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Yesterday, during the course of my travels, I made an excuse to take the cable car. Yes, it's the slowest form of transportation in the city and usually fraught with tourists but, even after living here for 11 years, it's still a guilty pleasure. On hump day, I hopped on the California Cable line (less tourists take that one) and let it take me up and down the hill.

As we were approaching the top, it got cooler. I adjusted my cap to be firmer on my head. There was a man who got on with a dark jacket, cap and a large black bag, something you might see someone use as a carry on bag in a flight. He looked over at me a couple of time, then at the driver. I thought maybe, he wanted to ask a question, but nothing came. We were between stops, when a big gust of wind, blew his cap off and a half a block away.

In a very polite and casual matter, the tourist (I'm guessing) said: "Driver, I've lost my cap."

The driver, between stops, stopped the car, so he can get off. Then he said: "I'll be right back with it." The driver smiled and politely explained that we were in the middle of the street and had to keep going. The tourist accepted this response and got off.

The driver and I exchanged looks. i kept my smile to myself. He said to me: "Can you believe how casual that was 'I'll be right back.' "

"Yeah, real casual, " I said, "I thought someone would start serving tea."

Cable car
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A beauty of a Sunday and we had two games to play. I had the toughest assignment; keep myself out of the lineup and evaluate. After scoring only three runs in the first game, I needed to check things out. Sure enough, the bats were back. I can see this team averaging ten runs a game.

I can tell it's going to be a fun season because of the group. We picked a few players that joined us for last season's Russian River Tournament and a few before we opened this season. There is suddenly more interest in tournaments and social activity and the more the team bonds, the better. It's a good mix of veterans and newbies and I probably have the deepest pitching situation, since I started coaching.

We will be going to a Easter brunch after our game Sunday. The C-MEN are actively discussing attending the North Star Classic Tournament, which is one of my favorite tournaments in friendly Minneapolis. Good times.

Lineup
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Ultimately, it was my own fault. I wasn't being careful. I didn't notice or question it. Wednesday evening, I had one or two cashews and began to feel strange. The cashews, themselves are perfectly fine for my system but if they are mixed, (or came from a mixed batch) with a certain specific nut that I have an allergy to, the results could be fatal; my own private kryptonite.

When it hasn't happened in such a long time, I honestly don't think about it. I walked around town Thursday with a reminder; puffy lips that would make Angelina Jolie proud and a couple of Rocky Balboa eye lids.

In my late twenties, I took a trip to Vermont with a friend and got my first taste of this specific allergy. We went to Ben and Jerry's. They were running a special on discontinued flavors; one flavor, my curious choice was a rainforest flavor. One lick made my tongue turn red and blow up; to where it was almost getting hard to talk. Needless to say I didn't finish it, or I wouldn't be typing this today.

After turning 30 and moving to San Francisco, I had my biggest attack to date. I was at a friend's party and feeding off peanuts. I looked in the bowl and noticed there were only peanuts in the bowl and figured I was safe. I started feeling funny, my tongue felt like it was on fire. I walked to the mirror of the bathroom and saw some familiar signs. Walking up to my friend, he new something was up. "Holy crap, we didn't clean that bowl, it had mixed nuts before." We sped to General hospital. My face was doing the incredible Hulk routine, I could feel it slowly affecting my breathing.

The one positive, I can take out of this last episode (other then surviving) is I'm starting to read the signals quicker; this is very important. Either way, it looks like I'm done with all nuts permanently. Hey, at least I'm not allergic to a cheeseburger.

Vermont
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I awoke today feeling somewhat energized....on a Monday?

I decided, I can run with it; errands downtown were neutralized, a bank trip...done, laundry...zap, organizing last second softball stuff...no problem.

It's Monday and I'm enjoying a cup of Joe, letting the weekend wash over me.

