Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Week That Was

Okay, so my plans to blog a bit more regularly during the Summer of Me kind of took a hit last week as I was otherwise occupied with cleaning my house and grumbling about some of the craptacular weather we had most of last week. But fear not! I'm back today for the first of hopefully at least 2 whole blogs this week. I know... I know... how can I spare the time from my busy schedule of doing, well, more than I had been as of late. But find the time I will. Goodness knows I still have lots of stuff I want to talk about. For today, though, consider this an old fashioned notes blog as I look back at the week that was in my life and in the rest of the world.

- Election Day happened last Tuesday here in Pennsylvania, and Democrat voters decided to oust long-time Senator Arlen Specter in favor of newbie Joe Sestak. This is good news for my fair state because old school Arlen and his out of touch ways needed to go. Now, don't expect me to vote for Sestak in the fall (I am a Republican, after all), but I'm glad that there will be someone fresh in the 2nd senator's seat for PA next year.

If you want to know what really doomed Arlen, it was him switching to the Democratic Party after being a lifelong Republican just so he would have an easier time of being re-elected. Gee, that didn't work out so well, did it? And the country's anti-incumbent sentiment also probably had something to do with it. Frankly, I'd been sick of Arlen for years and years. Now he can fade into obscurity where he belongs.

- The two candidates to be the next Governor of PA were also chosen last Tuesday - Democrat Dan Onorato and Republican Tom Corbett. Trust me when I tell you that this is a win-win for the western half of the state. Why? Well, the current governor, Ed Rendell, is a Philly boy through and through (he even appears on Eagles pregame shows during the season), and for the past 8 years, he has almost always paid more attention to the eastern half of the state, ignoring Pittsburgh. Well, both Onorato and Corbett are Burghers, meaning that sunny days are ahead for the Burgh. Of course, I wouldn't vote for Onorato on a dare. He is the man who championed the now infamous alcoholic beverage tax in Allegheny County, after all. He's as slimy as the day is long, but at least I know he'll take care of his hometown when the chips are down.

- The Pirates had another fair to middling week that ended in walk-off fashion this afternoon at PNC Park with Ryan Doumit lining a solo homer to right field with two outs in the tenth inning. Yours truly was at the game, and I have to admit to getting a kick out of seeing a walk-off home run for the first time since (I think) Brian Giles hit a walk-off grand slam to cap an epic comeback against the Astros several years ago. The Buccos still can't hit for crap and can't seem to get any sort of consistent pitching. I could go on and on about the stupid decisions the front office has made and about some of the boneheaded things manager John Russell does during the course of a game, but that'll keep until later on this week.

- Speaking of the Pirates, the author of the Pirates Report blog create a huge ferfluffle this week when he wrote a rather scathing column that basically said the Penguins were no different than the Pirates. I'd direct you to the column, but it has since been removed by the author (or the ballclub... no one is really sure which). Bob Smizik of the PG wrote a column about it. You can check it out here. Oh, did I mention that the Pirates Report is an official online publication of the team itself? Now, whether or not the author (some jabronie named Paul Ladewski) removed it on his own because of the 99.9% negative feedback or Bob Nutting himself pulled the plug is up for debate, but saying that just because the Pens had won only one measly Stanley Cup during the Pirates 17 years of ineptitude they are no better than the Bucs makes you seriously question this dude's sanity.

At least the Pens have, y'know, made the playoffs a few times in the last 17 years, and I can think of a few franchises that would have been overjoyed to have won just one Stanley Cup in the past 17 years (one of them, the Chicago Blackhawks, haven't won a Cup since 1961 - good luck to them in the Finals, by the way). I mean, sure the Pens haven't exactly made all of the right moves over the past 17 years and had their own period of ineptitude. I realize that, but I also realize that back-to-back appearances in the Stanley Cup Finals trumps anything the Pirates have done since 1992 by a factor of about 1,000. The Pirates can't even finish at .500, let alone go the World Series.

