Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Kentucky Derby Thud at Rosecroft Raceway
I'm not a big player of the horses, but I like to go the Rosecroft Raceway to bet on the Triple Crown races. For as close as it is to downtown DC (10 miles, maybe), once you get there, you are worlds away, which is a big part of the lure for me. (Also, gas is cheaper out there.) I tradionally get there well before the feature race of the day, place some bets for friends, and place a couple of bets for myself on the day's particular feature race, as well as anything else that might catch my eye. I return home in time to watch the race on TV, although now I have to do this after sneaking away from my dog, who seems to think the horses are in our living room and if he wiggles around, whining and barking, they'll play with him.

Things were different this year, though. For reasons that I still don't fully understand, the track had lost their Simulcast signal. Not "lost" in the way that you lose a radio station when you're driving in your car, but "lost" in the way that someone comes to your house and takes your car -- radio and all -- if you stop making payments. Rosecroft had protested this action, and, according to frequent announcments over the intercom, was making its case before a federal court, with the hope that things would be settled and people would be able to vote on the Derby.

I figured I'd wait things out for a while. I stopped by the bar, and got a canned Corona from the great bartender (named Rose!) who has been there for as long as I can remember, and still appears genuniely surprised when you give her a tip. I stopped by the snack bar for a chilli dog. I'm not big on chilli with beans, but they do it right here. Then I found the one TV, of hundreds, that had the hockey game on it, which I watched while I ate and drank and listened to people bitch about having lost their shot at financial independence.

I was at the track from roughly 2:00PM to 4:20PM. They said they'd have word from the court by 4:00PM, which was about the time that the frequent announcements on the intercom suddenly ended. I guessed that meant they lost. So I headed to my car, drove to Smoke Shack to pick up ribs, and went home. I looked at the whole episode as unfortunate, but one that would ultimately save me money, as I know it did for the people I was supposed to place bets for. But everyone else was certain that this was costing them the opportunity to make a big score. They were unhappy. I felt bad for people like Rose and the other workers at the track, who had probably been looking forward to one of their biggest days, and instead gotten their worst day. That's never fun.

Later during the weekend, I saw this on their website, so I guess you were eventually able to bet, although I'm not sure if I believe anything from such a poorly run outfit. I checked the website Friday evening, and there was no mention of the controversy, just marketing material about coming to join them to bet on the Kentucky Derby. Maybe a good way to make amends to the hundreds of people that journeyed out to beautiful Ft. Washington, MD, might be to update the website to show an apology or explanation. Instead, though, they've chosen to ignore the issue, showing the contempt for their customer which is ultimately going to doom this place. Which is a shame.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Self-Absorbed Chatter of the Year Award
I was reading Tom Boswell's Washington Post chat this afternoon and came across this gem:

Help Please! From Ashburn: Tom, I will be celebrating a good friend's 50th birthday tomorrow at Nationals Park. So I'll be recording the Caps game at home. Is there any way to let the Nationals staff know to PLEASE not give Caps updates on the board or over the loudspeaker during the game?? It will be much less fun if I know the final score (or even the winner or loser) before I watch the game.

Tom Boswell: I'll be interested to see how they handle this.

Even if I'm taping a game (and heaven knows I tape enough of them), I still want to know the score as it happens. I figure most people do. Besides, the roar (or groan) when the score goes up is a fun part of the game.

But maybe the Nats will respect your point of view. We'l see.

First, the Caps don't even play Friday, and there was never any discussion of it.  I heard Caps radio announcers get into it after the game Tuesday, when one suggested that the NHL had said that the Caps next series would start next Tuesday, and another one said that he was full of it.  Nobody ever said anything about Friday, though.  (I hope Mr. Ashburn set his Betamax for the wrong day.)

Second, what the hell?  I know that DC is full of pompous, thoughtless a-holes, but I never thought that a guy from Ashburn would suggest that a columnist should ask the executives of a MLB team to withhold information from a crowd of, hopefully, 30,000 people just so he can enjoy his 50-year old friends' birthday party.  

To quote Jeff Spicoli from the classic film,  Fast Times at Ridgemont High, "What a dick!"

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Sorry State of DC Sports Radio in the Morning
You would think that a city like Washington would have some good sports radio that you could listen to as you go to work. Or any localized sports radio at all.

Last night was a big night in DC, the Caps won a seventh game. I know that the sports station formerly known at WTEM (WESPNDCDANSNYDER or something now) doesn't have a morning show, they run the syndicated Mike and Mike show. Sometimes they'll run localized programming for special events, like evaluating the NFL draft. What's more important -- the latest batch of non-offensive lineman and liars that the Redskins draft, or the only good team in town winning a play-off series? I guess the draft, because when I tried 980 this morning, it was those two dolts, Mike and Mike.

I figured, maybe I'm wrong on Mike and Mike, so I thought I'd listen for a while. That lasted roughly two minutes, until I realized that their big story for the day was for Golic to have his back waxed, on the air. Not sure who the target market is there, but I switched stations as fast as my fingers could handle it.

The Junkies used to be the Sports Junkies, but they still sometimes talk about sports. They're on the Caps station, and seem to like hockey. So I thought I'd give them a try. They had some women in studio with them, I suspect future bikini contest women or Junkettes or whatever. Their presence inspired one Junkie to take his shirt off and another to take his shoes off, so that the girls could decide which was most disgusting, one's gut or the other's foot. The foot won in a landslide, evidently EB has hammertoe. I don't know what that is, and I again changed stations. And I still don't really get why people are supposed to be interested in good-looking women ON THE RADIO, but I guess it worked for Howard Stern.

