Monday, June 27, 2011

It's Officially Summer

It’s officially summer, which means two things: 1) My sister will be at Lebanon Valley Speedway every Saturday night, and 2) My paternal cousin, Patrick, will either be bar-b-cueing or heading to the public pool until September 8th. With that in mind I’ve decided to share my summer itinerary, subject to change, of course.

July is shaping up nicely. The 4th will be spent at our lakeside villa up north, on a pontoon boat captained by Canadian Lou’s father, Irish Ed, and they’ll be three first mates, see the pic above for that. We won’t be at the plaza pretending to like fireworks, saying “ooohhhh” and “aaahhhh," then get beer bottles thrown at us as we walk fearfully back to our car parked on some side street off Madison Avenue. Nah, not this year. After the holiday, I head west, to our nation’s capital: Utica, NY. My friend, Mule, is getting married. Operation Stag for me, as CL is back in Albany for another nuptial roulette. As for Big Daddy Mule, he and his bride will fly into the church on the backs of mutant peacocks and exchange I do's at sunset. Then Mule will serenade his new bride with an acoustic version of “Nothin But a G Thang.” Hey, don’t look at me, that’s what the invitation, Facebook page, and wedding website say.

After that, I reunite with my lady friend, head to Las Vegas, NV, the city that never sleeps, for 3 days at the Cosmopolitan Hotel. What? HoJo's was booked up? There better be a beach view or I ain’t going! There must be a beach in a town that promotes $6.oo lobster, right? July comes to a close as we troubadour back north to see some bum named McCartney in concert. Can you believe I got roped into this sideshow? He's no Lee DeWyze from AMERICAN IDOL, I'll tell you that. But whatever, let’s see this McCartney guy. I just wish I knew some of his songs. Oh well.

August is always a good month. I spend 30 days inventing excuses to NOT go to ‘the track, man’ and try to see my NY Giants work out the winter kinks at U Albany. This NFL Lockout better end. I’ll probably have some time to finish Rutherford’s novel about New York and unwind before the football season (hopefully) returns. By that time the Giants should have Tiki Barber and Plaxico Burress both resigned, right? And on that note, fall will be back upon us, like a fruity drink with the little yellow umbrella, and summer will already be slipping to the rearview. It goes so quickly, doesn’t it? I just hope we get some snow this winter. I don’t think we got a single storm last season. Did we? I don’t live in the northeast to NOT get good figure skating weather. Come on!

But before we get to that, I begin tonight, back at the movies. We are going to see the new Cameron Diaz flick BAD TEACHER. I am going to do something very stupid, for the 2nd time: I am going to bet against Justin Timberlake. That’s right. I think BAD TEACHER is going to be, well, really bad. There is just way too much Cameron Diaz for this thing to be good. How long can someone stand that ridiculous laugh and these Aniston-like attempts to be sexy with water hoses and half shirts at 44 years old? The only thing worse than Diaz in the movies is Diaz in real life. See her relationship status with A-Rod for that. I don’t even think Justin can save this flick. But we shall see, and I will let you know. So for all you summer bunnies, I bid you good times and God speed.

Speaking of good times and God Speed: On Facebook @ the Cat’s Pajamas

Brian Huba

Monday, June 20, 2011

This is a tough one

This is a tough one. For once I sympathize with state politicians on trying to decide what to do about allowing same-sex marriage into law. Before you climb on your soapbox and scream about how 'anybody' should be able to marry 'anybody,' please consider all the confusing and conflicting factors involved when you’re dealing with a state as important, and as large, as NYS. This isn’t Vermont. We all know what Vermont is. This law is easy in vermont. NYS is a leader of America, a leader of the world, with a population teetering on 20million. Yes, I think this is a very important vote, and how we handle it, will set in motion the way the rest of the country, and perhaps the world, will handle the issue.

