Archive for July, 2011
Should you be in the New York area, today’s local edition of the Wall Street Journal has an interview with me and exclusive infographic printed upon one of its pages.
Alternatively, if you subscribe to the WSJ online, you can see it here.
A few weeks ago, in the lead up to the book being published, the guy in charge of publicity at Bloomsbury mentioned that the Yankees beat writer (the guy who follows the team around and writes about every game) from the Wall Street Journal was interested in doing an interview at one of the Yankees vs. Blue Jays games I’d told him I’d be attended here in Toronto. Sweet. It’s been a nice process so far doing bits and bobs of publicity here and there, and Jeremy, the aforementioned Bloomsbury guy, has done a marvellous job.
I told Dan, the WSJ guy, my seat number for Friday’s game, so we could say hello. We met, and he told me I’d have press credentials for the next day. Internal jump for joy. I was all excited, and found it very difficult to sleep, knowing that I could arrive at the ballpark early and hang out there before the game started. Ordinarily, I’d not tell you about a dream I’d had, but it seems relevant here: I dreamt I was at Fenway Park watching a guy build the Green Monster before a game. In the dream, the Monster was made from blocks of that corrugated plastic stuff that For Sale signs are made from. I was chatting to the guy, and he stopped talking, his eyes widened, and he nodded in the direction over my shoulder, and whispered, “Dude, there’s Kevin Millar!”
Up early on Saturday morning. Quick email with Dan re. where we’d meet. He told me we should meet “on the field.” On the field!? It’s funny how normally he mentioned it. And funny how my brain spiralled wondering how the hell that sort of thing works. I showered, dressed, put on my cap, and walked to the SkyDome. At the place where I was supposed to pick up my pass, I told the guy my name, he gave the me the pass, and directed me to take the elevator down to field level. Spoke to another guy there: go that way until you get to the big curtain. Got there, and another guy scanned the barcode on my pass, and directed me down a tunnel. A tunnel which went right to the visiting team’s dugout. Two small steps up from there, and I’m on the field. On the field while the Blue Jays are taking their batting practice. On the field where Yankee pitcher A.J. Burnett was chatting to Blue Jays player, Aaron Hill. It’s very difficult to describe the sense of forced calm one has to hang on to at a moment like that.
Dan arrived moments later, thankfully. We shook hands, and he mentioned that I should take off my Yankee cap because I was today, for all intents and purposes, a member of the press. We chatted, I rubbed the artificial turf with my foot and touched it with my hand and noted that the warning track here is made of the same grade of AstroTurf as the green part of the field, kinda negating the “warning” part of its name. Dan gave me a brief idea of what he wanted to do for the day, which began with hanging around the visitors’ dugout until the Yankees manager Joe Girardi came out to do his pre-game interviews with the press. Right then and there I started to feel uncomfortable around the armpits. The YES camera set up, Kim Jones came out, a bunch of other dudes with notepads and tape recorders got into position as Dan beckoned me to stand next to him, just a few feet away from the Yankees manager. Sweat. So much sweat. I was so nervous. And I felt so uncomfortable. It wasn’t real. Why am I stood here? There’s Joe Girardi talking about CC Sabathia and I can hear him with my ears, not just on a web stream through a computer. Sweat, sweat, sweat. My back is like a waterfall. No exaggeration, sweat is streaming down my back.
At the end of Girardi’s interview, as we wandered across the field to the Blue Jays’ dugout, Dan noticed my nerves, and gave me his notepad and pen, and told me to just pretend to be a reporter; write stuff down. As all the Yankees writers got their turn to talk to the Blue Jays manager John Farrell, all I could do was scribble and notice how huge the man is. Marvel Comics thighs, that man. I looked around on the field. Jays players throwing balls around, Jays (and former Yankees) catcher José Molina chatting to former player and broadcaster Buck Martinez. As the Farrell stuff winded down, I introduced myself to Marc, another Yankees beat writer who I follow on Twitter. He, Dan and I had a chat back in front of the Yankees dugout. I tried to take it all in, what it was like to be on this side of things, looking out at the fans with cameras and balls waiting for player autographs. One thing to note: the area of ground right in front of the player dugouts, on the fake grass, is really sticky. That’s where they spit out their sunflower seeds and bubblegum juice. Moving your feet around is like when you’ve spilled Coca Cola on the kitchen floor. It’s kinda disgusting.