At this point, I knew I wasn't going to come across any talk about the Caps greatness. So I went to XM 175, the baseball station. Up until this year, they had a morning show called Buck and the Big Chair. Buck was Buck Martinez, and the Big Chair was Mark Patrick. I never really understood the Big Chair nickname, but, nonetheless, it was an enjoyable and interesting show. They had great chemistry. Buck tends to blather sometimes and his Kermit the Frog-style voice takes some getting used to, but Patrick really brought out the best in him. Patrick was funny and quick, and their morning shows recapped previous night's games. They were great.

In November, though, Patrick evidently got canned. I went through the whole Internet this morning, and can't find any rationale for that or any sign of where he's resurfaced. But he's not on XM 175 anymore. His replacement, Scott Graham, a former Phillies announcer, has no sense of humor; he's cheerfully bland in that annoying Bob Carpenter style, which makes me wonder how he survived in Philly. There is no chemistry at all between Graham and Martinez, their broadcasts are filled with pauses and lulls and I picture them each on telephones in different cities, shaking their heads and rolling their eyes at each other. It is often painful to listen to, as it was this morning, when I gave up on morning sports radio, and listened to Only Life, by the Feelies, which is always great.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Esquire's Future May Be Short
The folks at The Big Lead directed me to this article the other day, which notes 12 major brands that could disappear, Circuit City-style, sometime soon. It's a pretty interesting list, it includes Borders (I've spent many a lunch-hour at the L St., N.W., branch, and still remember when it opened and will be sad if it closes), Saturn (I owned one three or four cars ago) and Crocs (nicely done, Mr. Cank).

It also includes Esquire, a magazine I've subscribed to for quite a while, that puzzles me more with each issue. It seems that at least every other issue is devoted to some kind of theme, like the All-American Issue or the Extremes of Men's Fashion Issue (I don't even know, or care, what that means). The May issue is themed How To Be a Man. The cover is the creation of some crazed art director -- there are head shots of George Clooney, Justin Timberlake and President Obama. These are on consecutive pages, each page has two perforations, which allows you to combine, say, Clooney's eyes with Timberlake's nose with the president's lips. Which would be fun, if you were, like, six years old.

Also, are there any men out there who really even care about Justin Timberlake? He's a guy who struck it rich by being in a boy band, and now he's a gazillionaire. The end. George Clooney, while probably a little closer to the demographic of the magazine's readers, is still kind of a stretch. I've been a guy my whole life, and I don't care about George Clooney, and I've never had a conversation with any other guy about him. I know my sister liked him when he was in ER, that's fine. He makes some decent movies, and he seems like a nice enough guy. He cares about Darfur and the environment, that's cool. But I don't know any guy who's going to purchase a magazine because he's on the cover, and he certainly doesn't define manhood. That's silly.

Once you get in the magazine, they actually provide you with instructions on How To Be a Man: how to parallel park, how to make eggs, how to change a tire. Who doesn't know how to do these things? Tom Chiarella writes a ridiculous paragraph on how to bet the horses -- basically pick a horse and bet $20 on it to win, and then bet an exacta. Gee, thanks, that's brilliant. We're told that a good way to get a bartender's attention is to tip well. Ya think?

Stuff like this makes me wonder who Esquire is aimed at. I suspect that it's the crazed art director and a few of his friends. Another brilliant idea they came up with is the Sexiest Woman Alive, where they show a different body part of a woman each issue for some period of time and then they assemble all the body parts and we find that there's been a six month build-up to Halle Berry winning the honor. That's stunning news, I know, the tension was difficult to handle.

The sad thing about this is that, amidst the crap, there's a decent magazine. The May issue included articles about Todd Palin and Todd Marinovich (maybe it should have been The Todd Issue) that were both interesting reading. If you can find them, there are often good tips about music, books and, uh, booze.

Esquire's demise is predicted due, of course, to falling ad revenues. That's not too surprising. While there are ads for cars and beer and tequila, there are also those smelly ads for cologne, as well as high-end watches, cigars, clothing that you might be able to fit into if you're 16, and other crap. Stuff no real guys care about. All these products were initially geared to the super rich, then when our culture started crumbling and people that weren't wealthy thought they should at least act like they were wealthy, they'd max out their credit cards to pay for $9000 watches. Then they couldn't pay their credit card bills or their mortgages, and they stopped making these stupid purchases, and couldn't even afford to make more sensible purchases, so now the economy is screwed and the companies that make $9000 watches find out that they have to cut their advertising budget. And a formerly good magazine bites the dust. And Justin Timberlake and George Clooney are doing just fine.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Marley and Me and Family Guy
Not to get all Marley and Me-ish, but my dog Willie and I have recently finished our first shot at obedience training. Willie is a very high-spirited young dog, so I wasn't quite sure how this was going to work.

It turned out he was either great at things (the name game, getting in a down position, running pell-mell across the training room when I called him) or just really not interested (everything else). The first thing you learn at such training is that it's all based on food rewards. About 45 minutes into the hour-long sessions, Willie's attention span would be shot, and he'd be so full of treats that they had no appeal whatsoever to him, and I'd start to be feeling a little nauseous myself from walking around with pockets full of chopped up hot dogs and dehydrated liver. My main goal was to keep both of us from throwing up before we left the class.

At obedience training graduation, we were to have our dogs do a trick. I set my goal for this low, unlike some better-trained pups that I am aware of. We would do a "gimme five," a "gimme ten," and hit the graduation parties. We worked on it for a couple of weeks. Willie caught on fast, and seemed to remember it from one time to the next. I hadn't felt so good about a final exam in a while.

When it was time for our performance, Willie and I marched to the middle of the room, his tail wagging excitably at the attention of all of his classmates. You start out both "gimme five" and "gimme ten" from a sitting position. Which is a position that Willie would not get into at that particular moment. He was aware that I had treats, and he went through his whole repertoire of treat-earning moves. Except for "gimme five" and "gimme ten." He did this in a charming manner, though, so he still got a nice round of applause as we left the spotlight, with me mumbling about how great he did this when he was at home in our kitchen. The instructors found it in their hearts to let us both graduate, though.

