November 2012

Decorating with magazines

Here’s something that I’ve mentioned in passing but never really talked about until now: decorating with magazines. Let me start with a photo of my college dorm room, and then I’ll explain:

The semi-quick backstory is that my walls looked like crap during my first semester in college. I had two posters above my bed (which somehow made everyone think I was a pothead), and I filled in the gaps with nature photos and several other random images. The whole setup was so ill-conceived that I’m embarrassed to show anyone now, but fine . . . here’s a photo for you. Pretty bad, huh? The fact is, I loved the Beatles, enjoyed word-play, and was fascinated by aliens. (I’ve never smoked pot, and I strongly believe that it should be legalized, but that’s another discussion for another time.) Anyway, by the end of my freshman year, I’d accumulated a bunch of magazines, and I thought it might be cool to cover one little area of the wall with pictures of people and faces. So I did. And it *was* cool. At the start of my sophomore year, I ditched the posters and completely wall-papered my half of the room. (I had an awful roommate at the time — a white/wannabe thug who didn’t care for my “gay” decorations and sometimes pulled a knife on me when he came back late/drunk at night, but again, that’s another discussion for another time). Finally, when I got my own room as a junior in 1999, I decorated everywhere. As a senior the following year, I did the same thing (with all new pages), and when I moved out of my parents’ place and into a dorm-room-sized studio in 2002, I promptly started decorating with magazines yet again. It had officially become my thing – a fun/inexpensive/creative way to turn an unimpressive space into a vibrant world — and it always looked good. Check out this photo from 2003, this one from 2004, this one from 2005, this one from 2006, this one from 2007, and this one from 2008:

(UPDATE: I found my February/March 2004 copy of Budget Living, and look what’s on page 98. It’s a photo of my apartment.)

The photo above was taken on my last day in that apartment. I’ve been living in a bigger/better place ever since, but I waited until this year to decorate it with magazines. Why? Because I felt like my eyes needed a break . . . and because it was a grown-uppy space . . . and because I was trying to act my age . . . but a man’s true nature can not be thwarted, I say!

People who know me from the baseball world often ask what I do when it’s not baseball season. Meanwhile, my non-baseball acquaintances ask questions like, “How’s life been treating you?” and “What’ve you been up to?” Therefore, the purpose of this blog entry, which, I’ll admit, is absurdly long, is to share the process of decorating my new place. THIS is an example of what I do. THIS is what I’ve been up to lately. And yes, I know it’s completely insane.

Now, if you’re only here to read about baseball, then I’d suggest you bookmark this blog and come back in April. If you’re interested in seeing my apartment but don’t feel like scrolling through dozens of photos, then feel free to skip to the end. As for the rest of you, grab your favorite beverage, find a comfy seat, and come along for the ride . . .

The following photo shows the very first magazine page that I taped to the walls:

In case you’re wondering, that’s a gigantic rubber band ball (which weighed 238 pounds at the time), and yes, I have lots of VHS tapes and an Arkanoid machine and a Scrabble rug. All this stuff might be old news to some of you, but in case you’ve never seen it, welcome to my world.

Anyway, I worked from right to left and started putting the top row of pages in place:

Did you notice that they’re all magazine covers? Same deal with the top row at my old apartment.

The following day, as my decorating continued, I had some company, and as you’re about to see, I had a bunch of pages spread out on the floor:

In the photo above, which was taken on March 2, 2012, that’s my friend Andrew on the right and then-girlfriend Robin on the left. (That’s right. We broke up.) (Try to control yourselves, ladies.) (This entire entry is becoming an exposé on my life. Watch out!)

Here’s what the wall looked like on March 5th:

Did you notice the blacked-out pages in the previous two photos? Quite simply, this blog is kid-friendly, but my walls are decidedly not. My intention here is not to offend anyone, so I’ve done my best to censor the racier images.

“But Zack, what do you consider racy?”

