Monday, August 29, 2005

Adventures in Toronto: Day Four & Conclusion

I'm back home on Staten Island. It's weird to think 7 a.m., I'm at Stephen's place. At noon, I'm home. Or maybe it's weird for me, since this is the shortest flight I've ever taken. I just spent the day resting and going over all the stuff I taped...and I screwed up a LOT of it. Oh, well. Guess I'll have to be patient.


I didn't go see the Blue Jays. Maybe next time. Stephen leads me through the Skywalk, which connects Union Station to the Centre and the Douglas Centre. And you can tell it was a game day, since guys were asking if we wanted tickets. Gotta love a city where you can scalp indoors.

Attended one last panel, a sketch duel between Michael Turner and Ian Churchill. I was expecting more of a "duel," where the artists had to crank out sketch after sketch. It was like getting a sketch in person...except you don't get it. Well, there was a free raffle. The conversation was nice, but I kept nodding off. I miss the DC Comics panel, with the previews and cover slideshows.

Got two more sketches, bringing my con total to six. I think that might be a low for me over a three-day period. I didn't see anybody else to get material from, and the folks at the ACTOR booth were charging $60. How low on dough was I? I didn't bother converting my remaining Canadian bucks to American today. I had $30-something in U.S., but I didn't go for it. In the end, I ended up with four unmarked pages in my book. I might try to fill it for the final two New York shows, but I'll probably invest in a new book by the time the big show hits NYC in Feburary. I'm thinking 50 pages, smaller that my old book, and hardcover. Right now, you can check out some of the stuff I've collected.

Afterwards, Stephen and me went to Exhibition Place. Total bonehead move on my part...I wanted to see the Canadian Sports of Fame, and that was only open on the weekend. Had I known, I would've just gone to a restaurant for one final dinner. Instead, I get into a situation that's like Coney Island, with rides and games, neither of which I'm into. Okay, if I had some more dough, I would've tried to have win something plushy for my mother. It wasn't a total loss...there was a building with various farm animals and babies, not to mention stuff sculpted from butter. Yeah, you heard me. I'd go back, but only if I had more of a clue on how to spend time.

We got back home late, and Stephen had to work on his webcomic, so I couldn't blog. I saw a bit of the MTV Video Music Awards, which was broadcast on MuchMusic. I thought I was recording it back home, but I programmed the box on the wrong channel. Worse, Stephen's coverage malfunctioned, so I missed out on who won Best Video. So now I gotta watch it tomorrow.


Not much to say. I got packed up. A cab picked me up. Stephen joined me to the gate, where we said our goodbyes. Gotta love a guy who can put up with me for five days. I went through customs, flew over the simmering Lake Ontario, kept nodding off, got off the plane, got my bags, and took car service back home. And thus ended another adventure.

Yes, I did get exhausted. Yes, there were times where I was wondering why the hell I was in Toronto. And I do wish that I got to see more of the city. But yeah...I had fun. I'll remember meeting Joyce and Kellen (hope I get the spelling right), a couple who was interested in what one of Stephen's online friends was like. I'll remember walking with a lady to the Centre, and finding out she worked at the Roy Thomson Hall. I'll remember Stephen being awed about a panel with Lois Lanes past (Margot Kidder) and present (Erica Durance, whom I still think is more Lana than Chloe), and how he got flashed twice by a girl in a Naruto costume. One day, I'll come back to Toronto. In the meantime, I'll do what I always do: rant, rave, and get a life. And this time, I mean it.

One More Day

It's late, I'm tired, Stephen was working on his webcomic...and thanks to some boneheaded thinking, I have to get up before 7 a.m. to make a 9:30 flight. So I'll fill you guys in on Sunday's highlights sometime tomorrow.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Adventures in Toronto: Day Three

Gettin' the fatigue. Getting the con fatigue. Basically, it has you walking around the con floor, having seen everythng you wanted two times over. I start wondering why the heck I came all the way out here for three days of connin', when the Blue Jays get to be a bigger temptation.

It finally happened...the cover of my sketchbook got detached. Had the thing since 2000, so I guess it was inevitable. Was it a hardbound book? No, it was a big spiral book, begging to be frayed. I got less than ten pages left. No matter what, this is it. After this con, I'm getting a new book. Today, I ran my total to four for the con, getting Guardian (the Seven Soliders version) from Cameron Stewart, and Rag Doll from Dale Eaglesham. I've known Gail Simone years before she started writing professionally, and I got most of her books...and this was the first time I've gotten a sketch from one of her collaborative partners. For the record, Mrs. Eaglasham squealed when I brang up the triple-jointed antihero from Villians United, she likes him that much. I only sheled out $5 for a head shot, and Guardian was a freebie. I can't think of anybody else I'd want something from. The folks at the ACTOR booth want $60 for sketches, but I'm running low on presidents and prime ministers.