We had a small softball practice on Saturday, our last one before opening day. Several of the guys couldn't make it, hence a smaller group with cleats and gloves. As the coach, I generally run drills for the guys. On this day, however, I was able to get a veteran player, to do the hitting (thanks Jesse F). I was able to get out on the field. This really works for me because I can get my fielding timing down for the season. Anytime softball people (including myself) talk about timing, they are talking about hitting. Hitting is important. Fielding timing is something I am always aware of and I needed this...thank you. After the first couple of line drives, it didn't take long to adjust, I was very happy with my reactions. I covered third, then second, then some outfield and first. Bring it on.

Not overly concerned about offensive timing, I watched a few pitches, flailed at a couple of pitches, then locked in and lined a shot, opposite field over the third sacker's head. I dropped the bat immediately, realizing my timing was right on and said, "who is next?"

It's really all about timing, maybe that is the secret of life; timing and patience.

The key to hitting and maybe to life, I quote the great Frank Howard (Hondo): K.I.S.S "Keep It Simple Stupid."
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A couple of freelance graphic designers were having coffee, a couple of tables from me at a coffee shop. They were downing their java and in the mood to complain. The griping centered around, the couple of clients they had. This lasted a while and reached a certain fever pitch so much so that it broke my silence. "It's nice to have a few clients, no?" They were both, stunned by my intrusion into gripeville but agreed wholeheartedly and things quieted down somewhat. They moved onto sports and I happily finished my coffee.
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Practice Thankfully, after a rainy layoff, our softball practices have resumed. When you live in San Francisco and you try to schedule practices in February and March, rainouts are a part of the realistic picture. I know, I get it, we need the rain. No one ever says we need the shake, after an earthquake. I was in New York, last week for their big snowfall and one guy actually looked me in the eye, while we were talking about the snow and said: "We need the snow." I looked at him, as if he were visiting from Mars: "who needs it, Mr Freeze?" My rain preference is a Monday and Tuesday spritz and sunny the rest of the way but alas, I am not the weather-maker.



On our first weekend back, the rec and park of our fair city, double-booked us with another team. It was the first time this has happened to us but I've heard from a few managers, that this sort of thing is not impossible. Since they computerized the reserving of the field, I highly suspected operator error.



The Pilsner Penguins and the Moby Dick C-MEN made due. We ran some drills, but really had too many people. We also played a scrimmage, that at least mirrored, what would happen in a game. Years ago, when the C-MEN were the Comets and in the Rec Division, these bitter penguinos were rivals...I mean bitter rivals. LOL. Over the years, there have been enough changes in both teams, that nothing registers. I only recognize a couple of Penguins from those days and we only have 5 players that were on that last Comets' team.



We did our thing and a few of us went back to Moby's for a beer, on a nice warm afternoon. Yes, it was like one of those bad beer commercials. Here's to good friends, tonight is kind of special...the beer you drink... Moby's had a good crowd and we stayed toward the back. I walked up a few times, as the coach of the other Moby's softball team was there and I wanted to see how things were going. He always says something that makes me laugh (but never means to). I socialized, promised the bar manager to forward the new schedule and this time I will get it to him and gave him the website, where the updates will happen (http://bigfish64.tripod.com/cmen/index.html).



Monday morning, I confirmed the operator error with Rec and Park. They gave us the field and then went back in and cancelled, after emailing me a copy of the permit. Twenty-five years ago, in New York, this kind of customer circus might have burned my bacon. Nowadays, I find that getting heated doesn't get you very far (unless you're in New York) and is a waste of time. I sent them an email of the proof (the permit that was emailed to me) and they gave us credit for the field.



On Monday night, the Penguins manager, graciously called and suggested, if we haven't done so, that we should get credit for the field. I love it, when a plan comes together.



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Fedora restaurant It was last Wednesday, when the words came out of my brother Dave's mouth: "Let's go back there." I nodded slowly, then suddenly remembered I was on the phone, "Yes, " I replied. No further explanation was needed.



