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If your daily life had a theme song, what would it be?

Red Red Wine - The Replacements (note: not the same song as later performed by UB40. completely different piece of music)

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A couple was walking down Eighth Avenue yesterday, while I was outside my office building smoking a cigarette. The man asked for a light from another smoker, but he got no response. The stranger just continued staring ahead, even after repeated inquiries. After the man began to get perturbed at this recalcitrance, the woman quietly attempted to lead them away. I had my Mets lighter of course, and even though I dropped it while getting it out of my jacket, I offered it to the man. He took it, thanked me and then declared, "Look at that! Brother's gotta get help from the white man instead of a black man acting like a faggot!" He thanked me again and walked off, muttering about the silent stranger, who still hadn't said a word or changed his gaze.

I still haven't unpacked everything that went on in that exchange and I may never do so.
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"...Why aren't more animals smart? The answer, experiments suggest, is that learning and memory have nasty side-effects."


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A friend of a friend, Martin, organizes as a hobby a sort-of semiannual event, modeled in part on TV's Amazing Race, called Race Across NYC. Last year I volunteered as a "greeter", with the intention to race for real next time. That time was this past Saturday. I roped in Eddie to be the other half of this team, and he raced even though he had just been informed on Friday that his new boss intended him to work on Saturday. Instead of canceling out of the race, he told me that we just had to finish extra fast. Now that's commitment. Since it was the first time racing for both of us, I didn't have any expectations for us to win outright, but I thought we had a good chance given our geographical knowledge of the city.

Turns out I was right about that part, as we finished a strong 5th out of 15, due in large part to our street savvy. But really, we should have finished even better, except that I might as well have had my shoelaces tied together, as slow as I was and for reasons that were entirely my fault. Here are things I need to improve upon for next time:

- Find my backpack. I swear I had just seen that thing lying around recently. But it could not be found last week, and I was forced to use a shoulder bag. Wearing a shoulder bag in a race is the pedestrian equivalent to racing a car with your trunk open. Comically inefficient.

- Buy sneakers. Half-shredded boots I wore on the Pihea Trail on Kauai are not appropriate footwear. Especially when the insides of the shoes begin to disintegrate while you're racing. That was comfy!

- Wear better-fitting pants or get a belt. I guess I didn't realize how big my pants were. I found out pretty quickly though as soon as I started trying to run a few blocks in them.

- Oh, I don't know, maybe do something (anything!) related to cardiovascular fitness in the next five months. And stop smoking, I mean it this time. (Here's the part where I have to point out that I'm encouraging myself to be healthier, not out of concern for my personal well-being and appearance, but so as to have a better showing in a one-day scavenger hunt race. I'm really smart!)

So yeah, all those factors together kind of slowed me down a bit. It was a learning experience. Never mind that my teammate got all these things right on his first try. It's just going to make it all the sweeter when we come out of nowhere to win next time. America loves triumphs of the human spirit.

And, for posterity, here were the events of the May 2008 Race Across NYC:

(1) Find a sculpture in Lower Manhattan, given only a photograph of it and a general map of the area. We recognized the building in the background of the photo, leading us right to it.

(2) One of us (Eddie) had to go to the observation deck of the Empire State Building to find a piece of information from the lobby.

(3) Search Morningside Park for 7 specified facts.

(4) Purchase "Lick Me All Over" incense and bath oil from a vendor in Harlem and take them to the Adam Clayton Powell statue.

(5) Circle the running track at St. Mary's Park in the Bronx, in tandem and using a home made hobby horse. We managed not to fall off the pony, allowing us to make the circuit just once. Eddie and I were actually still in first place when we left this event.

(6) Add up the denominations of a sack of foreign coins at Rockefeller Plaza. We were no longer in first place when we got here, nor when we completed it.

(7) One of us (me, unfortunately) had to finish a 4 oz tin of "caviar", in Liberty Plaza. May have actually been shark chum, as delicious as it was.

(8) Put together a jigsaw puzzle of Africa and the Middle East, at the African Heritage Monument in Lower Manhattan.