I ended up overpaying for a few books, hit another DC Comics panel (and kept nodding off...once again, con fatigue), and I kept playing the new Land of the Dead video game. It's too addictive...basically, it's you fighting zombies with whatever you can get your mitts on. There's nothing like blowing off a guys head...or taking out a leg, and having your prey lurch towards you. The only other games were Pokemon-based, and not all that great.

Speaking of anime...the costumes were out in force. I think the high point was seeing Haru Glory from Rave Master go head-up against Zolo of One Piece. Nearby? A guy dressed as Yusop, long nose and all. That ain't right. Lots of InuYashas, lots of Mirkous and a few Kagomes, a few as Kilala...and so many more. It didn't stop with anime...I saw a spectacled girl tarted up as the Dashing Prince from the PS2 hit Katamari Damacy. Right now, I'm thinking of folks I have not seen. like Alphose Elirc (big-time armor), Armstrong (do you need muscles and sparkles?), Lil Slugger (are roller skates not allowed indoors?), just to name a few. It's way too geeky for me. Or maybe I'm just bitter that I don't have the right body type. Naaaaaaaah, they're dorks.

Other stuff? I went to Union Station, and got my first taste of Daily Queen. Remember, there's stuff like Wal-Mart that's on every other block, but have no presence in NYC. Had a big hot dog, soda (which the call "pop" over here), and a Blizzard. It was okay...not as great as I figured, but it hit the spot. I wanted to go to the Exhibition afterwards, but it was raining...and with the stuff being outdoors, that was scuttled. Instead, Stephen took me to a Mexican restaurant. After that, we hit the Silver Snail comic book shop. Yes, that is the name. Don't ask. I looked around, but I have this tendancy to want stuff that I can never find. It was a good place...reminded me of Midtown Comics back in the city. Stephen got Kermit the Frog dressed as Indiana Jones. The green fella even has a gun. Okay, then.

One more day. I'll be all right in the end, but I just want to not feel like I'm sleepwalking. I'll just remind myself that in two weeks, I'll be wandering Penn Pavilion, wandering the unmapped labrryith of dealers, unable to find somebody to get a sketch from, knowing that the so-called National will be in two months, and that the first name I read was the voice actor who does Ash on Pokemon. And I'll know that Toronto was totally worth it.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Adventures in Toronto: Day Two

Long day today. One of those deals where I pause and wonder why I go so far for a comic con. Or maybe that's the lack of sleep talking.

After breakfast, Stephen and me went to the Hockey Hall of Fame. Comparison: the Baeball Hall of Fane is located in an isolated town in upstate New York, where the population tripes/quadruples in size during induction. The Hockey Hall of Fame? Plopped in downtown, with a church-like exterior. However, it's actually attached to a mall. Really.

So...I'm not a hockey person, really. I went to the one game, and I wouldn't have gone if it wasn't for a class assignnment. Still, there were some good stuff, including the trophy room. There were trophys they give out at the end of every season...including the Stanley Cup. Not only did they have the big one on display (wanna get photographed with it? It'll cost $10 for a glossy), but the original as well. And they had all those honored in the Hall. Of course, this is when the lithium batteries in my camera gave out. Silly me, thinking I didn't need to bring extras, especially after San Diego. Made a frantic trip to the gift shop...disposable cameras for $20. Then I remembered...mall. Had to be an electronic place somewhere. End of story? Bought a pair of batteries, and I'm back in business.

I wouldn't write this Hall off. While the international exhibit didn't do much for me, there was a room that celebrated physcial fitness and the dominace of the Motreal Canadians. The weirdest part was a stuffed figure behind a desk. A video was run...I think the stuffed shirt had a son, because that guy was talking about the differences between hockey then and now. It was funny and creepy. To wit:

Son: Wow, thins sure are different now! These days, the players make millions of dollars! It's hard to keep a rich guy's attention, y'know?

Father: (always offscreen) Tell me about it. Back then, they played for a buck-fifty an hour. One time, a guy asked for a I kneecapped him. Hard. And we didn't have these fancy medical procedures. We just rubbed lintament on them. Sometimes, they'd die on their feet, but they'd smell good.

Now it was time to go the convention. Turns out the Canadian National Expo has several components: Comic Book Expo, Festival of Fear, Science Fiction Expo, and Gaming Expo. There's also an anime expo. How di I find out? From the hundreds of people in costume. No, I mean it. Now, I'm not a stranger to's never a con unless somebody's tarted up as a Stormtrooper. But there were all these people, representing all these shows...and there they are, on line out in the open. Weird hair colors, tight costumes, the whole magilla.

