Archive for September, 2007
There was a brief period – while I was at art college – when I had a baseball cap. It was a simple, cheap, black one without a logo or anything on the front. Its use was primarily to keep my long hair out of lathes and band saws, but I soon noticed that it meant not having to groom my hair so much, so it stuck around for a year or so. Since that time, I’ve shied away from any sort of hat. My parents’ genes have blessed me with a fairly large head (my hat size is 7 5/8), so virtually all hats tend to look like a tea cup resting on a football. It is impossible for me to wear an adjustable cap without looking like a fool.
My summer of softball has taught me that baseball caps are a good idea when playing a game which often involves staring at a ball flying through the sky while the sun behind the ball burns my retinas. (Slight tangent, but where does the sky begin? The air, the atmosphere, begins above the grass or concrete that we stand on; but is it correct to refer to that as sky?) Even though the softball season is over, I still wanted to buy a cap in New York in case I play the game again.
And because of my allegiance to the New York Yankees, it felt correct to buy one of their lovely fitted on-field caps (ie. the cap that the players wear, rather than one of the gazillion fashion-y caps that seem to be available).
The downside of being a Yankees fan, and wearing a Yankees cap, is that you see lots of other people wearing them. Maybe the three or four people per week that I see in Berlin with Yankees caps are Yankees fans. But I rather suspect that a fair few of them just like the logo. As logos go, it’s a fairly recognisable “brand.” And the caps are probably souvenirs from holidays in New York; just as the Dodgers caps one sees fairly often are likely to be souvenirs from holidays in Los Angeles.
Still, I’m not gonna worry about that too much. What I will worry about is how damn new this cap looks. No matter how long I spend flexing the bill, it still hasn’t bent much and still looks like one of those train driver hats. And because the vast majority of my life has been a hatless life, I feel ridiculously self-conscious wearing it. When I pass someone on the street, I can feel their eyes laughing at my stupid hat. But, because I’m trying to get it a little bit worn-in when I’m indoors and alone – I’m wearing it right now – I can’t really nip to the shop without it, because of hat hair.
And going through my mind the whole time I’m wearing it, are the words of Pete Doherty in “Time for Heroes”: There are fewer more distressing sights than that/Of an Englishman in a baseball cap. But, really, the words of a rather pathetic junkie shouldn’t be bothering me, should they?
An afterthought: when you look at the portraits on their web site, even a good majority of the Yankees players look a bit crummy in their caps:
Back in Germany. Missing New York already. Maybe it’s just because I was visiting, and I noticed them more than I would here, but I miss those funny moments that seem so New Yorky. The jovial “Yep, no sweat” after I thanked a guy for holding a door open; an elderly lady who got up from the bench to try to get on a train which wasn’t in service, and her embarrassed smile when she noticed me watching her slowly return to her seat; another elderly lady with a Zimmer frame who, when seeing me carrying flowers (for Jennifer and Derick, my lovely hosts), said, in a big New York accent, “Fer-laaaah-wuhs! Some lucky lady’s getting fer-laaaah-wuhs!”; the guy getting off a subway train, oblivious to the people around him as he squeezed a spot on his cheek, wiping the pus and blood off his cheek with his fingers, still oblivious to the “eeeuw” looks he was getting; and, in a book store, a guy with a walking stick and a hospital-issue shirt, with plasters and tape on his arm like he’d just disconnected himself from a drip. I pass him and stand a couple of feet away, looking at that new Woody Allen book, and just as I begin to read the blurb on the jacket, he lets rip with a massive balloon-shaped fart. It seemed like the perfect sign that I should just buy the Woody Allen book on the spot.
During my last night there, I had what at the time felt like a lovely dream, but now seems a little bit disturbing. I picked up a prostitute in a park, and it wasn’t until afterwards that I noticed that she looked exactly like Yankees pitcher Joba Chamberlain. Just with tits and a vagina. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that a) I’ve not had sex for a while, and b) I’ve spent a lot of time watching and thinking about baseball. Maybe these two facts are somehow related.
