Friday, April 28, 2006

Life in the Big City

It's a pretty well-known fact among my friends that I'm not really a huge fan of big cities. The traffic, the confusion, the maze of sidewalks (or, in the case of Atlanta, interstates) ... it can all be a little much for someone originally from Augusta who now resides in Athens. Sure, I liked Boston, but there was a definitive plan on the table when The Wife and I went so we were able to navigate fairly well (or, should I say, she was able to navigate fairly well and I merely followed her path).

So it's understandable that I was more than a little daunted by an upcoming trip to New York City. I mean, we're talking about the largest city in the country (like almost eight million people). Yet, to my surprise, I was wrong. Incredibly wrong.

New York City is, quite simply, absolutely wonderful. Never once did I feel out-of-place or lost or uncomfortable. Folks kept saying it was overwhelming to see for the first time, but I never got that. Impressive, to be sure, but not overwhelming.

So, with that, I bring you another Safe As Houses's staple ... the running diary.

Sunday, April 23

After what can only be described as one of the most bizarre days in my entire life, Sunday morning mercifully arrived. Saturday was full of borrowed trucks, hauling furniture, lightning damage, knocked out internet access and fatigue. So, short of the wings stripping off of the plane in mid-flight, I figured Sunday couldn't be much worse.

And here's a tip for all of you weary travelers - if you're going somewhere on the East Coast, always fly out of Greenville, S.C. The security checkpoint is easy to navigate, though still thorough and it flies to anywhere you need to go ... typically $100 cheaper than from Atlanta. The breakfast pastries are overpriced and, well, not good in the slightest, so there's that. Still, a pleasant experience.

Our flight departs at 11 a.m., and we arrive in New York a little before 1 p.m. I spend half an hour or so attempting to pop my ears in a dramatic fashion like Kramer attempting to get the water out of his ears in the ill-fated Seinfeld series finale, though with a lot less inappropriate hopping. Thus also begins our first official cab ride in New York.

You hear about the legend of New York taxi drivers, but until you experience being strapped into the back seat of a garish yellow vehicle driven by a man who speaks broken English, racing along intensely crowded streets at 70-plus miles per hour, you really haven't lived at all.

No Tony Danza, but this probably is close to what it's like.

Our first cab ride is everything it's supposed to be. We quickly recognize the lanes drawn in the road are merely suggestions for where to put your car, and the drivers don't take too kindly to these suggestions. We almost get in one accident turning (because you can just turn in any direction from any lane apparently), and I marvel at our cab driver yelling at the other cab driver (both in their native tongues, which happen to be completely different, so neither had any idea what the other was saying).

A little more than $35 later, we reach our destination - the Essex House hotel in Central Park. And, being the rubes we are, we're the only ones who deliberately avoid the bell captain and take our own luggage upstairs. And the room is, quite frankly, spectacular. Not a good view or anything, but pretty large and complete with complimentary robes.

There's time for that later. Hungry now, so The Wife and I, accompanied by her co-worker Lynn and husband Jason, head off into the heart of the Big Apple to find food. And by 'heart of the Big Apple' I mean roughly a block and a half away at Pick-A-Bagel. A definite underwhelming first meal, but hey, the trip's young.

Lynn and Jason opt for a nap, so Julie and I head out to Park Avenue and Madison Avenue and see a bunch of stores we definitely cannot afford. Still, it's mighty cool to be out on Park Avenue. We peruse a couple of street vendors down a connecting street, purchase room temperature Sprites and head back.

We get a phone call from Bill and Sharon (another co-worker of Julie), and since they actually have experience with New York City, we stick to them like glue for the remainder of the trip. For dinner, we head out to Nino's for a spectacular Italian meal. Good bottle of Italian wine, spectacular Tuscan grilled chicken and an old guy who plays the piano (lots of Sinatra) ... yep, this is definitely New York. Back at the hotel bar, I enjoy a glass of port ... though 'enjoy' is a relative term I suppose.

Monday, April 24

Excited about our first full day in New York, Bill, Sharon, The Wife and I fill up a taxi and race (literally) to The Met. Now, being an employee of an art museum, one which is closed on Mondays, I should recognize a pattern. Most museums close on Mondays, The Met included. After standing at the door with puzzled, yet forelorn faces for a few minutes, we decide to travel down to Greenwich Village.

Greenwich Village is a lot like Athens, but with a heck of a lot more delis and tall buildings. We poke around a bit, and then head further south to Soho, which rocks. And the reason Soho rocks so hard is because of Dean & Duluca. Being a fan of food, cooking and what-not, this was recommended by Hillary as a 'must-see' for me. And, as usual, she was indeed correct.

I'm so thoroughly impressed by the store, I call Matt as I stand in the middle of the floor-to-ceiling display of cookbooks only to leave a simple message - 'Standing in a Dean & Deluca in Soho. Spectacular.' The Wife, on the other hand, is oddly fascinated by the seafood selection. She is repeatedly asking me 'have you seen the seafood?' We buy a variety of baked goods - including an Almond Brioche which might just be the best almond-infused bread item I've ever consumed.

