Film shoot at my apartment

It’s been an interesting weekend. I had a film crew in my apartment . . .


. . . and the only time I went outside was to go get baseballs for them. Check it out — here are some of the balls in one of their equipment bags:


Scroll back up to the first photo for a moment. See the guy on the right? He’s a filmmaker/producer named Eric Jankstrom, and this whole thing was his idea. Remember when I snagged two home runs in one game on 4/18/13 at Yankee Stadium? Well, he heard about it and randomly contacted me the following day . . . and now, nearly 10 months later, here he was in my apartment with two assistants.

One assistant was named John. The other was Brady, pictured here setting up some props:


Eric thought it’d be cool to have me sit on my 255-pound rubber band ball during the interview, so I posed on it while he and John set up their cameras:


Eric wanted to wait until it got dark to start shooting, so we filled the time by ordering pizza (his treat), playing Arkanoid (my treat), and setting up more baseballs:


Here’s what my place looked like a little while later:


This was my view just before they started filming:


In the photo above, did you notice the weird/skewed reflection of Eric’s face? That was intentional. He had a special piece of equipment designed to do that. Therefore, when he asked me questions, I could look at his reflection, which was actually right in front of the camera. Somehow, despite all the TV interviews I’ve done over the years, I’d never seen that before. It sure made things easier.

Here’s a photo of me that Brady took during the interview, tweeted by Eric the following day:


It’s tough to sit on a large rubber band ball and NOT look awkward, but I did my best.

After the filming (which lasted two hours), Eric played more Arkanoid:


He played several games and achieved a “high” score of 23,850 points — not bad for a beginner.

Then we all grabbed a few baseballs and posed for a group photo:


I’m not sure when Eric’s film will be done or how long it’ll end up being, but I know he wants to finish it this season. He plans to attend several games with me (“within driving distance”) and get some footage of me in action, possibly with a GoPro strapped to my head or chest, so who knows? This mini-doc (as he’s calling it) might turn out to be spectacular. I really like what he’s done so far, and we’re just getting started.

8/24/95 and 8/25/95 at Anaheim Stadium

In June of 1995, I graduated from high school in New York City, and within a few weeks, I somehow ended up in Idaho, working for a minor league baseball team called the Boise Hawks. At the time, the Hawks were affiliated with the California Angels, so when I traveled to Anaheim to see a couple of games, I went as something of a VIP. That might explain my goofy grin in the following photo:


This trip would not have happened without the Hawks’ head groundskeeper — a man named Joe Kelly, who not only set the whole thing up, but (against his better judgment) traveled to Anaheim with me. While I thought he was the coolest guy ever, he probably would’ve been glad not to have me tagging along. Still, he was nice enough to snap a few photos of me, including this one just outside the stadium:


At around 2pm, we made our way to an office, checked in with a security guard, and headed inside to meet a women who’d been expecting us. She and Joe did all the talking, and before I knew it, she led us deeper inside the stadium and eventually down to the field. Imagine how excited I was when she left us to join the few groundskeepers who were working nearby. I got to walk out onto a pristine major league field and help set up BP. I remember standing at home plate and thinking of Rod Carew and all the other great players who had also stood in that exact spot.

After the batting cage and screens were ready to go, the groundskeepers led us to a wide-open area behind the center field wall. Here’s what it looked like:


As you can see, the stadium was pretty much empty, so I took advantage by strolling out onto the warning track . . .


. . . and taking more photos.

Here’s what the field looked like:


This was my view to the right . . .


. . . and to the left:


See the guy without a shirt? That’s Joe Kelly. It’s not that he was trying to show off his tan or muscles. He simply hated wearing shirts. Over the previous two months at the Hawks’ ballpark, I don’t think I’d ever seen him wearing a shirt. Big meeting with the General Manager in the office? No shirt. Tending to the field at game time with three thousand people in the stands? No shirt. It amused me, and I respected him for not changing his ways just because we happened to be in a major league stadium.

Here’s a photo of him looking out at the field:


Here’s another photo of the field:


I understand that teams now want to maximize every inch of space inside their stadiums, but to me, the area behind the center field wall in the photo above looks much better than the new glitzy outfield configuration. You really could get lost in old stadiums — disappear in a concourse, hide behind a support beam in the last row of the 3rd or 4th deck, and maybe even find a baseball along the way. But nowadays? Forget it.

Here’s Joe with his own camera . . .


. . . and here’s a photo he took of me:


I was in baseball heaven.

A little while later, the groundskeepers showed us some of their tools:


In Boise, there was one of everything — if you were lucky — and sometimes it didn’t work. In Anaheim, there was a dozen.

Joe, meanwhile, was talking nonstop with the groundskeepers and seemed to know everything they were telling him about the type and length of the grass, the lawnmowers, and various field maintenance techniques. They didn’t seem to be smarter or better at their jobs than him; there were just more of them, and they had a much bigger budget.

At around 4pm, I peeked over the center field wall:


The Angels were starting to warm up along the left field foul line, so I decided to head over to the outfield seats. Of course, I felt a bit guilty about snagging baseballs in an empty stadium long before the general public was allowed to enter, but hell, why not? I’d suffered enough in New York, and now that I was living large nearly 3,000 miles away, I figured I’d take advantage.

So much for that. I was stopped by an usher, and since I didn’t have any credentials, he forced me to stay near the dugouts until the stadium opened at 5:30pm. Ugh!! Look at all these empty seats that were suddenly off-limits:


Since there wasn’t much to do, I took three more pics from where I was sitting. Here’s the first:


Here’s the second . . .


. . . and here’s the third:


While I was sitting there, a ball rolled onto the warning track behind 3rd base, and when Angels infielder Jose Lind wandered over to retrieve it, I got him to toss it to me. (Yay!) That was my 748th lifetime ball, and this was the seventh different major league stadium at which I’d snagged one.

When the gates opened at 5:30pm, I raced out to the seats along the left field foul line and managed to snag one more — a slicing line drive by Rafael Palmeiro that deflected off a player’s glove and rolled close enough to me that I was able to lean over the low wall and grab it.

