Saturday, August 08, 2020

A Scene

Sitting on the deck of the Nags Head cottage. The last 24 hours were spent with my first born, just Dad and his little girl. 

The two of us sat on the beach, swam in the ocean, watched a wicked thunderstorm roll through and then out to sea, stared at a mesmerizing clouded moon/lightning storm over the ocean, ate shrimp and crab, drank beers and seltzers, reminisced, talked about life and how funny/sad/amazing it is, imparted what passed for wisdom (me), grinned and tolerated it (her), listened to our favorite tunes from her youth, told stories, played cards and then beer pong (her request) (with water cups), expressed how important the other is in our lives, and said goodnight. 

And then goodbye, as she woke up and drove off to go be a college student starting this week.

In a weird circle of life thing, out of nowhere my Dad is currently driving down from Va Beach to visit the beach house where he spent the 80's and early 90's getting wild with my late stepmom. He's with his new bride, a wonderful human who has in many ways rejuvenated him. And he gets to come down for the first time in many years and impart some wisdom on his son while feasting on fresh seafood and drinking blended cocktails with family by the seaside.

Life... she gets me misty sometimes, but she ain't bad at all.

Friday, August 07, 2020

Staff Member Guestie: Requiem for a Scribe

Between trips to the liquor store, our man in the OBX penned this remembrance of Pete Hamill, a New York original and a throwback to a different era of newspaper man. Within it, Hamill's words, a turn of multiple phrases that'll leave you wishing you could ever write like that. "...the permanent present tense of the trade", indeed.

Pete Hamill’s death this week was another cruel reminder of the demise of newspapers and the people that made them part of the fabric of towns and cities everywhere.

Hamill was a columnist, magazine writer and best-selling author. He traveled the world, knew the famous and infamous, and wrote about people and places far and wide. But mostly, he was a newspaperman, New York through and through.

Born in Brooklyn, he wrote for five New York City papers and outlived three, as one of his obituaries put it.  His knowledge of the city was encyclopedic, but he once wrote, “In the end, the only thing the true New Yorker knows about New York is that it’s unknowable.”

Hamill was part of a vanishing breed of newspaperman – the columnist who tried to take the pulse of a

city, the reporter who is comfortable at city hall or a crime scene or a local tavern or a neighborhood fair, the sort of voice that caused people to reflexively pick up the paper to read what he thought.

New York was blessed with a slew of such voices, among them Jimmy Breslin, Mike McAlary, Russell Baker and Red Smith (Breslin wrote a column, on deadline, the night that John Lennon was assassinated that is equal parts wizardry and journalism).

Metro columnists were a staple and in some cases the face of city newspapers – Breslin and Hamill, Mike Royko in Chicago, Mike Barnicle in Boston, Jim Murray in Los Angeles, Herb Caen in San Francisco, Molly Ivins in Dallas and Fort Worth, Carl Hiaasen in Miami. Many of them died or moved on, and as newspaper staffs were gutted in the past 25 years, the position in many places was deemed expendable.

Many major newspapers still employ columnists, some of whom are excellent. But you won’t find David Brooks or Peggy Noonan or Leonard Pitts at Engine Co. 14 to talk about firemen’s pension funds or roasting city council members over budget shenanigans.

Hamill wrote with grace and empathy, a two-fingered-typing poet. He approached his work with an explorer’s curiosity. He often said that being a high school dropout and getting what he thought was a late start into newspapering – he was 25 when he landed his first job – were ample motivation. We are unlikely to see his kind again, thanks to the jackals of commerce and the march of time.

Enough gasbagging from me. Here’s an excerpt from one of Hamill’s collections:

“For me, the work itself was everything. I had grown up under the heroic spell of the Abstract Expressionist painters, and one of their lessons was that the essence of the work was the doing of it. … In my experience, nothing before or since could compare to walking into the New York Post at midnight, being sent into the dark, scary city on assignment, and coming back to write a story for the first edition. No day’s work was like any other’s, no story repeated any other in its details. Day after day, week after week, I loved being a newspaperman, living in the permanent present tense of the trade.

