Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Phil Collins

We had our musical icons in the 80's. Madonna, Springsteen, Wacko Jacko, Hall and Oates, even some guy named Huey.

And Phil Collins.

For a stretch, Phil Collins was it. He made "In the Air Tonight" and, I've never met a person who doesn't like that song, or who hasn't played the air drums to it. I would say that most everyone loved the guy. He could play the drums. He could sing. He could write and produce. He seemed to appear on everybody's records (Philip Bailey, Howard Jones, etc). He appeared at BOTH venues for Live Aid. He had a fun, regular-guy personality. It seemed - seemed - he could do no wrong.

But then, he did. He started making pop music that came off as bland. Some might say that started as early as his monster No Jacket Required album, but I beg to differ. He made a movie (Buster) that was marginally successful at best. His once omnipresence became irritating. Even looking back at Genesis, the band he started with, one finds that there are two distinct camps: those who loved the art/prog-rock of the band that Collins was in but that Peter Gabriel sang lead for, and those who loved the pop band that Collins was the lead singer for.

Indeed, while I enjoy the latter work of the more famous tunes, I tend to prefer the Gabriel years. I likely would have attended a Genesis reunion tour in 2007 if Gabriel had been back at the mic, as was rumored, but chose to skip it once it was announced that Collins would be doing the vocals with mates Tony Banks and Mike Rutherford. I meant it as no offense, as I saw that version of the band at Giants Stadium in 1992.

All of this is prologue to this riveting article I read in Rolling Stone. Writer Andy Greene goes in-depth with Collins, exposing all of the details of how he was once uber-popular and now seems reviled. Collins talks about his fascination with the Alamo (yes, really), how he does have a dark side, and most noticeably, how he has had thoughts of suicide.

It's almost as if Collins regrets the whole thing. Whatever - it's all kind of sad.

For 15 Minutes Today, All Was Right in Radio

There has never been a better sports talk show than "Mike and the Mad Dog." Not even "The Press Box" can top the brilliance that Mike Francesa and Chris "Mad Dog" Russo gave us for 20 years. It was a daily part of my listening routine.

The two have been separate for a few years now, with Francesa continuing on WFAN (and oh, what has become of that station?) and Russo over on SiriusXM.

They're working near each other in Indianapolis this week on their individual shows, but got back together for 15 minutes. I heard it and was laughing and marveling at just how good they are together. I also felt nostalgic, because neither one is right without the other.

Thanks to Fang's Bites for posting the video and, as such, providing the link.

Super Bowl Halftime Shows

I saw this post from Mitchell and Ness's blog and couldn't resist a comment on it.  They asked, simply, which Super Bowl halftime show was the best?

I will tell you, categorically, in the post-"Nipplegate" era, the two worst were Prince and the Black Eyed Peas. Purely terrible. I don't have high expectations for Madonna either. Yet prior to the Janet Jackson fiasco, the halftime shows had been fairly atrocious also (save for U2's remarkable post-9/11 show).

Wikipedia has the full list here. Some of those shows make me pine for the days of marching bands and Up with People.

By the way, Wikipedia also has Madge's set list already. Sheesh. No buildup there.

Anyway, the best? Sticking to the event since after Super Bowl XXXVIII (that's the Janet Jackson game). Some didn't like The Who (Super Bowl XLIV), but I thought they were fine. The Rolling Stones didn't impress me at all (XL), to be blunt. I've already said I thought Prince (XLI) and the Peas (XLV) were terrible. I enjoyed Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (XLII) who were a surprise choice but really rocked. But there are two clear winners:

Paul McCartney (XXXIX), which can't be embedded. Macca went with "Drive My Car", "Get Back", "Live and Let Die", and "Hey Jude" for a safe, yet rollicking show the year after we got to see more of Janet Jackson than we asked for.

But the clear runaway winner is...
Bruce, of course. Step back from the guacamole dip!

Do I need to say it? They kicked...well, you know what (even with a shortened "Tenth Avenue Freeze Out"). Complete with Bruce sliding into the camera!

And in case you need a reminder of how that game ended...

Makes me feel good to watch that.

Thought For the Day

Among the many lessons that I've tried to teach my son is to be gracious in both victory and defeat. This seems to resonate right now at Super Bowl time, but it also works outside of the sports arena. I think it is probably more difficult to be a good winner, but then again, it's sometimes tough to not be a sore loser.

With that in mind, we hit our thought for the day. We'll stick with sports, and go with the guy that Sunday's big trophy is named after: Vince Lombardi. The great Green Bay Packers coach once famously said, "Show me a good loser and I'll show you a loser." Well, a bit harsh, but probably true in sports. Yet he also authored this:
“If you can accept losing, you can't win.”
On this morning, that works. Accept it and move on because, some times, it's out of your control. Or it wasn't your fault. It just happens.

A Lost George Harrison Guitar Solo

I heard this the other day on Pat St. John's show on WCBS-FM (101.1) in New York. It's a video of Sir George Martin, his son Giles Martin, and Dhani Harrison, son of George Harrison, listening to some of The Beatles' classic "Here Comes the Sun."

It gets interesting though, as they hear a guitar solo that was never used.

By the way, St. John's show always includes lost or never-before heard pieces of music history from the rock and roll era. Always a good listen.

Monday, January 30, 2012


We always knew he'd be back. It just took a while because, after all, he's a fry cook on Venus!

Matthew Broderick has returned as Ferris Bueller...well, sort of. He's actually just Matthew Broderick the actor, but he's doing a sweet parody of Ferris for the Honda CR-V in this new commercial to run during the Super Bowl.

Even though we're already getting to see it. Whatever, it is so choice! I warn you, you have to look really closely for all of the references...I'm still picking them up (like the clothes in the background at the 1:00 mark - the sweater vest and Cameron's T-shirt).

