Monday, November 29, 2004

CLARA STACK: 9/15/1926 - 11/29/2004

This one goes out to a pretty special lady. A few of you have had the privilege of meeting Grandma Stack over the years, and any who missed out have surely heard her name mentioned at least a time or two dozen. I sincerely doubt that too many grandsons had a closer relationship with their grandmother. Despite my growing up 4 hours away, she would drive out to visit us three or four times every year, usually travelling by herself. Every visit was filled with hours of Uno, Rummy Cube, Parcheesi, you name it. She was a poor (if enthusiastic) game player, and a very classy loser, who loved every minute of it. She could be counted on to always bring at least four or five boxes of wonderfully marshmallowy pre-sweetened cereal for me to devour before my sisters could even get near them (it was a real treat for us country kids - all readers should know how much I enjoy these things).

One of my fondest early memories is the time my younger sister and I tried to sabotage her car by shoveling snow into the grill, in the vain hope that she wouldn't be able to leave. Sure, it didn't come close to working, but grandma got a kick out of it, as I'm sure my dad did before he very sternly made us go down to the barn and hose it out and then dry off the engine by hand. Or the time (grandma must have been quite a bit younger) when she and I made family portraits of everyone with snowmen. On another occasion, grandma urgently had to leave, and then proceeded to make it almost 20 miles before turning around and coming back to steal another precious hour or so getting whupped by her grandkids at Uno.

When I went to college, in the big city (at Le Moyne) my roommate, Slim Colt, and I would visit every week or so to chat, help grandma grocery shop, eat a sumptuous non-cafe dinner, do a little laundry, and play some cut-throat pitch. We usually ended up laying on the floor and rubbing our distended tummies, albeit victorious, and quite happy. Grandma never seemed to fare too well in these games (despite the fact that she kept score), but she certainly enjoyed them. Slim continued to visit, sans me, even after we graduated - and has stayed in contact, even with his recent move to Atlanta. He is a good man.

I know she had, for 30 plus years, a weekly game with her "Uno Ladies" right up until last Friday. For the past 15 years or so, the ladies had to mark the blue and green cards, just so they could tell which was which. It didn't hold them back much. She and I had a high-stakes pitch series going, with a first class steak dinner on the line. I think I ended up leading by about 80 games, but she never had to pay up. And that is the way we both wanted it. It's not that she wouldn' t have been happy to do it. I don' t think I've ever known anyone who took more pleasure in good food. Or even fast food. How many grandmas love Taco Bell chalupas and burrito supremes? Mine sure did, she was cool that way. Wendy's burgers, Dinosaur ribs, hawaiian pizza, e-mail, gameshows, she'd even try to enjoy a four hour Yankees game if I wanted to watch it. Yeah, the whole thing.

I had the pleasure of living with her, at two different intervals, for a total of almost a year. It was hardly by design either time, but I know I wouldn't trade that time for anything now. I had my freedom, just so long as I did the shopping every Tuesday night. It's funny to me now, I guess, how well a septuagenarian and her 50-years-younger grandson can connect.
It was really never forced or uncomfortable. Sure, she'd get upset when I said Alex Trebek didn't have the personality to interact with contestants. Yeah, there was the incident with the wing joint, and the cheeseburgers, and the sleeping on the living room floor. But, in all honesty, I can say she was more of a friend than a grandmotherly figure. Anyone who ever saw us interact would testify to that. There were plenty of nights when we would both sit there, in our matching blue recliners, reading our respective books, and watching PAX.

I guess what upsets me the most, maybe the only bad thing about her going when she did, was that I was supposed to set up her Christmas tree this week. That was always one of her favorite things. As kids, we always came to Syracuse for Thanksgiving. After the feast was consumed, and the Cowboys game ended, it was time to put up her tree. Tradition. The next day we would open our Christmas gifts from her (invariably the best ones we recieved). Justine and I gave her a new tree for Christmas, two years ago, which she loved. Setting up the tree would have been a great opportunity for us to hang out. I hadn't seen G-Stack in about two months, which is probably a record (at least for the last ten years). I'd only talked to her a couple times since her 78th birthday in mid-September. Thank God I got a chance to talk to her this past Friday. She'd had a nice Thanksgiving, was looking forward to having the tree to look at, and hoping to feel better soon. I know she was very happy to know Justine and I were planning to visit my parents for Christmas, and wondering if we could stop in to visit along the way. We wouldn't have missed it for the world.

The editors would like to apologize if this isn't exactly what bojanglin' is normally all about. At times the screen may have been a little blurry, but it is really not an unhappy occasion. Grandma Stack was a very religious person, and wanted desperately to be able to live on her own, and avoid an "old folks" home. Just last Christmas she visited one to spread cheer and sing carols. As would perfectly befit her, the picture at the top of this entry is both musical notes (she played organ at her church for 35 years) and a chocolate mold (I told you about the food thing).

God bless you, Grandma Stack.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Chunky Campbell Eats Rams Like a Meal

Mark Campbell showed again why he may be the most dominant TE this side of Timmy Euhus, and gave football pundits the world over a chance to compose a cheesier headline than yours truly. Thanks to the efforts of Campbell, long snapper John Dorenbos, and return man "Fast Freddie" Smith, the streaking Bills improved their record to third best in division, trouncing the Moufons 37-17.