For lunch we simply opt for the hot dog stand, though Bill consumes two kabobs of a yet-to-determined meat (actual conversation - Me: 'What is that?' Bill: 'I don't really know. I mean, it's awful red, but I used to eat them all the time.').

We then embark on the longest walk of our life. After taking a cab up to around 34th Street, we proceed to head 20-plus blocks back up to the hotel along 5th Avenue. We go in the Macy's, which is pretty cool. Bill and I head for the bar (because there is one in the basement ... as well as a massive speciality grocery store), while The Wife and Sharon shop for a bit.

As a side note, my mother later would ask me if I spent my Macy's gift card at this store, as if my brain was able to process that.

We swing through places like Brooks Brothers, FAO Schwartz (complete with two teenage girls doing a remarkable reenactment of the scene from Big) and some insanely expensive jewelry store. Though, for The Wife, a must-see is Trump Towers.

Not like we watch The Apprentice or anything, but still.

Back at the hotel, with incredibly tired legs and a sore back, we relax for a bit and then head out on our own to see Times Square at night. And that's pretty cool. I even remark to the Wife that I truly never though I would ever see it in person. Lots of neon and lots of cheesy tourism, but still ... pretty cool.

We then head off to Rockefeller Center where The Wife is awed by the vacant set for 'The Today Show' ... so much so, she begins to plot out where Katie Couric will sit the next day. We pony up some money and go to Top of the Rock and enjoy a spectacular view of New York City. The evening ends with another tremendous dinner, this time at Rue 57. Over this meal, we also discuss how feasible it would be to actually live in New York.

We're being won over.

Tuesday, April 25

It's fitting that perhaps the best day of our brief trip started off with a horrific journey to the Museum of Natural History. Don't waste your $30 on this one. It's outdated, swarming with elementary school tour groups and if you say you want to go to the IMAX movie, they give you perhaps the most unreasonable time slot available ... say 1 p.m. if you get there at 10 a.m. We last an hour, which is impressive in its own right, before bailing and seeking out another hot dog in Central Park.

We do, however, begin our TV portion of the trip by visiting the Ed Sullivan Theater. And I manage to convince The Wife to visit the Hello Deli, though Rupert of Late Show With David Letterman fame is not in yet. So we buy gum.

The NBC Studio Tour clearly makes up for the failed outing of the morning. Things you learn - crazy women off of the street enjoy disrupting the beginning of your tour with outrageous claims of beatings, the tour guide doesn't actually know why the screens in the background appear to clear on TV and the Saturday Night Live set is absurdly small. At the end of the tour, they select two members of the tour group to 'host' a news report ... and guess who's picked? Yours truly.

I read the news portion of the 'broadcast' while a young woman named Monica struggles through the weather (it appears as if she was about to use her head to launch a vicious and unprovoked assault on Michigan at one point). The guide is very impressed by my performance, to which The Wife informs him 'well, he majored in TV.'

(Actually it was Telecommunications Management, but I did write a paper once on feminist themes in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Got a B.)

Back, again, to the hotel to prepare for the evening's events. The whole reason we're on this trip is because The Wife's place of employment was generous enough to purchase a table at a dinner for the Food Bank For New York honoring three individuals for their service, and one of them being Michael Stipe of REM fame. There's a connection there, so said table is bought and employees plus-one get to come. Woo-hoo for them, I say.

This dinner is at Chelsea Piers, and it's quite obvious we are out of our league when we arrive. There's a red carpet complete with paparazzi (photographing Helena Christensen when we walk up), and our group has rolled up in a bevy of cabs. I lead the way (for some odd reason) and we head to the side door. The kind lady who is directing foot traffic ushers us away from there and onto the red carpet. No photographs ... yet.

Nice reception to start out with. Free appetizers (offered every nine seconds by aggressive waiters and waitresses) with complimentary drinks. We enjoy each other's company on the porch overlooking a beautiful view of the city and Statue of Liberty. Then, the announcement comes that dinner is ready, and two giant metal doors directly in front of us suddenly rise and reveal a massive ballroom.

Again, out of our league.

Each table has two bottles of wine, two fancy bottles of water and an appetizer plate of Goat Cheese Brulee (not so good) and a cabbage and mushroom salad (very much good). It is here we have our first celebrity sighting in Mario Batali, who is visiting with Mike Mills from REM at the table directly behind me. The Wife and I are floored by this ... though this is only the beginning.

After enjoying a tremendous meal (tornedos of beef with a lobster and zinfandel reduction sauce, lobster and chive mashed potatoes and steamed asparagus), the program begins ... emceed by random actor Stanley Tucci with an auction led by Mario Cantone (was the wedding planner for Charlotte on Sex In The City). Cantone, by the way, is horrifically not funny. Shrill a better term to describe him.

Cantone trying to auction off your soul.

OK ... we'll speed this up. Nice program. Rich people buy expensive things in the auction. Michael Stipe gives a humble speech, showing much love to Athens in the process (gives a shout-out to Princeton United Methodist Church even). It's in the speech when the course of the evening is set into motion.

Stipe: 'And this really means so much to ... oh, hey Jimmy Fallon.'

Jimmy Fallon.

Jimmy Freakin' Fallon.

Two tables away.

