Sunday, January 27, 2013

RIP, I-Phone 4

I’ve gone from mocking guys who loved their I-Phones to being in a complete depression today after losing mine.

It’s funny how you can never remember things when it matters most. Long story short: At about 12.15AM last night, while watching SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE, I went for my cell phone and realized it was gone. And I couldn’t remember when I’d had it last. How could I not remember? I called it seven, ten, twenty times, right to voice mail, which meant it was in the house somewhere and dead, in a snow bank, or in a safe somewhere. Where was my phone? Of course I didn’t download the FIND YOUR I-PHONE app, so no luck there. We tore the house apart, searched the car, drove through the neighborhood at 1AM. Nada. Nothing. We called Longfellow’s where we had dinner, Best Buy, JC Penney’s, and Hannaford, all other Saturday night stops. Nobody saw a black I-Phone 4 with black cover.

Last night I went to bed without my I-Phone on my end table for the first time in almost two years. It was like a family member was out there, somewhere alone and cold, and I didn’t know where. All night long I dreamed of that phone, and in my dream it said the phone was in the compartment between my car's front seats. When I woke up I went and looked, and BAM, it wasn’t there. So began Black Sunday without my missing black I-Phone. I already hate Sundays. This was going to be a bad one.

Because my contract isn’t eligible for an upgrade until May, Verizon Wireless told me $650.00 for a new phone, about $300.00 for refurbished. We put the word out to friends who might have old I-Phones to loan us a few months. Nothing. So in the end I went the E-Bay route. $180.00 for an I-Phone 4 in perfect condition, which means I should be back in business by mid week if this isn't a total ripoff. Until then it’s the old, dust-covered I-Pod, and of course, no phone.

The thing that bothers me most, besides the money I have to spend and the fact that I'm phoneless for several days at least, is the fact that I was dumb enough to let that phone get away. What’s wrong with me? In many ways it was like a family member, full of photos, and notes, and my bank info, and my contacts, and text messages. It’s just a total bummer to be without my phone and know that somebody out there might have my whole life in their hands. Live and learn, I guess.

I-Phone 4

Brian Huba

Monday, January 21, 2013

My Magic Bar

MLK Jr. Day got me thinking about My Magic Bar. That’s not entirely true. This past weekend got me thinking about it. I attended a bachelor party at Foxwoods Casino. As a non-drinker, it was interesting to see what happens when 17 dudes get gassed up in one spot. At the end, I thanked the host for having me and drove home to my wife and my bed.

The highways were all mine from 11PM to 2AM. The sunroof was open and the music played as I drove past Hartford lit up then Springfield and finally Albany. All those city lights. I couldn’t help wondering about the young people having a Magic Bar Night beneath them. It got me thinking about my Magic Bar. For everyone there's that one place you always went to in college or just beyond. The place where all the drama happened, all the great nights had. And now, when you hear a certain song on the radio, it brings you back to that time and place.

This bar was your place for a period of time. Then that period ended and you were done. Maybe it’s closed down now. But for you it was the best bar in the world. It was your Magic Bar. You owned it. You loved it.

There were a lot of great places for me. Oasis and the Lamppost in the beginning. McGeary’s after Alive at Five. The Plaza Grill. Even the Mad River every so often. I had a Madison Ave run way-way back, when my friend was a bouncer at Michael’s. I had some incredible times at Bogie’s. At the tail end of my bar time, Lion Heart was a great place to get it going. And of course of course: the Big House first floor. But the Magic one for me was the Bayou Café.

I did ALL my college in the Albany area. Not going away to school is the biggest regret of my life. So, in regards to the Magic Bar conversation, I don’t have quite the same exclusivity that my wife (for instance) had with a place like Dapp’s and Siena friends. But I felt like I could walk on water at the Bayou Café. Every time we went there I had a blast. On Friday nights when the crowd was coming in, all my boys with me, a smile a mile wide on my face. I just knew it was ALWAYS going to be a great night. If we went on Saturdays, it was a cover band and girls as far as the eye could see. The Bayou was great times in a bottle, just walk in. I knew the workers, loved the regulars, and felt 100% alive when we were there.

