Thursday, July 29, 2010

Missed opportunities

My every day job-type job is engineering, with a large in-field construction component. As such, I deal with a lot of construction workers. Construction is a field that doesn't exactly lend itself to those with a high degree of job prospects. Nearly every contractor laments to me how hard it is to find quality workers, even in times of high unemployment.

"If you want a drunk or drug addict, a wife beater, or a convicted felon, you can have your pick of the litter," is the refrain I hear quite often.

Construction is a hard, unyielding job. A job that requires you to work in 90 degree heat and 9 degree cold. You have to be in some degree of physical shape to do it. In short, it helps if you are an ex-athlete.

I've met plenty of ex-athletes on jobs. Local high school football stars that never went on to anything else. Washed out basketball players that weren't big enough or fast enough for the college level. And baseball players. Lots of baseball players.

This week was slightly different. I met an ex-baseball player that was drafted by the Pirates. For purposes of keeping his ID secret, due to his indiscretions, I'm not going to name him or even the year he was drafted. A guy I work with told me about him when he recognized him (they grew up together), but told me that cocaine and alcohol ruined his career.

He was a pitcher, so of course I asked him about his pitch arsenal. He said he had a fastball around 92-93 with a curve and a decent changeup. "And I'm not afraid to pitch inside, unlike these guys today." Except substitute "guys" for a term to explain men who prefer the company of men.

I looked his name up on Baseball Reference when I got back to the office and I saw that he played minor league ball for 4 years. Two in the GCL and two more in the NY-Penn League. His stats weren't that great and he was out by age 21.

This got me it worse to grind it out for years in the minors, but never quite have the talent to reach the majors or is it worse to have the talent but flame out spectacularly? Not every flame out is drug or alcohol related. Injuries claim many of a once-promising career. Stubborness or cockiness can prevent a player from feeling the need to listen to the coaching that they all need.

Around draft time every year, I think of Matt Harrington. Harrington was a star HS pitcher that just got terrible advice from everyone around him. He was drafted out of high school by the Rockies, offered a multi-million dollar bonus, but did not sign. He went to independent league ball, was drafted by a different team then didn't sign because the money wasn't to his liking. He was even drafted a third time, but by now he was out of shape and his pitching arm was ruined. He never went anywhere in the minors and at last glance was working as a mechanic. He had his chance (3 of them) and squandered it because of bad advice and greed.

I try to take advantage of every opportunity that comes my way. I see firsthand the results of what happens when you don't...the look in the eye of a worker that is 10 feet deep in a ditch, working to repair a break in a sanitary sewer, wondering if he could have struck out the side in a major league game.

Our worst enemies are ourselves. The human mind, if left alone in a period of weakness, can wreak unmeasurable damage on a person. Self-doubt can ruin any of us, not just athletes. We have to learn to appreciate what is right in front of us and know that each opportunity is a gift that should not be squandered.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Thinking about the Baseball America Top 20's

In just a few days, the calendar will roll over to August 1st, which means there is only one month left on the minor league baseball season. For the most part, that makes me a sad panda, but at least that means that the Baseball America ranking season will start up soon.

Baseball America loves lists and so do I. My lists have lists. BA will start with a Best Tools list for each league, move on to the Top 20's for each league, then the Top 10's for each team, and finally the granddaddy of them all...the Top 100 prospects.

Their success rates are not great and they have biases just like every other human, but it still provides the best starting point for viewing prospects.

With that in mind, I thought I would take a look at each Pirates' team from the ground up to see who may make the Top 20's for the leagues.

GCL Pirates -- BA loves Latin players and, in my opinion, will give them a few extra spots over an American player. The good news, for the Pirates, is that not only do we have a lot of talent at the GCL this year, but that most of it is Latin.

I think Exicardo Cayonez (18 years old) will be somewhere between 8-13 on the list. He has a great hit tool, but the K/BB ratio is just OK and he doesn't have any power yet.

Jorge Bishop (19) could be 14-20 on the list. He does have some power, but his present size of 5-10 may not portend more in the future.

Eric Avila (20) may make the back end of the list. His age will work against him here, but he does have power and is at a key position of 3B.