If pressed I’d describe myself as liberal. But I only have two concrete political beliefs: 1) Let me hear what you have to say, regardless of party or affiliation, and 2) Sarah Palin is the biggest political lightweight in world history. With that said, what I have noticed is how every politician who’s questioned on the issue of same sex, has been very careful not to commit to the wrong wording, one way or the other, or even give a direct answer to reporters’ questions about it. Yes, this is a slippery slope, and they know it. There is a lot involved, with tax breaks, habitation laws, religious factors, which strikes me as funny, because I thought the foundation of this country was to separate the state from the church. Guess that baby went out with the same-sex bathwater. It's taken many turns, this same-sex debate we are now entangled in. And yes, the whole world is waiting to see what NY does. Can anyone say 'Hot Seat?'

The problem is NYS is such an eclectic population. If you asked people on Lark Street or SoHo if same-sex marriage should be passed into law, they’d ream you on the state staying out of people's personal business, how marriage isn't so sacred with a 50% divorce rate, how God, if there is one, would love all people anyway. Hell, they'd likely remind you that Michael Jackson got married. Sacred you say? I think not. But try asking a farmer in Franklin County, or correctional worker in Clinton County, or the AGWAY guy how they feel about this proposed law. Stereotype much? Maybe. But that's the rub with this one, isn't it? Different strokes for different folks.

Many state residents believe that the tail wags the dog in NYS, and that tail is everything below Westchester, that point brought up in this blog because many would agree that 'the City' is the most liberal area of our state, and why should they have the franchise on this proposal? Maybe. The easy thing to say is, ‘Who cares who marries who?’ That’s easy, but the truth is people care, and people have concrete views on this issue, against it in this case, and those views should be reflected by their reps. in government, right? Ignorant or not. What can I say: I don’t envy our state government on this one.

The same-sex rallies at City Halls and at the Capitol right here in Albany will continue, and the next few days will go far to shape the future of this state, and how marriage is looked at around here and beyond. This is a big deal. Is it Brown vs. Board of Ed.? Maybe. Is it Row vs. Wade? Could be. Either way, it’s not something that should be handled quickly, even in this climate of job loss and economic ruin. If there is no other way to get through this hot-button debate, why don’t we put the issue to a general vote? All registered in NYS allowed to cast for or against same-sex marriage.

Honestly, I would probably vote to allow it, but that doesn’t mean someone who would vote against it is wrong, because I know many people that would shoot this thing down like a scud missile. And that’s OK, we all have our beliefs. Some feel the bible is the book that rules their world, others believe the whole deal is right here on earth, so make your life as happy as ‘humanly’ possible, marriage laws be damned. How about this: If an open vote can’t work, whatever Sarah Palin is scripted to say (I mean Tweet or Facebook, since she's not encouraged to deal directly with the press) on this argument, let’s do the exact opposite, and call it a day. Yes sir, this is a tough one.

David Tyree, NY Giants' Superbowl hero, talks same sex:

Howard Stern talks about same sex:

Brian Huba

Monday, June 13, 2011

LeBron & the Mob

For the past 24 hours I have listened to every ex-basketball player and sports expert try to explain why the world’s greatest roundballer became a complete liability to his team in a matter of days. Of course I’m talking about the Miami Heat’s LeBron James, the man who singlehandedly beat Boston and made Chicago’s Derrick Rose (league MVP) look like Axl Rose in these same 2011 playoffs. Then came his head-scratching evaporation in the NBA Finals. If you don’t follow basketball, that’s all right, I believe you’ll still find the following account an incredible story about a global athlete crumbling to dust on the major stage, and why.

About a year ago LeBron James left his first professional team, the Cleveland Cavaliers to ‘take (his) talents to South Beach’ and join forces with Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh to play for the Miami Heat. The ESPN show on which he announced this was dubbed ‘The Decision’ and was met with much criticism by people in all basketball circles. A few days later he took part in a cheesy 3-ring circus with new teammates Wade and Bosh, declaring the Heat would win not one, or, two, or three, or four, but countless championships. That cheese fest was met with even more hate. For the first time in his 7-yr. career, LeBron was cast as the NBA’s villain, and when the NBA season began, the boo birds were out all over America, myself included.

