my, that's savage


Happy (Somewhat Sad) Valley

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Yes, that's a dateline.

I'm in Marisa's apartment, introducing her to Radiohead's "In Rainbows" and relaxing after graduation day and night at The Pennsylvania State University.

State College is Corvallis or Boone on HGH. Looking out my sister's third-floor window, one could almost mistake the view for that of a bigger, more bustling city. And in many ways it is. An island metropolis in a sea of farm land.

I like it here. I'm glad I finally was able to make the trip up, just in time to see Missy pull out of here with three degrees — a double-major and a minor — after four years of work. Show-off.

I only regret not visiting here earlier. One of my bigger regrets going actually. It's taken me far too long to meet her comrades (a very hip crew) and actually see the place that's been such of a big part of her young life. No reason to dwell though — but it's something I certainly plan to change in the coming years, wherever either of us end up.

Jack and Mike left this afternoon. I'll see Jack in another couple weeks, when she visits some friends in Florida. So that goodbye wasn't too tough. Not as tough as Tristan and Matt's.

Missy and I walked over to her friends' house, and I was front-row center for a pair of farewells. Tristan and Matt have lived together for four years, and it was like watching an end of an era unfold before my eyes. An artsy gal dropped by and handed off some ceramic bowls to Tristan. Then, on the verge of tears, she left the room with "have a great life, guys."

Tough. But hey, Happy Valley will be happy soon again. I'm looking forward to hanging with Marisa the next two days and nights, climbing Mount Nittany tomorrow, eating the world's best ice cream (so I'm told) and finding a shirt with Joe Paterno's face on it.


Nealon made it so.

I was called out on a certain blog to rip this survey a new one. So let it be written, so let it be done.

Four jobs I've had:
1. Baseball field maintenance monkey
2. Red Robin douche
3. Car wash attendant
4. Sports editor

Four movies I've watched more than once:
1. The Big Lebowski
2. Rocky I-VI
3. Final Shot: The Hank Gathers Story
4. Uncle Buck

Four places I've lived:
1. California
2. North Carolina
3. Oregon
4. Florida

Four places I've been:
1. Jerusalem
2. Auschwitz
3. Joplin, Mo.

Four TV shows I watch:
1. Playing Lessons From the Pros
2. Scrubs
3. The Newshour with Jim Lehrer
4. Meet the Press

Four people who email me regularly (doesn’t include blogging comments):
1. Kappa
2. Travelocity
3. Facebook
4. MySpace

Four of my favorite foods:
1. Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
2. In-N-Out Burgers
3. Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream
4. Other healthy things

Four places I would like to visit:
1. Belgrade
2. Augusta
3. Cooperstown
4. Morocco

Four things I'm looking forward to in the coming year:
1. My sister's graduation
2. Oregon and the Simpson, Kinney and Johnson weddings
3. Breaking 80 on a consistent basis
4. A Democrat in office

Four people I've tagged (to do this, too):
1. Noe
2. Kappa
3. Someone in Sanford (Hi!)
4. AndySnacks

There you have it. The chain lives on!


Find me, Ben Bailey

If I'm ever in Manhattan, I won't hail a cab unless it's a minivan cab.

This should exponentially increase my chances of being on "Cash Cab."

And yes, I'll take the video bonus question, Ben.


Phew. For a minute there, I lost myself.

Sarah and I visited with Radiohead last night in Tampa.

Surrounded by young people (!) and the faint odor of times past, the greatest band on the planet came through two-plus hours of ROCK.

It was as if Thom and the boys emailed me the night before asking for a setlist. All day leading up to the show, "The National Anthem" was blaring in my head, and after dabbling in some new stuff, they played the shit out of it. They immediately followed with "Idioteque," and after I woke up out of my joy-coma, they proceeded to play two encores. Overall, a fantastic show. One of the best big-arena shows I've ever been to, if not the best.

Riding the high of Brit-love, I hit the links today for the first round of Highlands Ridge's summer golf league. Along with co-worker Mandy, team journalism rocked the shit out of the front nine and easily defeated the duo of Adam and London. I even eagled the ninth to roll in with a 38.