That was my final ball of the day. Why? Because the Orioles were in town, and soon after they started hitting, I decided to camp out along the right field foul line in an attempt to get Cal Ripken Jr.’s autograph. He wasn’t just my favorite player; I pretty much worshipped him and was willing to stray far from my normal routine to be near him.

Long story short: Ripken was two weeks away from breaking Lou Gehrig’s record for consecutive games played, there was a mob of fans six rows deep, and I didn’t get close.

As for me and Joe, the Angels had hooked us up with decent seats for watching the game, but not for snagging baseballs. Check out the view:


I really wanted to move closer to the action, but Joe was worried about getting caught, so we stayed there for a while, and I hated it. Under normal circumstances, I would’ve wandered off on my own, but (a) I was exhausted and (b) I enjoyed his company.

Eventually, in the spirit of exploring a new stadium, we headed to the upper deck. Here’s a bad photo I took of the view . . .


. . . and here’s a better photo of the two of us:


That photo amuses me greatly. Look at Joe wearing a shirt! Ha-HAAAA!! He looks so lost and confused — or maybe he was just pissed off to be babysitting me. I can joke about this now because Joe and I have become great friends, and we’re still very much a part of each other’s lives, nearly two decades later. (You might remember this photo of us from 4/26/13 at Safeco Field.)

Here I am with my two baseballs:


The Angels ended up winning the game, 6-4, despite two home runs by Orioles catcher Chris Hoiles. Ripken went 1-for-2 with a double, a walk, and a sacrifice fly, but the real hitting star was Angels 1st baseman J.T. Snow, who went 4-for-4 with a homer and four RBIs. Chuck Finley got the win, Troy Percival pitched a scoreless 8th inning, and Lee Smith closed it out for his 465th career save.

After the final out, I collected a bunch of ticket stubs. Here are eight of one kind . . .


. . . and here are a dozen more that were slightly fancier:


Twenty minutes later, with the seating bowl empty and the stadium lights dimmed, I made my way down to the front row and got Joe’s attention. He was on the field with several groundskeepers, and they waved me out, right past a security guard. (Ha!!) I grabbed a rake and briefly helped to smooth out a small patch of infield dirt — but here’s the coolest part of all: they drove me and Joe around on their little golf-cart thingie while they put away some equipment, and after a while, they took us inside the Angels’ clubhouse! There were still a few players milling about and . . . just wow. I didn’t recognize any of them, but I did see some famous names on the lockers, including Lee Smith. I’d never been inside a major league clubhouse before. It was unbelievably spacious, with big tables and couches and TVs all over the place — just like in the movies.

Finally, about an hour after the game had ended, the groundskeepers drove us out one of the exit ramps, where there were hundreds of young fans waiting for autographs, mashed up against a chain-link fence and screaming at me to come over and sign. Yes . . . me. I jumped off the golf-cart and walked over and said I wasn’t a player, but they didn’t care — or maybe they just didn’t believe me, and they begged me to sign anyway. So I did. And it was really fun. I got to pretend to be famous while dozens of teeny-boppers pushed and shoved to get closer.

I don’t remember how I escaped. There must’ve been another exit, and eventually I made it back to the hotel with Joe.

We still had one more game at Anaheim Stadium the following day, and I had one goal — well, two goals. Obviously I wanted to snag at least one ball to keep my streak alive, but I also *really* wanted to get Ripken’s autograph. I’d even gone so far as to buy a brand-new ball from a souvenir store just for this purpose.

Joe and I arrived at the stadium even earlier on Day 2 — right around lunchtime. In fact, we were there so early that there wasn’t any security, so we waltzed down the ramp and out onto the field and found the groundskeepers. Joe told me that he didn’t mind if I wandered off on my own, so I did, and of course I got nabbed by security. (Walk onto the field? No problem! Wander around the concourses? Busted! That makes sense.) Once again, I had no credentials, so I was glad when the guard believed my story enough to haul me back to the groundskeepers and ask if they knew me. Joe was gone at that point, but thankfully one of the guys said it was cool, so I rejoined them and helped set up the field for early BP.

Despite that little episode, there seemed to be less security in the stadium, so when BP started at 3pm, I snuck out to the seats behind the left field wall. Stupid me . . . I didn’t take any photos, and now, of course, all these years later, that area of the stadium has been reconfigured, so I’ll try to describe the setup. Basically, the entire section in straight-away left field was a dead zone. There was a gap behind the outfield wall, and the secondary wall behind it was much lower. (Does that make any sense?) In other words, if you were sitting in the front row in left field, you would’ve been well below the top of the outfield wall and therefore unable to see the field. For that reason, there was a small platform, built for the Angels’ relief pitchers, that jutted up above the unused seats and provided a view of the field. Scroll back up to the photo of the empty seats along the left field foul line, and you’ll see this blue platform in the background, approximately 50 feet to the right of the foul pole. Okay, now that you know all of that, you can imagine what it was like for me during the first portion of BP. I hid below that platform and stared up at the sky, hoping for a long home run to come flying my way and land somewhere near me in the seats. I ended up getting three balls out there before I was asked to leave. Joe was not too pleased with me at that point — we were guests of the Angels and were supposed to be acting like professionals — but I couldn’t help it. I was obsessed with getting baseballs and could not be contained!

Unfortunately, a short while later, Joe and I both got in trouble when we wandered off beneath the left field seats to find a drink of water. We were spotted by a guard who demanded to know who we were, and when we didn’t provide credentials to back up our story, they threatened us with arrest for trespassing, but merely kicked us out of the stadium instead. We weren’t worried — just embarrassed and pissed off and inconvenienced. Eventually we headed back inside the stadium via the Angels’ offices and picked up a pair of field passes on the way. I don’t know why we hadn’t received those in the first place. It certainly would’ve made things easier for everyone, but whatever. As far as I was concerned, the whole ordeal with security only added to the adventure, and I was excited to find out what would happen next.

Here’s what happened: Joe made me stay with him, which sucked because the regular portion of BP was just getting started. I wanted to hang out near the dugouts, but instead I had to follow him all the way out to the groundskeepers’ area in the deepest part of center field. On the way there, while walking behind the left field wall, I spotted a ball in the front row of the seats, and when I climbed up there and grabbed it, Joe nearly killed me. (Sorry, Joe. I love you.)

