1978 Yankees

March 31, 2005

The year was 1978. The Yankees were the league champions and entire 1977 team was returning so the coaches only had two draft picks, last round. The picks: Yours truly and a kid named Alec who would pee his pants when he got really excited (he got excited lots).

A year or two younger than everyone else, uncoordinated, and of course the only kid with glasses, I spent practices in mortal terror. There was the coach who would hold a hand missing two fingers in front of my face and say "How come I can throw better than you with this?" There was the chubby kid, now a cop, who punched my arm black and blue every time I stood too close to him. There were the older kids dipping snuff, sending tight streams of dark wintergreen scented spit at my feet. And how could I forget Joshua, the kid with the soft spot in his skull. I was always scared of throwing a ball wide, beaning Joshua and killing him, something he constantly warned was a possibility. "Right here," he would glare and point behind his ear, "get me here and I am dead. D-E-A-D dead. Understand?"

I didn't play much, but it was required I sit in for at least one inning. Because my fielding was terrible I felt I had to make up for it at the plate, and the easiest way to get on base was to simply lean into the pitch and get nailed. One of the coaches would silently encourage me from the bench if I had two strikes. He would lean his head over and give me a thumbs up and wink. I knew that the best strategy was to make it look good, so when I got myself pegged I would always fall to the ground for dramatic effect.

Out in left field there was little I could do right. Being vaguely dyslexic and massively nearsighted didn't help. I had a tendency to daydream and would spend my time in the out on the damp night grass busy trying to identify constellations and would forget to focus on the game. I dropped countless fly balls, had a weak arm, and was generally feckless. But all those little failures contributed to my greatest accomplishment: Big championship game. My inning was up. Two outs and bases loaded. The kid at the plate was a slugger who went on to spend a few years in the minor leagues. I remember praying: "Don't hit it to me. Don't hit it to me. Don't hit it to me..." But of course on the first pitch came the crack of the bat and the ball arced up straight at me. I could see the dismayed faces of my teammates and the people in the stands jumping to their feet. For a moment I was frozen. Then cursing I ran, jumped and stretched and channeled Willie Mays.

The game was won and I had won it.
I was carried around the field a hero. The kid who spit on me was chanting my name, my coaches were jumping up and down hugging each other, my parents were beaming. I knew it would all vanish quickly and I would be runt again in a few days, but it didn't matter because that moment was perfect, so I closed my eyes and just let it wash over me because even then I knew perfection is the rarest of all things.

of note:

March 30, 2005

Photoblogs:
http://www.temastauffer.com/
http://www.darkshapesprowl.com/
http://www.lackadaisical.com/
http://www.waytoblue.org/?entryID=92&sort=8
http://www.danamillerphoto.com/secondnature/
http://www.jenbekman.com/bdonaldson/
http://www.lowresolution.com/

Other cool stuff:
http://postcardx.net/
http://skyscraper.org/timeformations/transparent.html
http://www.theircircularlife.it/
http://t2.technion.ac.il/~snoom/c2.swf
http://amaztype.tha.jp/US/Books/Title?q=hello
http://davidbyrne.com/radio/index.php (on your itunes radio under eclectic)

Random:
http://www.prisonpenpals.com/
http://www.srtopiary.com/tabletop.html
http://www.airsicknessbags.com/cgi-bin/miva?Walk.mv
http://www.ghilliesuits.com/index.asp?PageAction=Custom&ID=12
http://www.lileks.com/institute/gallery/knudsen2/2.html

two years ago today

March 29, 2005

we were married in the amazing town of Parras De La Fuente in Mexico.



One year ago today we were celebrating our anniversary in Belize and discovered Jenn was pregnant.

Today I think will be considerably less dramatic.

World view

March 28, 2005

Ever wonder why people around the world think of the US? I do and because of that I read lots of foreign newspapers online. My friend Tbone pointed me to a site that collects translated foreign newspaper articles in one place. WatchingAmerica.com

Vietnam

March 28, 2005

Since my recent posting of some Vietnam photos online, I've been getting a fair number of emails asking about travel there. Americans especially have distorted opionions of the country.

My advice is simple. The war was a long time ago. The majority of the people alive in the country weren't even born until after the war ended. Vietnam is one of the friendliest countries I have visited. There is great grace to the land, the food, and way people live. It's beautiful and you should go.