The Heat made it through the NBA season then smoked through the NBA’s Eastern Conference playoff bracket. LeBron James was the world’s best player and everyone finally recognized it, myself included. Former Michael Jordan teammate, Scottie Pippen, even said James might be better than Jordan. Everything was looking up for Miami as they entered the NBA Finals, favored to beat the Western winning Dallas Mavericks, and shut the world up with a ring in year one of the ‘Big Three’ experiment. The Heat easily won the first game of the series in Miami. They lost the second game because Dallas executed a miracle come-from-behind win, then Miami took control of the series with a game 3 win. LeBron and D-Wade were both dominate, Miami was clearly the better team, and it seemed only a matter of time before the Heat would rule the basketball world. Then something happened.

LeBron James, the greatest basketball player in the world, simply stopped playing. Two wins away from achieving his lifelong dream of an NBA Championship, two wins away from proving the world wrong, two wins away from winning back fans by the basketload, LeBron James just stopped playing. Period. He did not choke on the big stage, or go cold from the field, or get marred by foul trouble, he just stopped being LeBron James. Out of nowhere, he just stopped. His numbers plummeted. His drives to the hoop stopped. His aggression and excitement disappeared. Poof. This may not sound like a big deal but when a guy like LeBron, who could drop 30 points in a blindfold, can’t score more than 2.2 pts in the 4th Qtr on an aging defense, it is too bizarre to believe. Many fans and experts alike believe that LeBron just shriveled in a big spot, he just got scared to fail, he just lost his mojo. I say it’s something more than that.

I don't mean to go all GODFATHER on you, but I truly believe some kind of organized crime operation, interested in sports gambling, got a hold of LeBron James at some point in these NBA Finals, made him fix this series and/or throw it away. In my mind there is really no other obvious explanation for a god-like athlete so close to his goal, after a season of vilification, to commit legacy suicide two wins away from history, with his team in complete control of a series against a lesser opponent. You’re probably saying, ‘Come on, Brian, that’s insane, that can’t happen.’ That doesn't happen anymore. This isn't the Chicago White Sox or that bad movie BLUE CHIPS starring Shaq and Nick Nolte. Really? Why not? A few years ago an NBA referee named Tim Donaghy, for whatever reason, began rigging games he officiated for betting purposes. Why? For who? He won't say, he won't name names. We know how that goes, we've seen the SOPRANOS. He served prison time for not talking.

How about Michael Jordan’s dad? He was murdered at the side of a road in July 1993. And Jordan was a notoriously-big gambler, huge, massive gambler. That same time Jordan left the NBA for a year, and many believe the mob was behind that murder, and was driving Jordan’s career for a short time, when Jordan’s economic impact was 10 billion dollars, wherever he went. I don't know why MJ left bball to play minor-league baseball in the prime of his career, but I know he made 'somebody' a lot of money in doing it. So why can’t the mob have gotten to LeBron James and made him throw the NBA Finals with threats against his family or something like that? If you're gonna go after anyone to singlehandedly throw a series, LeBron would be the A-1 choice. He's that good. Plus he has a rep. for being weak in huge spots, so everyone would just dismiss it as LeBron being scared or weak. You might think a man worth 400million couldn't be bought. Maybe he could be motivated on another level. Haven't you people seen CASINO? And you might say, 'Why now, Brian?' Why not now? The NBA is facing a potential work stoppage. So there's no better time than now.

From Game 3 forward, LeBron stopped smiling, dealt with the press like a robot, and operated on the court like a corpse. When Game 6 ended Sunday night, and Miami lost, LeBron walked off, emotionless, relieved, like he was happy the playoffs were finally over. Anybody who knows sports knows that a global star of LeBron’s level doesn’t just stop being good for no reason in a matter of days, and in fact, become bad, real bad. Turnovers, missed lay-ups, bricked jumpers, dumb, blatant fouls, etc, etc. Why? Watch clips of the finals. It’s painfully obvious that LeBron wanted no part of those last 3 games. The ball was a hot potato to him. Why? When he was so close to a championship. It makes no sense, and every NBA analyst has said the same thing. It just makes no sense, whatever LBJ’s character or lack thereof is, zero sense to people who have breathed basketball for 20, 30, 50 years. To add some salt to my theory, many of my friends were texting me during Game 6, saying that it looked like LeBron had a bruise on his face, around his eyes. Go figure.