Needless to say, the last 24 hours have been pretty damn solid.


A poem Sarah wrote about Portland

slim like scallions, the newly minted natives are smoking the center, gauging

the thrust and mellow hum of the small pond pandering for big and bigger fish

having not so many minutes for suburbany hills and the tall tree patches that clash like

a pattern of marked-down carpet samples, they instead prefer to storm unnecessarily and

plot their hazy visions, peddling each parlor trick across damp sidewalks and soggy

weeklies, dragging their gigs efficiently over stretchy bridges basted with rain

pillaging a city is exhausting work and if they slept they'd be asleep by now

we just flew in from (some state here) and man are our arms tired

yet on they go! swimming with an equal mashing of stutter and champ they enunciate

every wet minute, pausing only to breathe, to stall and mix and shake out their calves

in time, a collection stands haltingly in a heap of several Stark and Grand seasons

kicking them aside, they could be ready to go west go east go

anywhere else and they might

on an accidental whim, they tuck inside one wild night's decision to scram –

goddamn let's do this - and soon their Focus is caulked and they're floating the

Columbia, sailing to Los Feliz or Minneapolis as a way to save their party

it's been too long, too small, too intimate

and yet a lovable place, they'll say, sheepishly admitting to dry and absent

friends yes we enjoyed our pale sickly shoulders, the moody gutters

cramped with leaves and a handful of chances for odd-flavored beer

Now that's talent, people!


Planting Trees

I had the opportunity to attend a lecture by Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Leonard Pitts today. He spoke at a church in Sebring after being invited by "Peace of Highlands County," a local group dedicated to world peace, racial harmony, etc.

It was a refreshing, inspiring and thought-provoking hour.

Pitts' talent as a columnist is indisputable. His level-headed commentary is such a rarity these days, in an era of endless "gotcha," demonizing, counterproductive banter. His lecture was no different.

Pitts touched on many topics, from race to poverty to politics and everything in between, but his main focus was changing the world for the better, one "tree" at a time. He shared a quote about an old man planting a tree whose shade he'd never enjoy, a metaphor for acts and deeds done in life that leave a legacy for the future. He said he rested in the shade of those who labored in the civil rights moment, for instance. He'd talk about an issue, talk about a solution and come back to "And so I'll plant a tree."

His main point was to do something, anything, to help improve someone else's situation. It's the best and only thing a single person can do.

I've been immersing myself in politics lately, listening to the relentless back-and-forth between Hillary, Obama and McCain. It was so nice to hear someone discuss major issues without being a pandering politician. For the first time in months, I listened to ideas that were expressed for their merit, not their electability.


Ask me to name the starting lineup from that team. Seriously.

It took more than two weeks to arrive, but my Los Angeles Dodgers 1988 World Series Collector's Edition DVD set is here.

Seven discs (!) including all five Series games, games 4 and 7 of the NLCS and bonus features, including the trophy, MVP and rings presentations, a short film on Gibson's home run, another on Orel Hershiser's record 59-inning scoreless streak, locker room interviews and more.

In total, it's 17 hours and 50 minutes devoted to perhaps the most unlikely World Series champion ever, the 1988 Los Angeles Dodgers. (Fuck you, 1969 Mets)

I was six, but I still remember it vividly. Watching the NLCS late into night, my elbows sore from laying on our wood floor, head-in-hand, four feet from the TV. Gibson's home run is the stuff of legend, and although I don't specifically remember it, I do remember running around the house, screaming.

Greatest moment in Dodger history. Maybe LA sports history. Hell, LA history. No, make that all of history.

I wasn't a hard sell, but having my home team win the World Series when I was six forever endeared me to baseball. Over the next 20 years, I've been to opening day and I've been to Vero. I've been lucky enough to have dinner with Tommy Lasorda, and hear, face-to-barbecue-sauce-covered face, the legendary tales from the man himself. I've seen the Dodgers at home (don't get me started on Dodger Stadium) and on the road in Anaheim, Las Vegas, Atlanta and, later this month, Miami.

Twenty years after they won their last world championship (and playoff series, for that matter), I still have faith, and I'll probably have a bit more after I break in my new DVDs.