Personally, there’s almost nothing that offends me, and if there is, I usually enjoy seeing it because I like being challenged and having my limits pushed, but in terms of this blog? Basically, if a photo wouldn’t be acceptable on American network television (or hell, on the side of an Abercrombie & Fitch bag), then I’m not showing it here. (Why we broadcast shows that glorify guns and horrific violence but not naked bodies is beyond me; humans are so dumb and uptight. I wish I were a bonobo. But I digress.) In some cases, you’ll see photos, or parts thereof, blacked out, and in other cases, they’ll merely be blurred. (In some cases, you might see a harmless photo [like the one of a guy with a baguette shoved in his mouth] that appears to be offensive from afar, so be cool, fool.) I hope this is okay.

Part of the reason why this decorating project took so long is that I meticulously cut the pages to fit around stuff. See the page below?

Look how nicely it fit around the outlets:

See the Bo Jackson image in the following photo?

Well, here’s a challenge for y’all: by the end of this entry, see how many other baseball images you can find, but may I suggest that you not list them all in one comment? Instead, I think it’d be more fun if each person names just one.

As you may have noticed in the previous photo, once I finished decorating the main portion of the wall, I started taping pages to the area that juts out on the left. Then, once I finished that, I did the same thing on the right:

Then I decorated the portion of the wall closest to the window:

Here are three bonus challenges:

1) Name all the people who appear twice (or even thrice) on the walls.
2) Name all the “replacement” images. (In some cases, I covered one page with another.)
3) I accidentally taped one image — a duplicate — to the walls twice. Find it.

On March 10th, Robin helped me by sorting all the magazine covers:

In terms of the covers, I made a point of not using the same magazine twice, and this made it easier to stay organized.

Eventually I wrapped around the VHS shelves and began covering the maroon foyer wall:

(You know what? I refuse to call it a “foyer.” That’s a stupid word that sounds way too fancy.)

A little while later, here’s what it looked like from the hallway outside my apartment:

When the, umm, maroon wall was complete . . .

. . . I started working on the toughest area in the entire apartment: the cubbies near the front door. Here I am on a ladder, trimming the rough edge off a page:

I cut pages to fit around the shelves . . .

. . . and put a whole row of milk ads in one spot, just for fun:

Look what I had to do in order to decorate the bottom cubby:

I had to sit/cram inside of it; I’m 5-foot-11 and 170 pounds and NOT flexible, so it was rather uncomfortable.

On March 18th — two and a half weeks after I began this project — I finished the cubbies and moved on to the wall beside the front door:

Here’s what was happening 20 feet away:

Robin and I were playing Scrabble, and she was taking forever to make each move. Rather than complaining, I was like, “Take all the time you want — I’ll just keep on decorating until you tell me it’s my turn,” and before I knew it, the next chunk of wall was done:

In case you’re wondering (as many people do), I put up all these pages with this type/brand of scotch tape. (Unfortunately I neglected to count, so I can only estimate that I ended up using more than 20 rolls.) Every corner of every page got taped to the wall and/or other pages, so they really stay in place. The tape shows (as many people love to point out) and guess what? I don’t care.

It was still March 18th when I taped an entire row of covers here:

My pace slowed way down after that because I had to cut a bunch of pages like this . . .

. . . to fit around the front door, but you can hardly tell from afar:

Look how I had to cut this page to fit not only around the door, but around the hinge:

Do you think that Claudia Schiffer, wherever she may have been at the time, felt a mysterious/painful twinge on the right side of her face? I hope not.

Do you think that any of these celebrities, if they somehow knew about this madness, would be interested in coming to my apartment to see it in person? That would be cool.

While decorating, I sometimes put certain pages next to each other. Here’s one example . . .

. . . and here’s another:

The cigarette ad pictured above came from an old magazine. I forget which one, but it was probably from the 1970s or 1980s. I didn’t start saving pages until 1997, but I’ve acquired some much older magazines since then.

Check out the lock on my door in the following photo:

See the hole in the following page?

I spent a long time — probably 45 minutes or more — finding the right page that would work best in that spot and then cutting it JUST right so it’d fit there:

Now, whenever I use that lock, it’s like I’m tweaking that woman’s nose — in a friendly way. I mean, she looks like she’s laughing and enjoying it, right? By the way, I *love* the photo to the left of it. The cat cracks me up, and the girl is super-cute.

Here’s another page that I trimmed to fit around a light switch . . .

. . . and here’s my ear-biting section:

Two more challenges:

1) How many other “intentional placements” can you find?
2) Guess (or count) the total number of pages.