The game was scheduled to begin at 8:05pm, which meant the gates would open at 6:30pm. Therefore, I wanted to head over toward the Orioles’ dugout at around 6:15pm, and somehow I convinced Joe to let me. Again, all I wanted was an autograph from Cal Ripken Jr., and this seemed like the best way to make it happen — get there early, claim a spot in the front row, and hope for the best.

Well . . . look who happened to be standing around when I got there:


No, not the guy in the white t-shirt. See the man just beyond him, looking my way? That was Ripken! And I got him to sign my ball! And I got him to sign a ticket stub too! I was too happy for words, practically jumping out of my shoes as I ran out to right field. The stadium was just opening to the public, and my day was already complete. Of course that didn’t stop me from snagging more baseballs — a toss-up from Mike Mussina and two grounders that I scooped up by leaning out over the wall. Including the four that I’d gotten before the gates opened, I now had seven overall . . . plus two from the day before. I was happy with that, even if I did acquire several of them under sneaky circumstances.

Half an hour before the game, there was only one player who came out to sign autographs. Wanna take a guess who it was? Here’s a hint:


It was Ripken again (what a guy!) surrounded by cops and security, and can you blame him? If *I* had been on the verge of breaking Lou Gehrig’s record, I would’ve avoided the public, yet there he was, being super-accommodating. I didn’t get his autograph this time, but it was interesting to witness his technique. Before signing each item, he deliberately moved away from the stands so that no one could reach him.

Joe and I had better seats for this game. This was our view:


Did you notice Ripken in the on-deck circle? Ooh yeah. He ended up going 0-for-4, but he did draw a walk and score a run, and the Orioles won, 11-2. Rafael Palmeiro and Mark Smith hit home runs for Baltimore, while Jim Edmonds went yard for Anaheim. Mark Langston, the starting pitcher for the Angels, began the night with a record of 13-2 and lost to Scott Erickson, who threw a complete game. It’s fun to look back at all these old names.

Once again, I collected a bunch of ticket stubs:


Here are some more from the August 25th game . . .


. . . and just for the hell of it, check out the back of the stubs:


Heh. Gatorade . . . “For That Deep Down Body Thirst” When Capitalizing Every Word Still Leaves You Feeling Unsatisfied. Remember that slogan? I’m feeling very nostalgic right now for the 1990s.

Eventually, during the next season or two, I got a bunch of these ticket stubs signed. Here’s one from Troy Percival . . .


. . . and here’s another from Garret Anderson . . .


. . . but the best one of all was signed by My Man:


Cal Ripken Jr.

Now, as I’ve done with all my “Turn Back The Clock” blog entries, here’s my original handwritten journal entry (or in this case entries) about it. It started on August 23, 1995 — the day before the first game in Anaheim — when I was getting excited for the trip:


As you can see, August 24th was so busy that I didn’t get a chance to write, so I caught up on everything the next day. Here’s the part where Joe and I first entered the stadium:


Some things need to be bleeped. Deal with it:


Here are more details about being inside the Angels’ clubhouse:


Day 2 at Anaheim Stadium starts here:


My pen sucked:


Here’s where I wrote about getting busted by stadium security. What a bunch of schmucks:


To quote myself from the following spread, “CAL RIPKEN JR. SIGNED MY BASEBALL!!!” Feel the excitement of my 17-year-old self!! Yes!


I could’ve ended it here . . .


. . . but I figured I’d give you a little Joe Kelly bonus:


That’s all I got. Thanks for reading. If you still want more, here’s a complete list of all my other “Turn Back The Clock” entries:

1) June 11, 1993 at Candlestick Park
2) June 11, 1996 at Shea Stadium
3) July 1, 1998 at Three Rivers Stadium 
4) July 2, 1998 at Cinergy Field
5) July 10, 1998 at Tiger Stadium
6) July 13, 1998 at County Stadium
7) July 14, 1998 at Busch Stadium
8) May 29, 1999 at the Kingdome
9) July 18, 1999 at the Astrodome
10) September 24-25, 1999 at the Metrodome
11) May 9-10, 2000 at Olympic Stadium
12) July 17-18, 2000 at Qualcomm Stadium


This was the final day of our trip. (Frowny face.) It started with a group photo in front of our condo . . .


. . . followed by a short walk . . .


. . . to this restaurant:


After breakfast, we packed up our stuff and got a ride to the airport:


Here’s my boarding pass:


(This is very exciting, no?)

The worst part about the flight was that it was delayed one hour. The best part was getting to walk outside to board the plane:


Only 46 days until I’ll be heading to Australia . . .


At around 9am, we headed down to the waterfront to check out the boat we’d rented for the day:


No, not the huge yacht on the left. I’m talking about the teeny motorboat on the right. The plan was to take a 45-minute ride to a town called Soufrière, do a little sight-seeing, and hit up a couple beaches on the way back.

My mom (Naomi) and half-sister (Martha) sat in the front. Here’s a photo of them once we got moving:


Martha’s girlfriend (Amy) and my girlfriend (Hayley) were sitting near me.

The ride was relaxing, and we enjoyed the beautiful scenery:


Here’s a photo of the captain of our ship — a local guy named Cuthbert:


He was a man of few words, but he showed us something I’ll never forget. It happened several minutes after we saw these two volcanic plugs known as The Pitons:


Cuthbert turned left and steered us toward a narrow gap in a cliff:


Ready to see what was inside? Take a look:


See all that lumpy gray stuff? Those are bats — hundreds and hundreds of bats. Maybe even thousands. Some of them were flying around, and they all combined to make a high-pitched squealing/squeaking sound. Yeesh!!

Soon after, when we docked in Soufrière, I helped guide my mom up and off the boat:


Did you notice the guy pulling her up? At the time, I thought he was just some random friendly dock worker, but as it turned out, he was our taxi driver and tour guide for the next three hours. His name is Dickson, and as you can see, he and my mom seemed to like each other:


We walked a short distance to his van and then headed up into the hills.

