July 30, 2007

Golf Club + Molotov Cocktail + Two Cases of Bud Light =

"He's about 455 yards away, he's gonna hit about a 2 iron I think."


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Summer Session Grades


I haven't re-calculated my GPA yet, but that B+ pretty much ruins my chances of finishing with a 3.5 GPA.


July 22, 2007

Hospitals are depressing.

The most depressing place on Earth has got to be a hospital. Sickness and death everywhere. I don't know how my dad can stand working at a place like that. I probably couldn't last more than five minutes working at a hospital.

For much of the last week my eighty-five-year-old grandfather has been incarcerated at Virtua hospital in Voorhees. It's a long, complicated story and I'll spare you the details; but he's got a problem going "number two."

He's still his feisty, crotchety, old self, but it's a little sad seeing the ol' man in that condition. I know this isn't "The End," but still...

If there's one thing I'm absolutely sure of it's this: when I get this old (if I get that old), this is NOT how I want to live.


July 20, 2007

WALK IT OUT! Bob Fosse vs The Teletubbies.

Ummm... I'm speechless.

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I don't know how to put this but I'm kind of a big deal.

For the six people that have already e-mailed me asking that if the "Chris Harris, 33, of Barrington N.J." that was quoted on page A16 of today's (Friday, July 20) Philadelphia Inquirer, is me; yes it is. How many other people named Chris Harris do you know anyway?

I went to the Sons of Ben MLS All-Star Game viewing party last night, and some guy from the Inquirer asked me a few questions about a possible expansion team, and a soccer-specific stadium on the waterfront in Chester.

It was a front-page story, but my quote is after the jump.

"I've been waiting for almost 10 years for a professional soccer team to come here," said Chris Harris, 33, of Barrington N.J. "It would be nice if it (a soccer-specific stadium) would be in the city. But if that (Chester) is the only place they can build a first-class stadium, then it would be OK."

Please be aware that this quote was said under the influence if two pints of Newcastle Brown Ale.

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July 18, 2007

Some Things Just Never Get Old

Haven't seen this in a while, until I saw it on KSK. And I bet most of you haven't seen it in a while either.

Still funny after all these years.

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July 17, 2007

I Love a Parade!

So no luck on Friday night. And on Saturday afternoon, the Phightin's crushed St. Louis again. With a week-long road trip to California on the horizon, it was do or die time. In order for the Phillies to lose their 10,000th game at home, it would have to be on Sunday night. A nationally televised match up. The whole nation would be transfixed on South Philly. Would the Phillies disappoint us by winning again.

Maybe this would be different. With tonight's starting pitcher being Adam Eaton, the worst starting pitcher in the National League according to the Sabermetric geeks at Baseball Prospectus, surely tonight would be the night!

Unfortunately, I didn't have a ticket, and the game was a sell-out. But did that stop me? Me? The guy who once snuck into the All-Star game? Well, yeah it did.

I originally had no intention of going, but then Eaton lived up to his reputation by giving up six runs. By the end of fifth, it was 6-0 St. Louis. History was about to be made! How could we pass up this once-in-a-lifetime experience? I rounded up my brother and we were on our way.

I had read about a parade that was to commence immediately after loss number 10,000. A parade that would travel from the ballpark, across Broad Street, and ending at Chickie's and Pete's. Only in Philly folks, only in Philly.

So your intrepid correspondent, with his younger brother in tow, arrived at the Bank at around the seventh inning, sans tickets. No tickets, no problem. My brother said that McFadden's -- the bar attached to the ballpark -- didn't require a ticket; or a cover charge, for that matter. So we entered, put away a few Bud Lights, and watched the final three innings on their HDTVs.

I'm going to preface these next couple of paragraphs with this statement: I'm a guy. I am what I am and I make no apologies for that. But sometimes, I just can't help myself. It's hard to fight the tens of thousands of years of evolutionary biology that have wired the male mind to think of one thing, and one thing only.

