A season’s ending, a life’s recharging

As I spent an outstanding, stress-free Sunday here in the great suburbia of New Hampshire watching Curt Schilling and the Sawx battle the Yankees, football, catching up on a couple phone calls and just overall doing nothing while also something, I realized that the summer truly is over.

And what a few months it was.

I consider the summer to officially begin when the hockey season officially ends. For those of you not familiar with my winter travails, I work in the front office of the most-attended minor league hockey franchise in North America. From October through April, I work a regular schedule during the week, plus 40 home games that tend to get in the way of a regular social schedule more than not. Throw in the constant events that we do and life outside of work pretty much screeches to a halt and I find myself justifying why I do what I do to my friends, family and mainly, myself. But it’s my choice and I’ve stuck with it for four years. Next week begins our exhibition schedule and a turn of the calendar that is usually dreaded more than driving through the Big Dig at 4:30 pm on a Friday holiday afternoon.

If the past few months are any indication though, I’ll have enough great memories to get me through the cold winter. Here’s a little look back at what blog fanatic Clyde called “Summer of Nase II,” coined from the ‘Summer of George’ jokes from Seinfeld:

Saw nine Major League Baseball games: four in Fenway Park, one in Yankee Stadium, one in Los Angeles, three in San Francisco. Wow. I’m a baseball fan but even I couldn’t have predicted this luck. I got to see Schilling, Martinez, Schmidt, Bonds, Ichiro, etc., etc. Some people may think that baseball is too slow and boring, but for me, nothing beats sitting outside and just relaxing at a game. It’s phenomenal, made even better by the people I saw the games with. While it’s awesome to experience a game anyway, it’s made better by the company that you keep.

–Made two trips to California: This is something else I could have never predicted, having to pay zero to fly to two parts of Cali twice after never having been there ever. The first was a gift from my cousin and her husband to hang out in San Francisco for a week, while the second was a work trip that myself and a friend extended into a vacation in Los Angeles. I written about this before, but California made me open my eyes to how much is out there to see and experience. These trips helped me become more comfortable about possibly moving on to the next stage in my life than ever before, which is a very good thing. More on this a bit later…

–Learned how to play poker: Yep, the fast-growing disease known as Texas Hold ‘Em made like Vanilla Ice and grabbed a hold of me tightly. I haven’t gone all in (pardon the pun) on online poker yet, but it’s coming. Thought about trying it out? Do it. It’s easy and you meet a ton of new people if you get in the right social circles. I actually played for a couple hours in Vegas and held my own which made me feel even more confident about playing cards. It’s fast-becoming the new golf in that you can get a group of friends together, play for a while and socialize for a little money. Hold ’em tourneys are popping up all over the place and I’m glad I learned when I did. My ultimate goal is to play in the World Series of Poker before 2010…who knows? (Anyone was to pass around a hat to help me raise some money? Anyone?)

–Speaking of…: I went to Vegas. That sentence should speak for itself.

–Made the round of visits, avoiding all weddings: Ever plan out your visits and always miss someone? I actually saw everyone I wanted to, with zero wedding time logged. Seriously, I felt like buying a ring myself after all the weddings I attended last summer. I was invited to two, but was unable to make it because of the afore-mentioned trips. (Married couples that invited me that are now reading this: no, I’m not talking about your wedding which I loved: the vows, the bride, the old ladies dancing to 50 Cent at your reception…) What a win-win!

–Attended NASCAR for the first time: I wrote about this in detail for last week’s blog, but it just seemed like a nice way to cap the summer: hanging out with 90,000 friendly race nerds. Vroom vroom!