Five minutes later, he pulled over onto the side of a quiet road, lined on both sides with lush, tropical vegetation. His friend had a home there, and Dickson hopped out of the van to go get something for us. Check it out:


That might not look like much, so let me explain. It was a fresh cinnamon leaf that he had plucked off a tree, and when he bent/cracked it for us, it gave off the freshest and most intense cinnamon smell you could imagine.

Then he handed a big yellow podlike fruit to my mom:


He told us it was cocoa, the plant that’s used to make chocolate. Here’s what the inside looked like:


Those little white things were slimy — kinda covered in mucus. They looked nasty, but since it *was* just a plant (as opposed to goat brains, for example), I popped one in my mouth and chewed it up. The inside was purple, and it didn’t taste like chocolate — not even a little bit. It was bitter and somewhat unpleasant, but the whole experience was interesting.

After that, Dickson showed us the pods that produce coffee beans . . .


. . . and then he sliced up a sweet, fresh grapefruit.

This was our next stop:


See all that white cloudy stuff in the background? That was sulphur gas rising out of an active volcano. Unlike the cinnamon leaf, it was nice to look at, but smelled like crap.

There were a whole bunch of folks nearby taking mud baths in the natural spring water:


We were all tempted to jump in, but that would’ve meant getting back in the van in wet bathing suits. Bleh.

On the way to lunch, Dickson took us to a scenic overlook. Here’s an amazing photo, taken by Hayley, that shows him pointing out stuff to Amy:


Here’s what they were looking at — the town of Soufrière way down below:


Remember the bat cave that I showed earlier? If you click the photo above and zoom in, you can barely see dat gap in the cliff on the extreme left side.

After lunch, we went here:


In case you can’t read the sign, it says “Welcome to the Diamond Botanical Gardens, Mineral Baths, and Waterfall.”

Basically, we wandered for an hour and saw a whole lot of beautiful plants . . . like this:


It was exactly the type of thing I would’ve haaaated doing when I was a teenager, but now I kinda liked it. It was just nice to be out in nature with friends and family.

Here’s a photo of my mom and I walking leisurely along one of the paths . . .


. . . and just for the hell of it, here’s another weird-ass plant:


At around 2pm, Dickson drove us back to the dock, and we got back on the boat with Cuthbert. This was our first stop:


We didn’t stay there long. Martha wanted to snorkel for 15 minutes, so I played around on the beach:


That photo was taken by Hayley, who stayed on the boat with Amy and my mom.

A little while later, we went to a different beach. Check out the view and then I’ll point out three things:


1) The head poking out of the water between the beach and the boat belongs to Hayley.

2) If you look really closely, you can see Amy’s head just in front of the boat. She told us she was “flinking” — that is, floating while drinking (a beer).

3) See the gray blob just above the horizon . . . between the two boats? That’s rain.

It rained quite a bit on our way back, and of course it was windy on the boat, and of course I was wearing a wet bathing suit — funny to think that I was craving a hot shower in the Caribbean, but I really needed it.

In the evening, we all hung around the pool for a few hours and ordered food and drinks. Here’s the before-dinner photo . . .


. . . and here’s the after-dinner photo:


Back at the condo, Amy went to bed, and the rest of us played a team game of Scrabble — Martha and my mom versus me and Hayley. Somehow they won. Let’s not talk about it.

During the game, I spotted THE biggest cockroach of all time, climbing up the wall ten feet to my left. It was like a medjool date with legs. And wings.

Did you hear me?

When Martha tried to kill it with her flip flop, it not only escaped but FLEW RIGHT AT US, prompting a whole lot of shrieking and laughter. Best (or perhaps worst) of all, I got the whole thing on video, having instinctively hit the “record” button on my camera just as Martha took her first swat at it. During the commotion, I managed to whack my ankle on the metal edge of a chair, and when the bug proceeded to crawl toward me, I retreated to my mom’s room, never taking my eyes off it. Thankfully, before entering the room, it veered to the left and headed down the stairs. Martha scampered after it, half-screaming and half-swatting. Unfortunately the bug escaped yet again, and guess whose rooms were downstairs? Yup . . . the rest of us. We were all scared to go to bed — I had visions of that thing landing on my face in the middle of the night — but everything ended well. The bug survived, and so did we.


Saint Lucia is lawless!

Okay, that might be an exaggeration, but seriously, things are much more relaxed there. Take a look at the following photo and you’ll see what I mean:


I’ve never seen anyone riding like that back home in the States, but it was a common sight on this vacation.

Day 3 started with a 45-minute drive, which took us through a traffic jam in Castries, the capital of the country:


It was worth it, though, not just for the glimpse of city life, but because we ended up on this beach . . .


. . . with this view:


Here’s a dweeby photo of me in the shade:


Some people are willing to get skin cancer in exchange for being tan. I’m not one of them. I was perfectly content to lie there for a while and read a few chapters of this book:


Did you notice the words “uncorrected proof” below the image of the car? This book has not yet been published — it’s coming out in May 2014 — and the publisher sent me an advanced copy, hoping that I’ll like it enough to give them a blurb. I’m about halfway through, and thankfully for everyone involved, I’m loving it. It’s really funny.

As for the beach, part of it was terribly crowded . . .


. . . but after walking past all the dumb tourists for five minutes, Hayley and I found a nice, peaceful area:


Here’s something that made us smile:


It’s hard to tell, but there was a guy in that boat who was selling all kinds of tropical fruit. I bought two tiny bananas from him for a total of two Eastern Caribbean dollars. That’s about 80 cents’ worth of US currency, but it was worth it. We were so hungry that our stomachs were practically hurting, and it helped bridge the appetite gap until lunch:


In case you missed my first two entries from this trip (or have a bad memory), that’s my mom, Naomi, in the white shirt, my girlfriend, Hayley, in the black dress, my half-sister, Martha, wearing sunglasses, and Martha’s girlfriend Amy at the head of the table. (I ate lamb roti.)

After lunch, I decided to rent a jet ski. Here I am putting on my life jacket . . .


. . . and look who joined me!


That’s Hayley sitting behind me — and did you notice the expression on her face? Here’s a closer look:


When we reached open water, the only thing louder than the roar of the engine was her constant shrieking in my ear. She thought we were gonna die. It was cute.