Of course, as soon as we got home he gave me five AND ten until we both collapsed on the couch in exhaustion. We're on home study now, and we're working on some new tricks. I've made him watch this video time after time, so he truly will understand the magic of a high five. Eventually, I'll be in the Cleveland role, and Willie will be Peter.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Nats Begin Home Losing Streak
Yesterday was the Nats home opener, and, overall, kind of a strange day.

As we made our way to the stadium, we heard that legendary Phillies announcer and voice of NFL Films Harry Kalas died, as he was preparing for the game. After the game, I read that legendary pitcher and character Mark "Bird" Fidrych died during the day. I remember the days of Fidrych Fever; if you saw him pitch, you'd never forget him, he was the closest thing in baseball to a real-life Sid Finch.

The game was strange, too. Daniel Cabrera was on and off, and certainly not helped by his defense. Anderson Hernandez, who appears to the be latest in a long list of lousy second basemen for the Nats, didn't help by commiting two errors. Adam Dunn didn't field very well either, but that is to be expected.

The good news for the Nats, though, is that their offense appears much impoved. Guys in the heart of the order -- Zimmerman, Dunn, Dukes -- all have the ability to crush the ball, which they each displayed by homering yesterday. Nick Johnson hasn't done much yet, but he'll either warm up or get injured soon. Hopefully, he'll get heated. Christian Guzman is a singles machine. Unfortunately, yesterday he became the third Nat this year to hurt himself running to first base (along with Willie Harris, and Hernandez). Hopefully he'll be back soon.

There were a lot of home runs, a lot of errors, some actual good catches by Milledge and Dukes, a lot of hit batsman in a row (well, two, but you never really see that), and some questionable managing decisions by Manny Acta, who I expect to be fired any moment.

For me, though, the bottom line was that it was fun. The stadium was packed. I didn't notice a higher percentage of Phillies fans than at any other Phillies/Nats games. I actually was amused by the people that criticized Stan Kasten for inviting, last week, Phillies fans to the game. Kasten can't win. Anybody who's ever been to previous Nats/Phillies games, or Skins/Eagles games, or Caps/Flyers games knows that people in Philadelphia know how to get to Washington, and always make their presence known. Believe me, these folks had bought their tickets and made their plans long ago; I'd be surprised if even one person bought tickets because of Kasten's remarks.

Metro, unsurprisingly, let me down yesterday; we got to L'Enfant Plaza to make the transfer to the green line, and it didn't look like there were any more trains than on a usual weekday afternoon. So we caught a cab. There were long lines in some of the concessions, and I'm sure all of the city's great Nats fans have chimed in on that in various forums. But you could find shorter lines if you walked a little bit, or, you know, just try to go a few hours without eating junk food. Nats' management finally caught on to what every other stadium does, and gave their beer vendors bright yellow shirts so that they could be picked out in the crowd.

I'm not sure that it adds anything to the gameday experience to have two crappy bands playing in the stadium. Both played so loudly that you couldn't have a conversation if you were close to them, which resulted in the band by the Porch not having anyone within 30 feet of them. I guess that and the fact that at one point they were playing the theme from Cheers. (I think they were being ironic -- kids these days.) People standing in various food lines just kind of looked at them and looked at their watches, with a "Isn't it about time for them to break?," look in their eyes. I'd lean to bagging bands at the stadium altogether, although it would be awful cool if a band like the Nighthawks were playing as you walked into the stadium.

On the field, I think the Nats need to make some moves. They need to fire Acta, who doesn't even really seem like he'd mind. They need to do something with Lastings Milledge, I'm not sure that sending him to the minors is going to help his fielding. See if someone will take him in a trade, and hope he doesn't become the next Emilio Bonifacio. Get rid of Kearns. I was encouraged by the massive home run he hit last week, but he was back to his old self by Sunday, grounding into two double plays ("Kearnsies," as I like to call them). Put Dukes in center, give poor Josh Willingham a chance in right, and keep it that way for a while. Keep Willie Harris out of the infield. And see what happens.

I'm hoping that this stretch of poor pitching will end soon. Maybe call up Bergmann and Zimmermann and anybody else with two n's at the end of their name that seems like they may be able to help. Give them a shot, if they can't do the job, get someone else. I hear Nick Swisher may be available.

What I hope, is that at the end of the season, we'll be saying, "Well, it was a decent year, and it would have been even better if not for our poor start." But that will only happen if they win soon. Tomorrow would be nice.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Say It Ain't So, Wily Mo
The Nationals did everyone not related to him a favor by releasing punchless outfielder Wily Mo Pena yesterday. Wily Mo had surpisingly nice power numbers as a very young man in 2004 and 2005. By 2007, he was with the Nationals, and each day he was with the team the luster of his potential lessened until it was all gone, and it became worthwhile for the Nats to give him $2 million to get out and stay out -- not for nuthin' did his mama call him Wily. Add him to the list of Jim Bowden projects that are over with.

Everyone has their own special memories of Wily Mo, I know I sure do. Last May I was at a game, sitting pretty close to the Nationals' dugout, a few rows in front of a few drunkenly enthusiastic young ladies who were apparently pretty big Nationals fans, and were trying to get the attention of the players. Most of the players appeared not to notice, a couple gave a quick glance. They got Wily's full attention, though, as he spent a good part of several innings looking away from the field, in the direction of the ladies. Wily's success with these ladies was equal to his success on the field, though, as it soon became evident that the gals were asking him to get Ryan Zimmerman's attention for them. And he tried, but Zim professionally kept his eyes field-forward.