Our field time was up, so we left through the same dugout tunnel. This time, though, I passed by Yankees pitcher Mariano Rivera. Just a few feet away. Mariano Rivera. Just sat there. Mariano Rivera. We were heading up to the press box. Dan suggested we go through the clubhouse. I get my pass scanned again, go through a door, and, oh, y’know, there’s Yankee left fielder Brett Gardner just looking at stuff on a laptop. There’s Freddy García buttoning up his jersey. There’s a bunch of other players sat on couches watching TV highlights of yesterday’s games, and there’s Jorge Posada with his trousers around his ankles. It most definitely isn’t every day that one sees one of the best offensive catchers in history in his underpants. But I did on Saturday. Taking it all in, Dan said we should go. I’m glad I hadn’t already looked at the other end of the clubhouse, cos there sat signing a bunch of merchandise was Derek Jeter. I’d managed to go past some of my favourite players without losing my cool, without even smiling. I had done good.
Up in the press box, the first thing I noticed was the smell of burnt popcorn. And the air conditioning was nice. And it was quiet. Men – and it was virtually all men – chatted amongst themselves, ate lunch, drank sodas. The whole time we were in there, you’d never have known it was Dan who was supposed to be asking me questions: I asked so many questions, about ballparks, teams, his job, players. What’s this guy like? Is that guy a dick? Who’s the nicest guy you’ve dealt with? Who’s the worst. Out of respect for Dan being honest, I can’t tell you what he said about who were the good guys and who were the dicks, but one thing he did say that it was okay to tell you: what you think about most players is probably true. There were only a couple of players that I was wrong about. But mostly, it was fun to hear someone confirm that players I think of as people who might be dicks are dicks.
I took advantage of my press credentials and went outside for a cigarette. Regular Blue Jays customers — like I usually am — can’t re-enter the stadium if we leave, but my fancy pass allowed me to do that. The game was about to begin, so we went into the stadium proper to find empty seats — something else the passes allowed — and watched the game and he turned his tape recorder on, and I started yakking about my book and infographics and the game. We watched a few innings from far and high above the outfield, down closer to the field. We moved around a lot, all the time chatting away. When his recorder was on, his sentences ended with a question mark; when it was off, mine ended in a question mark.
Sat up in the very back row above home plate, we baked in the sun, and stood up for the singing of Take Me Out to the Ball Game, and made our way back down to the press box. So nice and air conditioned. But so very, very quiet. Top of the ninth, Derek Jeter hit a single to center field. It was so difficult not to acknowledge. I wanted to clap, do something, but I put my hands on my knees and quietly tapped. This is the press box. No rooting. Quiet. The aforementioned CC Sabathia has been excellent, giving up one run in the first, but shutting down the Jays for the following seven. Entering the ninth, the Yankees had a 4-1 lead. Time to bring in Mariano Rivera. He strikes out the first guy. Tapping my knees. Quietly. Allows two singles. No reaction, Craig, keep it in. Another strikeout. Knee tapping. And he gets a groundout to win the game for the Yankees. Tap knees. Happy happy inside. It was the first win of the three Yankees games I’d seen so far in Toronto this season (they went on to win Sunday’s game too).
Dan had some post game stuff to do, so I went to meet friends who’d gone to the game as regular spectators, and excitedly relayed as much info as I could, as quickly as I could. We drank beer, and ate nachos in a bar. And generally had a ball of a night. Drinking, and talking about baseball. It was an utterly joyous way to end a ridiculously exciting day.