Staten Island Ferry

March 26, 2005

I generally don't feel old, but looking at this picture from the summer of 1971 or 72 with the towers unbuilt and my mom at 25, 13 years younger than I am now, I feel old.

about bees

March 25, 2005

Little known bee fact. Bees, those members of the genus Bombus, are often held up as models of discipline and order--worker bees (sexually undeveloped females), drones (fertile males), and a queen all working in perfect harmony each in it's caste working productively until the hive gets overcrowded and the old queen flies off with some drones to establish a new one, while the remaining bees raise multiple queens waiting for them to hatch and then fight to the death to establish a new ruler. And generally, generation after generation, that's how it works.

But sometimes, very rarely, something goes awry. A group of workers will surround the queen denying her food. Eventually one will sting her, then the others join in until, inevitably, she succumbs. Workers try to mate drones. The brood is killed off one by one and work on the hive ceases as chaos and fratricide become the order of the day. There are no survivors of this breakdown of social order. It is said other bees will avoid recolonizing the broken hives for years to come.

baby pictures

March 25, 2005

I got 3 emails about baby pictures today...

Here are 2 from a few hours ago.

blinking

March 23, 2005

Someone told me the other day that babies don't blink. My unscientific observations confirm the statement. This freaks me out.

North Korean Comics & Chinese Propaganda

March 22, 2005

My brother-in-law Paul who is in Seoul sent me this link to some interesting North Korean comics today.

Browsing around led me to this link with North Korean propaganda posters.

I've long been fascinated with Communist propaganda and have been collecting Chinese posters for years. If you want to kill some time, check out Stefan Landsberger's vast collection of Chinese Propaganda Posters. Stefan wrote the book (literally) on the subject. His collection contains images that will blow your mind.

I used to have this image on my old website with the caption, "fun for you and your lady" it's from a Chinese poster (1980's).

The other must have book on the subject is by photographer Michael Wolf. His book is a bit easier to find than the other: Chinese Propaganda Posters: From the Collection of Michael Wolf

the mood

March 21, 2005

So this was the scene this evening over here in Brooklyn:

Jenn was out at one of her writer's workshops. The baby was fussy, so I went down and held him in the darkened living room until he went to sleep. People always complain about time moving fast, but time can also be deliciously slow. Lying back on the couch, baby as warm as comforter on my belly, soft breathing... I see him going into REM sleep and then his body goes slack and floppy as he moves into deep sleep. No need to move. Just watching the shadows on the ceiling. I click on my ipod, shuffle play. First song. Out of season, but perfect for my mood. And then this. :)

35 years ago

March 18, 2005

This Kodachrome slide was marked "March 18, 1970. It's me and my dad in a park in Houston... my guess is it's the park near the art museum. The bonnet is embarrassing, but give me a break. I was 3.

Tibetan Skull

March 17, 2005

I own two Tibetan skulls. Both were at one time used for blood ritual. One was bought by my dad in Venice from a Tibetan ethnographer who travelled in Tibet in the 50's. The other was given to me by a monk in a monastery in Dege in 1992 after I pointed it out as a match to the one my dad found. An artist named Benedict Carpenter does drawings based on descriptions of things. He then posts the results on the net. I submitted a description of the skull and he came back with this drawing. Surprisingly accurate considering the description.

Edward Tufte

March 16, 2005

I had dinner a few nights ago with Jakob Lodwick of College.Humor.com and Busted Tees fame. I think he's on to something big with his new project vimeo.com. It's ahead of the curve, and very unfinished, but when video phones finally take off here as they have in Japan this site is going to break out. Our dinner topic was metadata and content tagging, a subject I've been sort of obsessed with for a long time. Just talking out loud about this stuff forced me to organize my thoughts and Jakob had some interesting insights that have kept my brain charged for days. I've started to write a small manifesto which I will be posting with a wiki-type interface at some point in the future. If this subject is compelling to you, check out: Folksonomies. And be sure to go through all the links in the references.

Anyway none of that was the point of this post. I was surprised that Jakob had never heard of Edward Tufte and in polling some other design/web friends of mine who are Jakob's age, I found they had also never heard of the guy. Tufte has written 3 of the best books out there about the visual display of information, all written pre-web. The must-have books are The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, Envisioning Information, and Visual Explanations. If you are a designer or web person, you need these books on your bookshelf. While the titles are dry, the text is not and the books themselves are a delight, full of graphically interesting illustrations. Find them cheap on half.com.

