Saturday, April 22, 2006

public service announcements

I was checking out airfares earlier today on for a potential trip back to Jersey in early August. Thought I would throw the following out here for those of you attending the November wedding here:

Departing Newark on Nov. 3 and returning Nov. 5 or 6, depending on your mood, Continental had round-trip nonstops available for $288. When I've done this route in the last two years, it has been anywhere from $226 to $313.

Being a pessimist, I don't think it's going to get much better than $288, considering the way gas prices are soaring these days. So if you are attending, and I hope you are, you might want to consider booking soon.


There's a good feature on Pete Seeger in the April 17th issue of The New Yorker. I'll be damned that I can't currently find a link.


No one responded to my little aviation quiz a few posts ago, a fact that shocks no one. For the record, the correct answer is a "teardrop entry." No one wins the free taste. Which is a shame, because it would have been awarded to whomever was clever enough to respond with "anal entry."

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Pride of the Home News Tribune

This is such a fascinating tale, it demands immediate recognition:

Upon arriving at work this evening, I found a curious envelope on my desk. Even before I opened it, it was obvious it was a book of some sort. Not having ordered anything lately, I wondered who in the hell sent me a tome.

Inside was indeed a book, accompanied by a note from its publisher asking for a review from my newspaper.

How these people got my name, I have no idea. I have to think it's a coincidence. But enclosed was a copy of "Bury My Heart At Cooperstown: Salacious, Sad and Surreal Deaths In The History of Baseball."

The authors: Frank Russo and Gene Racz.

This looks fascinating. Gene and his colleague have compiled a book detailing the unusual deaths of former major league baseball players. "Bizarre, tragic, twisted, honorable and gruesome -- their stories are collected here for tribute and trivia," writes Mike Vaccaro in the foreword.

Gene, the distinguished ex-Rutgers beat writer and Central Jersey soccer guru, has done a terrific job assembling a morbid assortment of oddball tales on a subject, to my knowledge, never before broached. There are sections on murders, suicides, bizarre accidents, alcoholism and more.

Here's a sample to whet your appetite:

"Having retired from pro ball at age 33, Stirnweiss' Jersey Central train was headed to New York, where he worked as a businessman. But this would be anything but another day at the office. As fate would have it, the motorman suffered a heart attack, and the train ran through two signals before plunging off an open-lift bridge that connected the port of Elizabeth and Bayonne in New Jersey.

George "Snuffy" Stirnweiss, father of six, drowned in Raritan Bay."

In the rear of the book, there is a section entitled "How to be a grave-hunter: Some helpful tips." I wonder whether Stan Goldstein, former HNT copy editor and avid celebrity grave-seeker, contributed to this section.

Bottom line: If you didn't know it before, you sure know now that Gene is a hard-core cat. And if you want a bonus hard-core item, we learn in the acknowledgements that Gene's dad is named Zoltan. That's hard core.

One of New Brunswick's favorite sons has done an admirable job. I will definitely try and review it for my rag, and I urge you to seek out a copy.

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Thursday, April 13, 2006

Bruce lyrics, the spinoff

The love affair between New Jersey and Bruce Springsteen is well-documented. With the possible exception of Tony Soprano, there's no Garden State native as renown nationwide than The Boss. Bruce is an icon in his homeland.

I'm wondering if he gets a free pass.

I'm not ripping the cat by any means, but I'm a little surprised that Jersey residents are blinded by the light of his stardom -- terrible pun intended. While Jersey worships Bruce, I'm not so sure the feelings were always reciprocal. Look at the following lyrics:

"It's a town full of losers, and I'm pulling out of here to win." -- Thunder Road

"This boardwalk life for me is through. You ought to quit this scene too." -- 4th of July, Asbury Park

I don't know if you noticed, but he just called Freehold a town full of fucking losers. There's not much doubt he's referring to his hometown. In Born To Run, he makes it clear he's ditching Freehold, driving down Highway 9 for the freedom of the open road. Thunder Road being the tandem piece on the same album, I think you can infer that he's talking about Freehold.

