Thursday, June 26, 2014

NYC/CT Recap: Part 5

Part 5, our final, part of the recap wont have the pizzazz of the previous entries, but it's a good place to end.

Most of my final Day in NY was spent on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.   Unlike my previous two trips, *this* time I really got to know it up close and personal.   It was great to pass by some signature sights like Tom's Restaurant aka the "Seinfeld Restaurant", and Columbia University.  I got to check out Riverside Park too…

One thing I hadn't really noticed as much but I notice it here: the UWS is really the mecca of produce stands.  I notice it out there even more than other parts of town!   Every block has a grocery stand *somewhere.*  One of these blocks I was walking along, casually, it was on Broadway someplace, and I saw a sign that said "Georgia Peaches."  Well you *know* I had to have in on that!

I picked up a Georgia Peach and went into the store to put it onto the cash register counter.  That peach was *sumptuous* oh!!  It really hit the spot.

Also on that afternoon I had some spicy pulled pork noodles and a slice from "Sal and Carmine Pizza." Sal and Carmine lives up to the billing… the pizza is extra salty but still pretty good.  It goes very nicely with orange soda.   Now come on, who doesn't like orange soda?   Well… I can say that I like orange soda.  Maybe even love orange soda.  It may have been influenced by Kel Mitchell, fellas.

All right so with that fun lot of sightseeing in the books, I went back to Stamford in the afternoon just in time to catch the USA vs Portugal World Cup game.   I had thoughts of going to see this at a bar in the city, or even at Bobby V's or someplace in Stamford, but as this was my final day, I decided to tone it down and just watch from my hotel room at the Sheraton.

It was a pretty good move because the room had terrific HDTV facilities, as many business grade Sheraton hotels do now.   I got full resolution on the ESPN telecast and it was great.  I was faced with a cross roads some time in the second half with whether to shower in the middle of the half to get ready for dinner w/ my friend YOTS that night.

Part of me didn't want to shower and then have YOTS waiting around for 20 minutes while I showered so I texted him to make sure he wasn't already in town.  He happened to still be in traffic back in New Jersey, so I thought I had enough time to shower.  Fortunately that was the case.  I showered, came back out and the game was still tied.  THEN, by my luck, as I was putting on clothes, perhaps, Team USA scored the go-ahead goal.   I was getting excited now!   I went to twitter, texted Tommy with excitement and it was a party for a moment there.

I wasn't sure of it though, and especially when the officials gave a whopping 5 minutes of stoppage time at the end of the game, I started to worry, but it was looking good for the first 3 minutes of stoppage time.   It would have been epic to win, and I even had the idea to tweet Scooter with the phrase "Scooter, are you doing the dance??  I said ARE YOU DOING THE DANCE?"  I'll explain who Scooter is later on, but he's a huge soccer fan friend.

and then… as fate had it, Ronaldo kicked a gorgeous looking cross to his team mate and Portugal tied the game.  WITH 30 SECONDS LEFT!!   Unfortunately, it was not to be for Team USA and they'd have to wait until Thursday to meet their fate.   As I write this entry today, the USA still advanced, albeit in dubious fashion with Portugal's goal in *their* game being the true difference.  (Portugal wins, eliminates Ghana, and since Portugal had such a low goal differential, it also kept them from the second round, leaving USA and Germany as the teams to advance in Group G).

At the time however, I was rather crestfallen.  I go downstairs, still shocked at the outcome, and meet YOTS, who was down at the lobby.  He says to me, "I saw USA was winning the game, then went to the bathroom for 30 seconds, and all of a sudden I'm back out and they're into the postgame talking about how they lost the lead.  I thought they'd have held onto it!  Shows how much I know about soccer."  A poignant point by YOTS… I bet a lot of folks thought it was as sure as sealed leading into stoppage time.   That's how crazy soccer is though -- you never truly know.

YOTS drove me back to downtown Stamford for dinner, this time at Remo's Pizza.  Remo's is pretty good!  It's like a sitdown version of 800 Degrees in LA.  You get 12" individual pizzas that you can customize to your liking.  I got the sausage and onion and he got onion, pepper, and I think one other ingredient.  That pizza was pretty good!  I'd live a good life in Connecticut with great pizza at my fingertips, and relatively convenient access to the city.   As I spoke to YOTS, we talked about the weekend we just had, and some conversation about other stuff.  For instance, we both got into the differences between Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts coffee.

We finished the pizza, and went our way… on our way back to the Stamford Sheraton, we passed, would you believe this, a DAIRY QUEEN with a line!   It was one of the old Dairy Queen locations with the barnyard looking building… and I could not *believe* how many people were waiting for merely soft serve and snacks.   Most of the Dairy Queens I go to in California are empty.  I couldn't believe it.  I even said to YOTS "can you believe this place has a LINE?   This blows my mind!"  He couldn't explain it either.

Back at the Stamford Hotel, I felt like the night wasn't "finished" yet, so I asked if he wanted to come back into the Sheraton to have a drink at the bar.   I said to him that it would bring my entire journey full circle.  Two years ago, I first saw YOTS in LA by meeting him at the LAX Sheraton Hotel Bar.   It seemed like the perfect way to end the trip.  We spent about an hour there, all while a Sunday Night Baseball game was on TV from Anaheim.  I kept pointing out how nuts it is to see it so dark outside the window but so *bright* on TV in the Anaheim baseball game.  Then we were running downs some sports memories.  We were comparing how the USA blown lead that night was much like other moments in sports, but YOTS was running down all the San Diego Chargers meltdowns over the years that he compared it to, and he had some doozies.   Remember last year on Monday Night Football where the Chargers botched a victory kneeldown and blew the game to the Chiefs on the road?  The year before, the Chargers had a fourth and 23 against the Ravens, blew that, and then saw the Ravens go on to make the playoffs and win the Super Bowl.  We also talked about other fun topics, and in tribute to my buddy I had a Vodka and Seltzer, which came with an orange slice.  The orange slice came through in a big spot, because it made the drink come off a little like an orange ade.  I liked it.

Anyhow, it was time to part ways, so I went outside to say goodbye to him.  Then I returned to my hotel room and actually showered again to be ready for the airport the next morning, and as I changed into PJ's I saw the conclusion of the Angels game on ESPN.   Then I saw the debut of the new SportsCenter set and as they broke down the USA Soccer drama, I thought back to all the great memories I had that weekend, and I packed my clothes, set up my phone, and soon went to bed for a very early wake up call from the front desk at 4:30 am.   It was a good trip, and a great memory.

I also want to, at this time, thank the Sheraton Stamford for a wonderful stay.   These guys did tremendous work.  It was also on this evening that they helped me negotiate the wake up call for my departure and also were kind enough to arrange the taxi cab on the spot for 4:45 am.  This was a HUGE help and definitely made the difference in a successful commute to EWR for my flight.   I knew all along that it would take 2 hours to get from Stamford to Newark with all the stops and transfers, and there was even a moment of panic at Penn Station where I was running around looking for the Train Track to New Jersey and I shouted "WHAT THE *HELL* MAN?!"  Of course I forgot that the doors to the train tracks were actually closed so I just had to open the door and go down the stairs, haha.

Anyway, the Sheraton was very kind to help me arrange a pretty good morning out of town.  With their help, I was able to get to the airport terminal with only minor issues.  I thought it would have been nearly impossible to make it from CT to NJ and make a 9am flight, but not so!   Thanks so much, Sheraton.  I look forward to staying with you down the road.

Well, I'm back in California now.  Thanks also to everyone who made this trip possible.  All of my friends took a good trip and made it a great one!  I look forward to seeing everyone again, and here's to a great summer!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

NYC/CT Recap: Part 4

Night number 2 was a doozy!   It wiped me out so much, and apparently I got pretty toasty.   The end result was a monster sleep and I didn't get up until 10:30 in the morning.   The bed at Sheraton came through in a big spot, and I was glad to face another day.

I got up so late that I didn't have time for coffee or breakfast, so I went downstairs to the small internet "cafe" in the Hotel Lobby.  Nice, big lobby too.  I rather enjoyed the Sheraton.   I almost fired on a Starbucks white chocolate mocha purchase in the lobby but thought it was too close to lunch.   After checking in with the board, Coach's friend Rich was able to pick me up with his pickup truck.

We drove down the small highway, passed the WWE building, and worked our way to Darien.  Then we went to Anthony's Coal Fired Pizza.  Ohhhhhh did I get pumped for this moment!  I was *pumped*.   For those of you who listen to WFAN regularly you've heard Joe Benigno plug this restaurant many times on the air.   I *had* to tell them Joe B sent me, but not before I took a couple pictures of the place.  Nice place.

Anthony's is a sit down restaurant, and the lady who served us there was very nice to us.  She was pretty talkative too, and we had some pretty good conversations with her.  To start, she offered some complimentary coal fired wings, which I thought were great!  Rich had one too.  Then we got right to it... first we got some Diet Cokes, and when we got them they came in the 20 oz. bottles Mike Francesa uses on his show.  I was DYING... I laughed so hard seeing this bottle and thinking of Francesa and WFAN and Rich, looked at me with a straight face.  It's going to be hard to explain to anyone not familiar with this sports radio station.

