May 30, 2009

Way back during the dark, cold days of January, I received an interesting invitation on Facebook (where else?). Laura, an acquaintance from the Avalon shore scene, announced that she was organizing a fifth annual charity event in late May to benefit the American Cancer Society. Best of all, the proceedings consisted of a large afternoon tailgate and Phillies night game, and the cost for everything (including the game ticket) was a mere $35 per person.

I’m glad I had the foresight to sign up well in advance. The event turned out to be the Mother of All Tailgate Parties — Laura had to turn down some last-minute requests for tickets after 400 people had registered! And those latecomers missed out on an amazingly well-planned event. The buffet tables stretched for miles, I counted a dozen kegs of beer, and a DJ played music all afternoon. Even the weather was nearly perfect; we partied under mostly sunny skies with a frequent breeze.

Here’s my friend Jeff, my sister Jen, and me enjoying the luau-themed festivities near Citizens Bank Park:

Jeff, Jen, and me at the Mother of All Tailgates

As an added bonus, the Phillies’ offense put on quite a show in a 9–6 win over the Nationals. For the first time ever, I got to witness a grand slam in person — Ryan Howard hit a towering 475-foot blast into the third deck above right field. It was Howard’s third grand slam this year and the eighth of his career, a mark that breaks Mike Schmidt’s previous team record.

By coincidence, my coworker Paul and his family had tickets for the same game, so I got to catch up with him for a while on the concourse, and Jeff and I bumped into more friends of ours on the outdoor deck of McFadden’s after the game. We returned home well after midnight, exhausted after a fun-filled day.

Three cheers to Laura and her family for running an incredibly fun event that ultimately raised $4,500 for a wonderful cause.

[ No. 524 ]

May 22–25, 2009

For the last seven consecutive summers, I’ve joined some good friends in a group shore house in Avalon, N.J., and it’s amazing how many details from those weekends would have blended together without this trusty blog.

Starting in 2002, I spent five seasons in the north half of a comfortable duplex near 21st Street, and I clearly recall the miserable weather in 2003, the eerie Pottersville vibe around town in 2005, and even more noticeable changes in 2006. A subset of our group rented a different house on 27th Street in 2007, then shifted to another property on 29th Street last year with mixed results.

When the time came to decide on an eighth summer in Avalon, I was much more hesitant than in previous years. Last summer, I struggled to deal with a realtor who took his sweet time addressing chronic problems with our air conditioning and hot-water heater. Since I was rarely home on the weekends, I foolishly squandered a promising relationship and neglected several hobbies and projects around the house. But most importantly, with a shaky economy and a projected round of severe layoffs at my employer this fall, I simply couldn’t justify dropping $2,000 on another full share in a shore house; my savings account felt like a much more sensible option by comparison.

So, I opted to spend the holiday weekend with my family in Stone Harbor — nothing beats the Rigatoni Caruso at Marabella’s or a home-cooked Sunday brunch. But I also met up with many friends along the way, from drinks on the beachfront roof deck at the newly renovated Windrift on Saturday evening to a few rounds of Quizzo at the Rock ’n Chair and a surprisingly low-key party on Sunday night.

I’ll head back to the shore in a few weeks, either with the family for Father’s Day or as a visitor at the group house on 21st Street (along with the completely reasonable guest fee: one case of beer). Until then, I’m looking forward to taking part in some non-shore activities for a change.

[ No. 523 ]

May 21, 2009

On many occasions, I’ve mentioned my fascination with unusual sports scores, from an infamous 222–0 college football game in 1916 to an eye-popping final score of 30–3 from a Rangers/Orioles game from two years ago.

Well, you can add a recent Rich Hofmann column from the Philadelphia Daily News to the collection. The headline says it all:

Hard to believe, Harry: Phillies 23, Cubs 22

I’m very surprised that I had never heard about this game until its 30th anniversary this week, but the Phils and Cubs played a completely ridiculous game on May 17, 1979. The Phillies jumped out to a 21–9 lead in the fifth inning, the Cubs rallied to tie the game at 22 in the eighth, and Mike Schmidt hit the game-winning home run in the 10th to secure a 23–22 win at Wrigley Field.

The game featured 11 home runs in all, and the weather conditions certainly underscored Chicago’s reputation as the “Windy City.” Can you imagine attending a single baseball game that featured a total of 45 runs and 50 hits?

As an added bonus, Hofmann’s column carefully transcribes many of the play-by-play highlights from broadcasters Rich Ashburn, Andy Musser, and the recently departed Harry Kalas. Enjoy!

[ No. 522 ]

May 13, 2009

New rule, everyone: I am allowed to say “no” without receiving a ton of grief.