The entire wall turned out great . . .

. . . and I wrapped it up by decorating the column-type thing next to the ugly kitchen cabinets:

Seriously, those cabinets are the worst, but I’m too cheap/lazy to have them replaced. They look like what people in the 1960s imagined the future would look like.

On March 25th, I cleaned up this mess . . .

. . . and the following day I flew to Japan.

I didn’t decorate at all for the next seven months. Why? Because it was baseball season. I attended 80 games and wrote more than 150,000 words on this blog — that’s the equivalent of two books — and had a full-time job at the Argosy and kept myself busy with things like this. Eventually, though, I found myself with lots of free time, and on October 18th, I resumed my magazine project.

I taped a thin row of pictures to the wall below these windows . . .

. . . and within a couple hours . . .

. . . that area was done:

Hmm, what next?
Ahh, yes, the kitchen counter.
I started here . . .

. . . and wrapped around the end . . .

. . . and continued along the outside:

Two days later, my apartment was an absolute mess, but I was making progress:

When I finished the side of the counter, I began taping covers up above:

My plan was to work across . . . and then down . . . and have the rows connect. I measured carefully to make sure that it would happen, and voila!

Mission accomplished.

In the photo above, there’s a picture of Mitt Romney with his face blurred out. I didn’t Photoshop it. It came that way — a clever critique.

Another thing about the photo above: do you see the open door on the right? That’s the bathroom that I’d decorated with business cards four years earlier. What can I say? I really like decorating. And hey, if you’re willing to pay me, I’ll come do it at your place.

Speaking of the bathroom door, it took quite an effort to cut the covers/pages to fit around it:

I took a quick break to admire my effort . . .

. . . and then got back to work.

I continued decorating the bathroom door . . .

. . . and eventually moved along to the wall next to it:

This is going to seem even more insane than everything else I’ve shown you, but whatever. I’m not ashamed. The uninformed call me “OCD,” but those who truly get it simply nod and smile.


Have a look and then I’ll explain:

The first thing you need to know is that I put a great deal of thought into every picture that I tape to my walls. I make sure not to have too many light or dark images clustered together, not too many black-and-whites in one area, not too many men or women, not too many kids, not too many white people, not too many sullen/heroin-addicted models, and so on. I measure each wall and each row/column and carefully plan how to make the pages fit best. I’ll admit, though, that I wasn’t nearly as strategic when I started decorating this apartment, and it shows, ever so slightly, in a few places. You probably wouldn’t notice. But I’ve noticed. And I’ve learned a lot in the process. Therefore, when I resumed this massive project in October, I organized all my pages into various categories and piles (pictured above). I’ve numbered them in the order of how often they got used, so here you go:

1) magazine covers (only for magazines not yet used)
2) pages measuring 10.25 to 10.5 inches tall
3) pages measuring 10.75 inches tall (this is the most common size)
4) people looking in various directions
5) African-Americans
6) my favorite pictures that I saved from college and my old apartment
7) sexy stuff
8) pictures with white borders
9) pages measuring 11 to 11.5 inches tall
10) pages measuring 12 inches tall
11) pages measuring 12.5 (or more) inches tall
12) pages measuring 9 inches wide (standard pages are 7.75 to 8 inches)
13) pages with partial images (good for short/narrow spaces)
14) milk ads
15) ads with solid-color backgrounds (you’ll see how these got used)
16) 3-D images (with a pair of 3-D glasses on top)
17) body parts along with closeups of noses, eyes, and mouths
18) adult ads

I also had other piles including: (a) covers of magazines that I’d already used, (b) pages that I’m saving for the next time I do this, (c) boring/filler photos for areas that never get seen, (d) boring sport photos, and (e) more that I can’t think of right now.

If I were in a rush, or if I weren’t a perfectionist with a clear vision of what I wanted, I could’ve decorated my entire apartment within a few days, or perhaps within a week — but I wasn’t rushing. I loved every minute of this project. I always had my favorite music blasting, and I often had company. It was relaxing and challenging and rewarding all at once, so I took my time. If I had a whole day to work on it and didn’t have to cut around doorways and other protruding obstacles, I could add 60 to 80 photos. If I only had a partial day (between work and bedtime, for example) and/or had to carefully trim lots of pages, I might only do 30 to 50 — and that was fine. Like I said, I wasn’t in a rush.

