Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Rekindling an old flame

Sunday morning I flipped on the radio and caught the opening strums of "A Dying Cubs Fan's Last Request." One of the truly great baseball songs. I can exile myself from the sport, but it will always be a part of me, and I think it's time for me to allow myself to love it again.

I took last year off to protest the A's plans to move to Fremont -- to a location that BART does not reach. Also because they traded Marco Scutaro. Billy Beane keeps trading my favorites, and I was just tired of it.

My love of baseball is both recent and inevitable. Being from Cleveland, I grew up a football fan. But in 1995 the Browns were stolen and taken to Baltimore, so I boycotted football. I was in a job where I was working late, waiting for the traffic to clear and crunching numbers, so I turned on the radio, and out came baseball. Ernie Harwell calling the Yankees-Mariners wild card series. What an introduction to the game! I didn't know from Ernie Harwell or any players, but that was a series for the ages, and I was riveted. What a privilege to have had that as my introduction to the game.

The next year, I went to the Indians games when they visited Oakland, and I discovered the joy of live baseball. I went to more A's games, eventually switching my primary allegiance to the boys I could see every day. I got to see the A's in the McGwire-Giambi era, the Hudson-Mulder-Zito era. I took pride in my own #15 hockey jersey number because it was the same number that Hudson wore. (I think I had an option for #75, but I thought it was too fawning and flashy.) Zito's hammer curve was the sexiest thing in baseball. I have my scorecard from his first major league game, when he struck out the heart of the Angels order after loading the bases. Someday, I will get him to sign it for me.

I've been on the Jumbotron doing the macarena. I almost caught a Giambi pop foul that was coming right at me, but I freaked out and ducked. I've been to the All-Star Game (in Cleveland), where I ran into a very youthful Alex Rodriguez in the airport and took my picture with him. I saw McGwire hit the Budweiser sign at Jacob's Field with a home run, about which catcher Sandy Alomar said that if the sign hadn't been there the ball would have gone around the world and hit Sandy in the back of the head.

I have yet to score a perfect game or even a no-hitter, but I've scored a lot of games that have come close. I sat mezzanine-level behind home plate at the A's-Braves interleague game when Hudson got to compete against his idol, Greg Maddux. The ground-ball-fest was all it promised to be. Ground ball outs: my favorite part of the game.

I love baseball because you can look around the ballpark and see that women of all ages are fans. My great-grandmother was a Cubs fan, and she used to go to Ladies' Day. My grandmother was a Cubs fan; later, having moved north with my grandfather, she became a Milwaukee Braves fan. My grandfather went to New York to watch the Braves (featuring a young Hank Aaron) open against the Yankees in the 1957 World Series (which the Braves won). When the Braves left for Atlanta, they became Milwaukee Brewers fans. My grandfather wanted to be buried in the cemetary across from Milwaukee County Stadium so he could keep an eye on his boys. When the White Sox won the World Series in 2005, my grandmother was happy because at least some Chicago team had won.

Last summer, I went to my first Cubs game. With my friend, D., we looked to buy tickets from a scalper and were approached by a guy selling bleacher seats at face value. A virtual miracle, apparently. So I sat in the right field bleachers on a warm summer night, drank beer and had a hot dog, and hung out with Cubs fans. While I'm entirely certain that my great-grandmother never sat in the bleachers (my imagination won't deny her the beer and the dog, though), it was like returning to the mother ship.

Monday, April 13, 2009

The butter holiday

Most people think of Passover as the time of year when we eat matzah. And I love matzah: matzah brei, matzah ball soup, charoset on matzah. But, really, it's the butter holiday.

Growing up, it was the one time of year I was allowed to have butter, and my mother served Land O' Lakes sweet unsalted whipped butter in a tub. The rest of the year, we had margarine. But the corn oil in margarine isn't kosher for an Ashkenazic Jew. So we had that special treat of sweet butter.

On matzah. I became expert at perfectly evenly glazing a matzah with this butter. Amazingly thinly, too, because if I was caught eating too much of the butter I'd get in trouble. And then: the salt. My second favorite food, after butter. I'd coat the thin matzah with the thin layer of butter, then with a thin layer of salt. It was art. And I ate as much of it as I could.

In a perfect Hallmark moment, my oldest friend K. and I had a long phone conversation this weekend. While we spoke, she was cooking for her family in Philadelphia, and I was painting a wall of my condo here in Emeryville. (Boy, have we come a long way since second grade in Cleveland!) We took turns putting each other on speakerphone. She told me about her own memory of my mother providing sweet unsalted whipped butter.

(I will be making K.'s recipe for matzah kugel tomorrow. At her recommendation, I won't use the full 1/4 pound of butter it calls for.)

Several years ago I finally broke from sentiment and bought sweet salted whipped butter. I don't really know why my mother bought us the unsalted version. I got tired of the art involved, and now I just slather it on.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

My Insolence certainly is.

I've moved on from fragrance obsession to many others, including my current obsession with interior paint colors. But today I was at Sephora and thought I'd explore a few fragrances. Bulgari (left forearm) because I didn't think I'd tried it, YSL's Paris (right wrist) because a colleague said she liked it and I know it got four stars, and Guerlain's My Insolence (left wrist) because it's Guerlain and they were showing it in a cute little travel size.

I usually have a pretty high tolerance for perfumes, but they've knocked me over. When I got home an hour later I ran to the sink and scrubbed like a surgeon. No luck. I feel nauseated and I have a headache. The My Insolence and Paris are duking it out -- I don't think I ever smelled the Bulgari. Standing in front of a window trying to breathe fresh air. Then I sprayed my own Arancia di Capri, which is pretty strong, all over my arms to try to cover the others, which only added to the problem. Advil and lots of water (orally). Heading towards a migraine.

So I googled "how to get rid of a perfume smell." And it's amazing what people have tried -- the laugh I got out of Perfumista's discussion almost redeems this situation. Acetone, Clorox bleach pens, Magic Eraser, witch hazel, Chapstick, baking soda, Mr. Clean sponge, baby wipes, a saw. I'm going to go for the original recommendation: unscented deoderant and Tide.

Paris and Bvlgari are gone! It took two rounds of deoderant and Tide to get My Insolence to a very faint level. I still reek of Arancia di Capri, probably because I sprayed it all over myself in my panic. I don't mind: so my sheets will smell of oranges tonight. Better than having nightmares of suffocating in butterscotch.

And now I find that My Insolence is only a two-star fragrance! Many expletives deleted. The upside is that I did identify its component scents.... From The Guide:

How could the brand that has made L'Heure Bleue to spec for a hundred years put out this cynical, trendy, hastily-cobbled-together cherry-almond sugary oriental? It's as if Hermes decided to sell a glitter-vinyl shoe with a lucite platform heel.