State College Spikes -- Always a tough league to forecast because you have a crunch of high school players that are good but not good enough to go to a full-season league coupled with recent college draftees.

Zach Von Rosenberg (19) may make the middle of the list based on name and bonus, but right now his present stuff of high 80's FB does not necessarily warrant it.

If Colton Cain (19) can get enough innings to qualify, he may be a better choice due to his numbers even fighting through his offseason back injury.

Matt Curry (21) is just embarrasing this league right now with his bat. I would hope he could be somewhere between 14-20 on the list.

I think we would all love to see Gift Ngeope (20) make the list. His K/BB rates are fantastic (around 25% BB rate), but he may be too raw for BA at this point.

West Virginia Power -- This one may hurt the most for Pirates fans because there are guys doing great here, but BA is very age-ist and may see the Fabulous Baker Boys (Aaron and Nate) as being 1 year too old for the level. They both deserve it based on their numbers, though.

I think Jarek Cunningham (20) makes the list at 15-20. He has a lot of power for a middle infielder and his ability to draw walks has drastically improved through the year.

If anyone can figure out Evan Chambers (21), let me know. BA may have a tough time with him, too, and decide to just stick him at the back end. He draws an incredible number of walks, steals bases, and hits "dingerz", but his batting average suffers due to his patience.

Bradenton Marauders -- This team has been decimated by injuries this year, but hopefully BA doesn't factor that too heavily.

Tony Sanchez (22) had some lingering shoulder problems, but then had his season ended when he was hit by a pitch in the face. The bat plays, though, so he should be somewhere between 6-10.

Brock Holt (22) tore his ACL and is out for the year, but he could still be 15-20.

Jeff Locke (22) pitched plenty of innings to qualify here and should be 10-15.

Altoona Curve -- Double A is where the boys get separated from the men, prospect-wise, so you really want to see your AA represented.

Bryan Morris (23) has not been as dominating here as he was at A+, but his stuff and potential should still get him a spot around 10-14.

Rudy Owens (22) will get the soft-tossing lefty label on him, but his results speak for themselves. He should merit a spot between 11-16.

Justin Wilson (22) also has had a great season, but he may get lost in the "names" of the league. I could see him around 15-20 for this list.

Alex Presley (24) laid waste to this league before his promotion to AAA (where he is doing the same), but he may get dinged for his age being 1 year too old.

Indianapolis Indians -- This one is easy for the Pirates. All of their prospects are up in the majors right now and will have exceeded their rookie eligibility to make these lists.

Overall, the Pirates should be well-represented by at least 1, if not 2, guys on each list.
And you can never have too many lists.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Guac Talk

There are some foods from your childhood that are engrained in your memory as "gross." Like brussel sprouts. But then when you become an adult, with a more cultured palette, you give them another try.

And you find out that brussel sprouts still suck.

Another one of those foods, for me at least, was guacamole. It was a weird shade of green, it was mushy, it was...too exotic. Especially without the prevalence of good Mexican restaurants back then. My entree into Mexican was Chi-Chi's. It was the only game in town.

Well over the past year, I have dived headfirst into avacodos in general and guacamole, specifically. It sort of dovetailed nicely on our recent trip to Cleveland when we went to a fantastic Mexican restaurant called Momocho.

At Momocho, they make their own specialty guacs in-house and have a rotating group of flavors. Everything from guac with goat cheese/tomato/chile poblano to smoked trout/bacon/chile poblano to pickled corn/crab/chile chipotle and a host of others.

I've never made it for myself, though, until last night. I had an avocado laying around that I wanted to use before it went sideways on me. So out came the mini food prep and in went....

1 avacado, cubed
2 squeezes of fresh juice from a lemon
2 shakes of red cayenne pepper
1 handful of pine nuts (this is a very scientific recipe, as you can see)

I put my finger on the trigger for "grind" and out came a guacamole that had the zeal of the lemon juice, the zip from the cayenne, and the woodsy taste from the pine nuts. It was very tasty and super easy to do.

It seems as if guac is like risotto in the way that it adopts the flavor of whatever you put into it. I've had a wide variety of risottos and each one has been good. This guac creation inspires me to keep experimenting with different flavors.