So, after watching six innings of the Yankees v Devil Rays game in the airport bar, and seeing New York take a 12-2 lead and being relatively sure that that would mean they’d win the game they needed to qualify for the post-season (they eventually won 12-4), I came home. Via London’s lovely, welcoming, Heathrow Airport. Non-smokers can skip the next paragraph if they don’t wanna read another rant.
Okay, I get it, smoking is bad for you and me. It’s bad for people who stand near us too. I understand. But plenty of us – your customers – still smoke. And we are used to being made to go outside to do so. It’s annoying, but we’ve generally accepted it. So why is it you seemingly make it as tough as possible for us to do it? Isn’t going outside enough for you? Do you really need to force me – a customer waiting for a connecting flight – to queue up to go through passport control, then through the customs bit, then to the main arrivals hall just to smoke a cig? And not forgetting that also means coming back into the airport, taking off my shoes, putting toothpaste, etc. in a little plastic bag. All in all a 40 minute round trip JUST FOR A FUCKING SMOKE!? Are you sociopaths? Isn’t there some way you can have a fenced-off patio or something, so we can a) smoke, and b) not come into contact with anyone who might give us exploding shoes? Is it really your intention to degrade us into giving up?
Onwards to Berlin, where I had a chatty taxi driver. Just what you need after a transatlantic flight. He seemed like a fun guy, though, for a borderline racist. If you try to imagine a cross between Worzel Gummidge and Jimmy Nail, you’d be close to imagining what he looked like. When he asked where I was from in England, he offered two suggestions in his fake posh English accent, “Oxford or Cambridge?” Then he commented that “there’s lots of Indians and Pakistanis in Britain, isn’t there?” I got him off that topic quite quickly by talking about the bad traffic, which he seemed to have a lot to say about, surprisingly.
Anyway, before I went on holiday, I was starting to feel a tad nostalgic about Berlin, what with my impending permanent departure. Back home for 48 hours and that bubble soon got popped by some stupid German cuntery: the dreaded blue card in the letter box. This is what they leave if there’s an item of mail that won’t fit in your letter box or needs to be signed for. So, I trundle off to the post office to pick it up this morning, only to be told that seven days have passed since they tried to deliver it, thus it got returned to sender. Thanks, Deutsche Post. When I asked what one was supposed to do now, the useless, smirking twat told me that I should contact the sender; but, of course, they don’t write the sender info down on the blue card, so I have no idea who the sender is. Or the other option, he said, was to give someone my letter box key. Now this is all well and good, but you need your passport or ID Card to pick the fucking thing up from the post office.
Grrrr. I’m still quite angry about it. Which, I suppose is a good thing. Being misty-eyed about Berlin isn’t what I need as I prepare to leave. Perhaps I should just focus on the shit things from now on: the miserable grey faces in shops, and the default shitty customer service; the dog shit, ugly graffiti, and broken beer bottles in my neighbourhood; the pony-tailed cunt who lives in the flat above me who insist on playing his double bass in a Kenny G-like jazz style at all fucking hours of the day and stomping along with the music in his (seemingly iron-soled) shoes; etc. forever.
But, I’m more than aware these things aren’t Berlin (or Germany) specific. This stuff probably happens everywhere. It’s just a sign that I’m ready to experience the shit another country has to offer.
Anyway: fluffy bunnies, flamingos, roses, butterflies and lemonade… I feel better now.
Some morning sun
More morning sun
Where are the stairs exactly?
At another Yankees game
The new Yankee Stadium
Another day, another trip to the Bronx. And what better way to spend your birthday than spending six hours in Yankee Stadium? Derick and I arrived an hour before the scheduled start, then we had a 90 minute rain delay and then an extra-innings game.
And what a crazy game: the lead going back and forth; an all-time Yankee record of ten pitchers used in the game; A-Rod and Melky Cabrera having excellent games; getting to see Mariano Rivera pitch again; seeing the president of Panama throw the ceremonial first pitch; seeing Ethan Hawke and his (and presumably Uma’s) kids walking by (he wore a Derek Jeter t-shirt); getting to boo shitty relief pitcher Kyle Farnsworth in person (something I’ve been doing all season sat in front of my computer, back in Berlin, watching Windows Media live streams at 3am); having some chuckles with the women sat in front of me who were taking LOTS of photos of Yankee players’ bums as they stood at first base; and, crucially, seeing the Yankees get an excellent extra innings 12-11 victory.
