Monday, September 29, 2008

Ravens vs. Steelers

It will be a good game. I hope Big Ben remembers this:

Bart Scott Sacks Ben Roethlisberger Video

I thought I would post that little reminder, just in case he is one of my readers....

Anyway, it will not be a blowout even though we have the rookie quarterback. He is well protected and well coached. He has been able to gain confidence and has two wins against division rivals under his belt already. I don't think any team wants to beat the Ravens more than the Browns do, because of the history. All that want didn't help them last week.

I think the Steelers will miss their injured players more than the Ravens will miss theirs. We have been muddling through without Kelly Gregg, my favorite Raven, so far this year. I miss the guy though. Landry and Rolle will be missed for sure, but hopefully the rush will be on and Big Ben won't have a whole lot of options for throwing the ball down field.

It will be important for the Ravens to keep their cool. If I see Bart Scott or anyone else acting like a spoiled brat not getting his way in the schoolyard, I will not be a happy fan.

It will be important for Ed Reed to choose wisely when he has to decide whether to go for the big showboat play or stay in his assigned coverage position. Sometimes it pays off big for Ed to do what he does, sometimes....not so much.

I hope Cam Cameron has a few new plays up his sleeve especially for our first away game. I like what I have seen from him so far and I have to believe we have not yet seen it all yet.

It is crucial that Joe Flacco gets the protection he has so far enjoyed. I cannot believe the improvement in the offensive line this year. Flacco has proved to be a very cool customer and has made all the right decisions when his first choice doesn't pan out for him. I know we haven't seen a passing touchdown from him yet. I know he threw a couple of picks last week against the Browns, but he kept his head and his confidence and that is something new to the Ravens.

I think we will be able to run against the Steelers, but I don't know about wearing them down as easily as the Browns and Bengals seemed to get tired. It will be different playing in the ketchup field, the crowd will play a part and I wonder how Flacco will deal with that.

I hope that if Joe's family attends the game, they are wearing some serious Ravens gear. They have shown the family in the first two games and they all look like they are just in town to see the inner harbor or something. If my son played for the Ravens, I would wear purple every day, but especially AT THE GAME I would invest in a jersey.

Anyway, I am too chicken to predict a score. I think the game will be won by three points or less in either direction...

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Kenneth Harris

OK, here's the thing. You know that the wonderful place I write about here has more than its share of problems. Perhaps you have seen the old program, Homicide: Life on the Streets, you have seen The Wire. You know what a crime ridden, drug infested city this place is and I am committed to sharing only the positive, or mostly the positive, I guess.

Kenneth Harris was a former Baltimore City Councilman. He was a father of two and a committed family man. He was 45 years old. He was born in the Park Heights neighborhood to a young, single mother. He attended local schools, receiving a degree from Morgan State University. He was dedicated to improving Baltimore. By all accounts he was the kind of person who said what he thought, even if it wasn't popular. He was committed to improving life for the residents of the city, but he never let his obligations to the city interfere with his obligations to his family. He went to watch his kids play sports. If there was a choice to be made, he chose his family.

Kenneth was gunned down senselessly, needlessly early Saturday morning. This is the kind of crime that happens all the time here, but there is just something about this one that really gets me. He stopped by the New Haven Lounge at around 1:30 am Saturday morning. The owner, Keith Covington, was a friend of his. Apparently, he was only there for about 15 minutes. The two friends were outside the bar, the owner walking his friend back to his car. They were surprised by three or four armed robbers wearing masks or bandannas. Ken tried to escape to his car. Mr. Covington heard a "pop" but didn't turn his head to see if his friend had been hit because there was a gun to his own head. He was shot once in the chest, through his car window. He managed to drive a short way and crashed his car in a grassy area. He was pronounced dead at Johns Hopkins. Keith Covington was robbed of about $1,200. The robbers escaped through the back door of the club. The owner managed to fire three shots at them from his own gun, but it appears he was not able to hit any of them. He checked out front to see if his friend had managed to get away and was relieved to see his car was gone.

The police have made no arrests. It is thought that the perpetrators are known to the area. It is also suspected that these men have robbed the popular jazz club before, in July.