“This is not to claim that I’ve produced an uninterrupted series of amazements. Reading over a quarter-century of my journalism for this collection, I have often winced. If I’d only had another three inches of space, or another two hours beyond the deadline, perhaps this piece would have been better or that piece wiser. There were newspaper columns that I wish I’d never written, full of easy insult or cheap injury. There were many pieces limited by my ignorance. Too many lazily derived their energy from the breaking news to which they served as mere sidebars. … Sometimes I completely missed the point, or didn’t see the truth of a story whose facts were evidently there in my notebook. But this is not an apology. It is the nature of such work that that it is produced in a rush; the deadlines usually force the newspaper writer to publish a first draft because there is no time for a second or third. Once that piece is locked up in type and sent to the newsstands, there is no going back; the writer can correct the factual error, but it’s too late to deepen the insight, alter the mistaken or na├»ve judgment, erase the stale language that was taken off the rack. He or she can only vow never to make that error again and start fresh the next day.”

Thursday, August 06, 2020

Crime Against Nature

Oskar Blues is a legendary brewing company. They literally revolutionized the craft beer industry when they started canning Dale's Pale Ale in 2002. A few others in the market had begun canning their beers prior to OB, but the Lyons, Colorado-based brewer made the practice mainstream. And now, it's hard to find bottled craft beer, and for the better.

My palate has strayed from Dale's modestly-hopped formula to giant mega-dank fare like the Sixpoint Atomic-Res Triple IPA I'm drinking at the moment (It weighs in at 11.8% ABV, which is nice on those evenings when you only feel like having one or three.) Nevertheless, I'll always have a soft spot for Oskar Blues' flagship.

But the good people that brought you Dale's, and such terrific stuff as Mama's Little Yella Pils, Ten FIDY Imperial Stout, and Gubna have done something that I don't think is either wise nor forgivable: they brewed mustard beer.

I really like mustard. And I love beer. For the life of me, I can't imagine the two things combined, unless it's me quaffing a brew after biting into a hot dog. Here's how Oskar Blues describes their beer, brewed in partnership with French's (annotations mine):

"This is mustard that's sipped, not squeezed. [Ew] For National Mustard Day, we created the brightest brewski [Jeah, Bro!] you'll ever taste, perfect for summer barbecues. [It's no Dale's. Or Narragansett Del's Shandy. Or PBR. Or Truly.] It's a semi-tart tropical wheat beer infused with citrus fruits to complement French's Classic Yellow Mustard. [I just barfed.] The flavor includes hints of key lime, lemon, tangerine, and passion fruit to create a tart, refreshing match for the spice and zip of the mustard. [You already used tart once in this copy. Also, key lime and mustard are not flavors that go well together. Which is why I barfed again.] Grab a can and see for yourself. After all, it's mustard o'clock somewhere. [Fuck right off.]"

First one of you that tries one and writes a beer report gets my undying respect, a six-pack of Dale's, and an airsickness bag. Godspeed, my friends.

Tuesday, August 04, 2020

A Weed-Dealing Central Park Manatee? Sign Me Up.

As some of you may know, a good friend of mine is married to former SNL performer Bobby Moynihan's sister. He is a very good, humble, kind dude, so I unabashedly root for good things in his career. A recent CBS sitcom (Me, Myself and I) did not work out, but Bobby is scheduled to come back in a big way on Tina Fey's next NBC show. The show is untitled, but will star Ted Danson as a newbie mayor of LA. Tina Fey is joined by her producing partner Robert Carlock for this show. The two produced 30 Rock and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt together, so yeah, should be good stuff. Production has been shut down, but this show will get the full press push from the brass at NBC, which ordered a full season's worth of episodes. 

But I'm not here to talk about that. I'm here to talk about Loafy. Loafy is a Comedy Central show. Bobby created, wrote and executive produced the show. It's about the trials and tribulations of a weed-dealing manatee in Central Park. And yeah, Bobby voices the drug-dealing manatee. 

To quote Comedy Central's VP of Digital Original Entertainment, "...clearly, now more than ever, the world needs a weed-dealing manatee and more Bobby Moynihan - not necessarily in that order." 