After I went off by myself for a bit, I joined Stephent on line...and he had been waiting some 20 minutes. Not moving. Some outfit, huh? We ended up getting in amide all the freaks, geeks and weirdos. I had some bad moments where I couldn't find anything to buy. Some places offered Canadian prices with American numbers. In other words, a copy of Top Ten: The 49ers than goes for $33.95 up north went for $24.95. I think I could've gotten in cheaper, but what the hell, right? Most of the stuff I look for is out of reach, sad to sad. On the up side? I got two sketches: Lethargic Lad by Greg Hyland, and Peter Parker by Ty Templeton. Sadly, my book is on its last legs, the cover held very loosely. Even if I don't get the book filled, I think this is the last roundup.

It was an exhausting day...I kept nodding off during the panel for Infinite Crisis. After the con, Stephen and myself went down the street to meet some friends, the anime freaks thinning out the further we got. We ended up at a street fair, which was pretty cool. I didn't get back until after midnight.

I got two more days. If I get bored of the con for any reason, I still got the (eyeroll) Rogers Centre and the Blue Jays. And I'm still wanting to see a few more things in the city. Stephen says I've only been on one street this whole time, so I'm looking to branch out before I cme home.

Edited after comment. And Stephen ezcorted me from the airport, so I wasn't that brave. You want brave? Try lugging bags from O'Hare to Midway via the Els, because I was stupid to think I'd save some dough when I boked the flight, not accounting for the taxi ride to the hotel near O'Hare. And aside from being Amerian, I have nothing in common with Ted Turner...unless he also gets a sick sense of joy watching his Braves swoon in mid-October,

Friday, August 26, 2005

Adventures in Toronto: Day One

Had a busy day this Thursday. Right now, I'm writing from the lovely apartment of Stephen, an online friend who's agreed to put up with me for the weekend, as we go to the Canadian National Expo, the third largest comic book show in North America. But that doesn't kick off until tomorrow.

Got up early. Took car service to Newark Airport. Checked in. Went through the "take your shoes off" crapola. The flight to Toronto was the shortest I've ever taken...about 90 minutes, probably less. The plane was less spacious than what I'd like. Also, they don't warn you about the low overhead when you get into the plane. I'm lucky I didn't get a big bump on my forehead. Didn't figure I was in Canadian aispac until we flew over Lake Ontario. It is a Great Lake...huge from the air, with little seacraft in there.

Also went through customs for the first time ever. It was painless...get on line, explain why you're in Toronto, explain about the online friend, etc. I go through this quickly...Stephen wasn't expecting me until later.

Since Stephen doesn't have a car, we went through a mass transit marathon...bus, train, train, train. Add to this a craploac of stairs, and I'm convinced the setup was created as a practical joke by locals for tourists.

After exploring the apartment and resting, we went to the CN Tower. I've been to the Empire State Building, the Sears Tower and the Hancock Building, but I never remembered that much afterwards. The Tower is the hightest point in North America. On the obsercation deck, it was a bit of a letdown. I mean, I was in the friggin' air earlier. You can see most of the city from there, from the Douglas Centre (formerly SkyDome...why change the name?) below to the lake beyond. One level lower, there was an open air viewing...and for some weird reason, things seemed a lot more real. The freaky part was standing on the glass floor. You look down, and you can see the ground waaaaaaaaaaaaay below. Sure, the glass is reinforced to hell, but the fear of immediate plummenting is still there.

Afterwards, we went around the Centre. The Blue Jays will be playing this weekend, but the times conflict with the con schedule. For now, I was satisfied with Stephen showing me "gargoyles"; funky statues of fans hanging from the building. After that, we ate at the Old Spaghetti Factory. We were supposed to meet up with a few friends of his, but one of them has more drama on her than I can get into here, so we went back home.

So far, so good. Minimum, there's the Hockey Hall of Fame for tomorrow. I gotta consult the guidebooks I brought over...the con doesn't kick off until mid-afternoon, so I can get the tourist thing on before I slip into fanboy mode. I got a sketchbook that's almost full, a fistful of money with prime ministers and queens...I'm ready.

Monday, August 22, 2005

This & That

I haven't been posting here lately. Part of it is the lack of interesting stuff in my life. Another was that I was working on another story for the local newsweekly. Since I got that done (and hopefully published in the coming week), I'll go over some odds and ends.

Due North

It's offical...this Thursday, I'm going to Toronto. This will be the third time I've gone north of the border, and the first time I get to use my passport. The occasion? The Canadian National Expo, which boasts to be the third biggest comic book convention in North America. Getting the flights was a bitch...I'll have to stay over one more night and leave early Monday morning. On the plus side, I'm staying over with a friend, so that takes a dent out of the budget.