We pressed on and were offered the option of doing half and half on a pizza.   I was excited to try the Broccoli Rabe and Sausage pizza as Benigno touted on his radio show, that went on the first half.  The second half had meatballs and ricotta cheese.   An incredibly fun pizza to eat, Rich and I switched off slices.  He got two slices of the rabe/sausage and one of meatball and ricotta.  I got the inverse of that.   We chatted about all sorts of things including Coach and how Rich got to know him, stuff like that.  Then we were planning Coach's proposed meeting with Rich in the middle of the country.  Good times.

After lunch, Rich drove me back to the train station and I waited for the next train to Grand Central.  I just missed the train there at Stamford, so I had about 30 minutes to kill.   I went over to the in-station Dunkin Donuts to order a coffee.  Then, at the counter, there was this lady who was taking FOR-EVER to order her things.  She ordered every single stinkin' item one at a time, and so slowly too.   "Oh can I haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaave a coffee?"   "Can weeeeeeeeeeee get a munchkin too?"

Then the Dukin Donuts guy and her had a long debate about Dunkin Munchkins.  They're donut holes, so you usually order them 6 at a time or so.  She wanted like 1 or 2... so she asked the guy "how much is just one munckin" and he goes "you can't order just one or two of them, we sell them by sixes." 

"How much is a set of Munchkins?"
"Two dollars"
"But I'm not going to eat all of them, I just want to order one."

I was so worn out that I just left... I was like "are you kidding me?   Just order your food already lady!"  So I didn't bother with the coffee.  It was about 2pm in the afternoon anyway so it was not a big deal.

On to the train and on to New York.   I was back again, and for a few moments, I was tempted to go get a burger at "Shake Shack" but I was smart not to.  I remembered that I wasn't hungry *and* Shake Shack was not a game changer to me anyhow, so I went straight to the subway and boogies to the West Village.  I had a great time soaking in the sights, and some foul smells, down there, observing the scenic archetecture and the many farmers markets in town.   Eventually I found my latest buddies, Tom and Jeremy, at Triona's down on Sullivan street, *not* across from the Medical Center.

I walk in and right as I go in, Germany scores a goal.  How about that!  So I sneak up on Tom and go "Do the dance!!!!!!!!!" and he sees me and goes "Dave!"  Jeremy sees me too and welcomes me into the bar.   Great to see Tom again after a couple years.   This time we got more than a cameo out of him, so Jeremy, Tommy, and I start to chat for a while.  I later asked if Tom wanted to have YOTS come over and he said yea so I went and invited him.   Later I invited Unclever to join us.  Likewise, Tom had her sister come down to meet us.   I wasn't sure what Tommy's sister was going to think of all of us, but she was quite affable and fun to talk to.   She's a good kid, much like Tommy!   Later YOTS joined us at this small bar and we kept watching the soccer.  In the meanwhile, we each had drinks, and I went back to the Brooklyn Lager, very good.

Before we go to the next bar, I spotted a Peanut Butter Co. shop across the street.  Coach touted this place a lot in texts to me.  He said in a text that morning "can you bring back some peanut butter for me?"   I was so confused that I asked him what made peanut butter in New York so much better than Peanut Butter in California.   THEN he told me that it was a special shop that specialized in different peanut butter flavors, ah now it made sense.  Anyway, I went into the shop with Jeremy, it's a nice little store, but I sought after something I could take back to CA.  The best I could come up with was peanut butter cookies, so I bought 8 of them.  Well!  That was not a wise decision.   What was I going to do with 8 giant peanut butter cookies for 2 days?  I was just not thinking ahead... after getting the cookies and going back to Triona's everyone else said "why didn't you just get a jar of peanut butter."  Would you believe it?   It was so obvious!  It didn't really matter in the end thought, because Tom's sister said that they confiscate peanut butter in carryon luggage anyway.  I would have had to put it into a piece of luggage and check it in (for a charge of 25 bones per bag).

Nonetheless, I had 8 giant cookies to carry around in a paper bag.  I showed the cookies to my friends and they noticed the cookies were merely wrapped in tin foil and they started LAUGHING.  I didn't think it was so bad, but everyone was clowning on the cookies, going "how ghetto is that wrapping?  What a terrible job by the store!"  These comments got me laughing too... but ya know, cookies were cookies, so I pressed on.  I shook my head though because I needed to get some people to eat the cookies and no none was biting.  I think somebody finally had one, and I had about four of them, and maybe later on someone else got a cookie, but I had three left. More on those three cookies later.

Up next we made our rounds with other West Village bars.  Unclever joined us somewhere along the way.  We had a few moments at a place called Thunder Jackson's before he got there, ordered sangria and then left.  Everyone thought the place was terrible.  Onward we went.  We must have stopped at half a dozen bars before finally we settled on one with some food there.   Unclev joined the rest of us at this other bar and some of the group ordered sandwiches.  Tommy ordered some chicken item and his sister ordered the buffalo chicken tenders.  I got the regular chicken tenders... I would admit that these chicken tenders weren't that good.   More batter than chicken, and it was overfried to boot.  I was thoroughly disappointed to learn the tenders didn't come with fries.  They cost 11 dollars!!!!  How'd they wind up with no fries, what a heist.

It was nice to have Unclever along for the ride once again, and his presence turned out to be really valuable.   He really knew the area well so he pointed us in the right direction, but first we stopped at a small dive bar nearby.   As we left to go there, Tommy's sister said good bye to us and went back home further uptown.  Tom's sister moved to New York this year, where previously she was in Baltimore for a few years.  The rest of us moved to the dive bar and it was there where we really got to start talking to each other.

We exchanged some fun stories, things about the board, memes, and so on.  It was a blast chatting and getting pitchers of beer.  However, the atmosphere at the place was as good as dead.  The bar was empty!  So, after we got in a nice long conversation we asked Unclever where to go next.  He said "do you want to have a good time?" or something to that effect, basically saying "do you want to find the babes."  Well you *know* we say yes to that!  We headed down to a place called "Down the Hatch" in a familiar part of the Village, one part of town I've been to before, back in 2008.

As we headed to "Down the Hatch" we passed by the famous Joe's Pizza and YOTS and I were dying to try a slice, but the group was going forward so we elected to catch up with them.  Then we entered "Down the Hatch".  You can sense why it had this name because the whole bar was underground: you had to go down a small staircase to get to the door.

Once inside -- babes galore, but they were all in big groups, which meant we basically were on our own.  We had fun anyway... it seemed like Tommy was having an especially good time, getting *really* loosey goosey with his actions and mannerisms.  We all danced like fools, and Unclever started yelling "DAVE!  BOARD LEGEND!  YOTS!  BOARD LEGEND!  BOARD LEGENDS!!!" was very noisy in there so I don't think anyone heard us.  The people in there were great... the tall lady with the generic "Texas" hat, the tall red head with the black dress on, and my favorite, the "Lady in the Green", a young blonde in a teal dress that had my attention most of the night.  She had only one other wing woman, and yet, the 'cow was too stunned to talk to her.  Poorly produced by me.  I could have at least said hello.   The problem is, I was only wearing a t-shirt.  I wanted a nice getup for that approach... I felt like a slob with just a boring grey t-shirt on.  YOTS actually came to join us from the Yankees game so he had his cap on, a t shirt, and shorts on that night.

Lady in the Green had a face that reminded me of Taylor Swift.  It wasn't actually her because Swift is pretty tall and "LitG" was shorter than me.  Eh, another time.  Jeremy was getting a little worried for Tom, as it seemed he was going off the rails.   Really, most of us were.  YOTS had an appointment early the next morning so he planned to leave just before 11, and I figured since he was going toward Stamford too I could just join him.  Tom got really riled up when he learned we were all leaving.  THEN, as we started to leave, I don't know *what* happened, but it looked like one of the dudes there was standing up to challenge Unclever or someone to a fight and 'clevsies looked like he was going to let one loose.  I was like "UH OH" and I went in there and broke up the fight.  I was like "C'mon Unclever, let's go!" and I think I gently pulled him away from the fight.  We all escaped unharmed, but it was close!

and with THAT, we all said goodbye and went our separate ways.   Jeremy took Tom home.  Unclever boarded the next subway, and YOTS and I shared a cab to Grand Central.  I picked up the tab.  YOTSie had been so generous to me over the years, including the ride to Bobby V's the other night.  We took the local train to Stamford and YOTS got off at Greenwich.  I went a little further and got off at Stamford, the last stop.

Part 4, in the books.  Later this week we'll wrap it up with Part 5.  Stay tuned...

NYC/CT Recap: Part 3

Day Two was a big day and you could feel the anticipation bubbling on the inside.   Not only my first trip to Peter Luger Steak House, but an enormous Yankees meetup forthcoming.  

Before any of that, I took the Metro-North Train back to town from Stamford and a subway from there to the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens.  My plan was to see the Botanical Gardens, Prospect Park, then tour the Park Slope neighborhood before going to see Unclev in Williamsburg for Peter Luger's Steak.

