9.30.2007

Stunned Disbelief

Despite being in first place for almost the entire season, the New York Mets are not going to the playoffs this year.

Today the Mets completed one of the most brilliant collapses in Major League Baseball history. Few teams have fallen apart on a level comparable to the Mets' recent implosion.

As play ended on September 12, the Mets held a seemingly insurmountable seven-game lead over the second-place Philadelphia Phillies. With with just 17 games to go in the regular season, the Mets were a post-season lock and a favorite to make it to the World Series.

What happened next has left me in stunned disbelief: between September 13 and today the Mets played their worst baseball of the year--winning just five games and losing 12--while the Phillies played some of their best, going 13-4 over that same stretch. In the end, the Phillies edged out the Mets for the division title by just one game; the Phillies go on, the Mets go home.

Tim Marchman puts into words exactly how I felt recently:
For the Mets and their fans, the last two weeks have been less like a late season collapse and more like a mystical experience in which science and religion have converged and become one. Many baseball teams have lost a lead down the stretch, but few, if any, have become the center of a temporal dislocation in which the precise same thing happens at the precise same moment, every single day. Were a theologian and a quantum physicist inclined, they could no doubt plumb the mysteries of reason and faith simply by examining these two weeks minutely; those of us who do not contemplate the meaning of existence for a living can just stare on in horror.
The impact of today's loss runs deep. A win would have guaranteed at least a tie for the division title and a one-game playoff with Philly, or kept them in the running for the wild card playoff slot. Instead, the Mets threw their season away just 10 minutes into the top of the first inning--they were down 7-0 before two outs had been recorded. Such a display is nothing short of deplorable at such an important time, and it encapsulates a sea change in how fans may now view this team:

This disaster changes the Mets' basic identity. Before yesterday the story of the Mets, from 1962 to now, wasn't about how good they were, but about the way they played, and how they were always worth believing in because they played tough, ruthless baseball, win or lose. When they were great, they won the greatest victories; when they were just good, they lost admirably, and sometimes even won.
Marchman further details the team's disintegration, and how improbable and ingloriously historic it was here.

9.26.2007

Oy Vey

Based on the unanimous ruling issued by three well-respected medical professionals (and a concurring opinion filed by my mother) that I should stay in the US to get treatment for the handcer, I rescinded my acceptance of the Eritrea job. Though I made the decision a couple of weeks ago, the reality of its impact is just setting in, and I'm bummed and frustrated; I was really looking forward to moving to Africa.

The job in Eritrea was ideal--it would have given me a much needed respite from Anchorage, I was going to work on a really interesting war crimes case, it would have put me on a new career path, given me the opportunity to experience a totally different culture, I was going to argue at The Hague, travel, and earn a decent salary for a change. Another appealing aspect was that when the job was over I would have all sorts of options: return to AK or elsewhere in America; continue working in Africa; go back to school; try a different continent.

Instead, I'm stuck in Alaska for another long, cold Winter, all of the reasons I wanted to leave are still staring right at me (some even moreso than before), my hand hurts constantly, I have to wear a cast-like thing for the next six weeks, I have to have surgery and then will be in a full-on cast without use of my right hand for two months, my two most recent ex-girlfriends are getting married soon (not to each other), the White Stripes canceled their Anchorage show, I'm super-busy at work but can only type with 1.2 of my hands, and finally, and most recently, I learned that I need to move out of my house and find a new place to live by the end of next month.

It's a lot to deal with, and I think I'm handling everything pretty well, but as Grandma Sylvia would have said, "Oy gevalt."

9.25.2007

Cold Cold Heart

Daytime temperatures now hover right around 50 degrees--a full 10 degrees lower than last week. [fn1] Nowhere is this steep drop more evident than in my office, which I am convinced is cold-blooded--it is incapable of regulating it's temperature. It is a slave to its environment: way too hot in the Summer and freezing in the Winter. In response, I turned the heat on for the first time this season. Almost immediately, the dirt and dust that spent the Summer camping out in the vent next to my desk erupted in a lovely grey and black plume that blanketed stacks of papers and books and left the air flaky and gritty. I turned off the heat and put on a hat. It's going to be a long Winter.
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[fn1] The title of last week's post, "Please Don't Go", was in reference to the warm weather, not the KWS song by the same name, as some have suggested. Though, that was a good song.

