Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A Tale of Two Cities & Two Teams


I really try to avoid politics, and as a general rule, don't typically get into political discussions. And although I don't plan on starting today, the news of Teddy Kennedy's death has definitely put Boston on my mind. That and the fact that I want the Sox to clinch a wildcard spot.

Believe it or not, despite my obvious obsession with New York City, there is another city that I really love to be in. Yes, that city is Boston. Actually, it's all of New England really. Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine mostly. But Boston gets most of my focus because, well, just because it's so damn awesome.

The Freedom Trail. The great food and gelato in the North End. Mike's Pastry. Quincy Mahket. Paul Reveah's house. Old Ironsides. Fenway Pahk. The T. All the wicked pissah good times from eating lobstah and drinkin' lotsa beahs.

I mean come on, it's a no brainer.

But I think many sports fanatics native to Boston and New York would both probably have a hard time comprehending or reconciling the ability to love both places. That's alright though. It's true that I heart NYC. But the Red Sox are definitely my team.

I tend to route for underdogs, and even though I've never been an avid baseball fan, I started cheering for the Sox a few years before they won their first World Series in like a gajillion years. They were perenial underdogs then, and to some extent, probably always will be when it comes to playing their arch rivals from the Bronx, the Yankees.

I once went to a mid-season game at Fenway Park that really didn't have much significance to it. But if I didn't know any better, I'd have thought it was the World Series. It was such a strange, surreal feeling. Maybe I should explain a bit more so you understand my point of reference. You see, my hometown baseball team is the Florida Marlins. Yes, for a young team, they've managed to win a World Series or two.

But if you've ever gone to a Marlins game at mid-season, you'd know that by looking around the stadium, about 80% of the seats are usually empty. Nobody cares. I like the Marlins and all, but when you're at their games, it's really just a pathetic atmosphere.

Then go from experiencing that anemic environment many, many times, then go to a game at Fenway. It's just unbelievable. The two experiences are an extreme contrast between an enjoyable experience and a dull one.

When I was at Fenway Park, I had goosebumps for half the game. By the time they started playing 'Sweet Caroline' in the middle of the 8th inning, I was singing along at the top of my lungs with everyone else. I can still hear Neil Diamond's voice on the loudspeaker, "Good times never seemed so good..." and then the roar of the crowd following up with, "So good, so good, so good."

Everyone around me was so happy and lively and friendly. The place is just brimming with energy and enthusiasm. By the time the game was over, I was exhausted, had nearly lost my voice from cheering and singing as loud as I could, and still had a leftover andrenaline buzz lingering from the game itself.

That's a great memory that I'll never forget. I've rarely encountered such die hard, loyal fans of a baseball team. I'm sure there are plenty of other teams with that type of support, but the Sox have an argument for the best fans in the sport. I'd say #1, but for arguments sake, they're in the top 2 or 3, at the very least.

The game at Fenway was something I had on my 'bucketlist,' which is a list that actually existed before the word 'bucketlist' was popular. I also had 'See a Game at Yankee Stadium' on there too, and I actually ended up being able to go to the last home game ever played at the old Yankee Stadium. I was so excited to be there. I felt like I was a part of history.

This was the last game played there.

Ever.

This was the house that Ruth built, my friends. Countless legends have played on that field. There are a limited amount of people who can say they got to see the last game ever played at the original Yankee Stadium before they tore it down, and I'm proud to be one of them.

But I digress.

I just know that whenever I go to NYC or Boston, I never want to come home.

In a city with so much history, pride, and views like the one in the photo I took above, at the Public Gardens -- can you really blame me?
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Monday, August 24, 2009

Epiphany in the Gloaming


There's something majestic about being up high with a 360 degree view of an entire city; especially at dusk, when the sky explodes with color and reminds you that you're alive.

If you're someone like me, you yearn for these moments, and when you experience them, you hold on to them for a long time afterwards; sometimes, even for the rest of your life. In times of trouble or emotionally trying times, you might even experience a moment of clarity or some kind of epiphany, if you're lucky enough.

I've had a few epiphanies in my life. One of them occurred around the time I took the photo above. Some time has passed, but today I was reflecting on the moment of clarity I had on that day.