Everyone has a Magic Bar.

The Bayou Café was mine.

Then one day the Magic ended. It was Halloween about six years ago. I went in there, dressed up and excited. And POW, BAM, it was over. The Bayou no longer belonged to me and my friends. We were too old, too slow, too long in one spot. With no forewarning the next generation of Bayou-goers just swept in and took it, and the Magic was no more. I never went back. It was over.

Present Day: My penultimate move on the three-hour drive from Foxwoods was a brief detour through Downtown Albany to check on my once-Magic Bar. Downtown Albany looked depressing at 2AM. The Bayou was dead and the street was quiet. Maybe that’s how it looked to someone driving by way back when I was inside. In my memory Pearl Street, circa 2005ish, was brimming with life.

Fifteen minutes later I pulled to a park in my garage, exhausted from an endless Saturday. I opened the door and went inside, where I was met by three crazy dogs, happy to see me. Behind them, my wife waited. And to myself I thought: I drove all night to get to you. (Seems I think certain thoughts in Cyndi Lauper lyrics.) I was home safe, nowhere else I’d rather be. Now that’s Magic.

Bayou Café Website:

Cyndi Lauper Video:

Brian Huba

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Not that there's anything wrong with that

If you haven’t heard about the girlfriend hoax involving Notre Dame senior linebacker, Manti Te’o, here it is in a nutshell: During the past NCAA football season he said that his girlfriend died of cancer, and he was dedicating his Heisman-worthy play to her memory. Notre Dame finished 12-1, one game from championship glory, and everyone fell in love with the story and the player. Now it turns out the girlfriend isn’t real, and people are scratching their heads trying to figure out why anyone would make this dead-girlfriend story up. Was Te’o involved? What the heck is going on?

Is it obvious why none of this is adding up? Why sports experts across the country can’t put the pieces together? Why Notre Dame would support their historic star? Only one theory keeps coming back to me: He’s gay. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Why would Te’o keep his sexuality in the closet in 2013? Why work to create a fake girlfriend to throw everyone off the scent? First, I can’t imagine being a football player and being openly gay would be easy. Second, he’s about to enter the NFL Draft. Admitting he's gay could potentially cost him millions in marketing dollars. It could even drop him down in the draft order. It’s sad, but true. Of course Notre Dame, that Roman-Catholic institution, would stand behind Te’o, promote this tale of him being the victim of a cruel, on-line hoax. Sweet, innocent Te'o was fooled from the jump. They don’t want their most-celebrated player ever and the face of their Dream Season to be a homosexual. I keep coming back to that. Nothing else makes sense, does it? It’s sad, but true.

Sometimes the most obvious solution is the right one. Occam’s Razor. Could I be wrong? Of course. Do I have proof? Not a shred. Just my gut. This story is going to take twists and turns, and people are going to grapple to understand what’s happening here. And this whole thing is blowing up in Te'o's face because he’s trying to keep it in the closet. Ask Lance Armstrong how that story ends. That’s the only solution I can come up with.

At the end of the day, Te'o didn't cheat the sport or commit a crime. This isn't Penn State or Lance Armstrong or even Pete Rose. It's a confused kid trying to keep his professional career as profitable as possible. In my opinion, that's it.

Ask me: He’s gay. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Read More:

Read More:

Brian Huba

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

How far will this fight go?

The gun fight is on, and New York is the first to pass stricter laws on assault rifles. This of course is probably a move by Gov. Cuomo to stay ahead of the Political Arms Race that has started up on this issue, as politicians across the country fight for a spot on the riding wave against guns. I don’t know much about guns, but from what I can see these “stricter” laws say the rifles you can buy legally in NY will carry smaller magazine capability. So what.

The gun lovers believe this is America’s first step towards taking ALL the guns. Really? Why? Nobody cares about your handguns and reasonable hunting rifles. What you’re seeing is a bunch of politicians using this hot-button issue to their advantage. That's it. I can’t count how many times some knucklehead has told me that Sandy Hook was staged so the government could disarm us against their attack. First of all, if you had twenty assault rifles on your wall, and the government wanted you gone, you’d be getting buried with those rifles. So you can forget that whole “what about my second amendment rights” nonsense. Civilian Militias in 2013? Don’t see a need for it.