On October 26th, I finished the back wall of the mini-hallway . . .

. . . and moved on to my bedroom doorway:

That doorway is 17 inches wide, so I needed the nine-inch-wide pages; without them, I would’ve had to put up three skinny columns, which would’ve looked dumb. Two skinny columns side by side is the limit.

I decided not to decorate the bedroom, though it did serve a purpose:

I might do the bedroom someday, but I’ll need a lot more time and magazines.

My friend Brandon came to visit and crashed at my place for the night. He’s a videographer and had lots of editing to do, so he hung out here and worked . . .

. . . while I decorated the hallway:

The next day, I started working on this wall:

Look how much progress I’d made by the following night:

That’s when the Giants won/swept the World Series. In the photo above, Game 4 is on TV, and my friend Jeremy is sitting on the right. You might remember him from 4/21/11 at Citi Field — the day I caught Mike Nickeas’s first career home run.

On October 29th (the day that Hurricane Sandy began pounding my city), I moved a large portion of my pillow pile to the side and decorated the wall above the TV:

I have 132 pillows, to be exact (including one that was tossed from a float in a Mardi Gras parade in Louisiana), and I bought most of them in the $5 to $20 range. It’s absurd how much pillows usually cost. I lucked out and found a huge store (an hour north of the city) that sells ‘em really cheap.

Here’s the page that took me longer to cut than ANY other in the entire apartment:

As you can kind of see, I had to cut around the outlet as well as two segments of the plastic tubing that covers my TV cable — all this effort for a picture that no one will ever see, except me on rare occasions when I move all the pillows to vacuum.

On October 30th, I finished the wall below the TV and had some more company:

In the photo above, that’s Robin on the far left and a high-school friend name Ben sitting across from her. He knows nothing about baseball, so you’ve probably never seen him before — but then again, I do tend to blog about THE most random stuff.

Unaware of the damage that the hurricane had caused at the Argosy, I was care-free and pumped when I finished decorating this wall . . .

. . . but I still had a long way to go. The following day (which happened to be Halloween), I laid out my remaining magazine covers . . .

. . . and chose these eight for the top row beside the window:

As it turned out, I swapped SI Kids for the cover of a different mag, but the remaining seven made the cut. Here’s they are on the wall from afar:

Later that day, my friend Jo Ann dropped by for a visit . . .

. . . and by the end of the night, that portion of the wall was done:

The next area that I decorated was a serious challenge. I’m talking about the round column in the middle of the apartment. For starters, it has a 66-inch circumference, which meant that each row would require nine pages. Multiply that by the 95-inch height of my ceiling, and I was going to need nine rows. Are you with me? I was going to need 81 pages to cover the column, and because it’s in such a prominent spot, I wanted the photos to be extra compelling.

I started by selecting nine covers for the top row. Here they are (photographed from above) on my table:

I’m not exactly “compelled” by Oprah Winfrey — everything about her puts me at risk of dying of boredom — but forget about her. The centerpiece of the column’s top row is this picture:

It’s the cover of Newsday Magazine from October 14, 1990, featuring my grandfather, Louis Cohen, at the Argosy. (He died less than three months after that photo was taken.) I placed it on that portion of the column so that whenever I’m at the kitchen sink (which is very often, in part, because I brush my teeth there twice a day), I can look up and see him. (Yes, I brush my teeth at the kitchen sink. You got a problem with that? It’s not like I piss in it. I’d rather stand there and look out at Manhattan and see the Empire State Building two miles off in the distance than cram into the bathroom and stare at myself in the mirror. Jeez. Why is that such a difficult concept for you people to grasp? I don’t spit toothpaste on my dishes, and even if I did, I have a dishwasher. See what you’re doing to me? You’re all so damn judgmental, and it’s making me defensive. Leave me alone!)

Here’s what it looked like when I worked my way down to the bottom of the column:

See how the pages are only taped on one side? Let me see if I can explain this . . .

