Thursday, May 31, 2012

The 4th Meal

           Eighteen has opened up a whole new world for me; I can watch porn now! But more importantly, the law no longer confines me to a driving curfew. Admittedly, I never paid much attention to that law in the first place, but at least now I don’t feel guilty about it. These past few weeks on projects, I’ve gotten myself into a bit of a routine. Jake’s house has become my forward operating base, from which I plan all of my Pikesville errands and activities. Since neither of us have any evening obligations anymore, we tend to use the full capacity of our available free time hanging out, going to the movies, and buying nosebleed tickets at Camden Yards.
As a result of this new schedule, I usually don’t get home until around one in the morning—just in time for the 4th meal. If you need to familiarize yourself with the concept of the 4th meal, just watch a few Taco Bell commercials on YouTube. There’s something about the clock hitting midnight that triggers a very particular brand of immobilizing famine within me. It’s a feeling I attempt to fight with every muscle in my body, only to be crippled by its otherworldly power.
To get home every night, I have to drive down a two-mile stretch of Route 40, the last major road before I turn into my development. Much like Reisterstown Road, 40 is littered with gas stations and fast food establishments. In just two miles, I pass: a McDonald’s, a Burger King, a Subway, an Arby’s, a Checkers, two 7-11’s, a Dunkin’ Donuts/Baskin Robbins hybrid, a CVS, and a 24-hour Korean Barbecue called The Honey Pig. That’s two miles of vibrant neon signs, cheap hamburgers, and Coca-Cola products that I have to just ignore at one in the morning. Are you kidding me?
I’ve seen Food, Inc. enough times to know that eating at any one of those ‘restaurants’ will probably decrease my life expectancy. But if there is ever a time when fast food should be OK, I’d say it’s when you’re a teenager. My driver’s license says I’m eighteen, but I certainly don’t feel like an adult yet. So while I still have my coveted youthfulness, I don’t mind eating a few meat paste tacos and drinking some high fructose corn syrup. Soon enough I will have to start worrying about my health. But not today.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Monday Night Game

            Every Monday night, my dad and I make the journey around the corner to our synagogue.  We don’t go to attend services or study Torah—we go to play basketball.  This isn’t just any kind of basketball though; this is basketball of a unique variety.  In the gym of my beloved alma mater, Krieger Schechter, we lace up our sneakers and play some ball.
            Walking into the gym has a special feel to it.  The rubber floor is deceptively tough, lashing out a horrible burn to whoever dares dive for a loose ball.  The purple bleachers that line the side of the court are a reminder of the unfortunate purple and green color scheme of the KSMS Lions.  Miscellaneous sporting equipment, balls, and pads are scattered around the gym and we must always clean off the court before we can even begin to think about starting a game.
            Finally, once the court is cleared, people have stretched, and everyone’s had their fair share of warm up shots, we split up the teams.  Usually, 2 or 3 guys take it upon themselves to split up the teams as evenly as possible.  This almost always evolves into heated arguments.  What most of the players fail to realize is that whenever a team is deemed to be at a disadvantage, or “unfair,” they miraculously (or perhaps not so miraculously) always end up winning the game.  The fact of the matter is that in a pickup basketball game for 18-50 year olds it’s pretty hard to predict who will and won’t play well.
            As I’m sure you can already imagine, this game is full of interesting characters.  Every pickup game has its quirks, and this one is no exception.  First there’s my dad.  A relic of what once was a pretty darn good basketball player, he hides behind his aging and injured 5’5” frame.  He holds the world record for most fouls called in a game, and he always abides by his mantra “survive to play another week.”  Nevertheless, when he finds himself open for a jumper, my dad’s still got that silky smooth form.  For the most part, Aaron Max is a quiet player, only voicing his opinions when absolutely necessary; he’s the mediator and always keeps the game in check.
            Next, there’s one of my favorite players, the other Aaron.  Intense as anyone, he gets very excited about every facet of the game.  From making teams to shot selection, he makes his voice heard about everything.  He goes hard for every ball, and despite the fact that he obviously never played competitive basketball; he has a pretty decent jump shot.  The funniest part of his game is when he makes a mistake, perhaps a travel.  He immediately puts the ball down on the ground and without words sprints the other way down the court.  In the end, he’s fun to play with and always keeps the game interesting.
            Then, there’s another one of my favorites.  I still haven’t caught his name; whatever it is, it’s foreign and quite difficult to pronounce.  Standing at about 6’8” and 250 lbs. he has absolutely no basketball skills.  Still, he demands the ball in the post and misses about 87% of his layups.  On the other hand, he’s a really nice guy and acts as a supportive cheerleader no matter what the situation.
            One of the most skilled players in the game, and a former soccer goalie, Tim is pretty fun to watch.  He doesn’t always hustle up and down the court, but his post moves are pretty spectacular.  When he wants the ball, instead of calling for it he does this little whoop that makes me giggle each time I hear it.  He likes to be a bit of a coach, but his comments are pretty much exclusively helpful and insightful.  Overall, he’s a pretty good guy to play with.
            One of the quieter guys is Hal.  He doesn’t do anything too crazy, but he’s a really good athlete and can shoot the basketball.  If I had to guess I’d say he probably played football or lacrosse.  He’s tall and built, but for some reason he doesn’t like driving to the basket.  Instead, he always pulls up for the jumper (which he usually makes).
            There’s also Harold and Charles, the elders of the group.  They both know their respective games well.  Harold is a point guard who sees the court well and Charles sets some bone crushing picks.  Both of them have a knack for hitting the open 3.
            Jeff is perhaps the craziest—a really nice guy, but totally crazy.  He lacks any sort of basketball fundamentals, yet he runs all over the court, getting steals and fouling hard.  He’s a turnover machine, but every once in a while he’ll make a shot that makes you say wow.
            Last, but certainly not least, there’s Mike.  Let me begin by saying that he’s a talented athlete.  He’s big, he has a decent jump shot, and he knows how to finish around the hole.  These are all signs that point to a good basketball player, but that is something that he certainly is not.  When his team gets the ball, Mike should run down the court and post up on the block.  Mike prefers to play point guard.  When you miss a shot, Mike will tell you to pass the ball around more.  On the ensuing possession, when you pass it to him just like he asked, Mike will shoot it from 5 feet behind the three point line and brick horribly.  At least once a week Mike will throw a horribly ill-advised pass, zooming at 60 miles per hour and nearly missing someone’s head.  Needless to say, I hate playing with Mike.
            Together, we are The Monday Night Game.  Every week we meet up and for 2 hours we play the best sport there is to play.  We make shots, call fouls, argue, win, and lose.  When I invited my friend Max to play with me a few weeks ago, I didn’t know what he would think.  Turns out he loved it, and has now become a regular—one of the guys.  Just like me, he looks forward to going out and playing every Monday.  So I guess I’m not crazy; there’s something about The Monday Night Game that you just can’t find anywhere else.

