September 2006

The Cardinals’ Magic Number Is…

Oquendo

Game Haiku – 09/15/06 – Cards 14, Giants 4

With a career high
7 RBIs, Rolen
powers Cards to win.

The Cardinals’ Magic Number is…

Miles

Game Haiku – 09/13/06 – Astros 5, Cards 1

Momentum couldn’t
carry over from last night. 
Oswalt stopped it cold.

And Some Doubt He’s the MVP?

Irenecara 

Pujols41

I think Irene Cara said it best: "What a feeling!" 

Of course, not quite the elation we experienced when Pujols hit that towering homer off Lidge to extend the playoffs last year, but still, not bad! 

This game was a roller coaster ride.  Every time we would battle back to get the lead, Weaver would let the Astros back into it, and then in the 6th, he let them take a lead that I feared would be for good.  And then I heard the Reds were winning, and I worried we were going to let our division lead slip another game. 

Then the magical ninth begins.  When Lidge took the mound, I didn’t have the feeling of powerlessness I felt before last year’s playoffs.  I just thought, "I hope we can get something going so Albert can hit."  J Rod started things off with a gutsy at-bat and a single.  Skip was brought in to run for him.  Vizcaino did his job, bunting Skip over to 2nd.  The scene was set for Preston Wilson to eke some revenge against the team that made him redundant, but he struck out.  2 outs.  OK, at least we’ve got Speizio now, and he’s been hot.  He gets dinged on the foot by the pitch and takes first base.  Anticipation builds, and everyone is on their feet in Busch as Albert comes to bat, and we know Lidge is rattled.  He could walk Albert, but then he’d load the bases.  In retrospect, of course he should have.  I’m sure he was thinking striking Albert out would end his head games.  Albert waited for his pitch and launched a perfectly placed walk-off double into left field, scoring Schumaker and Speizio.

Admittedly, I’m a haiku poet, not a stat cruncher. I only really pay attention to other teams when they’re playing the Cardinals. I know there are a couple other worthy MVP candidates out there, but, tell me, is there anyone in the NL you’d rather have batting in do-or-die situations like these?  And isn’t that what it means to be MVP?

Game Haiku – 09/12/06 – Cards 6, Astros 5

Sweet sense of deja
vu – Pujols bests Lidge again!
Who’s your MVP?

Game Haiku – 09/11/06 – Cards 7, Astros 0

Belliard unspools
his tongue, unleashes triple!
Ample runs for Carp.

5 Years Later

It was 9am, and I was 30 minutes late for work. I was stressed out about it.  I should have only been about 10 minutes late, but something was making the subway from Queens Plaza slower than usual. I breathlessly entered my cubicle area and began apologizing to the other 3 assistants I sat with.  You see, when one of us was late, it was a burden for the rest, because we all had to answer each others’ phones and our boss’s phones. This was a large management consulting firm, and the phones were priority #1. 

One cubemate told me not to worry.  "Didn’t you hear?" she said, "A plane crashed into the World Trade Center. We dont know if it’s an accident or what."  No, I hadn’t heard.  I was in the subway. And then a few minutes later the second plane hit.  And we knew it wasn’t an accident. 

The next hour or two passed quickly.  We were trying to reach all the consultants we thought might be in the area.  We had a terrible time getting through on our phones.  A friend called me from Queens in tears.  I called my dad to let him know I was ok. I was working in midtown and safe.  I heard about a colleague upstairs who was in tears. Her fiance worked for Cantor Fitzgerald on one of the top floors, and she had not heard from him.  She was in her early 40s, had never been married, and had finally found her soulmate. She was sure he was OK. He had to be.  They were getting married in a few weeks. 

Around 10:30am, our supervisors told us we could go home, if we could get home.  I wondered how I would get back to Woodside, Queens. A friend of mine offered me a ride with her sister who had driven into work.  Several of us walked with her about 10 blocks to where the car was parked.  Her husband was a fire chief.  You can see him in the documentaries, walking near Guiliani. She had heard from him when it first happened, but nothing since.  In the meantime, we knew the towers had collapsed, although we could hardly believe it. Yet, she was more calm than I was. 

We drove toward the Queensboro bridge, and it was eerie how quiet Manhattan was.  There was no traffic.  As we approached the bridge, I saw people walking toward it, covered in soot and debris. I saw a pickup truck loaded with people.  Then from the bridge, I got my first glimpse of the smoke from the towers.  It was all unreal. 

They dropped me off near my apartment.  I went to Genovese, bought junk food and went home and watched TV for about 10 hours straight, punctuated by crying and phone calls from friends when we could get through.  The junk food didn’t help.  I felt isolated and helpless, yet somehow safe in Queens. 

I checked my voicemail that night and found out the next day would be business as usual at work. We were expected to come in. I didn’t look forward to getting on a subway, but at the same time I was longing to be around people.  So I went to work and my boss asked me why I was there.  I told him our administrative supervisor had ordered us to report.  He told me I should go home.  I think I stayed for half a day, but the office was pretty empty, so there wasn’t much community. 