I spoke with my mom a few days before and could hear her voice crack a few times. She was having a rough go of it, phone support was one thing, a personal appearance would go a bit farther. Dave and I dug out our winter jackets and flew back to New York City, our first time back since dad passed.



We were in time for the last big cold snap of the winter, as the east coast was pounded with snow. There was 10 inches of it, that came down in Manhattan. It was the New York area's first "snow day" off from school in 5 years. 900 flights were canceled from the the combined three airports and I was darting from place to place.



Staying in Soho with a buddy, I would get up, throw coffee down my throat and grab the train to Queens, daily. Mom lives in Elmhurst and I stay in Manhattan (my geographic preference).



It was great to see mom and I could tell our presence made a difference, particularly mine, since my brother forgot to mention I'd be popping in. She lit up, when she saw me. Even with my little brother around, she's mostly alone these days. Kev (the youngest and still living home) has work and school. My brother and I are out here in California (although Dave is still currently back east). There is a sister less than a mile away but she has work and her kids. These quick fixes aren't the answer, I tell my brother. We both live in California and have to get on a plane at some point (after the snow melts). In fact we were having this very involved discussion on the JFK Airtrain and it wasn't until Dave got to Queens, when he realized his backpack was gone. Some fairly big material items were gone; a laptop, iPhone assecories, and his passport. Neither one of us had enough sleep to notice a bag left behind.



It was New York winter, like I remember. I stared out at the snow, like some dog on the passenger seat. It was coming down steady at one point and I wondered, when I would see the last flake. It didn't keep me indoors. There was little time to catch up with friends but I saw a few, and passed by some old haunts. I made a point of passing Fedora's restaurant, in the west village. I was wondering if it was still open. A friend, who can't get around anymore, wondered the same thing. We talked about, how the place would probably close if restaurant's namesake had passed. We couldn't see the son (a dentist) keeping it open for the small eclectic older crowd (and me) to enjoy. I was happy to see the dinner hours still posted. It's really not a great place to have a meal (you're safe if you order the day's specials), it was really all about the atmosphere. And as Fedora would say, when a newbie, walked in with a credit card, "We don't take credit cards but you can afford us." It used to be a speakeasy, back in the day. The only working phone in the restaurant / bar is a pay phone inside a big old phone booth. I remember someone telling a story about a patron having a heart attack in the restaurant. In panic. someone yelled out, "call 911", another voice called out; "Do you have a quarter?"



The snow was on the melting path, when I was heading to the airport Thursday. I was tired, dragging a bit, happy to able to sneak into to town, hug my mom, say hello to a few folks and watch the snow, blanket the city in white. I have fond memories but it's always great to come back to San Francisco.



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I can't remember, what the specifics of the conversation were or why we got into talking about it. I played softball in high school and Joel's team in New York was looking for players. Brian and Joel were already becoming very good friends. Organized softball sounded like it could be fun. I figured, what the heck.

This March, I start my 18th season. And yes, It's been a fun ride; ups, downs, trophies, tournaments, a couple of world series and I've met some great great people (there I go burying the lead).
Now, at age 42, I'm one of the older guys on the team.

A teammate, from my first team in New York, recently asked me (on facebook), if I was still playing softball. I confirmed this and said, I'm coaching as well. His response was: "aren't you getting a little uh...old to play." As a fellow New Yorker (and we are both, now in California), my first thought was raising the middle finger but I laughed it off (he is a Mets' fan afterall).

Retirement time? I know of softball players that have been playing for a long time and I also know players that are a lot older, in their 50's. I think, if you're in pretty good shape, you can do it. I'm not going to sugarcoat the fact, that over the years, I've played a lot and have bruises. There is a shoulder thing for me nowadays, that I don't talk about; it's something I deal with and have been for the last three seasons but it's a choice.