Hey! It's a sports blog now!

The void had existed since I moved from California some 12 years ago.

Sure, a handful of times a year, I could fill it. But like so many addictions, no amount of binging on the intoxicating essence of Dodger baseball could quench my ever-deepening thirst.

Since moving outside the broadcasting scope of KCAL-Los Angeles, I was lucky to catch three, maybe four Dodger games per season, tops, on ESPN, WGN or TBS. The Dodgers haven't done much in the playoffs this century, so opportunities to watch my bums were, to me, on par with national holidays.

But then, this year, I finally did it.

Major League Baseball's been offering its service for a few seasons now, broadcasting every "out-of-market" MLB game live, on the internet. I dipped my toe in the water last year, going with the radio package — and listening to the games was a step forward in my fanboy progression — but this year I decided to go big and pony up for the video service.

And, as predictably as a late-season slide by the Dodgers, I love my decision. I can now watch every Dodger game in relative clarity (other than the ones against the Marlins, due to weaksauce territorial blackout restrictions) and every few games, get to hear the greatest announcer in the history of sport, Vin Scully.

And watch, I have.

I've caught every game this young season, giving me a front seat to what could be a historic year for the boys in blue. Young, farmed talent, players fans can get behind, and a stand-up manager (Joe Torre) have created the first sniff of expectations for the Dodgers since 1981, and I consider my subscription an investment in future bragging rights. In fact, I'll go ahead and timestamp a deep playoff run by 2010.

In other news for sports fans, Oregon State finally convinced someone to be its men's basketball coach today.

Craig Robinson, whose biggest claims to fame are 1) Former Ivy League player of the year 2) Two-year head coach at basketball power Brown and 3)Barack Obama's brother-in-law, barely has a winning record record and just two years of experience.

He's a no-name when most were expecting OSU AD Bob DeCarolis to hire a big one, and he's never coached (or recruited) the west coast.

Still, I understand the hire.

Robinson is an intellectual, with a Princeton diploma and an MBA. He's a stand-up cat who will do it right, and he'll graduate guys. Of course, the biggest worry outside of the athletic director/school president circle, however, has nothing to do with all that bullshit: Fans want to win, and that's something the once-feared Beavs haven't done in a while.

If coaching is a matter of outsmarting an opponent, I'll give Robinson the benefit of the doubt. If it's based on recruiting, well, Robinson instantly opens up our efforts on the east coast and his native Chicago, perhaps giving us opportunities at guys we'd never heard of. And having a newbie recruiting the left side won't exactly be detrimental to a team that has no credibility in any state that touches the Pacific to begin with.

This is what one his former players, all-Ivy League guard Damon Huffman, said about him (courtesy Brooks Hatch of G-T):

“There are definitely better days ahead” for the Beavers, he said. “We were in a similar situation. In my first three years we didn’t have a winning season. Last year we broke the school record for wins (19, in Robinson’s second year there), against the toughest schedule in school history.

“Obviously he expects you to work hard. But you have to put the work in on your own time, he’s not going to babysit you and hold your hand. He expects a lot out of his players, has the highest expectations for them.

I feel good about it, but not enough to timestamp anything about the Beavers.


Sometimes, I'd just rather be Woody Allen's neighbor

I watched about six minutes of "Annie Hall" today, until I had to remove myself from the room.

Watching films based in big cities — NYC in particular — makes me lose focus of the plot and yearn for the big city. For culture. For hustle-bustle. For ... something. And with more than a year left in my commitment to my current employer, I can't do that to myself.

I'm not knocking Sebring. I knew what I was getting into by moving here, and, to be honest, I really like it here. It's a nice place with nice people, a nice job and a nice career move.

But sometimes, especially on Friday nights where going to the local redneck bar is the only option, I get bored with nice.

It's nights like this that I'd rather have a nice helping of grit.


Visitors, brah.

Our house is quiet now.

Clarence occasionally screams, and the hum of the constantly running air conditioner blends with whatever's on VH1.

But last week, oh, last week was quite different. We had visitors: My parents, both sisters, Sarah's parents, Kurt and Jessica and two chihuahuas, to be exact. Ten folks, two dogs, a cat and a uromastyx = one big, happy family.

