Saturday, November 30, 2013

Christmas Movie Fun!

Thanksgiving is over, and the cold weather is HERE, which means it's time for the Christmas lights to come out and the Christmas movies to go on. For the next month we'll be watching the following ten Christmas flicks, same way we do every year:

10. Four Christmases
9. Elf
8. Home Alone 2
7. Santa Claus the Movie
6. Trading Places
5. Scrooged
4. The Family Man
3. Home Alone
2. Bad Santa
1. National Lampoons Christmas Vacation

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Brian Huba

Sunday, November 24, 2013

A Man's Worst Nightmare

Has anybody been following this story about the NYC Cop who caught a savage beating outside a Queens diner, while some guy cell-phoned the pummeling, then put it on You Tube and Facebook where it went viral? If you haven’t read the story, click here: And if you think you can take it, here’s the link to the You Tube video: For countless reasons this story has haunted me all week. And suddenly I remember why I never said boo to anybody at the bars. Back in my going-out days, if some guy got in my face (‘You got a problem?’ drunken thug barks because he’s looking for a fight for any reason in the world), I always put my head down and walked the other way. ‘Hey, Brian, you’re a wimp.’ Oh, OK, but I still have both eyes and all my teeth.

Our friend, the Sgt. from Queens Mohammad Deen, was not so lucky. With his wife watching and screaming for the attacker to stop, he took a beating for the ages. I don’t mean he lost a tough street fight and walked away with ego bruised. I mean he was humiliated then eviscerated then ambulanced away on a stretcher where he was placed in a medically-induced coma, an inch from losing his life. There were no weapons, just good old fashioned bare knuckle, and by some accounts Deen had initiated the conflict earlier at a nearby nightclub. Some have even suggested he played big-shot cop to the wrong guy, a lunatic named Hayden Holder, who followed Deen to the diner, and the rest is history.

Before we go further, I will tell you Deen’s going to make a full recovery, albeit a long one, but I don’t know how a man ever comes back from that, especially when that man is a cop (the most testosterone-ish job on the planet) and double especially when the video of your whipping was viewed by millions on Facebook and You Tube. How does a man ever come back from that? Hayden Holder took everything from Officer Deen last Saturday night. When Deen’s back in business I can’t think of any situation where he’d publically puff his chest again. I don’t know how his wife could ever look at him as a protector again after watching from five feet away as some muscled thug treated him like a piƱata. How could she? Am I wrong, ladies? Even death wouldn’t work as the easy way out here. If he’d died on that street, Deen would forever be the cop who got beaten to death on You Tube. Beaten. To. Death. Imagine living your whole life and going out like that? A man's worst nightmare.

As for the assailant, Hayden Holder, who’s inside with no bail set, facing attempted murder charges, the NYPD has already reported he’s on suicide watch. Yeah. OK. Seems like a reasonable thing to leak on a guy you’ll soon kill then make it look like an accident. Incarcerated. No bail. On tape spitting in a cop’s face as he lay in an unconscious heap, then trying to punch into the car and attack his terrified wife, who he would've instantly killed, I'm sure. Holder’s gone. He’s dead. RIP, Hayden Holder.

One of our very good friends is a downstate cop. I don’t mean one of those tools who flashes his small-town badge around and drunk drives 90mph through red lights on the weekends, because he can. He’s the other kind of cop, the kind who changes the room’s temperature when he enters it, and if this had ever happened to HIS partner, he’d personally put the guy in the ground. I don't mean that as a metaphor.

One night, outside Sadie’s way back, I played the part of tough guy. Going way-way-way outside character, I got in some guy’s face in a manner that suggested I wanted to fight. For the record, I didn’t, but I knew he didn’t. He wasn’t as big as me and a bit younger. I had him over the psychological barrel, so to speak, but if he’d raged up I probably would’ve wilted. He just didn’t. Oh yeah, his girlfriend (very cute girlfriend) was with him. Anyway, I punked him down, as the lingo goes. And as he slunk away, tail between his legs, I made a comment about collecting his girlfriend for myself. I’ll never forget the look of defeat that filled his eyes. And I’ll never ever forget the way she looked at him. She just found out Santa and the Easter Bunny were both fake, in the same crushing moment. And together they walked off, around the corner, and gone.