I am not a LeBron fan. I’m a Kobe guy through and through, so I’m not making excuses for the 'King.' I think Kobe is going to have a HUGE year next year, and I think we could have a Heat vs. Lakers Finals, a passing of the torch perhaps, circa Bulls vs. Lakers '91 (Oh, what a move by Michael Jordan). But you have to say that LeBron is the best bball talent in the world today, ring or no ring, right? And obviously every 'crazy' thing I say here is just a theory, with no hard evidence as support, except eyes and instinct, and I hope I'm wrong, because it would stink if it ends up I'm right, as a sports fan, it would stink. And if something did happen off the court that caused LeBron to lose interest in this series, I am sorry about that and feel bad for him. I dislike his style and think he needs to grow up quite a bit, but he was a manchild this entire season, then, with the whole enchilada right in front of him for the taking, poof, he shriveled away like a losing lottery ticket. Or maybe it was a winning ticket, meant to look like a loser.

LeBron tweet after losing NBA Finals: "The Greater Man upstairs know when it's my time. Right now isn't the time."

Read More:



More Donaghy:


More LeBron:

Brian Huba

Sunday, June 12, 2011

This is insane, right?

When I thought of what I might write about this week, I cycled between the who cares story of sexting congressman Anthony Weiner, Sarah Pee-lin’s Northeast bus tour of stupidity, and how Kim Kardashian is getting fake married, and some nobody NBA player has been cast to play her fake husband. Then I saw this complete insanity, and had to share it.

Before I get into this, let me say that miscarrying a baby, at any stage, would certainly be a difficult thing to deal with, for anyone, and it would likely take some time to move past it emotionally. I think we can all agree that if a baby is miscarried, the mother’s body, for whatever reason, rejected the process, something was wrong, it wasn’t meant to be. If you believe in God, maybe you can point to the sky, believe the answer is up there, and that's OK. Then you have to regroup, try again, right? With that said, I think you’re going to find the following story completely insane.

I won’t tell you who these people are or how I came across their Facebook page, but I will tell you they are a young couple, late twenties, who live in northern NY, in the Adirondacks. On their Facebook page they tell a story of a pregnancy miscarried after the twelfth week (something like that). Tragic, no doubt, difficult, for sure, but then it just gets nutty. Both father and mother, after suffering the loss of their non-birthed baby at week 12, decide to go out and get huge, matching tattoos on their upper arms, with the unborn baby’s name, the day of its miscarriage, and two baby foot prints, even though the baby was never born, and never had feet, then blast the pics all over Facebook, of course. Um, OK. Everybody has their process, I suppose, and I’m not looking to spark a debate about when a fetus becomes a baby, and when life begins, and when a ‘soul’ enters the equation. Whatever your belief is on this, come on, the abovementioned is abnormal, right?

But it doesn’t end there.

Several months after the miscarriage and matching tattoos, this same young couple decide that the memoriam behavior has to go on. So they purchase a flat grave marking and have it placed in a cemetery or burial yard of some sort, with unborn baby’s name and date of miscarry engraved into the stone, alongside an engraving of a baby praying on his knees. Since there is no body, because the baby tragically miscarried in early pregnancy, there is nothing buried below the plot, you’d think. Am I wrong on this, or does this seem to you to be a lot of crazy behavior, process aside? And of course, pictures of this grave stone are also blasted all over this dumb Facebook. You might be saying, ‘Brian, how can you call Facebook dumb? You beg people to visit your page all the time.’ I think anyone with any sense realizes I’m just joking about those begs. And furthermore maybe something as tragic as a miscarriage, at any stage, shouldn’t be fodder for your Facebook wall.

Either way, this is crazy behavior, right? This is too much. Am I wrong? Am I way off on this one?