P.S. this is a pretty accurate post on the 12 types of pickup basketball players:

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Preakness Stakes

If you’ve ever been to Pimlico Race track on any ordinary day during the racing season, you know that it’s pretty bleak. Women in their triple-digits serve you hot dogs, men equally as old spit on the uneven pavement after betting away their life savings, littering is considered obligatory.

Despite this, my family and I have always gone to Pimlico on Mother’s Day. I’m not completely sure how the tradition evolved, but there’s something about it that just works. We read the stats, we eye the horses, place bets, eat junk, and enjoy spending time together outside. Whether my mother would rather be relaxing at a spa, I don’t know, but there’s something magical about the track, despite its lack of funding and lack of decent food—and classy people.

But one time a year, Pimlico has its day of glory: Preakness. (I’ll forget about the Black-Eyed-Susan for now). The place is transformed into a Baltimore utopia. Hats come out. So do thousands of people ready to have a good time. It’s truly a scene and my favorite day of the year (minus the All-School Assembly).

You get up early, meet up with friends, and walk through a lemonade stand-filled Mt. Washington with BBQ grills going, and people everywhere. When you arrive, there’s nothing like spotting local celebrities, getting really into races, walking through the legendary tunnel, and setting up camp with friends in the infield. For those who truly take advantage of their ticket, there are also beach volleyball games, an overbearing Kegasus, and porta-potty running (although they separate them now, and you’ll only last five seconds.)

If usual, dingy Pimlico is one of the best ways to spend an afternoon, this exponentially multiplies on Preakness. So you should all seriously consider coming out this Saturday, grabbing a ticket, and experiencing Baltimore’s biggest holiday.

Wait, like Jake Max…I think I may have just implored you…


Wednesday, May 16, 2012


            Raise your hand if you remember AOL instant messenger. If not, just imagine a super lame Facebook with no pictures or videos or profiles or anyone’s real name—just chat. Instant messenger was the first exposure to text communication for a lot of kids in my generation. It was like, “Hey look! We can talk to each other over the internet!” Our parents were screaming Y2K. They didn’t know how to handle it. The problem was that kids had access to instant messenger in elementary school. It was free to download, and everyone had it. That means my shitty little third grade self had the capability to write anything I wanted in text format and instantaneously shoot it across the web. And that’s exactly what I did.
            I recall, shortly after discovering dirty language, copying and pasting massive blocks of these vulgar words and sending them to my classmates over AIM. Because I could. It was new and exciting and there were no consequences! Well, at least, I didn’t know what the consequences were. But one day my friend left his instant messenger up on the family computer. LOL

coolbballkid48: who is this?
madups123: what? it’s mark. duh
coolbballkid48: hi mark. this is frank’s mom.
madups123: smh*