NJG and I have been to this jazz club many times. It is a good little club in a strip shopping center that clearly has seen better days. The music is really good. We witnessed a charming marriage proposal there over the winter. The patrons and staff are friendly and welcoming. I have never felt unsafe, but then again, I just refuse to feel unsafe in my city. This is my city. This is my city. I won't be scared away. If decent people leave the city or stay shut up in their homes, then the few, and believe me they are few, indecent thugs get to rule, it just can't happen.

I don't know what the answer is. There will be a vigil. There will be a wake. There will be a huge funeral, I am sure. There is outrage. But what happens next? These thugs are staying somewhere and the "don't snitch" mentality that keeps our streets mean is working once again. Whoever is hiding these guys needs to just finally have enough. Ken Harris did nothing to deserve this end. He tried to be part of the solution. He was killed by the very same young men that he tried to help all his life.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Baltimore City neighborhood

This week we have Cameron Village. Cameron Village is a residential neighborhood in the northern part of the city. I really couldn't find much on it. My guess would be that it is completely residential, that there are rowhomes dating from the 40's.

The average sale price for a home in this neighborhood in 2007 was $125,146.

Monday, September 15, 2008

New York, New York

OK, I am back from the Big Apple and had a fabulous time. My mind is still there. Hmmm, where to begin...

We planned this trip because NJG scored tickets to Yankee Stadium to see the Yankees battle the first place Tampa Rays. We had tickets to both the Friday evening and Saturday afternoon games.

We took off on Friday morning for the three hour trip from Baltimore. We checked in to the Red Roof Inn in Seacaucus, NJ. This is located on the "Mighty Hackensack" River. It is a quick trip through the Lincoln Tunnel and NJG doesn't mind battling the traffic. Actually, we didn't have any trouble parking, not once did we pay, we parked on the street everywhere. So, we checked in at about 1 in the afternoon.

The Yankee game started at 7:05, so we headed into town and went to the Museum of Natural History for a while. I had never been, we saw all the dinosaur bones and all the other tourists. I don't know which was more interesting. There were times that we were the only English speaking people around. It seemed to be a popular place to duck out of the rain for the stroller crowd that had been in Central Park. There is a planetarium, we didn't go inside, but the exhibit set up around the huge sphere was interesting and informative. The human origins exhibit was also fascinating to me. The exhibits are so life-like.

We left the museum and it was raining. We were ready to go straight to the game which is what we did. I had my Orioles t-shirt on, although the Yankees were not hosting the O's, I wanted to see if I would get hassled by Yankee fans, like I do when I wear my gear to see an Oriole/Yankee game in my own fair city. Of course, it was raining so I had my rain jacket on over my shirt. We parked on the street near the new Yankee Stadium, which is right beside the current stadium. For those of you who don't already know, this is the last year for the old stadium. This was the whole reason for our trip, NJG thought I just must see old Yankee stadium. The new stadium looks like a real beauty, the words "Yankee Stadium" are engraved prominently in gold lettering, no worry of a corporate name on it. The current stadium is a real hole. If ever there was a stadium in need of being torn down, it is this one. It is hard to believe that any professional sports team plays in a place like this. If you get at all claustrophobic, you would never want to try to come to a game, the passageways are so narrow and there is little headroom as well. The place smells pretty bad in spots. There are signs of deterioration everywhere. The place has no charm to it. It has been remodeled and updated so many times that it is easy to see why it is not eligible for a spot on the National Historic Preservation list. Apparently, they cantilevered the place years ago to remove the poles that once supported the upper levels. They removed the old decorative facade and now have a cheap looking replication in the outfield only. We grabbed a beer and sought shelter in seats that were not ours, under cover. This area was so dismal, the ceiling covered in some sort of unappealing, dented, siding. The aisles are very narrow. The service however, is excellent. The people working the concessions are friendly, taking the time to talk to children and make the experience as pleasant as possible. I was impressed. The concession people at Oriole Park are some of the most surly people on earth. We did get to see Freddy, in the very next section. He bangs a pot and holds up a sign, all over the stadium to keep the spirits up. We waited until they officially called off the game. Then we headed out into the drizzle, across the street to Stan's.

Stan's Sports Bar is a must see if you are going to the Yankee game at night and don't have children with you. We walked it and it was packed, but there was no wait for a beer. We managed to find a spot to stand at the bar and I got to see the photos under the glass. There are photos of baseball heroes from every team. There are no names, which makes it fun to guess who they are since most are old and on some you can't even see the jersey number. The guy standing beside me pointed out that I was right near Jim Palmer. I also spotted Brooks Robinson. It was cool, the music was loud and fitting for a sports bar. The beer selection was really good. There are very few places to sit, but the absence of bar stools makes it so much easier to fit more people around the bar and standing there, you don't miss the stool at all.