You see...

Most people feel a need to be accepted. We want to feel like we belong, like we fit in; and often we conform to accepted norms in order for that be a reality. The need to fit in is a conditioned survival impulse, and yes, it feels good to be accepted; but when this impulse conflicts with the need to follow your heart, there is really only one choice.

And my epiphany from that day is this: people will inevitably make choices they regret, but following your heart will never be one of them.
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Friday, August 21, 2009

In Days of Better Weather


Here's a candid shot of a couple enjoying a nice day on the Great Lawn in Central Park, during days with better weather obviously. The photo was taken with a little point-and-click camera, so it's not the best quality; but each time I see it, I'm reminded of what a great day I had in the park.
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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Weekend Adventures: 4 States, 36 Hours

It was truly an intense 36 hours between Saturday morning and Sunday evening! So much happened within that timespan, it seems surreal. Where do I start...

Well, I guess I could start with the idiots who live on the floor above my girlfriend's apartment. I finished packing my bags, had two glasses of red wine (Cabernet, of course), and went to sleep with no issues, around 12:30ish AM.

Fast forward to about 3:30ish AM.

Suddenly, music begins blaring. This is soon accompanied by hooting and hollering, which was actually loud enough to drown out the already obnoxiously loud music. There must have been 20-30 people up there; and all of them were 'talking' as loud as they could. Even though it had to have taken a good deal of effort to 'talk' over the music, it apparently made more sense to do that, rather than doing something like....Oh, I dunno...turning the goddamn music down.

Or maybe I'm the idiot with the crazy logic. I guess depending on who you ask, that might be the case, I dunno.

There were consistent bangs coming from the ceiling, which sounded like footsteps stomping on the floor. If I didn't know any better, I'd have thought there were a team of Irish Riverdancers dancing a jig up there.

Then there was the wonderfully deep, sawing sound of the glass door consistently opening and closing, over and over again, every few seconds.

Awesome.

I am Jack's horrible nightmare.

Meanwhile, my girlfriend and I were gnashing our teeth over the fact that this was going on, not just because of the annoyance, but because we had to wake up at 7 AM to catch an early flight to Atlanta then another to Memphis. This fact lingered in my mind the entire time like the slow drip of Chinese water torture on my brain, which of course only added to my stress and fury.

At one point, I got up from the bed since I couldn't sleep anyway, and walked out the glass door to the balcony; which faces East, overlooking the downtown Ft. Lauderdale area about a mile from the beach. It's a nice enough view, but who the fuck wants to see it at 4AM when you have to get up in three hours. I was basically hoping to get a break from the idiocy that was taking place above; but of course, no luck.

As I sat back in the chair, all I could hear were the incoherent, frat-boy type of moronic ramblings you'd hear at a stereotypical keg party on a college campus somewhere. This was an Animal House style party, apparently--except nowhere near as cool, or funny.

The conversations, if you can call them that, were your typical, "Dude, I'm so wasted" type of drivel that bores the shit out of you and makes you feel like your head is going to explode if you don't get far, far away from that person a.s.a.p.

Judging by the sound of things, I'd say everyone probably had done enough cocaine to kill an adult rhinoceros. Exasperated, I went back inside after just a few minutes of listening to that nonsense. I'd heard all I could tolerate without wanting to go break into some Army/Navy store, stealing a bunch of WMDs, then coming back and lofting a few assorted grenades and MOABs into someone's lap.

As I walked back in from the balcony, I blurted out, "Fucking assholes!" hoping they would hear me. I don't think they did, unfortunately. I laid back down and we waited, trying to give them the benefit of the doubt, hoping they would settle down after about an hour, but no luck. I think it was around 5:00ish AM when my girlfriend called the apartment complex's security desk. She answered some of their questions, and the phone call ended soon after it began.

Now that security was involved, I was gleefully awaiting peace and quiet for some much needed sleep.

I waited. Then I waited some more. And then a little bit more. About 45 minutes later, the zoo upstairs finally seemed to be quieting down. A few minutes later, it was quiet enough to deal with, and I tried to go back to sleep.

But...

