Tuesday, June 24, 2014

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 slice.seriouseats.com 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!

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