Good for Zim, bad for Wily, who never really seemed like he was in it for anything other than the money. And, he had hoped, the ladies.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Paging Sports Illustrated
I've subscribed to Sports Illustrated for about 15 years now. I generally try to get one of those deals where you get savings of Up to 75% and Up to 12 issues and a gift -- FREE with paid renewal. I subscribe for as long as I can, because I absolutely cannot stand the renewal process. Last week, I got an Important Notice About My Account that encouraged me to renew my subscription by replying to this notice by April 10, 2009. This made me wonder when my subscription actually expired. Sports Illustrated was nice enough to tell me that my subscription doesn't expire until July 27, 2009, a time which is roughly four months from now.

Basically, what they're telling me is that I need to renew and start paying them now, otherwise I have four more months of Annoying Mail From Them, which includes many suspicious claims that they are offering me the Best Possible Deal, when I really suspect that they're offering me the Same Old Damn Deal, whether I renew now or on July 26.

So I checked the box for three years (and 12 Bonus Issues). Free gift-wise, I think I'll go for the SI Toiletry Kit, which I will give to my dog. He can just chew it up, or use it for travel.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

St. Patrick's Day, The Pogues and Joe Strummer
Normally, I'd be disinclined to run a video of The Pogues without Shane MacGowan (who is, as of this moment, still alive). I would make an exception for The Pogues with Joe Strummer doing London Calling, in London, on St. Patrick's Day, 1988, which is what this is.

Have a good St. Patrick's Day. Go Siena.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Me and the Dancing Prilosec Woman
I watched a lot of college basketball and World Baseball Classic on TV this weekend. Damn that Felipe Lopez.

Evidently, Prilosec is a big sponsor of sports on TV, because I feel like I saw this commercial during every break.

What the hell? I acknowledge criticism of commercials is about the lowest form of humor, but I can't get this out of my head. So I'll take a shot at it, Larry King USA Today column stream-of-consciousness style:

What kind of club is this, anyway?...This is how white people dance when there's no music...Wow, huge hair flip by that woman in the back who looks like she needs a stripper pole...I guess she's dancing like nobody's watching...I sure wish I wasn't...But I can't turn away...This is a joke, right?...Elaine from Seinfeld...She's so happy because now -- thanks to Prilosec -- she can drink at a club without suffering excruciating heartburn...I recommend tequila shots...Katie's no kid, she's gotta be pushing 40, who goes to a club and dances like that at that age?...So the one guy looks like he might get lucky tonight...The finger point, I am speechless...She's gotta be on more than Prilosec...Maybe somebody dosed her white zinfandel...I suspect the stripper chick...So, umm, Brian, how's the book coming along?...Now that she's on Prilosec, she can go to IHOP after the clubs close and eat a corned beef hash omlette and pancakes...Get Katie on Dancing with the Stars.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

This Might Not Work Out So Well
It appears that President Obama will appoint Seattle Police Chief Richard “Gil” Kerlikowske to be the country's Drug Czar, which I always thought was the coolest title for a member of the Executive Branch.

This appointment is not without controversy. Kerlikowske has some kind of son (he's been referred to as "stepson," "adopted son," and "son from a previous marriage" -- by the time confirmation hearings start, he'll be known as the Chief's third cousin twice removed on his great uncle's side) who's had some rough patches with the law, including some drug arrests. He's also been in trouble for "cruelty to animals," which is particularly despicable and a quality that he shares with most psychopaths. I understand the fact that all families have their issues, but I think you'd want the leader of the war on drugs to at least be able to lead his own family away from drugs. (Maybe the cruelty to animals part while you're at it, too.) Also, didn't anyone in the Administration think of Traffic when they were considering this appointment?

Perhaps more troubling to me is that, on December 26, 2004, Chief Kerkilowke had his gun stolen from his unmarked police car, while he and his wife were shopping at the Pacific Place shopping mall in downtown Seattle. The couple parked at 10:30AM, and returned about 3:30PM to find that the gun, which had been stashed in that great hiding place, under the driver's seat, was gone. That's completely humiliating -- what kind of a guy is going to spend five hours at a mall on the day after Christmas? Was his cable out or something? Even giving them an hour for lunch, hopefully with some drinks, that's still four more hours than anyone should spend at a mall on that day. (Although it probably is a good idea to limit your access to weapons if you must spend that day at the mall.)

Maybe Chief Kerkilowke is the right man for the job, who knows. I'm sure it helps him that there's not exactly a long history of successful drug policy in this country, so the bar is low. For now, the Chief is excited about the possibilities, and also because he's heard there's great shopping in DC.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Nats Get New Mascot, Kind Of

So the Nats have somewhat of a new mascot.  Sure, it's the same old Screech.  But he's different.  He's older, as the Nats pr folks and that guy Clint explained at the unveiling today (as reported by D.C. Sports Bog hero Dan Steinberg).  He's like a teenager, so he'll be cooler and everything.  And his hat is removable, which will be a relief to that one guy who, in any Washington Post Nats-related chat, chimes in about how disrespectful it is that the old Screech's hat was affixed to his head, which made it impossible to hold his hand over his heart during the National Anthem.  I hope I never meet that guy.

Anyway, you'll note that the new Screech is tall and thin.  

That's Smiley Gonzalez in there!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Soul Food in Phoenix
Lots of people head to Phoenix this time of the year to enjoy the warmer weather and play golf. Not us. We went and, after I worked each morning, visited the soul food restaurants of Phoenix.

First we went to Mrs. White's Golden Rule Cafe, which is in downtown Phoenix, not far from the baseball stadium, but somewhat confusing to get to due to the fact that they've recently (at least since last time I was there) put a light-rail system in downtown Phoenix, which makes things like turning a little more challenging.