With that said, it was hard NOT to notice the massive mammary glands on the barmaid serving me my aluminum bottles of Bud Light. I can't remember what exactly her face looked like, but I do remember that she was wearing a gold necklace. I'd like to tell you what the pendant attached to the necklace looked like; unfortunately, it was buried between two very large folds of cleavage. It was also hard not to notice the steel "tip" bucket on the edge of her beer station. And also hard not to notice all the dollar bills that overflowed from the bucket. (I think I even saw a few $10s and $20s!)

Now, I'm going to say something else that, before I say it, needs another preface: I am 100% comfortable with who I am as a heterosexual male. So with that said, there are some situations where, from a financial and economic perspective, it is more advantageous to be a woman than a man. And in times like this, I have to admit, I am a bit envious.

Now before you get all crazy, let me say that I'm not going Mr. Garrison from South Park on anyone -- nor will I ever. (And not that there's anything wrong with any of that, either.) But it must be great to have a "job" where all you do is serve over-priced beer to horny dudes, who then stuff your tip jar with dollar bills on the sole basis on your cup size. What a racket. But at least it doesn't involve straddling a fireman's pole, so I guess you get to keep some of your dignity, right?

Moving on.

After the loss, me and my brother high-tailed it to the designated spot for the "parade." With the unusual Sunday night starting time -- I guess some people actually have lives and are unable to partake in a life of leisure -- and the expectations from the first two games of the series, the turnout for the parade was less than the organisers had anticipated. By my count, only about 50 made the trek from The Bank to Chickie's and Pete's.

As it turns out, the whole parade was for a documentary film. I had the opportunity to shoot the breeze with one of the producers and he seemed like a pretty good guy. Yeah, with all the pain and suffering Philly sport fans have experienced over the last 25 years, where is our HBO special? Where is our ESPN mini-series? (OBTW, don't get me started on The Bronx is Burning.) Oh sure, there was Invincible, but we're all too young to remember Vince Papale. I'm barely old enough to remember the Phillies winning the World Series!

Here's an idea for a film: BUDDY. It's the story of a flamboyant coach who built a Super Bowl caliber defense, neglected his once-in-a-generation mega-quarterback, feuded with an absentee owner, and wound up with zero playoff victories.

Anyway, it's high-time someone told the rest of the country the real story of the Philadelphia sports fan. Preferably one that doesn't stoop to the level of Santa Claus and snowballs.

The parade to Chickie's and Pete's was led by a guy in a white suit who billed himself as "MR. 10K," and a William Penn impersonator. Almost everyone, myself included, had mistaken Billy Penn for Ben Franklin. William Penn, Ben Franklin; Ben Franklin, William Penn; what difference does it make? Apparently, the crux of this movie-film I will be appearing in, is "The Curse of William Penn" -- a nod to the fact that no Philadelphia sports team has won a championship since One Liberty Place surpassed City Hall as the tallest building in town. As far as I'm concerned, it's a bunch of crap. But hey, if it sells movie tickets...

As the Phalanx of Philly Phans made their way through the parking lot and up Broad street, for some no good reason, I started a "DALLAS SUCKS!" chant that went on for about a good twenty seconds. Angelo Cataldi once said that you can stand on any street corner in Philadelphia, at any time of the year, and scream "DALLAS," and someone will reply with a "SUCKS!" Guess he was right.

There were also the obligatory "Fly, Eagles, Fly" chants. I'm somewhere behind the "celebrate10000.com" banner. Trust me.

When we arrived at Chickie's and Pete's, we were immediately were ushered into one of the private "VIP" rooms. There, the magic words were said: OPEN BAR. I was happy to introduce my brother to the nuances of Jack Daniels mixed with Coca-Cola. Although, I must say, it was a bit heavy on the ice, and light on the Jack. Buy hey, it was free!

After an hour of hanging out with these dudes, we split and went to Geno's to cap the night off with a provolone witout. Let me say, the perfect hangover food is a Geno's cheesesteak.

I want to give a few shout outs to everyone at Phrustrated Phan Films and Celebrate 10,000 for organizing this crazy thing, and Chickie's and Pete's for the free booze. Suckers!