Twenty minutes after that, it's a full godamn party again.

Holy. Fucking. Shit.

It's a good thing I do not own a gun.

At that point, we gave up and just put pillows over our heads in the futile attempt to drown out the assholes above. I think it was around 6:30ish AM when Satan's army finally quieted down. All I remember at that point is that I crashed hard into a deep sleep for about an hour, when the alarm went off.

Oh, the misery of it all. I somehow managed to drag myself out of bed feeling much like John Belushi, or anyone else, really, who has been dead for twenty years. I walked into the kitchen to get a bottle of water, then sat down to compose myself. The silence was absolutely blissful. For a moment, I sat there with my eyes closed and took it all in, enjoying the quiet sound of nothingness.

A few seconds later, my eyes suddenly popped wide open. My exhausted, yet diabolical mind was brewing up a plan, seeking retribution. I casually surveyed the room, and my eyes caught the sight of the TV remote. At this exact moment, the left side of my mouth smirked liked a cat who just ate the canary. I turned the TV on and surfed the channels for the most annoying sound I could find.

Something that had no lulls or moments of quiet; something continual that would annoy the shit out of anyone in their 20s or early 30s who happen to be feeling the consequences of overindulging in booze and coke all night. I couldn't find anything on TV that was annoying enough, so I looked under the TV console and saw a few CDs. And then I saw it.

My girlfriend's Toby Keith CD.

I must've looked like Dinah, the cat from Alice in Wonderland due to the big, smiling grin that suddenly appeared on my face. Low-quality country music to a bunch of twenty-something, hung over cocaine fiends can't be good. Especially at 7:30 AM.

"Oh yeah!" I thought, giggling like a little schoolgirl.

I would not be satisfied until there was some kind of justice. I felt like I had to at least make an attempt at giving them a taste of their own medicine, just on principle. So while my girlfriend was in the shower, I put the CD in the DVD player and blasted Toby Keith as loud as her TV could go without blowing the speakers. In between the lyrics, I screamed things like: "How do you like that, you cocksuckers!" and "Payback's a bitch motherfuckers!" at the top of my lungs.

I don't know if they were conscious enough to hear me or the music, but it made me feel better regardless. After enjoying myself thoroughly for a few minutes of that, I turned everything off, finished getting ready, then drove us to the airport. I was completely out of it, mentally speaking. I had very little sleep, no breakfast, and was still incredibly thirsty. Being hungry, tired, and dehydrated, I could barely function or think at all, as a matter of fact. We were both operating on very little brain power.

Case in point: We thought we parked close to the Delta Airlines terminal; but as we walked out to the terminals, it turns out we were on the opposite end. Awesome.

So, in the oppressively hot and humid Florida weather, we schlepped our asses and luggage, walking for about 15-20 minutes to reach our terminal. I am completely shocked that neither of us got very lippy and there wasn't even much of attitude going on either. Thank goodness for that. The circumstances were bad enough without adding bad attitudes to it.

We actually made it through the security fairly quickly and arrived a few minutes prior to boarding, without any drama. Finally, we caught a break! Or so I thought.

We were flying from Ft. Lauderdale to Antlanta, then Atlanta to Memphis, then driving from Memphis to Tunica, Mississippi.

Yeah.

In case you're not counting, I was literally in 4 States within a span of 4 hours--and I'm not even a famous rock star, or anything close. Good times. But that's not even the worst of it. While putting my bags on the plane to Atlanta, I realized, much to my horror, that in the rush to get to the airport I forgot the suit I was going to wear to the wedding! I could feel my face get red and my ears suddenly felt about 10 degrees hotter. My blood pressure went through the roof as I sat down and put my hands over my face.

The wedding was the entire reason for taking this trip to begin with. What the hell is wrong with me! In that moment, my entire vocabulary was reduced to just one word. The only thing I could think or say was:

"Fuck."

"Fuck!"

Yet, I somehow kept my cool; and by the way I was feeling, I would certainly call this feat a minor miracle. I took a deep breath and thought, "Stay calm, there's a solution to every problem." I sat down and informed my girlfriend on what happened. She could see I was visibly on the brink of spontaneously combusting.