I always try hard to make sure that the pages aren’t crooked, but on the flat portion of the walls, slight errors in straightness aren’t terribly noticeable. You see, every row of pages ultimately ends. Think of the shelves with the VHS tapes or the windows. Those are “obstacles” that interrupt the flow, so if I’m off by an eighth of an inch, who’s gonna know? On the column, however, every row wraps around and must connect with itself, so the pages *can’t* be crooked. Therefore, in putting up each new row, I initially taped one side so that I could remove and adjust the pages more easily. See what I mean? It was a real pain in the ass, but I enjoyed the challenge, and the column now looks amazing:

Did you notice the photo of the guy crouching, three rows from the top? That’s Lance Armstrong in the July/August 2002 issue of Men’s Health. The caption on the upper left says, “Rock bottom is a very peaceful place.” I wonder what he’d say now.

Do you remember when I showed all the different piles of pages, spread out on the Scrabble rug? Well, look how pile No. 15 (“ads with solid-color backgrounds”) came in handy:

That’s right, good ol’ “Roy G. Biv.” I created a rainbow, which is taped to the small cabinet doors here:

The following photo was taken on November 4th:

It shows Robin chillin’ on the window seat. Note the magazine covers atop the taller cabinet doors behind her.

The following day, the doors were nearly done:

Did you notice the old Rolling Stone cover with Jay Leno and Arsenio Hall? I love that one.

Here are the four tools that I used for this decorating project:

In addition to the scotch tape and scissors, you’re looking at a razor blade holder and a measuring tape. That’s all it took.

When I finished decorating the doors, I moved to this side of the cabinet:

Look at the effort I put in:

In case you can’t tell, I had trimmed the OK! cover so that a sliver of it covered the side edge of the cabinet door. I did this for every page on both edges on the cabinet, and IT TOOK A REALLY LONG TIME, BUT GOSH-DARN, IT LOOKS GOOD.

I didn’t finish that side of the cabinet until November 9th:

(This is why I might’ve taken a week or two to answer your emails. What’s my excuse now?)

The other side of the cabinet . . .

. . . took even longer for two reasons:

1) It extends from floor to ceiling.
2) I had to cut around several things, like this:

As I worked on the bottom edge of the inside of the cabinet door, Robin grabbed my camera and took photos like this . . .

. . . and this:

Sorry, but if I have to look at my ass, then so do you.

Remember those 3-D images that I talked about? Well, I taped two of them side by side on the cabinet and hung the glasses on them. Look closely at the following photo, and you’ll see it:

I was feeling pretty good about myself at that point; I thought I was done decorating, cleaned up the clutter, and briefly basked in the glory of my apartment:

I took photos from various spots, including this one from the area just inside the front door:

So much for being done. I mean . . . look at the kitchen! I couldn’t leave it like that.

I decided to start with the wall at the end of the counter. You can see how barren and sad it looks in the following photo, along with a few dozen pages that I’d laid out on the floor:

By the way, the heading on the page below Lance Armstrong says, “It’s 1977. Do You Know Who Your Friends Are?” That’s the year I was born. Fun stuff.

Here I am on the kitchen counter:

Did you happen to see the tweet I posted on November 17th? Now you know the context.

Let me be defensive again and state for the record that the sneakers I’m wearing in the photo above are my “indoor shoes.” I have a no-shoes rule here, but sometimes I really like the feel of sneakers on my feet, so I went out and bought a pair that I *only* wear in my apartment. Is that weird? Am I weird? Does any of this seem strange to you? Maybe it’s all completely normal. Maybe you all have indoor shoes, too, but just haven’t blogged about it.

Here’s another photo that shows my kitchen acrobatics:

That portion of the wall required just 24 pages — four columns of six — so I finished within a few hours:

Of course, I still had to decorate the back wall of the kitchen, which was tricky because there were  lots of funky angles. I started by putting a half-cover (of New York’s Best Lawyers) here:

By the end of the night, that corner of the kitchen looked like this:

Next up, I began decorating an area that no one (other than you, right now) will EVER see:

That’s where I keep the garbage can, so it’s truly hidden.

I needed extra-large (12-inch tall) magazine covers to fit here:

See the cover of McCall’s? That’s from November 1960.
See the cover of LIFE? That’s from December 1936.
(Thank you, Argosy Book Store!!)
See the cover of ESPN in between?
(Thank you, Ben Weil. D’aww!!)