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July 14, 2007

L 10K, not tonight.

In all of my years as a Philadelphia sports fan, I have seen many great things.

Back in '87 (when the NHL was still relevant) I witnessed Ron Hextall becoming the first goalie to actually score a goal.

I was there when Ronde Barber intercepted that pass and ran it back 95-yards.

(Yeah, fuck you too Gruden!)

I was there the following year when Brian Dawkins turned Algee Crumpler's neck into an accordion, and Donovan and Fat Andy (finally!) got to hold the NFC Championship trophy.

Greatest day of my life, by the way.

And yes, I was there in Jacksonville, high in the end zone at the Gator Bowl, when Donovan ran out of gas, and the Birds lost the Super Bowl by a field goal. (That's why I had to settle for a state school, rather than the Ivy League by the way.)

Last night should have been one of those nights. But alas, with the Phillies coming into the game with 9,999 all time losses, they sacked-up and beat the shit out of St. Louis.

I came out of the Pattison Avenue subway stop at around 4:30 and then spent the next hour finding the designated tailgating spot. This was the first time I'd met up with my now-former colleagues since I was fired over the phone, so it was good to see them again.

The next hour-and-a-half was spent drinking Miller Lites, and playing a ghettoized version of horseshoes called "washers."

At around 6:30 I announce to the group that I'm entering the ballpark. I am accompiend by no one. When I buy a ticket to a ballgame, I actually like to, you know, go to the game.

It was a "not-your-typical-atmosphere" at "not-your-typical-ballpark." For a celebration was about to commence. An accumulation of Philly Phutility. One sign that hung from the right-center field facade said it all:

7 Stadiums
52 Managers
2150 Players
LOSES (sic)

Gotta love that Philadelphia education system!

But it was not to be. On this most historic of evenings, leave it to that asshole Tony LaRussa to start a pitcher with a 3-11 record and an ERA of 6.00. By the time I get to my seat, the Phightin's were up 5-0.

For what it's worth, Paul -- one of the member's of our crew -- didn't show up until the fifth inning, and the rest of the gang straggled in at around the seventh. For these guys, there are more important things to do than be witnesses to history. Namely, getting drunk on Miller Lite and throwing large metal objects into a paint can. Oh what fun!

Sometime around the eighth inning, with the Phillies up by 10 runs, a Phils fan in the section to our left starts jabber-jawing with a couple of guys in Cardinal shirts. So naturally, Bob and Yock -- yes, the same Yock from my New Year's Day satellite misadventure -- just had to get involved.

I like Bob. But there's a reason why he takes four Xanaxes a day. He's the kind of guy (and we all know someone like this) who's ready to throw-down at the drop of a hat, especially with a little too much of the ol' liquid courage. For instance, we went to an Eagles game together last season, and at halftime we went for a walk on the concourse. All of a sudden, an cup fell from the top of the grandstand and landed on top of my head. It was empty, and it probably blew off the top row. No harm, no foul, right? Nope. Not with Bob around. He immediately wanted to go up and fight whoever it was who dared throw a cup onto the head of his friend. It never even occurred to him that it might have been an accident. And he was ready to go. But, with a little but of reason and a lot of common sense, I talked him out of it. Don't get me wrong, if I'm ever in a back-alley, I'd want Bob covering my back. But sometimes, he can be his own worst enemy.

Anyway, asshole Phillie fan was getting into it with asshole Cardinal fan, and Bob just had to put his two cents in. And again, I -- well, we -- had to step in to save him from himself, again.


Afterwards, the rent-a-cops escorted the pinhead Cardinal supporters from the area, and all was calm.

By the end of the eighth inning, and with chance of witnessing history reduced to nil, I decided to split. Loss number 10,000 will have to wait for another day.

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July 11, 2007

One of Philadelphia's Hidden Gems

One of the joys of taking an on-line course, is not actually having to go to school. On most days anyway. Yesterday was one of those days where I actually had to show up for class.