9.21.2007

Entering the Lexicon

I invented a word last night:

Testosteroff: Method of competition used to determine manliness among two or more drunk guys; The type of fight that ensues when drunk guys get into a fight based on nothing more than that they are guys and they are drunk.

9.19.2007

DFW

I should be working on my brief that is due tomorrow. Or, I should be preparing for the presentation I am giving at UAA tonight. [fn1] Instead, I can't tear myself away from the David Foster Wallace book Viv gave me to read. Specifically, his essay detailing a seven night cruise aboard a Caribbean luxury cruiseliner. He is brilliant. I would have his children if possible.
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[fn1] Myster and Kim both recently e-mailed to let me know that I made it into the Green and Gold, UAA's daily online newsletter. Despite such compelling advertising, I hope no one shows up. I don't even want to go--I just want to go home and lie in bed with David Foster Wallace. And his book.

Backwards Thinking

Even with all of the problems inherent to time travel, upon occasion I find myself wishing I could go back and do something over. Act differently. Say something else. Take my head out of my ass. Really listen to what was being said to me. Not be so selfish. Pick up on the clues before it was too late. Take the hint. See the forest; forget the trees.

This is one of those times. I can't do anything about it but learn and hopefully not make the same mistake again. Fuck.

9.16.2007

Handcer Update

I have talked to several doctors [fn1] and the prognosis is good. Right now I am sporting a hard plastic shell (see below) in lieu of a cast. I won't need a cast and can continue to wear the shell so long as I am "really careful" for the next month. It still hurts a lot, but the break is healing, and in mid-October I am going to have surgery. Surgery will involve general anesthesia, scraping the tumor out of the bone, then a bone graft--packing the hollow bone in my hand with bone material from elsewhere in my body or from a cadaver (to act as a scaffolding of sorts) to assist with the new bone growth. Then I'm looking at a couple of months of healing and rehab.

Here is a picture of me with my hand armor:

I opted for hot pink velcro straps; I think the look works.

But I also got a backup set in black for a Matrix/Batman/more formal look--for occasions like weddings and court (and fighting crime).

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[fn1] In a strange coincidence, the husband of the woman I was going to work for in Eritrea has a Ph.D in bone biochemistry (It's a good thing I didn't make this up as an excuse to back out of the job.). He put me in touch with the head of the Department of Orthopedics at Yale Medical School. Learning that that guy agreed with my doctors in Alaska put my mind at ease.

MVP! MVP!

Those "MVP!" chants aren't just for David Wright anymore: After five years of flying on Alaska Airlines, I finally flew enough miles in one calendar year to reach MVP status. As a mileage plan MVP, I get all sorts of goodies, including earning bonus miles when I fly, the ability to check in at the First Class counter, a special phone number to call for reservations, First Class upgrades (if available, which they never are), and early boarding (in case I want to spend an extra 20 minutes in my uncomfortable coach seat). Alas, as soon as I reached MVP status, Alaska Air wasted no time in telling me that what I really want is to be MVP Gold because when you compare them, regular old MVP isn't all that great.

Please Don't Go

Though I was on the East Coast for less than two weeks, the air is perceptibly colder now than it was before I left--daytime temperatures currently eek only towards 60 degrees. The sun still hangs higher than it should at 7:30 in the evening, but by 9:00 it is dark. And the most telling sign that Fall Is Upon Us and Winter Is Coming recently appeared: Termination Dust--the first new dollops of snow taking up residence on the mountains since last Winter.


The seasons change abruptly in Anchorage, and while they are guided by the traditional Four, I count eight different climactic shifts marking the year in my little corner of Alaska:

September 1 - October 15: Fall
October 15 - November 15: Denial That Winter Is Upon Us
November 15 - February 15: Cold/Dark/Sucks
February 15 - April 1: Snow/Sun/Love It
April 1 - May 1: Breakup (Mud Season, as they call it in Vermont)
May 1 - June 1: Spring!
June 1 - July 15: Lots of sunlight, lots of bugs
July 15 - September 1: Just. Beautiful.