            Frank's mom called Mark’s mom. Mark’s mom told Mark’s dad. Mark lost AIM privileges for a while. Eventually, however, he got them back. And what did Mark do once he got his AIM privileges back? He continued to exercise his rights given to him in the first amendment of the constitution! I was planning on using this story to demonstrate some greater meaning. fuk dat, kids rule. 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mother's Day

            Brunch.  Hallmark cards.  Flowers.  Hugs.  Kisses.  Pictures.  Car-washing.  Dinner.  Mother’s Day…What is it?  On the outside a seemingly arbitrary day set aside to honor our mothers, grandmothers, and wives (one day maybe…), but in reality so much more.
            On Mother’s Day, household roles shift.  364 days a year my mom toils around the house, making dinner, doing laundry, cleaning (on top of her job and countless volunteer projects).  One day a year, mom sits in bed while we make her breakfast, and wash her car.  For one day a year, she sits back, relaxes, and watches us do the dirty work for a change.  We buy her cute cards, take her out to a fancy dinner, and treat her with the utmost respect and cordiality.
            But why is this day so important?  What is it about the second Sunday in May that brings out our best manners and appreciation?  In the end, the answer is pretty boring.  The idea of Mother’s Day has been around a long time, but it wasn’t until Woodrow Wilson declared it a National Holiday in 1914 that it became popular in the United States.
            Since then, Mother’s Day has become one of the most commercialized holidays, amongst the leaders in card and flower sales.  In fact, many dismiss the day as another consumer scam.  Regardless, I would argue that our reasoning behind Mother’s Day isn’t even that important.
            I don’t care how much money Hallmark makes on Mother’s Day each year.  I don’t care how many flowers are sold.  I don’t care how many long-distance phone calls are made.  There’s something oddly touching about honoring our mothers for no particular reason.  The truth is that we shouldn’t need a reason to go out of our way for our mothers.  If a quiet Sunday with brunch and flowers makes my mom happy, then that’s certainly good enough reason for me.
            So, to all those moms out there: Happy Mother’s Day.  You deserve it.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Save The Best For Last

            For those of you who have ever read my writing before, this post will be nothing new.  It is sure to be yet another sentimental piece about high school athletics.  The only difference is that this varsity sports sob story will without a doubt be my last.
            Tomorrow marks my last varsity baseball game ever.  In fact, it may very well be the last time I play baseball at all.  Perhaps I’ll play intramural softball, or even better, wiffle ball, in college, but never again will I be a player in the sport that’s been such a huge part of my life.
            Since the day I first picked up a bat in t-ball at age four, until today, baseball has been one of the few passions that has stayed with me.  There was something strangely appealing about hitting a tiny ball with a round bat that kept me playing all of those years.
            However, it wasn’t until today, at my last baseball practice, that it dawned on me what would truly happen tomorrow.  As the clock ticked closer to 6 o’clock, no part of me wanted to walk away from that field.  I wanted one more pitch, one more groundball.  When the coach finally called us over to clear out the dugout and depart, I couldn’t help but feel the nostalgia that represented all of those practices, games, hits, strikeouts, double plays, and errors.
            As a team, we made the trek down to the parking lot and piled into the seniors’ cars, en route to our final team dinner.  As tradition has it we journeyed all the way down Reisterstown Road to Fuddruckers (it made a lot more sense before they closed their Pikesville location).  We munched on our burgers, and told our juiciest stories, just like I remembered doing in my underclassman days.  Finally, after a hearty meal, and the obligatory round of arcade games in the back, we parted ways.
            Tomorrow, I’ll go back to the field that I’ve spent countless hours on for one more game.  With any luck, I’ll be in the starting lineup for my Senior Day.  While on the outside, tomorrow afternoon is sure to seem like any of the other hundreds of baseball games I’ve played in my life, in reality it will be quite different.  Before, if I struck out, there was always next time.  If I made an error, there was always going to be another game.  Tomorrow there won’t be.
            I’ve been lucky enough to play on a team this year that is peaking at the right time.  A win tomorrow will put us in a tie for third place and the final playoff spot.  Unfortunately, because of how the tiebreakers work out, we won’t make the playoffs either way.  For me, that makes this game even more important.  Tomorrow, we have a chance to win our last game.  I have the chance to walk off the field a winner one last time.  Just like Program Night for basketball, I look forward to seeing our loyal fans at the game tomorrow.  Win or lose, I plan on walking off the field with a smile on my face, tipping my hat to baseball, a sport I’ve grown to love.