My greatest fear is Colorado guy leading the underground charge against gun reform. Why not? Because of the obvious lack of common sense on this debate, I fear this may be the issue that prompts someone to take a shot (a JFK shot) at Obama, believing his attack on guns is akin to what Hitler did to start Nazi Germany. I’ve heard that Hitler thing a few times already. Is one of these assault-rifle-wielding nuts crazy enough to take to heart something Alex Jones says and plot against Obama because of it? Who knows?

Don’t believe there are people dumb enough to stretch this ridiculous fight that far? Take a walk through your local Wal-Mart. That’s a small sample of what this country is becoming. Now take a walk through a Wal-Mart in Kentucky. Oh, boy. I don’t think it’s outrageous to think that bullets might fly for this issue (no pun intended). Why? How's this: Our "Black President" is emboldened by the fact that he doesn’t need reelection, and he’s pitted himself against guns, and who's he to take away my Second Amendment? I could see how that logic would grab some guy who wears #24 t-shirts and whose gun rack used to hold a much better collection.

Read More:


Brian Huba

Saturday, January 12, 2013

I'm a Blue Grass Fan??

A friend of mine is getting married next month in Fishkill. This upcoming weekend is his bachelor party at Foxwoods. It’s not something I’d usually do, and I wondered why I wouldn’t, when finally I texted him and said, “I’m pretty boring now,” and it’s true. The only things I like to do are be with my family, work, and exercise. I don’t know if that’s wrong but I do know it’s rare for me to try something new. But last night I did. I was one of 400 people in the crowd for the Gibson Brothers Blue Grass Concert at the Egg’s Small Theatre.

I had no idea what Blue Grass or the Gibson Brothers was going into last night’s concert. When I saw the size of the theatre I was sure the event would bore me to tears. Not to mention, the average audience member was about 65 years old. I had to be wrestled from an upright slumber three or four times during the one-hour opening act. Then the Gibsons took the stage, five guys dressed in suits with guitar, banjo, and mandolin in hand. My wife’s family knows the band and got us the tixs. They were excited. I was skeptical.

If you don’t know anything about Blue Grass I’m sure I can’t capture or describe it for you. But I thought the performance was incredible. The songs about small-town living and down-home fun were so catchy and well performed. Between each song the band members bantered back and forth then tied the banter into the next tune. These Gibsons cast a spell on me. I don’t know how or why, but I was into that show. This coming from a guy who’s usually unmoved by anything less than Petty or McCartney. I connected with the performers and the stories. It was a chance to watch real professionals at work, and I left that small theatre a fan. And trust me, I didn't go in with an open mind.

I’m not much of a concert guy, I’ll admit. I don’t understand people that follow bands or festivals around the country. And I did the whole DMB thing in my 20s, but I just can’t keep up with all the carrying on anymore. But I do love music, and I am moved by seeing performers who have devoted their life to turning out a quality product. That’s what I saw with the Gibsons, a group of men who had worked their craft since they were old enough to walk, I'm sure. When it’s genuine and well done I can’t help but come along with you, even if I don’t want to. Maybe that’s the way every concert is, I don't know. Like I said: Not much of a concert guy.

My first thought was to see it as a failure that a group of performers as good (and as decorated) as the Gibson Brothers could only book 400-seat theatres after 20 years of trucking. That tells you how hard the music business is. Then I thought more and realized how great their story was. To be able to survive off performing alone is the dream, to do what you love and have people pay money to watch you do it, at any level. Wow. To be a household name in music and/or an arena performer is such rarified air. And I guess I got an inside look at the "levels" of music success last night. The Gibsons success just looks different (and pays far less) than Petty’s or McCartney’s, even though their music is maybe just as good. It was weirdly an eye-opening experience for me.

In today’s America, if you have dreams of playing sold-out music tours or tasting big-screen stardom, let me tell you right now: You better have through-the-roof talent and off-the-charts work ethic PLUS a willingness to put EVERYTHING second to the art form. Then maybe, just maybe, after pounding at it for a lifetime, you get a return on your sweat. It is that hard to put something out there that people want to spend their time and money on. Watching the Gibsons you could feel the lifetime journey in every note they plucked and lyric they sang.