As you can see below, we didn’t die:


That’s a photo of us back at the hotel, reading near one of the swimming pools.

When it got dark, we returned to the condo and started a game of Scrabble:


Poor Hayley. I went first and played IGNORES for 70 points. She then played DEAN for 12 points, at which point I threw down ADDiCTs to take a 146-12 lead. To be fair, most relationships have a mismatch of intellect, and she happens to be the smart one. No joke. You know how some people need to have everything explained, and they’re still like, “What? You mean . . . wait, I don’t get it.” Hayley is the opposite. It’s scary. So yeah: poor Hayley because she has a dumb boyfriend (although I *am* quite good at Scrabble).

Halfway through the game, all five of us headed out to dinner. We had to walk to the nearby waterfront and wait for a ferry, during which time I got hustled by this guy making palm-leaf grasshoppers:


I didn’t want a palm-leaf grasshopper, but I couldn’t help it. According to my family, I’m too friendly. They told me later that when the guy said hello from 10 feet away, I should have ignored him and kept walking — easy for them to say, but it contradicts my nature. When someone says hello to me, I say hello back, or in this case, I glanced at him and gave a friendly, subtle nod. That prompted him to scurry over, and before I could blink or say “no thanks,” he was already performing palm-leaf origami in my face. At that point, I knew it was too late to get out of it, so I figured I’d take a photo and give him a dollar. After all, the grasshopper *was* pretty cool, but then of course he started making another and ended up asking for five US dollars “for the grasshoppers and the photo.” I reluctantly handed him the money, and as I walked away, he said, “Give me another dollar.” I flat-out refused and felt unsettled about the whole situation. I hate to say it, but that’s how I often felt in Saint Lucia. There was a level of desperation and shadiness that went beyond what I’m used to dealing with back home.

Anyway, let me now return to being a “privileged ass-hat,” as Hayley just called me. Here’s a wannabe-artsy photo I took on the short boat ride across Marigot Bay:


We had dinner at a really nice place called Rainforest Hideaway – the one legitimately fancy meal of our trip. Here’s what the outdoor seating area looked like:


I started with Thai-spiced coconut and pumpkin soup (and a unicorn horn):


For my main course, I had salmon, or, to quote the menu: “parmesan crusted salmon with cauliflower puree and roasted root vegetables and fire roasted pepper pesto”:



We all shared a bunch of desserts:


In the four-part photo above, starting on the top left and going clockwise, you’re looking at 1) pineapple and coconut cheesecake with caramel and pineapple sauce, 2) rum sauteed bananas with rum raisin ice cream, 3) white chocolate creme brulee with lime and raspberry compote, and 4) rich velvet chocolate tart with vanilla ice cream.

I don’t consider myself a foodie, but damn! Sometimes I feel the need to document my meals. Is that so bad?

This was the scene outside the restaurant as we waited for the ferry to retrieve us:


Back at the condo, Hayley and I finished our game of Scrabble . . .


. . . and went for a midnight swim. Here she is testing the water at the smaller/colder of the two pools:


Here I am in the water:


Everything was so beautiful . . .


Our first full day of the trip started in the hotel pool. Here I am tossing Hayley around:


We swam for about half an hour and then had to get going. Here’s a gratuitous Hayley-in-a-bikini photo that shows her getting out of the pool . . . just because I like it:


Here’s a gratuitous photo of me in my bathing suit, just because Hayley likes it:


A little while later, we walked a short distance to this free ferry . . .


. . . which took us just across Marigot Bay to a small beach. Here we are walking ashore . . .


. . . and here we are at a restaurant soon after:


In the photo above, that’s my mom, Naomi, in the white dress, my half-sister, Martha, in the blue tank top, and Martha’s girlfriend, Amy, at the far end of the table.

I had ordered chicken roti, which was excellent.

Check out the beautiful view I had during the meal:


Yeesh! Talk about a gratuitous photo! But seriously, there *was* a nice view, which included this at one point:


That guy ended up selling one of those leaf-woven bowls to Martha for five bucks.

This was the scene on the beach:


The worst thing about that beach (and about Saint Lucia in general) was the steady flow of locals who kept trying to sell us stuff — meals, drinks, jewelry, souvenirs, boat rides, rain forest tours, and so on. When I got up for a minute, one guy tried to rent me a beach chair, and when I told him that I already had one, he mumbled a question that I had to ask him to repeat.

“Do you smoke?” he asked cautiously.

“Oh . . . no thanks,” I said, feeling dumb and completely un-slick. He then gave me a fist-bump and told me to let him know if I need anything.

When I told Martha about it, she was like, “How come no one offered ME any weed?” This became a pattern and a joke among our group; whenever we went somewhere new, I’d inevitably get the same offer, and the others would complain about it. It’s not that Martha or the others wanted to smoke weed. They just wanted to at least be asked.

Anyway, after relaxing in the sun for a while, Hayley and I went for a swim. You can see our heads in the red circle in the following photo:


The water was surprisingly shallow, which was good for Hayley — a novice swimmer. In fact, it was shallow enough for us to touch the bottom several hundred feet out from the shore.

Back at the hotel, Hayley and I started up a game of Scrabble in the late afternoon, and as the sun was setting, we found Martha and Amy at a different pool:


The Scrabble got interrupted by (a) the darkness and (b) dinner plans at a nearby restaurant. Here are the five of us, about to dig into our entrées:


Here’s a closer look at the chicken curry I ate:


Hayley was shocked to see me drink this:


That’s because it had alcohol in it, albeit a sugary concoction of coconut rum with pineapple juice and lime.

Check out this cool photo of dessert — banana flambé:



After dinner, Hayley and I finally finished our game of Scrabble. Here’s a photo she took of the final board:


Good times. Stay tuned for Day 3 . . .


Let’s talk about timing for a moment, shall we? This was the weather forecast for New York City on the day we were scheduled to fly to the Caribbean:


Thankfully, we had an 8am flight and the snow wasn’t supposed to start falling until the late morning. It was the best possible scenario: we saw some HUGE snow plows standing by on the side of the runway . . .