Not that I'm a huge Fallon fan or anything, but I am perhaps the only Red Sox fan on the planet who loved Fever Pitch ... and it's Jimmy Freakin' Fallon. So our mission is clear - we must get photographed with him, and whoever else is present. At this point, we absolutely become The Clampetts.

The Wife and I hunt down celebrities.

Just to start ... here's who is present here:

Rachel Ray
Nigella Lawson
Mario Batalli
Jill Hennessey
Dan Abrams
Gwenyth Paltrow
Chris Martin
All of REM

Oh yeah ... and Jimmy Freakin' Fallon.

Fallon is busy following dinner, so we make a beeline for Rachel Ray, and I become irrationally nervous (seriously, my mouth is dry, hands are sweaty ... I'm a wreck). Thus also begins the process of Jill Hennessey screwing us over. Each time we grew closer to a particular celebrity, in swoops Hennessey to say something to then. The Wife and I vow never to watch Crossing Jordan.

Finally, thanks to the kindness of Meredith from Whole Foods who had worked with Rachel Ray on a recent photo shoot, we meet her. It's quick, hectic and brief. I think The Wife said we were fans, but it's really all a blur.

It took about 30 minutes to get this photo ... woman could have cooked a turkey.

Next, we set our sights on Jimmy Fallon ... and it's remarkably easy. Not only is he quite possibly the nicest person I've met in quite a while, The Wife and I figure we could totally hang out with him. Thus, the conversation ...

Me: I'm a really big fan of Fever Pitch.
Fallon: Really?
Me: As a long-suffering Red Sox fan, I loved it.
Fallon: (bowing to me) You know, so many Red Sox fans hated it. And I love the Sox. I can't tell you how much it means to me that you guys liked it. Wow. That's so cool. Come on guys, let's get a picture together.

Jimmy Freakin' Fallon is a lot taller in real life.

Easily the highlight of the trip. Nice five-minute conversation with him which covered where we were from, what we did, why we were there ... all of that. He signed an autograph for us as well (reading 'To Johnathan and Julie, You Guys Made My Night!, Thanks Jimmy Fallon').

It all kinda blurred from there. We got a picture with Mario Batalli as well, complete with orange clogs on, so that rocked too.

Wednesday, April 26

Nothing much to write here ... though I did get on an elevator with Mary Matalin, and that was kinda cool. Mostly, a flight back home, which led to us getting stuck in traffic for more than an hour on I-85. Oh and our TV and internet are dead at home thanks to said lightning strike.

So, New York ... looking pretty good to me. Definitely want to go back, as soon as possible.

Who's with me?

Friday, April 21, 2006

Top Fives (TV edition)

Sorry for the delay folks. Internet troubles at home, as well as a busy week. This should get you through the next few days ...

Top Five TV Shows
1. Buffy The Vampire Slayer
2. Angel
3. The West Wing
4. Seinfeld
5. Friends

Top Five Sitcoms
1. Seinfeld
2. Friends
3. Cheers
4. The Office
5. The Cosby Show

Top Five Episodes of The Office
1. "The Dundies"
2. "The Carpet"
3. "Dwight's Speech"
4. "Booze Cruise"
5. "Health Care"

Top Five Characters from The Andy Griffith Show
1. Barney Fife
2. Floyd
3. Goober
4. Otis
5. Earnest T

Top Five Episodes of The West Wing
1. "Two Cathedrals" (Season Two)
2. "Bartlett for America" (Season Three)
3. "Commencement" (Season Four)
4. "Game On" (Season Four)
5. "In The Shadow of Two Gunman, Part One" and "In The Shadow of Two Gumen, Part Two" (Season Two)

Real Work Conversations

Carissa: So you don't mind coming to do this?
Me: No sweat. Listen, this is just another excellent opportunity for me to prove to my wife that I really need a truck.
Carissa: You sure it won't just prove to her that I need a truck?
Me: Well ... there's that.
Carissa: Just thought I'd throw it out there.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

New opportunities

As I reported here, former Clarke Central head football coach William DeVane recently landed an assistant coaching job at Hart County.

It was at Hart County where DeVane first established his coaching credentials, first after more than a decade as an assistant coach and then as head coach. At the helm of the program, the Bulldogs won three consecutive Region 8-AAA titles, reeled off three straight undefeated regular seasons and guided Hart County to the 1999 Class AAA runner-up finish (losing to a Cartersville team led by current NFL player and former Auburn standout Ronnie Brown).

DeVane left Hart County to take over Greene County's program, but only spent a year there before the opportunity at Clarke Central opened up. He spent five years with the Gladiators, leading them to a Region 8-AAAA championship and a couple of playoff trips before being relieved of his duties late last year.

Coach DeVane was a former defensive lineman at Clemson, playing on the Tigers' 1981 national championship team ... and is large enough that he could wrap his entire hand around my head.

DeVane said he's eager to return home.

"I'm excited," he said. "I still have a lot of friends in Hartwell. It feels like I left home for college and after 5 years of school, I'm coming back home."

At Hart County, DeVane will coach linebackers, a position he has never coached before. Plus, it's his first time serving as an assistant coach in almost a decade. Those changes, however, don't concern him.