For those of us who have grown up and lived much of our lives in the Philadelphia area, I think we fail to realize just how much stuff there is to see and do here. Yet for some reason, we never get around to actually seeing and doing it. Think about it: When was the last time you visited the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, The Mint, et al.? Lemme guess, it was probably a grade-school field trip, right?

Well, it was at around 2 PM yesterday, and I just got out of class. I was hungry as shit and was jonesing for some Taco Bell. So to satisfy my craving for a chalupa, I did one of those aforementioned "Philly things" that I always wanted to do, but hardly anybody from around here ever does. I walked across the Ben Franklin Bridge.

Yes, I walked from Camden to The Gallery for Taco Bell. No, I don't know what the hell I was thinking either -- I guess I was crazy from the heat! But let me tell you, if you ever get the chance to walk across the Ben Franklin Bridge, you're in for a real treat. In only takes about forty-five minutes each way, and it's pretty good exercise to boot. Just be sure to bring a camera, and not walk across when it's 95° out.

The two trademark "XXX" towers look even bigger and more impressive standing next to them, then they are driving underneath them. The sensation of standing on the sidewalk with a PATCO train in running directly underneath you is, at first, scary, but an exhilarating feeling as you feel the bridge sway ever so gently. And then there's the view! Standing at mid-span and looking south towards the Walt Whitman Bridge is an amazing sight to behold. Center City and Penn's Landing are to your right; and the Aquarium, Battleship New Jersey, and the fabulous slums of Camden are all to your left. And I'm sure that if weren't so damn smoggy, you'd probably be able to see for miles.

So if you're ever in Philadelphia -- or Camden for that matter -- and have a few hours to kill (or are unemployed and therefore have plenty of time to kill), I highly recommend taking a stroll on the ol' Ben Franklin Bridge. You'll thank me later.

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July 7, 2007

Saudi Summer, Part II

The Geo Storm pulled out of the parking lot, and my girlfriend from Minnesota was on her way back to her base in Idaho.

On the other hand, I had a few days of leave remaining to kick back, relax, and just chill. The following weekend my parents were driving out from New Jersey, on their way to a family vacation in Grand Canyon. It had been over a year since I had last seen my parents, and my then ten and seven-year-old little brothers probably forgot that they even had an older brother in the Air Force. I guess every American middle-class family does the ol’ "Drive-Across-County with the Kids" vacation, and in ’97 it was my parents turn.

The following evening (a Friday), I called-up Rich-Dogg to see what he was up to. Rich-Dogg was "The Man." He worked in the adjacent shop and since I was incompetent at my designated Air Force job – and as such, essentially worthless to my assigned unit – I began to spend more time working with Rich-Dogg’s crew, doing odd jobs around the flight line and whatnot. (Basically I was killing time, until my enlistment ran out.)

Rich-Dogg was an Air Force "lifer," in his late-30s with a wife and two kids. I never actually got to meet his family, and he preferred not to talk about them. The life of an enlisted man isn’t exactly compatible with a normal family. He already had ten years of service in, and with another ten years, he'd be eligible for his pension. Like me, he was merely killing time.
We lived for the weekend. On weekends we’d hang out and drink. We’d go to bars off-base and drink. We’d go to the NCO club and drink. We’d watch pro wrestling on Monday nights and drink. We’d drive to Kansas City to see a Royals game and drink. I’m sure you’re getting the idea. (Among Air Force enlisted men, overindulgence in alcohol is considered acceptable behavior. I would even call it a hobby of sorts.) My dorm room became our mutual sanctuary. Many times, Rich-Dogg would crash at my place, rather then go to his government issued on-base home and face the woman he called "the battle axe."

Rich-Dogg hailed from North Carolina -- just outside Elizabeth City, if I recall correctly -- and when I lived there (about five years ago) I always meant to look him up. I never got around to it though. Last I heard he was in Honduras. That seems to be the story of my life when it comes to friendships and why I have such a difficult time retaining them long-term.