My employer recently announced its latest Red Cross blood drive. It’s a noble cause, and I’ve given blood on several occasions in the past. However, while I don’t immediately faint at the sight of needles or blood, my body doesn’t seem to handle blood donations well. More than once, after resting for several minutes and enjoying my well-earned reward of juice and cookies, I’ve often felt faint, nauseous, or both. No offense to those who need blood transfusions, but it’s an unpleasant situation that I’d simply rather avoid.

Earlier this week, on the ground floor of my office building, I encountered two female blood-drive volunteers seated at a table. Next to them stood someone dressed in a giant blood drop costume, frantically waving at everyone who passed by. Collectively, they implored me to sign up for the blood drive. Eager to join my coworkers at a nearby lunch table, I shook my head and mumbled something along the lines of, “I’m good.”

In response, the women and the anthropomorphic blood drop expressed varying levels of contempt at my reply and repeated their earnest plea for my assistance. I quickly explained that I haven’t felt well after giving blood in the past and left them to harass the next passerby.

Look, I get it. I know blood supplies are dangerously low, and really, I’d love to be able to help. But my body is telling me something by reacting the way it does when it loses a pint of blood, and based on that empirical evidence, I’d rather not endure the whole ordeal. It’s the same with unsolicited phone calls or charity requests in the supermarket check-out line — I reserve the right to politely decline to participate in your cause, regardless of how worthy it may be.

Please don’t make me have to explain why I arrived at that decision. It’s none of your business, and I don’t have the patience for your guilt trip, either.

[ No. 521 ]

May 6, 2009

I’ve written over 500 blog entries of varying quality since 2001, long before the word blog became part of our lexicon. And I’ll admit that I’ve become strangely fascinated by Facebook statuses and news feeds that help me stay in frequent contact with my friends.

However, I’ve resisted signing up for Twitter. Yes, I know it’s all the rage to “microblog” one’s thoughts under the designated 140-character limit and follow the stream-of-consciousness feeds of friends and celebrities alike. But this personal Web site of mine (an old-fashioned macroblog, perhaps?) is enough of a narcissistic indulgence to begin with, and I lack the time and interest that’s required to broadcast my terse opinions to the world several times a day. Besides, I wouldn’t expect more than a handful of people to ever read or care about my “tweets.”

Even without a Twitter account, I feel as connected as I’d like to be, at least for now. But as the Web has become incredibly mobile over the last few years, I’m starting to fear that social norms (or even worse, workplaces) will increasingly expect me to be available all the time, and not necessarily for a mere phone call or text message. If I “go dark” and dare to abandon my Web site and Facebook profile for more than a few days, some friends might start to worry about my well-being. (Don’t laugh; a two-week hiatus of blog posts actually prompted some mild concern three years ago.) Worse, would I run the risk of missing something that’s genuinely important or time-sensitive?

I also worry that social networking will invade every aspect of our lives, to the point where it will become nearly impossible to grant your undivided attention to a family gathering, a first date, or even just a few rare moments of quiet, solitary reflection. And my fear of enduring technological fidgeting in every conceivable setting has been confirmed, even epitomized, by a recent Time article, which documents the rising popularity of using Twitter in church, of all places. In fact, the practice is often encouraged by pastors as a creative way to “connect people to God and to each other.”

It’s bad enough when a ringtone pierces the silence of a religious service. But can you imagine sitting in a church surrounded by people clacking away on their iPhones, Blackberrys, and laptops? How could you possibly concentrate on the sermon or even hear yourself think as you attempt to silently pray?

Even in this digital age, the propriety of technology still has its limits. Just because we can communicate everywhere doesn’t mean that we should. Let’s consider turning off the gadgets once in a while, even if that downtime is limited to God’s house for just one hour each week.

[ No. 520 ]

May 4, 2009

Over the last several months, I’ve adhered to a diet that has been anything but balanced, and I’ve regrettably lacked the motivation to complete a single workout, too. During the winter, it’s just far too easy to skip the gym and head home right after work, especially when it’s 20° and dark outside. The leather recliner in my living room is also extremely comfortable, and that certainly hasn’t helped matters.

As a consequence of my sedentary habits, I’ve been feeling increasingly lousy, and my results from last month’s routine physical exam were disappointing, if not a bit worrisome (damn you, cholesterol). But the numbers were not surprising.

Given those findings and my family history, I know I need to mend my ways, so I find myself returning to a long-overdue regimen of fitness and better nutrition — something that can be difficult, yet still entirely feasible. My journey of a thousand miles began with a modest 15-minute run on the treadmill at the gym after work this evening. It’s only a start, but it’s something, and I feel a little better already.

There are many ways to indicate you’re out of shape; most would point to an obvious quantitative measure such as one’s weight or body mass index. But as I approached the gym entrance earlier tonight, I thought of a much simpler and more telling sign — if you arrive in the locker room and can’t even remember the combination to your lock, it’s been way too long since you’ve broken a sweat.

Thankfully, I somehow managed to recall those three little numbers, so perhaps all is not lost.

[ No. 519 ]