Friday, June 20, 2008

I heart New York

"Dammit, I forgot my Purell."

That was my initial thought in the taxi line at LaGuardia Airport last Thursday. I made a colossal mistake. How in the world can you go to New York City without any friggin' Purell?

Costly mistake on my part. I had to bite the bullet and take on the world without

After riding on nearly every train in the under belly in America's most recognizable city, touching hand rails, pushing my way through turnstiles, opening doors to cab after cab, shaking hands with basketball players, coaches, parents and even a ref for three days straight, I'm almost tempted to drive myself to a pressure washer or straight to the Center for Disease Control in downtown Atlanta.

It's Friday now. I've been home for almost a week. I'm still alive. I survived.

Other than fighting off diseases like S.A.R.S. and the West Nile virus, my trip to New York City was outstanding. Just outstanding.


My friend and Brooklyn resident Patrick took me on a whirlwind tour of The City. The first stop was in the Greenwich Village. Why not start with Joe's Pizza. Apparently the pie shop is one of the best in the Big Apple. For two bucks a slice (or something like that), I was sold. The pizza was perfect.

Later that evening we went to a nice Italian restaurant called Bocca in Manhattan. Small but super nice. My pasta was mixed up inside a giant cheese wheel. Very creative. Very tasty. The Nutella tort for desert was money, too.

Back in the day, hamburgers were a major staple on my dietary plan. However, you just can't find a burger like a Whataburger in Georgia. It's all Chick-Fil-A. If I lived in New York, Pop Burger would be my joint.

Do I need to explain more? You get two pop burgers per box and they are the size of a Whitecastle (sorry if you just threw up in your mouth at the thought of a Whitecastle) but the Pop Burgers taste like they just came off of your grill in the backyard. They were so money and they didn't even know it.

Perhaps the highlight of any trip to New York for true authentic food addict is spending time on the famous Arthur Avenue in Little Italy in The Bronx.

Since I was just a block or two away at Fordham University, making the quick trip to Arthur Ave. was an easy decision. I slide over there with a good friend of mine Steve DeMeo, a former assistant coach at Providence College. Great guy and it helped he knew the area. We found Tino's Deli.

Big time.

Just trust me, go to Arthur Avenue if you go to New York it is worth the trip.


I spent three days in the Bronx. There is probably a joke that should follow that line. I just can't muster one up. (Maybe an ameba got into my bloodstream and found my brain after all.)

I spent three days in the Bronx inside of a gym without air conditioning. That’s the joke. Sitting in a gym for a combined 22 hours over three days without air conditioning is worse than being in a prison camp.


There is an unfair knock against New Yorkers. The pigeon hole that they are cast in is that they aren't very nice, quite rude, wear jump suits and gold chains.

People, that's New Jersey.

I met Jesus. And he saved me. Right there on Arthur Ave. in the Bronx. I was granted my ticket to the heavens. This Jesus was also a crackhead and probably homeless and most definitely out of place in Little Italy. But at least my seat in heaven is saved. Thanks Jesus.

Everyone I met in New York was gracious and quite hospitable. My good friend Patrick showed me the city like a seasoned veteran. The Kansas City native has only lived in the city for a year and a half and dude had the subway system on lockdown. If you can experience New York with a local, that's the only way to go. What an experience it was.

I could go on and on about New York. It was a blast. If you can go, go.

Just don't forget your Purell.

Friday, June 6, 2008

NBA: Celtics win, Pierce wins an Oscar

Okay, let me start by saying I want the Celtics to win.

I'm happy Boston won. Great game.

But seriously Paul Pierce? Did you get hit by a sniper? What's up with the crashing to the floor, being carried out by your teammates and the grimace on your face like you just passed a kidney stone? Really?

I thought he was great with the back-to-back three-pointers. Clutch. Money. Big players make big plays. Cliche, cliche, cliche.

Pierce was big but was this necessary:

Dude, you twisted your knee. You came back 10 minutes later like you were Willis Reed.

Great game, great win, great acting. I love this game.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

L.A. homie

It was 3:30 a.m. and I was standing outside of a 15-passenger van on the streets of Crenshaw in Los Angeles.

That's so gangster, isn't it?

That, in a nutshell, was my weekend in the City of Bloods and Crips, er, Angels. And I was stranded on the streets of the hood. What a weekend.

Rewind with me for a minute…

Last Friday night, I went to a trendy little area in Westwood, just outside of UCLA's campus, and went to Jerry's Deli for a late night breakfast with a dozen or so friends and colleagues that were in town for the Pangos All-American camp that I was covering for and Yahoo! Sports.

I was also working on 23 straight hours of being awake.

Jerry's Deli was a neat little spot and we were taken to the back table in the café, passing what was some sort of celebrity, some girl named Kardashian. I guess that's some sort of big deal or something. She asked if I was single. I proudly told her that I wasn't. Sucks for her.

At any rate, it was off to my hotel, you know the posh Vagabond Inn (pictured below) on the other side of town. After taking our exit to get to the hostel, er, hotel, I heard the engine make a noise that you just don't want to hear.

Clunk. Clunk. Clunk.

We ran out of gas at 3:30 in the morning. In L.A. In Crenshaw.

I was experiencing my own Blackhawk Down experience. It was me, seven others and our van minus the gas on the rough and tough streets of L.A. We were stranded with no help in sight.

Did I mention the community of homeless people that we parked right in front of? Did I mention that they weren't happy about our arrival?

Shortly after we coasted to the side of the road and in front of the homeless community, we saw our savior of night. A police squad car was driving up the street rather quickly and we jumped out and tried to flag him down.

Dude drove past us like Jeff Gordon. He had no interest in our stranded situation. The officer flew by without even blinking an eye. Our cries for help went unanswered.

The call to AAA ended like this: "Sorry, sir, we don't respond to the area you are in at this hour."

The night couldn't have been any worse at this stage of the tragedy. At one point, I decided to venture out on my own into the cool night air with two other gas shortage survivors.

We got two and a half blocks before realizing that we had no idea as to where we were. Things weren't going well.

After more calls for help and more passers by wanting no part of our crazed crew of renegades, help finally arrived and we were able to make it to our posh hotel.

I was up for 27 straight hours. I survived my experience of being out on the streets of L.A. I survived a Kardashian.

Los Angeles was a fun trip, outside of my Friday night of course. The basketball was okay. The company I had with me was great. My good friend, Rob, and I found the world's best taco stand on Figueroa Street, just a stone's throw away from USC's gorgeous Galen Center.

Chanos was the best part of the time in SoCal. The $1.50 chicken taco was a lifesaver. Pure authentic Mexican food on the cheap and it was beyond tasty. Pure spice too. I think I had six of them during my time in L.A.

Every bite was full of flavor and buying it as a walk-up customer on the corner of one of the busiest corners in South Central was a highlight of my spring. Washing the spice down with a milkshake from Fatburger, which was right next door, was so Cali.

I'm about to say something that is probably sacrilegious but here goes: Fatburger is so much better than In and Out burger. So much better. The burgers were better. The fries were better. The milkshakes were better. And yes, I feel really fat because of it.

In a nutshell, that was my L.A. experience. Gang violence, good food, okay basketball, great weather and great friends.

You couldn't have asked for anything better.