"I don't think the transition from head coach to assistant will be difficult for me," he said. "Especially working with Joby. We've known each other for a long time and we never had a problem working together. A different position won't be difficult; coaching is coaching."

DeVane is correct in his latter assertment, but all of his experience didn't help him as he searched for a position the past few months. Despite having won region championships at two different schools, as well as his impressive ride at Hart County, DeVane said he landed only one interview for a head coaching job ... at Worth County.

The experience frustrated him.

"The fact that I have eight years experience as a head coach, four region championships (two in AA, AAA and AAAA ), a state runner-up team and an overall win percentage of almost 70% granted me only one head coaching interview is ridiculous," DeVane said." I suppose being certified as an administrator 'closed some doors. Yes, I'm extremely disappointed."

And that's where current Hart County coach Joby Scroggs comes into the picture. The two men coached together at Hart County and had always wanted to work together again. In fact, Scroggs was set to join Clarke Central's staff before the head coaching position with the Bulldogs opened up.

Having coached at both Clarke Central and Hart County, DeVane was exposed to a pair of Northeast Georgia's best rivalries in Hart County/Elbert County and Clarke Central/Cedar Shoals. One of my favorite stories from DeVane is the one where he discusses how the crowd for one of the Hart County/Elbert County games was so large, people were sitting on top of the fences and walls at the stadium, hoping to get a glimpse of the game.

He said the Hart County/Elbert County rivalry is the one to beat.

"The two counties have one high school each, everyone knows each other, families work together, go to church together, and in some casaes, they're kin folks," DeVane said. "This rivalry is one of the most intense and competitive rivalies in the state."

Hart County fans hope for lots of scenes like this one from the 1999 Georgia Dome.

And, in something which I sadly did not pick up on until last season's 24, DeVane shares a common name with famous character actor William DeVane.

"I like to tell people he's my uncle," he said. "I guess I'll leave the acting to Unc!"

Secretary of Defense Jack Heller may need Coach DeVane's assistance on 24.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Overend campaign kickoff

Also going on this weekend is the campaign kickoff event for Bill Overend, who's running for Athens-Clarke County Solicitor. I don't know much about Overend (or the actual position of Athens-Clarke County Solicitor), but he comes highly recommended from a good friend.

Here's the pertinent information:

Bill Overend, candidate for Athens-Clarke County Solicitor, will be hosting a campaign kickoff party on Sunday, April 23, 2006 at Farm 255 in downtown Athens. The event will start at 4:00 pm.

Overend practices law in Athens and is a former Athens-Clarke County Assistant District Attorney. He is a graduate of the University of Georgia and the University of Georgia School of Law. Overend and his wife Julie have one son, Wyatt.

The event is free and open to the public. Light snacks will be served, and the event will feature live acoustic music.

Teeing off

Being a former golf writer - as well as an avid golf fan - I'm glad to see that Athens-Clarke County has been able to land its own professional golf tournament in the Athens Regional Foundation Classic, which is being held this weekend at Jennings Mill Country Club.

This, naturally, is very good, as noted by today's Athens Banner-Herald editorial. It puts some spotlight on the community's golf scene, has the potential to draw some welcome revenue to the economy and shows off one of the most underrated golf courses in the state.

Jennings Mill always has been a top-notch establishment that has been brutal on my meager golf game. The 10th hole is an absolute monster, featuring a vicious dog-leg to the left and a treacherous pond flanking the green. Cutts Benedict and the entire crew out there does a great job with the course, and it's gotten plenty of attention in the past. I covered several PGA Tour Qualifying events out there during my time as a sports reporter, as well as numerous amateur events.

And they've done a fantastic job in getting ready for this particular event, adding some grandstands for the general public.

It's a strong field as well. Larry Mize, the 1987 Masters champion and native of my hometown in Augusta, is one of the most recognizable names in the tournament, which is overflowing with homegrown talent. There are eight former Georgia golfers in the field - Tim Simpson, Chip Beck, Tommy Tolles, Franklin Langham, Paul Claxton, Justin Bolli, Erik Compton, Nick Cassini and David Denham.

If you like golf, you ought to go check it out. It's a competive field and a beautiful course. Plus, why wouldn't you want to be outside during the spring on a weekend?

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Happy Easter

When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus' body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, "Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?" But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.

"Don't be alarmed," he said. "You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him.

- Mark 16: 1-6

Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord!"

But he said to them, "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it."

A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe."

Thomas said to him, "My Lord and my God!"

Then Jesus told him, "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."

- John 20: 24-29

Real Work Conversations

Me: I'm not planning on using those Chic-fil-A coupons if anyone wants them.
Carissa: I don't eat at Chic-fila (pronounced 'chic-fil-uh').
Me: You do realize it's Chic-fil-A, right?
Carissa: If they wanted me to say it that way, they would have spelled it right. It's not 'fillet' up there on the board, is it? ... I've got issues with Chic-fila.
Me: Apparently.
Hillary: So what do you do with something like Toys-R-Us?
Carissa: I haven't really considered that. I'll have to do some thinking on it and get back to you.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Couple of things

- UPDATE - In what is quite possibly the most tremendous news story ever recorded, a leprechaun has been spotted in Mobile, Alabama ... complete with a remix that makes you want to get up and shake your blarney stone. It's important, watch the actual story first and then the remix ... otherwise, well, it just wouldn't make sense.