Throw in the good weather and the normal fun stuff and it was a damn good summer. But there’s always stuff you miss…

no golf: I still haven’t really learned to play and was severly hindered by a slipped joint in my lower back which made the mid-part of the summer very irritating. Things are better, so I hope to get a few swings in here before the courses and ranges close. Next spring though? It’s on like Super Bon Bon.

no real progress on any book projects: this one frustrates me more than anything because I have the time but not the right motivation to do it. I bought the laptop and I just need to push forward…no more f’n around. I think I might switch priorities up though and strictly focus on what I call ‘The Blonde Theory,’ which was a pure stroke of brilliance by two of my good friends. What is it? Stay tuned…

That leaves me here, typing away at 10:11 on a Sunday night in a light retrospective mood. I think what this summer has taught me is that it’s ok to look to the future and start thinking about what could be next, to not settle just because it’s the right formulaic thing to do and that moving on is just what it says – moving on. I could rattle off a bunch of cliches, but in the end, the conclusion is still the same.

To me, I’m at that stage that all of us find ourselves at, actually very similar to a poker match: make a bold move or stay pat. The roads and houses are littered with people who have chosen not to take a big risk and now regret their choices because of it. Others are happy with just staying in the stream and not hedging too much to the left or right, avoiding detection and not raising any red flags. Myself? I’m not any type of rebel and hardly could be considered as someone that lives life on the edge (like those who actually tell people they are. If you have to tell others that you’re extreme, you’re not. Go drink a Mountain Dew and litter or something.)

What I do want is to be noticed and start breaking out and that trip out West showed me that there’s a lot of places to head to. Am I taking a nomadic trip across the U.S.A. in search of the American holy grail? Hardly. What I am doing is taking the first mental and spiritual steps toward a decision that will happen, whether I want it to or not. And you know, I’m very ok with that.

(Sorry if I got too deep there…I feel I should break out a dick or fart joke here for those totally lost.)

Thanks for reading,

nason

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Ain’t That America: My Day At NASCAR

For years and years, I’ve towed the sports elitist and fashionable line of dissing on the coughsportcough of NASCAR. You know how most of these comments go: “Car racing, eh? Great sport…if you’re a hick” and “Awesome…it’s great watching a car make left turns…all..day…long.” Fill in your own Skoal, Budweiser or marrying your cousin joke here, even though the latter will be taken offensively by myself because I’m from a township. (sorry, bad attempt at self-depricating humour there.)

But for years, I was asked by a friend if I’d go to a race using his family’s seats at New Hampshire International Speedway in Loudon, NH. Whenever the races come through this lil’ state, it’s a big deal. 1) because of the sport’s amazing and sometimes unexplainable popularity and 2) the huge amount of traffic that is created by almost 100,000 people cramming into a two-lane road into NHIS. After a year or so of saying no, I reluctantly agreed last season, but when the race was delayed by rain, it got postponed to a work date for myself and my chance was lost. However, this year came around and the offer was made for the last time. I said yes and it was on like, well, Donkey Kong.

After boozing it up the night before and getting all of four hours sleep (great idea before a long day of watching women with mustaches and inhaling car fumes. F**king brilliant, Nason), we departed for Loudon which is only about 12 miles away from home. The first sign the race was in town was the locals gearing up at the local Wal-Maaaaaaaht as the parking lot was littered with Berettas and Celicas adorned with ‘8,’ ’25’, ‘3’, etc. Say all you want about the mainstream sports, but there is no sport that pushes a simple number more than NASCAR. You could put 121 on a hat and if a driver had it, someone would own it.

We took a back way into the track, avoiding a TON of traffic heading in from the highway. It was a scene out of “The Grapes of Wrath” where everyone is just migrating to this singular holy spot, the first of what can best be described as a surreal set of events. After driving a few miles through a paved road in the middle of nowhere, we parked at one of the random lots strewn throughout the Bahre complex, busted open our first beer of the day at 10:30 am and prepared for (say it loud) THE SYLVANIA 300!!!!