My goodness, the Brooklyn Botanical Garden was terrific.  I had a nice smile working through the journey as I saw gorgeous foliage, flowers, and plants.  There was a Japanese garden within the Botanical Garden, everything there was wonderful.  Later, I traveled down to Prospect Park, which played out much like Manhattan's Central Park, but on a smaller scale.  It still was a pretty big park, and I really got lost there for a while, making wrong turns here and there, turning to Google Maps to locate where I was.   It took a while to get out of Prospect Park, and I went down Vanderbilt Street and thought "here it is!  Park Slope!"   Something was amiss though: the brownstones I sought weren't quite surrounding me.  Then I realized I was South East of Park Slope.  Silly me!   However, I still got a decent look at the neighborhood by way of its Southern End.  I really felt like I just walked onto Sesame Street... it was fun to witness the architecture.   Later, as I moved West, I sought out a place recommended highly by called "Lenny's Pizza."  That was a long lonnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnng walk but after a while I closed in on its location on 5th avenue, Brooklyn.   Would you believe that I saw the Statue of Liberty in the distance as I walked up?  I was on Prospect and 5th and witnessed her glory from a small hill up on the corner.   I had not seen the Statue of Liberty leading up to this trip and it was indeed quite a sight.   I was a real mongo there but it thrilled me to the bone.  Jaw drop and all.  I took some pictures too from that distance.

Next, with limited time to spare, I went to Lenny's.   The guy working the pizza counter was an Italian dude, ornery guy, salty language, and he was passing around these little cheese sticks... Some friend of his came by and the pizza guy offered him a cheese stick, the guy said no, and dude *curses* him out!   I can't really explain that one other than "Welcome to New York!".    So with that intimidation, he tells me that he's getting into the Italy game and goes NUTS when he sees a shot nearly miss the net.   He starts screaming about it, and then asks me what I want to order.  Naturally intimidated, I asked for a slice of pepperoni.   I attempted, very feebly, to make small talk but he was having none of it.  He did mumble some other stuff, something about how he's rooting for Mexico (this was probably just him joking, he clearly was an Italy fan).

I'll say this... folks in the non tourist areas of Brooklyn can be thrown off from out of towners like me.  I had an incident days later at L&B Spumoni Gardens I'd rather not expound on, but some joker lady was trying to photobomb my selfie.  I mean come on... I just wanted a picture and she gets all pissy about it mocking me and photobombing.   There was a table of cops there and all they did was laugh at me.  HAHA, I suppose that was a little funny but I was upset at the time, got my stinkin' sicilian slice, and got the hell outa there.  How embarrassing!

But LENNY's, back to Day 2, was an incredible slice of pizza.  I thanked the guy for the slice, added some garlic and pepper to the same and took a bite as I went outside to the corner to see Lady Liberty.  THE BEST slice of pizza I had all weekend, bar none.   Ornery guy and all, he makes a great pizza.  

How do I even describe it?  The cheese was great.  The sauce was zesty... it has that something, an extra "oomph", but it was great.  The crust was unbelievable.  Crispy on the very bottom but very *soft* and chewy dough on top of that.  I did not even know you do that!   Crispy AND chewy all on the same bite?   Best street slice I've honestly had to date even... I shall go back to Pizza Suprema by Madison Square Garden to compare, but that was my previous favorite... it could be neck and neck at the end of the day but bottom line, Lenny's was simply special.

Once again, I was putting meals together back to back, so I took the G train from Park Slope up to Williamsburg in Brooklyn.   I walked under the bridge to Luger's, a walk which reminded me of the scene in "the Blues Brothers" where one of Jake's exes went up with a bazooka and blew up the Blues Brothers' apartment building.  Their building was also by an El Train Bridge in Chicago.  After that walk, I had arrived!  The much talked about, highly rated Peter Luger Steakhouse.  It's not a cheap eat, but I saved money for the occasion and it was quite worth it.  I met my friend Unclever there and we had lunch: a sizzling, savory porterhouse steak for two and creamed spinach, along with the usual bread basket.   To my eyes, it was stellar.   Absolutely stellar.  What a wonderful plate of meat!  Sliced up and prepared medium rare and served with the creamed spinach.   Every bite, magnificent.  Unclev and I mused about how great the steak was and he was quite impressed that I enjoyed it as much as I did.  I truly did.

Steakhouses do have a reputation of demanding a good dress code, meaning, pants and fancy shirts, so for the day, I selected my bright Hawaiian Shirt because it had a collar and you could button it up.  I didn't want to go to Luger's and get turned away because I had a t-shirt on, so, taking no chances, I went Aloha with it and wore the Hawaiian shirt.   No issues w/ the people at Luger's.  My my, what good steak.   I would switch off between pieces from the filet and pieces from the NY strip.   At the end, I noticed, the T-Bone still had some meat on it, so I showed Unclever how I use my steak knife to shave the meat off the bone and he started to bust up laughing.  Haha, it was a good time.  It worked too!   I got another whole piece of meat from the bone, tender and all, and chewed on that to end the meal.

Having now been to Luger's, I can say d e f i n i t i v e l y it would be my final meal if offered in that situation.  I would add some German potatoes to that meal and maybe some dessert.   Interestingly, on my way out, I caught an old quote posted by the Late Johnny Carson on the wall.  It said "the best meal I ever had was at Peter Luger's."  Strong words from the King of Late Night!

Unclever and I went to the bar next door, sipped on some Brooklyn Lagers, and watched the end of the World Cup Game in progress.  Then, we left Williamsburg to get to the subway station.

Now the real fun started: time to meet our friends up in the Bronx for the game.  Apparently traffic and the subway system was an epic fail that day -- our train up to 161st took nearly 50 minutes when it usually took about 25.  Later, when we met our friend Uttah for the first time (aka Lou in Hoboken), he said there was a broken *rail* on his subway route.  The whole subway system collapsed!  Oh baby... I do mean *baby* this time.  Wow.  Meanwhile, Cap was stuck on the New Jersey Turnpike somewhere with worse than usual highway traffic.   It was truly a rare night.   We went to a bar called "The Dugout" across the street from Yankee Stadium for pregame.  I recognized Uttah right away and was thrilled to say hello!  Right off the bat he offered a drink.  I *almost* picked Miller Lite before I noticed that most of the fellas had PBR... and cotdamn, in the Bronx on a Yankee game night, PBR sounded like a great choice, so I switched to PBR and went after it.  And after it we ALL went... fireball shots, beers, more beers.  Good thing we weren't driving.   Captain joined us shortly afterward and went over how bad traffic was on his drive over.  Whoo!  THE CAP WAS IN TOWN.   I've spent many podcasts talking baseball with him and hearing his wild stories of his, and here he was in person.   So good to see my buddy again.  Uttah was someone Unclever and I met for the first time.  Uttah had also met Capsies before, so rapport was a non issue for us.  Later on, Mortsies or Nolabel, as most folks call him, joined us at the bar and we caught up as well.  I met Mortsies once before, two years ago in NJ.  Soon the legend, A Couple Quickies, joined us at the bar and we all were kibitzing, introducing ourselves and such.  Quickies I've met before as well, and we've done some podcast material together in recent months.  Dude is so funny!  Mortsies was again his genial, humble self.   Unclever was Unclever... in fact he was far from "unclever", dude had some major zingers the whole weekend.   Unclev is THE MAN.   So, we're all scoping out the bar, looking at the people getting prepped for the game, and suddenly a skinny guy joins us and introduces himself.  The man is OHHH BABY, who we all met for the first time.   Hopefully we made him feel at home, and I think we did!   Uttah asked me why I had a Hawaiian Shirt on, and I explained the scenario about Steakhouse dress codes and he said he could relate.  Good times.

MAN, that was a great start, but it was not without some minor strife.   Caps, in his excitement to join all of us, forgot to print his game ticket so Uttah and he spent the next hour trying to print it.    Meanwhile, I noticed, there was a small kitchen at the bar serving hot dogs so I ate two of them.  It wasn't completely working out, so we kept on going with drinks and chat until roughly 7pm.   Then most of us went to the game while Caps and Uttah worked out their deets with the game ticket.   We started to watch the game, and people in the bleachers started yelling each Yankees Player's name individually until the person acknowledged the crowd, you know, a quick wave or salute.  This is what they call "roll call" at Yankee Stadium.  An interesting concept, too.

As this was going down, a guy with long hair started doing a Ric Flair impersonation.  Now, Quickies wrote the book on Ric Flair impersonations, so we keyed in on his voice.  He did an ok job and we all started to "WOO!" just like he did.  He was a funny fella.  I would say, 20 minutes in, Cap and Uttah joined the rest of us.   As it turns out, Uttah found a ticketmaster office on-site and they resolved the ticket query for Cap.  Great news all around.  Now it was time for some baseball.   The group asked me to go get a beer so I did, a Bud Light in the souvenir cup (larger size).

During the game, Yankee Starting Pitcher Hiroki Kuroda was working a no hitter into the 5th inning.  In those five innings we were slowly getting excited about a possible no hit bid, but realistically, most of us thought he'd give up a hit.  Eventually he did in the 5th, and he did more than that.  Kuroda gave up the lead and the Yankees fell behind, I think, 2-0, but don't quote me.

When the Yankees went to the bullpen, one of the bullpen guys started to give up baserunners and Caps stands up, probably on top of the bench and YELLS "GET HIM OUT OF THE GAME RODDY!!!"  It played out a lot like it does on the message boards... he was livid too!  That was fun to watch.  I also enjoyed both Cap and Uttah's recall of Yankee games going back many years.   The pinpoint knowledge of details was impressive and incredible.  Other than that, we were chatting with each other about random stuff as we did back at the bar.

One of the guys in our group got the pulled pork nachos and I asked him how it was.  He said they were amazing... so, looking at that I went down to the nachos counter myself and asked for a one.   I took the batch back to my seat and started to chew.  These nachos were spectacular!!!!  The pulled pork was so tender, and it went very well with the included sauce.  The nacho cheese complimented it well.  Composition was top notch.