Of course, Ladewski is the same guy who won't vote anyone who played in the so-called Steroid Era into the Baseball Hall of Fame and turned in a blank ballot the year Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken, Jr. were elected to the HOF because he doesn't believe any player deserves to go into the Hall of Fame on the first ballot. What an asshat. I hate these sanctimonious sportswriters who think that just because they have a Hall of Fame vote that it makes them important or something. Dude, you're a jabronie sportswriter who is best known for being a malcontent. Good luck with your next job, because whether you wrote the post comparing the Pens to the Pirates on your own, hoping to impress Bob Nutting (good luck with that, by the way) or Nutting himself asked you to write it, I just can't see you making it past this year as Editor in Chief of the Pirates Report. Good riddance, I say.

- Memorial Day is just about a week away, and I can't wait. I so need the three day weekend. Ever since I started my new job, I've had a grand total of one day during the week off in nearly three months. Yeah, I know I was unemployed for nearly two months and had all of that time off, but I still need the occasional day off during the week to just not be at work.

So, next weekend will be filled with golfing, grilling, a trip to the South Side on Saturday (hopefully to include a trip to Hines Ward's bar to watch the upcoming UFC PPV), and generally just relaxing. The weather has been really hit and miss so far this month, so I'm really hoping for good weather next weekend.

- The Steelers are in the midst of OTAs, sans Ben Roethisberger and with Byron Leftwich taking snaps with the first team. Personally, despite all of the railing I've done about Ben over the past few months, I would like to see him allowed to practice with the team, but even though he's completed his NFL ordered evaluation, the Commish still hasn't given him the okay to resume team activities. Sounds to me like the Commish is going to do everything he can to teach Ben a lesson between now and whenever Ben's suspension is up. That's all well and fine, but you do reach a point when you go from trying to teach someone a lesson to just trying to show how powerful you are, and Roger Goodell is toeing that line right now.

- Well, that's it for tonight. I'll be back later on this week with an all-Pirates edition of Blog The Walls Down in which I reveal steps the Pirates can take right now to go from being laughingstocks to merely just another team barely treading water. Hey, it's not rocket science, though Neal Huntington sure would like us to believe it is.



Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Summer of Me

Wow... a lot can sure happen when you don't blog for over a week. The Pens can go from being oh so close to clinching their series with the Canadiens after Saturday's home win (which yours truly attended) to losing the next two games and being out of the Stanley Cup playoffs. The Pirates can go from sweeping the Cubs in impressive fashion to getting swept by the Reds (at home, no less), scoring a grand total of one run in three games. That takes some talent, gang. And I can go from having an actual date to being told she just wasn't feeling any chemistry after the second date (just two short days later), thereby keeping up my incredible string of not being able to make it to the third date with anyone I meet on eharmony.

I'd like to say I was surprised I didn't make it to date three, but with my track record, I've come to expect it. Call it a self fulfilling prophecy if you will, but when things start to happen to you over and over again, you just aren't surprised any more. Does this mean I'm done with eharmony? Well, I am and I'm not. I am done with it because I'm just tired of having no one respond to my requests to communicate or once I do make it to the open stage, I can't make it past the second date. I'm not done with it because my account automatically renewed days before I made up my mind to drop it. So, I'll give it the occasional check a few times a week, but I'm done looking at it on a daily basis. It's just not worth my time.

So what is worth my time? I'm glad you asked.

I'm going to borrow a phrase coined by my friend The Dean. Some years ago, The Dean had what he believed was going to be a free and clear summer that he could devote to doing the things he wanted to do. He declared it "The Summer of Me." You have to know The Dean - declarations like this are not out of the ordinary for him. I, of course, laughed at him (as I'm want to do), especially after his summer went kaput after he suffered a back injury that kept him on the shelf for most of said summer. Yet, there's something about what he wanted to do that has stuck with me for all of these years.

So, even before my latest relationship bit the dust, I made a vow to myself that this summer would be a big one in my life. I'd finally get around to do all of those things I've either wanted or needed to do but haven't for some reason or another (usually laziness), and when I saw that I was going to be girlfriend free for the summer, I declared that the summer of 2010 will be The Summer of Me.