I hated myself for doing that. I still hate myself for it. If I could have that moment back, I would’ve let him drop me on the sidewalk and go off a hero. It’s weird, looking back, I would prefer to lose my shirt then to live with knowing the hurt I potentially inflicted that night, over nothing. This kid wasn't some hippie, Phish fan guy who could shrug it off because violence wasn't his rack. He was the Abercrombie and gelled hair and veiny arms of a gym rat. It hurt him what happened. I hate myself for it. Maybe that's actually a man's worst nightmare, having to live with the crap you caused in the world.

Brian Huba

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Bullied out of a job

This bullying story starring Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin of the Miami Dolphins is a witch hunt. I’m not suggesting that a 300lb behemoth “bullying” another of equal proportions is acceptable. What I’m ranting about here is how everybody, with any ranking with the Dolphins, has to now answer nonstop attacks on their own character, because they “let this happen.” From other players, to the coaches, to the GM, to the ownership group, how could all these evil people just let poor Jonathan Martin be terrorized? The media blitz. The threats against their jobs. This silly story is going to set anti-bullying back a generation.

What do you want Head Coach Joe Philbin or General Manager Jeff Ireland to do about bullying in the locker room and/or in life? Bullying’s as old as humanity itself. It’s like trying to stop barking and butt-sniffing in dogs. Obama can declare an anti-bullying day and schools can institute no-bullying initiatives till their blue in the face. It's the right thing to do, sure it is, but bullying, like Matt Barnes’ use of racial slurs, is here to stay.

Am I saying bullying is OK? No. But why does ESPN's NFL Live panel have to climb on their collective soapbox and proclaim that Richie Incognito is a racist, a racist I tell you? The artificial outrage on full blast. Why does the “inside talk” about Head Coach Joe Philbin’s hot seat have to swell? Let me tell you a little about Coach Philbin. After enduring the tragic death of his son, while working as an assistant in Green Bay, where he was beloved, and still is, Philbin pieced his broken life back together, grabbed his first-ever shot as an NFL head coach. He came into Miami and immediately turned that floundering culture around. Day one he dumped that toxic Chad Johnson. He developed a franchise quarterback and got busy winning. Now he’s in peril because he didn’t somehow thwart one grown man from hazing another grown man? Get a clue, armchair QBs. So if somebody gives Tom Brady a wedgie, the Patriots should part ways with Bill Belichick? Next up: The copycat stories cometh. There’s bullying on this team, that team, every team. It’s a slippery slope.

Does anybody remember when varsity football coach Kevin Earl was fired at Averill Park over a hazing incident in the shower room? Some kid was bullied, so he said, and his mother took it to the Supreme Court. Kevin Earl was out, gone, goodbye, and hasn’t coached since, reputation sizzled. Of course every PTA type railed up against the dismissed coach. Where was he? Why didn’t he stop it? But I ask: What did you want him to do? Shower with the team after practice? Yeah right. That wouldn've been problematic. Or follow fifty kids around the locker room then outside? Alpha boys bully beta boys in high school. It’s an unwritten rule, especially in football. Am I wrong?

While at AP, Earl turned that football program around. He gave his heart and soul to the high school. He came in on Saturdays to refinish the gym floor for nothing. Even now, years later, he still shows up at funerals and wakes and weddings. He truly cared about the student athlete, academic and athletic excellence. Then some kid gets “bullied” and Earl is yesterday’s trash. It was wrong. And this is coming from me, a kid who quit Coach Earl’s team. Anyone who went to AP in the 90’s knows what Earl really was. He was and still is "The Coach."

One day during double sessions, when I was a freshman playing JV ball, a few varsity boys got a hold of me at lunch. One lug ripped my padded pants down and the other pulled my shirt over my head. They dragged me bare-assed across the freshly-waxed, August floor of the cafeteria. In front of the varsity and JV football team PLUS the cheerleading squad, my naked rump went for a waxy ride. This was a year before Earl arrived, and the coach at the time was watching from the doorway, and laughing. I never said a thing. Then school started, and those same lugs, who’d ripped me around that floor, had my back for the rest of the year. Nobody said so much as boo to me. And when I was a senior, we did the same dumb thing to some unsuspecting freshman. Then loved him. I’m not saying it was right then or it’s right now. But it doesn’t matter what I say. It’s never going to fully end, even if you fire the whole world from it.