I don't have too many goals for the trip. One definite is that I have about a dozen blank pages in my sketchbook, and I want to get 'em filled up. I've had the same sketchbook since Comic Con International way back in 2000. The cover's frayed and loose from the spiral, so I just want to put it to rest. Also, I'll do what I do outside the cons...explore the city. I feel that if I just go to a big city for the conventions, then I'm a dork-plus. In addition to the forays into the San Diego Zoo, Balboa Park and the like, I've also been to the Sears Tower, Hancock Building, and Wrigley Field. Even if you're not a baseball fan, you have to go there. Game day is like a carnival in the surrounding neighborhood. There's a pipe organ (which I could've sworn played Beck's "Sexxlaws"), ivy on the walls, a rousting rendition of "Take Me Out To The Ballgame" (I think Andy Pafko did it when I went), and a statue of Harry Carray outside. There's even a small barricade around it, so fans can't put their beers on it as tribute. I don't think I can go see the Blue Jays while I'm in Toronto...but since the stadium is in the neighborhood, I'll have to see how things shake out.

Play Ball!

Finally got to see some New York-Penn League action this weekend. Friday, I took the local rail to see the Staten Island Yankees. Naturally, I picked a dreary night, where the starting time got bumped back to 7:50. The Baby Bombers ended up winning en route to a probably division title...but I barely remember anything about it. The stadium is nice, but I think there's a sense of urgency. For are $9 and $11, but they offer $5 seats on the day of the game, way out in the deep sections. The team has also offered discounts to Yankees fans, including the Bleacher Creatures. Yeah, a bunch of boorish boobs who ride on the successes of the Yankees...those are the people I want to share a venue with. Have I mentioned that if Braden Looper had taken care of business in the Bronx a few months back, half the Creatures wouldn't be around today? And I kept hearing about Friday night's doubleheader against the Brooklyn Cyclones...which kinda made me sad, since I won't be there. Two seven-inning games under $10? How can anybody refuse?

(Tangent: The last twinbill I went to, I only stayed for the first game. I should note that Game One went seventeen innings. I had bought two scorecards, and I was forced to use the second one. I think that I didn't have to do anything the following day, but I wanted to save my sanity.)

Two days later, I went with my mother to Coney Island to see the Cyclones. Totally different atmosphere. The only edge I'd give the Baby Bombers is that they have better mascots. Brooklyn has Sandy and Pee Wee, two giant seagulls. Staten Island? Has cows. There's Scooter the Holy Cow (taken from Phil Rizzuto's nickname and familiar catchphrase), Red (after legendary announcer Red Barber) and Huck (short for "Huckleberry," another Rizzutoism). Today, Hall-of-Fame pitcher Juan Marichal signed stuff for an hour, and threw a strike for the ceremonial first pitch. I got my first bobblehead doll ever, that of Cyclones announcer Warren Fuselle (whom you might know from his work on This Week In Baseball). The Cyclones did their bit, coming back from a 3-0 deficit to lead the Aberdeen Ironbirds 4-3. Of course, since this is a Mets farm team, they just had to cough up the lead, finding themselves down 6-4 in the eighth. But unlike my visit to Shea, we got a happy recap; the Cyclones got five runs in the eighth, and won 9-6. Good times all around at KeySpan Park...probably why it's the site of the first-ever NYP All-Star Game this Tuesday.

(Tangent: wanna know what makes the experience even better? No Party Marty. Back when I first went to KeySpan, Marty was this one guy employed by the team who would try to rev the crowd up. I hated him. Look, I know that keeping score in a short-season single-A game is kinda mental...but dammit, I want to watch the damn game, not get into a wave. Funny story...when I went to the Petrides School in 2002 for the Baby Bombers' league championship rally, I overheard a priest...some dude in a collar, I dunno what they're called...disrespect Marty. That made my day...that, and the schoolkids singing "We Are the Champions." Good times.)

Surreal Sight

Going back to Friday. There I am, walking down the street, heading back to my car. Suddenly, I see something thye made me wish I had a cameraphone (and since I don't even customize the ringtone, that's saying something). First, there was a fancy white car, driving at a snail's pace. Behind that was a white stretch limosuine. And between them? A honest-to-God coach pulled by two white horses. Not a carriage, folks. A freakin' coach, straight out of Cinderella. There were people dressed for a wedding in said coach. Didn't stop me from laughing. I wasn't ridiculing's just that it was a dreary Friday on a deserted street, and I had to see that. It was all I could take, y'know?

Reality Stuff

Still watching shows...though not that many, to be honest. Since it's late, I'll be brief.