Then, out of the blue, a fight breaks out... RIGHT IN THE ROW IN FRONT OF US.    I didn't even realize how bad it was and I see the whole row stand up and I see a guy in a Mets t shirt and some other Yankee fan going after a young couple and there was some old guy there too!   I'm looking down on all of these jokers just trying to make sense of the whole thing, all while I had my nachos, these were great nachos folks, and I mean as stadium concessions go, amazing nachos.  Maybe the best nachos in MLB... BUT.  They're about to tussle and the Yankee fan says, to other Yankee fans "I'll lay you out, f****t!"  WOW.  THEN they start to exchange punches and I'm like "this is totally not happening" in my head, but I stare at these guys and I saw there were two cops near the railing the whole night and soon enough they go up to break up the fight.   I was just looking on the whole time thinking "wow."   I didn't realize how serious they were with that fight... and to think that a Yankee fan was about to pummel another Yankee fan.  And what was the METS fan doing there??  The whole thing was just nuts.

The Cops kick out the offending party and we move on with the game.   It wasn't looking good for the Yankees.   The Yanks were now down 3-1 entering the bottom of the 9th inning.  I said to everyone "I haven't seen anything even resembling a home run tonight."

The Yankees started a rally, getting guys on base, getting base hits, getting a run.  What we *weren't* prepared for was Carlos Beltran, struggling, hobbled, aging, working a nice at bad and THEN.

Crack!  A long drive to left field and all of us got up from our seat... could it be?  We still weren't sure because the fielder started to slow down but THEN we saw the trajectory point the ball into the seats.   It was a home run!!   Stunning!!!!  As quickly as *that*, the Yankees won the game and everyone went BANANAS.   We all were just fistpumping and fiving each other.  Cap was FLYING, folks!  He was going all over the stands slamming high fives and bear hugging people.   Cap gave me a bear hug.   Uttah gave me a bear hug.  ACQ gave me a bear hug.  Unclever yelled "THEY THOUGHT THAT NOBODY COULD BEAT THE DAVE MUSH BUT THE YANKEES BEAT IT!"  The two Mets fans Mortsies and OH BABY enjoyed the theater even though I imagine they were not celebrating.   It almost felt like a World Series win... but either way the game ended with incredible dramatics.   It was sublime.  I was just soaking it all in... I had no dog in the fight and here I was in a hawaiian shirt, unbuttoned for the yankee game with an undershirt underneath, congratulating all the Yankee fans around me.  There was a lady, very fetching in fact, with a Yankee jersey on and white shorts and a cap, I wanted to congratulate too so I was kinda trying to get down there and reach out to high five her and her friend, but my hand didn't reach that far so I changed my mind.

On our way out, my buddies chanted "DAVE MEDINA!" clap clap clap clap clap over and over... I was howling but also pretty flattered.   Everybody at the ballpark was going crazy.  Ushers were high fiving people... it was a scene!  Eventually we all switched to a "Mike Francesa!" chant... I really thought more fellas around us would join in on that, but nobody did, so we kept moving on.  

We spent the night cap at the Dugout Bar, just as we did for pregame.   We're ordering more beers to celebrate and suddenly this blonde lady starts high fiving all of us at the bar.  It was NFL Network and Former YES reporter Kim Jones!  Blew my *mind* folks... that's a name that won't apply much to those out of the area, but she's a big name in New York.   Personally I was mesmerized at her appearance but I didn't really know her and I'm not really a fan of her work, so I didn't really press any further than that, but I do remember some folks going "wow, it's Kim Jones!  How about that??"

and how about that indeed?   It was a funny moment... many of our colleagues on the message boards poke fun at her and suddenly our group had a minor "post differently/Mia Harris effect" moment.  As a matter of fact, Caps and Uttah got a pic with her.   An incredible stroke of luck that she'd be hanging out with fans after the game w/ her friends.   After a few minutes, Kim left, then Mortsies and OH BABY, Unclever, and ACQ left.  Cap left after that, and after getting some hot dogs and water.   Now it was just me and Uttah.  I hadn't finished my beer so I stayed a little longer to finish it off.   In an odd twist, last call at the Dugout bar was a VERY early 12am.   So Uttah and I discuss our commuting plans and this lady in a USA Flag Tank Top asks to wear my hawaiian shirt.  Can you believe that??   She was hammered too, and I said "sure why not?" so she puts it on and we get a picture of her in it for fun.  Then she asks to keep the shirt.   I was thinking "oh I'd love to but I need it back."  She starts pouting and asks me why I can't get another shirt.  Then I said, "well you could always get a shirt of your own at the thrift store."    She goes "you got it at a thrift store?? Well certainly you can let me have this one!"

This was getting confusing.  The bouncer at the bar was forcing people out by this point in time.   Uttah and I both explained to her that I actually didn't get the shirt from a thrift store, that I received it as a present, and that I'd rather just get the shirt back.  So, reluctantly, she gave the shirt back.

Now, I *could* have tried a "if you want to wear the shirt you could wear me in it!" routine, but nah hahahahahahahaha.   She said to one of us that she lived in Westchester County anyway so it would have been unrealistic to even *go* there and I was at a point where I was starting to feel it anyway, so all of us went our separate ways and I did get the shirt back.

It's a great shirt!  Blue Hawaiian shirt with comfy sleeves and everything.  It's been with me through some great moments, and that night was another one.  Hopefully that one lady gets a similar shirt eventually.   I said farewell to Uttah and thanked him for setting everything up. 

I took the train back to Stamford and then walked back just a little bit to the hotel.   A night to remember my friends!

Part 4 will come up later this week.  Enjoy!

Monday, June 23, 2014

NYC/CT Recap: Part 2

Part 2 begins now, here we go...

Landing in Newark, my first objective was to get coffee.  You wouldn't believe what a chore that was.   Previous trips to the area, I just got off the plane and a Dunkin Donuts was right there waiting for me.  I think, because I used Virgin America and not United, my terminal didn't have a Dunkin on board.   I've said before I prefer Starbucks and Peet's to Dunkin coffee, but out East you wind up finding more Dunkin donuts locations than the other two.  In fact, I don't think I've seen a Peet's in NYC.  Oddly, I didn't even see the Dunkin until I went down the escalator and went to the other end of the airport.  I got the Dunkin coffee and it was all right, albeit too much cream.

Then the *real* fun started.  It was about 8:30, and seemingly an easy train ride to Penn Station, oh how wrong I was!   I was exchanging texts with my Dad during my eventful, but tedious, *bus* to the train.   Usually Newark Liberty connects to its own train station via the Airtrain light rail tram, but the *Airtrain* was broken that month.  A complete disaster... instead Newark offered Port Authority buses to get to the next stop, Newark Penn, and that morning I was formally introduced to NJ traffic.  Pitiful to say the least.  The cars were not moving, fellas.   I was listening to like, 106.3 Lite FM or something on the bus... pretty good honestly!  They were pumping out some good tunes... kinda neat to hear local weather reports as they went into music.  With that said, the bus ride was hideous.   It tried this side street in the middle of Newark but it wasn't much help.  We all felt like a marble stuck in a vat of cookie dough trying to go down the sink.  The bus just to get to Newark Penn took roughly an hour.

It was about 9:30 when I finally got onto a train to New York's Penn Station at Madison Square Garden.  For whatever reason, probably because it was rush hour, that train was struggling.  It stopped numerous times on the way over to account for rail traffic ahead.   Finally we got to New York City.

Before going to Katz's, I tried to locate a place to store my luggage.   I wasn't sure if nearby hotels would do it without me being a guest, but I found a place called "Schwartz Luggage Storage" near Penn.   It's an old building, but the lady there was low key and nice and took in my luggage in exchange for a ticket.

Onward to Katz's.... the key to Katz's, as friends have told me, is to take the F train.  The first time I tried to go to Katz's, the F train was non-functional.   This time it was working well.   Once I got off, I found Katz's down the street.  Behold!  After 5 years the moment of greatness was upon me.   Business finally finished!   I couldn't wait to try it out.    Katz's has the traditional deli ordering system, with a series of  deli slicers lining up a counter.   It's basically like a series of cash registers with multiple lines spanning the length of the restaurant.  There's a separate line for grill orders, however.  So if you wanted a hot dog, for instance, you'd go to the grill line on the front end of the building.  Most tourists would be utterly clueless here, but I read about the "system" before hand so I went right up.

The slicer dude I ordered from was pretty cool.   He was very kind and helpful in setting up my order.  My order was simple -- pastrami on rye.  He asked if I wanted mustard and I said yes.   I asked how things were going and he said they were fine, etc.   Then I tried to tip him and realized I had just 20's, so I asked him "Hey, would you mind if I go get change so I can tip you?"  He was gracious and let me leave, so I went to the cash register lady near the front (a lot of this, including the little rickety booth for the cash register, reminds me of the Pantry back home in LA).   Then, with the change I threw in a couple bones into the tip jar.  For my effort, the slicer dude offered me an ENORMOUS sandwich with way more meat than I could remember from a similar Langer's pastrami sandwich.  Granted, the damn thing still cost $18.50 so yes, the sandwich got its money's worth.

