Serious LBI withdrawal

I am missing the old beach house on Long Beach Island more and more with each minute of the simmering heat and overpowering humidity this summer is punishing New York City and Hoboken with.

My beach cruiser

I miss the feeling of serenity the second my car began crossing the bridge to LBI, which canceled out whatever stress I experienced during the work week, job-related or otherwise.

I miss the great group of people with whom I was fortunate enough to share the beach house. We’re all still friends, and we see each other off and on (although nowhere near as much as I’d like, in most cases), but it’s not the same as spending almost every weekend together.

I miss cold beer on the deck.

I miss bushwackers at The Ketch.

I miss happy hour at The Shell, and even, just a little bit, Monte and the All-Stars.

I miss martinis, clams on the half-shell and bacon-wrapped scallops in maple bourbon sauce at the Black Whale.

Holgate

I miss slam burgers and dune fries at Holiday Snack Bar.

I miss Turkey Joe sandwiches from Pearl Street Market.

I miss Fire and Ice Scallops from Beach Haven Fishery.

I miss cheese dogs from Dom’s Drive-In.

I miss chicken cheesesteaks and white pizza from Slice of Heaven.

I miss the beach.

I miss listening to Yankees baseball on the beach, no matter how much I hate John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman.

I miss riding my bike to the end of the road at Holgate and sitting on the bench by the beach with a cold Gatorade.

My wife and I are heading down to LBI for a long weekend in a couple of weeks, but I wish that wasn’t my only time down there this summer. So far, this summer has absolutely sucked a big fat one.

I miss LBI.

Holiday Snack Shack

Unemployment Nine: Kiss free time good-bye, but for how long?

I apologize for only posting once since returning from our honeymoon, but my work situation took a sudden turn, leaving me minimal free time.

Before leaving for Hawaii, I was down to one part-time blogging job, which was, for all intents and purposes, basically covering my share of the rent and not much more. This was not due to lack of productivity on my part, but rather, to constantly being asked by the powers that be to limit my number of posts. Since the job pays by the post, fewer posts mean less money.

more confused than ever

Just before our wedding, I spoke with a former boss of mine from the days of way-back, whom I hadn’t seen in more than 15 years. She mentioned that she might have some free-lance copy-editing work for me, as the publication she works for was running behind on a large anniversary issue. I was pretty happy about this, as I figured the combination of income from this job and the blogging job would at least allow me to contribute SOME money into our household besides my share of the rent.

Things took an interesting turn while I was in Hawaii, however. As anyone who has ever worked on a weekly publication knows, Thursdays and Fridays are the nastiest days, and usually involve long, late hours. My old boss had a person who copy-edited every Thursday and Friday, but that person was lucky enough to land a full-time job (probably one I applied for, with the way my luck has been going), so I inherited more hours — many more hours.

The good news is, obviously, more hours mean more money. The bad news is that I’m having trouble adjusting to a complete 180 in my schedule. I went from a very flexible, relaxed pace directly into pure chaos, basically forfeiting any ability to make plans for Thursdays and Fridays, since I’ve been at work until 9:00 and 7:30-7:45, respectively, on those days.

The other piece of bad news is that the new job is still a free-lance gig. I’d always had full-time jobs until my October 2008 layoff, and I have a very difficult time dealing with the uncertainly of part-time and free-lance work. A full-time job can obviously come to a sudden end, as I found out all too quickly 20-plus months ago. But at least companies have to put some thought into laying off full-time employees, as they are faced with issues such as severance pay, COBRA and unemployment benefits. All it takes to sever a part-time or free-lance relationship is a phone call, as I found out when my first part-time job ended in that fashion on the last day of November.

The other worrisome thing about this new job is that it’s a vivid reminder of all of the things I hated about working on the print side of things before I permanently joined the Internet unit of my old job in 2000.

I’ve gotten used to the immediacy and speed of the Internet, as opposed to having the same story read multiple times over by multiple people.

I also loved the flexibility that working on the Web provided. Most of my tasks could be completed from any destination with an Internet connection, which was bad because it meant that you were perpetually available, but it was good in that I didn’t feel like I was tethered to the chair in my cubicle. However, as seems to be the case with most print jobs, it would be impossible to work outside of the office, due to reliance on various software elements of the publishing system. Working from my balcony — where I’m typing this in a T-shirt, shorts, flip-flops and a backwards hat, while enjoying a cold Miller Lite — is not an option.

Another thing I always hated about working on a print publication is the fact that you’re the only people in the office late on Thursdays and Fridays. It always burned me up knowing people who made several times my salary were out the door at 5:01 p.m. on the dot nearly every single day, while I was stuck there for a few more hours, looking at the same stories over and over. My old company made it even worse with an annual e-mail memo that triggered multiple rounds of profanity: The company was happy to announce that summer Fridays were in effect for all employees, in 36-point type, with an asterisk. The asterisk referred to a line in eight-point type that read, “Note: Summer hours do not apply to employees with weekly deadline responsibilities.” Well, fuck you very much, too.