Now we need the real thing (and yes, that means The Beatles)...


Thinking About Baseball

I know...it's Super Bowl Week. And yes, I'm pleased for the Giants (or "Steelers East", as I've called them on occasion). So I should be all about football. Or hockey, with the Rangers rocking in the Garden. Or basketball, with the Knicks...ooo...maybe not.

So anyway, back to baseball. I saw my friend, Connecticut State Representative in the 151st District, Fred Camillo post that there were only 20 days to pitchers and catchers. I noticed that same number on the marquee outside of Yankee Stadium (you know, the new house) and it made me smile.

Now don't get me wrong. The arrival of pitchers and catchers is lovely, except it's purely symbolic. Sure, they're there...but that's it. It's more about the promise of the season coming (which is still roughly six weeks after that day).

Fred's posting got some of his friends (including one crazy mad baseball historian type) to start commenting. Fred deserves credit for getting us going by posting numbers that baseball fans know and that are at the very heart of the game. Come on: 714, 56, 511, .406. Of course, I chimed in with 3000 and 300 (one could also say 30/30 or 40/40). But don't forget about 61 in '61 and Tinkers to Evers to Chance, "Take Me Out to the Ballgame", and "Casey at the Bat."

Everybody knows them. Everybody has heard the line "Mighty Casey has struck out", or "There's no joy in Mudville."

There are the nicknames: "The Duke of Flatbush", "The Babe", "The Iron Horse", "The Mick", The Yankee Clipper", "The Splendid Splnter", "The Say Hey Kid", "Donnie Baseball", "Three Finger" Brown, "Big John Mize", "Catfish", "Stan the Man", "Hammering Hank", and John "Blue Moon" Odom.

And that's just a few of them. Of course, I haven't forgotten about Lawrence Peter "Lawdie" Berra, the kid from the Hill section of St. Louis whose friends (including Joe Garagiola) knew him as "Yogi."

And how many things has Yogi added to society? From Yoo Hoo drinks to his malaprops!

I keep hearing the game is dead, or on life support, and feel free to run with that. But no game causes people to post "20 days" to the opening of TRAINING CAMP, when only the pitchers and catchers and rookies report!

I love football. Love it. Love hockey - some of the best sports history there is. Love basketball. Golf. Tennis (did you watch the brilliance of yesterday's Novak Djokovic/Rafael Nadal Aussie Open Final?). But Babe Ruth once said it best, albeit in 1947: "The only real game I think in the world, is baseball."

Incidentally, Fred commented about Van Lingle Mungo (yes, that was his real name), who became better known as the title of a bossa nova jazz song by Dave Frishberg in 1969. Again, only baseball.

Thought For The Day

I'm trying to write to the old bloggity from my cell phone, so forgive any spelling errors (darn auto correct).
I've been thinking about doing a "thought for the day", which I wouldn't have to do daily but could still be fun.
Based on my current state of mind, I think I need to call on Crash Davis of Bull Durham fame, who said:
"Don't think.  It can only hurt the ballclub."
Don't think...good advice on this day.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Something Serious: Black Out Bullying

My son's school is participating tomorrow in "Black out Bullying", in which all students (and I hope staff as well) are encouraged to wear something black to make an anti-bullying statement.

Of course, the skeptic/pessimist can say that it's symbolic and will do no good, but it's positive for the kids to take part in it. That hope can be extended to the idea of preventing bullying from going on.

I can't stress enough how much I dislike bullying, and always had no tolerance for it - even as a student.

So bravo to the kids at Gayhead Elementary School for doing their part to black out bullying.


(My picture, Mappsville, VA)

There are so many things that I love about the American road. Of course, you miss so much of it on the Interstate and yet, if you look closely, or know where to look, it can be found.

Still, the true culture is waiting off the highways. If you follow the state and US routes, or hit the side roads, there's a bounty waiting for you.

Like Stuckey's.

Started by a pecan farmer in Georgia, Stuckey's (so-named after its founder, WS Stuckey) grew into a restaurant/gas station/souvenir shop. It had its growth and decline, but was always prevalent during our drives to Florida, especially in the 1970's.

It was souvenir nirvana. Yummy french fries and drinks. A chance to get out and stretch. Use the rest room. Not as big or as gaudy as South of the Border, and yet, it was a kids' paradise!

And I once famously yelled for my father to stop there, nearly causing him to swerve off the road. I was about six or seven. You'd think the statute of limitations would have run out on the story, but by god no. Over 35 years later (my father's been dead for almost 23, mind you) the story lives on.

And on.

And on.

And on.

Anyway, I still get a kick out of seeing the stores. There's actually one in Connecticut, of all things, right near the Rhode Island border. There used to be one in Thornburg, VA, but it closed. So I didn't see one on I-95 until I got into North Carolina.

Yet we didn't visit one until we were on the way back, when Carrie said she wanted some Virginia peanuts. Thank you, oh Roadside Gods! There was one waiting for us, on US 13, just minutes from the Maryland border.

We walked out with our peanuts, some candy (I love me some root beer drops), and three Stuckey's T-shirts for $12. Yep, life is good!

And the story can be retold.


We've Lost a Sweathog

One of the Sweathogs from Welcome Back, Kotter died today.

Robert Hegyes (who played Juan Epstein) was 60. (courtesy NJ.com)  Hegyes is in the upper right of that picture above,.

For a brief shining time, that show was the thing. As big, if not bigger, than the Fonz. Then Travolta found some fever on a Saturday night, and a little grease, and things were never the same again.

I guess that's all I have to say about that.

