Thursday, April 21, 2011

We Just Aren't Good Enough...YET.

So does it hurt any less the morning after? A little.

The Rangers have shown guts and heart like I haven't seen from a Rangers squad in almost 20 years, and I say that despite how old it makes me sound. The grit and determination of my boys last night, and for the previous 3 games has been unmatchable, even though they are now down 3-1 and looking at a likely quick exit from the first round. But had the events of last night not happened as they did, and had The Broadway Blues gone 30-0 with a lead heading into the third period, it would have only been delaying the inevitable, with or without Ryan Callahan.

Some tactical observations from last night game should show why it was that the Rangers simply never had it in them to win the game the same way that a high school basketball team could play the Lakers a thousand times and lose each and every single one of those games. First of all, although I dismissed the absence of Ryan Callahan, another fresh grinder would help, especially one who potted almost 30 goals this year. But I digress.

First thing I noticed was a lack of discipline in the blue shirted skaters. No, I'm not talking about the penalties they took, because they weren't undisciplined in regard to how often they felt shame, but they were very undisciplined on the forecheck. The forecheck is this teams bread and butter and if it doesn't work, they can't win. Too many times, especially as the clock started approaching 10PM Eastern Standard Time, Ranger skaters would put themselves in an offside position, forcing a total regroup at the offensive blue line in order to begin their pressure again. This enabled the Caps to get far too many easy breakouts. To me, this is just a sign of tired minds and tired legs.

The second thing I noticed was also forecheck related, and really showed the gap in quality between the two squads. Once the third period collapse took place, the Rangers decided they needed to go back on the attack, and they did. However the Ranger attack was a matter of gain the zone on the wall, dump the puck behind the net or in the corner, and grind it out. Too many times their tired legs were no match for the Caps back liners. Again, this was the fatigue that caught up with the team once the puck dropped in the third. It wasn't only evident on the defensive end, but in the attack as well. On the other side, the Caps employed a similar strategy when the puck carrier was not named Alexander. Semin and Ovechkin remained free to work their magic, but when anyone else had the puck, it went to the net, not behind it, as did the weak side skater. This tactic led directly to the game winning goal. A shot towards the net was blocked, and in a cruel ironic twist, Marian Gaborik's back check and hustle was a little too exuberant, and the Caps had a 3-1 lead handed to them on an icy blue platter.

The third thing i noticed was a real lack of an explosive force wearing a blue shirt. Marian Gaborik was brought in to be that force, and he was last season. This season however, he just seemed to not have that extra push he needs to make him one of the NHL's elite scorers. Alexander Frolov was brought in over the summer to be that secondary threat, and even had he not suffered the season ending knee injury, the promises he made were never going to be fulfilled. It also shouldn't be a surprise that Marian himself wasn't this year. It was only October when Colby Armstrong of the Toronto Maple Leafs essentially ended any hope of the Rangers being a contender this year when he plastered Gaborik from behind into the 8th Avenue corner of MSG. Gaborik was out for weeks with a shoulder injury that no one should be surprised may require surgery in the offseason. What else could explain how a perennial 40 goal scorer managed a measly half of that this term.

The team is in desperate need of real secondary scoring next year, and although the talk around town has been Brad Richards, who could be squeezed in under the cap, he is more of a set up man than a scorer. Remember the last set up man we threw lots of dollars at? He's helping the Canadiens dismantle the Bruins now, and I think Richards will be the same type of player. The untimely death of Alexei Cherapanov now hangs like a black cloud over this club, as he was drafted to be that scorer. Most of our other picks have been valuable secondary parts to a machine thats lacking a real first gear. In my mind, only a trade for a bonafide superstar scorer can fix what ails this team, but the pickins are slim unless the Rangers are willing to part with part of their young defensive core that they've been slowly building. Even if we were to look at the notoriously defensive Stanley Cup winning Devils squads, there was always more than one offensive threat.

This team simply can't be expected to make much noise in the playoffs as is, even in the parity of the Eastern Conference. But the news isn't all bad Rangers fans, because they really are just one or two pieces away from being a real contender in this new NHL. The Rangers have the best goaltender in the East behind Ryan Miller. They have a youthful core filled with leaders like Staal, Dubinsky, and who certainly will be the next Ranger captain Ryan Callahan. They have a young backline that is the envy of many teams with players who have grown over the last few seasons like Girardi and Staal, and newcomers who have filled in wonderfully from our Devil-esque farm team like McDonagh and Sauer. they have tough grinders, who will do anything for the team like Prust, Avery, and Boyle. With Vaclav Prospal and Ruslan Fedetenko getting a little older, these secondary players will need to be replaced, but with the addition of a real scorer to compliment Gaborik and give the Rangers a second threat, and a powerplay, they can be pushed over the edge of goodness. Lets hope Glenn Sather is listening.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Copperline, We All Have One.