I’ve been pretty lucky on my trip so far. Three games, three wins. Hopefully, I’ll be able to get a ticket for Monday afternoon’s game, too, and make it four out of four.
And back in Brooklyn, back to Derick and Jennifer’s place, where she and their daughters had made me a birthday cake. Pretty, huh?
It occurred to me that this week is the 10th anniversary of my first trip to New York. This very night ten years ago, I were staying in the Chelsea Hotel. Swanky birthday present from my then-girlfriend. I say swanky, but, y’know, it wasn’t swanky inside, just kinda cool and lots of history-ish. That trip was full of sight-seeing: Empire State Building, World Trade Centre, photos outside the building where John Lennon got shot; that kinda stuff.
This trip, though, has been the exact opposite. This time I think I’ve got quite close to what being a resident is like; as close as a visitor can get, anyway. No musems, no art galleries, nothing but doing New York versions of what I’d probably do in Berlin.
I’ve enjoyed the luck of walking six blocks in Manhattan and not hitting a red light once. I’ve enjoyed have a three block chat with a random old guy about dog-owning etiquette. I’ve enjoyed having a haircut in a very lovely 100-year-old barber shop, by a guy in his sixties who sang along to the 1950s music the whole time. I’ve enjoyed being stopped by an ACLU canvasser, having a little chat, and as I walked away, seeing her raise her hand and say, “high five for freedom!” All in all, it’s been great so far, and my trip is only halfway through.
The one thing that has been a bit odd is the general feeling – or “vibe” for want of a better word – I get when I’m smoking. Now, I have no real problem with smoking being banned in bars and stuff. It’s a tad frustrating, but not the end of the world. One of the side effects of this ban, though, seems to have been that it kinda gives those pinched-faced non-smoker bigots the feeling that open hostility to us smokers is not only acceptable, but somehow obligatory. Surely you’ve got what you wanted? We can’t smoke anywhere that’s got a roof anymore, do you really need to show your disgust and try and make me feel guilty for smoking on the pavement near your house?
Anyway. It’s mostly been ace so far. And of all the opportunities in New York to see places that have been in films and TV shows, the one that I’ve enjoyed the most is seeing the very corner that’s on the cover of one of the best books I’ve read in recent years, Paul Auster’s “The Brooklyn Follies.”
It’s just a block away from where I’m staying, and every time I cross the street on that corner, I feel a little bit of joy seeping through my blood.
Another post about them Yankees, so this is the point where 98% of you surf away to another site, I imagine.
Last night was even better than Tuesday. Firstly, José Feliciano sang (and strummed) the national anthem, which was entertaining. Then the game was a tense affair: Yankees leading 2-1 in the 9th, with the Orioles loading the bases as the scoreboard flashed up that Boston had just lost 6-1 to Toronto.
And we – yes, I’ve started saying we – won. A stadium goes wild.
Derick and I go for a beer near the stadium, and then it gets even more exciting. Shelley Duncan, the Yankee player I mentioned yesterday, was in the same carriage of the train as us. That’s a Yankee player, who played in the game, getting the subway home! How cool is that? Derick did a fist pump with him; I, being English, didn’t. but we got photos and his autograph. Yes, I felt 8 years old doing it. It was fun listening to him chat to other fans: saying that, yes, they are well aware of the score of the Boston game as it happens; that he appreciated the fans around him laughing at his “Red Sox Suck” thing; and telling a girl who asked him if he was really a player, and if so what was his name, that his name was Bob Woodcock. Aaah, those chucklesome sportsmen…
Shelley Duncan photo courtesy of Derick’s e’er-so-swanky iPhone
Skimming over other New York stuff: that new-ish Apple store near Central Park is a bit underwhelming. It reminded me more of a showroom that a computer store. Like those Bentley or Ferrari stores on posh streets where men take photos of cars they’ll never be able to afford. The apple store, though, is full of people scrolling the scroll wheels of new iPods.