Sick Math - the Toll Edition

(Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel.  Carrie's picture...used by permission...hopefully)

I didn't keep close track of my finances for the big Charleston trip, but figured in this day and age, statements would be available if I wanted to review things. That's the beauty of relying on electronics (debit card and EZ Pass).

I still don't understand those in the New York area who haven't gotten an EZ Pass. I love mine and they offer some discounts. Just saying.

Anyway, I got my EZ Pass statement today and tallied the numbers. Let's break it down...

Garden State Parkway (Pascack Valley): $ 1.25
Garden State Parkway (Essex): $ 1.25
New Jersey Turnpike (Exits 11-2): $ 6.10
Commodore Barry Bridge (NJ-PA): $ 5.00
Baltimore Harbor Tunnel: $ 3.00
TOTAL: $16.60

That's it for the southbound trip. I could have cut some of the money out by jumping on I-295 instead of using the New Jersey Turnpike (and yes, there are other ways to dodge tolls in the Garden State) but I didn't. I did skip the Delaware Turnpike's $4.00 robbery (also known as "shunpiking").

I expected the trip home to be more expensive, notably for two reasons: 1) because we planned to drive across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel (CBBT) and 2) tolls are charged going eastbound across the Hudson River, and the only way to avoid paying a toll was to head up to Albany. That hardly seems worth it.

Because of traveling up the Delmarva Peninsula and using the CBBT, we avoided Baltimore and the tunnels (or the bridges that we also could have used). We also missed out on the Mildred E. Tydings Memorial Bridge (the John F. Kennedy Memorial Highway) toll of $5.00.

On the other hand, we more than made up for it! Not including the $38.00 to ride the Cape May-Lewes Ferry (hey, I'm a sucker for a sunset with Carrie, OK?), the northbound ledger looks like this:

Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel: $12.00
Garden State Parkway (Cape May): $ 1.50
Garden State Parkway (New Gretna): $ 1.50
Garden State Parkway (Toms River): $ .75
Garden State Parkway (Springsteen...er...Asbury Park): $ 1.50
Outerbridge Crossing $ 9.50
TOTAL: $26.75

Total Trip: $43.35

Of course this is all apropos of nothing, but there was one thing that jumped out at me. Again, it's meaningless, but we paid $12 to cross the beautiful 17 mile structure seen at the top of this post (the CBBT). We paid 9.50 to cross the Outerbridge (which is also $12 if you're paying cash!). I get it: the Port Authority rips people off (even with the EZ Pass discount) and I also get that it's apples and oranges. But...still.

Anyway, that occupied my brain for a few minutes. Thanks.

HLN Showing the Proper National Anthem Respect

It's been going on for 30 years. That's almost as long as Huey Lewis and the News have been doing their rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner" at sporting events. They were asked to do so a few weeks back for the San Francisco 49ers meeting with the New Orleans Saints in the NFC Divisional Playoffs.

I was in a car coming back from South Carolina with Carrie and it took us some time to find the game on radio (I had to listen to it on WFAN...out of...New York. Really? Nobody else had it in North Carolina?).

Anyway, we missed the anthem but I knew somebody would have it. The reviews were outstanding (no shock) but the better quality video from the broadcast has been removed (thanks, Emperor Goodell and the FOXies...yay, four more years of Goodell!*).

But...this version - shot via a hand-held camera of the FOX broadcast - is passable.

*I saw someone comment on Facebook that, by 2016, the NFL will be playing two-hand touch thanks to Goodell's "wimping down" of the NFL.

I've got to go to work. Play nice, everyone.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Giants/Pats (Super Bowl XLVI)

Last year, Carrie supported me while I watched the Steelers fall to the Packers.

This year, I get to support her, although we don't know the result yet.

Following a great day of Conference Championship games, we now know that the Giants will face the Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI.  If the G-Men win they will be the first team to take a Super Bowl with a 9-7 record.

It should be a good game, but it also means we get to listen to two weeks of hype and since I live in the New York area, that means even MORE hype. As such, I think I'm going to be listening to less sports talk and more music until after the game.

Ugh. Could they just play tomorrow and get it over with?

And so ends a long day. Sadly, I'm not tired.

The Drive Home

Carrie and I left Charleston a little after 8:00 on Saturday morning and made our eventual visit to Waffle House.  But not the first one we stopped at.  Nope.  Too much cigarette smoke.  We tried a second one, and I enjoyed our breakfast, but the chef might want to work on scrambling eggs in the future.

And so the ride went from there. We made it to South of the Border, where we saw the Bootmobile, and into North Carolina, where we experienced the culinary delight that Golden Corral is.

We popped into JR, the cigar/apparel/stuff store whose billboards just called for us to visit. I bought batteries that didn't work! We plotted our stay over, deciding that Norfolk was the best place, as we had thought all along. But mostly, the ride was about the road - road signs, road culture, and enjoying each other's company.

And indeed, with a visit to Priceline, we had a room at the Marriott Waterfront in Norfolk where we watched the wild Saints/49ers game before crashing. We began Sunday by grabbing a quick Wawa breakfast and crossing the wonderful Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel and making our way up the Delmarva peninsula.

We went to Stuckey's and got Virginia peanuts and t-shirts.

We went to Fratelli's in Salisbury, MD for lunch (incredible crab cakes).

We hit the outlets in Delaware.

We made the ferry from Lewes to Cape May, NJ.

We listened to the Giants beat the Packers on the radio and made it home to get a good night's sleep. Our road trip, sadly, was done.


I didn't quite achieve my goal for Charleston.  It's my fault, of course.  I had two things I wanted to see: Fort Sumter and the USS Yorktown.  It was my call and it gives me cause to revisit the so-called "Holy City" again one day.