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Brian Huba

Monday, November 11, 2013

Dinner on the Dance Floor

We made a dinner reservation for the new Carmine’s in Downtown Albany for this past Saturday night. When booking we had no idea the restaurant was on the first floor of the old Big House. But that’s where the GPS took us: 4 Sheridan. To say the least, I was nervous. I couldn’t believe I was about to have Italian cuisine on the spot of floor where I once danced to bad 80s music. The Big House was a weekend staple of my life in my 20s. Now fast forward a few years: The dance floor and DJ booth are gone, and the front windows that face Sheridan are plastered with black-and-white Carmine’s placards. This was going to be interesting.

For the record, the Big House (when it was the Big House and Pearl Street was Pearl Street) was the best bar ever. The three-floor monstrosity teemed with people every weekend, the music blared, and the drinks flowed; girls as far as the eye could see. There was never a “dead night” at the Big House. I remember one Thanksgiving Eve, there had to be 3,000 people packed in there. I loved the Big House. I was alive at the Big House. Magic happened at the Big House. And now I’m left to wonder: How in God’s name did the Big House go out of business? How!? When did hot girls and fun in a bottle stop appealing to the masses? When did Pearl Street fall down and die?

We walked in, said hello to Carmine, and to his credit, he has completely redesigned the room, making every effort (I’m sure) to erase all recognizable nuance that could (and would) make people hear the faint, faraway playing of “Jesse’s Girl” reverberating off the walls. He didn’t just throw up some tables and turn on the lights. The room was meticulously and cleverly redone so I couldn’t “quite” figure out, on first look, where everything had been when it was the Big House. It was kind of an optical illusion. But that didn’t stop me from spending most of our dinner trying to mentally piece the place back together. Sorry, Carm baby, it’s gonna take more than a drop ceiling and some new walls to make me forget where I was. I was eating shrimp parm two feet from where hundreds and hundreds had grinded and groped.

I used to love going to the Lion Heart then walking to the Big House and Bayou, energized on the excitement that was surely to come. I could’ve levitated from Lark all the way Downtown. That’s when Pearl Street was my favorite place to be. In my 20s, I partied in NYC, Virginia Beach, Philadelphia, Montreal, Syracuse, and Bedford Stuyvesant, to name a few. I loved going out in Albany better than all those places combined. I used to be my goal to find NYC’s or Montreal’s or Syracuse’s Big House and Bayou. But all I wanted was my home field.

I remember one night way back thinking how sad it would be when I was too old for going out, when this phase would be forever finished, the door slammed shut. I couldn’t imagine anything better than being at the Big House: The music, the crowd, the whole magilla. Then one day it just ended. That magic row of bars and clubs just went poof, and now Pearl Street is a darkened, rather scary strip of seedy offerings and lacking humanity. Even the Bayou isn’t the Bayou anymore. I died a little bit inside when I saw that. My 21 year old brother will never know a Big House/Bayou night. Tragic.

Carmine's food was top-notch and the vibe was just right. By all accounts we had a fantastic time, even seeing another couple we’ve known for years, and chatting away with them about old Big House stories. This night belonged to the Big House. Even our waiter recounted a few of his Big House Saturday nights. What Carmine’s joint "used" to be was the elephant in the room, for everyone in the room.

When I had finally figured out where everything had once been (the bar, the DJ booth, the bathroom doors), when I could see the room slowly morph back in time (and again, to Carmine’s credit, this was no easy chore), I heard The Outfield sing, “Josie’s on a vacation far away,” and I felt the dance floor fill up, and I saw a group of guys around me at 24 years old, drinks in hand, eyes on all those girls. I saw my friend John, and Justin, and Mike, and Peter Ice Cream, and General Tso’s Chicken, and Gary McGeary, and Rags, and Pinkie, and Lady in Red, and Semi Circles, and we’re laughing and having the time of our lives. And I see my friend Chris Premo. He wears blue jeans and a white button down, and he dances like a damn fool. And I like to think if his ghost was up and walking around anywhere this past Saturday night, he was walking around that restaurant that was once the best bar in the world.