In all the excitement of getting to see Major League baseball, and more specifically, the Yankees for the first time this year, I forgot to mention this. I had a chart about Derek Jeter in Sports illustrated. Yay. It’s in the current issue, which will as of Wednesday be the previous issue, so should you wish to see it, you should probably hop, skip, or jump down to a newsstand today or tomorrow.
I’m in Toronto. Flew here on Monday. The alarm went off at 7am. Took a moment to realise that it was the day of my flight, that I couldn’t hit snooze, that I had had had to get out of bed. I’m not good at filling time, though, between being ready for something, and that thing beginning. With 15 minutes to kill before the cab was due, I could’ve sat down, read something, but no: I went downstairs and stood outside the building and just waited. Taxi came, suitcase in the boot, off to the airport. About 20 metres down the road, he confirmed that I was the guy he was supposed to pick up from apartment 305. I told him that was the case. I was lying. That’s not my apartment. I’d taken someone else’s cab. Oh well, it’s not like Señor 305 won’t have a cab waiting to take him to the airport in a few minutes. I
At the airport, the Air Canada desk wasn’t open. I was the tenth person in the queue. As soon as the dudes came along to open the check-in, I was the 25th person in the queue. Several of the folks in front of me had been saving a spot for their travelling companions, one of which was saving a spot for a bunch of nine school children. Got it done, changed my aisle seat for a window seat, and outside for a smoke. Still two and a half hours til my flight, but I can’t relax. Even when I not relaxing, I’m aware that I am not relaxing. Damn annoying. I smoked fast, stubbed out half the cigarette and went through security. All the time knowing, I should just sit down, get a coffee, and relax, maybe have a read, use my laptop, and bide my time so I can have another cigarette with, say, an hour to go. Nope. Not me. Idiot.
Bought some duty free cigs and a bottle of mezcal. Listen to podcasts and waited. On the flight, got my seat, strapped in, cracked open my book, and the stewardess asked if I wanted to sit in the seat next to the emergency exit, the one without a seat directly in front, because the Asian woman currently sitting there didn’t speak English, French, or Spanish. Yes, please. Lots of legroom for the four and a half hour flight. Sweet.
Enjoyable flight, too. Watched “The Fighter,” read a little, flipped off the United States as we flew over it and ahead of schedule — actually, on schedule, but we left twenty minutes late — I could see the CN Tower and SkyDome out of the window. I could see a park I played softball in last summer, I could see the neighbourhood where I stayed for five months. It was exciting. Of course, I was a tiny bit paranoid that I’d lied on the customs form. I had brought more than the allowed 200 cigarettes with me. But goddamn it, I’m not paying $10 for a pack when they cost about a third of that in Mexico.
Somewhere between the Air Canada desk at Benito Juárez International Airport and the baggage claim area of Pearson International Airport, one of the four wheels on my suitcase got broken off. Which made a bit difficult to manoeuvre around, so instead of using public transport, I treated myself to a cab. Nice cab driver, too. Friendly Punjabi guy. We chatted all the way to my friend Scott’s house. Toronto is hot. Hotter than it was when I left Mexico City. Which is kinda strange when one looks at a map.
But it is fantastic to be back here, if only for three weeks. It’s been wonderful to walk along the street and hear people speaking English. It’s been wonderful to see familiar things again. Great to see some of the friends I made last time I was here. Great to drink the expensive beer. And great to be here for what is pretty much entirely vacation, rather than busting myself every day to write the book last summer. I signed some stock in a book store here (Chapters, on John St., next to the cinema, in case you are a Torontonian and want one), and I participated in the Getting Blanked podcast, talking about me me me and baseball. And tonight, I’ll be heading to the SkyDome to see the first of four Blue Jays v. Yankees games I’ll be seeing this weekend.
It’s great to be back.
I am of the opinion that curmudgeon should be a verb as well as a noun. Primarily, this is because it rhymes with bludgeon which is both noun and verb, but it also works well as a verb.
