mentioned to my grandmother that we were heading to Shea on that particular night, because it was then decided that we would stop at their house for dinner before the game. My child mind rebuked. What? Why on earth would we have dinner at grandma and grandpa's when there was all manner of stadium junk food waiting for us (and which my dad, when my mom wasn't around, was just as eager to eat said junk food, at least in those pre-healthy days). But it was decided, and there was nothing I could do. Grandma made chicken, and probably at least two kinds of vegetables (she was big on vegetables), and this I distinctly remember: she made kasha varnishkes. (Kasha varnishkes is an unapologetically Jewish dish made from buckwheat, onions, and tiny little bowtie pasta; it's good with a lot of salt, and I've always sort of liked it, but who ever heard of eating kasha varnishkes before a ball game?) I am pretty sure that as we were eating all of the food that grandma made, she made a few comments about how her food was better for us than all of that junk they sell at the stadium. And I am pretty sure I thought to myself: exactly! Grandma was always a good cook, and she never let anyone leave hungry, but when a kid wants a hot dog, a worthy substitute is not a drumstick coated in onion powder and paprika with a side of salty, buckwheaty mush.
So we ate, and grandma wanted us to stay, but my brothers and I wanted to get to Shea for bp (bp = batting practice), so we hugged and left for the stadium. And when we got there, we didn't get hot dogs. Or pretzels. My dad bought a bag of peanuts and a program on the way in (which I am pretty sure he still does on the way into a ballgame to this day), and a few innings into the game, I got my chocolate malt ice cream cup. I can't remember if the Mets won or lost the game. I remember the starting pitcher for the Mets was Bruce Berenyi, and after he gave up a few first-inning hits on sloppy pitches, my dad yelled out, "Get into the game, Bruce!" But I also remember that on the way home, I didn't feel sick to my stomach from too much ballpark food and felt like I sort of missed out on part of the Major League experience. Thinking about it now, though, I'm glad grandma was looking out for us, and if I still could, I'd go to her house before a Mets game so she could cook me a good dinner.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
The Mets were down 3-0 after a few innings, and it was tense. But then the Mets started scoring, and the crowd was into it, and they won, and it was like the greatest thing that had ever happened in my then 11-year existence. This was what it felt like to have your team win the World Series! I knew that it was a feeling to really relish, because I knew that many Red Sox fans had not (at that point) ever had that feeling. And, my mom had the good sense to stick a VHS tape in our enormous silver Zenith VCR and tape the game. I'm not sure why she did it; I think maybe it was for our neighbor, who was also a Mets fan but had other plans that night. Whatever the reason, I must have watched that tape about 50 times over the winter. And during those repeat viewings, even though I knew how the game ended, I still got a little nervous when the Sox went up by three runs, and I still got excited when the Mets started rallying back. It was unbelievably great.
Thinking back on that game now, it really puts baseball, in its current iteration, in perspective for me. I can remember specific motions and facial reactions of the players, and every player on that field just seems 1. So young; 2. So skinny; 3. So poorly uniformed (though that's probably a function of high-80s fashion sensibilities as compared with 2008 fashion sensibilities; I mean, can you remember the short-shorted atrocities of the NBA in '86?); 4. So much more interested in the game than what they were earning to play in the game. Maybe this is my simplifying/romanticizing of a game that took place nearly 22 years ago, but players today seem more unnaturally large, scruffy, and business-like. The players in '86 seemed like men prolonging their childhoods; today, they're just at work.
Maybe this was more of a diversion that I had originally intended, but to come back to where I started with this, yeah, game 7 of the '86 series is my favorite. In fact, I'd like to get my hands on that tape and watch it again.
Monday, September 22, 2008
You've guessed it: I am not a Yankee fan. But that doesn't go far enough to explain why all of this Yankee Stadium crap bothers me, or why I roll my eyes when overpaid goomba-ish announcers go on and on and on about all the great moments that happened at Yankee Stadium. You know what? This is Major League Baseball. Stick around long enough, and you'll see a great moment. Keep a major league ballpark open long enough and pay the home team's players more than any other team has ever paid any roster, and you might see a higher-than-usual amount of great moments. Fine. You want to honor great moments? Make an hour-long docu-sportsy program with the booming voice over and tense music and grainy black and white shots of shadowy men running the bases in slow motion. But don't televise a game that means nothing, especially when games that in fact do mean very much are being played at the same moment. Yankee Stadium had the All Star game this year. Was that not enough?