There is something to be said for being single and childless. It means I can pretty much come and go as I please and not be beholden to anyone but myself. Does it have its disadvantages? Sure. I can definitely think of a really BIG one, if you know what I mean, but like anything else, after awhile, you kind of get used to it...

Anyway, now that I have declared this year to be The Summer of Me, what will it involve? Well, for starters, hopefully more regular blogging. I'd really like to make this blog a more regular part of my life. Between watching (or in my case, not watching) the Pens and devoting time to trying to start an actual relationship with someone, I've sort of let my blog lapse a bit. Of course, I should be happy since this is by far the longest I've ever made it with a personal blog, so yay me.

I also envision much more writing this summer. I don't know if I'll ever fulfill my dream of being a published author (at this point, my sports bar is a much more feasible dream), but that doesn't mean I can't write for the sheer enjoyment of it. An ex-friend of mine always tried to tell me that writing should be difficult and painful (which probably explains why my old friend agonized over every line they wrote), but I never believed that for a second. Writing has always been relaxing and cathartic for me, and even if I'm only writing for myself or a very small audience, I still enjoy the process of it.

With writing comes more reading. Goodness knows I have more books (and comic books, for that matter) than I know what to do with. There's no reason I shouldn't always be reading at least one book a week. Maybe instead of going out to eat at the office every day, I can find a nice, sunny area where I can read. Of course, we'd have to actually have a non-rainy day for that to happen, but I digress. I love to read, and I can never understand why I don't do it more often (probably the aforementioned laziness reason). So, you can add that to the list of things I'll be doing during my Summer of Me.

But I'm not going to stop there. Y'see, with both my mom and dad gone, the house I now live in is mine (even if it's not 100% legally mine, which is something else I should put on my list), and it's high time that I put my stamp on this house. I just bought myself a nifty new TV stand and moved the old console TV out of the living room and into my computer room, out of harm's way. My parents' console stereo system with 5 CD changer is nothing more than a really big radio since the CD player doesn't work, so it and the coffee table it's on will soon be vacating my living room, thereby giving me more room to house my rapidly expanding DVD collection. And my mom's collection of miniature lighthouses may soon be finding their way onto ebay allowing me to buy some kitschy pop culture related merchandise to jazz up the living room and make it more me and less my mother.

Upstairs, I have two extra rooms - one a spare bedroom where most of my books are (something else that might be finding their way onto ebay) and the other a catch-all room with Christmas decorations, fitness equipment, my old stereo and lots of other junk that would make people wonder if I was a hoarder (which I'm not, by the way). A lot of that junk can just be tossed out. The rest? Yard sale or ebay. What I'd like to do is turn that other room upstairs into a sitting/quiet room of sorts. Y'know, maybe buy a cheap stereo (one that works unlike both my and my parents stereos) add a few chairs, maybe an old couch and some other things and try to make it into a room where I can go to relax or get away or read. Whenever I upgrade to a bigger TV next year, it would also make a great video game room where I could put my old TV along with my PS2. Y'know... that's not a half bad idea.

Oh yeah... the yard sale I mentioned in the prior paragraph... that's been on my to-do list for awhile now, but I just couldn't bring myself to do it while my mom was still alive. But now? Well, if you know anyone who's really into crafts and would like to buy some barely (if at all) used craft stuff, let me know! I have a whole bunch of it in my cellar that's going to be part of my yard sale, along with clothes, shoes, kitchen stuff, Christmas decorations and whatever the hell else I can find in this house that someone might want to buy.

I also want to do a top-to-bottom cleaning of my house, maybe even (gasp!) get the carpets cleaned or (double gasp!) do it myself. It's The Summer of Me, kids... I can do anything!

And trips... god knows I need to get away from the Burgh every now and then, so in addition to a trip to Detroit to see the Buccos get lambasted by the Tigers, there's also a trip to Cleveland to see CHIKARA in my future, maybe a trip to Put-in-Bay or the Jersey Shore or a trip to the Maryland/DC area to visit my friends on the Tony Kornheiser message board. I'd just like to go somewhere with a beach... that isn't Erie. I just want to finally enjoy a summer for the first time since... cripe, since I was still a kid and the most pressing thing I had to do every day was deliver newspapers.

