Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Recruiting Diary

Well, it's been a while, hasn't it? I spent most of last week in the New York area, being "recruited" to stay there. So, in that vein, here is my "recruiting diary" for the trip.


Wednesday was my first long drive. For a 10-hour trip, it actually wasn't too bad. Of course, I didn't have to drive downtown, so that helped. The only small snag came at the George Washington Bridge. First, traffic was backed up getting onto the bridge, as it was rush hour. So, 10-15 people decided they were going to drive up the shoulder to get a better spot in line. And, of course - hey, there's an Ohio guy! Let's cut in front of him to get back in a lane! Good, good. Then, of course, after going through the toll booth, the road goes from 15-20 booths to three traffic lanes. Fun. But all-in-all, I'd say that the traffic I encountered wasn't any worse than the Cleveland Shoreway during an accident.
Once I got to Dave's house, he and Ellen took me to pick out a birthday cake. I went with a cookie dough ice cream cake. Dave asked the girl at the counter to add "HAPPY BIRTHDAY KANKA" to the cake. And she did - in bright pink letters. Cute. Well, at least it was good (very good), but there's probably still a piece or two left in Dave's freezer.
After cake, we went to a bar called the Nutty Irishman. Decent bar, decent band. At one point during the night, Ellen finally did it - she offered me her cherry. Well, the cherry from her drink, at least. Who said that? I did get my first taste of the locals, and two new catchphrases were born. 1) "I don't have a collar to pop." 2) (when looking at a guy with a popped-collar, rolled-under sleeves, sunglasses, spiked hair, and a cell phone) "I'm sorry, I was distracted by his coolness."


Thursday was water park day at a place called Splish Splash. I believe this was actually my first trip to a water park. (Well, considering Cedar Point's water park is an additional $50....) Dave's friends Will and Sabina came along. It was fun, even with the brilliant idea of letting the not-so-strong swimmers (Ellen and me) hang around each other the whole time.
It was there that I realized what it takes to be a Long Islander: If you're a girl, and older than 12 (I kid you not), you need a lower back tattoo and too much belly button jewelry. If you're a guy, you need a tribal armband tattoo and a gold chain necklace (brilliant at a water park, I know).
Speaking of 12-year-olds, that was probably the average age of the workers there. That was the lowlight of Splish-Splash. The highlight was the Best. Ride. Ever., the Hollywood Stunt Extravaganza! After waiting for 40 minutes in line while overhead sprinklers mist water on you (brilliant on a 105 degree day, not so brilliant on an 85 degree day), we got to watch a short animatronic presentation by our "director" that included water cannons. Then, after waiting another 10 minutes to climb up the slide, we finally got to go down the Best. Ride. Ever. I got to go down backwards, so it was even better! Yipee!
After the water park, Dave, Ellen, and I went to a BBQ joint called Smokin' Al's. The 40-minute wait was very enjoyable, thanks to the 40's jazz music they broadcast over outdoor speakers. Good times. If you ever go to Smokin' Al's, I highly recommend the barbeque nachos. Or, if you're in a Flinstones mood, go with the Monster Ribs.


Friday was meant to be a day spent at Fire Island (a "family-friendly" section of Fire Island, I should mention - even if that one 60-year-old topless woman didn't think so). But, after narrowly avoiding birds for an hour, the rains came. So, we headed back home for an afternoon of playing catch (I only dropped the ball once!) and video games. And let me tell you - mascot basketball is at least 100 times better than mascot football.
Friday night, we went to the Mets-Nationals game with quite a crew in tow: in addition to Dave and Ellen, we had Scott Howard, Dave's old roommate Danny and his girlfriend Adrienne, and Dave's West Islip friends Sal (the newest member of KankaMatic Fantasy Football) and Killah. One person that was noticeably missing was the ever-elusive Rhiana. Does she exist, or doesn't she? After my first trip on the 7 Train (not as bad as advertized), I got to see a 1-0 Mets win. The lone run came on a Ramon Castro double followed by a Victor Diaz single. Following Game 5 of the 2000 NLCS, I'm now 2-0 at Shea - a good reason for me to move, I suppose.
After the game, Scott drove us downtown to McSorley's, the oldest bar in New York (it turned 151 years old this past February). On the drive down, everyone tried to play faux tour guide for me. The highlight was when Scott or Sal mentioned that waiters came by with cocktail service when traffic is backed up in the midtown tunnel. McSorley's easily became my favorite New York bar. Years and years of newspapers clippings and keepsakes lined the walls (including references to prohibition and the court order that forced McSorley's to finally start admitting women in the early 1970's). You have two choices at McSorley's: light or dark. Beers are served two at a time in 8-ounce mugs by one of the feisty bartenders. All-in-all, the group of Scott, Dave, Ellen, Sal, and I consumed $80 of dark beer and fish-and-chips. Good times, even if the train didn't get us home until 3:30.


Saturday morning was filled with trashy MTV shows and ice cream cake for breakfast (for me at least). I swear, that sweet 16 show is another time when you just want to see homeless people come out of the wings and start beating the crap out of these spoiled people. I did pick up another great catchphrase from the Real World: "That's weak. That's practice squad."
After a while, we drove out to Ellen's mid-renovation house. After an early dinner (yeah, I'm "too skinny"), we went to mass. I'm sure Ellen loves going to mass - she's surrounded by "cute old people" there. Afterwards, we headed to the Giants-Panthers game at Giants stadium. It was a good game, and a big win for the Giants. Justin Tuck had a huge game, including a big hit on Carolina's quarterback and an interception. Ryan Grant's day wasn't as memorable. He's officially fifth on the depth chart, behind people like Brandon Jacobs, who has absolutely been tearing up the preseason. Grant got in on one play when Jacobs was having trouble with his helmet (it was a pass). Later on, he got back in the game, only to drop a bubble screen pass. Of all the plays you would think that he'd be able to handle.... Ah well. Best of luck to him. After the game, Ellen's sketchy dad escorted us to the area outside of the locker room where fans and family members can watch the players load the busses. Ellen's dad was able to flag down Ryan Grant, much to her embarrassment. When Ellen's dad asked Grant if he remembered her, Grant replied, "Oh hell yeah I remember her." He asked her what she was up to these days, and she replied that she was about to start sports management school. His response: "Manager 4 Life!" Ha.


Sunday was the drive back. But, of course, Mrs. Fitzgerald wouldn't let me leave without having a good breakfast first. So, Dave, Ellen, and I went to a little diner to eat. I had the waffle shortcake, marking the second day in a row that I had ice cream in some form for breakfast.
I noticed a sign for Williamsport on the way down, and also noticed that the Little League World Series started on Saturday, so I decided to stop by on the way back. Of course, I was never warned that Williamsport is a full 25 minutes off of Route 80. Not wanting to lose too much time, I decided to spend only half an hour in Williamsport. After going through a metal detector (which is more security than Shea or Giants Stadium had, by the way), I quickly checked out everything the LLWS had to offer. Besides the main stadium you always see on TV, there's also now a second feel that isn't as big, but probably still holds more people than some Single-A stadiums. There was also a very simple softball field, but that was being used for parking. To keep the players' younger siblings occupied (and possibly to keep the players themselves occupied), there are a variety of sponsored activties and stands set up on the grounds. I took a quick stop in the Little League Museum, which included a running speed test, pitching radar gun, and batting cages (yes, I did actually resist the temptation to jump in line with the little kids that were playing there), before heading back home for good.

Yeah, I probably forgot a ton. Dave, Ellen, (anyone else who was there), feel free to fill in the gaps on the message board.