Since the game was cancelled and the night was young, NJG was happy that we would not miss the Heath Brothers at Birdland. We called and made a reservation for the 11 pm show. We headed over to 44th street and found free street parking just about three blocks away. I had wisely brought a more appropriate shirt and shoes to replace the bright orange Orioles shirt and sneakers. I changed right there on 44th street, in the car. I still don't know if NJG was impressed or appalled. We were greeted and escorted to our white table clothed seats in the section towards the back that is reserved for the no admission crowd. We were pretty hungry, so we ordered a late dinner and relaxed while we waited for the show. The club reminds me of a place that you might see Ricky Ricardo perform. It is classy and the service is great. The Heath Brothers were wonderful. Jimmy Heath plays tenor sax and his brother Tootie is on the drums. They obviously enjoy what they do. They both engage the crowd and joke and have fun. I have never heard anyone play the tambourine as well as Tootie, I guess I never considered the tambourine to be a "real instrument", just an accessory of sorts. Tootie joked that you have to look real serious while doing this or people would laugh at you. No one was laughing at his performance. I especially loved their rendition of Round Midnight. We headed back to the motel, tired and fully satisfied.

On Saturday, we had tickets for the 1 o'clock game. We slept in and took our time getting ready for the game. We had the same good luck finding a close, free parking spot. We made our way to a concession for a Diet Coke, there was no ice, I took it anyway. NJG got is beer at a Beers of the World concession. We found our seats along the first base side in the upper reserved section. It was warm and muggy. I was glad I wore shorts. The trip up to our seats was fairly steep and narrow. The game was not a pleasant one for the local fans. The Yankees were being soundly defeated for most of the game. This made it great for me, not because I cared about the outcome, but because it was so entertaining to listen to the things that New Yorkers say when things are not going there way. One guy asked another what A-Rod had in common with an automatic transmission. The answer was "no clutch". The fans were really irritated with Jason Giambi, who seemed unable to make the most basic of plays. NJG left to get me a hot dog so that he didn't have to witness the whole YMCA thing that the grounds crew does. He hates that. He also missed the stirring rendition of God Bless America by Kate Smith. I heard the guy behind me say "no, not Kate Smith" as we were asked to stand. It was funny. Oh, also before the game started, they had a moment of silence for the people lost on 9/11/2001. You really could have heard a pin drop in that place. So, the Yankees lost and the fans were bummed out about it.

We went back to the motel and showered and changed for a nice dinner. NJG took me to the Park and Orchard in East Rutherford. I love this place. From the white and black tile floors to the olive green and grape purple walls to the menu offering the new and the familiar, it is wonderful. The owner comes out of the kitchen and mingles with the diners. The service is perfect. The menu has something for everyone. I wasn't feeling adventurous and my stomach had not been feeling right all day. I ordered the pot roast, choosing to be safe. NJG had something called ants on a tree. It was some kind of pasta. I let him order the appetizers. He is so good at this. We had a salmon appetizer and humus. It was really good, as was everything. It was the most tender pot roast ever and the mashed squash dish was really excellent.

We had tickets to the 11 pm show at the Village Vanguard. We got there just before the show, which was Paul Motian, Joe Lovano and Bill Frissel. I was glad NJG had purchased the ticket online and we got to stand in the line of people who were going to the show, not the line that was hoping to go. We got a seat along the wall where the musicians walk by on their way to the stage. The walls are red. The tables are tiny. You are underground so it is dark and cozy. It has that cave-like feel and you can feel the history in the room. When our waitress heads our way, NJG says, "Here's my girl, I thought they fired her years ago." She had this clueless look about her as if it were her first day on the job. She was wearing a red shawl draped over one shoulder. She carried drinks in her hand instead of using a tray. She often had an empty glass or bottle of Pellegrino tucked in the crook of her arm. She looked around, trying hard to remember who ordered all these drinks. NJG caught her attention right away by offering to take them off her hands. She delivered them and then came right back to us to get our order even though we were not the next who should have been served. I loved the way she walked. I told NJG that watching her was worth the price of admission. Paul Motian and Joe Lovano walked right past us. The more reclusive Bill Frissel seemed to be on stage out of no where. They did not introduce themselves, after 25 years of playing together at the Vanguard they don't have to, they are home. They are so wonderful. I don't even know what to say about them. I am already a huge Frissel fan, I had never seen Joe Lovano or Paul Motian. They obviously know each other well, they play their riffs and move seamlessly through the evening. The lights come up and they leave the stage way too soon.