(9) Finish line at Rockefeller Park, by Hudson River. A terrific spread of food and water was waiting for us there, courtesy Martin and his family. A cold cut sandwich, three cookies, a refill of my water bottle, and pasta salad were enough to finally erase the taste of fish bait from my mouth.
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"President Bush shows up in a deus ex machina role, and while not exactly respectful, it is arguably the most sympathetic movie portrayal of him to date."

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For close to three years, I've been trying to find a weekend with the following qualities:

1. Not working
2. Available spending money
3. Mets playing in Philadelphia

I wanted to find this weekend so I could travel (#1) to Philadelphia on a bus (#2) and see the Mets play in the Phillies new stadium (#3).

This past weekend, not only did all these three things finally align but I really did make the trip to the land of cream cheese, freedom and invisible battleships. Wow! So how was the game? Beats me, I forgot to go to it. Whoops!

In truth, the visit was just a coincidence, having learned that Sherry and Eddie had been thinking of going down there to sightsee only, but during a weekend the Mets just happened to be there too. Like them, I'd never been, and so accepted their offer to go with.

It's hard to see a city as big as Philadelphia in one day. I tried this 12 years ago with Chicago, and ended up mostly along Lake Michigan, and ended up seeing a movie at the end of the day. It's tiring! Philly was no different. We had the advantage of bringing a car, which allowed us to get from the Art Museum (which is awesome; I can only barely imagine what it would have been like if I'd ever seen Rocky) down past South Street to stand in a monstrous cheesesteak line, and then back up to Arch Street without expending any energy on it. After we re-parked, then it was time to walk as far east as we could go and then back through Society Hill (which is suspiciously NOT a hill).

The quick review is that Philadelphia completely blew me away. The parts we saw anyhow, which was approximately 4% of the metro area. Sherry and Eddie had done some planning for the trip, so they knew where they wanted to go and how to get there, but it was all a surprise to me. I've been to many parts of old New England and old New York and I sort of expected Philly to be a sort of mash-up between the two. This is because I was unaware before yesterday that the city has the largest district of original buildings from the 17th and 18th centuries in America. That alone would have piqued my interest, but what made my mind explode was that the area wasn't some sort of cordoned-off, shrink-wrapped, historic district nor was it endlessly luxurized until it was either barely recognizable and/or only accessible to the mega-rich. The houses are expensive, I'm sure, but the people who lived there seemed pretty normal and if well-off, then more in the upper-middle class way. And yet they live in a neighborhood that looks like it could only be recorded by wood engraving or scrimshaw, instead of digital camera. These houses went on for miles of square miles. It was truly hypnotic, and I had always assumed living in Boston for nine years would have inured me against something like that.

As we walked through this post-colonial wonderland, the fantasy of living in such a place kept getting introduced. It isn't hard to imagine oneself impulsively moving somewhere when you're only visiting it for a day. Sherry and Eddie are off-and-on house-hunting anyway, and aren't necessarily beholden to the New York area. It was decided that a cursory search of Philadelphia real estate would begin this week.

I was in agreement that Philly is almost impossibly adorable, but I don't think I could seriously entertain thoughts of living there. I am demented, you see. The city seems great for all the reasons a city could be great. But if I'm going to abandon both of my teams, it won't be for a city with such deep professional sporting baggage. It would overwhelm and consume me, I'm sure. Same goes for Washington DC. If I'm going to humor hypothetical moves to new cities, I need one that's either more celebrated OR more moribund. Demented is the only word for that, right?
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"He's a Red Sox fan and he lives in New York, which is weird. Most Irish people are from Boston."

- person on the subway this morning who might need a refresher course in Venn diagrams
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"If someone wants to give you something for nothing, watch out!"

- Woman in my theatre's lobby, holding a voucher good for a free ticket to my company's show
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"More than anything, though, Hapas remind us that, while racism is real, 'race' is a shifting construct... Race is thrust on Hapas based on the shades of their skin, the shapes of their eyes, their last names. But ethnicity, an internal sense of culture, place and heritage — that’s more of a choice."


Note: 'Hapa' is a Hawaiian pidgin word denoting a person with mixed ancestry (lit. 'half')
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