Sunday, June 27, 2010

No more left turns on the road, please

I can't stand political correctness. There are so many things we want to say but can't, even if they're obvious, for fear of jarring someone's sensibilities.

Here is a for-instance. We all know there is one minority group that absolutely does not know how to drive a car. But it's somehow wrong to say it even if we see it every day and the evidence is overwhelming. Well, I don't care about political correctness. I'm going to take this minority group to task right here, right now:

There is nothing scarier on the the road than a liberal.

You know what I'm talking about. You're driving down Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley with a hankering for a Top Dog. All of a sudden a '77 Gremlin cuts you off and starts driving 15 miles under the speed limit and you know what you're dealing with right away, because the back fender is jammed with 15 bumper stickers that say things like, "Get out of Iraq now," and "Make Marijuana Legal," and "Keep Abortion Safe."

All sentiments I agree with, I should say. Truth be told, I'm more liberal than conservative, but there must be something about those bumper stickers that weighs a car down to the speed of a limping turtle.

I have no use for those firearm folks who aren't all that thrilled with parts of the First or Fourteenth amendments but consider the Second Amendment sacrosanct, you know, the ones who would fight a law barring handguns in a kindergarten. But I'll get behind a truck with a gun rack because, by gum, I know the driver will accelerate to freeway speed on the on-ramp.

What is it about liberal drivers? Do they think the gas they don't burn by going from zero to 60 in three days will preserve the ozone layer for another few years? Do they view traffic laws as just one more attempt by "the man" to keep them down? Are they oblivious to the road as they mull their next hunger strike?

Tell you what. I have no use for Sarah Palin or these Tea Party demagogues, but if they can find the accelerator without having to look at the owner's manual, I might just have to sign up.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Travelog Toronto: A police state with smoked meat

Canadians have a good sense of humor. As evidence I offer John Candy and Mike Myers. Face it, a guy who dresses up in a "Laugh In" outfit with fake buck teeth and calls his apartment a shagadelic pad, well, that's comedy genius.

They call their dollar coins "loonies" because of the odd-looking bird that appears on it. (No, dummy, not Queen Elizabeth. The loon on the back.) When they devised a two-dollar coin, those, of course, became "twonies." I wish the United States would adopt coins for every denomination less than five dollars, if only to see how strip-club patrons would affix the coins to the dancers.

One thing does test the Canadian sense of humor: their perception of how the United States views their country. They see us as condescending blowhards who think of Canada as nothing more than a colony of beer-guzzling hosers who like arctic temperatures and 110-yard-long football fields. Maybe that's because we are condescending blowhards who think of Canada as nothing more than a colony of beer-guzzling hosers who like arctic temperatures and 110-yard-long football fields.

So, imagine the collective Canadian sneer this week when the U.S. State Department issued a warning for Americans to stay out of downtown Toronto next week when the G20 summit of world leaders takes place. These summits attract huge demonstrations that often turn violent. I might join them, because everyone knows that in bingo its "B20," not "G20." That's not right.

Essentially, the State Department lumped Toronto with other inadvisable destinations such as Tehran, Pyongyang and the delicatessen one cave over from Osama bin Laden's in the mountains of Pakistan.

But hey, maybe our government has seen what I've seen the last two days. Officials in downtown Toronto have lain miles of concrete barriers topped by high chain-link fences, either to keep protesters out or to pen them in should they get out of hand. Every key street corner is manned by three or four cops. And none of the summit participants even have gotten here yet. There are dozens of coppers hanging around the Rogers Centre, where the Giants are playing the Blue Jays. Maybe they were sent there to investigate why third-base coach Tim Flannery waved Aubrey Huff home in tonight's game when he clearly was going to be out by 10 feet.

Just kidding, Flan.

I'm glad I'm going to be out of here before all the chaos. I just hope Dunn's deli is safe. I found it today on King Street, and I'm glad I did. It's a Montreal deli that serves smoked meat (left), which is sort of like Canada's version of pastrami. I had a smoked-meat sandwich today and it reminded me of my wonderful trips to Montreal when the Expos played there. (By the way, if you want to see real contempt for Americans, go to French-speaking Canada.)

After lunch, I wandered into a coffee place called Second Cup. I assumed that meant my second cup would be on the house. The barista, probably for the 400th time this week, disabused me of the notion. But I enjoyed both cups as I sat outside on a brilliant spring afternoon watching a lunch-hour crowd buzzing about, hoping they all stay safe and sound next week when people are toppling buses and setting them on fire and destroying . . . no, wait a minute, that was Los Angeles after the Lakers won the NBA title last night.

