Return to the Road 2015: Trip IV, Chapter I
Things are getting busy here at MiLB.com HQ, as the season is now only five weeks away. Therefore, while I still have the sliver of opportunity, I am return to my ongoing “Return to the Road” series of blog posts.
Today marks the first installment in a series of posts that will cover my late July/early August trip through the South. The journey began in New Orleans on July 27th and ended in Nashville on August 6th.
I arrived in New Orleans on July 27th, a day before I was to see the New Orleans Zephyrs. So, I had a little free time. A mini-vacation, if you will. I got a cheap hotel room at the Hotel Royal in the French Quarter (it was a last-minute booking for a Monday night in late July, a great time to get affordable lodging in New Orleans).
The room itself was unremarkable, but the courtyard was great.
I didn’t see any ghosts while I was in New Orleans, but I could occasionally feel them whispering veiled allusions into my subconscious. The whole city is haunted, apparently, to the point where real estate signage actually makes it a selling point.
I am saddened and embarrassed to report that I didn’t make the most of my “off” night in New Orleans. I was kinda stressed about the trip, and had many logistics to coordinate and writing to get caught up on. When not in the hotel room I just kinda wandered around, including a depressing 90 -minute jaunt amid the claustrophobic clamor of the Bourbon Street tourist traps. I sulked about, hand grenade in hand (drink, not weapon), and soon called it a night.
The next afternoon was better, as I spent a couple of hours with my friends Rachel and D.J. (who live in the city and — hey! — just had a baby. Congrats). They live in Uptown, on a street boasting “only in New Orleans” parking signage.
Rachel and D.J. took me to Hansen’s Sno-Bliz, a New Orleans institution.
Hansen’s Sno-Bliz sells sno-balls, a New Orleans specialty. They are basically high-quality snow cones, in which flavored syrups are poured atop soft mounds of shaved ice. I was overwhelmed by the number of flavors available.
The evening of July 28th was spent with the New Orleans Zephyrs, who are actually located in nearby Metairie. A dedicated “Return to the Road” reader has since informed me that Gram Parsons is buried in Metairie. (The legendary country-rocker died in Joshua Tree, and getting his body back home was, to put it mildly, a complicated situation.)
My final act in New Orleans was to have lunch at the Camelia Grill with Rachel and D.J. Behind the stately exterior lies a beloved greasy spoon diner known for its bow-tied wait staff and cramped, communal counter seating.
Thus concludes one of the most ramshackle and arbitrary New Orleans write-ups that has ever graced the internet, as I was soon on to Biloxi. Please, stay tuned. There will be more where this came from, all the way until there isn’t.
It is been rather difficult for me to update the blog over the past several days, as the task of attending and then writing about the promotional seminar has proven to be all-encompassing. Nonetheless, there are a few pertinent matters that I feel my readership needs to be aware of.
Matter the first is this:
My comprehensive “Year in Promotions” article is now up on MiLB.com.
Read it, explore the copious linkage provided, and, most importantly, VOTE for your favorite promotion of the season. The more votes this article gets, the more my existence is justified. At the very least, then, think of this as a charitable act — pitch in to improve the mental health of a perpetually anxious and dissatisfied baseball writer!
I have been covering the Minor League Baseball Promotional Seminar as if I were some sort of journalist.
Read about it HERE. I have been enjoying myself in New Orleans, overall, and it’s been a great opportunity to meet/reconnect with those in “the industry.” My one complaint has been the lack of quality food. New Orleans is a culinary mecca, offering dishes of virtually unfathomable deliciousness as if it were no big thing. But I’ve had to subsist on generic catered hotel offerings, and even our field trips to outside locations have resulted in little more than chicken fingers and pasta. I need something authentic, or else I might turn to dust.
Finally, an article I wrote about Cole Hamels can be found HERE. These sort of stories, they help to pass the time.
And Since I’ve Got Your Attention (maybe)…
I am always curious if any readers of this blog can relate to my musical sensibilities (which are admittedly all over the place). What I am currently looking forward to are the new albums from Om and Anti-Pop Consortium. If this, or anything I write, means anything to you then please get in touch.
Yesterday, I participated in Minor League Baseball’s “Habitat for Humanity” volunteer project. A proper article on the event can be found HERE, but I figured I may as well provide a more me-focused perspective. And that perspective is this: I have no construction skills whatsoever. It’s just embarrassing. I may be adept at taking public transportation, playing pinball, and sporadically updating this blog, but when it comes to the ability to do skilled physical labor, I offer absolutely nothing.
The day started a little after 7 am, and I was the last one on the bus due to a miscommunication involving what time we were supposed to be on said bus. As I hopped on board, what I should have said to those assembled before me was “Chain, meet your weakest link.”
I spent the bulk of the day working on the future home of Ms. Clorestine Haney, a single mother of two eager to have her own house in New Orleans after spending the last four years in Baton Rouge as a result of Hurricane Katrina. Clorestine was exceedingly likable, and I was happy to pitch in on her behalf. But, really, what I accomplished over the course of seven hours could have been done by a skilled laborer in about 30 minutes. This is not an exaggeration.