Which is the whole fun of cooking for me in the first place.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Dejan's Friday article

On Friday in the Post-Gazette, Dejan Kovacevic had an article about 10 things the Pirates can do in the 2nd half and beyond to improve. It was a well written article for the most part, but I found #4 to be intriguing in a sneaky way.

4. A payroll hike is promised.
It already is plenty clear that the Pirates' major-league payroll will go up in 2011, partly because it really cannot go much lower than the current $36 million, partly because they already have assured the MLB Players Association that it will, but mostly because Nutting has said it would in years to come.
There has been no indication from Nutting or Coonelly that they would announce their payroll for next year, but maybe this is the summer that will change and, perhaps, restore some trust with the fan base.
Management's longtime reasoning against announcing payroll in advance has been that it gives agents leverage in the offseason. But agents have direct links with the union, and agents tend to find these things out, anyway.

The reason why I say it is sneaky is that it absolutely is possible for the Pirates to have a lesser payroll next year. If Duke (est $6.2M in arbitration) and Doumit ($5+M in salary) are non-tendered or traded, their replacements will make significantly less. The Pirates have mostly 0-3 players making $400K to $440K...very few key guys will be arb-eligible. Sure, players such as Ross Ohlendorf will hit arb for the first time, but he won't command a huge increase.

So what Dejan has done is to put pressure on the front office and Bob Nutting, specifically, by using his pulpit in the media. He is setting the table for people to demand higher payrolls and revolt against another sub $40M payroll. "Dejan said the payroll will increase in 2011. It has to!"

And he buried it as the #4 item! Stroke of genius. I just wonder how much effect it has on this ownership group and front office. They are stunningly tone-deaf to the fans. Yes, it is a business. But it is a business based on entertainment for the customers. If this team were a Cirque du Soleil show, the clowns would be fat and chain smoking and the people on the high-wire act would have fallen and broken their necks.

I have had my problems with Dejan's writing in the past couple of years. Once his buddies Jack Wilson, Freddy Sanchez, and Nate McLouth were traded, his writing's tone changed. It became more questioning and skeptical of the front office's overall plan. Little barbs would leak out on his blog or on talk shows.

Perhaps all the losing has taken a toll on Dejan. If you are a Pirates fan, you can simply turn off the TV or not read about them for a few days. Dejan is with them nearly every day during the 6 month season. He can't avert his eyes from the train wreck on the field. Perhaps he also questions his decision to move from the Pens' beat writer and daydreams about covering this current mini-dynasty led by Crosby and Company.

Dejan is an excellent reporter. His work on the Dominican Republic facility and the process of signing Dominican kids last year was excellent. His coverage of Miguel Sano and the subsequent carnage after he was signed by the Twins away from the Pirates was top-notch.

He is an excellent writer. I just fear the Pirates are wearing him down.

Going Greek

Even though my muse, DB~, is out of town (waaaaay out of town!), I was still feeling creative last night. When DB~ and I went to the Strip District a couple of weeks ago, we of course went to Penn Mac for cheese. One of the cheeses I bought was the harder cousin of Feta, known as Myzithera.

During my last trip to Giant Eagle, I bought some sheets of phyllo dough, in anticipation of a Greek night. I decided that last night would be an "experiment night" in the kitchen. I ended up making a new "restaurant-quality" dish last night, so I thought I would share:


1/2 lb of ground meat
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/2 lb Myzithera cheese
1/3 cup cooked orzo
6 grape tomatos, cut in half and seeded
couple of springs of lemon thyme
couple of spring of lemon basil
1 clove garlic, pressed
1 cereal bowl of spinach leaves
1 pkg of Fillo dough
salt, pepper to taste
5 tbsp of melted butter

First I cooked the orzo for about 10 minutes.

While that was going, I put the ground meat in the skillet to brown. Once it was brown on all sides, I added the garlic and the chopped up thyme and basil. Next I added the grape tomatoes cut in half and sprinkled the pine nuts into the mixture. I let this simmer on medium heat for 10 minutes and added a touch of salt and pepper.

I then got out 4 cereal bowls and set up the shredded Myzithera in one, the spinach leaves in another, the cooked orzo in the third, and the ground meat mixture in the fourth. I contemplated running the ground meat through the food processor, in order to make it easier to work with the Fillo, but I decided to keep it regular. It was a good choice.