Mrs. White's is a tiny place, with about a dozen tables and a bar (for eating, not drinking). You pick a meat, and two sides. I had chicken-fried steak, which was pretty much batter fried goodness surrounding a tender, not dried out, steak. It was wonderful. I combined it with some macaroni and cheese, which wasn't particularly memorable, and some greens, which were good, and had a great meal for less than $20. No booze, but they sell sweet-tea and lemonade. The service is friendly. It takes a while to get your food, but that's because they're cooking it up right there. So have another sweet-tea, enjoy the atmosphere and, if you have a sharpie with you, sign your name on the wall.

The next day we went to Restaurant 28, in Glendale, which is a suburb of Phoenix that gets made fun of a lot, I'm not really sure why. The Arizona Cardinals play there, but I don't think that's the reason. Restaurant 28 is the biggest of the three soul food establishments we visited, and it looks more like a traditional (casual) restaurant than the other two, which are converted houses with not a lot of space. It's run by a guy named George, who is from North Carolina. On our visit, George walked into the restaurant, trailing a cart of barbecued meat, and asked us all how we were doin'. The place is called Restaurant 28, commemorating the fact that he and his eventual wife went 28 years without seeing each other before they were reunited and married. His wife was from Arizona, they re-met in North Carolina and, the next thing you know, George packed up his barbecue equipment and headed out west.

Restaurant 28 has a huge menu. And they serve chittlings every day, which is apparently a pretty big thing. It was a big thing to my girlfriend, as we seem to always show up at these restaurants the day after chittling day. But at Restaurant 28, every day is Chittling Day! And they were good, my girlfriend said, although not as good as those of her cousin, who, unfortunately, doesn't have a restaurant.

I'm not much of a chittling eater, so I opted for some of George's barbecue -- chopped brisket. You generally get your brisket sliced, but chopped is much better. You don't have to do so much chewing, and there's more surface space for George's great sauces, most of which I was unaware of until George was telling us about them and I had finished eating. I also enjoyed some fried okra, which I munched on as my girlfriend made her way through her chittlings. Based on the quality and variety of the food, and the friendliness of George and his colleagues, I could eat at Restaurant 28 every day. If I lived in Arizona, at least. And I guess I'd eat there every day for about three years, at which point my arteries would be as hard as concrete and I'd drop dead.

Oh, and you can get beer there, too, which is always nice.

Day Three took us to Lo-Lo's Chicken and Waffles (if you follow this link, check out the pictures section where you'll see a photo of Matt Leinert wearing a stylized Nationals' cap). Like Mrs. White's, this is downtown and in a coverted house. It's run by Larry "Lo-Lo" White, who is Mrs. White's grandson. Of course he is!

I'm certainly familiar with the whole chicken and waffle concept, but I was never quite sure if I got it, and was a little bit afraid to ask. After experiencing it, I'm still not sure that I get it. It is, indeed, chicken AND waffles (I thought maybe you ordered chicken or you ordered waffles). At Lo-Lo's, you get a plate filled up with fried chicken, eggs, grits and a couple of waffles. The fried chicken was very good, crisp on the outside, juicy on the inside. Big pieces. I'm not much of a waffle-eater, but the waffles didn't really seem exceptional, and I'm still unclear as to why chicken and waffles is such a famous combination. But who am I to arguewith the likes of E40 and Cassidy, who, apparently, are hip hop musicians that are big fans of Lo-Lo's? The eggs were good, and the grits were good, and it tasted all right when you just kind of mixed everything up and sopped it up with a waffle. But the chicken was the best part, and I just wanted to pick that up and eat it, not messing with any waffles or anything else.

No beer here, you can have lemonade or fruit punch Kool-Aid, served in Mason jars.

Unfortunately, I was not up to the task of dessert, which featured a red velvet cake, that has been deemed "the best" by none other than ex-Sun and noted red velvet cake expert Shawn Marion. Marion actually majored in Red Velvet Cake during his days at UNLV. So he should know. It was also noted that the Arizona Cardinals considered Lo-Lo's their "good luck" charm during their improbable run to the Super Bowl. (Note to Dan Snyder: Open a Lo-Lo's Washington branch out by the stadium. I'm sure it won't give the Redskins good luck, but it would be a good place to go get chicken.)

Lo-Lo's was just as friendly as the other restaurants. It's even smaller than Mrs. White's, though, and when it fills up it can get loud and a little hectic. Part of the experience I guess.

The soul food tour was a good way to get a feel for Phoenix, beyond the $250 greens fees and fancy sports cars zooming down Camelback Road that I associate with the city. There are many other soul food restaurants in Phoenix (thanks, Google), I actually think they have more there than in DC. Which is interesting when you realize that Arizona has never been blazing the trail in making black people feel welcome, as famously illustrated by their reluctance to accept Martin Luther King Day as a holiday, despite the pleas of Ronald Reagan, and despite the fact that the NFL moved a Super Bowl elsewhere to protest this reluctance. I'm glad things have changed.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Who's Smiling Now?
So remember that kid "Smiley" Gonzalez that the Nationals signed when he was 16? A little over two years ago Smiley inspired people, like Todd Jacobson of the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star (I didn't even know Lance Star was in prison.), to gush:

Esmailyn Gonzalez drives his gleaming white Cadillac Escalade through the narrow and pock-marked streets of Pizarrete, stopping often. He is 16 years old, he is almost a millionaire, and he's a celebrity.

Townspeople wave from storefront bars and fruit stands, approaching the driver's side window to offer handshakes and greetings. He picks up one woman and gives her a ride to the bus stop.

And when he pulls into the small plot of land on the edge of sugar cane fields that has served as home for the last 16 years, his sport utility vehicle sticks out like a bulldozer in a cornfield.

What an inspirational story, I remember that I teared up at the time.