Then I took a bite.... OH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  It was like all the pleasures of life locked into my brain at once.  My GOODNESS was that good pastrami!   Fan-tastic!  I gushed about it on twitter... phenomenal sandwich.  I added some extra deli mustard to the pastrami and enjoyed every bite.   As I was going into Katz's, I PM'd the Oat Man to tell him I was going to try Melt Shop later on his recommendation.   Flash forward to me enjoying the pastrami and I received a reply from Oats offering to meet me at melt shop.   Tremendous idea, I thought!  Then I noticed I still had half a pastrami sandwich to eat hahahahahahahahahahahahahaha... but I loved life so much that I finished off the pastrami.

In New York City, I don't have a problem staggering meals together or even eating extra meals during the day.   There are incredible foods to eat and it's a total priority.  I always feel, number one, you only live once, and number two, New York has some great treats that are hard to find elsewhere, so it's always good to take advantage.  Pizza is the most obvious example, but on Day One, I did not eat pizza.  That was saved for later on.

With the Newark delays, the extra hour I had to check out Wall Street was eliminated, so yes, I went straight from Katz's.... to another restaurant!!  Haha, I loved it though.  On my way to Melt Shop at Midtown East, I got a text from Unclever... he said he was in the area, so I said, "Hey, let's meet at Melt Shop and we can possibly see the Oat Man there too."

I rode up another train to 53rd street and met ole Unclever at Melt Shop... it was located within the architecture of an office building, reminding me of both LA and SF downtown shops.  The Melt Shop was indeed just a shop... a pickup window with good fast food.  There was an adjacent plaza with tables where Unclever and I settled down to eat.  I ate slowly... and Unclev pointed out that it was because I just came off a huge showdown w/ the Katz's pastrami.  He was right, that was an intense sequence.   No matter, the Melt Shop Fried Chicken Grilled Cheese sandwich was fantastic.  I *believe* I had that with Ginger Ale.   Quite good.   Unclever and I were talking, catching up, and then this Light Jazz Ensemble sets up right next to all of us at the plaza.  I was HOWLING at this group, and instantly we thought of the jazz player RD we used to know.   The music was loud enough to distract us but we could still carry on a conversation, pausing to clap after each song.  These guys definitely took each other seriously as RD would do with his jazz works.

About an hour later, the Oat Man delivered and we... ahem, "Said Hello to Ottis."  Oh ho!   Great to see Oat Man in person for the first time, and I dare say he was happy to see us too.   He shared some great stories, but not before he said "great to see RD made an appearance!  Can't make it up."   He said something else during the Jazz performance, and it was when one of the guys came out to sing some lounge tune, you know, Bobby Darin, rat-pack style.   I lost it... I was laughing so hard, pounding the table... all this with a light sprinkle in the air on a busy Friday afternoon in New York.  Me and my USC Trojans T Shirt on... and Unclever in a bright red polo, sticking out in a sea of Friday Business casual, along w/ the Ottis.

That was a really good time.  Informal meetup, and a great one.  Eventually, we said our goodbyes and Unclever and I stopped at a Mr. Softee truck on the way out.  It was... very creamy.   A texture unlike many soft serves... and this little 8 year old kid served us too.  I was a little thrown off by that....   can 8 year olds run an ice cream truck?  He did a marvelous job, I must say, so I offered him a tip.  I think I got the vanilla soft serve with sprinkles.  I saw there was a double cone, basically equivalent to when you get that "extra ship" attached to your ship in Galaga, and it *blew my mind* but I just went after the regular cone.  So good...

Up next, Unclever and I went our separate ways and I went back to Schwartz Luggage to pick up my bag.   The lady at the counter, same lady, said "Boy you are a happy guy!"  Haha, I got a kick out of that.  I gave her a tip too and got my bag back.

People love their tips in New York... I was tipping for nearly everything out there, including the hotel shuttle I got later, which I thought made sense because I called the hotel for it and it arrived on demand.  Previous to that I took the Metro North express train to Stamford, New Haven line, and it balled.   Great trip, and a comfortable train.  Then, the aforementioned hotel shuttle, with a driver who was also into the World Cup.  Almost everyone driving shuttles or taxis in Stamford were into the world cup... that was way fun to talk about on the way to or from the hotel.  Great fella, the shuttle driver, and I gave him the tip.  On to the room.. extremely comfortable.   I'm jumping ahead, but the king bed in the room was stellah bros.  I slept very very well on this trip.  The hotel was the Sheraton Stamford... fantastic spot, and decent location.

Sheraton did a remarkable job equipping many of its business grade hotels with HDTV.  Not just the flat screens, but the high definition content to match.  Nowadays you can program the screens with HD cable channels without the need for a box.  Very well situated.  Service was great too... I'll share the story of how we arranged the wake up call for the return to LA later on.  They were incredibly helpful on that front, and even offered to call in the cab ahead of time.  Now that's service!

When I entered the room for the first time, it was like 50 degrees in there!  The A/C was running all day, and I loved it.  For some reason, it feels kinda good to be in a hotel room that feels like an icebox.  Weather in the Tri-State Area was the best I've ever seen.   Only light sprinkling in the mid day that day, and temperatures in the low 70s with sunshine the rest of the weekend.  Unbelievable, really!  Usually you're good for some humidity and heat this time of year.

With all that said, I showered and prepared for my next meeting with YOTS, Parcells, Panther, and Rollins at Bobby V's.  YOTS called me to say he arrived and I went down to meet him.  He had hair!!  Haha, I was not used to my buddy with hair... when I first met him years ago he rocked the bald Howie Mandel look.  It was good stuff though.  He gave me a ride to Bobby V's nearby and inside we chatted a bit before the others arrived.  I believe Parcells was first, then, a personal thrill for me, Rollins arrived.  Rollins was big for all of us because he was one of the founding fathers, so to speak, of the message boards we go to.   Tremendously funny, great dude.   Everyone was, really.   We chatted for a good while, got to know each other and such, and as we got into snacks and food.  I was so full by then all I could eat was buffalo wings, but everyone else had sandwiches and fries.   Later, Panther joined all of us, making the unenviable commute from New Jersey to Connecticut.  Mad Props to Panther for making the trek.  I was pumped to meet him too.   We all were joking around, having just a tremendous time, eating snacks and downing beers.  I think my beer choice was Sam Adams IPA, and I forgot what beers others had.  The big running joke that night was "Is Bobby V there?"  That would be Bobby Valentine of MLB fame.   He owns the restaurant as the name suggests, but he's a bigger presence than that.  I think Parcells and Rollins both said he is the unofficial mayor of Stamford.   He DOES actually go to his restaurant frequently and kibitzes with the patrons.  I think that's pretty cool.

After a few hours we went our separate ways save for a couple of us.  YOTS and I and Panther had a night cap at a couple bars and I believe I got a call from the Captain as we were between bars.   He called in his well wishes and said he was looking forward to the Yankee meetup the next night.  Good times.   Panther, YOTS and I talked some more, getting into stuff about hockey and so on, and we talked some golf too, given Panther's expertise with the sport.  Talking to Panther for the first time was pretty awesome... I really enjoyed his anecdotes and picking his brain with sports.  Dude is hilarious, as you've heard on the Dave podcast!

We finished the evening at a locals bar called Brickhouse which also served small pizzas.  There we met YOTS room mate aka cousin.  She was fun to talk to and she had a Cubs shirt on... so I asked her "Why do you have a Cubs shirt."  She said it was one of her three favorite teams.  How about that?   She was asking around for people to play darts but I think she got that dart game in fairly quickly because she moved on to her group of co workers she was with before I could go over to play.  I thought the darts were free, but you have to pay per play so I said "nah, I'll move on."

Panther went his merry way and I thanked him for coming.  I decided to leave a little early too because I anticipated (correctly) that the next night would go very very late and I wanted to send some time in the morning to explore Brooklyn.  Even so, I was outa there at roughly 10:30 or 11 that night, so a pretty full night.

Back at the hotel, I retired to bed and got the first of several fantastic sleeps on that giant King sized mattress.  Nothing like that feeling of being the meat on the pita... it felt that good.   A wonderful start to a great trip, but the fun was just beginning.

Part 3, coming up next! 

NYC/CT Recap: Part 1

I just got up from a four hour nap following a pretty long running, but successful, trip back to Santa Monica from Stamford, CT.   What a great time it was in New York and Connecticut.  Meeting some old friends, getting to know some new ones, and the great moments we shared throughout the weekend made the trip quite worthwhile.  So!   I now have the daunting task of recapping it all on the Daveblog, and I want to be as thorough as possible, so we begin with just the first chapter in a series of Daveblogs about my weekend out East.

So get your fresh peach ready, you know I did, and sit back and enjoy

DAVE IN NEW YORK (and Connecticut): Part 1.

The trip began back home, watching this week's Amercia's Got Talent with Coach on a Wednesday night.  Great episode was brewing!   One good act after another but, sadly, we had to put it to bed early because it was 9pm pacific and it was about time to get to the airport.  Coach was kind enough to give me a ride and I went over some of the things I really enjoyed about the New York area.  I could see the familiar sights on Lincoln Blvd: the Toyota Dealer, Swinger's Diner, Bay Cities Deli, the Vons to its right that used to be an Albertson's, stuff like that.   On our way there, we took a slightly unconventional route that went down Sepulveda Blvd. near LAX.   We passed by the LAX are In-N-Out and it reminded Coach of when his family and he had In N Out before a big vacay.   I wanted to do something *like* that... send myself off with a very Californian meal, but I settled for baked salmon and triscuit, which was nice and light.  Good thing, because the next four days were going to be action packed for the stomach.