Brian Huba

Monday, June 6, 2011

14 Aspen Drive, North Caldwell, NJ

After spending Dec 23rd, 2007 in a Manhattan hotel, we headed to New Jersey to spend Christmas Eve with Canadian Lou’s family. We had just gotten back together, so I was on thin ice with her old man, although I didn’t find that out till afterwards, and to this day am praised for the courage I demonstrated showing up at Aunt Catherine’s house for eggnog and gift exchange. But trust me: my courage was only out of ignorance. I’m the guy who hides in the car if I think someone dislikes me even a little. If I’d known her father hated me, I would’ve stayed in the trunk with the spare tire.

That night, at Aunt Catherine’s, the conversation turned to the greatest TV show ever, THE SOPRANOS. It turned out David Chase had wanted to use the huge house next store to Catherine's to film the scene in season 6, Part I where Tony meets up with his cousin Tony B in a dream. Tony B wants to take Tony S's briefcase and invite him inside. Soprano, sensing trouble, resists the invite, and begins to hear his childrens' voices calling him back from the coma that came when Uncle Junior shot him. And when he wakes, he says ‘I’m dead, right?” and Carmella says, 'No, you’re in New Jersey.' The family who owned the desired house, the Palmers, turned down David Chase, and the scene was shot elsewhere, but wow, what a story.

The day after Christmas, as me and Canadian Lou drove north on the NJ Highway, I was still talking about the Palmers turning down Chase. That’s when we saw a highway sign for North Caldwell. Knowing that the Soprano house was in N. Caldwell, I took the exit, and said, ‘Let’s find the Soprano house.’ We entered Caldwell, and drove through a small town that looked like Delmar times a thousand. Almost immediately, I recognized sites from the show. The hill where the feds stake out Tony and his fam in the first episode of season 3: Mr. Ruggerio's Neighborhood. Then I saw the school stoop where Tony sat down and called his lawyer after running from the FBI who stormed Johnny Sac’s house, which is the house that Chase originally wanted for Tony Soprano's. I knew the Soprano house was in a development of some sort, so we started searching one after the other, and believe me there are many lavish developments in N. Caldwell.

After an hour, we had no luck, so we returned to the town. When we saw a man wearing a NY Yankees jersey, we pulled over, and asked if he knew where Tony Soprano’s house was. He said he did. I knew we could count on a Yankees fan. He gave us directions back to the first wealthy development we had entered, so now we were back, for the second time, stalking slowly down streets called Birch and Cedar Drive. Finally we saw a woman walking her dog, and asked for updated directions. She smiled, said, ‘Take a right then take another right on Aspen, and you’ll see it.’ We thanked her, went on our way.

Sensing we were oh-so close, I cranked up the Soprano theme song in the CD player, and turned right on Aspen, as directed. The second I made that turn, we saw the house, huge and high, at the end of a cul-de-sac, just like in the show. Oh my God, there it is, I thought, and we raced right up the driveway, Tony style. We parked outside the garage, and jumped out like two kids in a candy store. It was real, this was the house. 14 Aspen Drive, North Caldwell, NJ. It’s actually in a normal neighborhood, beautiful of course. This was a dream come true. We took pictures and mimicked some of our favorite SOPRANO’s scenes.

We thought that HBO owned the house, so we peeked in the windows, went around back to the yard. There were no DO NOT ENTER or NO TRESPASSING signs. Turns out the house is owned by a private person, and they must’ve been away for X-Mas, and likely had a laugh when they watched back the security cameras, if they have them. But wow, what a day. Later on we found out the house right next to Tony’s was the last house the unabomber targeted before his arrest.

It was one of the greatest days of my life, as you can see by the pics, and 2months later the NY Giants won the Superbowl. Life doesn’t get much better than that . . .

. . . And Facebook doesn't get much better than the Cat's Pajamas.

Brian Huba

Oh-La-Di Ob-La-Da

On the way to dinner Saturday night, we did something we sometimes do: took a detour through Albany to view the streets and sites of my meager beginnings. When Canadian Lou asked why we so often make this detour, I told her, “So we can better understand me as a person.” Great! So we got off the Washington Avenue exit. A few traffic lights down, we took a left turn, entered the neighborhood where I was raised till age 9.