She actually did a great job keeping me calm and offered to surf the web on her phone to look for a tuxedo/suit rental place near the airport. I have to give her brownie points for both keeping me calm and taking the initiative to make suggestions on dealing with the problem. All of this crap notwithstanding, we got through the flight feeling fine--crabby flight attendants and all.

Once we finally landed in Memphis, we took a shuttle to the Avis rent-a-car station. I somehow got a free car rental with my booking, so I guess that's one good thing. Now that we had transportation, we used the GPS on my iPhone to find a place that rents, measures, and tailors suits for use on the same day (that was fun). After trying on the suit and paying for it, we then drove the rest of the way from Memphis, Tennessee to Tunica, Mississippi.

The drive from Memphis to Tunica is the only thing that went relatively smooth. In fact, it was made so much smoother by the GPS. I highly recommend using one to everyone who's planning on taking any road trips. It truly saves you from so much aggravation. The GPS said it would take about 45 minutes to get there. I drove it in 25 minutes.

Feeling completely exhausted, we finally arrived about an hour-and-a-half before the wedding. Just enough time to take a nap and get our heads together for what would turn out to be a hell of an evening!

(...to be continued)
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Friday, August 7, 2009

Fittin to Git Outta Dodge

I'm taking a moment from packing for my trip to Tennessee/Mississippi, listening to my iTunes, and also feeling pretty lucid and carefree. It's nice to be in a light-hearted state-of-mind again!

I checked out the website for the hotel/casino where I'm staying, and wouldn't you know it, the Counting Crows are playing there the exact same day I'll be there.

I've been wanting to see them in concert lately, and it's crazy that they so happened to be playing in some small town I've never heard of, and on the one and only day I'll probably ever be there.

Strange how things like that happen.

I doubt I'll be able to see the show, due to my cousin's wedding reception, but if I can somehow manage to get to there, I'll be loving that.

As I'm typing this, Beethoven's 'Moonlight Sonata' has started playing. I am in love with Beethoven's music, for those of you who do not know.

The 'Moonlight Sonata' is my all-time favorite of his compositions. I don't think any other piece of classical music has ever captivated me quite like that one. It perfectly captures a feeling inside that is truly difficult to put into words.

Everytime I hear it, I experience a stimulating bevy of feelings, all at once. It's as if the music somehow understands something intrinsic within the soul without even trying. Without saying even one word, the notes in the music inherently speaks a language that cannot be spoken.

It stirs up feelings of familiarity, validation, and comfort to name only a few; it also stirs up a kind of feeling that's not unlike what it might be like to have an old flame of love rekindled once again. Almost instantly, it pierces the veil of the person you're trying to be, and reminds you of who you really are.

In case you can't tell, I kind of like it!

Since this post turned out to be a music-themed one, I suppose I'll mention that iTunes is now playing another artist you don't hear people mention very much: Nick Drake.

I only recently discovered Nick Drake, sometime around 2007. I don't even remember how I came across his music, but it was momentarily and in passing.

Yet, it was enough for my ears to perk up and listen. I remember the song being one of the ones on his Pink Moon album, and it was the reason I went out and bought the CD.

His music is moslty mellow and folksy, if you will, but it's very good in my opinion. His story is a sad one, having died of an overdose of anti-depressant medication at young age.

But his music is immortal, and enjoyable at that.
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Wednesday, August 5, 2009

On Perspective, Context, and Expectations

I'm all over the place today, and feeling way too serious for my taste. But life will do that to you sometimes.

I have a few things on my mind that I'd like to unload. I want to touch on perception vs. reality, negativity, fear of change, and letting go.

This will not be like my usual, light-hearted subject matter.

Here's the deal:

Life, reality, the 'truth,' or however you choose to describe it is not always as it seems. In fact, more often than not, we only see, know about, or understand one aspect of a story. But life is not always black-and-white.

Take for example this hypothetical situation:

One parent suddenly 'kidnaps' their 12 year-old girl, leaving no clues as to why they left so abruptly and mysteriously. The other parent appears to be heart-broken, hysterically worried about their daughter, and is visibly shaken. They reach out to their friends, family, and neighbors for support--and everyone is outraged that someone would do such a thing to a child, and to their own family.