. . . and took off without incident.

So long, suckers!!

Four hours and ten minutes later, this was my view just before we landed in Saint Lucia:


Our group consisted of five people:

1) me
2) my girlfriend, Hayley
3) my mom, Naomi
4) my half-sister, Martha
5) Martha’s girlfriend, Amy

Because of some flooding last month that destroyed a few roads, we had a long drive to our hotel — 75 minutes, to be exact — but the scenery was beautiful. Here’s what it looked like as we got close:


After checking in, we got a brief tour of the grounds on the way to our condo:


Here we are on the balcony:


Then we wandered a bit. Here’s a photo of my mom and Hayley checking out the pool:


Here are Martha and Amy fantasizing about a humongous yacht:


Despite our plan to have dinner at around 7 or 8pm, the others insisted on having a “quick bite” in the late afternoon. Here they are sitting around the table:


Does that look “quick” to you?

The meal lasted an hour and a half, ended after 5pm, and left us completely full and not in the mood to eat anything later. (How come no one ever listens to me?)

After linner, we walked along the marina . . .


. . . and eventually found a small grocery store.

And that was pretty much it. We were all exhausted, so we just lounged around after that. Hayley struggled to get an internet connection on her laptop:


My mom read a magazine (about how we’re all screwing up the planet):


Amy and Martha got (more) drinks at the same place where we had linner:


On the way back to our condo, I took a photo of the pool:


As nice as everything was, the highlight of my day was seeing THIS before heading to bed:


I really love New York City. There’s no place I’d rather live . . . but not this week.

New Wilson glove

Check out my newest piece of leather — a Wilson A2000 infielder’s glove:


Yes, I already own several gloves (including this and this), but I got this new one for free, courtesy of Wilson Sporting Goods and Pitch In For Baseball.

Here’s a photo of the outside of the glove . . .


. . . and here’s a close-up of my favorite part:


The problem with getting something for free (even a pair of socks from your aunt) is that you’re expected to use it. And love it.

I hate that.

Last year I was offered a free glove by a small company who wanted me to promise to use it full-time — and I said no. It’s one thing to agree to eat BIGS Sunflower Seeds for an entire season, but my glove is another story. You just can’t mess with my glove.

As for Wilson, they’re not trying to sponsor me or make me agree to anything. They have a partnership with Pitch In For Baseball (the charity I’ve worked with since 2009), and they’re just being cool.

And so . . . I’ll give this new glove a shot. (I happened to need an infielder’s glove, so it’s actually quite useful.) I doubt it’ll be broken in by Opening Day, but I’ll keep working on it, and eventually the time will come.

Hurricane Sandy vs. Argosy Book Store (update)

Fourteen months ago, I blogged about the damage that Hurricane Sandy did to my family’s book store — the Argosy. Remember when these bricks fell off the adjacent building and crashed through our roof and caused lots of flooding which damaged rare merchandise? Well, it just occurred to me that I never posted an update, so here you go.

Let’s start with a four-part photo of some damaged books:


You know what? “Damaged” isn’t the right word; “ruined” is more like it. I photographed all this stuff for insurance purposes. Thankfully the other building’s insurance company paid for everything, but we still had to do an insane amount of work, including dealing with all the framed items that had gotten soaked. See all the empty frames below?


Some of them were able to be salvaged, but the mattes were trashed:


Those last two pics were taken in the 2nd-floor gallery. That’s where we have all the antique maps and prints, along with our framing department. There was no damage there; it’s just where we brought the damaged frames to be dismantled.

Meanwhile, this was the scene in the First Editions department on the 5th floor:


In the photo above, that’s my cousin Ben (who has worked full-time at the Argosy since 1999). He was inspecting every book and placing the damaged ones on the floor.

FYI, the Argosy has six floors, and the flooding went all the way down to the 4th-floor office, speaking of which . . . look what was in the freezer in the lunch room:


Remember these Thomas Jefferson documents? Yeah, we stuck them in there to halt the spread of the water damage, literally by freezing it. More on that in a bit, but first, look what happened the following day:


Let me explain: our roof had just been patched up, and then it rained like hell, and the ceiling in the Autograph department on the 6th floor started leaking again.


This time we scrambled to move *all* the merchandise away from that portion of the room, and by the end of the day, the Autograph department looked like this:


Of course, we kept discovering more ruined items, some of which we hadn’t noticed after the first round of flooding. Here’s a book with a fresh coating of mold . . .


. . . and here’s another that “bled” all over the inside of the dust wrapper:


Here’s a book that was signed by someone you’ve probably heard of:


Although Shirley Temple’s signature survived the storm, the outside of the book suffered some water damage.

Here’s something else that got messed up:


That’s a game-worn pair of uniform pants, autographed by Doc Gooden and stained on the crotch. By the way, I still have these pants, and I’m thinking about giving them away as a charity prize this year. What do you think? Even with the stain, it’s still a really cool item, right?

Anyway, several days later, an insurance inspector came to look at all the damage. Here he is on the roof with Ben and my mom (who has worked full-time at the Argosy since 1958):


Here he is with Ben on the 5th floor:


As you can see, we had draped plastic sheets over the shelves because there was STILL water trickling down.

Twenty-four hours later, this was happening on the 6th floor:


As you can see . . .

1) Most of the green felt wallpaper had been removed.
2) Workmen were dismantling bookshelves and other stuff.
3) The ceiling was STILL leaking, and buckets were set up to catch the water.

Three days later, a different set of workmen ripped a chunk out of our soggy ceiling:


In the photo above, did you notice the plastic sheets in the background, behind the glass partition? Here’s a better view of the back of the Autograph department:


Here’s some of the stuff that had to be demolished — mostly old book shelves and large pieces of drywall:


Here’s a photo that I took the following day — November 14, 2012:


Did you notice the remaining portion of the carpet?

It was still soaked.

Here’s another photo of the Autograph department:


All that plastic was there to protect everything when the ceiling got patched up and painted. See the ladder up above? That’s pretty much where I normally sit and work.

Here’s what the 5th floor looked like:


On November 16, 2012, there was an article about the Argosy in the New York Times . . .


