Sunday, April 27, 2014

Sports according to my wife

On Friday night I got talking with my wife about the NBA playoffs, and our conversation somehow turned into a talk about the relevance of all sports in pop culture. I thought it would be interesting to see what superstars were truly “household names,” starting with our own household. For this study my wife will represent the swath of society (at least regionally speaking) that does not “actively” follow sports on a day-to-day basis, and hears most of the major headlines and players involved from someone else. I went sport by sport and asked her to tell me what CURRENT players and coaches she could name, Michael Jordan and Babe Ruth don't count. When finished it was obvious which sports are producing the most recognizable figures these days, and which definitely are not.

NBA Basketball

Current NBA players my wife could name

1. Kobe
2. LeBron
3. Bird-Man
4. World Peace
5. Lebron (again)
6. Dwayne Wade
7. Jimmer from Glens Falls
8. Patrick Ewing “Does he still play?” she then asked.
9. The white guy that plays with Kobe (Pau Gasol)
10. La La’s husband (Carmelo Anthony)
11. Eva’s ex-husband (Tony Parker)
12. A Berger guy from Syracuse (I have no idea who that is)

Current NBA coaches my wife could name

1. Kobe and Michael Jordan’s coach (Phil Jackson)

MLB Baseball

Current MLB players my wife could name

1. Derek Jeter
2. A-Rod
3. CC Sabathia
4. The Yankee that just got kicked out (Mike Pineda)

Current MLB managers my wife could name

1. Joe Girardi
2. Buck Showalter

NFL Football

Current NFL players my wife could name

1. Eli
2. Peyton
3. JPP
4. Tom Brady
5. Brandon Jacobs
6. Nicks
7. That Jesus Guy (Tim Tebow)
8. Kristin Cavallari’s husband (Jake Cutler)
9. Tony Romo
10. Victor Cruz
11. That guy whose last name is Wilson (SB MVP Russell Wilson)

Current NFL coaches my wife could name

1. Bill “Billchick” (Bill Belichick)
2. Tom Coughlin
3. Andy Reid
4. The Jets coach (Rex Ryan)

NHL Hockey

Current NHL players my wife could name

1. N/A

Current NHL coaches my wife could name

1. N/A

Brian Huba

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Money up. Service down.

Last weekend we had dinner at a fantastic Italian joint in Troy, one of our favorites. We ordered two dinners, an app of calamari, and sodas. Total bill: $96.00. I don’t mind spending a little extra on a Saturday night. We don’t have kids or Beamer payments, so I dismiss it as the price of indulgence. The table we sat at was occupied by Sen. Gillibrand the night before, according to the owner, so you’re going to spend when that’s where you go. But I decided to take a closer look at the everyday items. Conclusion: things are getting pricey, and the quality of service is going down.

The other day I did what I call the Clifton Park Trifecta.

First I went to Hoffman’s Car Wash where they ask over twenty bucks to wash your car!! Of course they tried selling me the 2 for $39.00 deal. Guys, I’m not dropping forty bucks at the car wash. I sarcastically asked if the floor mats would be vacuumed by a bikini-clad Alison Brie, and I was told that would not be the case. So what was I paying for? Turns out I didn’t end up paying for anything. After thirty-five minutes of waiting outside the triple-bay setup, I gave up and left with my car still unwashed.

Then came the "quick" Home Depot run that (of course) turned into an hour, because it’s impossible to find anything at Home Depot without walking every inch of the store. I finally gathered together my desired supplies, and when I lugged them to the only operating checkout, I was asked if I wanted to apply for a Home Depot credit card. No! Enough of the upsell! I just wanted the kid to ring me and release me. Of course he couldn’t register any of the pieces I wanted to purchase so a manager had to come and do whatever managers do. In the end: $76.00 for a strip of lattice, a bag of half-broken fence posts, and a paint brush. The fence posts were $40.00!! In the words of Joey Lawrence, “Whoa!”

Last stop: Hannaford. You thought the car wash and home-supply place was maddening!? Some fruit and lunch items for Easter Sunday: $68.00 PLUS a ten-minute wait at the register. Of course my wife buys everything organic, so that does factor into the higher price. I think the actual quality difference between organic and non-organic is like the Easter Bunny, you just have to believe it exists. $7.00 for a bag of oranges; $3.00 for a pack of cooking mushrooms; $4.00 for a bushel of broccoli. We left with one itty-bitty bag of items, a Pat Benatar-sized bag, and almost a hundred bucks poorer. If that $21.00 car wash had actually happened, we would’ve spent $170.00 in mere hours.

The Clifton Park Trifecta.

America in 2014 isn’t cheap. New York isn't cheap. But the quality and the quantity and the customer service isn't keeping up. How can a carwash company shakedown a customer for that kind of money, and then not even get the car inside for a half hour? I wasn't the only car quitting and pulling out. Hoffman’s is overcharging people, and then trying to upsell the overcharge. They do a great job, but come on. Home Depot is 60,000 square feet of bulk tagged at top dollar. It's nice having a one-stop shop for all household materials. I just wish a bag of nails didn't cost as much as my insurance premium. And organic food could be the biggest scam going. Pay three dollars MORE because some stock person labeled this lettuce with an “organic” sticker.