Late May 1997

Before I continue, let me hit the rewind button to tell you this story. The weekend before my girlfriend from Minnesota’s visit was the opening weekend of the College World Series. The "CWS" is kind of a big deal in Omaha, so me, Rich-Dogg, and a few other mutual friends/drinking buddies decided to check it out.

The College World Series is Decadent and Depraved

You know what I said about not taking your girlfriend to a sporting event? Well, there is an exception to every rule, and the CWS is one of them. The CWS is one of those events that transcend mere sport. Kind of like the Super Bowl, just not on the scale of "The Super Bowl." When my me and my dad went to Super Bowl, there were noticeably more females in Jacksonville then you’d see at your typical Eagles home game. And they weren’t all that hard to find either in those annoying pink Eagles jerseys. (Memo to all female Eagles fans: If you want guys to take you somewhat seriously as a football fan; then never, ever be caught dead in a pink Eagles jersey.) It’s pretty much the same thing in Omaha for the CWS. Oh sure, there are baseball games. But the real action takes place in the parking lot.

The College World Series is nothing but a ten-day long kegger, and, oh yeah, there just happens to be a few baseball games. It all begins when the first convoys of RVs arrive on the Wednesday and Thursday before the tournament begins. Since most of the dominant college baseball teams hail from the Deep South and California, it takes a few days for them to make the drive out to Nebraska. But when the RVs arrive at the Rosenblatt Stadium parking lot, the area becomes transformed.

The surrounding neighborhood only adds to the atmosphere. Rosenblatt Stadium is located in a working class area of southern Omaha the locals call "The South-O." (For the record, the band 311 is from this part of town.) Plenty of Czechs, Poles, Irish, Germans, Italians, and (in recent years) Mexicans abound. Think of it as the Omaha version of Northeast Philly. During the CWS, South-O reminds me a lot of Fenway Park before a Red Sox game. But South-O is just not a dense as The Fens, and there’s a heck of a lot more parking. About the only negative is that the Omaha Zoo is located right next door. Normally, this is not a problem, since the prevailing winds are out of the west. But when (not if) the wind changes direction, it smells like, well, the ballpark smells like a zoo!

One of the schools that made it to the College World Series in 1997 was LSU and a guy in Rich-Dogg’s unit – Cajun Joe – grew up just outside of Baton Rouge. Everyone in his family all went to LSU, and after his hitch in the Air Force was up, he’d be joining them. They were all big time LSU fans (then again, what LSU grad isn’t), and with the Tigers being the defending CWS champions, Joe’s family packed up the RV and drove up to Omaha.

I had a bit of a rooting interest with the Tigers as well. There was this guy who went to Audubon High School that I played against named Brett Laxton. He was, arguably, South Jersey’s best high school baseball prospect, and was selected in the 4th round of the ’92 baseball draft by San Diego. The Padres offered him a six-digit check to turn pro, but he turned them down to go to LSU on a baseball scholarship.

In the 1993 College World Series championship game, Laxton (a true freshman) pitched a complete game, three-hit shutout, striking out 16 Wichita State Shockers in the process. (Got to love a school that has the nickname "The Shockers.") Yes my friends, Brett Laxton could BRING IT! Then midway through his sophomore season, he blew out his arm and was never quite the same again. He eventually made it to the Majors with Oakland and Kansas City, but was out of the big leagues by 2001. I distinctly remember him pitching for the Camden Riversharks for a while, and when I Googled his name, I found out that he’s still pitching professionally in Taiwan.

The Six-Man Beer Bong and my Induction into "The Century Club."

The Series began on a Saturday afternoon, and LSU’s first game wasn’t until that evening, so when we arrived, Cajun Joe, Rich-Dogg, and myself made a bee-line for Cajun Joe’s RV.
Let me tell you something, college baseball fans have made tailgating into a science. It was hard NOT to find acts of public drunkenness and full-frontal (female) nudity. It was almost like I was transported back to Bourbon Street during Mardi Gras! Technically, all this debauchery was against Omaha city ordinances, but the cops – what few of them I saw on patrol – could care less.