Thursday opened with me taking a walk through the city. Charleston has an amazing amount of history and "Southern charm."
(Just your average street)

This long walk scuttled my plans and I decided I'd rather have lunch with Carrie than go sightsee. She's far more pretty than any Civil War fort or aircraft carrier, so I met her back at our hotel for some real southern soul food at Jestine's Kitchen.

Three words: Coca. Cola. Cake. (Oh my!)

I was back on my own for the afternoon and resumed my long walk - I must have walked at least three miles on this day (and it's good for me). That night, Carrie and I enjoyed the "club" area of our hotel where we were able to grab some appetizers before visiting a few local places (including some incredible homemade mozzarella sticks) before retiring.

On Friday, Carrie and I spent the day together, beginning with some down-home breakfast across from our hotel before hitting the road to see the area, and walking around the Charleston Market.
(The Charleston Market)
And we drove across the amazing Arthur Ravenel Jr Bridge.

We also stumbled on Molly Darcy's - an Irish pub/restaurant with two locations...Charleston, and Danbury, CT!

By Friday night, we needed a place for dinner on our last night. Via Urban Spoon, I spun their "wheel" and stumbled upon Barbara Jean's, an amazingly comfortable place for some true Southern cuisine. I had a catfish platter that I simply could not finish (and still regret that fact). We also stopped at a wine bar near our hotel that came with a dog that loved attention (sorry, I didn't take any pictures).

Charleston was done with us. We would depart and start the drive to New York in the morning.

Pedro's Highway

I always leave any place with a tinge of sadness.  It's a little stronger when I drive out of Richmond, VA.  Yet I had to go if I wanted to get to Charleston at a reasonable hour.

Carrie had made one request of me before the trip: Be safe and be smart. In other words, don't push yourself too hard. Take breaks. Don't drive tired. Get to Charleston whenever. In her mind, she was in her conference (the reason for the trip) on Thursday, so it wasn't like we would spend the day together.

In fact, there were different versions of the game plan for this trip right up until the day I left. In one version, I would leave after work and drive until I couldn't go any longer and pull off (either cheap motel or grab a few winks in a parking lot). In another, I would leave as I did and get into North Carolina to stay with my niece. The problem was that my niece hadn't moved to NC. That plan got scratched. Plan three had me getting to NC and staying over until Thursday morning in a motel.

Then plan four. Drive to Charleston in one day, just as we originally planned.

So it was that I said fare thee well to Richmond (not without grabbing a Krispy Kreme coffee and taking a picture of Broad Street).
(Broad Street, Richmond)

I just had to tell myself "I'll be back."  I want my friends to meet Carrie. I want to take Sean back. I want to go back. Hell, it's no secret that I'd consider living there.

So yes. I'll be back.


This is where the trip would get good...despite the now dicey weather. The forecast was very clear: I would hit rain during the day somewhere. That somewhere was right around Richmond, and it would stay with me into North Carolina. I hadn't been to NC since a trip to the Outer Banks in 2001, and hadn't driven south of Petersburg, VA on I-95 since 1992. I was looking forward to seeing what had changed!

Answer: very little. Almost nothing.

Granted, the number of South of the Border billboards had dwindled, but otherwise...

Oh sure, there's VA 895, and I-795 and FUTURE(!) I-295 in North Carolina, but overall, things are virtually identical to what I used to see out my window in the 1980's. Still I was excited to be back there, reliving the times with my family on our multiple drives to Florida.

I stopped in the rain as I crossed into North Carolina. A quick visit to the welcome center and I was right back at it. I felt like I was surrounded by virtually nothing back Canadians (and a hello to all of them!). By the time I approached Rocky Mount, the rain was heavier.
(Near Gold Rock, NC)

At this point, it became fairly useless to take pictures (although it was only around 3:30 or so). That spot in the picture was where I-95 ended in the 70's, and it's funny how things haven't developed between here and the Kenly-Smithfield area since then. To that end, my next stop was at Smithfield, where we spent many nights during those 80's trips to and from Florida. Things have built up a little since then, with outlets and more restaurants (we'll stop here on the way back also).

I was beginning to feel run down, and it was time for some gas, but I just couldn't do coffee again - I had a cup at home...one in Delaware at Wawa...and one in Richmond. I'd hit my limit!

At this point, it was a mere 95 miles to Pedro. But first, a pull off stop for a picture of North Carolina route 55.
(Pretty cool flash photo)

And then...that's right. South of the Border! It had been almost 19 years since my last visit, and almost 23 years since I had been through the area at night. I couldn't resist stopping quickly, if only to stretch. I knew Carrie had never been to SOB, so I kept my visit short, knowing we would be back.

I remembered Carrie's words about being smart, and realized that I should probably have some dinner before I reached Charleston, since I knew she was meeting a former coworker and probably wouldn't be hungry when I rolled into town. So it was that I faced my rule: eat nothing that I can eat in New York. I wanted road food - something I could keep in the car - but I didn't want McDonald's, Wendy's, Burger King, etc. I hasten to say what I opted for ("Eat More Chikin") because I don't believe in their politics and realized later on that I can get them in Paramus, NJ. Fail on me.

South Carolina always was a state of survival. By that I mean that there aren't the cities on I-95 that you hit in North Carolina, Virginia, and so on. Florence, Manning, and Santee are really the only places to stop, and after I stopped for chicken in Florence, I was on a mission to reach Charleston. I finally left I-95 just south of Santee - a mere 86 miles from Georgia - when I turned onto I-26 at just about 8:00 - nearly 16 hours after leaving New York.

I truly believe that had I minimized my stops, I could have made Charleston in about 13 hours. But that would have required major minimizing.

I-26 between I-95 and its end at Chrleston is anything but riveting. I had only used the cruise control on the Galant once - back in New Jersey. I set it to 73 MPH, and felt like I was flying. Yet people passed me like I was standing still. Finally, businesses and lights began to appear, and I was close to Charleston once and for all - the end was in sight.