The Amazing Race: I've been keeping up with the repeats on GSN (motto: "You want The Mole? How about Dog Eat Dog instead?"), and I'm up to TAR4 now. TAR3 was the roughest edition...eight great legs, followed by one disaster after another. It's one of those things where I mean to go into on this Flo & Zach not getting eliminated bascially doomed the season. Next thing I know, John Vito & Jill are travelling the wrong way, en route to one of the saddest eliminations ever. Then front-runners Ken & Gerard (the comic relief team, the ones that usually finish fourth overall) and Derek & Drew (hunky twins/alpha males that usually win the Race) commit a double brainfart in Vietnam trying to find a route marker, and D&D ended up going home. After that, I took part in a roundtable column on RNO, predicting that Ken & Gerard would win. This is from the school of thought derrived from Doc Brown hissing, "We must succeed!" to Marty McFly in Back to the Future Part II; any other outcome was unthinkable.

The end result? Flo quit, like, a jillion times AND had a breakdown that would later be chronicled on VH1's 40 Greatest Reality Show Moments...and that was the only TAR moment on the list (Frats and Guidos in the Battle of Beijing? The Boston guys passing Tara & Wil in San Fran? The freakin' lawyers getting schooled by Phil Keoghan over the definition of "walk"?!? Not good enough, apparently). But she won...Zach managed to run the damn race with all that dead weight, and we got the first sucky ending in the show's history. Worse, crotchety older couple Teri & Ian, whom the vultures had been circling since the second leg, finished second, while the capable Bros. Duphiney landed in third. Multiply the ugliness by fifty, and you have TARCon3. The place was cramped, I could barely move around...oh, and Flo won half a million bucks. Sure, there's been far worse than her since then, but that night sucked eggs.

Adding to the melancholy was the news that John Vito & Jill are no longer a couple. The deal was that Jill originally applied for the first season with her brother, Frank Thomas ("FT") They didn't make it, and FT ended up getting killed on 9/11. Jill found herself with John Vito, who was one of FT's friends, and they ended up getting on TAR3. Truth be told, they weren't good at racing...stuff always broke down on them, or they'd get the short end of the luck stick. They finished first in one leg...after finishing last in a non-elimination leg, they burnt their Fast Forward, as they had to eat giant blocks of cheese. They figured that they'd have two legs to get their acts straight...but there was another non-elim, and they didn't get a third chance. What do fans remember? The lack of bitchiness that was prevalient amongst the other boy/girl teams. The inability to snap at setbacks (Teri & Ian get the Fast Forward rug? Go to the Detour!) They put diesel gas into a diesel tank (don't laugh...four teams messed that up.) It also helped that Jill might be the single greatest female Racer ever. She prodded JV to a chartered bus when he wanted to hang back. She tossed a caber that was more than twice her size. She fell down, and didn't give herself enough time to go "boom!" Not to take away from John Vito...he was a wonderful product of Italian engineering, and he pulled his weight. At the end of the Race, when Flo's going on about her relationship with Zach and not finding love, the camera pans to JVJ, just smiling at each other. And the news that they're spiltsville? Kinda heartbreaking, really. I wish 'em both well. Heck, with Flo dating Derek, maybe Jill snapped up Zach. Wait, now I'm picturing Jill in one of his goofy headbands. Brrrrrrrr.

The Real World: Austin: I'm half paying attention these days. Has there been a more brutal season for a cast member then Danny's? First, some rowdy damn near puts his eye out in a street brawl. While he ends up getting snuggly with Melinda, he ends up getting surgery, as well as too many shots of his hand over the eye. Valentine's Day comes...ah, memories of another Danny getting surprised by boyfriend Paul, who brought food from their favorite restaurant. Our Danny goes all out preparing for a romantic date with Melinda...clothes, presents, non-refundable dinner reservation, etc. And then? His father calls to tell him that his mother died. Next thing, we're in that painful zone where you can't bring yourself to hate any of these jokers. Last time that happened was the 9/11 episode from the Chicago season. I hope Danny comes back...he's a tool with a squishy center, and I'll probably end up recapping him Challenge-after-next.

On the bright side, we got two redeemable cast members this season. Aside from hitting the "groupie drawer," Nehemiah has proven to be a rock, especially with his being there for Danny before and after the bad news broke. Nehemiah seems to have a good head on his shoulders...even when giving props to Wes for a random conquest, he tells the others that Wes is not that attractive. Then there's Lacey, whose backstory comes across as a BMP wet dream (parents were hippies-turned-conservatives, she had extremely limited access to popular culture, she's a rhymes-with-"urgin'," etc.).She's just somebody whom you smile and nod your head when she says something. Also, she's got a wheelchair-bound boyfriend. It's just something new to bring to the table. The rest I can take or leave at this point...though Wes might need to be hit upside the head with something blunt.