(h/t to What's The Story Morning Glory? via Hillary)

- Just get some ATF agents there searching for a ninja, and disaster will be averted. And I'm puzzled by the 'possible heart attack' line? Was it an actual heart attack that couldn't be confirmed? Or was it part of the mock disaster? Too many questions.

- Oh, I don't know, perhaps radically reworking his swing can pull Jeff Francouer out of his slump. The kid's got plenty of potential, but an atrocious swing which makes Pedro Cerrano look like a .400 hitter. It's a big loop which means home run if he gets the right pitch and connects solidly, but it also could mean swing-and-a-miss if the pitch is a breaking ball, down-and-away. Right now, Francouer is feast-or-famine and will be doing his best Ron Gant impersonations (with, admittedly, far superior defensive skills) until he tinkers with his swing and learns to be more patient at the plate.

- This is the Athens Banner-Herald's editorial today? Odd.

- As you may or may not know, I finally got up my Top Five lists for this week, just a few days late and in two parts. I intended to do five Top Fives, but stuck with four due to their enormous length. Here there are - Part One and Part Two.

Quite the contrary

It's amazing what one finds on the internet.

Gov. Sonny Perdue will be deciding what to do with the flurry of state legislation concerning illegal immigration pretty soon. One has to wonder if he'll heed to his own advice in making this decision:

This may mean that state government is not always the appropriate venue for your concern. ... For matters of national concern, such as the U.S. military or immigration, contact the federal government.

At Perdue's own contact page, he's encouraging citizens to express their concerns about this issue to the federal government and that the issue of immigration is something which the state shouldn't handle.

A logical person would think this puts him in quite a predicament. But, considering how he ignored his belief that 'communities of interest' should not be divided in the redistricting process, who knows what'll happen.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Break out the throwing stars

The ATF vs. the Methodist ninja story has caught on ...

Countdown with Keith Olbermann listed it second on its top three countdown last night:

Number two, Jermiah Ransom, students of the University of Georgia detained there by agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, who said he was a suspicious individual. Mr. Ransom says all he was doing was minding his own business, walking home from a university event, but it was the annual Wesley Foundation Pirates versus Ninjas party. He was still in full costume.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is on the case as well.

• Forbes Magazine runs the Associated Press story.

The Red & Black follows up with alleged ninja/wacky Methodist Jeremiah Ransom. We also learn ATF agents, at least the ones visiting Athens-Clarke County on Tuesday, apparently do confuse cell phones for guns.

DeVane heads home

Former Clarke Central head football coach William DeVane is a friend of mine and was let go by the Gladiators last winter. He sent me this story from the Anderson Independent which says he landed a job as linebackers coach at Hart County.

DeVane was head coach for the Bulldogs for three years, leading them to three consecutive undefeated seasons and Region 8-AAA titles, as well as a Class AAA runner-up finish in 1999. Hart County also opens with Clarke Central for next season, which - as he noted in his email to me - should be interesting.

Congrats to Coach DeVane for landing on his feet. Here's wishing him success as he returns home.

Top Fives (memories edition, part two)

Due to the ridiculous amount of time it actually takes to type up this thing, I only delivered three sets of memories. Let's finish off with the final two lists today.

Top Five Work Memories
1. Josh Kendall's Labor Day Party, 1999 - This sucker lasted something like 38 hours and featured the 'Greatest Playstation NCAA Football Game Known To Man' with Marc rallying from 21 points down with under two minutes to play - including an 80-plus-yard interception return for a touchdown.

2. Tiger Woods winning the Masters, completing the ‘Tiger Slam,’ 2001 – It was cool enough this was the first Masters I got to cover, but aside from that … I had a conversation with Rick Reilly.
3. Winning an Associated Press Sports Editors Feature Writing Award, 2001 – I was the second of three Athens Banner-Herald sportswriters to get this recognition in three consecutive years – joining both Marc and C Trent. I won it for this story about the comeback of former UGA golfer Reilley Rankin, though the archived story is missing the final few paragraphs which are, you know, essential to wrapping that whole thing up.
4. Recreating Friends, 2005 – One of my jobs at the museum is to help prepare the PowerPoint presentations for some of the lectures, meetings, etc. Becky and I were counting how long each image should be up on the screen, and we figured it would be easier if one person called out how long and the other wrote it down. So Becky begins to call out the numbers – ‘4, 5, 7, 4, 4, 5, 4, 6, 7, 7, 7, 7 …’ – and, after a minute or two of this, we descend into laughter. The whole thing was creepily like the Friends where Monica tells Chandler about women. It took us about 45 minutes and four failed runs through the numbers before we agreed just one person should do both tasks.
5. The Punch That Never Came, 2001(?) – My first boss is a diabetic, and seeing how my mother is one as well, I’ve become well-versed in the signs of an insulin reaction, low blood sugar, etc. During a meeting of the Georgia Sportswriters Association at the paper, it was clear my boss descended into pretty bad one. C Trent and I were sitting next to each other and were genuinely concerned considering he was blatantly not responding to questions asked to him. Now, a little background here – C Trent did not care for the boss in the slightest. Still, a man in dire medical need always calls for your attention. The problem was, the second we broke for lunch, the boss is up and gone … and I mean gone. We scour the building looking for him, fearing he either wandered downtown or tried to drive away. I get a phone call from C Trent, who says he found him in the garage, and I get downstairs to find C Trent passing bottle after bottle of orange juice his way. The boss comes to and after everything is squared away, C Trent tells me the boss threw a punch at him – an incredibly awkward, slow and clumsy punch – when he first approached him. Thus leading to “‘and I thought about it and said to myself, ‘if there’s ever a chance, this is it.’” Still, C Trent held the punch and escorted him to juice.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Odd rebuttal