Maybe the State Department should take notice and add L.A. to the list. I bet the good-humored Canadians would get a good chuckle out of that.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Flushed with sorrow about my future

I am a very depressed newspaperman this morning. It finally hit me, on this 15th day of June in the year of our lord 2010, that my livelihood is doomed. By this time next year, I better know how to make a double mocachino pronto if I want to earn enough money to pay my bills and continue to add to my miniature troll collection.

I have been one of the staunchest advocates of the print newspaper and very Pollyanna about it survival until The Revelation hit me this morning while I was completing my daily indoor constitutional: That bastard Steve Jobs finally created a product that will end my stellar career (Shaddup! And this time I mean it!)

My mantra always has been, "Until they develop a product that lets you read the comics in the john, people will still want to buy newspapers." Now, people don't have to.

A vision burrowed its way into my head. Attached to the wall of my bathroom to the left or right of the commode, whichever is more convenient, could be one of those scissor-type extenders that often hold mirrors. But instead of a mirror it could hold an iPad just 2 feet in front of my face. Rather than clutch a newspaper to see exactly what Dagwood will put on his sandwich and wonder what Liz the vet sees in Garfield's master Jon, I can sit there with my hands free until it's time to flip the screen to "Luann."

With the comics read, I can check my stocks, examine my daily schedule, Tweet my innermost thoughts and track all flights around the country on the FAA website without leaving the plushness and comfort of my $250 Hammacher Schlemmer heated seat. When I'm done, I just reposition the iPad against the wall and go on with my day.

"Oh," you say, "newspapers were already doomed because people could read the comics on their iPhones."

C'mon. How can you tell on a screen that small what sick prank Lio is going to pull or trace the circuitous route Billy takes as he comes home from the drugstore with Jeffy's insulin. And besides, if you're a klutz like me, you do not want your $199 smart phone anywhere near a bowl of water.

No, it's time to polish that resume, or go into business for myself. I have a good idea, too. I might start manufacturing bathroom iPad holders and scissor extenders. I'm telling you, by 2015, "smart toilets" will be all the rage.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Surviving in the land of tobacco

My friend Chris, who writes for, calls people she does not like "douchenozzles." In the annals of ad hominem verbiage, this one might be a Hall of Famer.

I encountered a douchenozzle of the lowest order today when I was doing my power walk, which I must do to preserve my girlish figure. My hotel is in Covington, Ky., separated from downtown Cincinnati by many bridges. To start my walk, I cross one of the oldest and most spectacular spans, a suspension span that is well over 125 years old and, I've been told, was the model for the Brookly Bridge.

The car portion of the bridge is closed for a major overhaul, but you can still traverse the pedestrian walkways. However, much of the walkway is tented for the construction, as you can see in the photo below, so you essentially walk in and out of these canvas tunnels.

A man was walking in the same direction, about 30 feet ahead of me, and I saw him light a cigaret as he was entering one of the canvas tunnels. Not only did he want to inhale as much nicotine as he could directly, he wanted to collect any smoke that foolishly plotted escape by inhaling it as it rebounded off the canvas.

Of course, I had to walk through the same tunnel, and my efforts to run past him and the smoke were thwarted by a Bengie Molinian lack of speed and two cranky knees. I lost the race and had to suck down this douchenozzle's second-hand smoke. By the time we got to the next tunnel, I put on my afterburners (shaddup!) and passed him.

What is it with people in this part of the country? After lunch, I walked into the Starbucks near my hotel and two extraordinarily large women in line ahead of me each ordered sugary, whipped-creamy, caramely drinks. For the life of me I couldn't see the barista pouring anything into the two cups that looked remotely like coffee. After I quickly got my black cup of java, I followed the women out. One woman, before she even took a sip of her pepperoni pizza in a cup, lit up a smoke and started puffing.

She could not wait to kill herself with the a cigaret before she could kill herself with the drink.

I try not to be judgmental (again, shaddup!). But I really do appreciate the California attitude about health. Even I, who will never don a swimsuit calendar that is not published for the blind, look at the salad side of the menu before I look at the meat, and no, I don't smoke.

Long live the douchenozzles, if they can make it.

Monday, June 7, 2010

A revised "Interpretation of Dreams," or, "Freud Help Me."

People of a certain age understand what it means for a person to be "touched." It implies he or she is mentally unstable. The term was used because it was culturally incorrect in those days to say, "Man, that dude is batshit crazy."

I'm afraid I might touched in another way that I think I once saw in a "Twilight Zone" episode.

Two nights ago, I dreamed I was covering a game in San Francisco when closer Brian Wilson came in to pitch. I remember the score, 2-2 in the seventh inning. Maybe the setup relievers were off playing with their iPads in somebody else's goofy dream. Anyway, Wilson goes batshit crazy on the mound.