Let me interject this recipe with a warning about working with Fillo dough. It's nerve-wracking at times. I don't know how it is made, but apparently it is cut with a NASA-grade laser. If you pick a layer of it up with one hand, it will rip. If you lift it higher than 3 inches off the kitchen counter, it will rip. But it soooooo tasty when baked.

Once I had my bowls set up in the train, I got the Fillo out and put it on a cutting board with a moist towel covering the wrapper to prevent it from drying out. I then had a baking sheet set up for the final product. Make sure you work directly on the baking sheet, as you won't be able to move the creation once it is done -- the Fillo will rip apart.

Take one sheet of Fillo and score it lightly in half. Brush one side of each scored piece with butter. It just needs to be very lightly buttered, not thickly done. Carefully flip one piece over so the butter side is down. Repeat with the second piece.

Then place a few spinach leaves on the Fillo, keeping them about 1/2 to 1 inch away from the edges. Get another sheet of Fillo, score it, and brush both pieces with melted butter. Put one, butter side down over top the spinach and place the 2 tablespoons of ground meat mixture. Place the second buttered piece over top of the ground meat mixture. Repeat with a third piece of Fillo -- score it and butter both halves. Place a handful of the Myzithera cheese on this piece of Fillo and then cover it with the second buttered half. Get a fourth piece of Fillo -- score it and butter it. Place 2 tablespoons of orzo on this piece and then cover with both pieces of Fillo.

At this point, gently pull the edges all together as is you were wrapping a present. The butter will help make the edges stick. The edges on the wrapped DBSopita will only "wrap" about 1/2 to 1 inch up...don't pull them all to the center.

This recipe should make 6 of these creations. I baked them at 375 degrees for 20 minutes until flaky and light brown. You will be able to manuever them with a spatula once they are baked and flaky.

Serve with couscous or a wild rice and your choice of vegetable. Opa!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Urban Exploration - technically it's illegal, but...

2002 was an interesting year for me. I started my current job that year and when I did the Information Technology guy at that time was around my age. Considering that my place of employment did not have many 26 year olds at the time, he and I spent a lot of time together at work.

The IT guy was into all sorts of neat things. He was the one that took me geocaching for the first time and got me hooked. Of course, back in 2002/2003, geocaching was in its infancy. It was more of a big deal for he and I to go required some pre-planning. Now, you just put your zip code in at and there's probably one within a comfortable walk of your house.

The other thing he got me into for a brief while was Urban Exploration. Essentially, looking back on it with 7 to 8 years of reflection, Urban Exploration is really a euphemism for "breaking and entering into abandoned stuff." But it was cool and helped jumpstart my enthusiam for renovation of brownfields and revitalizing neighborhoods.

The place shown in the pictures above is the old Carrie Furnace, just east of The Waterfront. Allegheny County bought the property in 2005 and has started preliminary site investigations (including demolition) in the hopes that this will one day be a business park or mixed-use development.

But back in 2003, it was just a rusted out, abandoned hulk of a complex. Carrie Furnace was a huge steel mill, one of many that populated the riverfront along the Mongahela River (Steel Valley). When we went "exploring" on a sunny Saturday back in 2003 (me, my good friend, and IT guy) we parked my car in nearby Rankin (not a great neighborhood) and walked about a mile to it.

We slipped right in the fence and spent the better part of the next 2 hours just quietly observing this place. It was eerie. It was if one Friday, all the workers went home and then just found out on Monday that it was closed. Which is likely what happened. We found log books from foremen laying on desks, detailing what hours everyone worked...all on green/white grid paper with careful printing.

The rules of safety were painted mural-style inside one of the mill areas, complete with a Steelers was the Steelers' 70's after all. The whole place was a sprawling complex. I tried to envision how many hundreds of people worked there at its peak. It was probably like a living, breathing entity all fueled by the people coursing through it. And then they were gone and this delapidated husk was all that remained.

We climbed all over the place, including going up the gantry to the catwalk by the highest smokestack. We got some great shots of the surrounding Mon Valley. It's one of those experiences that I will always remember, because so few people can say they were up on the exterior catwalk of Carrie Furnace. Especially now that it's gone.