I used my scissor-skills as I worked down along the air-conditioning vent, and when I reached the bottom, here’s how I cut the page to wrap around it:

Look how nicely it fits:

Am I a fan of Carly Rae Jepsen? No, and this might be hard (for those of you under the age of 16) to believe, but I didn’t realize that was her. I didn’t even know what she looked like until a friend came over and pointed her out and asked me if I’m a fan of Carly Rae Jepsen.

Now, did you notice the colorful fridge magnets? They’re arranged to spell the following:

6,459 BALLS IS

Seven years ago, I posted a short entry explaining the magnets. Here it is, in case you care.

In the photo above, did you notice that the pages below the window have partial photos? I put those there because I knew they’d be covered up:

On November 19th, I worked my way down to the bottom of the back kitchen wall . . .

. . . but I still wasn’t done. Look what remained:

I decorated that area within the next hour or two . . .

. . . but still needed three more pages to fill the narrow space beside the cabinet door:

That took 15 minutes to decorate . . .

. . . and that was it! I was done!

I photographed my apartment from just inside the front door:

Then I photographed it from the kitchen, looking back toward the front door:

Then from here . . .

. . . and here . . .

. . . and here . . .

. . . and here . . .

. . . and here:


(The rubber band ball now weighs 242 pounds.)

Here’s one final photo for you:

Home sweet home.

Japion article

I’m big in Japan! (Or at least in the Japanese community here in New York City.) Remember when I tweeted two weeks ago about being interviewed for an article? Well, here it is in a free/weekly/local Japanese newspaper called Japion:

Evidently, this article is three pages, and it features several different collectors. Click here to see the whole thing on my website. Does anyone feel like translating it for me? More importantly, does anyone wanna tell me how awesome my pseudo Fu Manchu is?

Ballhawk of the Year Award

Just found out that I was voted “Ballhawk of the Year” on Here’s a screen shot of the first part of the article:

(Nice pink shirt, huh? That photo, in case you’re wondering, was taken just after I caught this Dan Uggla homer on 9/7/12 at Citi Field.)

Here’s a link to the whole article. Thanks to everyone who voted (for me, that is) and thanks to Alan Schuster for running the site. Also, congrats to my friend Mateo Fischer for winning the “Junior” Ballhawk of the Year Award.

Argosy Book Store in the news

Do you remember my recent blog entry about the damage that Hurricane Sandy caused to my family’s bookstore? Well, the store was written up today in The New York Times. Here’s the article:

Did you see the quote in the second paragraph from Naomi Hample? That’s my mother — and that was just the beginning of her day as a media sensation. In the late afternoon, she was interviewed by CBS News. Check it out:

The photo above was taken in her autograph department on the sixth floor, and as you can see, it’s a mess. Unfortunately, things looked even worse one floor below in the first editions room. Here’s my aunt Judy (my mother’s sister) holding a $3,000 Ernest Hemingway first edition . . .

. . . which had been badly damaged in the storm.

Meanwhile, this was the view to my left:

The two construction workers were taking a short break during the interview. See all those wood planks on the floor? That used to be a bookshelf. In the photo above, the entire wall on the left side had shelves from floor to ceiling, packed with first editions. Many of those books were destroyed, many more were damaged, and some managed to survive unscathed. The undamaged books are now boxed up until the new shelves are built.

The CBS crew (led by a correspondent named Dave Carlin) got a shot of the signed/damaged Thomas Jefferson documents:

We’re storing them in a freezer until all the insurance people come to take a look and say that it’s okay to send them to a restorer.

CBS also interviewed my aunt Adina in the “arcade” area, just outside the front door:

The segment is going to air tonight (November 16th) in New York City at 11pm on CBS Channel 2. It’s also going to air at 9pm (on Long Island, I think) on WLNY 10/55, so be on the lookout.

But wait! There’s even more media stuff!

The Argosy was mentioned several times in a recent/feature article about Sally Field in New York Magazine. I don’t have a hard copy — it’s the November 19, 2012 issue — but here’s a link to the article. The writer mistakenly claimed that none of us recognized Field, implying that we were . . . I don’t know, dumb. On the contrary, we were all excited to see her walk into the store; we simply didn’t kiss her ass or fawn all over her.