On top of that, kidnapping is against the law, too. Breaking the law is rightfully considered a bad thing, and the friends, family, and neighbors are demanding that something be done--that the parent which kidnapped the child should be found and dealt with harshly.

Imagine experiencing this story for a moment, from this perspective only.

Now, consider this: imagine that the daughter was being forced into child-prostitution by the father, that she was beaten daily, and was only fed one small meal per day. Imagine the mother feeling hopelessly trapped, terrified of what might happen to her if she didn't remain quiet about it, playing along with the facade of a normal family.

One day, the mother decides to bide her time until the right moment to take her daughter and run away to start a new life, away from her cruel husband.

This is not a true story, but could very well be one in any part of the world.

There are people everywhere who make judgments and come to conclusions about reality based only on the information they have; but the information they have may not provide a full perspective of what has really happened, and in particular, why it happened.

Perspective and context matters. Sometimes, breaking the law or 'doing the wrong thing,' is the right thing to do.

This is what I'm referring to when I say that life, reality, or truth is not always what it seems.

So, beware of those who believe they have all the answers, because typically, all they really have is a one-dimensional perspective and limited understanding of the world. I've found this to be the case, much to their denial more often than not.

I'm sure you know someone like this. Maybe you're one of them, who knows! But this is not so much a condemnation of anyone, as much as it's a moment to touch on some of my recent frustrations without getting into too much detail.

From time to time, I encounter very closed-minded people; and usually their contributions to our discussions are merely manifestations of their own personal judgments and labels, which are by-products of their blind acceptance of some closed-minded, derivative drivel that their chosen ideology instructs them to believe and repeat; but this mindless repetition reveals a superficial intelligence of fools--the ying to the yang that is genuine wisdom, perhaps.

If your mind's eye is aware enough, however, I think your attention will be called to it like a powerful magnet, much like a rose's sharp, sabre-like thorn immediately commands your attention after it has pierced the unexpecting skin of your hand.

On a slightly different note, I'd like to say that despite falling into the trap of negative thoughts myself on occasion, I hope everyone who reads this is able to shun negativity like the Plague.

There is no more destructive force in the universe than negativity. The exception to this, of course, being things like natural disasters, nuclear bombs, and meteors the size of Texas.

Ok, so I may be overstating this and finally found a morsel of humor to inject into this post.

Still, I really mean it.

Applying this maxim (shutting out negativity) to your life will be of more use to you than you may even realize. I am in the midst of trying to embody this, and I can feel myself getting healthier from the inside out every day that I am focused on this growth, this way of being, this expanding of my personal horizons.

Now that I have all that off my chest, I must say it's been a very trying few weeks.

More because of my own mental growing pains than anything else. To sum it up, I'll use Deepak Chopra's words:

"Before the seeing comes the feeling that there is more to life than what you are living. It's like a faint voice that whispers, 'Find me.'"

I hear these whispers, but despite my desperate urge to find it, I'm paralyzed by fear. This fear, of course, is simply a resistance to letting go. Letting go is a difficulty many people have, and I'm no exception.

My goal is to continue on the path to letting go of: expectation and the dissapointments it often creates, as well as the futile exercise of holding on that sometimes comes with it. Instead, I'm trying to get better at being at ease with simply accepting whatever twists and turns life decides to take me on.

Resisting this is a roadblock to peace of mind; and it applies to everything in life, not just things I fear change in.

That's how I feel about it anyway. I just thought I'd change things up a bit and share that.

As Forrest Gump would say, that's all I have to say about that, for the moment anyway.

Now, back to more positive things.

I have a trip to Mississippi this weekend for my cousin's wedding. It's being held at Harrah's Tunica Hotel and Casino, about 20 minutes from the Memphis International Airport. I really look forward to getting away and feasting my eyes on some different scenery.

Sometimes, a change of scenery goes a long way to making the heart a little lighter.

Aside from that, I'm still working on the itinerary for my NYC trip next month. I may just post it here to give others some ideas on what to do on a visit to NYC.

If I had to describe it in one word as a preview: EPIC.
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