But it's not just the retailers. The numbers National Grid put on utility customers this winter was nothing short of criminal. The average credit card interest rate is 21%. How do people with kids survive? I’ve never been a money-first guy. I would never do anything in this world for the money of it. The secret to a happy life is having time, the only earthly resource that can't be reproduced. I won't live with my head in the sand for more house and more car NOW. But I’m starting to get convinced that all this "free" time is creating opportunity for me to spend money I don’t have.

Now my wife is on her way to Target to “get some things.” There goes the mortgage payment.

Now she's back. Target was closed. Money up. Service down.


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Brian Huba

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Maybe Nobody's in Charge

Mark Fusco, a former Rensselaer City cop, accepted a plea deal this week, and was sentenced to three to nine years in prison for driving drunk, crashing into a tree, and killing his friend, Sean Murphy, a Union College student at the time. It’s a tragedy and a terrible way for someone’s life to end, but this Fusco kid's no killer. There are killers and there are killers, and Fusco falls into the former category, see what I mean?

How many 22 year olds have gotten behind the wheel and driven drunk at some point? Of course you risk this kind of mess when you do that, but Fusco certainly isn’t the first to commit that faux pas and he won’t be the last. In a weird way I have to blame Murphy as much as I blame Fusco. Does it really matter who lost the coin toss and did the actual driving? One kid went to the crypt and the other’s going to the can, and society can label Fusco a killer. But I defy anyone to look at that doughy face and those sleepy eyes and tell me that kid’s a killer. Am I judging a book by the cover? Of course I am.

“But, Brian, he was a cop, he should’ve known better.” You don’t need to be a cop to understand that drinking and driving could end in disaster. But when you’re eight G&T’s deep, you don’t care, or are incapable of caring. And let’s drop this whole idea that cops are supposed to be these infallible figures in society, who should be held to a higher standard in the eyes of the law. That’s utopian and nothing more. Fusco was a 22 year old getting ripped on a Friday night and he made a horrible decision. I understand he has to lose his job, go to jail, I get that, and all parties involved have played their role properly, but I don’t see what sitting in a cage for five years is going to do for him. Sean Murphy’s dead. It happened. It's a living Hell.

As I listened to Murphy’s mother read her victim impact to Fusco, blaming his heavy foot and bad decision for her son’s death, I totally understood her angle, but it was like watching someone fire bullets into a 270lb puppy dog. Fusco killed her kid but at the same time he didn’t kill anyone. Did you see the file photo of Sean Murphy? The strong jaw, great hair, good smile, he looked like Russell Crowe. I can’t completely excuse Murphy from fault. After the verdict, they asked Murphy’s father if he could ever forgive Fusco for what happened, and he didn’t know if he could forgive. Does it matter?

This Fusco kid isn’t a killer, but he’s going to be playing the part of one for life. Ted Bundy was a killer. Gary Evans was a killer. Not Lumpy Mark Fusco. He was a kid with a powerful father and he became a cop on the Fusco name, and from that his confidence and feeling of acceptance was sourced. Being a cop probably created in him a feeling of superiority. But guys like that can't handle a superior angle on the world. Doesn't he look like the prototypically-soft son of a successful man? I bet his father, the Chief, eats siding nails for breakfast. The Tony Soprano to AJ Soprano syndrome. You see it all the time. Nothing makes soft ice cream better than being the son of a self-made man. There I go again judging the book by its cover.

And now that ice cream cone's going to prison.

I guess this case got me thinking about why things happen the way they do. I try to live by the adage, “Everything happens for a reason.” Maybe that’s true and maybe Darwinism is a real thing too. Was a guy like Fusco just the dopey pawn in a deeper plan? Did God make him incapable of making a better choice at this time for a larger cause? Was he just marked for this from the womb? As for Sean Murphy, the "victim," did the natural order wipe him out, and if it wasn’t this accident would it have been another or another? Why were Fusco and Murphy brought together in this life? I ask this on a Saturday afternoon because ten hours from now thousands of .020 drivers will be on the roads and they’ll all make it home OK. Why didn’t those two?

Did God call his son Sean Murphy home that night, and if that was God’s plan, was the other part of His plan to annihilate Fusco’s life and smear his father’s good name, the chief of the RPD? Why do people so often get wiped out by some bad accident? Fusco made the same choice millions make, a bad-bad choice no doubt, and he’s going to jail for the rest of his twenties while so many others will do it and suffer nothing from it.

Maybe that's it right there. You put your butt in a vulnerable spot just once while others do it nonstop and maybe the universe will reach down and take you out and leave the rest alone. Because at the end of the day Fusco did do this, I'm not saying he didn't, don't get me wrong. 95mph at .020 BAC. Come on. There's dumb and entitled and then there's AJ Soprano-sized dumb and entitled. It's all the same in the end.