Turns out, Smiley is really Carlos Alvarez Daniel Lugo (that's right -- Carl Lugo!), and he's now 23, not 19, which is how old he would have been if he really was 16 back in December of 2006. Evidently, a key part of the scam was that he figured that no one would ever suspect a guy named Smiley of lying about stuff. Sure fooled the Nationals, who gave him $1.4 million dollars. His next most aggressive suitor, the brilliant minds at the Texas Rangers, were thinking more like $700,000.

Smiley had a great year last year in the Gulf Coast League. A great year if he was 18, but not such a great year when you figure he was four years older than the kids he was playing with.

They really saw Jim Bowden coming on this one.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Nationals Promote Conformism
Nationals' brass have come up with a slogan, and a marketing theme, intended to stir up the apathetic masses and create some real excitement about their crummy team. Nats Town! is apparently the place to be, and we're supposed to Get Your Red On, and wear red to the games. That should work!

You know what I hate? Being told what I have to wear, what I have to say, or how I have to act at ball games. I went to a college where you were expected to go to football games in khakis and, sometimes, a tie, sing a song when the team did good, and drink as much bourbon as you could. I was at least able to semi-conform to this, as I compensated for my poor wardrobe choices by drinking extra bourbon; and the singing was directly related to the bourbon consumption.

I hate when you're ready to go to a baskeball game or something, and you remember at the last minute that it's going to be a "white-out," so you have to scramble to find something white, and you realize the only white shirt you have is the white dress shirt that you just wore to work that day. So you get out of whatever comfortable shirt you wanted, and put the work shirt back on. That's dumb.

I can deal with the National Anthem. But are we really living "o'er the land of the free," if we have to stand up and wave our hands during The Wave? While wearing red? Can't we just watch the game? I even find myself getting a little self-conscious before the 7th inning stretch, as I'm sure the people behind me have never been to a game before and are going to yell at the big guy standing in front of them.

I think the Nationals need to work a little on their record before they start telling us what to wear to the game.

Monday, February 02, 2009

A Sad Story
Yesterday, the Washington Post Magazine published a story about the tragic episode last summer where Prince George's County cops busted into the home of the mayor of Berwyn Heights, and killed his two dogs. A rather large package of pot had been delivered to the home of the mayor, his wife and mother-in-law. Not taking into account that drug dealers aren't brazen enough to have the drugs actually sent to their home, so they send their packages to other homes and then take them from the porch, the cops assumed the residents were drug dealers. They didn't even take a moment to Google the name of the homeowner, so they were not aware that he was the mayor. A SWAT team stormed the house, scared the hell out of the mother-in-law, and shot and killed the dogs. The dogs were non-aggressive; they were labs, one of them was trying to run away when he was shot. The cops quickly realized their mistake, but it was too late. They don't even seem to really feel bad about it.

My dog, who turned one year old yesterday, slept across my lap as I read this, and it was really too horrible to read in one sitting. It seems like the "war on drugs" has been going on since I've been old enough to read about it, and nothing has changed. Precious financial resources disappear into thin air, and -- even worse -- things like this happen, which make you wonder if the combatants remember who they're fighting for.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

John Updike
Yesterday, amidst the hoopla of the Rob Dibble announcement, something of true significance happened. The great writer John Updike died. When I was in college, I had this bad habit of going to the library to actually study for my classes, but instead ending up roaming the fiction aisles, and reading novels. That's how I discovered John Updike (so it turns out, it wasn't such a bad habit).

When I heard that he had died, I immediately stopped everything I was doing to find the clip of his appearance in The Simpsons. I think he was Krusty's biographer, and I remember reading that he was disappointed he didn't get as much screen time as Stephen King and Amy Tan.

I never found the clip, but I was reading Henry Allen's story in the Washington Post today, and he mentioned something I had read before, but forgotten -- Updike's story about Ted Williams' last game in Boston. It's great stuff.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Mr. Dibble Goes to Washington; Mr. Cranky Throws Up a Little in His Mouth
God. I don't know how much more of this I can take. MASN, the Nationals' supposed network, has announced that they've said farewell to arrogant, poodle-headed blowhard announcer Don Sutton, and welcomed, well, dumb-ass Rob Dibble to their television crew. Surprisingly, he used to play for the Cincinnati Reds. He was one of the Nasty Boys, as he'll be telling us every ten seconds. He was also a world class hot head. He reminds me of one of those big dumb guys that you go to high school with, who's constantly on the verge of snapping and hurting people. I guess on the positive side, I think there's a decent chance that he and Ray Knight will mix it up at some point during the course of the season.

This news comes right after yesterday's big news that the Nats have signed a contract with some pitcher named Gary "G-Love" Glover. Thanks guys. Since you're not going to add any player of significance, how about throwing me a bone and just firing Austin Kearns. Obviously, nobody wants him. Just cut him. Chalk the financial loss up to the money that you saved by not getting any free agents. I'm not entirely sure of what Chubby Dmitri Young's status is now, but sever ties with him, too. Do something. Please.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Bigger Stronger Faster Dumber
I watched the documentary Bigger Stronger Faster a couple of weeks ago. It's by a guy named Chris Bell. He's from New Jersey; he and his two brothers became hooked on, to varying degrees, sports, bodybuilding and pro wrestling. As kids, they wanted to be like Arnold, pre-politics.

Chris' movie is a look into the steroid culture, which both of his brothers are a part of (sadly, his brother Mike died last month).  He has some tough conversations with his brothers and his parents, goes to a lot of gyms, and talks to people, several of whom question the whole steroid panic.  He decides to visit his Congressman, who happens to be  Rep. Henry Waxman, who led the congressional steroid hearings of a few years back, where a bunch of high profile baseball players came to DC, saw the sights and told made-up stories to Congress.

I expected Waxman to be a pretty sharp guy.  He's not.  Of all the people in this film, he comes out looking the worst, as you can see for yourself.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Surviving the Inauguration
Turns out, I did so just fine. I pretty much ignored all the advice, and did what I normally do on a weekend, which doesn't involve too much, mostly sports and movie-watching. I ventured out to go to a show on Friday night, and to take care of my errands throughout the weekend, without incident.