So I've been on a James Taylor kick lately. Man this guy can sing. What I enjoy the most is how easy James makes it sound. He doesn't need a synthesizer, doesn't need a master technician, doesn't need 5 takes to get it right. His conversational voice, and real life singing just strikes me. Music can be amazingly emotional, and his is no different. First, it was Carolina in my mind, for about a week, as my beloved Blueshirts were battling for the final Eastern Conference NHL playoff spot. The Rangers, my Rangers, were duking it out with the Caroilina Hurricanes, and lo and behold, we edged them out on the final day of the season with a huge win over our bitter rivals, the NJ Devils, and the Canes lost later that night to Tampa Bay to assure us of our immediate future: a playoff bound squad. For how long has yet to be determined.

But it wasn't only hockey that made Carolina prominent in my head. Some of my adult life's sweetest memories are held within the boundaries of the Carolinas. My honeymoon and my daughter's first steps were taken on the soil of the South, in South Carolina. My wife and I both fell in love with the low country, with the warm sandy beaches, and not so cool ocean water of the Middle Atlantic. Of of my favorite family pictures (with all four of us) was taken on the beach in Hilton Head Island, walking our daughter and carrying our son to the water.

Needless to say, its been to long, and we'll be back sooner rather than later. There ain't no doubt in no one's mind that loves the finest thing around, and God do I love it in Carolina seeing the sunshine and feeling the moonshine.

After speaking with one of my esteemed colleagues in my school, who is a musical connoisseur, and huge Taylor fan, I was introduced to Copperline. Copperline is a song about where James "grew up" in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. It got me thinking about how I grew up, in a working class family on Staten Island. As a youngster, my grandfather would pick me up from my half day nursery school, take me to McDonald's and split a Quarter Pounder with me, then we'd play the horses at OTB. Wel, he'd play them, and I'd play with the racing sheets, making paper airplanes out of them. I still remember how he taught me to tear a small square in the body of the sheet, to keep the folds from separating, and keep the plane aerodynamically sound.

I've been thinking a lot about my grandfather lately, and what he'd think of me as a man, who knows nothing of the horses. His younger brother Sally, is not doing so well down in Florida. He and his wife relocated to the Sunshine State to stay with his daughter Josephine in their Golden Years. I see my life's first best friend when I see pictures of my Uncle Sal. He is a spitting image of my grandfather, and it makes me happy and sad at the same time.

My grandfather passed away when I was only eight years old, yet for those eight years he left an indelible mark on my life. I think then of my own children, and we come full circle. One day they will see my father as I saw my mother's. My children share that special bond with my dad, one that fills me with immense joy. My dad is their first "best friend". The only first best friend they'll ever have, and one day they'll look back on these days, and remember fondly how they're "n-n-n-n-nuts" and the "punch in the nose" and giving "my regards", some things they share with my dad, as I shared Quarter Pounders and OTB with my grandfather. I'm glad my dad and I have one more thing to bond over. I know these days won't last forever, so I'm going to enjoy them, because

"Day breaks and the boys wakes up
And the dog barks and the birds sings
And the sap rises and the angels sigh, yeah
I tried to go back, as if I could
All spec house and plywood
Tore up and tore up good
Down on copperline
It doesn't come as a surprise to me
It doesn't touch my memory
Man I'm lifting up and rising free "

And one day I hope to remind my children of these forgotten memories and spark the love within them that burns brightly in my heart thanks to two men whose love for me could never be extinguished.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Republicans Want The Good Ole Days To Return - Or At Least March 25, 1911

So, Wisconsin has stripped workers rights in their state down to the bone. Tore off the flesh and muscle of their public unions, torched their skin, in an ironic twist that mirrored what happened a hundred years ago today. A century ago, people realized that the rights of workers needed to be protected in order to make the American Dream viable for everyone. Even the least of our people.

But its the people with the most that are having their say now, and they're loud, and they're pissed. They pay the majority of the taxes in this country, and their tired of supporting all those people on welfare who get food stamps and pull up to the supermarket in Cadillac Escalades. Except the thing is, when they're asked when was the last time they saw this, they can't remember. But they're pissed.

All those government workers who make cushy salaries and get "security" in their jobs are also a favorite target of these economic bigots. You know, that cushy salary of $45,000 a year, which is approximately the average civil servants pay, is simply too much for their wallets to handle. And they're pissed.

Those lazy teachers, who get to take their summers off, and get off all the holidays and weekends during the year. They're another group of Americans who are fleecing this country for all we've got. Their industry spends the most of our tax dollars out of any other (aside from defense of course). And they're pissed.

And then there was Bettina and Frances Miale. They were 18 and 21 respectively 100 years ago today when they woke up, and went to work. They never made it home to see their father and mother again. They never made it back to tell Leonardo Don Diego, my great grandfather, and his new wife Carmela, how their day was at the stoop of the apartment house they all lived in.

They made shirtwaists for Max Blanck and Isaac Harris, the good guys, who were trying to save consumers money by cheating their workers of basic rights like bathroom breaks. Those noble entrepreneurs made tough business decisions and so what if two poor immigrant girls, residing in a small apartment at 135 Sullivan Street, would suffer because of it? Bettina and Frances should have been grateful to be able to earn their $12 weekly wage in this great country.