Anyway, I got to LAX, and check in was fine.  No incidents there.   BUT, after getting to the terminal, I settled down to find a spot at the gate.  I get a bunch of texts from friends asking if I'm watching the Dodger game.  So, I check my phone and see they're up 8-0, and I'm like "good stuff, not a big deal."  I go about my business and then check the phone *again* and I noticed the "0" in the hits column, and I said "no way!!!  Dodgers have a no hitter going!"  I texted my buddies back and it was Clayton Kershaw entering the 9th with no hits allowed.  It was about 50 minutes before boarding so I ran over to the airport bar to see the finish.   Suddenly, I realized, there's a good chance they won't have it if they have DIRECTV, but fortunately, ESPN simulcasted the 9th inning so I got to see the final three outs.   Kershaw completed the no hitter!!!!  I was so pumped... I didn't yell since most of the guys at the bar probably didn't care about the game (LA people man...) but we did get a couple guys clapping too.  I made HUGE claps... fistpumped and everything.  I was *pumped*.  What a way to go into a trip!

So, we were about to board, a guy was sleeping at the gate and I had to go wake him up to make sure he didn't miss the flight.  He was out like a light.  Good thing I reminded him.   We board the plane and take off.  I saved a bunch of albums, and a podcast of the SVP and Russillo show on my phone to help me sleep.  On this flight I worried greatly about the dreaded "crying baby" or "bickering couple."   I got a huge break -- neither of them were aboard this Virgin America flight.  Virgin America really came through in the clutch: even seats in their coach section which they call "main cabin"  are a little bigger than other airlines from my point of view and they have that extra inch of pitch to help you recline.   It did take a while to get to sleep but there was that glorious moment, of about 30-40 minutes, where I got in some hardcore REM sleep.   I was thrilled to get in deep sleep on that flight.  Overall I slept for about 2 hours... maybe half sleeping much of the time.   The music didn't help me sleep much but the flight overall was very quite and I got some great rest for the trip.  

The flight landed at EWR, Newark Liberty Airport, right on time.  Unfortunately, that was the extent for what went "right" at Newark.   Part 2 is coming up, stay tuned!

Things I Ate in New York

By popular demand: here's a list of the many things I ate while I was on my New York and Connecticut trip.   Several trips to Dunkin Donuts with varying levels of cream and flavor were omitted from this tally.  I found it tougher to find Starbucks in the area but they did have a couple at Grand Central and on the Upper West Side; but nonetheless the Dunkins were more convenient so I gave them another chance.   I still find Starbucks to be better coffee, alas, BUT I would say that Dunkin coffee is a whole lot better when you just get it black.

This isn't really related to anything, I kinda liked the donuts at Dunkin Donuts even more than the coffee... it seems silly, on the surface, to make that point since "Donuts" is in the name, but I thought Dunkin excels in the donut department.  This is quite a goofy tangent, let's get to the list!

Day One

My first order of business was unfinished business: a nearly 5 year long quest to get to Katz's Delicatessen.   This time around I really made it a point to get there, despite the many obstacles in my way, the Airtrain at EWR breaking down, etc, and I'll cover the commute a little later in my full recap.  Katz's Pastrami sandwich... nearly 20 bones but delicious as all hell.  MY GOODNESS, it was like sliced gold folks.   I loved that thing to death.  Katz's for the win!

Next I had a Fried Chicken Grilled Cheese Sandwich at Melt Shop on 53rd and Lexington I bought myself and 3 tater tots courtesy of the Oat Man.  I met the Oat Man!!!   That was a tremendous job by him taking time from his busy schedule to meet the 'cow.

Next was a Mr. Softee ice cream cone with sprinkles.

At night, I had a serving of very good buffalo wings at Bobby Valentine's Sports Bar in Stamford.   Just when you thought it was done, my buddy's cousin offered two slices of a mini pizza at Brickhouse.

Day Two

I didn't mention this to everyone, but before I met my buddy Unclever at Peter Luger's I had a semi-breakfast at Lenny's Pizza on 5th Avenue in Brooklyn.   It was just a regular slice with pepperoni.

I had one half of a steak for two, aka Porterhouse, at Peter Luger's, with Unclever.  We also had some bread and creamed spinach.

Before the game I had two hot dogs at "the Dugout", a bar by Yankee Stadium.

At night, theoretically full, I still went for it and had a sampling of popcorn offered by either Mortsies or OHHH BABY at the Yankee game.  On top of that, I went for the pulled pork nachos.  These are amazing nachos folks.  I was mesmerized at how much meat they put in the nachos.  Far more than most stadium concessions, making it good value for 12 bones.

Day Three

Anthony's Coal Fired pizza with Coach's friend!  We got a complimentary sampling of their oven fired wings, pretty darn good, and I had two of the wings.   The main course was the two of us splitting a 16" Pizza, half Broccoli Rabe/Sausage, half meatballs and ricotta.

I ate some cookies from Peanut Butter and Co. in Manhattan's West Village.  I tried to share the cookies with others but not surprisingly, most folks weren't in the mood for cookies.  That was no problem... I think I ordered too many cookies.  Beer spilled on the last of the cookies anyway.

For Dinner, it was some good not great chicken strips at a West Village bar whose name escapes me.

Day Four

This was a most unusual day in food terms.   Much pizza was had.

  • Everything Bagel from Ess a Bagel, Midtown East, with the lox spread.
  • Sicilian Slice from L&B Spumoni Gardens, Brooklyn.  (not worth it!  Pretty good but long commute to get there)
  • Regular slice from Sal and Carmine Pizza on the Upper West Side (Manhattan).
  • A Georgia Peach from a nearby stand at UWS.   When the sign said "Georgia Peach" I couldn't resist.
  • A spicy pork noodle dish from Xi'an Famous Foods, also UWS.   I went here later but it turned out to be *adjacent* to Sal and Carmine.  How about that??   Very good too I should add.
  • Back in Stamford, I polished off a sausage and onion pizza at Remo's Pizza with YOTS.  He knows his pizza!  Pretty good.
That's your rundown.   A delicious affair for foods, my friends.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Dave's Thoughts of the Day: June 14th, Saturday Edition

I am in awe of what the LA Kings did.

To think that a team could come back from 0-3 down in their opening series and go all the way to a Stanley Cup Championship.   Three Game 7 wins on the road.   Coming back from a 2-0 game deficit to win multiple times.   Playing the best of the best in the West and a cagey, incredibly speedy skating team like the New York Rangers in the East.  Watching the last two weeks of playoff games with new friends I made in Hermosa Beach and in a small bar full of crazies called the North End.

It's been such a great dream, and the Kings deserve it!  Congratulations to the LA Kings!!!

I'll have more regarding the series itself on the Dave Podcast on Monday night, 10pm ET at, but in terms of the experience, there was nothing like it.

Similar to the Chicago Game 7, I motored down to Hermosa Beach, this time from work, with Night Ranger's "Don't Tell Me You Love Me" blasting from the speakers as I started the trip.  I wore the Kings 2012 cap just like I did for the Game 7.  I wore the UCSB Water Polo shirt I wore to Kings/Ducks Game 7 which I saw with Kevin from Torrance.   Superstitions mean nothing, but it couldn't hurt.  I was fortunate enough to have all the departments close early for commencement so there was no issue with traffic and I didn't even have to wait in line this time to get into North End.

North End is a really tiny place.   You can only fit about 100 people in there, and as the bar scene goes, it's the only game in town for the whole neighborhood... there really aren't any other bars nearby for a good mile or so.  No wonder, it became such a diamond in the rough.  People really made it their second home.  Anyway, among some of the regs and my new buddies, we gathered together and waited, but waiting doesn't take so long when you have people to talk to, so we talked to guys and gals around the bar and ordered some food and drink.

Four hours later, Game 5 started.  The place was again packed, and we did our thing, screaming at scoring chances, and yelling GO KINGS GO.   Many who follow this blog probably saw the game so I won't recap the whole thing... the point was, it was a great time.

Some of this night was bitter sweet.  One friend had to go on the behest of his girlfriend, and it took place barely 2 minutes before the series winning goal by Alec Martinez.   I grant you that the game was into double overtime and it was about 9:15pm local, but man... I think any of us sports fans know that if the same thing happened to one of us, the relationship would be *ovah.*   Nonetheless, the night came full circle, as my first of the new friends stayed to watch the end and we just went bonkers...!   High fiving each other, SCREAMING, hugging everything that moved!   It was quite the scene.

Many of the same folks, the folks we saw during the other Kings Cup Final Games, some of them for who we also saw during the West Final Game 7, stayed around, hoping we'd get a peek at the cup, but similar to last time, the Police and the owners kicked us all out so that the Kings, and I'm sure their close family and friends, could all enter the bar with the cup.

Again, North End only fits 100 people.   If the Kings roster has 30 people, and not everyone on the team was going to go to the bar, but say you had a party of about 50 coming in and THEN close associates, you really had no choice but to make it a "private event."  I don't think most people had an issue with getting booted.  If North End was bigger, it could have happened where they could have come in WITH everyone else still around, but that's a Catch 22... the Kings would not go to a large bar with a whole lot of people there because it's not their "neighborhood haunt" to them.  A huge bar defeats the premise of "taking the cup back home."   No matter... I walked to the car and drove home.  I was there so long, any buzz I had disappeared.  I also had a tuna melt which I enjoyed immensely.   There was a funny moment where a lady at the bar wanted one of my tots, so I gave her one and I took my tot and we clanked the tots together like beer glasses in a toast!  I offered the tots to some other folks as well.  Good times, my friends, good times.