Comcast celebrated the Inauguration by not providing me with television service for a 24-hour period from Monday morning to Tuesday morning. Service was randomly restored, however, just before 10:00AM on Tuesday morning. Thanks, President Obama! Comcast, watch your back.

My girlfriend had to be at work at noon on Tuesday, so I listened to the swearing-in on the radio in my car. At about 12:05PM I was in my car, on 395 South from the Pentagon. At that particular moment, there may have been less traffic on 395 than at any other moment in history. It was cool. I felt like Will Smith in I Am Legend, and was tempted to stop in the middle of the road and hit some golf balls. (I didn't want to stir up the zombies, though.)

I had an excellent inaugural lunch at my sister's house, where I'm sure the food was better than at the Capitol. The menu had a Chicago theme, and I paid tribute to the new president's midwestern roots by drinking quite a few Leinenkugel's 1888 Bocks. I know Leienkugel's is from Wisconsin, but the only Chicago beer I'm familiar with is Old Style, and, if you've ever had one, I think you can respect my decision. Anyway, the lunch was great. And there were no seizures, except for a brief period when my dog seized a stuffed panda bear that wasn't a dog toy. He relinquished it, without incident, and then started eating some straws. Good boy!

My girlfriend and I watched/snoozed through the coverage of the night-time inaugural events; I think we went to bed when the President was at Ball #7. This morning I got up when it was still dark, and made my way back into the city. I fully expected Metro to be shut-down this morning, complete with Out of Order signs in front of the entrances. I was pleasantly surprised that it was working just fine. My train was uncrowded, so I sat down and happily considered how nice it was to be entering DC with the knowledge that George Bush no longer lives there.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Elaine From Seinfeld Starts Term as New American Idol Judge
I'm sometimes a little clueless about American Idol, so I may have this wrong.  But it appears that they decided to add a new judge this year, who is actually a character played by Julia-Louis Dreyfus, best known as Elaine from Seinfeld.  This is an unusual move.  It would have been cool if they changed the judges to Elaine, Jerry, George and pre-racist Kramer, but I'm not sure if I get just adding Elaine, and keeping the other judges.  

They've evidently given Julia-Louis her choice of clothing and accessories from Paula Abdul's wardrobe, including those really huge rings that look like they came out of a gumball machine, but probably cost more than my college education.   They've tried to funny her up.  They've given her a name, Kara DioGuardi, that's completely unpronounceable (nobody can even pronounce her first name).  Her musical "cred" includes working with Hilary Duff, Ashlee Simpson and the Pussycat Dolls (now, that's funny).  And she's engaged to a teacher-turned-bodybuilder.  But that's about it.  Mostly, she's just kind of bitchy.  On the show I saw, she turned on a girl who has serious enough psychological problems that she thought it was appropriate to wear a bikini to the audition.  The girl wasn't a bad singer, but Julia-Louis/Elaine/Kara went after her like she had stolen her bodybuilder husband.

I know Julia-Louis has had a hard time finding a good gig, post-Seinfeld. But I don't think this is going to work either.  We shall see.

Mike Wise Thinks Mark is a Funny Name
I don't really get Mike Wise's column in the Washington Post this morning. The article is about yesterday's loss by Georgetown against Duke, at Cameron Indoor Stadium.  There were a lot of heckling Dukies, and an apparently wrong, and costly, technical foul against Georgetown.  While it doesn't seem like a particularly great column, and, frankly, it's just not that interesting to me, the puzzling part is when he refers to Duke kids caked in blue paint with names like Taylor and Mark.  Huh?  Is he saying that Mark is a particularly prepped out name?  Like Rogers Chapstick or James Bottomtooth IV?  What the hell?  I think most of the kids that I hung out with in elementary school were named Mark.  And I went to elementary school at Pine Springs in Falls Church, which is hardly Sidwell Friends.

I don't get it.  Maybe it's just an editing mistake.

Friday, January 16, 2009

It's Smithereens Day!
I'm going to see the Smithereens tonight at the State Theater in Falls Church. Accordingly, here's a fairly recent clip of them doing Room Without a View, at a club in Austin. Austin makes me think of this place. (I'll try to be home fairly early, so as not to clog up the roads for out of towners here for the inauguration.)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Pacino and DeNiro Combine for Awful Movie Promo
I have not seen Righteous Kill, the big deal of which was that Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino were in a movie together, which they hadn't been in since Heat, in which they shared only one scene. But I know that it's been heavily criticized, and the only person that really seemed to like it was Larry King, which tells you something.

If Larry King's praise isn't enough to scare me off from this movie, the commercial that they're now running on TV certainly is. DeNiro and Pacino are sitting in a car, and Pacino says to DeNiro something like "You don't believe in miracles?" DeNiro responds "You pick up the check some time, I'll believe in miracles." Thud. Someone that's making a movie has both those guys in it, and comes up with dialogue like that? Making matters worse, DeNiro plays a character named Turk and Pacino goes by Rooster.

Speaking of old guy actors who are pretty much just phoning it in these days, another movie that I haven't seen is Gran Torino. Apparently, it's one of the best movies ever, and Clint Eastwood is amazing. When I see the clips, I think, hey, so Clint Eastwood is playing a gruff old guy with one facial expression -- menacing. Just like all his other movies. I think Clint Eastwood is OK and everything, but I think that people that gush about every single thing that he does need to remember that he made two movies with a monkey. And they weren't comedies, he didn't even crack a smile.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Helpful Tips for the New Depression
I love all the experts who are coming out of the woodwork to advise us on how to deal with various aspects of the New Depression (N.D.).  I heard one of them this evening, on a local all news radio station that I keep on in my dog's room to keep him company.  It's a good station; their business reporter, in particular, is an excellent fellow.