In truth, I could have gone a lot farther. Dinner gave me a new amount of energy. I probably could have made it to Savannah had I continued on I-95!

But Charleston was the destination, and my Carrie awaited. I parked the car at the garage near the Charleston Place Hotel at 8:47 PM. I had been at it for 16 hours and 25 minutes, and almost 900 miles (893.7 to be exact). It was, by far, the most and longest I had driven in one day.

And I loved it.

But I was thrilled to see Carrie, and we celebrated with a drink in the hotel lounge. She showed me around the block at the hotel and we called it a night in a wonderful hotel room in Charleston, SC.

A fine day, indeed.  Now I had two full days to check out Charleston before the return trip would begin.

The Road to Charleston

(My rental - photo by me)

All of the pictures from the trip are on my Flickr site here.

Four twenty-two in the morning. And I was disappointed in myself.

Let's go back, shall we? I picked up a red 2012 Mitsubishi Galant (yeah, the one above) and went back to working before having my weekly dinner with Sean. I got home that night and finalized my packing before crashing around 11:00 PM.

Oh, packing. Oh...yeah. I'm a terrible packer to begin with, but the path I cut between my dresser, my closet, and my suitcase became a gully. The temperature was due to be cold in New York...but perhaps warm in Charleston...but maybe cold again. So yes, a pair of shorts would be nice, but layers would be the name of the game. Of course, I over-packed (I admire Carrie on this, among many other things. The girl picks out her clothes, closes her suitcase and goes).

The alarm went off at 3:15 AM in Mahopac - my phone going with "Good Day Sunshine" by The Beatles. I readied myself with the intention of being on the road by 4:00. I ate breakfast and still felt comfortable with my timing...

Then I stumbled, because of my own vanity. I was going to visit Jon From R-Va for lunch in, well, R-Va (OK, at his office in Henrico, to be precise). Incidentally, Jon posted a picture in honor of his visitor from the north.

But I could hear my father's voice, who always preached looking appropriate. Of course, he's been gone almost 23 years and had never heard of business casual. Still, my Seattle Pilots t-shirt and a thermal wouldn't do. So...I changed and finally decided on a comfy sweater, but would stay in jeans. A compromise.

But it was now after four. And that brings us to 4:22 AM - departure time, finally. The radio would be my companion for the first part of the trip, but WFAN's Tony Paige would not do (sorry, Tony). Instead I went with WCBS (880 AM), because I wanted to check on traffic and weather. And indeed, as only New York can do, I was advised to stay away from the George Washingon Bridge. So it was time for a small detour.

I opted for the Tappan Zee Bridge and Garden State Parkway to get around New York City. I crossed the bridge around 4:50, and crossed into New Jersey at 5:00. With that all resolved, Paul McCartney's Good Evening New York City kept me company. I was roaring along, making good time, and soaking in the lack of traffic and daylight - all reminders of previous road trips.

New Jersey really isn't my favorite state to drive, for the simple reason that it's so close to New York so I'm often in it. Plus it can be boring. Yet the Garden State Parkway was fun to drive - probably since I hadn't done so in some time. By 5:45, I was on the Turnpike. Admittedly I wasn't going to do a lot of toll roads, but I was just doing so well that I went with them.

Still I wanted to have fun and break things up. So, to add another state to the drive, without going too far out of the way, I exited the Turnpike at Exit 2 and drove across the Commodore Barry Bridge into Pennsylvania. I was into Delaware and taking my first break at the I-95 rest area, three hours after leaving home.

(I-95, Delaware)
I dodged the toll in Delaware on I-95 but it cost me time-wise as I dropped down to US 40, in part to grab a coffee and some gas at Wawa. I can normally make the Baltimore city line in under four hours, but with the breaks and the slower pace of US 40 (I did get back on 95 in Maryland, but the damage had been done), I reached Charm City at the 4:30 mark.

(Open road, Capital Beltway, Virginia)
Still, I was rolling now. I fielded phone calls from work (really?) between Baltimore and the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, but it did little to deter me. Indeed I passed into Virginia after being on the road for almost five-and-a-half-hours, and stopped in Fredericksburg, VA at 6:15. It was a quick stop before I-95 and I danced our way towards the capital of Virginia. I was on the phone with Carrie as I hit the city line in just under seven hours.

(What's a little rain?  It's Richmond, VA!)
After seven hours and 16 minutes (nearly 416 miles), I stopped for lunch at Jon's. Remember how I worried about my appearance?  Yeah...Jon appeared in front of me in Crazy Eddie t-shirt (worn to give me a laugh).  I should have known better.  Still it was great to see him, Lori, Kevin, and the rest of the people who I had lunch with. But the reality was that I had a long way to go...


I know what's happening later today, but I'm thinking back to 1991, when the two met in the NFC Championship at Candlestick Park.

It was called "The Threepeat Game" because the Niners were on the verge of just that. As a Steelers' fan who was beyond sick of the Niners, I was rooting for the Giants - big-time!

It was a crazy game, with Joe Montana (I'm sorry, isn't that Saint Joe Montana?) getting knocked to San Jose (where clearly, he did not know the way) by Leonard Marshall. I can remember yelling "he's DOWN!" when the hit happened.

This video
picks up the CBS broadcast at Roger Craig's fumble late in the fourth. As Pat Summerall said at the end, "There will be NO threepeat!"

The Giants went onto win Super Bowl XXV.

I Know What I Like

I had a CD player in my rental to South Carolina last week - but no port to plug an iPod/iPad to, and only one "cigarette lighter" source.