We headed over to Fat Cat at about 1 am. If NJG could live in Fat Cat he would. He just loves it. I understand the appeal to a point, but not as much as NJG. He must have been the kind of kid who wanted to live at the circus, I am happy to visit once in a while, but couldn't make it a regular part of my existence. The music is very good. They have an endless number of musicians waiting their turn to jump in with the others. It would seem to be disorganized and unplanned, but in reality, only standards are played there, so anyone can jump in and not be thrown off. The place has lots of small couches to sit on and enjoy the music. The rest of this, huge underground space is full of games. You can play ping pong, shot some pool, sit down to a game of chess or Scrabble, play Foosball or shuffleboard. It is pretty wild. It is a very young crowd and it is good to see the younger people digging and playing jazz.

We left after 2:30 am.

Check out was at noon and we needed every minute to prepare to leave. We decided to head to Brooklyn to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. It was hot and humid. It was not a good idea for us to take the Subaru, with the broken air conditioning. We made it after a few detours. I got to see Chinatown on the way to the Manhattan Bridge, from the car. It was pretty amazing. It seemed funny to find the street name of Delancey Street. We also drove down the Bowery, it was great to see more and more of NYC than I had ever seen before. Anyway, the garden is spectacular. We will have to go back in June to better see the roses, but I enjoyed them anyway. We had a wonderful lunch there too. We reluctantly left the Big Apple and took our time getting home, not arriving home until midnight.

I really could use a day off just to decompress.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Off to New York

I am off to the Big Apple for a long weekend.

I am going to take in a Yankee game or two at Yankee stadium. I figure I have to go see it before it is retired for some shiny new stadium. I am thinking about having my picture taken in front of the Lou Gerig memorial that claims that his record will never be broken, wearing my Ripken jersey of course. I don't know, we'll see.

We are going to see the Paul Motian Trio at the Village Vanguard. I have never been to the Vanguard, but have seen Bill Frisell and am a huge fan of his. We will probably hit a few other jazz clubs like Smalls and/or Fat Cat.

We are staying until Sunday. Perhaps we will make it to the botanical gardens or something else. I will let you know all about it.

Black Box

I just learned about the black box and added it to my blog. I have tried it a few, OK several times, and so far it has been a blast to read the interesting blogs I would have never otherwise found. You just click on decide and make your selections and are led to a mystery blog that answered the same as you. Cool. Cool.

Please let me know if you found me this way. I am interested to learn how well this really works and what kind of people would answer the same way I do.

You must all be very disturbed.


I don't know what I can say about it. It was seven years ago that our collective peace was so horribly disturbed. Before this day, seven years ago, I don't think most Americans would have believed such a thing could ever happen here. Perhaps that seems arrogant to the rest of the world, I don't know.

Now, it is easy to forget about it. I wasn't even thinking about it. NJG and I had planned to go to NYC to see the Yankee game tomorrow night because it is our last opportunity to see Yankee Stadium. Next year the Yankees will be playing in their new home. So, we weren't even thinking that it will be the weekend closest to the September 11th date. A co-worker asked me if we were going to the World Trade Center site as part of our weekend. It didn't even dawn on me why she would ask this for a few minutes. How stupid, what a short memory we have sometimes.

This morning I looked forward to seeing the guy who stands on the bridge over 695 just before the exit for I95. He has been there with an American flag every month, on the 11th since the terrorist attacks. I guess I leave for work too early in the morning, he wasn't there. I know he was there in July because we were leaving town to head to VA to get married in July when I saw him that day. I can't even imagine the kind of dedication it takes to get out there every month for seven years and stand there with an American flag.

Lest we forget...

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

How 'bout the Ravens?

OK, I must admit that I set out to watch the Ravens game on TV on Sunday with much fear and trembling. I was very afraid that we would be soundly defeated on Sunday. I have never been more happy to be wrong.