I don't mean goofy Mark Fidrych antics. I mean he was wearing a spacesuit and dancing and waving and doing anything but pitching. He then ran to the dugout where he grabbed one of those gigantic air guns that some teams employ to shoot wrapped hot dogs into the stands, and he started firing away. A panic ensued, fans ran onto the field and the Giants had to forfeit the game.

Crazy thing is, I went to work after that dream and watched Wilson blow a save yesterday for only the second time this year.

Was I touched with a premonition?

(I'm not one of those "clean your plate because children are starving in Africa" guys, but could you imagine anyone from a poor nation visiting the United States and seeing meat being shot out of a gun and exploding to the delight of a crowd, or even one of those hotdog-eating contests? That would make for a hell of a "what did you do this summer" report in some third-world school.)

Last night I dreamed about being in a plane about to crash, and general manager Brian Sabean was the pilot. A lot of folks will say that's not a premonition as much as a metaphor.

I can't wait to see what my dreams hold tonight.

Maybe I'll dream that the New York Times will be less stodgy and try to compete with the Daily News and Post by publishing color photos of mangled bodies and subway accidents on the front page. A reader can be drawn to the gore then gaze up and say, "Oh, look, efforts to revitalize a two-party political system in Bangladesh are gathering steam."

Maybe I'll dream that researchers discovered that ice cream, chocolate, bourbon and steak, when eaten in precise proportion, will burn fat like nobody's business -- as long as you do not wreck the chemical process by exercising.

Or maybe I'm just touched in the head, Wilson was due to blow a save and this entire blog was a waste of Internet space and your precious time. I'll let you know if I have anymore batshit crazy dreams.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Travelog Pittsburgh: A better city than you think

This city continues to have a bad rap for something that no longer exists. There used to be a perma-haze over the city, smog from all the steel mills that have long since closed. Now, the air is pure and the skyline crisp.

I've always liked Pittsburgh. The people are friendly, and that includes Jim Leyland, who was managing the Pirates in 1988 when he stepped out of Three Rivers Stadium late one night, saw me waiting for a cab and asked this visiting rookie ball writer if he could give me a ride back to my hotel.

The view of downtown that one sees when exiting the Fort Pitt Tunnel from the airport is breathtaking. The yellow bridges that span the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers every few blocks stand out as golden monuments to the steel that used to define this city. The point where those two rivers merge to form the Ohio is beautiful as well. I love doing my exercise walks (shaddup!) along the river promenades.

For all of that, though, the main reason I like Pittsburgh is Primanti Brothers, a chain of eateries that tells you all you need to know about how lustily Pittsburghers enjoy life. This is not Subway. Jared's head would explode if he walked into a Primanti Bros. The healthiest thing to eat on the menu is the menu.

This how it's done at Primanti: Whatever fried delicacy or coldcuts you order are placed between two large hunks of white bread, along with tomatoes, French Fries and coleslaw. An all-in-one sandwich. You bite into everything at once, which is challenging for anyone without a mouth like Mick Jagger's. A sign in the restaurant tells you that the cheesesteak is the No. 2 most popular item on the menu. No. 1 is not listed, but Pittsburghers know it's the Iron City beer required to lubricate your throat for the elephantine hunk sandwich about to slide its way down. I present you here the Primanti salami sandwich:

There is a Primanti Bros. inside PNC Park, where the Pirates play. When the stadium first opened, one writer went to the stand and ordered a sandwich but asked for the slaw and the fries on the side. A cook actually stormed through a door so he could see the infidel and ask him why the hell he even wanted a Primanti sandwich.

I must admit, I ask for the slaw on the side, mainly because I like its salt-and-vinegar flavor and don't want it masked by the meat and potatoes.

Last night, Baggs and I got to Pittsburgh at midnight and needed to eat. It had to be Primanti because little else is open downtown that time of night. The Primanti in the Strip District is open 24 hours. Baggs had the sweet sausage, I the bacon, egg and cheese. Four Iron Cities were consumed. For the purposes of expense-account reporting, please note that Iron City is a vitamin supplement.

Baggs and I knew we were in the right place when we walked in and saw two women (we think) sitting at a table, each weighing at least three and a half bills, the kind who would look at me and say, "Hey, Tiny, come to mama." Baggs and I sat at the counter, downed our food and "vitamin supplements" and walked back to our hotel through some dark and gritty streets.

I would love to open a Primanti Bros. in San Francisco, but I think I'd have to change the menu. I wonder how a California sushi roll, organic bell peppers, new potatoes and a pesto arugula salad would taste between two pieces of seven-grain bread, washed down by an Alexander Valley chardonnay.

I'm guessing we'll never know.