And friends... I realize that most of my friends have spouses and kids, but I still want to be able to hang out with them, whether it's over wings at the Grove or a cookout at my house (if any of them can find a spot in their schedules, of course - kids are hard work) or dinner and a movie or whatever. Heck, maybe I'll even meet someone I haven't seen in forever that I've reconnected with on Facebook.

The whole gist of The Summer of Me is me taking advantage of this point and time in my life. I'm in the best mental health of my life. My finances are pretty good. I'm healthy. I have a house of my own and a car that's not even a year old. I don't have any responsibilities with my parents. I'm on my own really and truly for the first time in my life, and I plan on enjoying this summer and getting the most out of it I can.

So, welcome to The Summer of Me! I can't wait to tell you all about it.


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Post Birthday Blog

So I turned 38 yesterday, and it was pretty much just another Monday night in my life. In the birthday pantheon, I'm pretty sure that few people would see 38 as a milestone birthday, myself included. Yet, it was a significant birthday for a not-so-good reason - it was my first birthday after the deaths of both my parents.

It's not like my parents really made a big deal out of my birthday the older I got, but they were my mom and dad and my birthday was still important to them. With neither of them around, I think that my birthday will become less and less significant the older I get, for the time being anyway.

In the past 8 or so years (pretty much after I turned 30), my birthdays really stopped having much meaning for me. With no significant other, any kids and only a small group of friends, my birthday pretty much has become like any other day, except for the fact that I'm now one year older. I neither dread my birthdays like some my age do nor do I look forward to them, either. It's just another day. But I'm not sure how I feel about that.

As someone who claims he prefers to be left alone and doesn't want to be the center of attention, you'd think I'd be happy that no one makes a fuss over me on my birthday. And that is true - to an extent. For all of my protestations to the contrary, I guess that sometimes I would like someone to make a fuss over me. It happened for my 30th birthday - a co-worker decorated my cube with black balloons and a bunch of co-workers and friends helped me celebrate at a local bar that night with lots of beer and way too many shots. It was a great birthday.

Yet, yesterday at work, I didn't tell a soul that it was my birthday. People knew at my old job, but I guess I just preferred that no one knew at my new job. It can be quite a conundrum. Do I want to be the center of attention? Am I desperate to be liked by everyone? I guess the answer to both is "sometimes, yes, but most of the time, no."

And please don't think I'm trolling for a huge birthday blowout. If that were the case, I'd have written this last week instead of the day after my birthday. Believe me, I was very happy for the many birthday wishes I got from friends on Facebook (and much thanks to everyone who did that, by the way). And by the time my 39th birthday rolls around, this will be long since forgotten. And that's okay - I just felt the need to get this off my chest. I mean, that's what this blog is ostensibly for - my mental well-being.

I've just had this weird feeling over the past two or three days (combined with a tinge of loneliness), and I'm hoping that by verbalizing it, I'll be back to normal soon. Of course, with the first Mother's Day after my mother's death looming this Sunday, that could also be a reason for why I've been feeling so uneasy these past few days, but that's to be expected, I think.

I don't know anyone out there who is terribly fond of growing old (outside of your average teenager, I mean). I've always had my toe in the "growing older but not up" pool, but a part of me will always wish I could be 25 again, knowing all that I know now, of course. But that's not going to happen - no matter how many movies are made to the contrary. It's up to me to get over this mini funk and get back on track with my life.

Anyway, enough of this maudlin stuff. In two years I'll be turning the big 4-0, and if I have my way, I'm going to Vegas or the San Diego ComicCon - one of the two. I'm going to celebrate my 40th in style, baby! So, for those of you out there with upcoming birthdays, enjoy them and celebrate them with those who are most important in your life. Someday, I'm going to have someone important in my life whose birthday I can celebrate and vice versa, and frankly, I can't wait.

Let's Go Pens!