If there comes a time, where I feel, it's too hard, then I'm out. Certainly, when I don't feel I can hit anymore, I'm done. Not only do I love to hit but I love to hit when there are people on base, when the game is on the line. This is my favorite softball scene. I find it funny with new players; that some would get nervous about it. I believe I actually told a player, in my first year, coaching: "Relax, you're not being asked to carry guns into Iraq, it's softball."

I'm in Las Vegas, dogsitting for Brian and Joel and I guess, thinking about the last 18 years, softball has been a cool thing for me.

Keep it Coming C-MEN!
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The dog-sitting in North Las Vegas has been cool. It's taken me a couple of days to get the doggies playful again after their daddies flew to Mexico.

I've been driving back and forth doing stuff here but as anyone who truly knows me...knows, it's a friggin' chore. Being born an raised in Manhattan and not wanting to learn how to drive, when most kids did (in their late teens I guess). I was happy leaving the apartment walking somewhere, taking public transportation or a cab if it was a rush. When I was 30 and moved to SF, that's when I learned how to drive.

Four months ago, when my dad died, I took the crosstown bus to 1st Avenue. I then switched on first ave, to the uptown bus, that took me to Beth Israel Medical Center. I wanted to put my hand on my dad and talk to him for the last time. I was staying on the west side and he sooo promoted the transportation system. Siempre. When my brother and I were young, he would drop us off at the train with tokens.

First couple of nights here (Vegas) my sleep has been spotty and the dreams have been weird. Last night, I didn't close my eyes until 2:30 a.m. Earlier, I drove to the theater to see: The Reader (pretty darn good with some great performances), then I came back and walked the dogs and caught another flick on the boob tube...I was up until 2:30.

I finally hit the sack but tossed and turned. The dogs, as if sensing something, finally slept in my room (they stayed up front for a little bit waiting for their masters initially).

The dreaming was heavy. Well, the one dream that really sticks; is me wanting privacy in my room. I was a boy again, yet I was full grown (dreams don't have rules or borders) and I wanted to be left alone. It was cloudy IN my room but I can see my brother (full grown also but a child) and that's when I knew this was kind of a part 2 / sequel or could be recurring dream, 'cause the whole scene was in a previous dream.

My brother in the dream was hovering.My dad was there wanting to talk to me but he kept finding items in my room to check out, like he's never seen them before. He picked up an old softball trophy of mine and read the inscription on it, which for some reason made me feel strange. He went to my bureau and picked up the 911/Red Cross (time is all screwed in this dream) thank you certificate and started to read it out loud, translating the English to Spanish. I motioned my brother to get the hell out of the room as I was done with this, but he paid no mind.

My dad spoke to me without looking directly; "Tonito, quando...when is Geeem coming to dinner? When did you say?" This question was also strangely asked in a previous "Dad in my room dream." My answer was delivered in pure dream state honesty: " He said April, but I can check, I'll call tomorrow." As per the norm, I was thankful to Dream Tony, he seems to know all the answers. Rational, awake Tony doesn't know geem or Jim but what's in a name?

Even in a place without Fog, there can be fog. Dad's gone. I'm the oldest son. I have to make sure things are alright. That's one of my jobs. My dad had three or four jobs to keep us on school as we were growing up, it's the least I can do.
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What the hell I have a beard also...

So 11 years into living in San Francisco I go to my second Bears of San Francisco thing, It's a beverage benefit at the Hole in the Wall. I had a pretty good time, actually and the reason I had a fine time was because [livejournal.com profile] putzmeisterbear and [livejournal.com profile] fogbear, were there and introduced me around. Thanks guys! It's good that the BOSF has guys like this to play the part of Julie on the Love Boat. I'm generally very quiet around people I don't know.

When I was in my twenties in New York, I was a member of the Bergenfield Bears and that was pretty cool. The people were nice. There was a definite comfort level with me. Moving to SF, I never considered joining the bear group. I'm generally happy being anonymous or anonycub, as some might see it. I joined softball because that was real important. So, maybe I need to mingle more with the bears. Grrrrr.
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Have you got any other pasta choices other than Chow Mein?
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Chandeliers in the WynnVegas Baby...