From an Associated Press article:

In recent weeks, (former President Bill) Clinton and other party leaders have sought to frame Democratic concerns in religious language.

Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., Bill Clinton’s wife, and Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., the party’s 2004 presidential candidate, recently criticized a tough Republican-backed immigration bill as contrary to Christian beliefs.

Republican National Committee spokeswoman Tracey Schmitt, in an e-mail, said later of Bill Clinton’s remarks at the dinner: “Ironic choice of words given that the senator has increasingly used her bully pulpit to launch personal negative attacks rather than talk about ideas to better our country.”

First, that's patently false.

Second, the story has an odd transition, meaning Schmitt could be making a more relevant rebuttal, but much of the story is about Bill Clinton, not Hillary Clinton. Why would Schmitt respond to Bill Clinton's comments by disparaging Hillary Clinton?

Couple of things

- The Red & Black is all about breaking news ... and they do an excellent job here by showing dedicated ATF agents combatting the dreaded ninja threat on campus. Seriously though, isn't this kinda bad? It doesn't bode well that federal agents enjoy viciously detaining Methodists, even if they are decked out in ninja garb.

Just for the record, I used to go to Wesley, and we never had anything cool like 'Ninja vs. Pirate' competitions. Sure, plenty of talk of 'conquering Athens for the Lord' but nothing like this.

- Having spent a couple of years of my life covering high school athletics in Northeast Georgia, I'm quite confident this story will generate some letters to the editor. Anytime you report on something non-related to sports, like the brief scuffle mentioned in this story, you're going to get some folks up in arms who say 'you shouldn't mention this ... this story is supposed to be about the kids!' I got my fair share, my most memorable being an incredibly unhappy Clarke Central soccer parent who felt my story detailing the Gladiators' victory revealed a bias against Clarke Central. Though my favorite might be C Trent getting scolded by a parent because he had reported the son making an error in a high school baseball game. The kicker? The error allowed the winning run to score, meaning it was essential to the reporting to the game. The parent, if my memory holds up, asked C Trent 'what am I going to tell my son when he reads this article?' ... to which he responded 'tell him to catch the ball next time.'

- Not necessarily anything wrong with the Athens Banner-Herald's editorial on the need for increased diversity on the Partners for a Prosperous Athens (aside from the whole 'damned if you do, damned if you don't' mentality it has), but ...

Now that the steering committee has its first hard evidence that people with a direct experience of poverty aren't yet fully involved in Partners for a Prosperous Athens, an effort to get that involvement should be at the top of the committee's agenda.

Shouldn't, I don't know, getting people out of poverty be at the top of the committee's agenda?

- The Athenian blogosphere has had a good time with Athens-Clarke County mayoral candidate Charlie Maddox's web site, encouraging him to, well, improve it. Apparently he took our advice ... only by 'improve it' I mean he 'made it look radically worse.' See for yourself. And, good heavens, the grammar ...

- So the president's ratings are ridiculously low, and bad news is literally everywhere. What's a leader of the free world to do?

Blame the media and demand apologies for factual reporting.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Top Five (memories edition, part one)

In this week's installment, let's take a look at some of my favorite memories. Again, as with each list, these aren't in any particular order.

Top Five Family Memories
1. During a trip to Hilton Head Island, S.C. when I was around eight or so, my mom, dad and I went out to eat at Hudson's Restaurant. We were at the beach with some friends of the family as well. While waiting for dinner, one of them requested Pencil Thin Mustache by Jimmy Buffet. My mother and father both danced on the dock, and it stands out in my mind.
2. In less than sweet moment, my toilet was overflowing at a surprisingly rapid pace - and, it should be noted, for no particular reason at all (it just happened to do that on occasion) - and I was without a plunger. I hollered downstairs for assistance, and up comes my father ... leaping over the advancing water, propping one leg on the bathtub and another to the right of the toilet. Upon landing, the plunger is driven into the bowl, sending water up in a terrific shower and, with one quick thrust, eliminating whatever it was clogging up the line.
3. Thanksgivings in Charlotte, N.C. - My aunt and uncle lived in Charlotte up until I was in my early 20s, and each Thanksgiving the entire family would head over to their place.
4. Tuesdays and Thursdays with Nani - When I was just a wee lad, I'd go over to my grandmother's house straight from school. And everytime I arrived, she'd pull out Jello in a mini-bowl that seemed way too elegant for a four-year old, but it was always my favorite time of the week.
5. The Masters Week - To this day, my family gathers at my other grandmother's house (Nama if you're curious) for Masters week. We park cars in her yard, go to the tournament and relax in the afternoon. It's my favorite week of the year.