Battle of the Network Reality Stars: Most of the reviews I read scalded this six-week series. Bill Simmons lamented over this take of the old Battle of the Network Stars. "They should have just started the show with Richard Hatch beating Gabe Kaplan to death with a bed post," he wrote, "that's the only way it would have been more depressing.

As a veteran Challenge recapper (I know, I suck), something like this was bound to happen...and I'm okay with it. It's a mishmash of 32 reality stars competing on four teams for fame and fortune. The lineups on the teams make a bizarre kind of sense. For instance, the Green Team falls in love with Chip McAllister, and they make him their captain. The Red Team doesn't have a duo from The Amazing Race, so they plug in then-roommates Coral Smith and Melissa Howard, two of my fave folks. And naturally, Coral ends up leading her team. How? She's Coral. Whatever she wants, she gets. I've recapped her in four seasons, and I still don't get it. For the Dark Blue Team, the captaincy comes down to a game of rock-paper-scissors between Hatch and Mike Mizanin, leading to the creation of Team Miz. Yeah, Mike leading a team? Not gonna be pretty. Finally, the Light Blue Team ended up randomly selecting Gervase Peterson to lead...which made Jonathan Baker (the absolute worst person to ever do TAR) fume. And when a poseur tool like Mike Malin (I'm sorry, "Mike Boogie") points out that Jonathan is a tool...well, he's that big a tool.

The events were taken from the original series. One surprise was how well Victoria Baker runs. Actually, since she's married to Jonathan, I shouldn't be that shocked. In the Dunk Tank, everybody wanted Coral, her 32DD breasts, and her too-small top in the tank. In the best moment of the episode, Matt Kennedy Gould (forever branded "Joe Schmo") got Miz into the tank. After two misses, Mike goes into his "You can be good, you can be bad, but you'll never be Miz"'s as predictable as his Dave Chappelle-as-Rick James impression. And just as Mike's going on about how this is his reality? Matt dunked him. Very sweet stuff. The jousting kinda sucked...especially with diminutive Charla (whose "I wanna prove I can do what normal people can do" spiel kinda falls apart without normal people around) forcing Swan winner Rachel Love Fraser to a draw, Melissa getting knocked off by friggin' Ryan Starr (whose no-talent ass needs a whumpin' after her time on The Surreal Life), and friggin' Jonathan (who still insists he was edited to look the asshole) getting the win by beating balding bozo Bradford Cohen.

Since we got reality people, we gotta have voting. With Team Gervase on top, the other three squads had to vote somebody out. Chip had to watch as wife Kim volunteered to leave. I got spared the pain of Melissa getting tossed, as Heidi Bressler (whose ugliness can stop a bullet) stepped forward to leave, after giving up on the joust. On Team Miz, nobody quit, so they voted out Charla, since she's still a dwarf, and they'd like to win. Hard to argue...and Charla brings up something about Ryan backstabbing her. It comes from nowhere, it sounds paranoid as heck...but it's Ryan, so I'm on Charla's side. But the big twist is that the bootees get to pick cards to go to new teams. As a result, Heidi and Charla swap teams, while Kim stays with her man (and provokes a "good things happen to good people" interview from Will Kirby, aka "Dr. Evil" from Big Brother 2). But the teasers say that people will be going don't get too attached to these people.

Seriously, you gotta see this show. Minimum, you get to see folks that you never saw my case, that's Wendy Pepper and Duncan Nutter at the forefront. You get interaction from folks from different shows (including the horror that is Theo's impression of Chip, and Chip thinking that Theo's won at everything, not getting the memo about Battle of the Seasons). The official site has footage from stuff that didn't make it onair...including Coral and Sue Hawk wanting to take Victoria out, and Chip getting Coral in the dunk tank yet again (it was for his team, he claims). And the icing on the cake? Melissa's recaps. Nothing like reading her father and nephew's takes on her in action.

Damn, I've been writing for two hours, so I'll stop now. I still got some ranting in me about the new seasons of Survivor and The Amazing Race, as well as the impending horror of The Real Mean Girls. I'll try and cover that before my trip.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Thank You, Roberto Hernandez!

I don't think I'm a jinx. If I am, it's usually just to myself. The last two times I went to Shea Stadium, the Mets lost late in the game. On Memorial Day 2001, Mike Piazza hit a homer against the Phillies to tie the game in the ninth inning...then Armando Benitez gave up a homer in the tenth to lose it. On my last visit, the Mets took a lead into the ninth against the hated Braves, and guess what? Right...Benitez, again. This time, he blew a three-run lead, leading to a tie game. He got pulled out, and John Franco had to put out the fire. The Mets ended up losing in eleven innings, and I had to deal with a beligerant Braves fan. Who in their right mind roots for a team that folds every October? They don't even sell out Turner Field!