I am certainly not an impartial judge, but Bobby has had a helluva run. Nine seasons at SNL, followed by an unbelievable voice-over run in both movies and TV. The dude has a lot of Gheorghe in him and is worth rooting for. Here is the trailer for Loafy. Charge your vape pen and get ready for Episode 1. 

Monday, August 03, 2020

All Day Long I Dream About...Murdering Polish Flies

Note: the author is 25% Polish and enjoys making jokes about that. If that offends you, stop reading now. 

I have a fly problem. Not a zipper issue. A legit "why the fuck are there three flies buzzing around our house all the time" issue. We are generally tidy folks. I clean my dishes promptly, we wipe down surfaces, we have a house-cleaner and we keep doors shut for the most part. But something happened in the last couple weeks. Some flies have gotten in. And it's tearing me apart.

All flies are gross and unpleasant. But these flies are also dumb as shit. They are the dumbest flies I've ever encountered. Sometimes, it can take quite a bit of time to swat an annoying fly in the house. They often hide within window treatments or find a crevice that offers them respite for a moment. Not these dumbasses. They're what I call Polish flies. They buzz around lethargically, daring me to kill them. And I do. Oh Lord, I do. I killed six yesterday. I easily swat them out of the air. And I don't even have to be quick when I bludgeon their little carcasses against a window. I have found the optimal swat velocity. The goal is to kill, but not create a streak that requires cleaning, and/or damage a screen. 

This situation is all quite gross, but I would rather avoid an exterminator visit. Who knows what chemical they will spray? How do I know it's safe, other than the person spraying says not to worry about it? What will it cost?  Will I have to do a thorough wipe-down of my house when the exterminator leaves? 

But on the flip side, we are all still in the house quite a bit, so having a fly-free space makes sense. Perhaps I'm the one who's more Polish than the flies. I just murder a bunch every day and wait for the problem to go away on its own. 

[Update: since this note was started, the fly issue has gone away. Perhaps the massacre of 50+ over the last two weeks spooked the others, or we got them all. The author's life-long habit of not fully addressing issues head-on, and instead hoping they will go away on their own, will persist as a result of this event.]

Sunday, August 02, 2020

A Return to Our Roots

The sublime Cereal Mascot All-Star Roster reminded me of the halcyon days of this web log, when our creative juices were flowing and we had all the time in the world to milk them. (Just go with it, man.) It also reminded me that I haven't had a bowl of cereal in years, but that's for a different post.

Back in those days, we used to do things like rank baseball card seasons and collegiate mascots, celebrate short people and cute rock babes, and otherwise compile lists of things that struck our fancy. We're (very slightly) more grown up now, and (again, very slightly) more of our content is semi-adult in nature. But it's hard to take the dipshit out of the boy. 

After reviewing a bunch of logos from a lot of leagues, the NFL seems really staid and boring. And maybe I'm just too familiar with Major League Baseball. Not much pops there. It could also be that I have a natural bias towards the more modern from a design perspective. For example, there are some cool WNBA logos, in particular the Chicago Sky, but that team's use of the game's equipment (a net, in this case) ruined it for me. There is one exception to this rule, as we'll see later.

And so, here's a definitive list of the five best team logos in American major professional sports, as defined by the following leagues (and using the logos presented on - no secondary merchandising dollar grabs allowed):


The rules, if you must, are loosely these: the logo must be evocative of a team's region or name, not just abstract designs. No basic letter-centric logos are eligible (to which, sorry to the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens, 'cause those are sharp looks, but I don't make the rules.) No cartoony shit. (Suck it, Pittsburgh Penguins.) Beyond that, the primary rule is, I know it when I see it.

Before we get to the judging, a few observations.

And so, on with it. Here are the honorable mentions:
Denver Nuggets (NBA)
Seattle Reign (NWSL)
Chicago Red Stars (NWSL)
Los Angeles Chargers (NFL)
New Orleans Saints (NFL)
Seattle Mariners (MLB)
Winnipeg Jets (NHL)
Milwaukee Bucks (NBA)
New York Liberty (WNBA)

A special shoutout to the Seattle Kraken, who are rising up the charts with their deep-sea design.