The basement apartment On Tremont Street I once called home was still there, shabby and sad, and the yard where I used to set up my lemonade stand and stuffed animals so they looked like little league baseball players, was much smaller than I remembered. But isn’t that how childhood sites always seem? Tremont Street was lined with cars, and the elementary school across the way has been remade into a magnet school, with a bright, brand new building. That’s all right with me because my foremost memory of that old playground was sidearming a flat rock, hitting a neighborhood kid in the eye with it when I was 7. His name was Dwayne, and he hated me after that. As we drove down Tremont towards Central, past Dwayne’s old house that looked like a small church, I remembered the last thing he ever said to me. I was over there watching THE WIZARD OF OZ, and he looked me right in the eye (this is a 7 year old, mind you) and said, “I know you meant to hit me with that rock.” And maybe he was right. Maybe I did mean to hit him. I’m sorry, Dwayne. I was a confused kid. On this Saturday evening, I was glad to get off Tremont, turn right on Central Ave, and put that memory in the rearview for a while.

After Bob & Ron’s Fish Fry we pulled into Orange Ford, because Canadian Lou wanted to look at Mazda Tributes for possible purchase. While I waited in the car on the Mazda side of the building, memories of my few years of being an Orange Ford employee filling my mind, I noticed that the attic office above the new showroom had been seemingly taken out with reconstruction, and a crossbeam was left in place. When I worked at Orange Ford, the attic office was where my uncle Dave managed, and I worked for him when I went to HVCC, growing into a young adult at a car dealership, while my friends did the same at 4-year schools. Dave was the commercial accounts manager until he died in 2000 of lymphoma at the age of 33. I have so many memories of that office, good and bad, and I still remember watching Dave at that desk in the back corner, working the sales phone till his final days, the sickness leaving him hairless, bone thin, and depleted of energy. Now the attic office is gone, which makes me sad, because as long as that upstairs office stood, there was still a small piece of Dave at Orange Ford. Now there’s none, physically at least. And that’s too bad, but it’s been 11 years, and life goes on, I suppose. Canadian Lou climbed in the car. We took off towards I-90.

As we passed the old GE Apparatus building below the highway where my father worked when he was alive, until dying at 54 of a heart attack, I noticed the big GE letters that were always there, familiar hangings of my father’s ‘work,’ had been taken down, and the only evidence of them were two faded spots high on the outside wall in the shape of a G and an E. It seemed fitting for our Saturday travels that day. First the office above Orange Ford where my uncle Dave worked his final days, then the GE building on Anderson Drive, where my father punched the time clock for 25 years, now an abandoned blue plant where a lonely American flag waves, empty parking lot in front. As time passes, the tangible parts of both their lives are fading away, poof, like they were never there at all. These were two men that played such pivotal parts in my life. Both dead, gone, too young, and the places that represented such large aspects of their identity, no longer stand. For the first time I realized that death is not a singular event, but a process that happens over time. First the person dies then the parts and pieces of their lives fade off into memory, until it’s forgotten or finished for good.

We finally made it to I-90 Exit 7, and headed towards Averill Park and my mother’s house, the house I lived at into my 20’s. As we approached the house, I saw the driveway filled with old cars I didn’t recognize. The backyard was busy with people I had never met before, my sister’s friends, gathered around a fire pit, drinking beers, doing that whole bit. When my father died in 2009, the look and feel of that house changed forever, and seeing those people partying around an open fire in the backyard I mowed every week for 20 years, the yard my family once enjoyed together on a quiet Saturday night, I felt my once rock-solid connection to that house had faded away as well, the same way as the attic office and GE letters. So we drove on in silence, continuing to our favorite restaurant in the world, the Villa Valenti, the place I’ve eaten Italian food for the past 20 years. The place I washed dishes, celebrated birthdays, rehearsal dinners, etc. And now I take Canadian Lou there at least once a month, because this place is such a huge part of what I am, and now it’s a huge part of her. And no matter how much time goes by, some things never change or fade away.

A free Villa dinner to the first person who friends me @ the Cat’s Pajamas on Facebook

Brian Huba