Had as bit of a hangover this morning, and what better way to get rid of it than having some eggs and home fries at a very nice little place in the nieghbourhood called Tom’s. They have the lyrics of “Tom’s Diner” by Suzanne Vega on the wall, but I dunno if this is the one referenced in the song or not, cos that most-dependable source, Wikipedia, says that the one in the song is the restaurant in Manhattan that we also see on Seinfeld.
Today’s a beautiful sunny day. Perfect for a day of sauntering around aimlessly, I think.
Anyway, here’s some random non-basebally photos.
Some building in Manhattan
The tiles in Tom’s Restaurant
A nice building in the neighbourhood
And here’s one of some American dude. Apparently, he was important…
Yankees beat the Orioles 12-0.
Very enjoyable game. Excellent to be back here. Excellent to be seeing some games at the important end of the season after only seeing games in April and July before. Especially when the Yankees are crushing the Os, and the scoreboard flashes up that the Blue Jays had taken the lead against the Red Sox, leaving Boston just a couple of games ahead of the Yankees.
Favourite moment of the night: the whole crowd giving Shelley Duncan a great reception for his first at-bat after the hilarious Red Sox Suck incident in Boston at the weekend.
I was on an aeroplane for the majority of my waking hours yesterday. Rather than make a coherent narrative, I’ll just make some notes:
* Whenever I fly with BA, and they mention their One World Alliance, I can’t help but think of it being a good name for a fascist empire.
* Going through the yummy security checks at Heathrow wasn’t half as bad as I’d feared it would be. Still a pain in the arse, but, at least I was entertained by the abnormally tall dude behind me in the queue who was just bursting to chat. Bursting to chat about having a first class ticket; bursting to chat about having just been to the Belgian Grand Prix; and then while we were randomly discussing ice hockey and baseball, he just came out and said, “well, at least we don’t have to queue like this when we die.”
* As I was going to the plane, there were dudes doing random security checks. They say random, but seeing as though the only people who got checked were white men with beards and men with brown skin: I’m guessing that the checks weren’t as random as they want us to believe. Needless to say, I was one of those who had some humourless dick riffling through his bag, having to take my shoes off again, and having his rubber-gloved fingers run along the inside of the belt area of my jeans.
* It’s a grubby subject, but one I’ve not discussed before: do we all get the horrible non-stinky, but slightly painful, wind on long flights? I thought it was just my rotting guts, but I mentioned it to my pal Derick last night, and he gets it too; which makes me think that a lot of people must get it.
* James Blunt was on my flight. About the same height as me, and with hair that desperately needs conditioner, darling.
* The dude next to me on the flight was slightly odd. Not odd in an outward way, but odd in a will-kill-everyone-at-his-office-one-day odd. He was already settled into his seat when I got on the plane; settled like he’d been there for a good long time. And he had his iPod in a little black case. His fancy headphones in a little black case, his DC power adapter in a little black case. He was reading home cinema magazines. Note the plural. And he looked like a younger Eugene Levy. In an effort to be friendly to the dude who I’d be sitting next to for 8 hours, I offered him my Guardian newspaper when I’d done with it; he just shook his head and mumbled “no.” So, okay, there’s nothing particularly incriminating about all that, but if he turns up on the news one day, I for one won’t be shocked.
So, anyway, I’m in New York for a short trip to hang out with my friends Derick and Jennifer, and see some Yankees games. Unluckily, I had a new outbreak of iritis on Sunday night, and didn’t have a chance to see an eye doctor before I left Berlin. With memories of Sicko floating around my brain, I went to see a doctor here in Brooklyn. And what a lovely lovely man he was. Because I didn’t have any travel insurance, he gave me some eye drops that he had as samples from the manufacturers, which saved me – get this – one hundred and sixty dollars. I still had to pay $150 for the time I spent in his office, but, that’s the lesson one learns when one doesn’t have travel insurance.
For the next 10 weeks, Berlin is going to be full of lasts. The last time I do this, the last time I do that.
Earlier today, I played softball with the Prenzelberg Piranhas for the last time. We won. Hurrah.
It’s been a great six months playing and training. Picking up a new sport at the age of thirty-six is something I didn’t expect to do, but I’m very glad I did.