Top Five High School Memories
1. Road Trip to Bath, S.C. - At some point in the summer of 1995, I was greeted early one morning by my buddy Nick Moore who showed up at my doorstep and requested I go to the grocery store with him. That trip to the grocery store evolved into the fulfillment of a dream for him as we rounded up Xon, Russ and Chris for a journey to Bath, S.C. We bought throw rugs from a Dollar General, drank Little Hug fruit drinks, ate at Wendy's and played video games at the Aiken Mall.
2. Graduation Day 1996 - I just remember being incredibly jovial that I didn't have to attend mandatory schooling anymore, even if I did have to walk down with Galen Kipar. Plus, Paul Wamsted threw a nice party at his place.
3. New Year's Eve 1995-1996 - A good party at Kate Channell's that night, even though I had come down with a pretty nasty sinus infection. I remember staying late there and, despite my parents being more than 100 miles away in Greenville, S.C., I still got in trouble for missing curfew. Ah, the long-reaching arm of the law.
4. Evans 1995 - A disgusting rainy night and a miserable 20-0 loss to Evans for Westside, though I remember the bleachers broke, Mike McLaughlin bit into a Coke can and Charles waved a massive South Korean flag.
5. The Random Challenges of Nick Moore - My buddy Nick had a peculiar knack for tackling the most bizarre feats of human endurance, and doing them all in Xon's front yard. I can recall him eating 24 slices of American cheese, swallowing a live goldfish and attempting to drink three liters of Dr. Pepper (that one didn't go so well if you're wondering). And he did all of them by his own choosing ...

Top Five College Memories
1. Meeting The Wife, 1997 - Her first weekend at UGA, she came to a party flashing the best smile I had ever seen. I leaned over to Russ's wife, Bly, and asked 'who's that?' ... and fortunately Bly had gone to school with The Wife, thus sending me down that long road to marriage (and I mean long ... took her roughly a year to agree to go on a date with me ... and who says persistence doesn't pay off?). As a quirky side note, I introduced Russ to Bly. Small world.
2. Buying The Pool With Carrie, 1999 - During the summer of 1999, The Wife lived with our friend Carrie and was working during the day. Carrie and I, having been friends since before the days of The Wife, decided it would be fun to buy a kiddie pool and keep it on the deck. We head out to Wal-Mart and purchase the largest non-inflatable kiddie pool we can find before we realize we have no way to get it home. We strap what we can to the roof of my Blazer, and Carrie has to literally hang out the window to keep one side from blowing away as we drive down The Loop. We develop some sort of make-shift pulley system to get it to the second floor deck, fill buckets with warm water and slowly fill the pool. By the time Julie gets home, Carrie and I are seated in the pool watching The Real World Hawaii.
3. Graduation Party 2000 - Again, primarily stemming from the joy of having completed school ... that and Stephen Gurr on the deck.
4. The Tour of Elvis With The Wife, 1999 - A most random adventure with The Wife as we visited Nashville, Memphis and Tupelo, Miss. ... witnessing the birth, life and death of a one Elvis Aaron Presley. Graceland, for what it's worth, is probably the most disappointing landmark I've ever been to ... beaten only by Alcatrez.
5. Florida-Georgia Weekend, 1997 - The fact that Georgia actually beat Florida is only a footnote for this trip, as this was the first major thing The Wife and I did together. Now, granted, she was only The Friend at the time, but to my lovestricken heart, I was more than happy to take whatever time I could get with her.

Context clues

Real quick here ...

Take a look at this picture of Carissa and Hillary ...

... as well as this one of Hillary and Paul ...

... and keep in mind they both come on the final day of a man with an impressive reputation mentioned in item No. 3.

The smiles are more pained now, aren't they?

Now it's a rivalry

First 46 Majors: Zero victories.
Last Nine Majors: Three victories.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Couple of things

- Further proof we need to carefully consider Alice Kinman's committee's proposal to reevaluate our local committment to our non-profits, several worthy organizations sought funding from the ever-shrinking Community Development Block Grant pot. I'd still amazed Freedom From Bondage didn't meet the bar. I was very impressed with that organization's purpose and mission, and I though for sure they'd get some funding this time around. I'm not surprised the Economic Justice Coalition didn't get funding, and one of their speakers went uber-cheesy in their plea, stealing a page from Freedom From Bondage - "They were talking about freedom from bondage. I am talking about freedom from slave wages."

Here's my little rant about the CDBG ... it's probably one of my favorite government initiatives. It's a chunk of money that communities can use to assist local non-profit agencies which do good work. At Interfaith Hospitality Network, we've been fortunate enough to receive funding this year and last year. Here's the thing ... too many local agencies sacrifice their fundraising efforts because they have grown dependent on - and many feel entitled to - this funding. And that shouldn't be the case.