. . . which prompted a film crew from CBS News to do a segment on the damage. Here’s my aunt Judy being interviewed:


Here’s my mom showing the Thomas Jefferson documents to the camera . . .


. . . and here’s my other aunt Adina being interviewed outside in the “arcade”:


By the way, those Jefferson documents — Acts of Congress that he had signed as Secretary of State — were eventually sent to a professional restorer.

After some demolition on the 5th floor (which lasted several days) . . .


. . . Ben and another employee named Neil boxed up *all* the books in the First Editions department:


All those books had been shelved alphabetically by author, so they tried to keep everything in order.

Here’s where the boxes ended up:


They sat there for several weeks, during which the room was completely renovated. The following photo shows the new floor, along with several shelving units:


When the shelves were installed, guess who single-handedly re-shelved ALL the books.

Yep . . . me.

Here’s a photo that I took during the weeklong process:


The biggest challenge was leaving a uniform amount of space at the end of each shelf. Obviously, because of all the books we’d lost, it would’ve been dumb to shelve the remaining volumes as tightly as possible. If I did that, we would’ve been left with a whole wall of empty space, so I tried to plan it out. No, I didn’t get it right the first time. Yes, I had to reshuffle lots of books to make it fit just right.

By the end of 2012, the 4th-floor office was in the process of being emptied . . .


. . . and so was the entire Autograph department on the 6th floor:


We crammed most of the stuff into storage rooms, which were already cluttered to begin with. Look at this mess:


Here’s what the office looked like on January 10, 2013:


Yeah, it was sealed off for asbestos removal!! That’s why we had to empty it out — and that’s why we had to do the same thing on the 6th floor. You see, when the carpeting upstairs was removed, it exposed a layer of old, crappy tiles which began to curl up at the edges and reveal a small trace of asbestos — not enough to be harmful, but enough that we were legally obligated to eliminate it.

Meanwhile, the 6th floor had been stripped bare:


Here’s another photo of it:


So sad. But hey, at least we didn’t have to pay for any of this, and I knew that everything would end up looking much better . . . eventually.

By January 15, 2013, the Autograph department had a new floor:



Here’s another photo:


Of course it was nearly impossible to breathe up there. The paint fumes were overwhelming, and there was sawdust covering everything.

Once the asbestos had been removed from the office, the 4th-floor renovation got underway:


Because the new floor in the Autograph department had to be varnished and then left to dry, we weren’t able to start putting things back in place until February 14, 2013. Here’s a photo of my mom watching two of our longtime employees, Byron and Juan, reassemble a pair of large metal racks:


While all of this was happening, would you believe that we were *still* discovering damaged items? Check out all the mold in this book . . .


. . . which had been signed by Andy Warhol:



Here’s a random photo of some 6th-floor clutter, just because:


Here’s what the 4th-floor office looked like on February 21, 2013:


Nice, huh?

Check out this before-and-after comparison:


Nearly one month later, the construction in the Autograph department was still dragging on. Here are two workmen hauling in a new bookshelf on March 18, 2013:


Those guys also installed a big storage unit:


Can you imagine how long it took us to sort through all the clutter and merchandise and put it all back where it belonged? It took months, which is why I neglected to blog about it. By the time everything was fully operational, the 2013 baseball season was well underway, and my life was being pulled in a different direction.

Fast-forward to January 2014. Here’s what the First Editions department on the 5th floor now looks like:


Here’s a current photo of the Autograph department on the 6th floor:


Here’s another photo of the back:


Finally, here’s a shot of the main floor (which never suffered any storm damage):


Come visit sometime. I promise you’ll like it, and I might even be there to say hi.

7/1/98 at Three Rivers Stadium

Do you remember how big of a deal it was when you turned 10? It was huge, right? Double digits at last! Well, this game for me at Three Rivers Stadium — the Pirates’ former home — sent my lifetime MLB stadium tally into double digits. It was also the first time I’d gotten on a plane by myself for the sole purpose of attending a game. This made me feel like a true (and very grown-up) baseball fan.

Thankfully, when I landed in Pittsburgh, the weather was perfect, and I had plenty of time to spare. I wrote in my journal for a while, grabbed some lunch, found my hotel, and eventually headed back out at around 3pm. I was too young to rent a car and didn’t want to mess around with public transportation, so I took a cab.

This was my first glimpse of the stadium:



Okay, not really, but I was so excited to be there that it didn’t matter. When I got out of the cab, I did what I always do: I wandered and took photos. Here’s one that shows a sneak peek through the gates . . .


. . . and here’s another of the Honus Wagner statue nearby:


I bought a ticket and kept wandering . . . and then? I probably shouldn’t admit this, but my goal was to sneak into the stadium extra early — something that was often doable before 9/11. In fact, over the previous few seasons, I’d done it several times at Shea Stadium, always with a game ticket in hand. I had never cheated the Mets by sneaking in for free, thought it would’ve been easy. For some reason, roughly three to four hours before game time, one of the garage-type doors was usually kept wide-open at Gate E. No guards. No cameras. It was too tempting not to take advantage, so one day I did. I just waltzed right in and headed up the ramp and ended up lurking in the Loge Level seats near the foul pole. Not only didn’t I get caught, but I got an extra ball out of it. The Mets were taking early BP, and the rest of the stadium was empty. So I did it again. And again. And now that I was here in Pittsburgh, I hoped to do something similar.

After walking around for a while and cautiously testing various gates and doorknobs, I found myself outside an open doorway — an employee entrance of some sort that led into a long hallway. There wasn’t much activity — just a few workmen passing by who didn’t acknowledge me — so I waited for a lull and then skulked in.

The first thing I noticed was an office on the left with glass windows and two workmen inside. Thankfully, though, the shades were drawn, so I could only barely see their outlines, and they didn’t notice me. Of course, as I walked a bit farther, I happened to look right up into a security camera. I probably should’ve made a U-turn at that point and gotten the hell out of there, but no, like a total schmuck, I kept going.