His drinking is the least of it

problem drinker

Ever have a friend who just doesn't know when to say when? Meet Symon Schermerhorn. He not only drinks to excess (and then gets violent), he also constantly coos like a pigeon and tries to hump his underage companion against her wishes, though an elbow will do late at night. He's also Dutch.

Have fun storming the castle!

Climbing the Walls

Friday, November 19, 2004

A Complete Idiot's Guide to the Stockade District

The old homestead. Not all that old compared to its surroundings (1913). Not much to look at (other than the wacky paint job), but alright for living. Located in the heart of the historic Stockade district, half a block from Arthur's in one direction and Slick's in the other. The Stockade was New York State's first historic district, all the way back in 1973! It is likely the country's oldest "unspoiled" residential neighborhood. It is home to what the National Parks Service called "the highest concentration of historic period homes," with over a 40 homes in excess of 200 years in age. Cool, huh?
The area was originally settled in 1661 by Dutch traders. It was completely destroyed by fire in the 1690 massacre [see Lawrence, below]. Due to its location, Schenectady served as an important suppy line during the Revolutionary War, Gen. Washington visited several times. When in town, he liked to drink and gamble on a grassy knoll overlooking the Greyhound station with other prominent citizens. Honest, there is a sign to prove it. A few years after Washington became our first President and eventually died, along came the Great Fire of 1819. This inferno, raging along the waterfront, destroyed most of the establishments that serviced the bustling trade up and down the Mohawk River. Over 200 building were destroyed in all. Most of these businesses were rebuilt along State Street, which was closer to the new Erie Canal. This helped to preserve the Stockade area as the historic residential district we know and love today!

That other church. This is actually the Presbyterian Church on Union St., as seen from St. Geoge's cemetary. The Stockade seems to have cornered the market on churches with loud bells. They have me surrounded. This spacious lot also serves as an excellent short-cut to the Van Dyck.

St. George's has been around awhile. Since 1695, in one form or another.

St. George's

BL's. It does exist, on East Front St. I haven't found mention of it on the internet or in the phone book, but there she stands, plain as day. Home of the finest wings in Schenectady, good people, and a wonderful chocolate lab named Cocoa. The first time I went in (accompanied by a notorious drinker) everyone was watching Bruce Almighty. On tape. And drinking. Works for me.

Slick's claims to have been "famous for sandwiches, since 1974." I believe it. Anyone who has tried one (there are several of you out there - inlcuding a handsome young man of Japanese persuasion, who shall go un-named) comes away impressed, if only because of the sheer volume of meat each sandwich contains. These puppies retail for a little over 5 bucks, and there has to be well over a pound of fresh-sliced meat on there. We're talking 4-6 normal sandwiches worth. As the neon would imply, there is usually fresh Matt's on tap, along with some great pictures of the neighborhood in years gone by. Pay no attention to the Do Not Enter sign.

Uncle Ben's serves no rice, or any other kitchen-prepared food, for that matter. Located across the street from BL's, they are fearsome rivals. It is no BL's. Not bad, though.

Riverside Park is at the end of N. Ferry St., alongside the Mohawk River. Late November may not be its' most picturesque time of year. Yes, that is a cannon. Thanks for noticing.

Lawrence the Indian. He's a pretty good dude, I guess. He stands guard over Arthur's and the North end of Ferry St. leading to the Mohawk River. The statue is named after a member of the Mohawk tribe, and is a tribute to the Mohawks, who helped rebuild Schenectady into a booming fur-trading post (and future G.E. dumping ground) after a bunch of pesky Frenchies and Algonquin Indians burned it to the ground in 1690 and ran off to Quebec with the 27 survivors as prisoners. Bastards.

St. George's Church has been around awhile. I guess the sign pretty much covers it. It is actually a sprawling complex of at least three buildings! I see it every day, as I live across the street from it. Also has a handy parking lot and a spooky old cemetary. I like it. This one time, I even went inside.

Arthur's Food Market (now known also as Cafe 1795) claims to be the oldest continuously operating food market in the United States, on this site since (you guessed it) 1795. Of course, it closed for several months as soon as I moved in down the street. Now more a sandwich and coffee joint than a market. Great sandwiches at that.

Told you they wear brown


Had to be done.

I'm aware that the sweet Bonnies disgraced themselves two years ago by refusing to finish the season (after admitting a dude with welding certificate rather than an Associates Degree - where would the world be without capable welders?). Yeah, they won a total of 7 games last year. Of course, they lost the "small wonder" 5'7" PG and adorable human dynamo Marques Green.

Here are some grades I appropriated from the Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook "the Bible of college basketball"


Impressive, no? Looks like a solid semester for me in college. But don't forget two things about this team:

  1. They wear brown
  2. They play in the Reilly Center (Olean, NY baby!)

Okay, so they suck. I like this school, dammit. Here is a little human interest angle for those of you on the fence. They may have a legit roster as early as next year too. Transfers G Tyler Relph (former Mr. New York Basketball, from the Roch) and F Paul Williams (of Siena, uh, fame) combined to average 7.6 points last season, at D-I schools! Add in a few raw recruits, and everything is coming up Bonnies someday.