This also has a lot to do with the fact that I am a Mets fan. Yes, that's right, and before you lift your hands to your throat to give me your best universal sign for choking, just hear me out. The Mets, as you may or probably do not have any freaking clue, are playing their last game at their home field on Sunday. They play at Shea Stadium, which has been around since 1964 and has also seen its share of great moments, thank you very much. The Mets are actually in a fairly interesting, up-for-grabs NL East race (please take your hands away from your throat), and it may well go to Sunday, but I would be stunned if ESPN made half the deal about Shea as they and everyone else are making about Yankee Stadium. House that Ruth built, my ass. Let's call it like it is: the house that Steinbrenner paid for.
Listen: I am used to this. I am used to the Mets being the number two team in New York and mostly out of consideration everywhere else. And I don't live in New York, so when I tell people in Michigan that I am from New York and they tell me that they hate the Yankees (as do most Tigers fans and as do just about every other non-Yankee fan baseball fan), people are surprised when I agree with them that yeah, the Yankees suck! And then I tell them I'm a Mets fan, and they want to know why, like 1986 just never even happened. This is not new for me.
I am writing this for my own benefit. And you know what? Now that I think about it, I should do a Shea retrospective right here. Sure, it won't be as big-time as all those jarnecks on ESPN going on and on about the glory of the pinstripes (while never mentioning the paycheck behind those pinstripes), but it will be honest. So this week here at amyscoop.com is hereby "Remembering Shea Week." Let's go Mets. And please stop making that choking sign. It makes me sad.
Thursday, September 18, 2008
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Monday, September 15, 2008
And then on Saturday night, when I was actually beginning to not hear the rain, I sort of started to fall asleep on the couch while watching SNL. Just as I was about to nod off, Paul came downstairs and told me that David Foster Wallace had killed himself -- hanged himself -- the night before. Then I was wide awake and really depressed. This news made me sad on so many levels.
David Foster Wallace was one of my favorite writers, and certainly my favorite living writer. Many booky types will tell you that the title of Best Living Writer (capitals, notice) belongs to Don Delillo, or maybe Thomas Pynchon, and many others will get pissed at you for even daring to give that honor to yet another white male when there are so many good female writers and writers belonging to non-white ethnic groups and races who have not had the priveleges and attention that white males have had. But you know what? DFW was better than all of them, and I'll argue until I'm hoarse with anyone who thinks otherwise. He was genuinely interested in his subject matter, whether he was writing fiction or nonfiction or whatever, and this curiosity came through so that you, the reader, were just as interested. He was just so smart and knowledgable about everything. And it didn't matter what his subject was. He was interested, and he knew what he was talking about, and he made you care. If you are a writer, you know how hard that is. His use of footnotes and text interruptions, which a lot of readers and critics brushed off as annoying and pretentious, made more sense to me than any other form of writing because it interrupted the text as my thoughts interrupt the text: not as a stream-of-consciousness block of emotional switchbacks, but literally, physically getting in the way of what you're reading to qualify what you're reading. It just made sense.
Wallace also had a mastery of the English language that makes your jaw hang open until it goes numb. Some called this show-offy. Those people are jealous. Here was a man who was brilliant at translating personal, subjective observation into precise prose -- who was possibly better at it than anyone had been in a long, long time -- and instead of applauding this achievement, they gave into their own insecurities about not being a good writer and used phrases like "too clever by half." I think they had it wrong, and Wallace had it dead on. Reading him made me a better writer and made me more aware of the minutiae of everything. Literally, everything.
So I am really sad about this. I had gotten through most of his work (yes, including the fanged and footnoted 1000+ page Infinite Jest), and was recently so inspired by a monologish story of his that as soon as I was finished reading it, I immediately emailed my theatre-director friend in town and told him that I was intent on turning it into a multimedia stage production. My friend is now interested, which makes no sense to me, because I don't write theatre. But here I am, thinking about it, and I've maybe been able to convince someone that it's worthwile. (The story is called On His Deathbed, Holding Your Hand, the Acclaimed New Young Off-Broadway Playwright's Father Begs a Boon, and if you click on the link, you can read it online, should you be so inclined.)
I've recommended Wallace's essays to probably 50 different people, including casual acquaintances, professors, friends, and family members. And I had been hoping that he'd write another novel soon.