I’ve had plenty of aches and bruises; done pretty well (for a rookie) with the bat; did not so well defensively; but mainly, I met some lovely people who it was a pleasure to hang out with. I’m kinda sad to be leaving the team behind.
My favourite moments of the season: every time I had the opportunity to slide into 2nd, 3rd or home, and send a plume of orange dust into the air; the couple of times I fouled balls off on a full count to get a walk with the next pitch; and best of all, after half a season of woeful defence in left field (which continued after this moment), being the person who caught the last ball that gave us a fantastic extra-innings win over the obnoxiously-named Hall of Famers.
In the regular season of the Berlin Mixed Softball League, we finished second in the league; winning seven of our nine games. In the mini league (with the top five teams of the regular season) that determines who plays in the final, we didn’t do so great – only winning one of our four games.
But it was fun. A lot of fun. And being a soppy old fool, I made this to remember the season by:
I realise that this blog post is incredibly self indulgent, and only really interesting to a small handful of you; but it’s given me a very happy summer.
Finally, for those of you who are interested in this sort of thing, (that’ll be just me, then..?), these are my season’s stats:
14 hits (inc. 3 doubles)
3 stolen bases
On-base percentage: .575
Slugging percentage: .548
Batting average: .452
I never did hit a home run… That will just have to happen next time I’m asleep: playing at Yankee Stadium, and about to hit a grand slam walk-off home run that wins the World Series.
You may remember back in March, I edited an mp3 to demonstrate how fast Asafa Powell’s 100 metres world record was. Well, he broke the record last weekend, so I’ve updated the mp3.
So, as I’m sure you already know, Led Zeppelin are getting back together. For one concert.
I really really hope it’s just one concert.
They’ve only reunited in the past for a couple of special occasions to date (Live Aid and Atlantic’s 40th anniversary shindig), and I hope that this show – to remember the late Atlantic founder Ahmet Ertegun – is also just a special one-off, too, even though it means 99% of the people who’d like to see Led Zeppelin live won’t be able to do so.
There’s something quite sad about bands reuniting properly when they don’t need the money. It doesn’t bother me that Pixies got together again; they did it with dignity, and kinda deserved the boost to their bank accounts considering that many many indie and rock bands have made money off their backs. It doesn’t even bother me that The Police reformed for a tour, where you just know they’re in it for the money. But Led Zeppelin are different.
Led Zeppelin splitting up after John Bonham’s death was a beautiful and noble thing. Deciding that without him they weren’t Led Zeppelin is a pretty cool way to honour your drummer; because when it comes to replacing a band member, the drummer’s kinda the easiest to replace, even if he was as great as Bonham.
This is what worries me the most about this one-off potentially spiralling into a big world tour: they wouldn’t be reforming if Jimmy Page or Robert Plant had died in 1980, and if they do get back together properly, it would seem to me to be erasing the nobility of splitting up 27 years ago.
Maybe it is true, though. But I’m a tad cynical. Why go to the effort of making sure that rumours circulate, and playing at a relatively small venue, building building building expectations, if you’re only gonna do one show? Well, there’s a “best of” CD to promote, so that’s handy timing; but I wish I could shake the feeling that this is the beginning of a proper reunion.
And what better way to get a full-on reunion rolling than, a) playing a charity show to deflect these “doing it for the money” digs; b) allowing them to bask in the news reports on the night of fans travelling from Seattle, São Paulo, and Sydney to be there, and c) giving them the opportunity to say, “well, the demand was so great, we felt we owed it to the fans to do a world tour”?
I really hope I’m wrong. But, if I could get a ticket, I’d still go…
Whilst flitting around the Internet this morning, I went to a site where this banner ad was displayed:
I know I sound like my mother, (and, I imagine, most people’s mothers) but isn’t 12 September way too early for Christmas adverts?
Today is a big day for me. I have achieved something that, when I begin it, I thought might only last a week or so: I kept a chart of my sleeping for a whole year.
Every night I take a mental note of the time when I switch the light off, and every morning, I look at the clock when I wake up; then stumble to the office to draw a vertical yellow line.