America East

Yeah, yeah, them too.

Fear not, loyal reader, I plan on hitting a couple of America East games along my path to enlightenment. After all, Taylor Coppenrath and the mighty Vermont Catamounts will visit town, among others. Did you know that America East comes first alphabetically among conferences? Albany is actually expected to have a mildly competitive squad this season.

Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference


I have taken it upon myself to become a MAAC aficionado this year. As such, I have witnessed two less-than-clutch performances down the stretch by my beloved Purple Eagles and Saints. Mid-majors are sexy like an aging Teri Hatcher is sexy. There may be better game out there, but if you ignore some flash and glitz and concentrate on that which you see everyday, maybe things don't seem all that desperate. Especially if they've had a little work in the off season - and Howie Long is not in the picture. Siena (my newly designated 3rd favorite squad) has played two respectable games against favored teams from Pepperdine and Oregon St. Niagara nearly blew out Big East contender Providence (leading by as much as 13), before an ugly disappearance down the stretch. FYI: senior forward Juan Mendez is an absolute stud. He would start on most Big East teams. Seriously. Sure, no wins yet in the 3 meaningful games I have followed, but this mid-major conference plays my kind of ball. Plus, one of the teams is local (and hosts SU on Nov. 27!).

Oh Yeaahh, Orange!!

I'm not about to say that I predicted it, I am hardly a prognosticator, but I did enjoy the hell out of it. Craigy McThunder played his usual stellar stiffy interior D, Warrick played like an All-America and, my man, Josh "Change of" Pace filled up the stat line. Here is an exclusive scouting report from a bojangles insider:

...did you see [Forth] last night, getting some quality minutes in the second half, looked completely different from the first half. getting tips, standing dudes up when they came inside, getting to the open spots on the floor and most importantly, making those shots when he had the opportunity. plus showing off a choice tat on his inner forearm!! pacey did wonderful as well. warrick almost looked jordanesque with those turnaround jumpers and like prince on that allyoop when he caught it, threw it down and then proceeded to have gravity pull him slowly to the floor.

Why don't you purify yourself in the waters of Lake Minnetonka? Not gonna find that kind of insight anywhere else, folks. In case you missed it, I'm the one that said, "just grab 'em in the biscuits." Good times. After rallying to tie it at 25 all at the half, the Orange won going away, in a very impressive second-half performance. Syracuse, 3-0, will face Memphis in the final of the Coaches Vs. Cancer Classic tomorrow night at MSG on ESPN. Just as an aside, Syracuse last faced the Tigers (also at MSG) early in their 2002-03 championship campaign.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

This is what March Madness looks like

Tourney pressure gets to young Tucker (march '04)

As long as we're on the subject of college basketball, I couldn't resist sharing one of my favourite memories of the magical 2003-04 season. This moment was captured, of course, before BC's devastating tourney loss put Tucker in a much less gay state (Massachusettes?).

Ain't those pictures the same dude?

All signs point to...

Allegedly, these are two different man-giants. You can tell because one has longer hair. There are those who contend that the two have been in the same place at the same time. Developing...

9 PM SU vs. MSU

Craigy McThunder!

Chill plenty of your favourite beverages and get those pizzas and/or wingies ready, kids! That's right, tonight marks the return of big-time college hoops to our collective livingrooms and neighbourhood sports bars. Be sure not to miss a moment of the action as studly senior center C. Forth takes on all comers in a battle to replicate Toastie's fundamentally sound plethora of devastatingly awkward low post dominating moves with the '04-05 Change of Pacers!

{We may not win a game, but so far we've been the classiest team and that should count for something. It doesn't, but it should.I'm just waiting for Toastie to turn into a basketball playing werewolf. Toastie's the hairiest so he seems the most likely to do this. A quick montage of Toastie dunking, stealing, doing some fancy dribbling as we continue to win, until Toastie can't be the wolf anymore and wants to play the Championship game as himself. But we decide we can beat Latinos Unidos as Caucasians United. Another brilliant montage with some inspirational music in the background plays as we mount a come back and finally win on a big climactic play by the Toastmaster General himself. And we win. Turns out we didn't need the wolf after all it was in us all along (sniff). hat tip: Willie Moe}

As if that is not enough, you might also have the good fortune of witnessing this man's smiling countenance from 6-7 PM at your local Circuit City electronics store (assuming you live in the greater Syracuse area). Also of note: I just ate a bologna sandwich.

The Red Dragon

Bad Motor Scooter

Yet another installment in our exciting series of action photos. This comes from a brief, glorious, and probably ill-advised period spent in the seedy underbelly of a Portuguese biker gang. I thought of it as embedded journalism. Or a search for belonging. Maybe is was simply about an insatiable thirst for danger and barbecued meats. Thirst for meat? Whatever it was, hopefully some of you lame desk-jockeys can get a vicarious thrill through my passion for life.