I guess what's most upsetting about this -- to me, anyway -- is that this was someone who I had always considered to be one of the most observant and intelligent people on the planet (and who had a MacArthur to back it up). I guess I assumed that he ws too smart and too understanding to take his own life.I have always tried to approach suicide with a "you can't rationalize the irrational" attitude (suicide being the epitome of irrational thought -- the dismissal of our most basic self-preservation instinct -- and the whys of the survivors the desperate attempt at rationalization), but I am having a hard time with this one, because here was a person who I did not think was capable of the irrational. Everything he wrote just made so much sense, and he seemed to understand the world so well. What I didn't realize was his level of depression and how profoundly sad he was. I have been thinking about this a lot today. I guess...I don't know. I don't know if this helps me, but I have been telling myself that David Foster Wallace was such an excellent writer because he was able to notice everything, and that noticing everything means noticing the good and the bad and exploring them both until there's nothing left. He always seemed to write about the good, interesting stuff, which I suppose left the bad, crippling stuff wading around in his head. Forever, since he didn't seem like the type of person who ever forgot anything. If I had evil to that degree gnawing on my conscience, and if I had grey matter like his, I might not be able to take the burden either.
(A recommended first read: the title essay from A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again.)
Thursday, September 11, 2008
And when you're done, have a listen to Kanye's Love Lockdown, which to me sounds like the saddest hip-hop-heartbreak song ever. (Yeah, it's Auto-tuned. What can you do? It's good.)
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Sunday: We go to friendly furniture store in town. It's the store where the salespeople don't swarm you and use high-pressure sales tactics to get you to buy their crappy furniture. We see a chair that we like. We both like it. Salesperson cheerily retrieves for us the books of fabric options for said chair and repeatedly tells us that she's new at selling furniture. We look through all of them. Twice. We agree on very few. Paul wants stripes. I am not sure about stripes. We take some stripe patterns home to see how they'd look in the room's light.
Monday: We return to the furniture store with patterns in hand. I am not crazy about stripes. We look through our fabric options again, and it becomes clear that we don't like the same fabrics. After at least 30 minutes of back-and-forth, we finally agree on a fabric that matches the new paint color and that both like enough to cover a whole chair in it. We order the chair, put down a deposit, and leave.
Wednesday (today): Phone call from salesperson at furniture store. She reminds me that she is new in this business, then says that the fabric we have ordered has been discontinued and is no longer available, and can we come in on Saturday to look through fabric books again?
Saturday (projected): Headaches all around.
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
But then later in the day, Paul emailed me. "We have a mole!" he wrote.
"Can we whack it?" I of course replied.
"What?" he asked.
"You know," I said. "Like Whack-a-Mole."
He ignored my joke and, when he got home, he got online to find ways to get rid of moles. Apparently, moles dig tunnels and weaken plant roots (hence the knocked-over Mexican sunflower) and can be quite a nuisance. After a few minutes at the computer, I saw him outside with the tamper, smacking down the tunnels.
Then we ate dinner, and after dinner, he went back outside and said, "It dug the tunnels again!" Then he grabbed the hose, stuck the open end into one of the holes in the lawn, and turned it on full force. It was on for a while, and nothing seemed wet. There were, apparently, a lot of tunnels to flood. We also didn't see the mole come out, and I think Paul was hoping that we'd drown it and it would just die underground and that would be the end of it.
The mole still didn't come out, and after a few minutes, I suggested we turn off the water, which Paul agreed to do. Then he tamped down the lawn again, only this time it sounded a little squishy from all the water he had just pumped under it. Then he looked around for a little while, and it was sort of like watching Caddyshack. I hope that mole is dead or has moved on, because I would not want to be a small, blind rodent in our yard. That would be a miserable, anxious life.
Monday, September 8, 2008
The Tomatoes took a hit from June storms, but the Romas and grapes are still producing.
The Green Peppers are small but mostly okay.
The Jalepenos are going to take over the world
The Basil needs a lot of water because it's demanding like that.
The Sage is having a hard time after being cut down to the nub in the spring.
The Thyme is teaming up with the jalepenos to take over the world.
The Oregano is a worthless, seedy mess.
The Corn wouldn't tell the squirrels to keep their grubby little paws to themselves.
The Raspberries are fighting the jalepenos and the thyme for world domination. Amy is rooting for The Raspberries.
The Strawberries came and went.
The Parsley is here but boring. No one gets excited about parsley.
The Cucumbers not so much.
The Cabbage even less so, although there was one small head. (Not intended to sound dirty.)
The Bok Choy is surprisingly tasty.
The Green Beans keep coming in, making Amy wish she liked them more.
The Beets will have to wait a while.
The Carrots are worthless.