This is a great publication with a fantastic staff. I’m not trying to paint a picture of incompetence, here — actually, quite the opposite. This is just the way things work in the print world and, after 10 years of working on the Internet and reaching a certain level of independence and self-reliance, it’s a shock to the system to find myself sitting around and waiting, dependent on other people.

My other, even bigger issue is that I don’t know how long I can keep up this pace. I’m working a lot more hours at the newer job than I had ever anticipated, but I have no clue how long this gig will last, and I didn’t want to give up my blogging post, partly because I didn’t want to find myself left with zero income, and partly because I honestly enjoy it. So I’ve been online at 7 a.m. every day, trying to do two or three hours’ worth of work on the blog before trekking into the city, and then, after full days there (the earliest I’ve left that office thus far has been 6 p.m.), I’ve been coming home and doing more work on the blog. I’ve only been doing both jobs for a week-and-a-half, and I’m already extremely concerned about burnout.

I’m obviously not a money-hungry individual, or I’d have gone to law school or taken up drug-dealing instead of majoring in journalism. When you go into my field, you know mansions and yachts are not part of your future, but you make the sacrifice in the name of doing something you love. However, the only thing keeping me going right now is the fact that this new job is paying a hell of a lot more than the blogging gig. I easily make more money for two days of copy editing than an entire week of blogging, although even the combination of both jobs won’t exactly result in a trip to the Acura dealer to upgrade my 1997 Honda Accord. I just honestly don’t know how long I can continue at this pace.

On the other hand, since either job can disappear from my to-do list with one phone call, I don’t know how long I’ll have the opportunity to continue at this pace.

All I want is a full-time job and some sense of stability. Is that really too much to ask? Apparently, in today’s economy, the answer is yes. FML.

I love the smell of Newark Bears baseball in the morning

So how did I come to find myself in Bears & Eagles Riverfront Stadium, home of the independent Atlantic League’s Newark Bears, drinking an ice-cold cup of Miller Lite at 11 a.m. on an overcast Thursday morning? Follow along with me, dear reader, and I shall tell the tale.

Lancaster Barnstormers @ Newark Bears, 8/13/09

Lancaster Barnstormers @ Newark Bears, 8/13/09

The previous night, my lovely fiancée and I were driving to check out a possible location for the wedding. As often happens while driving, she went into auto-pilot and missed our turn, as she was following the same route she takes to work every day.

While trying to backtrack through Newark and find an entrance to 280 West, we happened to pass the ballpark, and the sign outside said, “Game Tomorrow, 11 a.m.” I personally had never been to that early of a game, but I know it’s common practice on getaway days in the minor and independent leagues, as most of the teams travel by bus, and not charter flight.

Even though I’m working two part-time jobs, August is a very slow month in terms of breaking news, so I’ve found myself in a pattern where the bulk of my work gets done either very early in the morning or very late in the afternoon. So an 11 a.m. game was actually a perfect diversion. And although the weather was very dicey, it didn’t really feel like it was going to downpour. Play ball!

Bears & Eagles Riverfront Stadium is a fun little ballpark, much like many minor-league parks. The food was affordable, the beer was cold, and I sat in the third row behind the Bears dugout. The “crowd,” and I use that term loosely, could not have possibly been more than 400, but the ominous gray skies and the 11 a.m. start time most likely contributed to that.

The Bears have a lot of familiar faces, including several ex-Yankees. Former All-Star outfielder Tim “Rock” Raines is the manager, former Yankees pitcher Mike Torrez (probably best known for his days with the Boston Red Sox, when he allowed one of the most famous home runs in baseball history, to Bucky Dent, in a one-game playoff at Fenway Park in 1978) is the pitching coach, former White Sox slugger Ron Karkovice is the hitting coach and the bench coach is Tony Ferrara, who held coaching positions with both the Yankees and the Mets.

Carl Everett

Carl Everett

As far as players, the most familiar Newark Bear is probably Carl Everett, a psychotic outfielder who played on several Major League teams, including the Mets. I still hate his guts for breaking up Mike Mussina’s bid for a perfect game at Fenway Park with two outs in the ninth inning on a cheap bloop single. D’Angelo Jimenez, a former big-time Yankees second-base prospect who played for Cincinnati and (I believe) San Diego is also on the roster, as is former Pirate Rob Mackowiak, former Pirate Tike Redman, former bum Mets closer Armando Benitez, former Yankee middle reliever and key member of championship squads Ramiro Mendoza, former Cincinnati Reds pitcher Scott Williamson and former pitcher for several MLB squads Willie Banks.