Images from that time are frozen in my mind, and it doesnt seem like 5 years ago.  The gut-wrenching missing person fliers in the subway stations and all over town.  People selling patriotic souvenirs.  A candlelight vigil in Woodside. Bits of paper strewn all over Brooklyn.  My first glimpse of the downtown skyline without those buildings from the BQE. 

I had just been to the WTC subway stop that previous Friday, with a group of friends to see "Rock Star" at the new movie theater down there that was now destroyed. The previous weekend I had celebrated my birthday on a carefree weekend with friends at the beach town of Cape May.  That seemed like an all-together different life.  We still remark on that weekend as the "end of innocence".

I was lucky that nobody who was close to me nor any of my coworkers perished. Several friends escaped.  My friend’s fire chief husband survived, although she did not hear from him for almost 12 hours.  My colleague’s fiancee did not.  She became the face of the tragedy for me. I couldn’t fathom her pain or imagine what it must be like to make all the calls to cancel the wedding that was just weeks away. 

My 9/11 story is nothing exceptional. It is what many of us New Yorkers experienced that day. But it feels important to write it down, although I am sure the images in my head will never fade.

Pujols 5 – El Hombre is Not Quite an MVP in the Kitchen

Pujolsrestaurant315My Dad and I dined at Pujols 5 last night.  Albert’s Westport Plaza eatery just opened a couple of weeks ago, so I’m going to cut it a little slack due to its newness (the way we’ve been cutting Reyes slack all season). Still, I have to admit I was disappointed. 

If Albert and Deidre are culinary rookies, their partner – the Hanon family – sure isn’t.  Hanon turned his previously unspectacular Patrick’s into this new sports haven.  I would say the space definitely succeeds as a first class sports bar.  There are plasma screens tucked into every corner in the front of the restaurant and bar area, and the bar food probably succeeds better than some of the fancier fare. 

As for decor, I felt the restaurant could use more memorabilia. I only saw one case of Albert’s mementos, and some large blow-up photos. The menu claims it will honor sports beyond baseball, but there’s no memorabilia from other sports either – just giant photos.  The layout is confusing, as you have to walk through a hallway of party rooms to get to another large, more formal dining room in the back.  There is also outdoor seating on the patio and the aforementioned bar area.  This diverse layout sort of symbolizes why the restaurant is sub-par right now – it’s trying to do too much, just like Albert often has to do too much to try to get a win. 

Upon sitting down, the service hiccups began.  We did not get water until probably 15 minutes into the meal, after we already had our drinks. And then the waiter simply brought a pitcher of water and plunked it on our table – he didn’t even pour it.  We never got bread, and Patrick’s bread basket had been one of their highlights. The menu was lengthy and confusing. It started logically, with starters, but then there was another section of starters further into the menu.  I was really looking forward to trying some of Deidre’s Dominican cuisine, so I was disappointed that only a couple dishes were on the menu – flautas and arroz con pollo.  The menu runs the gamut from burgers and chicken strips to seared ahi tuna and steaks. Like I said, perhaps too many choices.  I ordered the arroz con pollo and my dad ordered the meatloaf. 

We then noticed drama at a nearby table where a group of harpies from West County were sitting.  Their dinners did not come at the same time, and three of them ended up sending their food back, complaining it was not hot.  The manager attempted to appease them with free wine, but this only added to the volume coming from the table.  I really did not need to know which of them was getting a chemical peel this week and who had recently had a tummy tuck, but unfortunately our entire section was appraised of these newsflashes. 

Our salads were tasty, and we both liked our entrees, although my dad felt his could have been hotter (as in temperature, not spice).  The presentation was attractive.  The arroz con pollo was nicely spiced, if not spectacular.  For dessert, we shared a piece of carrot cake which was the highlight of the meal – moist and a big portion.  Another example of service failure – when our coffee was brought out with cream, we were not given spoons.  Because the restaurant is a winding rabbit den, it became hard to find the waiter once he left the table, and I also think the distance from the kitchen to the dining room probably led to the cold food. 

I was really excited for this restaurant, but I won’t be going back soon.  Hopefully, as it matures, it will become less generic and more "Pujols" in its decor and menu offerings.  I definitely recommend it as a place to watch sports – just focus on the awesome plasma TVs and don’t think too much about the food. 

Now when is Nelly’s restaurant opening?

If I Eject Myself From This Blog, Will That Make Us Win?

Today’s game was just beyond frustrating.  It’s a good thing I was already in a good mood from Notre Dame’s (my alma mater) big win over Penn State yesterday and from going to my first ever Rams game today and seeing them win (albeit ugly). So I won’t let the Cardinals’ shoddy work spoil my weekend, but, man! 7 runs ought to be enough.  Anytime we score enough runs to get free coffee from Mobil On The Run, that should be enough.  But most of the time this year, it ain’t. 

I look at Pujols in the dugout and think, "God, he must be frustrated."  He hits another homer and goes 3 for 5 but it doesn’t matter when the defense gives up 4 unearned runs early in the game and then the bullpen gives up 5 more. 

The prospect of 7 upcoming games against the Astros is really frightening – almost as scary as their old rainbow uniforms

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