I got my first look at the Encore, Steve Wynn's follow up to the Wynn, yet another Casino Hotel on the Las Vegas Strip. If you like glass boxes, it's an impressive mirrored cracker jack box with some not so secret surprises inside. In fact, if you've seen the Wynn, you're really not going to see too much difference here. Design-wise, there is this continued fascination with butterflies, that is meant to be a dream-like concept from La Rev. I guess some dreams are never ending.

While the Wynn boasts some colorful backdrops, chandeliers, it's more gaudy younger cousin, sports enough red velvet to make one wonder, when the appearance of French prostitutes dancing around roulette wheels will become a fixture.

There was also a couple of forgettable meals we had at the new Aliante Station, part of Station Casinos chain. My friends are happy to have something like this in the neighborhood, as they live in North Vegas. They are brand spanking new and probably still working the kinks out. One of the kinks is called the Cantina, we were going to wait on the buffet line but decided to give the mexican place a try as it had no line. We found out why. We sat down, ordered drinks and meals. The drinks came quickly. An hour later one meal came out. We had a table of 6, the person who ordered a chicken caesar salad thing got what they requested...but not quite. The chicken was ice cold. When our meals finally came, they were extremely bland. No one was happy. During our hour-long wait the waiter asked more than once, if we'd like more margaritas. He was beginning to get answers like "no but I'd love dinner." We had partial view of the kitchen and there was this plate of food sitting right up on the serving station for the entire time. When we were leaving, it was still there and we wondered what poor sap was going to get this cold plate.

 
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Once upon a time there was a bearded boy from the big city, who decided to move to a very beautiful little city. The magical new city was filled with hills, trees, other bearded people and liberals. While the city didn't have the same big city theater or award winning pizza, it was quaint and pleasant, a more laid back feel, that appealed to the bearded boy.

The boy was quick to live in an active neighborhood, realizing that his big city mentality (and pace) were still present and needed to be made somewhat comfortable. The bearded boy would live in a busy downtown area.

All was well with the world.

Suddenly, and without warning a fairy godfather talked the bearded boy into housesitting, in his lavender house on the hill, dangling his showtime/HBO package like some poison apple. The boy accepted, as the fairy godfather was indeed a friend.

The godfather smiled, got on his broom and flew to Spain, almost immediately, the fog rolled in and circled the lavender house. The boy warmed himself with all the available blankets and when night came something very unusual occurred.

He lay in bed and stared at the ceiling. There was absolute quiet.

There was no drunk man yelling after his girlfriend, no loud rock bands at the corner bar, or even neighbors going at it. There was no noise. NONE. The bearded boy knew that he would not be sleeping tonight. GRRR.

Posted via LiveJournal.app.

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The black private cab was going fast enough, for me, not to be aware of where I was going. The driver could only speak Spanish. There was some communication but it was limited. We were running errands for my dad. The specifics of the errands were fuzzy and also there was not one time that I got out of the car.

The sun was going down and for some reason, I could see better in the vehicle. The driver was wearing a black suit and his Spanish was very slow and deliberate. Was it for my benefit? I could definitely understand a faster speaker. Whatever?

He looked back at me, "okay, end of the day, end of the road, I call your father." He was going to find out where to drop me off. I found this news to be utterly reasonable. He chatted with my dad, on the phone, for a few seconds then hung up. I said nothing. My phone rang.

My dad's voice was fine, like nothing happened: "tonito...tonito." I responded evenly, "hey pop." There was small talk, then baseball talk, ending with my dad's usual, final exclamation: "ah they stink," (he said in English) referring to a sports team but revealing the New Yorker, within the Puerto Rican. He asked about mom and I told him, she's having a tough time. "You have to watch her now. Don't forget your mother."