The more startling comment is the lyric from 4th of July, surprising if only because it was written in 1973, the exact time Bruce is known for embodying the essence of Jersy Shore rock. Yet here he is, long before he ever became a rock-n-roll star, proclaiming his desire to be done with the Jersey Shore scene.

Now, before you go getting your panties in a wad, I'm not saying that Bruce hates Jersey. I'm just surprised some people haven't gotten ruffled that he portrayed the place with such candor.

Perhaps I can answer my own question here a little bit. Why does he get a free pass? Part of his statewide appeal lies with the blue-collar crowd. He can rip Freehold because his dad got laid off from the same factories as the lunchpail crowd listening to his music.

And I think his yearnings for something more than Asbury Park are forgiven because, well, who the hell hasn't wanted to get out of Jersey?

I didn't want to go to Rutgers. This is not shocking. I don't think anyone at Rutgers wants to really go there. There was a universal high-school student desire to go out of state -- Penn State, Syracuse, Boston College and Maryland were the favorites, if I recall, from my particular school. Anywhere. As long as it was out of state.

Most people want to leave Jersey. It's a strange phenomenon, probably worthy of its own thread here, because I've never encountered that desperate hit-the-road-and-get-the-fuck-out desire anywhere else. People elsewhere are proud of their home states, and it can sometimes be annoying.

But Springsteen had that same desire and people identified with it.

And as a postscript, I'll say that even though I left, I am indeed proud of Jersey. Like all the Mexicans waxing poetic about their home country in the current immigration fiasco, I will rally to Jersey's defense whenever it comes under attack. I'm very territorial, especially if some douchebag from, say, Iowa is asking me "What exit are you from?". And, no, I'm not from "Joisey" you fucking asshole. Go shove that cornstalk up your ass.

There are a hell of a lot of places worse than Jersey. Iowa is definitely one of them.

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Monday, April 10, 2006


Thanks to a tip from my favorite reader, I heard one of the new songs of the upcoming Springsteen release on KBCO tonight. Admittedly, I felt lukewarm about the upcoming release of "We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions" prior to this radio tease.

Now, I am legitimately excited.

Originally, I wasn't sure. No one warrants more praise than Bruce for constantly pushing his boundaries and producing meaningful, compelling work. An album paying tribute to his American folk roots is worthy of much respect. But I wondered if it would be notable only for the subject matter and not the music. That's kind of how I felt about segments of Devils and Dust.

But after listening to the one track played by KBCO, a New Orleans jazz romp of "Jacob's Ladder," I have little doubt that Springsteen's ambition will pay off. Can't wait until April 25.


In honor of his latest album, I was thinking about Bruce's best lyrics of all-time. Most artists seem to have a signature line -- like Neil Young's "It's better to burn out than fade away." I'm not sure Big Scooter has something that memorable, but off the top of my head, here are some of Bruce's best. Feel free to add to this list:

"For the ones who had a notion
A notion deep inside.
That it ain't no sin
To be glad your alive"

"It's a town full of losers
And I'm pullin' out of here to win"
(Thunder Road)

This one I always love:
"Tom said, "Mom, wherever there's a cop beating a guy
Whenever a hungry newborn baby cries
Where there's a fight against the blood and hatred in the air
Look for me Mom, I'll be there."

One more for the road...
"We're going out where the sand's turning to gold
So put on your stocking's baby,
'Cuz the night's gettin' cold."
(Atlantic City)

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Thursday, April 06, 2006

Loopey Tunes

For those of you awaiting an answer on Monday's quiz with bated breath, those paragraphs were penned by yours truly, harnessing my inner Lupica.

As George noted, I kind of gave it away because I lifted the Tilden Projects reference straight from that day's rubbish. Thanks for playing.

I have a pair of FAA written tests to take next week, so I'm currently using most of my time to cram for them, and not writing this week's diatribe about CBS making a mockery of journalism by hiring loathsome Katie Couric.

There are 1,100 potential questions that all sound similar to this:

You are on a heading directly to the station of 060. You receive this ATC clearance: Cleared to the XYZ VOR. Hold Northeast on the 040 degree radial from the VOR. Left turns. What is the recommended procedure to enter the holding pattern?