This Evening

9.15.2007

Rock On

Lea and MK had a housewarming party at their new place, and because my friends look for any excuse to put on wigs and costumes and play make believe, [fn1] it was, of course, a theme party. This one was a "Rock Star" party (the term of art "Rock Star" being left open for individual interpretation.). I went for the Beastie Boys Sabotage look. Here I am with the Robert Palmer Girls:

I think I did a pretty good job. Consider the likeness:

More pictures:

Britney (complete with child)

K-Fed?

Hank always wears this wig.

Not sure what is going on here.
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[fn1] See, e.g., Gay, European, or Alaskan? Party (2005); Bubble Wrap & Duct Tape Party (2005); The Color Party (2004); Mild to Wild (2003, 2006); Ski Prom (yearly); Ski Train (2002-present).

9.05.2007

Bachelah Pahty

My best friend [fn1] Howard [fn2] is getting married on Saturday. I flew to Boston last weekend [fn3] so I could spend this week with him and his bride-to-be Holly. There were some questions as to whether I would be able to spend the whole week out here because of work, the "I'm moving to Africa in six weeks" thing [fn4], and then the handcer scare. I'm glad I was able to make it. I hadn't seen Howard in about six months, and I only met Holly once before. It has been really nice to spend some time with them together, and to help them out with all of the pre-wedding details. [fn5] And, of course, I wanted to be here for the bachelor party ("bachelah pahty" as the locals say).

Though tradition calls for the best man to organize the bachelor party, [fn6] given my location (Anchorage) and lack of familiarity with Boston, Howard's friend Newton picked up the slack and organized everything. He did a great job, but even he could not anticipate that Richards, [fn7] Howard's sister's boyfriend, would turn out to be the highlight of the evening. Richards is an aspiring rock star from LA. I wish I could remember the name of his band--all I know is that it is similar to Wyld Stallyns. Also, he's in a cult. And he loooves to talk about it.

The pahty began around noon with a trip to an adult amusement park to play paintball. A few hours later the crew returned to Howard's house for lunch, showers, and beers. As evening fell we changed into our fancy clothes (I opted for the Summering on the Cape look: light khaki pants, white dress shirt, and a seersucker-ish jacket) we piled into the chauffeured van we rented and headed to a dive/hipster bar in Cambridge for cocktails. Dinner was next at a fancy-schmancy steakhouse in downtown Boston. The ride was uneventful save for one olympic-type event--Richards drank a whole beer in less than one city block!

At the restaurant, we, and Richards in particular, were loud. We got many nasty looks from the other diners including Tim Wakefield, a pitcher for the Red Sox who was seated just two tables away. [fn8] Our waiter, appropriately named James Taylor, [fn9] gave us a couple of soft warnings about our volume and language, but he didn't want to kick us out--he was having too much fun with us; he would walk by and drop little zingers (mostly making fun of Richards), which cracked us up. As a token of thanks for not kicking us out, we left him a 30% tip on the nearly $1000 check.

Four Long Islands Iced Teas (and several beers) into the evening, Richards made a touching toast at dinner. This led to the question the rest of us pondered for the rest of the night: what happened to that guy? The precipitous drop he made between Long Islands five and nine could best be described as a Will Ferrell/Frank the Tank-esque shame spiral. In addition to long discussions about his cult (I was really happy to learn that I am a good person and I have great potential), we were treated to his (loud) views on religion ("I've tried 'em all--Jehovah, Jesus, Buddha...but I've got to say, if I had to pick one, I would pick Judaism. The Jews really know what they're doing."), international politics (I like the Jews, but the state of Israel is fucked up..."), and some freshman girls from the Boston University Class of 2012 ("Freshman year rocks!" "Can we come back to your dorm?" Okay, that was me, not Richards.) That was about the point where we had to start reeling him back in, lest we run the risk of (inevitable and unavoidable) inappropriate behavior at the strip club. The Richards Containment Plan (RCP) worked pretty well, and no one got arrested.