So I went with a couple of CD's, including some Huey Lewis and the News, which helped me rock my way down the New Jersey Turnpike. Not long after I exited the NJTP at Exit 2 to pop into Pennsylvania (just trying to mix things up a bit), "I Know What I Like" came on. The track, for Fore!, is a rousing piece of fun featuring Joe Montana and some other 49ers on backing vocals.

Side note...this might be the right day for me to be mentioning the San Fran team. Believe me, I'm not a fan either! Indeed, go Big Blue! Trust me, few things would be sweeter than a Steelers/49ers Super Bowl, with the black and gold winning the Lombardi Trophy!

Back on point, I rolled along on US 322 to the song. I knew the words to "I Know What I Like", but never really concerned myself with them, or the meaning. For some reason, that morning, the lines stuck with me (not "Stuck with You." Different HLN song.)

Perhaps my favorite lines: "I like things that don't change,
Because the more something changes, the more it stays the same. I might be simple, I take it easy sometimes. But I can be stubborn when I've made up my mind."

Anyway, here are the boys performing the song on the Fore Tour! A hat-tip to Facebook friend/fellow HLN fan Razor Rob Cole for posting the song this morning.

JoePa, RIP

The news has just come out that Joe Paterno has died at the age of 85. One could say a broken heart was the cause of death, though the lung cancer that he was diagnosed with will likely be on the death certificate.

How to deal with his legacy? It's too soon, of course. Time is the great equalizer and the ultimate judge, so we will see how history treats him. The numbers are all there: 409 wins, two national championships, countless players moved onto the NFL (perhaps over 350), a great graduation rate, and so on. He held more power in Pennsylvania than virtually anyone at one time. He earned the respect that he was given.

As a young man who grew up liking Pitt (because of a quarterback I watched on Saturday's named Marino), I was hardly a JoePa fan. Or a Penn State fan. There seemed something so deeply sanctimonious about the whole thing, and JoePa represented that for me. Yet one had to respect what they built there.

Then it all came crashing down. Jerry Sandusky has become synonymous with evil, with Paterno had moved from being a cantankerous old coach who wanted everyone to get off of his lawn (albeit his lawn being Beaver Stadium) to being a forgetful old fool. A fool who allowed Sandusky's crimes to go unpunished for years.

Paterno's end at Penn State clearly hurt him. It should have, since he turned his back on a very bad situation.  That clearly tarnished that legacy that we discussed above. Only time will tell how it develops. With the word of his passing, I find myself torn. Certainly I'm thinking of the news of the past few months and just how bad he looked for his handling of Sandusky. Yet I find I'm thinking about him and the Nittany Lions beating Miami in the Fiesta Bowl in 1987, and Georgia in the Sugar Bowl in 1983 - his two national championships.

I find I'm thinking of the man. The good, of which there was plenty. The football, which there was 46 years of as a head coach. I'm also thinking of the bad. Today I think we mourn, as we should. It shouldn't have ended like this, yet he has himself to blame for that. As such, we should continue to think of the victims.

The way we (the media) handled his passing - beginning with the false news last night - was bad, but not unexpected in this era.  It reminded me that, generally speaking, wait until the AP reports it.  They waited and didn't report the erroneous report.  To their credit, neither did ESPN.

All of that adds a final, slightly ugly chapter to Paterno's life.

Something about that, rightly or wrongly, seems almost fitting.

(For what it's worth, I also posted this at All Things Next)

Saturday, January 21, 2012

And the Home of the Brave

Sean and I attended last night's Army/Air Force hockey game at West Point, with tickets given to us by my WGCH friend and colleague Chris Kaelin. My sister and her son, Jake, rounded out our foursome.

The game was outstanding - well-played to a 3-3 tie. Army needed a late short-handed goal to tie things up. Sure I wish they would play longer than a five-minute overtime, but that's how it ended. Sean, in that beautiful mind of his said, "Everyone goes home a winner!"

I was just happy there was no shootout. Jake questioned my feelings about this, and I explained my belief in "old time hockey" (Slap Shot, of course) and that, when you come right down to it, the shootout is really for the fans because people want wins and losses. The teams participating already have received credit for the tie. The shootout win is just icing on the cake (and an extra point, of course).

Getting onto the West Point campus isn't as easy as it once was, of course. You now go through a 100% ID check, with only Jake and Sean being excluded. Actually you go through it twice, and I should warn you that it is NOT well-marked at all. The signage was pretty bad. Heck even finding the rink wasn't initially that easy, but fortunately I had enough memories of going to West Point to get by.

Side note: It would be fun to broadcast events there. I looked at Michie Stadium, home of the Black Knights' football team and just sighed...

Inside the athletic center, which houses both the basketball and hockey teams, are very basic concessions (hot dogs, popcorn, drinks, nachos), all staffed by cadets. When I asked the young man who got me our food if everyone attended West Point, he responded with a smile: "Yes, sir." They couldn't have been nicer, and all I could do was return the smile and say: "Thank you." I told Sean these guys are real deal heroes who will one day defend us.

I don't care if that sounds pithy. It's true.

I can't stress enough how enjoyable it is to go to a game, and I'd enjoy going again. I think you would also. There's a great innocence to it. This is pure athletics, with limited "entertainment aspects." At the end, both teams gathered in a circle in the best "stick salute" I'll ever see.

But it was the National Anthem that really struck me. A cadet stepped onto the ice, in dress uniform, and sung the song properly: a capella, though with background vocals provided by the crowd. Otherwise, it was silent throughout the rink. There were no conversations. People stood at attendance. Hats were off, and held over hearts. Nobody moved a muscle until the end of the last note.




Why can't we always behave like that?

Oniontown Update

Many thanks to my friend Dave for posting this article on Facebook. Written by Aaron Lake Smith on Vice.com, it looks into the history and culture of this dead-end enclave of Dover, NY.