It’s hard to describe exactly every sight and sound, but here’s some quick hits:

–Everyone is happy. Seriously, the whole friggin’ day, everyone is just in a state of motor car euphoria. It’s bizarre, amazing and somewhat encouraging all in one. Maybe it’s because of point no. 2…

–You can bring in your own food and drink. I’ve worked in sports for four years and been to enough other events to know that this is nothing short of spectacular. Granted, you just can’t wheel in a keg but you’re allowed a backpack and small cooler that can fit quite a few brews. Throw in a bag of chips and you’re ready to rock for cheap. It’s like going to a more expensive drive-in movie. Plus, the concessions that are there aren’t horribly expensive at all, which leads to…

–Fries in a dog dish. Everyone had these french fries in what appeared to be a cardboard dog dish. We had to have some and for $6 each, we did. A bit overpriced, but hey, it’s eating fries out of a cardboard dog dish. That doesn’t happen every day.

–You can walk around with open containers and smoke butts anywhere in the place. It holds almost 100,000. It’s like America back in the good ol’ days when you could drive around with open beers in your car and sneak heaters at your desk in work. I kept walking around feeling like I was doing something wrong and I was going to get thrown out. Then, I noticed the other fans and wasn’t that worried…

–The merchandising. NASCAR changed allegiances this year from old Southern-style sponsor Winston to NexTel as their major sponsor. Of course, there are NexTel trucks as the events, signing people up for service. Believe me, there is nothing better than watching a hick trying to figure out how to make his phone do the NexTel noise. It’s hilarity at its peak….Almost every driver has a truck they sell crap out of, including Dale Jr. who has four trucks. His dad still has some of the best-selling merch on the circuit…and he’s dead. My question: where can I buy a Dick Trickle shirt? Where?!

–Gang mentality: Everyone has a favorite driver and I’m still not quite clear on why people pick them. One person I asked said they picked Rusty Wallace because of their dad and Ryan Newman because he was an engineer. Another said their favorite racer drove a Chevy and that’s why they earned his admiration. Dale Jr. is obvious because he’s the fresh cool face the sport has been pushing and his legacy certainly doesn’t hurt either. But everyone has a favorite and adorn them to no end with hats, shirts, sweatpants, coolers, earrings, etc. I’ve swam among a sea of Sox fans on Yawkey Way and known the cult feeling, but this is a melting pot unto its own.

–Finally, where do these people come from? This was the question I asked all day. People of similar nature (predominantly white) but different hygenic backgrounds made up the crowd, with almost 3/4 of the crowd adorning facial hair (yes, women are included). Were there ‘hicks’? Yep, most definitely. A lot filled that stereotype that all of us associate the sport with – dirty, less than Hollywood and basically normal small-town New England race fans. But those folks sat beside business owners, teachers, college students and a Director of Ticket Sales, having the same good time as the next guy. And you know, there’s nothing wrong with that. As I mentioned before, everyone was having a great time watching the cars go ’round and ’round and ’round and ’round with little to no incident. And that’s where I came up with this thought:

Out of any sport currently played on U.S. soil, NASCAR best represents what America is all about: loud, colorful and sometimes accident-prone.

When the day was over, I can honestly say that I wasn’t any more of a NASCAR fan than when I showed up. About 100 laps into the race, we got bored and walked around the displays and merch trucks around NHIS. We came back with 75 laps to go and proceeded to get emotionally involved only when we ran out of beer with 7 laps to go. But I can say that I’m starting to understand a bit more why people love going to races. It’s a party. It’s Phish For Rednecks, baby, and it’s not going away anytime soon.

Did I find myself a favorite driver? I’d say Tony Stewart. He left the race part-way through due to blowing a radiator after getting nudged by another driver. Seems like a pretty normal guy to associate with.

Thanks for reading,

nason

p.s. don’t forget to pass along the site to friends!

Sox playoff roster, Dunkin Donuts and more…

Football is back, baseball’s in its best month and best of all, my favorite season – Fall- is upon us. No more humidity, the air is a bit more crisp and life just seems a little better for yours truly.