If anyone wants to take a stab at the answer, ye shall surely win a frosty taste at some future date.

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Monday, April 03, 2006

Shea It Ain't So

It was an April afternoon if there ever was one. Fans streamed by the hundreds off the beleaguered No. 7 train toward the turnstiles, all proud Queens residents on this day. They came from Flatbush, the Tilden Projects and beyond the Hudson, all to celebrate spring's annual rite of passage. ...

Hampton pitched. Piazza hit one out. New York awakened for another season. And for one day, everything seemed possible at Shea Stadium.

(Quiz time: Are the above paragraphs actual Lupica hackery from Opening Day, 2000 or a knockoff penned by yours truly? The fact you must pause to think about it -- you're pondering it right now, no? -- shows how predictable his stuff has become. No googling allowed).

Onto today's real blog:

The last time I was at Shea Stadium was indeed for Opening Day of the 2000 season. It was a horrific venture into the filthy city.

I filled a styrofoam cooler with ice and arranged a 12-pack of Heineken in its depths with surgical precision. They would be a fine complement to the tailgating planned at Shea, the main portions of which were generously provided by Joe Pendleton and Company.

From Grantham Drive, the cooler and I made our way to Metro Park. At this point, I should have realized the folly of this plan. On this April morning, NJTransit was packed to the gills, making it very difficult to cart the ice-cold Greenies. No doubt, this bulky package annoyed several of my fellow riders.

It got so crowded that I spent the bulk of the ride, including a 30-minute delay outside Newark, with the cooler mashed into my face. At least I had a seat.

Now, if you know anything about styrofoam coolers, you know they are fragile pieces of shit not appropriate for the rigors of heavy-duty transport.

By the time I reached Port Authority, it had cracked down one side. Water leaked from another. We were in sorry shape. Undeterred, I lugged this package through the building down to the No. 7 train platform.

As you can imagine on Opening Day, the No. 7 was even more crowded than the NJTransit. I had a better chance of curing cancer than I did finding a seat. There was nowhere to rest the cooler, which now resembled the decrepit ruins of Rome, so I carried it the entire ride. With every herky-jerky stutter of the subway, the cooler groaned and cracked some more. There were several times I nearly toppled myself.

Finally. Shea Stadium. More than two hours after this trip began, this fine concrete Mecca was in sight. The ordeal was over. And I definitely needed a cold taste.

That's when John Law placed an immediate end to those dreams.

With one foot off the subway, I was a sitting duck for three officers who rushed over to commandeer my precious cargo. "Sorry," John said. "There's no alcohol allowed at tailgates this season. New policy."

"Dude," I protested. "You've got to be fucking kidding me. I just spent two hours with these on my lap on the train from Jersey."

"Sorry," he said again. "I have to confiscate them. You can pick them up tomorrow at 10 a.m. from a police warehouse in the Bronx if you want."

There was paperwork to complete. He added my name and driver's license number to a list now in the hundreds, and the tastes were led away into the back of a semi trailer.

"I'm not going to risk life and limb in the Bronx to go pick up 12 beers, much less drive from Jersey and pay the $7.50 toll for the George Washington," I said, throwing up my hands in defeat.

This cat seemed sympathetic and Irish, and obviously did not enjoy parting people from their tastes. "Why don't you just take them and enjoy the game tonight," I said, referring to that night's NCAA championship game.

"I'm not allowed to do that, but thanks," he said.

Raped and pillaged, I set about finding Joe Pendleton in some far-flung quadrant of the parking lot. This was in an era before cell phones, so it took a while. I felt like Clark Griswold, desperately wandering the Arizona desert.

Thankfully John Law had not yet assaulted Joe Pendleton when I arrived. His contraband was still intact, so I could spill my tale of woe into a cold beverage.

I don't remember anything about the game that day. Did the Mets win or lose? I have no idea. I think it might have rained for a little while. I think I got a good buzz going after a while. But I sure remember getting bent over by Shea Stadium goons enforcing a bullshit rule.

That was the last time I set foot at Shea. I would like go back this summer when I return to Jersey, so if anyone is interested in taking in a tilt, let me know.

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