We paid the bill, said goodbye, and stepped out onto Pearl Street. There wasn’t a soul in sight at 10:45PM. But in my mind, if only for a moment, I saw the sidewalks flooded with packs of people, and the cabs pulling up two at a time, and the long lines pouring out of every bar’s front door. I saw it all then it was gone, and the last thing I saw, taped to the window of the old Big House: A real estate sign that sold luxury apartments above Carmine’s. Wait a second! Hold on! Stop the presses! You can live on the third floor of the Big House? The humanity of it all. And with that, we left Pearl Street behind, again.

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Brian Huba

Sunday, November 3, 2013

He's one of the great ones

Why are people so impatient and short sighted? I asked myself that this week watching the world unravel over the bumpy rollout of Obama Care. Democrats should resign, be fired, brought up on criminal charges, because the Affordable Care website can’t handle the full-court press on day one. Give it a rest, would you please? There’s an old expression, “Rome, New York wasn’t built in a day.” Nothing great comes without hiccups. It’s the hiccups that inherently make it great. Barack isn’t opening a mini golf on Route 9, people, he’s grass rooting a program that millions and millions and millions are trying to access instantly.

When Affordable Care is completely off the ground--and it will be, trust me, it will be--it’s going to be the greatest amendment to health care in American history. Why? I’ll tell you why. I don’t know all the small print on the program, but I DO know that Barack Obama is the smartest guy in the room. I don’t care what you think of his politics or his skin color, there’s not a single person walking Planet Earth better wired for the Big Job than the guy we got. We hit a homerun, after eight years of Bush putting us WAY-WAY down in the count. In thirty years we’re going to remember Obama the same way we do Kennedy and Clinton. No President has ever been asked to cleanup a George Bush-sized mess. Bush was a disaster. And Barack is getting no help. None. It's sad. It's a shame.

I understand what the Republicans are trying to do. The cartoonish slant on reality that gets Jethro in Kentucky lathered up, but leaves smart people laughing at the desperation of it all. I get it, I do. It’s an all-out smear campaign against anything Barack because they’ve got no future in the White House. None. It’s over for the GOP in this country. George Bush put that ship forever at sea.

America will never elect another Republican. And why should they? Bush lied and dragged us into an illegal war, ruined the housing market, crushed the auto industry, destroyed education, put unemployment through the roof, lost New Orleans and New York City on his watch, then said he had no regrets. We've seen enough. You can try pinning any part of that pie on Barack, sure you can, but smart people know what’s what. Maybe social media and reality TV have given the idiot a collective voice, but informed Americans still run this joint. I just hope they don't try putting Jeb out against Hillary in 2016. Oh, boy.

There’s nothing you could say that would make me think we chose wrong in ’08 or ’12. Nothing. Barack Obama could publically order an orphanage burned to the ground and I’d still feel better about him than Mitt Romney or that illustrious McCain/Palin ticket. Sarah Palin? Are you joking me? Sarah Palin can't even spell Affordable Care Act. 'But, Brian, what about the NSA leak?' What about it? I trust Obama. Period. He went from the bottom to the top of the top on his own, no legacy or lineage. Hell, man, he wasn't even the right color. I'm with that guy. He sounds like Roosevelt when he speaks. If Bush didn’t mangle his own name at the podium we proclaimed his speech a success. The greater the man, the higher the bar. I get it.

The GOP can sabotage this President all they want, go for it, boys. Obama will come out on top. He has the truth and the intelligence on his side. End of story. We have no idea how good we got it right now. In just under five years, Barack’s nearly cleaned up the toxic, gooey, oily mess George Bush left, a mess that should’ve derailed this nation for a generation. Obama is one of the great ones, and one day, down the road, we’ll realize we should’ve appreciated him. He’s going to change the world. Obama Care is going to happen. And when it does, it’s going to be great.

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Brian Huba