Before we get into some Sox talk, here’s a couple nuggets to digest…

–There are places to get coffee…and then, there’s Dunkin’ Donuts. The New England institution has probably taken enough of my money to support the Canadian war effort and you know, I don’t have an issue with that. What I do have an issue with is the consistency of what they serve from store to store. Here are three recent examples…

1 – I stopped by a DD in a Mr. Mike’s gas station in Hooksett, NH, and wanted to get a Turbo Ice – an iced coffee with an expresso shot. DD had been doing a huge ad campaign about the new T.I. and you’d figure there would be no issue picking one up. Scratch that. I asked for a Turbo and then drove up to the window, upon which the cashier said, “What did you ask for?” “A Turbo Ice.” Her reply: “What is that?” I looked at her, wondering if she was kidding. The “I’m not sure if I’m going for my G.E.D. or not” expression was enough to tell me she wasn’t.

2 – The infamous New England Cheddar sandwich with its big Curt Schilling ‘pahk my cah at the yahd’ campaign was a HUGE hit for DD. However, not everyone decided to offer them at the same time. There’s nothing better than hearing: “We don’t have that” on the other end of the metal squawk box, followed by dead silence.

3 – Just today, we hit up a DD in Brunswick, ME and requested a caramel iced coffee. The obviously confused lady said, “A caramel latte?” I replied, “No…a caramel iced coffee,” fumbling for exactly how to explain this seemingly simple request. “We don’t have that.” Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrr. After also being told they didn’t carry wheat bagels (my friend Clyde’s response: “What the f**k? Who doesn’t have wheat bagels?), we decided to go with Harvest bagels for our sandwiches, only to find out on the drive back that the cranberries in the bagels don’t taste that great with sausage and cheddar cheese. Bleeeech. If it were me, I think I’d say something about the Harvest bagel ingredients, just to be sure.

My gripe? Be consistent like every other chain. McDonald, Buger King, KFC, Subway, etc. all have the same stuff at the same time. That’s why people like chains: consistency and familiarity. However, going into a Dunkin’ Donuts is like visiting a doctor’s office: you don’t know exactly what to expect or what you’re going to come out with.

–If you go to a grocery store, don’t write a check. Why? Ever see those people who hold up those express lanes because they write checks? They’re express lanes. Express.

–After watching the Pats game on Thursday and various games on Sunday, I know now more about Coors Light’s cold-brewing process than ever before. Seriously, how many of those ads did they show? Like 123? It’s almost like watching Sox games on NESN and seeing the Foxwoods ad over..and over…and over…and over. The wonder of it all…

That brings us to my thoughts on a potential Sox playoff roster. No, I’m not saying they’re automatically in but with the team 3.5 back of the Yankees and with a big lead in the Wild Card race, I think it’s ok to talk about it. Here’s my thoughts on the 25-man roster…

Position Players – Guaranteed Locks

1 – Jason Varitek – C

2 – Doug Mirabelli – C

3 – David Ortiz – DH/1B

4 – Mark Bellhorn – 2b

5 – Orlando Cabrera – ss

6 – Bill Mueller – 3B

7 – Manny Ramirez – LF

8 – Johnny Damon – CF

9 – Kevin Millar – RF/1B/DH

10 – Doug Mientewicz (or something like that) – 1b

11 – Pokey Reese – 2b/ss

12 – Gabe Kapler – OF

Pitchers – Guaranteed Locks

13 – Pedro Martinez

14 – Curt Schilling

15 – Derek Lowe

16 – Tim Wakefield

17 – Bronson Arroyo

18 – Keith Foulke

19 – Mike Timlin

20 – Alan Embree

Let’s stop right here. As far as position players, there’s no doubt about the guys on that list. They’re the heart and soul of the team and all give the Sox arguably the deepest bench in the majors with their defensive versatility and amount of time they’ve logged this season – something extremely important. You’re noticing some names missing? We’ll get to that in a second. As far as pitchers, the top five starters, the closer and the two main setup men of last year make the list. That leaves us with five guys left to take of this bunch of regulars. I not even bothering to list Adam Hyzdu, Tim Hummel or Sandy Martinez because it just ain’t happening:

1 – Trot Nixon

2 – Dave Roberts

3 – Dave McCarty

4 – Kevin Youkilis

5 – Ricky Gutierrez

Going on the notion that you carry 10 pitchers, that leaves us with two pitchers and three position players to fill. Why 10 pitchers? Because with a likely rotation of four starters, you automatically have a long relief floater option along with your usual cast of characters. But there is an option here to expand to 11 since more than a few guys can play multiple positions. Hmmmm…pitching and defense wins titles. You know, I think I just changed my own mind and will go with 11 pitchers and 14 position players. Their versatility is huge here and allows them the option to consider carrying 11 hurlers. So we need two position players and three pitchers, eh? Alright then, I’ll take Trot Nixon and Dave Roberts. With Minky now in the mix, the need for another defensive 1b is out the window. Mmmbye to McCarty. With Mueller doing awesome at 3b and Bellhorn as a emergency option, I don’t see a need to bring along Youkilis. Pokey provides a middle infield relief, so Gutierrez is gone. By bringing along Nixon and Roberts, you get speed with the latter and the chance for The Big Hit in Nixon who is as clutch as you get. (This transition will be talked about in a later column…remember the phrase Hell of Fame).

Now, the tough part of selecting three pitchers. Here’s the list:

1 – Scott Williamson

2 – Mike Myers

3 – Ramiro Mendoza

4 – Terry Adams

5 – Curtis Leskanic

The issue is that they’re all very similar that makes it difficult to select different attributes. The key will be Williamson, who has been battling injuries all season but could be HUGE if his fastball is ok for the postseason. He threw an inning Friday night and will be brought along slowly. But you know, why not? He was so big last season that you have to take the chance. Mendoza has been throwing great and deserves to be there as another long relief option. If Embree isn’t 100%, you have to take Myers who is The Left-Handed Relief Option That Works One Batter A Game. So in a tough choice, Adams and Leskanic (would have fit right in with last season’s scruffy squad) are cut.

Here’s the final Nason squad for the Sox’s 2004 postseason run:

Position Players:

1 – Jason Varitek – starting C

2 – Doug Mirabelli – bench C

3 – David Ortiz – starting DH/1B

4 – Mark Bellhorn – starting 2b

5 – Orlando Cabrera – starting ss

6 – Bill Mueller – starting 3B

7 – Manny Ramirez – starting LF

8 – Johnny Damon – starting CF

9 – Kevin Millar – starting OF/1B/DH

10 – Doug Mientewicz (or something like that) – starting 1b

11 – Pokey Reese – bench 2b/ss

12 – Gabe Kapler – bench OF

13 – Trot Nixon – bench OF

14 – Dave Roberts – starting OF

Pitchers

15 – Pedro Martinez – Starter

16 – Curt Schilling – Starter

17 – Derek Lowe – Starter

18 – Tim Wakefield – Long Reliever/Spot Starter

19- Bronson Arroyo – Starter

20 – Keith Foulke – Closer

21 – Mike Timlin – Righty Reliever

22 – Alan Embree – Lefty Reliever

23 – Mike Myers – Lefty Reliever

24 – Ramiro Mendoza – Righty Reliever

25 – Scott Williamson – Righty

That’s a pretty damn good postseason roster. I hope we see it on the field in late-October…

Thanks for reading,

nason

A Labor-ous weekend with thoughts on singing waiters

I think if it’s a nice day and you can get people around for a BBQ, Labor Day could be one of the best and most underrated holidays. Ever.

Married Rant/Dating Rant pt. II will be on hold for the time being. Honestly, I just didn’t feel like writing it this week, but it will be up soon enough.

Random notes from the week that was….

–The Red Sox’ pursuit of the Yankees is nothing less than spellbinding (and yes, I dare you to use spellbinding at work in a random conversation). Everyone had written the then-listless Sox team off and yet a month later, they’re within 2.5 of the Evil Guys in Pinstripes. And if you didn’t have enough reasons to hate the Yanks, here’s another.