We danced, we sang some, we drank, we enjoyed an indelible memory.   This won't be the last time I see my hockey friends.  I'm going to try to join their volleyball games, and maybe we can meet again for some World Cup stuffs.

Now with all the excitement here in Los Angeles, I would be remiss if I didn't salute the New York Rangers.  My goodness, was Henrik Lundqvist great or what?  I was so impressed by his excellent performance in such a big series.  I also thought Dan Girardi and Mats Zuccarello were terrific defensively.  It's true what everyone said... that team is not only deep but has INCREDIBLE team speed.   Passes I thought were sure breakaways were always countered by a Rangers defender.   Even for a series that went "only" 5 games, this was an incredibly tough team to play.   I think the Rangers presented more of a challenge to the Kings than the Devils did two years ago!  Especially when you consider the stellar output of Lundqvist.  I hope that's not the last we hear of the Rangers... that team might have something special, and for NYR, a fantastic season for a group that did not have huge expectations.  If the Rangers get more talent at forward, the team could make yet another Cup run.  We'll see how it goes, but seriously, mad props to the Rangers for a wonderful season and for a worthy Cup opponent.

So it ends.  Another great year in sports.   I think it's safe to say the Spurs will finish their unfinished business on Sunday.   For me, the sports year "starts" in September and ends in June, but we do also have MLB season the whole year, so it's not entirely dry during the summer.   It's always neat to see the drama of the NBA Finals and the Stanley Cup Final take place nearly side by side.  I've had a lot of fun, and as John in CT suggested to me, I have no reason to complain about sports for another 5 years.   Lakers, Steelers, Dodgers, USC Football, and now the Kings... I am the sports fan that has it all.  It's been fantastic.

Thank you so much, Los Angeles Kings.  Thanks so much, North End Bar and Grill.  Thanks to the sporting world for being good to me.  I hope I can repay everyone back someday, somehow.   I'm in for a very fun summer, and I'll be back with my usual nonsense on the blog at some point next week.

Heading East next week too!   That's going to be pretty awesome.   I can't wait!  For now, have a good one and see you soon.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Dave's LOCKS of the Week: June 10th

Vegas was a blast!

I have quite a lot to share on the subject of Las Vegas, but the gist of it was:  Traffic was great getting over there and back, the acommodations were top notch, and I finished the weekend down only 6 dollars.   That's my best finish in Vegas to date.  Usually I leave down quite a lot of bones.  This time around, I picked my spots.

There was a moment at the craps table on Sunday night where I was down to my last ten dollars on a ten dollar table, and I took that, hit a number, and salvaged the night leaving with a little over half of what I put in.  I considered that a huge win.  I did well in Blackjack too, finishing my session at break even.  That doesn't sound like much but BELIEVE ME, the way I was getting fleeced in blackjack the last few years, that went really well.  Slots continue to deliver for me.  I get picked on by other fellas for playing slots like I do, oh it's just an old ladies' game etc, but it's really a plot device to pick up points in casino loyalty programs.   It helps to set up possible comps too.  I have yet to be comped a room but I feel like that time could be coming with enough experience.   Besides, slots are a fun exercise in probability.  I also pick my spots playing slots.  Right now I isolate my slot play to two machines, both quarter machines:  a single pay line DOUBLE or TRIPLE DIAMOND machine, and the WHEEL OF FORTUNE quarter machine.

In the former case, you can play 2 credits per spin, which means 50 cents.  In the latter case, its 3 credits max play, or 75 cents per spin.  WOF slots did poorly for me this time around, but to be fair this was at Wynn where slots are most likely tighter.

I placed a bet on the Heat Money Line, which was more risky than just betting them against a 4.5 point spread, so that made the whole affair of NBA Finals Game 2 very exciting!  I was fist pumping and everything watching that game from my hotel room, but the Heat made it happen.  I was pumped.  So pumped that my friend and I went to get a steak afterward.  Good times.

So, one of my favorite experiences in Vegas this weekend, and I'll never forget it, was being at the Mirage sports book to see the Belmont Stakes with a Triple Crown Bid in play.  California Chrome was the big favorite and had a shot to win a historic Triple Crown for the first time since 1978.  The Mirage sports book is HUGE, and as the race time came closer people crowded the room.   I took a spot and stood behind some couches and had a good line of sight with the biggest screen.   Then, after a while, I look around, and it's standing room only!   There were people just packed all over the sportsbook and even behind the sportsbook going in from the casino.  It sounded like many of us were going for California Chrome since we all wanted a piece of history.   The odds were 4/5, which were decent from a gambling return perspective... I thought he'd be an even bigger favorite than that, honestly.

Anyway, the race starts, and literally thousands of people are watching the race right here in the Mirage and Chrome falls behind, but then around turn number 2, he gains speed and starts to push for the lead.  When that happened, the whole sports book was SCREAMING, cheering for him to take the lead... it looked like he had a slim shot but then fell behind for good.   but what a race!  It even had a photo finish... and everyone was just revv'd up getting into each gallop.   I LOVED all the excitement.  You could really feel the buzz all over the Mirage, where I also had my first night.  Fantastic moment.

Night number two was at the Aria, and it was also a great stay.  I have more deets on that but I don't have time to share that just now.   I also was able to put in the Miami Heat bet at said Aria, by way of their high tech sports book.  It's not tiny but it is smaller than most sports books and probably half as large as the Mirage sports book.  Aria is the best though.. I loved being there!

Much more to share from Vegas but that's all for now.   It was very fun.  I hope to maybe get a room for my parents as a gift so they can enjoy some exciting times in Vegas.  My Belmont Stakes experience alone far exceeded expectations, and it makes me want to consider going back to Mirage for the Super Bowl.  Time will tell whether it happens.  For now, onward!

One quick thing before I go... what the Kings did this season to this point, one game from a cup championship, is like that craps table session I had, but imagine if the Kings were down to that same final ten dollars on the pass line.   The Kings basically rode those final ten dollars and turned it into a $250 win.  Truly amazing work so far, but as they say it's not over til it's over.   It also doesn't seem to me that it'll end as soon as people think.  We'll see!   Watch for that fat lady first am I right?

Catch you all soon...  take care for now.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Dave's Thoughts of the Day: June 5th

Everybody's getting pumped for Peach Season!  Do the dance!!

I had two of them this morning.  A stellar breakfast if I may say so… along with a bowl of Quaker Oats Oatmeal squares.  I ate Oatmeal squares in honor of the Oat Man.   Dude is the best!

….I'm not being serious w/ that comment.  I got Oatmeal Squares because I ate them once before and loved them, and they were on special for $2.50 a box at the grocery store.   I do think Oat Man is the best though!

It was another fantastic night at North End Bar and Grill in Hermosa Beach last night.  Driving there from UCLA is quite challenging but I found a route that was mostly traffic free!  but, as they say, a wizard does not reveal his secrets.   Good times, met with many, almost all, of the same guys I met the previous Sunday for Game 7 of the West Final.  Together we saw Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final.   It was a great time.   I won't comment too much on the game itself, but certainly it was a close one.  Either team was very much a bidder for that win.  I feel like Game 2 will play out the same way.

That's the beauty of hockey -- games are so close in hockey.   Even if you aren't playing that well, you might still be just 1 or 2 goals down.

This time around, I tried the Barbecue Chicken Pizza at North End.   Fantastic choice, another winner.   The crust on North End pizza is pretty good, fairly crispy, and the ingredients are delicious.  The North End menu isn't huge but I've had three things there to date and they all scored, much like Justin Williams in big games OHHHHHHHH…

I'm having *fun* with this Stanley Cup Final.  Kings may go on to lose this series, but it seems like these teams really can go after one another.  Rangers are far from over, to quote Frank Stallone.

Did the Dodgers lose another game last night?  Wow…    Well, it's still June 5th.  I still, honestly, earnestly, think they'll make a run here.   Hard to imagine they wouldn't.  They have some vets on that club, and some great offensive firepower, and perhaps not the pitching we thought, but still, their top three are TRE mendous.   They're making a run… I have a good feeling about this.

Ever get that "good feeling" of a jello shot?    I was not too familiar with them, but lately I familiarized myself with jello shots.  There was also a point in time where I thought it was just a euphemism for something else.  no!  It really is a shot of Jello with some alcohol infused into it.  Not very much alcohol… nobody is going to go on a bender from just Jello shots.  But man… especially on a summer day, boy do those Jello shots feel good.  Tasty too!

I'm not much about filler… so I think we'll close it up for this entry.  Enjoy your week and best of luck to California Chrome in the Belmont Stakes!   I think I'll place a wager on him, why not?   See you all soon!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Kings/Blackhawks: Game 7

Pretty much all "thoughts of the day" are going to be about Sunday's experience watching a most unforgettable Kings/Blackhawks Western Conference Game 7.   So!  Let's begin.  I'll break this down into parts.  Part 1 is the morning.