Thursday, September 4, 2008
It took me forever to find the recipe, and I still can't find it on the Food Network website (which is increasingly difficult to navigate), but I did find it on this blog here. Alton Brown's recipes have usually been pretty good to me (with the exception of the butternut squash dumpling incident and the chocolate fudge fiasco, of course), and I had all these tomatoes, and it sounded good, so I figured I'd give it a shot. Of course, the idea of having my oven on for two and a half hours in the summer wasn't so appealing, but I did it anyway. I even had to buy a few more tomatoes, because mine were on the small side, and I just didn't have enough to make it worthwhile.
So I cut and seeded my tomatoes and added some olive oil and herbs and an onion to a big roasting pan and stuck them in the oven. The next step was to run it all through a food mill. Yeah, I don't have one of those, so I scraped the whole thing into the food processor. Then it said to put that in a pan and add a cup of white wine. Yeah, didn't have any white cooking wine, and I didn't want to open up an expensive bottle. Then I remembered that you can put vodka in tomato sauce, but a cup of vodka seemed excessive, so I put maybe a third of a cup in and let it boil down some. Apparently, tomatoes have alcohol-soluble flavors; if you don't have alcohol, you can't taste them, and I didn't think it would matter too much what kind of alcohol it was (short of going up to the hall closet and getting out the bottle of rubbing alcohol).
When the sauce was ready, I put it over spaghetti, and you know what? It was delicious. Paul's reaction: "Mmm...rustic!" It was so good that I made it again the next week. And, it made the kitchen smell amazing. I don't know if I can go back to jarred sauce now. I'm just bummed that tomato season is over before winter comes, because in the winter I actually look for slow-cook recipes so I have an excuse to turn the oven on.
Wednesday, September 3, 2008
For one thing, my cell phone was on analog roam. Since my cell phone provider charges almost a dollar a minute for analog long distance roaming, I didn't want to call anyone, because I knew I'd want to talk for a long time. I got to the campus, which was so much more rustic than I had imagined, and found my lodging. I had paid for the cheapest lodging available, since I was trying to stretch my grant money and cover some of my transportation costs in addition to my tuition and room fees. My first thought was that I should have paid for the deluxe accommodations, because I was in an old house that smelled like wet wood. And, they put me with two guys. It was a shared bathroom situation, which made me a little uncomfortable; they let me have one of the two bathrooms to myself, which was certainly gracious of them, but the whole situation felt weird. And then I got dinner, which was served on campus, and I felt very alone eating all by myself. After a few hours, I decided that I just didn't want to be there, and I must have emailed Paul about five times within 30 minutes saying how miserable I was out in the middle of nowhere.
But then things turned around. Even though I was in some kind of cell phone black hole, I was right on the water. The ocean. The house might have smelled like it was decaying, but outside the air had that summery harbor smell. And I kept thinking that I was 1,000 miles away from Michigan, but I was still in the same time zone, and how cool it was that it was bright outside at five in the morning. For some reason, that was so impressive to me. And then everyone was so nice and down to earth, and my workshop was great, and everyone I met seemed happy to be in this tiny little town in Maine, and so it of course worked out that by the end of the week, I was sad to go home. Go figure.
Tuesday, September 2, 2008
Okay. Yesterday was Labor Day, and I go back to work tomorrow, so this must mean that summer is officially over. This must also mean that I have to get back to writing more than a tweet or a Facebook status update. And so here we are.
How was your summer? Mine was excellent. For the first time in a few years, I didn't have much on my agenda in terms of actual work. I taught one week-long workshop, but that was it. Mostly what I did was travel. I got home to New York for a week, and then Paul and I went up to Glen Arbor for a few days. We met my parents in Chicago for a weekend of humidity and large plates of good food. And then I took a huge roadtrip out to Maine to take a class at the Maine Media Workshops, which was awesome. I stopped in the Berkshires on the way out and in Buffalo on the way back, and I was gone almost two weeks. And then August was a sleepy blur. Which brings us to now. Today.
I also got to catch up on my reading! This was good because sometimes I need to be reminded how much I like a good story. I'm currently on my eleventh book of the summer. (Summer is not technically over, so nyyaaaahh.)
So as you can see, it was a good summer. But I'm sort of glad to be back doing this. Several times over the past few weeks, I'd catch myself thinking about something I did or saw or read and how I'd post it on here, and then had to catch myself and remind myself that I was taking a break from this. So I'm sure in the weeks ahead, I'll be sharing some of those thoughts. It's good to be back.
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