Anyway, I went to today's geme between the Brewers and the Mets. Should've known it would be a weird day when I missed the local train to the ferry station (oh, so it arrives at :57 past the hour and not :59? Thank you, outdated timetable!). I ended up spending $10 on a Metrocard, and paid $5 for a cozy express bus trip to Manhattan. One trip on the 4 and 7 trains, I was at Shea Stadium...dreary, outdated, worst in the N.L. East once the Nationals get their new digs Shea Stadium. For $23, I got a prime Mezzazine Reserved seat, right above home plate. The bad news? I couldn't access food joints on the lower levels, and my seat was piping hot. I also paid way too much for food ($5.50 for a giant slice of pizza? At least the cashier apologized when I got my hot dog and soda). Last week, I saw the Padres pull one out against the Cardinals in a crisp two and a half hours. It was a keen pitcher's duel, where I couldn't believe how fast the game was going. Today? Slugfest walking through the swamp. I used my cell phone to keep time. Length of game: four hours, nine minutes, 23.41 seconds. And that's a nine inning game, folks.

Of course, like in San Diego, this game was unique and entertaining. Once again: there's always going to be something you haven't seen before. For instance...Milwaukee leadoff hitter Brady Clark fouled off seven of Kris Benson's first eight offerings to start the game. Then he kept waving the bat over the plate, like he was in a film loop. Was it OCD, or a way to psyche out Benson? Probably the latter, as he led off with a single. Another moment...Mets had runners on the corners with two out in the fifth inning. Justin Lehr pulls the old "I'll fake a throw to third, now I fake to first" move. You know, perfectly legal and it's never called for a balk. Except this time, the pitcher actually threw to first. And this time, Miguel Cairo got caught napping and got picked off to end the inning. On the birhgt side, Mike Cameron got a fresh at-bat in the sixth inning...and promptly hit a solo home run. Whatever works, right?

The Brewers got three runs in the third inning, the first coming when Mike Piazza couldn't handle Chris Woodward's throw to the plate. In the bottom of the inning, Carlos Beltran homered with two out (3-1), David Wright (the other phenom, I've heard) singled...and Piazza launched a ball to dead center. The sign said 410 feet, and the scoreboard told us he hit it 420. Everything was forgiven...the big apple poked from the giant hat (a nicer quirk of a drab stadium), the scoreboard showed up a cartoon Piazza wailing on a guitar, and the live-action version took a curtain call. In the twilight of his career in New York, where he runs hot and cold, he's held in the same class as Gary Carter. At least he doesn't pump his fist like the Kid did.

The Mets tacked on a three-spot in the fourth (6-3), but the Brewers responded with three in the fifth (6-6). Cameron got his homer in the sixth, and Piazza doubled in Wright for his fifth RBI (8-6). My scoreboad got messier with each passing inning. The only time either side went down in order: the Mets in the seventh. The Brewers put up a run in the eighth, but the Mets responded in kind. While this was going on, the weather went from hot to overcast to downpour. Looking back, maybe they should've put out the tarps. But at the time, I was gung ho. I paid money for my seat, and dammit, I'm staying until the bitter end. Of course, the lightning bolts in the distance did chase most fans away. I ended up climbing back a row in order not to get soaked too badly. I had my umbrella...if they played, I'd stay. If the tarps came on, I'd get a jump on going home.

Ninth inning. Mets up, 9-7. My big fear was that Branden Looper would come on to finish the job. He had blown the game the previous night. He had lost Opening Day to the Reds. He had blown a chance for the Mets to sweep the Yankees in the Bronx. That last one was unforgivable; I kept thinking that if the Mets pulled it off, all those obnoxious Bleacher Creatures would take swan dives off the Empire State Building rather than live with the shame. Nope...Looper was still in the bullpen. Whether manager Willie Randolph was saving him for a truly hairy situation, or was punishing Looper for last night, I don't know. On the mound: Roberto Hernandez. From what I heard, he had helped blow last night's game, but I figured he was a better choice than Armando Vanilla.

(Bill Hall hits a ground-rule double)

Okay, no problem...tying run at the plate, maybe it's not that big a-

(Brady Clark singles, driving in Hall. Mets up 9-8)

Uh-oh. For the record, I don't know when my Pessimism Sense started tingling. Might've been now. Might've been when the rain started pouring, and I told a neighbor that this wasn't going to end well.