The second picture is a piece of "guerilla art" that was installed by a group of local Urban Exploration artists at the time. All that IT guy knew is that this guerilla artist would enter places like this and create sculptures out of whatever was present at the site. This deer in the picture was nearly 2 stories tall. This picture was taken by leaning out of a warehouse window.

It was only this year that I found out who the "guerilla artist" was. His name is Tim Kaulen and he is now a legit Urban/Industrial artist. One of his current pieces will be installed at a newly renovated park on the South Side. I've seen proofs of his current work and it is interesting. He is using recycled steel I-beams to create figures as a tribute to steel workers pouring and puddling steel. They look like Transformers to me, but they will be eyecatching.

There is still an active community, both in Pittsburgh and nationally for Urban Exploration. It also has an international following as well. One of the things that humans are good at is building stuff and then letting it fall into disrepairs.

One of the more interesting sites I've found lately is Dark Roasted Blend. It explores the slightly off-center side of urban living and has an interesting stash of articles relating to architecture...both abandoned and futuristic.

Friday, July 9, 2010

DBS On The Road -- Altoona

With the promotions of Alvarez, Tabata, and Lincoln to the major leagues, Bryan Morris is the Pirates #1 prospect in my opinion (until the day Jameson Taillon inks his name on a contract). It has been rumored that Morris will see some time in AAA this year, which means that if you want to see him close to Pittsburgh, your time to see him in Altoona is limited.

So a road trip was in order...out 22 East, past the numerous strip clubs, greasy spoon diners, and tattoo Blair County Ballpark. Home of the Altoona Curve since 1999. I was there during its inaugural season, but have not made it back since, with many regrets.

DB~ was a last-minute go to join me. I would have perfectly happy going solo, but it was great to have her join me. She knows I don't really get too excited about things, so she indulges my zeal of minor league prospects whenever possible. Plus she brought her professional-grade camera with lenses that cost a ridiculous amount, so we got some nice shots (like the one above).

We drove 2 hours with the prime purpose being to scout Bryan Morris and imagine him in the Pirates 2011 rotation. He lasted 2 innings. So I suppose in a perverse way, I WAS able to envision him as a Pirate. :)

He just didn't have it last night. He sat 91-93 on his fastball and peaked at 95 (note - these gun readings were off a radar gun...we sat behind Rudy Owens and Jared Hughes...the reputed 2 mph difference on the stadium gun is real), but his changeup was blah in the low 80's and his slider was elevated all night in the mid 80's.

The second inning had a no-doubt HR from the bat of Kirk Neuwenheis and then Morris beaned a guy for good measure. Easily his worst performance of the year. In fact, by the time DB~ got her super-duper lens ready, the only picture we got of Morris was of his bunt in the 2nd inning. It was the best thing he did all night.

As for the rest of the Curve, Chase d'Arnaud was solid, if unspectacular. He looks to go opposite field at the plate first and foremost. He is fast down the line and he and Mercer (playing at 2B) were smooth on a double play. Mercer has an inside-out swing that led to a slicing double to RF in his first AB and a pop out to RF in his second AB. In his 3rd AB, he rocketed a shot to left-center that hit off the very top of the wall, resulting in another double.

I came away from this game very impressed by Josh Harrison, though. To get it out of the way first....he is short. DB~ is 5 foot 5 inches and may have her beat by only 2 inches. He is kind of shaped like a fire plug, too, but he hustles hard. Every ball was hit square and exploded off his bat. It just sounded different than anyone else on the Curve. He only had one chance in the field at 3B, that I saw, and he handled it cleanly. Perhaps he can fake it enough in the field to be a nice super-sub and not just a pinch hitter.

After the 3rd inning, we walked around the stadium for an inning to get some photos and take in the park. When we returned, we shifted one section over to sit behind Rudy Owens and Jared Hughes so I could see the gun readings. I wished Rudy continued good luck and told them that I hoped to see them in Pittsburgh next year (I had to be polite to Jared). Then I looked to my right across the aisle and saw the familiar military-grade crew cut adorn by everyone's favorite Farm Director....Kyle Stark.