I got up at 5:30 am... I had a fun night that went fairly late.  I was at a friend's friend's house in the valley and we had some very friendly faces there.  Twas a good time.  I even photobombed a pic of two ladies on a friend's dare.  That was funny although I'm positive I creeped them out... they said they got a kick out of it though.  Man!   Would you believe that place had fajitas?  Piles and piles of free catered fajitas and we just came from Chili's where we ate a whole lot.   We were reduced to sampling some of them.

Now at this party we met some older blonde lady who claims she was in an Offspring video (the lady in the stars and stripes bikini, far right, "Pretty Fly for a White Guy" video, about the 2:45 mark or something).   I punched it into YouTube on my phone just as she described minus the precise timing and BOOM, located her on the video, so we all showed it to her and she *really* got a kick out of it!  She was amazed and elated to see that blast from the past... however, she was in general terms a trainwreck so we left her be.

We had to leave earlier than intended so as to avoid a 405 freeway closure.  From the valley, the 405 was our only realistic way home... if we left any later we'd be hosed.   We barely eked through some lane closures and made it back.   I had an eventful sleep.  Got up momentarily to use the bathroom then returned to bed and slept again.

In my dream, I was already at the Hermosa Beach bar watching the game and the Kings took the lead in the 3rd period and gave up the lead AGAIN to the Blackhawks.   Kane scored one of the goals in the dream.   Then I "woke up" and looked around and realized that the game truly happened.  I was fully dismayed and screamed NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!

Out of that, I woke up for real.. I was really out of it... talk about "inception," I had a dream and dreamt that I woke up within the dream, but I really didn't.  However!  I got a solid 9 hours of sleep combined.  Physically, I felt pretty good.

My first step was to get coffee, so I went to the grocery store, which has their own Starbucks stand (every bit as authentic as the starbucks coffee at their retail locations -- its as good as an actual retail location within a regular grocery store).  I went up to the lady there, who I've run into multiple times, and she says to me "I've never seen you without a button up shirt!"   She's referring to the regular collar'd shirts I'm wearing on work days.  How about that?  I also explained to her that I'm wearing my lucky shirt today: a black shirt with a gothic design on it.  I also am wearing my Kings hockey hat so I mentioned how I'm a big fan and the Kings have a huge game that night.   It was a fun conversation, I got my coffee, and went back to the front of my apartment building.

It was a gorgeous day in Santa Monica, and I spent some time just soaking it in and standing under a tree.  However, I was also trying to get myself together mentally.. I was still fretting the thought of blowing a 3-1 series lead and seeing the Blackhawks make the Final.  I like the Blackhawks, but to be that close to a Cup Final and lose was tormenting on the inside.   Then, my neighbor comes outside to adjust a car seat in his van.  We talk hockey for a while, he's from Montreal and loves the Canadiens.  We dig into the Chicago/LA series and chat that too.

After he went back in, I finished my coffee and started to go inside but first I saw Coach stop in front of me, fresh off his outdoor run.   So we go in at the same time and I break down my upcoming day.  I had an idea all weekend to try a much reputed LA Kings bar -- the North End Bar and Grill in Hermosa Beach. 

I start to prepare for the trip and watch some baseball and golf, then I set off for the commute.


There were so many people in the neighborhood yesterday that I was forced to park my car way up 10th street, so I trudged a ten minute walk to my car and started to go.  Still nervous, I thought it was time to *rock out*, so I popped Night Ranger on Spotify starting with "Don't Tell Me Your Love Me."  and I was *blasting* the song.. opened both windows and bopped my head as I drove towards San Vicente.  I was flyin' folks... rocking to the tunes, passing a classic Porsche convertible and hitting the freeway.  Warm day!

Traffic was fantastic... it took only 40 minutes to get to Hermosa Beach with all the twists and turns.


I left for Hermosa Beach at roughly 12:30 and got there around 1:10... it took a while to find a place to park as I needed a space without a time limit.  I knew even going in I wanted to spend about 9 hours in town.   So, I found a space on the curb in the neighborhood by a house and parked there.   The walk down to the strand, as they call their main drag, was not long.   I then passed the bar itself, "The North End," right on the main drag.   The bar is *tiny*.  It was even smaller than I thought; really looks to be about the size of an In N Out Drive Thru.   You think I'm exaggerating, but there honestly wasn't much more room than that. 

Here's a picture I took of it.  See this "dome thing" on the end?  That's not just the "end", that is the whole bar!  There's not much else to it other than a small pool room on the other side of this dome.

I couldn't just go right to the bar yet... even for a Game 7 I knew I had at least a couple moments to check out the beach -- so I did!  And here in Hermosa, You can just walk across the street from the bar above and hit the beach... almost immediately.    I crossed the bike path and rested on the concrete barrier between the bike path and the beach.   Wonderful!  I also took some pictures including this shot of the lifeguard tower.

It was a glorious 20-30 minutes resting by the beach and watching the waves.  Up next, we went into the North End itself.


I entered North End for the first time, and only about 4 people were there, so I was pleased to get my seat to check out the game.  Perfect vantage point.  You can see their largest screen perfectly from the corner of this bar, where I was.  I entered at 2:15.   At 2:30 a man sits next to me and introduces himself... Geno is his name, so we strike a conversation and chat about the upcoming game and our own scenarios.

Well... how about this?  I'm so tired as I write this that I can't elaborate into more detail.  I'll provide a short cut version.   We also met two of Geno's friends there, Matt and Maggic, and then we ran into a couple folks who were just there for the day: Molly and "Josh".  I'll call him "Josh" because I don't remember what his name actually was.  It could have been Nick, but that's hearsay right now.

We started to chat and really get to know each other.  By Period 1 it seemed like we all were close friends and knew each other for life.  

First Period

People go to the bar for drinks as the game gets underway.  I got to meet and greet some of them, and I think one of the ladies' names was Abby?   I forget... I was already sinking Bud Light beers by then.  With every half hour the pouplation of the bar doubles.   By 4pm it was insane!

Game starts and Chicago gets to a 2-0 lead... People around me were feeling down but many of our group thought the Kings could battle back -- they did.

Second Period

I think I had the meal earlier, but I ate a Pulled Pork Panini with tater tots - yum!  Second period, Kings come back and the place is absolutely packed by now.   We ride the edges of our seats with every goal.  AND with each goal, one of the guys in our group would buy a round of Jello Shots (only two bucks each!).  It was my turn somewhere in there so I bought a round.

Third Period and Overtime

Sleep is calling my name now, so I'll give the cliffs notes version of this.  I start to really feel down as others are chatting about random topics during the game.  As the 3rd period starts, the Kings are down a goal, for a good ten minutes maybe.   I look at the score, see the running time and start to fret.  In fact, earlier in the game I started clenching my fists, put my head down and started meditating.  "Please God... let the Kings win... please win Kings" I thought to myself.   As the game goes along everyone's saying to me "Hang in there Dave, they'll come back here."  but we were really getting down to the nitty gritty by the third period.  Molly sees me down and out and puts her arm around me.  Then she says "Dave they're gonna get this.  They HAVE to get this!  They're gonna get this."

It was right around then, the Kings made their comeback!  First that wild goal by either Carter or Toffoli that was batted in -- I think it was Toffoli and we went *nuts!*   After being down most of the 3rd period with the season seemingly ending, the Kings found a way to tie it.   We're all celebrating the tying goal and chatting about things in between.  

The third period ends and I take a final restroom break.   An added person joins our group, a friend of Matt's.    He says he was a bartender in Utah which we all thought was impossible given their strict drinking laws.  ANYWAY, in the Overtime intermission I said to everyone "Fellas!  This is truly a fun experience I shall not soon forget.    Even if we lose--" and everyone yelled "NONONONONONONONO!!!!" to cut me off hahahahahahahaha... that was really funny.

And the period after that -- magic.   After not leading the whole game, the Kings finally took a lead when it counted, overtime.  Alec Martinez shot a wild one that fluttered over Corey Crawford's shoulder and in for the game winning goal.   Kings win a trip to the Stanley Cup Final!  We went BANANAS!!   Everything after that was a blur -- my LA Kings cap fell off, beer spilled all over my shirt, we are all just *hugging* each other hard, high fiving and everything, then I yelled at Molly "you believed!!"  I said a whole lot of inapropriate things during that moment!!   Most of them language related, four letter words and so on, we were all just *delirious* over this comeback!  To think the Kings, who were down 2-0 in the game on the road in a Game 7, could come back and win this one.

but deep down inside, I felt a little differently that day.  I felt like "you know what, it IS possible to see them come back as they had all playoffs long."  The Kings have been fighters all season so I did think it was tough to see them fight at it again in Chicago but I never fully counted them out... and the guys around me never did either.  The whole bar just erupted that night.  The folks at North End passed around victory drinks, some combination of fireball and other light alcoholic beverages.  We all drank up those special "victory shots" for free!

The shot wasn't that strong either.  We all were finding guys around us to high five and congratulate.  This is still such an indelible moment.   Many of us stayed for a few minutes after the game.  Slowly the other parties left to go home.   Then, after a while, it was just Geno and Me again, taking our day full circle.  We got a night time meal - he had pizza and I had a burger.  Damn good burger too, you can cook it any way you want it.  We all kept on partying for another hour solid after the game.  It was still going even after the fact but by 10pm the original crowd had mostly gone and new people took their place.  It felt like it was time to go.

We checked out and went our merry ways, with Geno teasing a Game 1 Cup Final meetup at the same North End bar.   WHAT A FUN NIGHT.  I'll never forget it!  Cheers to the Kings too... GO KINGS GO!