Writers. They really suck.

A disappointingly short version of the segment just aired on CBS Channel 2 . . . and I just received the following email from Dave Carlin:

“The much longer version of the story (with all three owners) was on tv1055 at 9pm and will appear again on the CBS2 morning show Saturday 6-7am and 9 to 10am. The longer version will also be on Look for it. It’s much more detailed.”

Excellent! (Thanks, Dave. And CBS. We very much appreciate the coverage.)

Felix Hernandez ticket stubs

Several weeks ago, I got an email with an unusual request. It was written by a random dude named Craig, who told me that he’s trying to collect a ticket from EVERY game in which Felix Hernandez has played. (I’ve gotten two requests like this over the years for other players: Cal Ripken Jr. and Carlton Fisk.) Craig still needed tickets from 40 games, and in the process of searching for them, he stumbled upon my website and discovered that I’d attended three of them:

1) 6/23/08 at Shea Stadium
2) 6/10/09 at Camden Yards
3) 3/28/12 at the Tokyo Dome

I told him that I’d be glad to help, but that I was gonna need some time. Why? Because I was busy  decorating my apartment with magazines – an endeavor that took every bit of free time for two solid months — and my ticket collection was a total mess:

The photo above shows six years’ worth of tickets — 2007 through 2012 — in a drawer. There was no order whatsoever, and I didn’t feel like spending a whole evening sorting through them . . . until yesterday, when my friend Ben Weil dropped by for a visit. He wasn’t merely willing to help me organize my tickets; he was excited, and we plowed through ‘em. Here’s how we started to sort them:

In the photo above, the blurry arm belongs to Ben. He and I organized the tickets by year. Those are the big/messy piles on the right. Then, within each year, we made smaller piles by team, which I ended up stacking alphabetically. In the photo above, the smaller piles on the left are from 2012.

The following photo shows my tickets from 2009:

Ben did a solid job of sorting tickets from 2011 (when I visited all 30 stadiums and attended 131 games):

Here’s what the tickets looked like when we finished:

Of course, there was still one more thing to do. I needed to find the tickets that Craig had requested. Here they are:

For the record, I didn’t pay $82 to attend that Mets game; I found that ticket on the way out. That’s how I get most of my tickets, especially now that I often buy from StubHub and end up with those awful print-at-home turds. Anyway, as you can see above, I scanned two different tickets from Opening Day in Japan, neither of which I feel like selling. (Yes, Craig is paying for these tickets.) I only collected three from that game; in less than three weeks, I’m going to give one away as a prize to my charity donors, so these will be my only two. (Wayne, are you reading this? Can you please sell this guy a ticket from March 28th so that I don’t have to?)

Remember when I said that Craig is still looking for tickets from 40 of Felix Hernandez’s games? Well, subtracting the three that I attended, here are the ones he needs:

If you have a ticket from any of these games, leave a comment and I’ll put you in touch with Craig.

Fun stuff.

Fan mail + essay

I’ve received lots of fan mail over the years (as well as some hate mail), and while I don’t make a habit of posting it here on my blog, there are times when it simply has to be done.

Several days ago, I got THE nicest letter of all time. Let’s start with a look at the envelope:

As you can see on the upper left, the sender’s name is Tyler, and I’ve bleeped out his street address. My address, meanwhile, is here for everyone to see. It’s my work address, where the Argosy Book Store is located. (I blogged about the store in my previous entry, remember?) If you want to send me anything in the mail, send it here, but just to be safe, write the address like this:

Argosy Book Store
Attn: Zack Hample
116 East 59th Street
New York, NY 10022

Anyway, the envelope contained a single sheet of paper. This was written on one side . . .

. . . and this appeared on the other:

In a word: wow.
I am truly flattered.
High-fives, fist-bumps, hand-shakes, bro-hugs, and THANKS to Tyler.