First a disclaimer: This post will in no way do justice to the fantastic time I had with everyone. I waited too long to post anything about it, and now I'm simply too removed from the pleasant feelings of familiar faces to give them their due.

But I'll try.

The first night, my mom kept asking me if I realized I lived in Florida.

My parents were well-equipped for the trip: They rented a Lincoln Towncar, the biggest boat-of-a-sedan perhaps ever created. Nobody would suspect they were from out of town in such a land yacht.

The Don spent his 50th here. He brought me an autographed Steve Sax baseball ('82 ROTY of the year, bitches!) and I gave him another bat (Garvey, Lopes, Cey, Russell) to add to his collection. We enjoyed a spring training game at the Indians facility, and welcomed Jack and Missy the following day with a another game at the Braves' home field.

Drinking beers in the bleachers with my sisters at a baseball game = tough to beat.

Sarah's parents arrived, and we all had a great day at the beach and at Disney World with the Cutsforths, traveling the world within the friendly confines of EPCOT. Where else can you find a British pub, a French pastry shop and a Mexican pyramid amid 1,000 souvenir shops?

Some random Disney observations: Space Mountain is faster than I remembered. There are not enough frozen banana stands. "It's a Small World" still sucks, as does "Peter Pan's Flying Adventure." Monorails are not utilized enough outside of theme parks. German food is delicious.

I love my family. You don't realize how much you miss them until they're around. I can't wait for May and Marisa's graduation.


This ...

Is Awesome. Well done, boys.


I'm sure glad a few snowbirds are still in town

So I'm driving into town to cover a baseball game today when I see a low-flying helicopter making a quick descent.

I live nowhere near an airport, so this was a rather curious sight.

As I moved up the road, the chopper appeared to be landing less than 500 feet ahead, right on the road. Cars are backed up in traffic, police lights are flashing, a crowd is gathered — and I have a camera in my passenger seat.

I'm on my way to shoot a baseball game, but I figured I'd try to play news guy and get a few shots of the action unfolding in our quiet town. I pulled around the traffic, behind a church that runs parallel to the road and parked my truck, scrambling to get the camera ready to shoot whatever's happening. I called our photographer, telling her I'd get what I can, but that she might want to rush down and get some usable shots.

Long story short, a bicyclist was hit by a car on a county road and was being life-flighted out, and though I was a few hundred feet away (the fireman watching the scene said to me: "You don't want to be any closer once that thing takes off") I got a few pics and felt pretty good about myself.

Then I got back into my car.

I stepped on the gas ... Nothing.



In my haste, I'd pulled around the back of the church, and parked where the ground is basically loose sand. I'm stuck, and now, instead of getting a great news shot and exiting the scene to do my job, I look like an asshole who tried to get around traffic, and is now shooting a rooster-tail of sand into the air.

My tires are only digging deeper. The game's in the second inning. My breaking news moment is suddenly looking like it's going to be old news by the time I'm free.

Luckily, a random group of strangers came upon me in my time of need.

There was a young guy on a walk with his mom and an old man on an evening stroll with his wife. Without batting an eye, the guys are on the ground with me, digging in the sand, while grandma's in my truck, punching the gas. Another guy pulls up in a car and yells, "Hey guys, I'll go get my truck and pull you out!" Southern hospitality, indeed.

There happens to be a few planks of wood resting against the church, and, risking life and limb, grandpa's jamming the planks under my tires with me, telling his wife to punch it to get some traction.

A few hearty pushes later, and my truck is free.

I thank them again and again, offering them money, a drink, a ride into town — anything. They want nothing, accepting only my business card, which, on the back, has a coupon for two free weeks of newspaper delivery.

Luckily, during the struggle, our photographer arrived. Because the chopper had left, she snapped away in our direction, documenting the epic struggle between sand and machine.

I stopped my truck thinking I'd be the hero of the newsroom for being Johnny-on-the-spot on a breaking news story. I left the scene realizing I'd instead be known as the stupid Yankee who learned the hard way not to park in the sand. But I can't complain — I wasn't the poor guy on the stretcher.