On the way to Joe’s RV we ran into a group of Mississippi State fans that had the most amazing, and ingenuous, piece of tailgating equipment I’ve ever seen. A six-man beer bong! Picture this: Take a run-of-the-mill Rubbermaid wash pail, similar to what you’d find in the household cleaner aisle of the supermarket. Now take said pail, drill six holes in the sides and super glue six flexible tubes into the holes. Now, tie a rope to the pail’s handle and attach it to a pulley that’s on top of a small "flagpole." Presto! You have yourself a six-man beer bong. A triumph of Redneck engineering if there ever was one.

After viewing six MSU Bulldog fans take a mutual hit off the big beer bong, we finally made it to Cajun Joe’s RV. Before he could introduce me to his friends and family, a big mountain of a man throws us all cans of Natural Light. The next thing I know, this mountain of a man comes up to me and Rich-Dogg and says in a stereotypical Cajun drawl, "Hey you! Yeah, you two! You in `The Club’?" To which I replied, "Umm, no sir." "Well, guess what? Today’s your lucky day!"
Before I knew it, Rich-Dogg and I were seated across a folding card table. Cajun Joe and "Mountain Man" (who I am later told is Joe’s father), open up four sleeves of Dixie Cups and spread out a couple hundred of them on the table. We were both about to be inducted into The Century Club.

One of the few things I actually learned at Rowan was this drinking game called "Power Hour." The object of the game is to drink a shot glass full of beer every minute for one hour. The Century Club is the same concept, except instead of 60 shots in 60 minutes, you drink 100 shots in 100 minutes – hence the name. Whereas Power Hour is all about getting fucked up, Century Club is a matter of survival and sheer will. If you can accomplish 100 in 100 without throwing up or passing out, congratulations, you’re in The Century Club.

Cajun Joe and his dad then brought out four 24-packs of Natty Light from out of their RV, and began to pour their contents into the Dixie cups. With Cajun Joe manning the stopwatch, we begin.

I have absolutely no recollection of anything that happened after the 70th minute. The next day I’m told that, yes indeed, I made it into The Century Club.

Arena Baseball

The next day, May 31st, was two days before my 23rd birthday. Rich-Dogg’s "present" were a pair of $5 general admission bleacher seats, to see Pat Burrell and the Miami Hurricanes take on UCLA.

As soon as you enter the grounds of Rosenblatt Stadium, you'll immediately know why there so much partying in the parking lots. No beer allowed. Would you believe that those fascists at the NCAA don’t allow alcohol to be sold any ANY NCAA-sanctioned events? Whoever heard of a ball game without beer!

But the lack of adult beverages is not the only difference between college baseball and "real" baseball. PING! The use of aluminum bats make a mockery of the game of baseball, and with the winds blowing out (as it usually does), there’s home runs a plenty. PING! College baseball is to "real" baseball as Arena Football it to NFL. In fact, with all the home runs and artificially inflated ERAs, until they switch back to wood bats, they ought to call it "Arena Baseball."
For the record: LSU would eventually defend their national title. In fact the day of the Championship Game was the evening of the Minnesota banana pudding adventure I described in part one.

The Biggest Surprise of my Life

Mid-June 1997

Now, fast forward back to my girlfriend’s Geo Storm pulling out of the parking lot. I had a whole weekend to do nothing. And since nothing is what I do best, nothing is what I did. Sloth may be one of the seven deadly sins, but dammit, if it ain’t the best!

On Monday morning, leave was over and I reported back to duty. Back to the ol’ 6:00-to-2:00 grind (that’s 6:00 AM to 2:00 PM, for you civilians). At about five-after-six on Monday, my supervisor Airman Troy gave me the bad news.

Airman Troy: "Airman Harris."

Me: "Yessir?"

AT: "Congratulations, you’ve been volunteered."

CH: "Volunteered for what?"

AT: "Well, we got orders to send someone to Saudi Arabia for a 120-day TDY. Guess what?"

CH: "What?"

AT: "We volunteered you! You’re shipping out on Friday."

And with that, my Summer, and my life, took a most unexpected turn.

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