For example: Barry curmudgeoned my enjoyment of America’s Next Top Model. Or: Toni’s new vegetarian boyfriend totally curmudgeoned the barbecue on Saturday.
After the awesome Under-17s World Cup semi final between Mexico and Germany, in which Julio Gomez became something of a national hero, when he scored the first goal, suffered a head injury after clashing heads with a defender trying to head in the second goal (it went past both players and into the net anyway), being stretchered-off, to be bandaged up, covered in blood, and with the game at 2-2, scored a spectacular winning goal to give Mexico a much deserved place in the final; after that, whatever followed could never be as exciting. And the final against Uruguay wasn’t as good, but it was still a very enjoyable game to watch. Mexico won 2-0. As soon as the game was over, my friends Sam, Lina and I went to the Ángel de la Independencia in the centre of the city to join the celebrations. It was spitting with rain when we left the flat, and the sky turned dark, thunder, lightning, and it pissed it down. But that wasn’t stopping anyone from celebrating. We live quite close, so we got there quicker than most, and there were already a couple of thousand people there. It was fantastic fun. Once all of our clothing was wet, there was little to worry about. It was quite the fun experience. I wonder if English people would’ve rushed to Trafalgar Square in the pouring rain if we’d've won the Under 17s World Cup..? Sadly, I doubt it. More photos on Flickr.
I’m not proud of it, but I went to a British-style pub the other night. This is what is painted on the wall of the men’s bathroom: a silhouette map of the U.K., Punks not Dead, Rolling Stones logo, and a CCTV camera. The last one makes me sad. Is that what other people think of us? It’s fucking depressing.
My friend Steve alerted me to this. Stevie Nicks just singing while she’s getting her make-up done. Amazing stuff.
1. A laundry basket the exact size of the washing machine drum. I’m really bad at judging how much of my dirty laundry will fit in the washing machine. I always take too much, and have to traipse back to my bedroom with a dirty towel or something. And starving people think they have problems…
2. Some sort of add-on to a computer’s operating system that automatically works out the most efficient use of screen space if you have several windows open that you need/want visible at at the same time.
Flip Flop Fly Ball is in stores today. It didn’t really sink in until about 8pm last night. Then it sank in. Then I got drunk. You can order it from these places:
And if you’re still in the mood for me talking about me, I wrote a post for SB Nation about the book, site, my love of baseball, and baseball’s Internet presence:
This is a drawing of the Battle of Orgreave, on 29th May 1984, during the miners’ strike in the UK. I’m not sure that I really understood what was going on at the time. But, y’know, Thatcher was obviously a heinous cunt. And whatever I am doing on the day she dies, I will stop doing it, go to a bar, and celebrate.
The drawing is of a paused moment is this clip of news footage. I am very much enjoying drawing with the iPad nowadays. The more I try, the more it can do. Brushes is a pretty simple app, but the more you play around, the better things get, I think.
More finger painting here.
See it larger here.
Today would’ve been my grandmother’s 87th birthday. Which is a good enough reason to mention her wonderful apple crumble recipe. Custard is best. Vanilla ice cream a close second. Happy birthday, Gran.
Something I’m becoming more and more aware of, and it’s hardly a ground breaking observation, is the growing difference between my brain and the rest of me. I don’t feel old, but I’m getting older.
More than anything, these three records remind me of the summer of 1989. There were other records, other records that I’ve listened to more, had more of an effect on my life; but for some reason, these three records combine to conjure up a lot of memories. And they all sound — to me, anyway — like they were released yesterday.
Slightly larger version here.
Rain, this afternoon.
Well, today one of life’s boxes got ticked: being in the New York Times. All the credit, though, should go to a man called Jeremy, who is the guy handling promotion of my book. He was the one who managed to get my work in there. So, yes, today’s New York Times, page 15 of the magazine, looks like this:
“Flip Flop Fly Ball: An Infographic Baseball Adventure” is in stores on Tuesday. More info here.
The first in a series of one drawings done of things on the counter whilst waiting for the kettle to boil.
More finger painting here.