The team looked really good. I am officially on the Flacco bandwagon. He impressed me with his calm demeanor. It was good to not see "happy feet". He kept his head. True, he did not get sacked. Some fellow fans are saying that they want to see how he does when he is hit. Personally, I would be happy to see him so well protected by the offensive line, that he never gets hit. I realize this is a dream.

I am also a fan of Cam Cameron. It was refreshing to not be able to predict what we were about to see next. It was so good not to see a 2 yard completed pass when we were 3rd down and 8. The double reverse TD was a thing of beauty.

It was also good to see no stupid penalties. There were no false starts, something that used to be standard. The clock was properly managed.

The defense was near perfect and they should be very well rested for next week. I can't even imagine how good it is for them.

Todd Heap was the only disappointment. He dropped and fumbled all afternoon. He can't seem to stay healthy.

The running backs will wear their opponents out.

I am looking forward to seeing more from the wide receivers.

Football is back in Baltimore, hon.

Monday, September 8, 2008

shameless plug

OK, I have a confession to make. I have been watching America's Got Talent. I don't usually go in for this sort of thing, daughter's boyfriend's siblings are performing on this show and are doing quite well. The Wright Kids is a bluegrass band from Virginia. I ordered their latest CD and it is fantastic, really. They sing traditional bluegrass tunes and they play the instruments as well. Mason is the fiddle player in the band, but he is not on the show since he is in college, so he is unavailable. Their audition was never shown, so the first time I saw them on the show they were performing Daydream Believer in the Top 40, hoping to make it through to the Top 20. They made it, although I must say I would like to see them perform bluegrass because their harmonies are awesome.

Anyway, click on this link to see the performance. They are cute as hell.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Open Minded

I hear from liberals all the time that conservatives are not open minded. My experience has been so opposite of that.

I was kind of excited about Hillary running for President. She has the experience. I believe that she cares deeply about this country. I like her ideas for the health care system and admired her for sticking with that cause even though she failed to move that idea forward and could have abandoned that when she did fail to reform health care early in her husband's presidency. I thought it would be interesting to see how a woman would run the country, even if she is a democrat, even if the sound of her voice really grates on my last nerve. My point is, I didn't have to agree with her views on every issue, maybe not even most of the issues, in order to seriously consider her for the office of President. I was disappointed when Obama won out over her.

Around the office, some of us will talk politics and some won't. In my discussions up until last Friday, I said that I really had to see who McCain chose as a running mate before I would really form an opinion on who to vote for.

I consider myself to be fairly moderate. I am a registered Republican but have voted for Democrats. I am not keen on abortion but I also do not believe in the death penalty. I believe we were wrong to invade Iraq but that doesn't mean we just pull out and leave the mess behind. I think we should have concentrated on Afghanistan and it makes me sick that we still haven't caught Bin Laden. I wonder who will landscape our lawns and clean our offices if we deport everyone, but we need to make the immigration process easier and sneaking across the border harder. I believe everyone has a right to own a firearm. If you misuse it, you should be shot with it. I think we need universal health. Social Security was never intended to be the sole support of retired people. If it were up to me, I would let all the banks fail and even prosecute the greedy people who made a killing in the mortgage industry by putting poor people into homes they couldn't afford so they got a bigger commission.

Anyway, I think you get the point.

I have been talking to a woman at work about politics and I think she somehow assumed that I was a Democrat. She too, considers herself to be "middle of the road". I listened to her talk about how great the speeches were at the DNC last week. I don't watch alot of TV, but I followed the DNC carefully on my radio all week, listening to WNYC for commentary and excerpts from speeches, reading blog entries from Marc Steiner and listening to him on air when I could.

I heard Sarah Palin's speech on Friday when she was chosen as McCain's VP. She sounds like she could be my neighbor. She can't possibly be this normal, can she? I admire the way she has stood against corruption in her own party in Alaska. I admire the way she stands up for what she believes. She is a mother of five, married to her high school sweetheart AND she is successful in her career. I can't wait to learn more.

My coworker asked me this morning how I felt about her. When I shared my enthusiasm, she said she thought that Palin was too inexperienced to be VP, and she was too much a right wing, conservative, religious fanatic. She said that all she talks about is outlawing abortion. Funny, I have not yet heard her mention the topic. I also have not heard anything about her personal religious beliefs. When I said that I hadn't heard Palin mention abortion at all, my coworker assured me that it was coming. So, apparently, this woman hates Palin for what she might say in the future.

Is this open minded?