Why I began doing this, I don’t really know. What have I learned? Not much really. My sleep pattern seems to be pretty random. There have been a couple of conscious efforts during the year to get things more into line (trying to go to bed before 1am and wake up before 9am), but apart from that, it’s been a perfectly pointless exercise.
Still, I imagine I’ll continuing doing it, cos it has become part of my morning ritual; something that I now do without really thinking about it.
I found this tiny stone (aprox 15mm high) in the park and, to my eyes, it looks a bit like my lovely Billy.
I really do wonder how interesting posts like this and the other sports stuff I’ve done are for most of the readers of this weblog. Still, they (obviously) interest me. Here’s another one, about the orientation (in this case, the goal-to-goal direction) of Premier League pitches.
You’ll see that back in the olden days, when stadiums were within a community, there is no evident rhyme or reason for their orientation; seemingly just plonked down on a spare bit of land. The eight modern stadiums, (Arsenal, Bolton Wanderers, Derby County, Manchester City, Middlesbrough, Reading, Sunderland, and Wigan Athletic – all built since 1994) all have a fairly similar orientation. In fact, a quick look on Google Earth at all of the stadiums built in the last 20 years by clubs in the three lower divisions reveal the same thing in all but a couple of cases.
I had a quick chat with my mate John, (who knows an amazing amount of stuff about football; ask him who was Albania’s most-capped player, and he’d probably be able to tell you without an ‘umm’ or an ‘aah’) and we came to the conclusion that it’s probably something to do with getting the most amount of sunlight possible onto the grass, while still having big stands for lots of paying customers.
Something new today. Well, I say today, but really I drew in May 2006. It’s called We are Tigers ’80. I had planned on creating some sort of animation, but I’ve not got around to it, and realistically, don’t think I ever will; thus I present it here as a drawing instead.
It’s about being in a gang. I was never in a gang at school (and by gang, I don’t mean a gang like MS-13; just a group of boys acting tough and eating sweets). Without wanted to sound like your grandad, the late seventies/early eighties were a good time to be a kid in sleepy Lincoln. Nobody was getting their heads kicked in, while other lads filmed it on their mobile phones as far as I know.
Anyway, I wanted to do something about what it might have been like to be in a kid gang. And I guess my interest in baseball statistics comes into play here, too. Doing a nerdy sets of rules and achievements and history stuff would have been something that, had I been in a gang, I’d have loved to have drawn back then.
I tried to keep it as realistic as possible. The 10-year-old Craig would have adapted sports team logos for his own use, so I’ve done that. Likewise, the language used is the language I’d have used 27 years ago, although there is one error: the reference to being “a Joey” (those of you who don’t get the reference should look up Joey Deacon on Wikipedia) is chronologically wrong. I hadn’t actually heard of him before he made his appearance on Blue Peter in 1981, a year after the time this drawing is meant to represent. For that I apologise; although, I really should be apologising for being cruel when using that word, but, like I say, I was trying to use words I’d have used back then.
It’s ineresting to look back, though, at a time when TV really did behave like YouTube behaves today: the day after Deacon was on Blue Peter, the whole school was sticking their tongues between their lower teeth and lip and making, ahem, “spazzy” noises. And, wrong though it is, I still do that now and again if I or a friend do something stupid. Oh deary deary me, how terrible that must sound…
This is the video for “Graue Wolken” by Blumfeld. It’s a pretty song with a pretty video. Of the German people I know, there’s only a select handful that like Blumfeld. In fact, when I’ve told people that I like the group, there’s quite often a reaction like, “Pah! Why on earth do you like them?” Those same folks often mention the lyrics being the reason why they don’t like the group; but seeing as though I pay very little attention to the meaning of lyrics of songs sung in English, it really doesn’t bother me a jot what some German dudes are yakkin’ on about. As far as I can tell, this songs about grey clouds and, if I’m understand it correctly, being a bit glum.
I adore this film. It’s so utterly wonderful. The moment when he begins singing “I Will Always Love You” is one of the few moments when I get the shivers and my eyes well up instantly. Oh, those damn fireworks get me every time. It’d be nice to feel like that once in a while…