Though no true bachelor party is complete without a trip to a strip joint, Howard wasn't really into it, and neither was I--I'm just not a strip club guy. Granted, my experience is limited--my uncle took me out to one to celebrate when I got into law school (I spent most of the evening paying the girls to go away) and my brother dragged me along when the same uncle took him out to celebrate his admission to medical school. But at Lobo's bachelor party in St. Maarten I got a serious strip club education from a bunch of guys who are strip club guys. Thus, I felt very comfortable negotiating the terrain of Centerfolds in Boston. Here are some random post-strip club thoughts:
  • Inevitably, one guy will say, in reference to a dancer, "Man, she was really into me," or "We had a really strong connection." He's an idiot and should be slapped immediately.
  • When a stripper sits on your lap and tells you that you are really cute and she "really needs to get some ass because it has been a while," that is code for "you can pay me for sex." An appropriate response (if you don't wan to fuck a prostitute): "Here's $20. Go dance for my friend over there, it's his bachelah pahty." However, if you do want to fuck her, it is best to ask how much it costs before you actually do it. Right, Ari? (Just kidding. Sort of.)
  • Something you should never say to your girlfriend's brother: "Your sister is really hot. You should see her in a thong." (I'm looking at you, Richards.)
  • A phrase you should never utter within earshot of your girlfriend's father: "My psycho girlfriend..." (Still you, Richards).
  • If your best friend's father, a man who has known you since you were 10 years old (and who once prevented your own father from killing you after you totaled your dad's car) turns to you and says, "I really have a thing for Asian women," the appropriate response is to buy him a dance from the nearest available Asian stripper. It's even better if you can get the drunk guy next to you to pay for it.
Tomorrow we are headed to SeaCrest Estate for four days. Thursday should involve some relaxation and kayaking, Friday is the rehearsal dinner, Saturday is the wedding, and Sunday is my fun day, my I don't have to run day.
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[fn1] Yes, that feeling you are experiencing is fontrum, and it is appropriate when a nearly-32 year old man talks about his "best friend." But, there is no other way to describe it--we have been the best of friends since we met 22 years ago.

[fn2] His name is Howard Stern. Seriously.

[fn3] To the Alaska Airlines supervisor seated next to me who tried to get me upgraded to first class and who voluntarily moved to another seat so I could have more space for my handcerous limb: thank you again.

[fn4] I had been planning to move to Eritrea for an eight-month job working on an international human rights/war crimes case. I was scheduled to leave on October 15. That departure has been delayed indefinitely pending surgery on my hand. Also, while on the subject of Africa, I should mention that I recently (as in 16 hours ago) fell in love: her name is Africa (how fitting), she is from Spain, she is gorgeous, and she is (wait for it) a professional stand-up comedian. Oh, and she is dating Holly's friend Jose, so it's probably not going to work out. But if any of you want to get me a "feel better soon" present, something like that would be perfect.

[fn5] Holly is an event planner, so there are a lot of details. A lot of details. And everything has to be perfect, not just because it is her wedding, but because her professional reputation is on display. My advice: never marry an event planner unless you really want to spend a lot of time arguing about things like the flower girls' shoes.

[fn6] When it comes to bachelor parties, I am old-fashioned. I firmly believe that the bachelor party should occur the night before the wedding and it should include all sorts of sex, drugs, and debauchery. The best man's single most important responsibility should be to make sure the groom survives the party and makes it to the wedding--if he still wants to get married. Alas, no one does it like that anymore. Or, maybe they never did and my old-fashioned ideas are based completely on the movie Bachelor Party.

[fn7] Not his real name, but an appropriate moniker given the similarities in his profession (rock star, self-described) and personality (self-destructive, self- and others-described) to those of Keith Richards.

[fn8] Wakefield's stares were not intimidating. Perhaps if he were a power pitcher, a guy with a blazing 95 mph fastball, we would have quieted down. But he's a knuckleball pitcher. He throws fluttery 58 mph pitches. That's not going to quiet down a bachelor party (even if most of the guys were Red Sox fans).

[fn9] See note 2, supra.

9.04.2007

Handcer

A few days ago I learned that the pain I have been experiencing in my right hand was due to a fracture of the fifth metacarpal bone (the bone that connects your pinky finger to your wrist). Not a huge surprise. What was surprising was the news that the x-rays also revealed the presence of a tumor in the same bone.

The tumor, growing insider the bone, had eaten away it, leaving the bone a "paper-thin" empty shell at the spot where it broke. The doctors (so far) do not think the tumor is malignant. It is likely a benign bone-eating growth called an endochondroma. Still, though I know it is best not to joke about these things, I'm calling it hand cancer, or handcer (silent "d") for short.

I'm going to get a second opinion from a specialist in Boston this week, but the safe bet is that I will need about a month in a cast for the break to heal, then surgery to remove the tumor and a bone graft.