Maybe he could've one day been a good cop, if given the chance and the time. The crap I did at 22 revolts 34-year-old me. I'm 100% different now than I was at 22 or 25 or 28. I don't even recognize that guy now. A person's twenties are transitional to say the least. Maybe this bad twist of fate saved Fusco from being shot dead on the job and leaving a wife and kids fatherless. Maybe Sean Murphy would've gone on to commit a terrible crime and the higher powers interceded here and now. Or maybe this was just a plain old accident, and maybe nobody's in charge.

And that's how the story of Mark Fusco and Sean Murphy ends.

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Brian Huba

Sunday, April 6, 2014


This Friday I had some extra time after work so I decided to get my haircut. I used to be militaristic about my hair-cutting routine, now not so much, but when I saw that rotating barber’s pole, I figured why not? I’d been to the place before and gotten the best haircut I can remember when I was there, so I was glad to be going back, even though the price was a bit much, about $24.00 per cut before tip. It’s one of those shops with the flat screen TVs and plush waiting area chairs and all the free extras after the actual cut. The receptionist asked for my name and I said, “Brian.” When she asked for my last name, for some reason, I said, “Brian’s fine,” and she said, “Um . . . OK.” I have no idea why I did that.

Less than a minute later, a blue-haired woman in her mid-twenties came to get me for my haircut. I followed her to the shop behind reception. As we walked to her chair at the far back right, we walked past the guy who gave me the greatest haircut ever. He was reading a book in the chair at his station. I should’ve dumped the girl and gone with my guy, but I didn’t. Before sitting down, I told my stylist I would remove my glasses so they wouldn’t get in the way, and she weirdly said, “Oh, will you be able to see your hair in the mirror?” I laughed then said, “Yeah, I’ll manage.” There was something in her tone that hit me kind of funny. Now keep in mind, I was dressed up because I was coming right from work, and I’m not one of those bozos who do casual Friday, so I definitely looked the part and fit the mold of their client class. We were off to a strange start.

After inviting me to sit down and wrapping the cape around me, she introduced herself: “I’m Brandy” and I said, “I’m Brian,” and began describing what I wanted. After rambling descriptors a few seconds, I said, “Some people call it a taper cut,” and she snapped, “Uh, I know what a taper cut is.” This threw me for a second, but I recollected and continued telling her what I wanted. Then, unbelievably, she rolled her eyes at me, and that froze me mid-sentence. I sat back in the chair and glared at her through the mirror as she stood behind me. Finally she said, “Uh, we’re you saying something?” and I shook my head then, to my own amazement, began unhooking the cape, and said, “Get this thing off of me,” and she snapped right to it. I threw the white strip they wrap around your neck on the floor, stood up, and walked out without saying a word. I walked right past the manager and receptionist, who both watched me in disbelief, and I was gone. “Brian” had left the building. No last name. No record.

In that ten-second time when I was glaring at her through the mirror, I asked myself: Do I want to sit through a half-hour haircut with this woman then pay $30 bucks for it or do I just get up and walk out? I chose the latter and off I went. I’ve never done anything like that before. And I can only wonder what the boss said to her after I left. If he had followed me outside, I would’ve said, “I forgot I had an important appointment” and kept walking, but nobody followed me, and they had no idea who I was, which was fine because I had no interest in getting her in trouble. She was just a kid. She’ll figure it out or she won't. Who cares? On that day I was simply “Brian,” the untraceable white whale. But I bet my little friend Brandy will talk about the day some guy just got up and walked out without a word, and maybe she knows why.

Last night we had a party for the NCAAs and I told this story to a friend of mine, and he told me that I HAVE to go back to this barbershop. It’s a MUST!! Of course I assumed I’d never go again, not because I’d cut ties with any business over something so silly but from shear embarrassment on my end. But this guy told me I had no choice. I had to find out if they'd remember me and roll the red carpet out upon my return. He told me if this barbershop manager was any kind of manager at all he’d recognize me and perhaps even wait on me himself. I argued the place in question probably sees a hundred heads a day, so I doubt I’d stand out, but I’m suddenly and strangely intrigued, and wonder if they would recognize the return of “Brian,” the guy who refused to give his last name, and maybe this boss would push the receptionist aside, and say, “I got this one.” Then, “Brian, get in that chair.”

Or would he think that I had planned this whole thing out and that's why I didn't give my last name or phone number? I'm sure he went right to the receptionist for a record and she reported I'd been entered as just "Brian," and perhaps he smelled something funny and forgot me. I know she thought it funny when I said, "Brian's fine."

I think I need to know. I think I need to go back. And if they have no idea who I am and the same blue-haired barber comes to fetch me, I'll flip the waiting room magazine into the air and walk out again. Bet they'd remember me then. Bet they'd never forget "Brian" after that.

Brian Huba