Hurricane Sandy vs. Argosy Book Store

As I mentioned last week on Twitter, my family’s book store suffered some damage during the storm, but get this — we didn’t know about it for several days. That’s because a whole bunch of bricks had fallen off a nearby building, and the street where the store is located (East 59th between Park and Lexington Avenues) was closed. Here’s what the street looked like when it finally reopened:

Here’s a photo of our store (which is called Argosy) from across the street:

Check out the missing bricks from the nearby building . . .

. . . or should I say THE ADJACENT BUILDING. Most of the bricks had fallen onto East 59th Street. Unfortunately there were a few that landed on our roof and did this:

Here’s a closer look:

In case you can’t tell, the photo above shows a (destroyed) air conditioning unit and a gaping hole in the roof. How did a few lousy bricks cause such damage, you ask? Look at the height from which they fell:

Our building is six floors. The bricks had fallen from the 33rd floor. So yeah.

Because of the hole in the roof, our autograph department on the top floor had lots of water damage. Take a look at the carpet in the following photo:

Those red arrows indicate the water line. Nearly everything past that point that had been touching the floor was damaged/ruined, along with many other items in other areas. Here are a few examples, starting with a Babe Ruth autograph:

Other than the wonky reflection on the glass, it looks okay, right?

Well, look at the back of the frame:

More than 100 framed items got soaked. We’re in the process of taking apart the frames (which will have to be thrown out) to see if the autographs themselves can be salvaged.

If you think the Babe Ruth damage is bad, check out these Thomas Jefferson documents:

These are original “Acts of Congress” that Jefferson signed when he was the Secretary of State. We’re sending them to a professional restorer who *might* be able to bleach (and then freeze?) the paper with special chemicals to remove the staining.

I’m aware that in the grand scheme of things, this is not a catastrophe. Dozens of New Yorkers lost their lives in this storm, and thousands more lost their homes. Our store is still in business, and our damage will be covered by insurance, so we’re going to be okay. It still sucks, though, but I want to acknowledge all the folks out there who have it MUCH worse. That said, I might as well continue sharing photos with you.

In addition to the framed autographs that got wet, there were entire shelves of books that got ruined. Here’s a fancy leather binding that we’re gonna have to throw out . . .

. . . and here’s a much-less-fancy book signed by Dave Winfield that I’d recently cataloged:

Did you notice the blue background on the cover of the dust wrapper? That’s not supposed to be there. Here’s the inside of the book . . .

. . . and here’s the page that he signed:

That book was priced $40 — a bargain for a Hall of Famer! Obviously that’s not a huge financial loss, but it’s sad to see all this stuff ruined and to know that all the time we spent acquiring it and cataloging it was wasted.

Although I photographed every damaged book (for insurance purposes), I’m not going to share them all here. It would take all day, but I’ll show you a few more, like this . . .

. . . and this . . .

. . . and this:

We threw out an entire barrel of books . . .

. . . and by the end of the day, our roof looked like this:

In case you’re wondering, the view above is facing west on 59th Street. A five-minute walk would get you to the southeast corner of Central Park; ten minutes more and you’d be at Columbus Circle. We’re in a great spot (except when hurricanes cause bricks to fall on us).

The following day, we hired someone to cut up and remove the wet portion of the carpet:

It was a tough job because there were two soaking layers that had to be removed — the gray portion that’s coming off in the photo above, along with the brown layer underneath that you see here:

While the carpet guy was working, I discovered another area of damaged frames that we had somehow missed the day before. (There’s LOTS of stuff, okay? And our minds were all over the place.) Check out the soaked portion of the cardboard dividers in the following photo:

One of the pieces down there was a signed letter by John Glenn on NASA letterhead . . .

. . . and as you can see, it was covered in water droplets.

A couple hours later, we had loaded a cart with damaged framed autographs:

By the end of the day, the carpet was removed . . .

. . . and the roof had been patched (by some workmen from the other building):

That’s where things stand, and there’s a lot more work to be done. The plexiglass dividers and book shelves are going to have to be removed (in order to get the wet carpet out from under). Everything is going to have to be taken off the walls (which will have to be stripped and dried and patched back up). We’re taking countless photos and updating a master list of all the damaged items — and this is just on the top floor. The First Editions department on the 5th floor also suffered extensive damage. And THIS, boys and girls, is what I’ll be working on this winter. How long ’til Opening Day?


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