Tio Raul

March 13, 2005

This is my Tio Raul on one of his ranches near Paras, Nuevo Leon in Mexico. The picture is circa 1984 right before he died. He was tough and many people were more than a little scared of him. He would always refer to me as a criminal or as that "no good" "gringo viejo".

One of his ranches had a big orange orchard. I would travel out there with him in the back of his truck (along with the dogs) and once we arrived I would go deep into the orchard and climb one of the trees. At lunch he would come out and try to find me. This was never difficult as the dogs always slept under my tree, but he would make a show of it, cursing my name while I tried to sit very very still. Eventually he would spy me and shout at me while I would laugh hysterically. Then he would say, "I guess you have to eat." and throw up tacos wrapped in foil. He would sit under the tree and eat his lunch keeping me company. I would ask long questions from up in my perch. He would respond with short gruff answers. Afterwards he would toss me a pocketknife so I could cut some oranges and mutter that only monkeys liked trees so much. Then he would go finish his work and I would stay up in the tree the rest of the afternoon reading and daydreaming...

I miss that world sometimes. I miss the long ride in the back of a dusty pickup. I miss the smell of orange trees on a hot day. And I miss being cursed and called "el gringo viejo" by my Tio Raul.

2 Years Ago Today

March 9, 2005

We needed to be legally married in advance of our Mexican wedding. So we drove to Vegas in the Mini and got ourselves hitched. We expected the drive through service to be silly... it ended up being kind of emotional. I'll admit we both teared up.

I feel this way too sometimes.

March 9, 2005

It is some ungodly hour. I hear screaming outside and go to the window. There is an elegant older woman wearing a long dark coat with a hood standing in the middle of Sidney Place braying at the trees. She catches sight of me in the lit window, throws back her head, and lets out a deep howl that sends chills up my spine. Then she runs towards Joralemon her coat flapping like a cape in the wind. She is silhouetted against the snowy streets and runs until out of frame. I hear her screams fade in the distance and decide it is definitely time for bed.

And they say nothing interesting happens in Brooklyn Heights.

julien

March 8, 2005


My friend Julien (above) is enmeshed in a debate with his girlfriend about the value of having kids. He just doesn't think you can have kids and have an ounce of punk rock soul left over. To this debate I would like add this portrait of young Lila B sent to me today by her dad.

Little House

March 7, 2005

Date unknown:

1930s:

current:

One of the first homes that jumped out at me when I moved to Brooklyn Heights was 135 Joralemon. In an orderly neighborhood it is neglected. Then in January it was boarded up and now it is abandoned. I pass the house every day and virtually every day it makes me stop in my tracks. It evokes The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton. I've been a fan of Burton's work as long as I can remember. Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel was an early favorite, as was Choo choo: the Runaway Engine, but the story that most fascinated was The Little House which I knew as La Casita (one of the few children's books in my grandparent's house in Mexico). It's the story of a house built in a the country that gets swallowed up by the big city. I was compelled by that idea and still am.

A bit of research shows a house at 135 Joralemon was listed as "longstanding" in a survey done in 1830. Most of Brooklyn was rural back then with large wooded tracts, creeks, and farms. In the 1820's developers started building heavily in Brooklyn Heights with Federalist style rowhouses on 25 foot plots. It's possible 135 Jorolemon predates that first burst of development but a more likely scenario is that a house existed on the land and was torn down to build a the current rowhouse during this era. Stone and brick homes didn't appear in the neighborhood until the 1830's and 40's and it was in that era that most Federalist homes like #135 were torn town and replaced with brownstone. While this house had probably been swallowed up by it's neighbors by the mid 1800's, it's clear the owners tried to keep it up to date. The metalwork and porch date from the Civil War when these 'southern style' details were in vogue. The earliest photo I could find was labeled 1870 (although there is some doubt as to the date) showing the house much as it is today, although obviously in much better shape. By the 1930's it was already looking run down and slightly haunted (the picture from that era shows a "for sale" sign outside). Today the house seems abandoned. I know it won't happen, but part of me wishes it could be put on a truck and sent out to the countryside where it could breath again.


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