Thursday’s opponent, the Lancaster Barnstormers, didn’t have as many marquee names. Former Cardinals second baseman Tommy Herr is the manager, and the players included former closer Antonio Alfonseca.

The baseball was pretty crisp. I won’t compare it to the Major Leagues, but, a couple of sloppy errors aside, it was still good quality baseball. It was a fun experience on an otherwise dull Thursday, and I will definitely go back to a Bears game, hopefully with a larger crowd.

Bears & Eagles Riverfront Stadium

Bears & Eagles Riverfront Stadium

Unemployment Nine: New year, fresh start?

I can’t say I was sorry to see 2008 come to an end. A man should not have to lose his job , his bar and his ballpark in the same year.

2009

2009

Unfortunately, 2009 has gotten off to a very slow start in terms of the job hunt. I know today was, for all intents and purposes, only the second true business day of the new year, but my patience level is running very low right now.

When you’re unemployed, December is a total and complete waste of 31 days. I had one interview during the entire month, and the total number of résumés I sent out was definitely in the single-digits.

The listings are starting to pick up a little and, as I said, there have really only been two business days. But I want a job, and I want it now.

Good riddance to 2008 and, as for 2009, move your ass already.

The Legendary E Street Band

Thursday, July 31, 2008: Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band at Giants Stadium. It didn’t start out promising.

It was a stressful day at work, even though I worked from home. Unlike some people’s definition of working from home — sitting by the pool and sipping on a tropical drink while their dog answers their e-mail — I do a ton of work when I’m at home. You have to love people who e-mail you stuff to do at 5:44 and 5:45 when you expressly state that you need to be in your car at 5:45.

Bruce Springsteen and Little Stevie, Giants Stadium, 7/31/08

Bruce Springsteen and Little Stevie, Giants Stadium, 7/31/08

While scrambling to get everything done, the phone didn’t stop ringing. “What time should I be there?” “What’s the weather going to be like?” “Should I pick up food?” “Did you get beer?” “What do you want on your sandwich?” All legitimate questions, but constantly being on the phone wasn’t helping the stress level.

And for the record, asking me if I got beer is among the silliest possible questions. If I could get away with it, I’d pick up a 40 for the walk to the PATH every morning.

Then an e-mail came in from TicketBastard warning me that a truck overturned on the exit from the New Jersey Turnpike to the Meadowlands. I guess it’s TicketBastard’s way of justifying the $18 “service charge” they tack on to every ticket. So the thought of every possible approach to Giants Stadium becoming a vehicular clusterfuck wasn’t helping the stress level, either.

Getting there and parking actually wasn’t as bad as I feared, and I thought things were going really well when I got a call from my friend and his wife that they were parked, too. The problem is that they were “parked” on Route 17, which wasn’t moving at all.

But everyone finally got there and, despite our abbreviated tailgating time, sandwiches and beer were consumed (several beers by yours truly) and we were in our seats well before 8:45, which is when the first two shows on Sunday and Monday nights began. (Yes, I went to all three. Yes, I am aware that I have a problem. No, I don’t give a shit. Yes, I’d do it again.)

Well, the first two shows started around 8:45. Thursday’s third and final concert, however, did not. I guess Springsteen and company were waiting for people to get through the traffic. Rather than cooling off as the minutes ticked away, the temperature inside the stadium continued to rise, as did the impatience level. I sweat completely through two layers (Under Armour and my Rosalita T-shirt).

Sounds like a completely awful, stressful, grueling experience, doesn’t it?

WRONG!

Jersey Girl, Giants Stadium, 7/31/08

Jersey Girl, Giants Stadium, 7/31/08

That was, by far, the best Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band show I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen many and several (probably around 15, but senility and beer-murdered brain cells prevent an exact count). They played from 9:30 until 12:45 a.m. and emptied the old-school Springsteen playbook. The energy level was incredible, both by the band and the crowd. This show even topped the 10th and final show of the 2003 run at Giants Stadium, and that was no easy task, trust me.

I mean, seriously: Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out, Prove It All Night, Two Hearts, The Promised Land, Spirit in the Night, Blinded by the Light, Cadillac Ranch, Candy’s Room, Night, Because the Night, She’s the One, Incident on 57th Street, Badlands (I know, he always plays it, but still), Jungleland, Born to Run (see Badlands), Jersey Girl and Rosalita in the same show? Are you kidding me? Wow. The last two songs alone were worth the $95 (plus TicketBastard charges).

Ladies and gentlemen, I was just rocked by the heart-stopping, pants-dropping, hard-rocking, booty-shaking, earth-quaking, nerve-breaking, Viagra-taking history-making, legendary … E-STREET BAND!