As everyone knows, a big rainstorm hit Florida this weekend and made most of Florida look like a hotel room after a 1980’s Rick James gitdown. The Tampa Bay Devil Rays were due to play the Yanks Monday for a double-header but were having travel issues coming out of Florida because of the hurricane and would be probably not be able to make their 3 pm start. What do the Yankees do? Ask the commissioner to rule the game forfeited, giving the Yankees a win. Keep in mind that George Steinbrenner partly lives in Tampa. If any NY fan starts talking smack, bring this story up and you’ll win every single time and probably be seen as compassionate and stuff.

Through pure luck, I made it to two Sox games this week: Tuesday against Anaheim with Curt Schilling and Friday against Texas with Pedro tossing the ball. Both were memorable events, but Friday’s even more so because we scored right field roof seats, which are brand new this year. For $75 a ticket (minimum table of four), you get a fantastic experience which includes a $100 drink/food credit at the bar. Our group arrived at around 6:30 and proceeded to run up a $200 bill, then deciding to hit up the city of Boston. At two different points, we got free rounds of drinks for absolutely no reason, the first being at Fenway when our waiter said, “I saw your bill was getting high, so these are on the house.” I’m not a big believer in religion, but someone was smiling on us Friday.

I also now understand why people join cults. Hanging out on Yawkey Way with hundreds of other Sox fans before a game in beautiful weather is something that just can’t be replicated. You almost wish a group of rowdy Yankees fans would stumble into the area and start yelling about how Jeter is awesome. I sincerely worry about the city of Boston if the Sox ever win a title. However, there’s part of me that believes that everyone in the city would just walk over to the Big Dig sites and finish them due to the state of euphoria.

The great feeling ended rather quickly on Saturday morning though, when I woke up with the feeling of a railroad spike being driven into my head and the urge that something in my stomach needed to get out. I soon discovered that chili looks the same going on as coming out and felt slightly better than a corpse for the duration of the morning. But I stuck through it and had a great rest of the weekend, capped off by a Labor Day bbq, a nap and losing my cell phone which finally decided to leave me sometime in the last 24 hours. I thought I treated it well, but I think it found out that I was looking at other models….

Other noteable events from last week:

–My friend Rob eating three Monster Dogs, totaling 36 inches of ‘pork product’ in one night. I see this as nothing less than amazing. A close second was my buddy King downing three italian sausages in one night, which was pretty great in its own right. However, I eat some 7-11 nachos with chili and bow to the Porcelain God. Go figure.

–I randomly started breakdancing in the afore-mentioned 7-11. No idea why. I think the cashier’s theory that white people have no rhythm was cemented with this 2 a.m. display.

–I checked out the ice cream shop known as Cold Stone’s Creamery. If you haven’t heard, they basically mix ice cream on a strip of freezer-burned rock with a variety of toppings. While I wasn’t as thrilled as the others in the group, it was still pretty good. From what I saw, they do pretty damn well as there was a line almost out the door. The workers also randomly break into Cold Stone songs, which brings me to this point…

–Aren’t we to the point where waiters at chain restaurants can stop singing? Seriously, these ice cream workers were breaking out in song over giving them tips. We all know about the ‘bring a friend to a chain, tell the waiter it’s their birthday and you get free cake as people who don’t care sing happy birthday’ deal: it embarasses the person but more importantly, the wait staff. I think as a society, we’re past this. No one likes it, so stop. Please.

–My friend has a rule he lives by: Never drive anywhere where you’re going to spend less time than the total drive takes. Example: I drove a total of six hours Thursday night to spend two hours eating dinner and visiting with relatives. Do you find yourself doing this? My favorite set of rules, by far, is the ones that Coach Finstock in Teen Wolf lives by:

“…never get less than twelve hours sleep; never play cards with a guy who has the same first name as a city; and never get involved with a woman with a tattoo of a dagger on her body. Now you stick to that, and everything else is cream cheese..”

And with that, we’ll see you next week.

-nason (who asks you to forward this to anyone who might need something to do)