These are the worst logos in all of American sport:

Boston Breakers (NWSL) - the absolute worst; it looks like a youth soccer club logo designed by
someone's dad using MS Paint
Cleveland Browns (NFL)
San Jose Quakes (MLS)
Arizona Diamondbacks (MLB)
Anaheim Ducks (NHL)
Montreal Impact (MLS)
Real Salt Lake (MLS)
Connecticut Sun (WNBA)

And Jesus, but the Wizards logo looks like a poster for a porn film.

Alright. Enough with the preliminaries. Here's the definitive list of the five best logos in major American team sports. It's a mix of classic and contemporary, spanning multiple sports. Each of the logo, save one, has a strong regional connection. The one that doesn't is probably the most clever design in the bunch. And all of them feature distinctive designs that stand alone.

The Detroit Red Wings have used their singular flying wheel logo since 1932. It combines the Motor City's industrial foundation with a dynamism, a wheel in motion. It's classic, and classy.

The Golden State Warriors initially used a variation of their logo that featured the Golden Gate Bridge's iconic span in 1970, but the current version was introduced first in 2011 and updated to deepen the gold color and make the bridge design more crisp last season. Even without reading the words on the logo, you'd know where this team was from simply by the image. The asymmetry gives the design a sense of action. And it's cool.

The Portland Thorns have led the NWSL in attendance in each of the league's seven seasons. Their name and logo both nod to their hometown's nickname, the Rose City. The logo itself, designed by a Portland native, features a wreath of thorns protecting a stylized rose. It's feminine and badass, like the two-time NWSL champions.

The Milwaukee Brewers' logo breaks all the rules, and it feels so right. It's got letters, a design no-no. It features a baseball, going against the use of equipment. It doesn't have any direct visual connection to the team's home region. But it's really smartly done, and it's unique (with a nod to the late, lamented Montreal Expos).

I got the idea for this post while watching Minnesota United play last night. (Ironically, against the logollically-challenged San Jose Quakes). For my money, the Loons' design is the best in American pro sports. Celebrating the Minnesota state bird, and featuring 11 feathers - one for each player on the field - the logo also incorporates the Mississippi River (the blue band) and Minnesota's fabled Iron Range (the gray color). Finally, the twin bands of gray also represent St. Paul and Minneapolis. There's a lot captured in a single design, and it looks cool as hell. Which, as we know, is all that really matters.

Friday, July 31, 2020

Bittersweet. More Sweet Than Bitter.

Feeling a little bit romantic, in the literary sense, here on Cape Cod on what is quite likely to be the last time we come here as a full family. My oldest heads to college - at least for a little while - in three weeks, and if my history is any guide, we're out of the family vacation business. After I went away to college, we had a few family trips for holidays, but we never again traveled as a unit on what you might call a vacation. And so there are feels.

I started to write a post about it, but my thoughts kept arranging themselves in a way that feels more conducive to a prose poem. I know fuck all about meter, and I'm not here to rhyme, but I hope you enjoy what might be the first original poem (non-Greasetruck/Yojo version) published here.

I walked by myself on the Brewster Flats
Which are singular enough to be capitalized
Receding tide pulling water in channels
Towards the open bay

My feet sank in the oozing pinkpurple sand
As I passed hermit crabs, fiddlers, gulls and
The occasional periwinkle, their trails tracing 
A direct line from my childhood to my now

In front of me, the sweep of the Cape
From Orleans to Provincetown
The familiar bodybuilder's pose
Clear in the hot noontime air

In front of me, too, the moment
Three weeks from now when I drive
Home from Richmond
With one fewer passenger than before

Our house won't be seem as lively, 
Won't be as profanely silly after
We drop our little girl off at college
To start her life without us

She's going to find her people there
Just like I found mine
Hers will know more of the world around them
And they'll be hers forever, too

Dr. Seuss said 'Don't cry because it's over,
Smile because it happened'
I'm going to cry anyway, because I do that these days
Tears mean you're moved

And my little grown-up girl moves me every day