Right now I'm sure they're bussing it to the next 400-person theatre for a Saturday Night Show that pays small money. Missing family and friends and normal weekend things. Why? Because living the dream in any profession doesn't come without paying a hard price.

Read More:

Brian Huba

Sunday, January 6, 2013

RIP, 60-Inch Rear-Projection TV

When I was twenty I bought myself a Hitachi 60-inch rear-projection TV for two thousand dollars. It was the biggest purchase I'd ever made, and I remember the first night we watched the TV in the dark, and the picture looked bigger than the Atlantic Ocean. It was an amazing TV. The plan was to pay $400 a month for five months (Interest free) and then this gigantic TV would be mine. I was living in the in-law apartment at home, I had a good job, building credit. I was ahead of the game.

Two weeks later I lost that job, and suddenly the world was a dark place, with a big TV in the middle of it. That TV got me through some hard weeks after that firing. With no job $400 a month became $100 a month with 22.99 percent interest tacked on top (thirty-seven hundred when it was paid off). I did not work full time again for years, and my mother carried me through some of the payments as scraping together more than a few dollars a month was impossible with lacking income. Without my mom I would’ve lost that TV and been ruined credit wise. It took four years to pay it off, and two guys to move it out of my parents' apartment when I left.

Moving out with the TV was hard. While it lived home my whole family gathered around it for three straight days watching 9/11. It was the TV we watched Thursday Night FRIENDS and Sunday Night SOPRANOS on. When my guys came home for the weekend from college, we’d pregame with the TV going. I watched Shaq & Kobe win three straight NBA rings on that TV. It was a permanent fixture in my otherwise turbulent twenties. It was my best friend, and it was there as I finished graduate school and began my career. Of course it came with me when I moved out, into an apartment with a woman.

I lived a few months with that woman in that apartment then me and my TV moved out, got our own place in Troy. But soon we got lonely, we loved that woman, so we moved back. This woman thought it was time for me to leave the TV behind, but I said no way. So I rented an extra moving van, got my guys, and moved that big TV again. When I went to turn it on: Nothing. The TV was dead. I had bumped it on the move, and I had two choices: Let it die or bring it back. Six hundred bucks later, the TV was good as new. Never leave a man behind.

A few years later I bought a house with that woman, and the big TV was done living the apartment life. We had a house in the Suburbs. Wow! How far we had come since those dark days of my early twenties. We celebrated by paying another repairman to get it going again. The woman I lived with quietly prayed for its death but never protested. She knew what the TV meant to me. I proposed a few months later. My TV was so happy for me, for us.

By the time I married that woman and started talking kids, the big TV was really showing its age, a grainy old boy in an HD, flat-screen world. Again talk of putting the TV out to pasture swelled. Again I refused all such talk. This is the TV I watched Eli & Coughlin win two Super Bowls on. This TV had been with me through thick and thin. It wasn’t going anywhere.

Then Thanksgiving came this year and the whole family began to complain about the graininess, all choosing to go downstairs and watch sports on the flat screen HD. I stayed up with my big TV and watched alone, knowing the end was near for us, no more denying it. After everyone left, me and my wife had "the talk." Yes, I agreed, it was time to put the TV to rest. My best friend was dying. The next day we bought another flat screen, and the green blanket was thrown over the old rear projection. I wheeled it from the living room with the blanket over the screen humming Amazing Grace, into the Electronics After Life. Now the living room looks modern, with a sleek, flat-screen HD TV where a 60-inch rear projection once sat.

With that TV gone--after thirteen up-and-down years--a small part of me went away too. I lost a best friend when I wheeled that big screen away. But sometimes in life you have to let go of the past to welcome the future. Now the family comes and watches and comments on the clarity of the new TV. And that's what matters, I suppose. As for me, no TV will ever be better than that 60-inch the first night in the dark when I was twenty, the picture bigger than the Atlantic Ocean.

RIP, 60-Inch Rear-Projection TV.

Brian Huba