(Rickie Weeks singles, Clark to second. Lee Overbay sacrifices runners to second and third. Carlos Lee intentionally walked)

Okay...I respect the need to set up a game-ending double play. But I'm looking at Geoff Jenkins' line on the scorecard, and he's reached base all five times (4-for-4 with a walk). Question for manager Willie Randolph: are you sure this is a good id-

(Jenkins singles, driving in Clark. Weeks gets nailed at the plate, while Lee goes to third. Tie game, 9-9)

Dammit!'s a tie game. How cool would it be to see walk-off hits in the ninth inning in the span of nine days? Yes...not stressing too much about how I can't see anybody warming up in the ol' bullp-

(Damian Miller beats out an infield hit to Jose Reyes; Lee scores, Jenkins to second. Brewers up, 10-9)

Okay, I'm guessing this is the turning point of the game. The crowd's gotten uglier than the premise of freakin' Rachel and Veronica getting their own show on MTV (more on that another time). How much worse can things-

(Wes Helms singles, scoring Jenkins)


(Oops, it's a double...Beltran totally misjudged the ball, and Miller scores. Brewers up, 12-9)

DOUBLE FUCK! To review: Mets come into the ninth up by two runs. They come out down by three. If Hernandez is sleeping in the locker room as I write this, I would not be surprised. Thanks, Roberto. Thanks a helluva lot.

Since these are the Mets we're talking about, they gave us some hope. And like the dog running into the invisible fence for the hundredth time, I let part of myself a miracle was possible. Reyes (the phenom) finally singles, but the basepaths are probably too damp for his magic. After Cairo flies out, Cameron singles. First and second with one out, tying run at the plate in Carlos Beltran. And naturally, he flies out. Hey, same thing happened with Sammy Sosa when I saw him in a similar spot in Wrigley back in 2001. Maybe I am a jinx! David Wright grounded to first to end the game, leaving the faithful to boo loudly at the series loss. Oh, and for Brewers fans to crow louder. Yes...there are Brewers fans. Who knew?

In the long view, it wasn't a total waste of time. At least the Mets are still in postseason contention, even with a .500 record. If there's a day game with cheap prices and Pedro Martinez pitching, I'll come back. And I've been meaning to hit ballparks in Brooklyn (mother talked me out of a family trip on a gameday), Staten Island (laziness on my part; freakin' ballpark is right near the ferry terminal) and Philadelphia (wanted to go before I found out about Greg Luzinski's barbeque pit). Of course, if the weirdness breaks out again, I'll write about it here.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Adventures In San Diego: Epilogue

It's been almost a week since I got back from San Diego. I didn't write about the flight back because there wasn't much to tell. I sat for about five hours, trying to look out the window from my aisle seat. It's weird...I get all sorts of angsty over random stuff, yet I have no problem looking out the window several thousand feet from terra firma. Prior to the trip, I did get ansty about the flights, especially after the London bombings. It's nothing paralyzing, but I do take a few deeper breaths thinking about it.

It was all about keep entertained. Once again, I had DirecTV in front of me. I don't think I flip around that long at home, but it kept me occupied. They also had movies, but they were The Sandlot 2 and Fever Pitch, so I passed. Biggest hassle was getting the luggage back. It's was about waiting at one carousel, getting directed to another, waiting what feels like an eternity, then getting back to the first carousel, where several pieces of luggage clog the doorway. After that, my mother and myself got escorted back to Staten Island, but not before a trip to get Chinese food. I had to get General Tso's Chicken, on the basis that it was late, and I only had a fruit salad and a few snacks on the flight. And it was no filling. I gotta lay off that stuff.

The weird thing was that for a few days afterwards, I felt sluggish and easily exhausted. I figured that I'd be getting up earlier due to the time differences. Nope...just tired. Not like I have a life where adjustments had to be made right away, though.

I don't know when I'll fly again. The plan is that I'd go to Toronto later this month for a comic book convention, which I reckon is the next best thing to going to CCI in San Diego. It would only be a 90-minute flight, so I can bail out the last night of the con. Coming back, I found that I got my passport. It's big, shiny, and includes what I think is a bad picture of me. I can go to just about anywhere in the world now. I'm almost 30 years old...the only other country I've been in is Canada (four days in Montreal on a bus tour, a stopover in Halifax on a cruise). Sure, it's lame to use it for Toronto, but hopefully it'll just be the start. I got friends in England, Mexico, and the Australia/New Zealand area, so they wouldn't have to come to me. All I'd need is some dough and some good walking shoes. I just hope that I never take world travel for granted.

Off-Topic Note #1: Before the trip, I met up with some online friends in the city. Check out the fun here.

Off-Topic Note #2: I got an entry idea on reality TV, but I gotta get this off my chest now. If you have GSN and have two hours to kill tonight, check out the second season finale of The Amazing Race at 9 p.m. It was the first TARCon I ever hit...and there's nothing like having Oswald (or was it Danny?) telling me that if I thought I was amazing, then I was fucking amazing. Then tomorrow night, the third season kicks off. Twins, mismatched brothers, cranky oldsters, and a force of nature disguised as an Italian girl from Staten it again for the first time.