I couldn't resist asking him some questions, but which ones in such a limited time frame. I could, literally, ask him questions for two hours I think. I introduced myself and established rapport by saying that many hardcore fans supported what they were doing in the minors. Then...

1. "When will Jeff Locke be here (meaning Altoona)?"
KS - "Much sooner rather than later. He's pitching very well in Bradenton."

2. "A lot of fans are starting to buzz about Exicardo does he look?"
KS - "I just came from seeing him. He's the real deal with the bat."

After an inning break, I hit Kyle Stark with 2 more questions...

3. "Who is the prospect that no one is talking about, but should be?"
KS - "With all the information available today, there are no more surprises, but I don't think Alex Presley is talked about enough."

4. "How does Colton Cain's FB look in the GCL?"
KS - "He's still not 100% recovered from his back injury, but he has an average fastball right now."

He was very pleasant to talk to. I could tell it was the last thing he wanted to do, but he was very gracious with me, even if his answers were close to the vest. I respected his time and only asked him questions in between innings, but I wish I could have asked a ton more.

The whole night was enjoyable. A ticket behind home plate is $10, parking is $2 at the garage, and they have this interesting culinary creation called the Walking Taco. It's a bunch of nacho chips crushed up in Mission Tortilla's bag, and drenched with nacho cheese, topped with lettuce and tomato. It gives you the breath of a fire-breathing dragon, but for a ballpark food it was good.

A trip to Altoona is well worth it for a Pittsburgh baseball fan.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Strip District - the stomach of Pittsburgh

Oakland may be the brains of Pittsburgh, with the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University occupying real estate. The Golden Triangle may be the heart of Pittsburgh, with its mix of pulsating commerce pumping money and congested traffic clogging the roads like cholesterol in the arteries of our bodies.

But the Strip District is the stomach. The place where Pittsburgh gets the food that we eat in our homes and in restaurants all throughout the region. During the day, it is quite simply a foodie's dreamscape.

The area is evolving even further in recent years by taking on a more ethnic slant with new entries such as a Polish deli (S&D Deli), a Peruvian eatery (Chicken Latino), more Asian groceries with an emphasis on Vietnamese recently, and more Greek food stands outside.

DB~ and I took off last Friday to eat our way through the Strip District (well, she would watch me try, I guess...her appetite is small). Unfortunately, the best laid plans....have delicious ruinations at Pamela's for brunch. Even though I was too full to try something from each of the street side stands, we did agree to Eat Around The World for dinner.

We started with a Havarti from a Pennsylvania creamery, God's Country Creamery, that is repped locally by Pennsylvania Macaroni Company --- a must stop on any trip to the Strip. We then selected potato and cheese pierogies at the aforementioned S&D Deli, (we reheated the red pinto beans from the night before as a side), and then had two delicious Greek desserts. And the wine was from California!

The funniest line of the day was overheard by DB~. A man in his mid-20's, dressed in a Yankees jersey and a Yankees hat with a heavy Brooklyn accent (an aside - why do Yankee fans feel compelled to advertise their affiliations everywhere they go? We get like to root for the Devil) was on the phone with someone back in the Filthy Apple. He said "Yeah, I'm in Pittsburgh for the weekend. I'm in this one part that's just like Queens...yeah, they have all kinds of s&*t out on the street for sale!" So there you go. New York approved.

If you are bringing people to Pittsburgh for the first time, especially if they are out of towners, the Strip is a must do on a Friday or Saturday morning/afternoon. It's an electric atmosphere that brings out your hunter/gatherer instincts.

Skip Primanti's...try more fun foods and they'll remember it for longer.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Beatlemania....50 years later

Last night, I went down to the Rivers Casino with DB~ and her family (my future in-laws). We met her mom, dad, sister, brother, and her other brother with his wife (in from Philly). The purpose of the visit was to see a Beatles cover band perform 2 hours of Beatles songs.