This evening we were treated to an expert with advice for the poor people who lose their jobs, and, consequently, their insurance.  The healthcare situation in this country was ridiculous even before the N.D., I hate to even think about how much worse it will get.  We will find out, though.

Anyway, this woman had some simply brilliant advice for people that have lost their insurance:
  • If you have a spouse that has insurance, see if you can get in on his or her plan.  That's some great insight there.
  • Get another job that comes with health benefits, even if it's part time.  Pure genius.
  • Finally, you could always just go to an insurance company and buy an individual policy from them.  I guess with all that money you're not making from the job that you no longer have.  Thanks for that.
My dog kind of cocked his head and gave me a funny look when this was over.  Now he's in his crate, busily studying up on healthcare.  By Thursday, I think he'll be ready to be on CNN.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Northern Virginians to be Sent to Guantanamo for Inauguration
It was just announced that, in order to not inconvenience the wealthy, politically connected individuals that will be descending upon the DC-area to celebrate the inauguration of President Obama, all Northern Virginians will be transported to Guantanamo from January 16-21.

The U.S. Secret Service and other top officials had previously announced that bridges from Virginia to DC would be closed, and had recommended that residents stay in their homes for the long weekend. After further consideration, it was determined that this next step was necessary. An unnamed Secret Service spokesman noted that, "If Northern Virginians were permitted to remain in their homes, they would still be consuming resources that should be diverted to the inaugural celebration. Electricity, gas, water, bandwith, food, alcohol -- we cannot risk the possibility of a shortage of these resources for the wealthiest of Americans who will be participating in the festivities. Many of these guests have spent the last 20 years destroying the U.S. economy, and it is important that they are able to celebrate without being hindered by citizens pursuing their everyday, mundane lifestyles. And Guantanamo is actually pretty nice this time of year. There will be no waterboarding, and it's not that bad if you're not being waterboarded. It's similar to Tijuana."

The federal government has contracted with AirTran to have Northern Virginians flown to Guantanamo, which raises the possibility that many residents will end up spending five days in an airport, waiting for their plane, with no updates whatsoever from the gate agents. Or they could end up in cheap hotels outside of Atlanta.

Virginia Governor Tim Kaine worked with federal authorities in developing the plan. He noted that there are still some problems that need to be resolved. "Many Northern Virginians are very active on eBay, selling many of their personal belongings in order to survive the oncoming Depression. We are working to have some type of internet access available at Camp Guantanamo. We don't want this plan to result in the people of Virginia getting bad eBay feedback."

This move also seems to be a precursor to another rumored aspect of the inauguration. An anonymous U.S. Treasury Department official has suggested that at different points during the inauguration, federal bailout money is going to be dropped from helicopters hovering over various inaugural events. "This whole plan," the official noted, "was developed as a way to transfer tax dollars from rank and file Americans to the elite, who have lost billions in the recent economic crisis. Without this injection, many of them would not be able to pass on contributions to the politicians that they must influence. Also, ski season is here, and skiing is an expensive sport. Like golf, but in the winter. If Northern Virginians were allowed to remain in the area, no doubt they would attempt to participate in these cash drops, as many of them are desperate to pay their mortgages."

In coming days, more details of the Guatanamo weekend will be released. Officials are currently in negotiations with Huey Lewis and the News to provide some musical entertainment, and there has been discussion about a three on three basketball tournament.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

New Gourds
My favorite band, The Gourds, released a new disk yesterday, it's called Haymaker. I listened to part of it on my iPod while walking to the subway yesterday. Though it was cool, I was suprised at how long the first song was. Then I realized I had my iPod on repeat. Oops. So I haven't heard much more than the first song on the disk. But I'm sure the whole thing is great.

In celebration, here is them playing Lower 48. Not only is the musicianship excellent, but there is some great dancing by Kevin Russell, which further illustrates how he was robbed when he got beat out, by deadbeat Redskin Jason Taylor, in Dancing With the Stars. I think Kevin could have also had more than 3.5 sacks this year. He's big, but quick and crafty.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Good Thing I Don't Gamble
About that Chargers game last night.  Oops.  The hottest team in the NFL and the MVP of the league played poorly and should have lost in regulation.  The Colts' best play was in the second quarter, when Manning caught the Chargers' defense unaware, and did that play that's caused so many arguments among 12 year olds in the backyards and vacant lots of America, as he took the snap before the defense was ready and passed to Reggie Wayne for an easy touchdown. Norv Turner's request for a "do-over" was denied. Unfortunately for them, the Colts continued to play like 12 year olds for the rest of the game.  The Chargers didn't play much better, but Darren Sproles (about the size of the average 12 year old football player) was unstoppable.  Sproles' had a bigger than usual role for the Chargers, as their star, LaDainian Tomlinson didn't play much because his groin had apparently become detached from the rest of his body.  That hurts, I guess, and I can understand why he didn't want to talk to Andrea Kramer about it.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

My Gold Star Lock of the Week, For Free
I don't bet on sports.  There's a grey area there, I guess, because of my fantasy baseball team, fantasy football team (that's actually charity -- I give money to other guys in my league), weekly NFL pool, the NCAA basketball tournament pool that my friend invented and various NCAA basketball tournament grids that I participate in.  

Maybe a more accurate statement would be that I don't bet on NFL games anymore.  If I did, though, I would bet all that I could afford on the Indianapolis Colts over the San Diego Chargers on Saturday.  The game is currently pick 'em.  The Colts have won nine games in a row.  The Chargers, though playing at home, were 8-8.  Norv Turner, who seems like a perfectly nice guy, is their coach.  The Colts are relatively healthy, and I think Peyton Manning is sick of his little brother getting all the attention.  If you have a mortgage, bet it on the Colts.