The set list, courtesy of Backstreets.com (http://www.backstreets.com/setlists.html):

Summertime Blues

Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out

Radio Nowhere

Prove It All Night

Two Hearts

The Promised Land

Spirit in the Night

Light of Day

Brilliant Disguise

Pretty Flamingo

Blinded by the Light

Cadillac Ranch

Candy’s Room

Night

Because the Night

She’s the One

Livin’ in the Future

Mary’s Place

Incident on 57th Street

The Rising

Last to Die

Long Walk Home

Badlands

* * *

Jungleland

Born to Run

Bobby Jean

Dancing in the Dark

American Land

Jersey Girl

Rosalita

Josh Hamilton … wow

I have been fortunate enough to experience some incredible moments at Yankee Stadium, so it takes a lot to impress me. But after witnessing Josh Hamilton’s ungodly hitting display at the All-Star Game Home Run Derby last night from my usual perch behind home plate in the upper deck, impressed isn’t a strong enough word.

Yes, I know, the Home Run Derby is a hitting exhibition that means absolutely nothing in the grand scheme of things. And I know, it’s much easier to hit when you can pick and choose only the most perfect batting-practice “fastballs” in your hitting zone, as opposed to having to worry about balls and strikes, breaking balls and all of the other nuances of the game.

Josh Hamilton, 2008 All-Star Game Home Run Derby

Josh Hamilton, 2008 All-Star Game Home Run Derby

But no human being should be able to repeatedly hit a baseball 450 feet, with three of Hamilton’s rockets going more than 500 feet. I don’t care how gift-wrapped the situation was. It was absolutely incredible to watch.

I can generally track home runs very well from my seats, which I’ve had since the 1997 season. But I lost one of Hamilton’s 500-foot-drives against the white background of an ad on the back wall of the bleachers and, until told otherwise by someone with a radio, was positive it had gone completely out of Yankee Stadium. And with the display he put on, I wouldn’t have been shocked if he had accomplished that feat.

I almost feel sorry for Justin Morneau. He ended up winning the contest after Hamilton ran out of gas — the two finalists start the last round at 0-0, so the fact that Hamilton had more than twice as many homers as anyone else during the first two rounds didn’t help him. But last night’s Home Run Derby will disprove the sports cliché that no one remembers who finished second. In this case, no one will remember who finished first because everyone was dazzled by the runner-up.

And Hamilton’s life story — coming back from drug addiction that derailed his career for several seasons and nearly cost him his life — just added to everything.

Just so you know why I say I’m not easily impressed, here are some of the historical games I’ve been privileged enough to attend at Yankee Stadium:

Game five of the 1978 World Series, when the Yankees won their third straight against the Los Angeles Dodgers after losing the first two contests in L.A., going on to win the series in six.

Dave Righetti’s no-hitter against the hated Red Sox on July 4, 1983.

Jim Abbott’s 1993 no-hitter against the Cleveland Indians — only in America can a guy with one hand end up pitching a no-hitter in the Major Leagues, even if he did end up with a career win-loss record under .500.

Jim Leyritz’s game-winning homer in the bottom of the 15th inning in game two of the Divisional Series against the Seattle Mariners in 1995: It was the Yankees’ first playoff appearance since 1981. Who knew they’d drop three games in a row in Seattle, marking the end of Don Mattingly’s career?

• The sixth and final game of the 1996 World Series, in which the Yankees — after losing the first two games at home, then sweeping three in Atlanta, including another dramatic homer from Leyritz — beat the Atlanta Braves to win their first championship since 1978. Current Yankees manager Joe Girardi had the game’s huge hit — a triple. I cried like a baby when Charlie Hayes caught the popup to end the Series. I’m not ashamed.

• Game one of the 1998 World Series, when the heavily favored Yankees, down 5-2 going into the bottom of the seventh, erupted for seven runs — a three-run homer by Chuck Knoblauch, who cost the Yankees a game versus Cleveland in the American League Championship Series by letting a ball roll down the first-base line while arguing with the umpire, and a grand slam by Tino Martinez.

• Games one and two of the long-awaited Subway Series in 2000 against the Flushing Pond Scum New York Mets: Paul O’Neill’s walk in the bottom of the ninth in game one was as professional of an at-bat as I’ve ever seen, and Roger Clemens firing the bat handle at Mike Piazza was just plain funny.

• Games four and five of the 2001 World Series: Two nights in a row, down two runs in the bottom of the ninth with two outs, two two-run homers (Tino Martinez, Scott Brosius). Even though they lost the series to the Arizona Diamondbacks, wow.

• Game seven of the 2003 ALCS — otherwise known as when Aaron Boone became Aaron Fucking Boone.

So when I say I don’t get impressed easily, it’s not because I’m jaded — it’s because I’ve been really fortunate over the years to experience some great baseball moments.

Joe DiMaggio was quoted as saying, “I’d like to thank the good Lord for making me a Yankee.” Well, I’m not very religious, but I’d like to thank whatever power was responsible for making me a Yankee fan.

Josh Hamilton: Well done, sir!