As my one future brother-in-law said, only the Beatles could put on a 2 hour show where nearly EVERYONE in the audience knew the words.
The concert was held in the really nice outdoor amphitheatre outside the Rivers Casino. With the boats on the Ohio as a backdrop and a perfect sunny night, it was really a very nice setting. I'm not a Beatles fan by any stretch. I appreciate their contribution to music and respect their place, but I'm not a fan. But there were some people here that were true believers, both young and old.
The strange part is that this band dressed up like them. The first half of the show was their "early" phase...complete with them dressed in black suits and mod haircuts. After intermission, there was a costume change and the band was in their Sgt. Pepper phase for the rest of the show. They even had fake British accents!
I guess for some of the audience, it was a chance to recapture their youth and for some others it was a chance, albeit through artificial means, to see a band that they were either not born yet or too young to see when they were in their heyday. The whole place was packed solid.
The strange part of the night for me, as a detached observer, had nothing to do with the Beatles. We had all positioned ourselves to the right of the stage down by the river. Well, right beside us, leaning against the railing by the river was a guy who (I think/hope) fashioned himself as a Gene Simmons look-a-like (of Kiss fame). Eventually people's attention wandered from the show and noticed "Hey, that guy down there looks like Gene Simmons!" So slowly, a small crowd of people made their way down to have their photo taken with him -- replete with devil horn signs, of course. But Fake Gene Simmons just kind of took it all in...he never really smiled or posed, just sort of let them take his picture with him.
I just wondered what would have happened if a lady with fake breast implants got her picture taken with Fake Gene Simmons while a Fake Beatles band played in the background. Time and space, as we presently know it, may have ceased to exist.
P.S. - I've been to the Rivers now 3 times and have only given them money via the slot machines 1 time. Slots to me seem like a boring, robotic waste of time and money

Friday, July 2, 2010

My lunch with Andrew McCutchen

As you all know from following this blog, I'm super cool. So it's no big deal for me to call up my main man Andrew McCutchen, star CF for the Pittsburgh Pirates and have a nice lunch in the Strip District.....

All right...I know. I'm a big techno-nerd. I'm not fooling anyone.

I took a vacation day today (much needed, in my opinion) and DB~ and I went down to the Strip District to do some shopping of various ethnic food nationalities. But first we stopped for breakfast/lunch at Pamela's. It was a great meal, as it is usually is at Pamela's. DB~ had strawberry crepes and I had a pork BBQ sandwich with onion rings and cole slaw.

Now...I always prefer to sit with my back to the wall. Part of it is so that I can sit and people watch, but a lot of it is my irrational fear of wanting to see if someone is going to come charging at me with a knife or something. Just go with it.

So I have my pork BBQ sandwich going head-long into the ol' cake cruncher and in walks an African-American gentleman with his dreadlocks pulled back in a bunch behind his head.

It's Andrew Stefan McCutchen. Cutch-22. The Face of the Franchise. The guy who was the impetus for me joining OnlyBucs (my version of Facebook, since I'm not on the real one) and a guy I have written about numerous times on this blog (check the sidebar for "Andrew McCutchen" and "Cutch-22" tags).

I sat there with my pork BBQ raised up in my hand...totally dumbfounded. DB~ half-turned to check he and his girlfriend out. I instantly starting having all these thoughts flash through my head...

"Should I talk to him?" "Should I give him a head nod on the way out?" "Should I give him the fist of solidarity?" "Do I tell him about OnlyBucs?" "Am I going to get a protection from abuse order placed against me?"

Andrew was with a beautiful girl. I was with a beautiful girl. Maybe the four of us could go out for dinner sometime. I could cook dinner for the 4 of us, Andrew could read some of his original poetry. It would be just lovely....

"Don't embarass yourself." Ahhhh...nothing like DB~ to snap me back into reality.

He still didn't have his food yet and we were done, so DB~ agreed to go pay the check and I would go over and "just say hi". I decided to wing it on what I was going to say.

Now...I've met a lot of local celebrities and a few national celebrities. I'm not starstruck. Except now. This is my favorite Pirate. The guy who I hope against hope is a Pirate his whole career.

I cautiously approached him and said, "Hi there..." He looked up surprised. "A lot of people are pulling for you guys. You'll turn it around soon. Good luck." And then I pretty much did a 180 and walk-sprinted out of the restaurant.

What a dork I was. I got the impression he sort of wanted to be left alone, so I pulled the ripcord early, like Goose in Top Gun.

BTW, the picture above is one that I surrepetitiously took through the table of 4 sitting next to us. Cutch-22 is in the background with his head down. He's the black guy.