When we put together our proposal last year, we all were very clear that this was something which could help us as the organization started out, but was not something we needed to depend on year-in and year-out. There are tons of local non-profits that need assistance - either starting out or help during difficult financial times. That's what the CDBG is designed for. It is not supposed to become a permanent source of funding for local non-profits, but rather encourage organizations to work on their development and fundraising efforts. That's something we've addressed at IHN, and as vice president this year I'm working very hard on building contacts in the community to develop alternative sources of funding which are not tied to grants or other temporary sources.

- OK, lady ... they dismissed the ticket, but a civil case against the officer for political beliefs? Now you've lost me. And, to my knowledge, there isn't a law on the book which says you can't discriminate against political beliefs. Am I wrong? Anyone?

- This whole tailgating thing has ticked off just about everyone. Even the lacrosse players are mad now. Been meaning to work on a long tailgating post and may try to squeeze that in soon.

- Xon has a funny post up about the chaos in Florida after the Gators won the national title. What's even more entertaining is that actually Florida fans sorta feel that way, as Orson from Every Day Should Be Saturday hillariously points out.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Couple of things

- Curt Schilling pitched well, David Ortiz doubled and homered and Mike Lowell smacked his first career Opening Day home run as the Red Sox pounded Texas 7-3 to kick off the season.

- Speaking of sports ... Florida won the national title in basketball? Florida? They're already preparing the commemorative jean shorts. And, you know, when I think back to that January day where I watched Florida beat Georgia ... I remember thinking 'man, that's the best team in the nation.'

Seriously, it's the weakest national champion since Carmelo Anthony's Syracuse team a couple of years back. Everyone is talking about parity ... parity, schmarity. What you had was a handful of teams (like George Mason and LSU) playing out of their minds for a few days and catching better teams like UConn and Duke on off days (does J.J. Redick ever go 3-for-18? would he again?). So congrats Gators ... just know you did it by beating 14th-seeded South Alabama, 11th-seeded Wisconsin-Milwaukee, 7th-seeded Georgetown, top-seeded Villanova, 11th-seeded George Mason and then UCLA. I count one legitimate victory (Villanova) and one solid one (UCLA). Let's run Florida through Duke, Texas and UConn and see if the Gators cut those nets down.

- In corruption news, Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) is resigning and not seeking re-election ... because that magically clears up all of the GOP's election year woes.

- Because kids aren't used to functioning on little sleep or anything.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Top Fives (movies edition)

I'm starting a new series here at Safe As Houses ... every Monday, we'll take a look at a list of my Top Fives and then encourage you, loyal reader, to post yours at your blog or in the ensuing comments. They're not ranked in order or anything, unless otherwise noted. It's a nice break from all the politics and sports we talk about here and let's us dive right unto the swimming pool of pop culture. Today we do movies ...

Top Five Movies
1. Mississippi Burning
2. To Kill A Mockingbird
3. Glory
4. Garden State
5. O Brother Where Art Thou?

Top Five Comedies
1. Anchorman
2. The Jerk
3. Office Space
4. American Pie
5. O Brother Where Art Thou?

Top Five Sports Movies
1. Field of Dreams
2. Brian's Song
3. Caddyshack
4. Friday Night Lights
5. When We Were Kings

Top Five Patrick Swayze Movies
1. Red Dawn
2. Roadhouse
3. Dirty Dancing
4. The Outsiders
5. Point Break

Top Five Movie Scenes
1. As the 54th Regiment makes it way to the beach to begin its assault on Fort Johnson, it has to march past the other Union regiments which had ridiculed and insulted them earlier. Making their way past, one solider shouts 'Give 'Em Hell 54!' and the rest of the troops erupt in cheers.
- Glory
2. After Zack Braff has told Natalie Portman about how his mother died and that he is developing feelings for her, she smiles, stands up and says 'I can tap dance, do you wanna see me tap dance?' She proceeds to dance for him. So random. Very sweet.
- Garden State
3. Atticus Finch has just lost the case he knew he would lose, and is alone in the courtroom. His two children are up in the segregated balcony and are crouching down, crying. Finch gathers his things and begins to leave. Those in the balcony, slowly begin to stand to honor him and the pastor nudges his daughter, Scout, and says 'Jean Louise stand up ... you're father's passing.'
- To Kill A Mockingbird
4. Brian showing off Sex Panther by Odeon to Ron Burgandy.
- Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgandy
5. Ray Kinsella finally gets to play catch with his father.
- Field of Dreams

Couple of things

- Every once in a while, you get a letter so devoid of meaning, yet so comical ... 'Enemies of society?' Bob Bacle tells us who we're really at war with ... it's not fanatical terrorists, but journalists.

- Randy Duncan offers a suggestion both Athens Politics and have been making for years, yet his short-term memory has failed him seeing how Democrats picked up seats in 1996 and 1998 at the federal level, and didn't relinquish control of the state government until 2002.

- Just in time for The Masters, Phil Mickelson completely destroys the field at the BellSouth Classic, winning by 13 shots with a four-day total of 28-under par. And, just to prove his point, he smacks a five-wood to 25 feet on the 18th hole and then drains a 25-foot putt for eagle.

- This is going to be a pain in the beginning.

Saturday, April 01, 2006


My hat is off to my co-worker and office roomie Hillary, who captured top honors at one of the world's most peculiar spelling bees. The world salutes you.