I was placed on the “blocking” team. For those who have never “blocked” before (I’m looking at you, Detroit Lions’ offensive line), the task entails nailing pieces of wood in between wall studs. These pieces of wood then provide support for cabinets and other such domestic attachments.
The thing is, the wood often needs to be nailed into very tight spaces, and there is therefore no opportunity to hammer it in in a straightforward way. Instead, one must “toenail” — that is to say, hammer in the nail on an angle, often underneath and diagonal to its ultimate destination.
And I just couldn’t seem to do it right. As those around me slowly got the hang of it, I would find myself spending upwards of a half hour nailing in a single block of wood. There were many, many missteps. I spent a lot of my time trying to extract nails that missed the block completely, and were simply lodged in the walls. Often, I would get the block in place only to find that it was not quite in its intended location, and I would then have to start over yet again. In all, I found a dizzying array of ways to make a mistake.
Naturally, this made me very self-conscious. I couldn’t help but think that everyone who saw me was secretly laughing at the glacial pace upon which I was proceeding. I fostered this conception by constantly making self-deprecating remarks about my lack of skill (later, I even wrote a blog about it).
But, by and large, everyone else was wrapped up in their own tasks. Therefore, my lack of production went largely unnoticed. Nonetheless, I couldn’t help but fear like an imposter at the end of the day, posing for a group picture as if I had, you know, actually done something.
None of this is to say that I don’t want to volunteer for Habitat for Humanity again, or ever engage in physical labor. I rather enjoy the latter, actually, and have had successful stints in the past as a kitchen “utility” worker (Foulkeways Retirement Home, 1995-1999) and package handler (UPS, 2002-03). And I truly would welcome the opportunity to participate in a Habitat project again — after all, there would be no where to go but up.
But the biggest realization that I came to yesterday is that no matter what it is specifically, I need to volunteer more often. It’s something I have done sporadically through the years, but there’s no excuse for the fact that I do not to it more often. I have the time to play in a pinball league and meet friends for drinks and blog about the Minor Leagues and all sorts of other frivolous matters — it goes without saying that I should therefore also have the time to give back in some way.
Just don’t ask me to do blocking. Seriously.
Talking ‘Bout Last Night — After my long day of failure, I decided that the proper course of action would be to go out on the town. An impromptu Google search for “New Orleans concert listings” turned up the fact that the Baseball Project was playing at a rock club in the French Quarter! I have blogged about the Baseball Project in the past, and was disappointed when I missed them in NYC last week. When I saw that they were playing, I knew I had to go. It was my destiny.
The show was at One-Eyed Jack’s, one of the best rock clubs I have ever been to. It was perfect in size (400 capacity, not too big, not too small) as well as design. Here’s a picture I lifted from the website:
Also, there was a very well-maintained “Elvis” pinball machine located in the venue’s front room.
As for the show itself, it was billed as “An Evening With the Minus 5, the Baseball Project, and the Steve Wynn IV performed by Scott McCaughey, Peter Buck, Steve Wynn, and Linda Pitmon.” So while it wasn’t all Baseball Project material, they ended up playing nearly every song on the album (as well as loads of other stuff). The crowd couldn’t have numbered much more than 75, but they were extremely enthusiastic and a jovial mood prevailed throughout. Those who like raucous rootsy garage rock (and baseball!) couldn’t have asked for more.
For me, the highlight of the show was the encore. They led it off with “Harvey Haddix”, which tells the story of the perfect game that wasn’t (Haddix pitched 12 perfect innings before losing in the 13th). The song’s chorus is a recitation of every player in Major League history who has thrown a perfect game, ending with “Why don’t you add ol’ Harvey to that list?” (live, they revised the chorus to include Mark Buehrle, who threw his perfect game after the song had been written).
“Harvey Haddix” was followed by something wholly unexpected and thoroughly enjoyed — a cover of Neil Young’s “Revolution Blues”. This song, a propulsive (and exceedingly paranoid) meditation on rock and roll life in the post-hippie 70s, is the highlight of 1974’s “On the Beach.” And if you like Neil Young even a little bit and don’t have “On the Beach” — well, then, that is a situation that needs to rectified immediately.
Soon, I will leave the plush confines of MiLB.com HQ in order to take a subway to Penn Station. From there, I will board a NJ Transit train to Newark International Airport. After riding on an inexplicably over-priced “AirTrain” in order to get to the proper terminal, I will catch a flight to New Orleans International Airport. Finally, I will recieve an automobile ride to the Hilton Riverside Hotel.
That final location is the site of this year’s Minor League Baseball Promotional Seminar. I will be covering this event, from tomorrow’s Habitat for Humanity volunteer project all the way through Saturday’s closing remarks. Check MiLB.com for these dispatches from the Big Easy, and, of course, keeping visiting the blog. I’ll do my best to post throughout the week.
One thing’s for sure — the lowlight of this year’s seminar will take place between 10:30 and 11 on the morning of October 3. For it is then that I am scheduled to do a presentation on “The Year That Was in Minor League Promotions.” For those that won’t be there, allow me to summarize: “A bunch of stuff was given away, there were some theme nights, a few celebrities made special appearances, and, of course, a canine mascot pooped on the field on two separate occasions“.
Let me know if I’m missing anything.