The road the driver was taking was bumpy, like some ride. I almost lost the phone, "Papi!" "Si Tony," he said. I paused and he said, "he's going to take you home. You guys need to check in on your mother. Your cousin is not doing to well either." "Cousin," I said and opened my eyes.



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Hey Tony,

I totally saw your doppelganger last weekend! I stopped my bike and was going to go and say hi but once I got close enough I realized it wasn’t you. Good thing I didn’t holler or anything.

 J

This happenDoubles to me more and more these days. Quit going out and having a life, Rich! But seriously folks, a few years ago I was alerted that there was one or two guys in town that had a pretty good passing resemblance, to myself. These days, a very nice guy, named Rich, seems to unknowingly, get me credit, to being at places I have not been.

Back in May, I went to London with friends, blogged about it, and took some pictures. I returned to San Francisco, to a flurry of emails and people stopping me on the street about my picture in the Chronicle. “That was a great shot,” they said,  “you haven’t seen it?” I envisioned a tired face at the airport “was there a bomb threat?” No. It was an event in the city, the unveiling of the Harvey Milk bust and it was the day I was actually flying back. According to friends and acquaintances, I was there. One guy, flat out told me, “you’re trying to gaslight me. That was you in the paper.” I laughed, not because of the situation but because I love term gaslighting and rarely ever hear it.

What? Should I carry around my boarding pass for that day? Many people did not believe me. It was a funny situation. At some point I gave in and started agreeing, “Yeah they got my good side.“

The above email I got, a couple of days ago from one of my outfielders (softball) that saw Rich (and not me) at an event and almost tapped him on the shoulder. Tap away folks and say hello. We’re both nice guys and will tell you if you’ve got the right person.

All I can say is I sincerely hope, we are never in a police lineup together.
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Thirteen days after landing in SFO with a headache and a single carry on bag, I feel I'm getting better.

I've been out and about rejoining life as best I can, so yes, that guy around SF with the beard and the occasional smile is indeed me (unless he's my double - uh, save that for another time).  The biggest challenge in the last couple of weeks has been concentration on my part, whether it's a job project or some errand. When I'm working on something, I'm there, then I'm not...I'm 3,000 miles away. The choppy sleep nights have not been helping. I have even taken to forcing myself to nap, once and awhile (strange for me). Close friends have been nothing short of wonderful; understanding and supportive.

My mother is back in New York, leaving Puerto Rico, for the time being. As he promised, my brother Dave (who lives here in Alameda) has flown back and will stay with her for at least a month or so and definitely through, what will be a difficult holiday season. My youngest brother Kevin is there also and is already fielding questions as to why he did not go to P.R. for the service and burial. the question was put to me at least 10 different times from 10 different people.

Dave and I have done our best with this question and have expanded on his: "I'm not sure I can handle it" answer. My feeling on this has been, okay, you can't handle it, you can't handle it but I pulled him aside and said: "then you need to make sure you're there for here when she gets back." And admittedly, I was not going to P.R. initially, I said goodbye to Tony Sr in that hospital room. But I went back to that crazy tiny island in the Carribean for my mother. I was hurting but it had to be done. My hope is that Kevin doesn't get to a point , that he regrets not being there. Dave and I will field this ground ball, when and if the time ever comes. Dave actually had the best response about Kev not coming to the island, "Tony, Kev is young and has not been beaten up at all by life." I nodded, "Well, I think he's taking his first left-hook."






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All-Star Dodgers' Second-baseman Jeff Kent gave $15,000 to the Yes on 8 campaign.
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The moon over San Juan is beautiful. There is another showing for the islanders and a funeral tomorrow.

As a New Yorican, I visited the island twice, in my lifetime and never really took to it. I was here as a child, visiting with my mother, then as a teenager visiting my sister. And now at 42, I'm here, saying good-bye to my dad.

The trail of rain has ended. My last day in NY was sunny and I could feel the warmth as I left the San Juan airport. A beautiful sunny day has turned into a nice evening.

It feels strange to be here.
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