Longtime blog readers will recall my post, "Oniontown Ouch!", written in 2008, about some folks from my hometown of Mahopac who went cruising looking for trouble. That post remains among the most-read on Exit 55. I still get occasional emails from people about it as well. The post comes up fourth in line when one Google's "Oniontown."

As I wrote at the time, Oniontown is an area of intrigue and rumor. This article opens up about that a little. It's an interesting read.

Oh, but one thing - the writer refers to Mahopac as "wealthy." While there are a few areas of nice houses, most specifically around the lake, trust me. We're not "wealthy."

Here's another take, written by Quinn O'Callaghan for the Hudson Valley Chronic.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

New Bruce!

Bruce Springsteen's first track from his latest album with the the gang on E Street hit the airwaves today. It's called "We Take Care of Our Own." I've already seen some debate on it. I'm OK with the song. The first impression is that I like it.

It's got a hook. It's political, but I tend to ignore that. It might sound really good live.

That's about it.

My Day Off

I didn't post anything yesterday here. I had some free time, and I have some things I want to write about, but I didn't. It was my way of saying "no" to SOPA.

Government has to find some better things to do. In South Carolina, they could proceed with banning smoking in restaurants. Carrie and I walked into a Waffle House outside of Charleston, took one whiff, looked at the four charmers puffing away, looked at each other, and walked out. Having that smell all over our clothes and stuck in our noses as we drove for roughly the next 12 hours would have been very unpleasant. We found another Waffle House a mere 10 minutes away (Damn you, WH - bring yourselves to NY!) where things were a lot better.

Although they could probably use a lesson on scrambling eggs.

Of course, I don't have time to post anything else today. Duty calls. Off to work.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Boot

(Photo by Carrie and her great camera)
I wanted to call this post "Das Boot" but I figure people get too PC, so I let it go.

I digress.

Some of my Facebook friends might have noticed a few pictures that I posted of Carrie and I posing with a large boot - a drivable one at that - at South of the Border, the renown tourist trap in South Carolina.

Side note - I know it is cheesy but visiting there, and taking a very game Carrie with me - was very special. That place, for whatever it is, holds a special place. It's a reminder that the road culture is still alive.

We'll revisit all about SOB and such soon (I hope) but I wanted to highlight this silly boot car that Carrie and I spotted from atop South of the Border's sombrero tower (yes, really).
(My pic)

So as any good curious tourist would do, we investigated. We had our pictures taken with it. We admired it, and went about our business.

But we knew this wasn't ANY ol' boot. It was THE boot - an LL Bean boot! Carrie got the proof.
(Photo by Carrie)

For the most part, we let it go as a funny thing along the road. Then I spotted a news item today from the AP. It's LL Bean's 100th birthday!

So that explains that!

Monday, January 16, 2012

OK, So I Found It

There it is, in all it's glory. From now until whenever it gets changed, that picture is the new icon for this blog.

Carrie, my hat is off to you for a wonderful picture that involved mundane details that nobody reading will ever care about.

It was taken on Interstate 95 (as it should), at Murphy Road, near Fayetteville, NC.

Much to tell from our great roadtrip. Stories of us driving back together, and of me on my own. They can wait.

I'm tired.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Get Out of the Way, It's TV!

You might remember the infamous WGCH/MSG showdown in 2009 at the Greenwich/Staples Thanksgiving Day game.

If you don't, trust me - I do.  So does Chris Kaelin, Chris Erway and the rest of our team.  So does Carrie - who heard it live, and didn't know who I was.

Jeff Pearlman highlighted a similar situation, except this time the reporter getting the shaft is a print journalist.  I watched the video and it sickened me.  As Jeff pointed out - who the %$^& is Holly Rowe?  For that matter, who the $%^& do these TV people think they are?

One reporter at MSG, who had the balls to tell Chris Kaelin that he should "know his place" should be thankful, because that little affair in 2009 had the chance to get much worse.  Kato is STILL angry about it.  I didn't find out about the "know his place" comment until much later.  It's bad enough that I literally screamed into the MSG booth, basically daring them to come chat with us.

The person we were interviewing (Staples coach Marce Petroccio) has always been good to WGCH, and he agreed to come on with us. We were finishing up our interview - there was no need for MSG to big-time us, and they looked bad. End of story.

Another reporter who I kind of know from MSG wouldn't even look at us that day. He was clearly embarrassed by the behavior of his "team." If my team every behaved like they did, it wouldn't be tolerated. Period. We all have jobs to do, and the print folks have their deadlines. So we all get along and make the best of it.

By the way, I don't know that the print folks are always the warmest and fuzziest either.  I can clearly recall the chill that we felt when WGCH was covering the Bridgeport Bluefish back in 2002.  They weren't that fond of us.  That being said, I count several writers (and former writers) among my good friends.

Anyway, that's my $.02 on the matter. Back to prepping for my road trip!

Maybe a New "Exit 55" Sign Will Be Found

Photo by my sister, taken in 1985 on the Baltimore-Washington Parkway near BWI Airport.  That's my dad in the driver's seat.  I think this was actually a test shot, but who am I to complain?

I'm excited to say that, for the first time in a long time, I'm hitting the road for a good old-fashioned road trip very soon!

My love of the road is pretty well-documented (I'll go out on a limb and say you knew that already). But of recent times, road trips were generally to places like Reading, PA (within three hours driving time of Mahopac or Brooklyn) and Albany, NY (about two hours from me). Even Boston and Philadelphia are only about three hours or so.

Don't get me wrong, that's not a complaint. Yet I haven't done the longer trip - along the lines of Richmond (seven hours - six if conditions are perfect) since 2009. But that ends this week when I head for Charleston, SC, where Carrie will be attending a conference.