I ended up passing a groundskeepers’ room (!!) and the umpires’ room (!!!!), and eventually, when I approached the end of the hallway, I saw a VERY bright green sliver of light up ahead. It was shining through a narrow space at the bottom of the wall, and I knew that it could only be one thing: sunlight reflecting off the AstroTurf! I was too excited for words — too thrilled to have the sense to pull out my camera and take a picture. It was about 4pm when I turned left and realized exactly where I was: behind the outfield wall in right-center field. Wow!!! See the scoreboard in this random photo of the stadium? I was standing right below it. I found a place to get a peek over the outfield wall, and whaddaya know? The Pirates were taking early BP.

I continued walking through the gap behind the wall toward the right-field foul pole. Soon after I got there, one of the batters hit a home run that landed near me. (How convenient.) I looked around, and everything appeared calm and safe, so I walked over and picked it up and stuffed it into my backpack.

Take another look at the random photo of the stadium. See the bullpen in the right field corner? There’s where I ended up. Here’s my own photo of it:


I didn’t walk any farther than that. There were players on the field and several ushers in the seats. I was nervous about getting busted, so I stayed against the side wall, where I could barely see over the top strip of foam padding. Here’s another photo:


And another:


And hey, why not another! Look how close I was to the coaches and players:


While I was standing there, a batter sliced a ball that landed in the bullpen and rolled five feet away from me. I grabbed that one too and couldn’t believe how awesome my life was.

Then it all came crashing down.

One of the Pirates coaches — a really mean-lookin’ mofo – approached me and asked who I was. (I found out later that it was Pete Vuckovich, a former pitcher who had played the role of the evil Yankees slugger Clu Haywood in the movie “Major League.” Yikes.) He asked if I was with the grounds crew, and when I said no, he was like, “Why are you back here?” I thought fast and said I’d entered the stadium to use a bathroom and had gotten lost. Just as he was really starting to get agitated, I saw two security guards in the background heading our way, so when he told me that I had to leave, I was almost relieved. That’s when I made my U-turn and quickly retraced my steps. I didn’t run — that would’ve been an admission of guilt and perhaps prompted the guards to chase me — but I walked FAST. I headed through the gap behind the outfield wall, and when I reached the scoreboard, I turned right and proceeded quickly through the long hallway and kept my head down as I passed the security camera, and man, let me tell you, when I made it out through the door, I ran faster than ever.

I was on edge for the rest of the day, but no one ever approached me or said a word.

Take one more look at the random stadium photo. (Last time, I promise.) See the red seats in straight-away right field? See how they’re about 20 feet high? Well, once the stadium opened (90 minutes before game time) for regular BP, I used my glove trick twice to snag home run balls that had landed there. I should’ve gotten a few more with the trick, but I was an idiot and had bad luck, and stadium security eventually told me to stop.

My fifth ball of the day (including the two I’d gotten before the stadium opened) was a random toss-up from 20 feet below. In other words, the player didn’t seem to be aiming for anyone in particular, so I grabbed it when it sailed over another fan’s head and landed on a seat.

After BP, the Pirates took infield/outfield practice, and when they finished, I got Steve Bieser to toss me a ball at their dugout on the 1st-base side. Then, as the grounds crew began prepping the field for the game, I got someone to take my picture:


In case you’re wondering, I was 20 years old, and I was wearing that shirt because of Tony Womack. He had graduated from Guilford College seven years earlier, and I’d gotten to know him because of his connection to the school. (More specifically, I was on the baseball team as a freshman, and he came and worked out with us in the fall.)

Anyway, when the Pirates jogged off the field after infield/outfield practice, Womack saw me and waved. As simple a gesture as that was, it made me feel great. He wasn’t just some scrubby bench player. He’d played in the All-Star Game the year before — the first of three consecutive seasons in which he led the National League in stolen bases.

Then I wandered a bit . . .


. . . and made my way back to the dugout before the game. Who ended up coming out to play catch? That’s right — Mister Womack. And he ended up tossing me the ball. There wasn’t much security, so I stayed behind the dugout and took a photo of him at bat in the bottom of the 1st inning:


He lined out to left field. (Frowny face.)

Here’s the last photo that I took inside Three Rivers Stadium:



I didn’t snag any more baseballs during or after the game, which the Tigers won, 9-1. I finished the day with seven (and a lifetime total of 1,160) — a respectable total for a stadium with a stupid layout and a late opening time.

Before heading out, I collected more than a dozen ticket stubs. Here are four of them . . .


. . . and here are nine more that I got autographed weeks/months later:


How many of those signatures can you identify? Post your answers and guesses in a comment. In a few days, I’ll reply and tell you who’s who.

Finally, as I’ve been doing at the end of all these “Turn Back The Clock” blog entries, here’s my original handwritten journal entry about this game. It starts here on the first page of Volume 38 . . .


. . . and continues here with a whole lot of mundane details about my life:


But you know what? I love those details. I’m glad to know that I was dutifully studying four-letter Scrabble words beginning with the letter “o.”

Here’s the part when I arrived at the stadium and began trying to sneak inside:


You can probably guess what the bleeped out words are:


This next two-page spread has a diagram — an aerial view — of the right field corner:


Yes, I was obsessed with documenting everything, and I took my journal seriously.

Here’s the part where Vuckovich approached me in the bullpen and asked who I was:


I remember all of that *so* vividly. I wonder what would’ve happened if I’d gotten caught by stadium security.

Here’s the part where I reentered the stadium at the normal time and snagged two baseballs with the glove trick:


You think there’s been a lot of stuff bleeped out? Ha! Check out THIS spread:


Don’t ask. Some things are better left unsaid.

Here’s where the journal entry ends:


That’s it . . . kind of. Here’s a complete list of all my other “Turn Back The Clock” entries:

1) June 11, 1993 at Candlestick Park
2) June 11, 1996 at Shea Stadium
3) July 2, 1998 at Cinergy Field
4) July 10, 1998 at Tiger Stadium
5) July 13, 1998 at County Stadium
6) July 14, 1998 at Busch Stadium
7) May 29, 1999 at the Kingdome
8) July 18, 1999 at the Astrodome
9) September 24-25, 1999 at the Metrodome
10) May 9-10, 2000 at Olympic Stadium
11) July 17-18, 2000 at Qualcomm Stadium


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