I haven't driven beyond Richmond since 1991. Driving between New York and Florida was an Adams Family (SNAP! SNAP!) tradition, first between 1969 and 1975, then between 1980 and 1986, with one last drive in 1989 (when my mother, brother and I drove nonstop...ugh). So parts of this trip will be like a stroll down memory expressway.

For the road enthusiast in me, I will look forward to seeing the rebuilt service area in Delaware, the tunnels of Baltimore, skirting DC on the Beltway and checking up on the constant construction south of DC (which I'll likely get suck in). I'll enjoy seeing Main Street Station in Richmond, and the myriad South of the Border billboards (and yes, I'll stop at SOB). It's hard to describe the other things. Some of them will be new to the eye, while others will be just...things. Road folks know what I mean.

I will stop will be the aforementioned R-VA for a possible lunch or visit with the webmaster of Vintage Richmond himself, Mr. Jon (who just posted a picture of Elvis in the coffee shop at the Jefferson Hotel in 1956). That will be nice.

I intend to make Charleston that night, so moving along will be important. I'll need nice weather, decent traffic, a good set of wheels, and minimal breaks (other than Richmond).

I'll meet up with Carrie in Charleston and will enjoy the sites of the South before we begin our trip back north. Carrie is a great traveling companion because we share the same kind of interest in the culture and intrigue of unique sites on the road.

As for finding a new "Exit 55" sign, yes, it's very likely. I know there are a few between here and there. Now I just need my camera!

It's quite possible that I will use Twitter or the blog or Facebook or all of the above during the trip...or NONE of the above. So stay tuned...or not.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Glory Days

I had a friend was a big baseball player back in high school...
(words and music by Bruce Springsteen)

I've mentioned a few times that I went to Mahopac High School, a nice school in a nice town. I graduated in 1987 with a class that included one of the best baseball teams in the history of the school. Many of my friends were on that team anchored with amazing pitching, led by Drew Ryan, Joe Porcelli, and Dave Fleming.

I played against or was teammates with all of them in town. Ryan threw as fast as anyone I had ever seen. Porcelli was a lefty who enjoyed hitting left-handed batters who hung out over the plate. The only time I ever had to leave a game was after Joe hit me in the elbow. Oh yeah and he beaned me once also.

Go ahead, say it. That explains a few things.

Then there was Fleming. I can clearly recall driving a base hit up the middle against him. That probably increased my hitting against him to about one-for-thirty (maybe, maybe not...I honestly don't recall). But I can also tell you about the time he dropped a curve ball on me that made me hit the dirt because I thought it was going to hit me. Happened at Lakeview School. Embarrassing.

Dave was a nice guy, a fellow Yankees/Bobby Murcer fan who I knew, but not well. He dominated as New York's Mr. Basketball and was the first player to find his jersey hanging at MHS. He went on to Georgia, where I stumbled across him pitching on TV for the Bulldogs to win the College World Series. I was stunned and happy - for him, for Mahopac, and yeah, for me.

Before you knew it - bam (not Bam Bam Meulens). He was a Seattle Mariner. He pitched in Yankee Stadium on July 10, 1992 at a time when getting tickets at the last-moment wasn't a hard thing to do. I sat down near the left-field foul pole, a few rows behind my friend Denise, who didn't go to Mahopac but went because she wanted to see Fleming (and was a huge Yankees fan). It seemed like most of Mahopac was there that night and many of them rooted for Dave.

I, of course, was torn. Ultimately, I wanted Dave to pitch well but wanted the Yankees to win. Dave kept up his end of the bargain - but the Yankees bats couldn't wake up. Danny Tartabull hit a long home run off Dave in the sixth (I...um...cheered) to make it 3-2, but that was it. The Mariners won 5-2. Dave left in the bottom of the ninth to an ovation from his hometown friends and fans. Yes, even me.

Dave was nice enough to send me an autograph after I mailed a baseball card to him, and I still have it. Other than that, I haven't talked to him in over 20 years. I often thought of him and wondered if he would ever want to be a guest on any of my talk shows or even jump in and do color for a game that I was calling.

Nice thoughts, of course. I don't have the pull that a Mr. Jeff Pearlman has though, and that's what this is all leading up to. Pearlman writes his Quaz, a weekly question-and-answer session. Today's guest? You got it - Dave Fleming, now a teacher in Connecticut.


Sunday, January 01, 2012

Dick Clark

Dick Clark was back doing his thing in Times Square for another year. Since suffering a stroke several years ago, this night has become an annual ritual for those who mock or support him.

I say it's all fair game. Dick Clark chooses to go on the air once a year with a voice that is difficult to understand, and some moments that can best be described as "awkward." For those of us who have welcomed him into our living room for so long, it's a tough image.

Full disclosure: I did not watch him, Seacrest, that clown Carson Daly, or anyone else. I watched "The Big Bang Theory" and then "The Honeymooners." Heeelllloooo, ball!

For me, it's not the way I want to remember him. Before Times Square became so clean, it was Clark who stood outside and shivered above the hookers. Yet I remember him as he is in that picture above - as a former Philadelphia DJ and the host of American Bandstand, an iconic TV show hosted by an iconic figure.

I don't think of him with New Year's Eve. At least I don't want to.

I'd rather think of the "Pyramid" (be it $10,000, $20,000, $100,000 or whatever). I'd rather remember the silly clip shows he did with Ed McMahon. There's so much more to what Dick Clark has done in his career, and many don't know that.

Here's a "$25,000 Pyramid" episode from 1983! Ah, good, solid old game shows!

As good luck would have it, I found a 1982 interview that Clark did on "AB" with a little band from San Francisco...

Here's one of the two songs HLN performed that day (the other was "Do You Believe in Love"). This is "Buzz Buzz Buzz."