Work was what they came here for anyway, wasn't it? Their desolate and ever disappearing Southern Italian village couldn't supply them with it, so they came here, to live off of our dime. All the money being spent to better their lower Manhattan neighborhood was coming back out of the pockets of the Max Blanck's and Isaac Harris' of the world. And they were paying their salaries as well. So what if they locked them in their workrooms, they were being paid to work.

And on top of things, these girls, if you could call them that, were trying to organize a union in their shop. They were using their numbers to bully poor Max and Isaac into giving them the rights they didn't deserve. These unions did nothing but accomplish corruption among the ranks of the assembly, among the elected officials who were there to serve the people. How dare they?

If they did their job well, they'd have all the security they'd need. Why did they need to unionize? Why did they need to fleece poor old Max and Isaac, who were struggling to get by in their Uptown Mansions. For Christ's sake, they were thinking about letting go of their servants because of this talk of union.

But it took the rush of a fire, and the death of these two brave girls, to show the public that Max and Isaac weren't the good guys they've claimed to be. They weren't the good guys the papers were demanding they were. They weren't the good guys whose police bribes enabled them to intimidate and beat their workers who dared talk "strike". They were the cu&#$ that we all thought they were. They were the snakes in the grass who slithered their way uptown to their mansions while their workers trudged through the grime of lower Manhattan to get to their factory, and die. They were the f&@*$ who ordered their workers locked in, so they wouldn't sneak off with the odd shirtwaist.

They were Scott Walker. They were Marty Golden. I piss on their graves and on their descendants whoever they may be. And I piss on Scott Walker and Marty Golden. And so do the Miale girls. I only hope it doesn't take a tragedy like that of the one that happened a hundred years ago for the rest of America to relieve themselves of this Conservative government of the few. While it may not be life threatening in the same way as it was a hundred years ago, due to the cost of living in this country, the "cushy" salaries public employees earn are the equivalent of an unlocked door, and a working fire escape, and I'm starting to smell smoke.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Lucky Man Memoirs

So today, Monday January 24, 2011, started just like any other workday. The alarm rifled us out of our peaceful slumber at 5:20 AM and shot us out into the world, sawed off style this morning. The temperature outside was a mind numbing, let alone bone chilling, 5 degrees Farenheit and our apartment, usually hot enough to roast a medium sized bird, was alarmingly chilly. I figured it was just that cold. Until I tried to wash my face. No hot water. That also meant, no heat. Great. I texted my super, who thankfully was on it like a bat out of hell, and before it was time for my 6:30 shower, we were up and running again. All that to spite the effort I put in to heating two large spaghetti pots filled with water, which on occasion I have had to use to bathe on cold winter mornings when our eighty year old apartment building's boilers failed us.

So, what to wear on such a day? Well, lately the Mrs. and I have been keeping the car out front and making the mile and a quarter walk to work each morning, while on colder days, we drop off the kids at their day care, and then walk a block and a half to the R Train for the three stop train ride. So I figured warm was the best way to go. I started off with, guess what? Underwear. But not mere mortal underwear, undersilk long underwear. Picked up at Century 21 last winter, these incredibly light garments keep you so warm when its cold out, yet their so light that when you're in an overheated building all day like I am, they don't make you sweat. Just great, and at $10 a piece, i highly recommend them. On top of those I threw my Billy Reid Levi's 501 jeans with a nice thick two inch rolled cuff accessorized with an old Abercrombie & Fitch brown belt I got from the bastardized mall store in Roosevelt Field when I was in college. Just beneath the cuff, were my newly polished Red Wing Indy Boots. The glow coming off of these from the $8 polish they got at the Dry Cleaner/Shoe Repair on 78th and 3rd are a sight to behold!

Throwing my top half together, planning for the mile plus trek, I decided I should grab my vintage Abercrombie & Fitch (before the malls of America grabbed them and bastardized them) plaid grey/blue flannel top, a herringbone JCrew vest, a vintage ($2.50 I think at Salvation Army) Austin Reed wool tie, and my Ercole's bespoke Harris Tweed sport coat.

Over that I wrapped my neck in a Merino Wool Blue Fair Isle Drakes of London wool scarf, leather Polo Ralph Lauren Brown Gloves, and my thrifted Harris Tweed Double Breasted Brown Overcoat. topping it all off, was my new go to cold weather head gear, my Made in Winnipeg (those folks know what winter is really about) rabbit fur hat.

But all that, was for naught, thankfully, as one of our colleagues who also has her daughter in day care with our two angels, was just about ready to leave when I rounded the corner to head up to the train. "Hop in guys!" she cheerfully exclaimed to my wife and I as the clock ticked 7:15. Awesome, a ride to work!

The work day came and went, and as it was my first since last Wednesday, when I left work early feeling dizzy from the congestion in my sinuses (yup, you guessed it, another infection). Thursday I spent the day in bed, and Friday, i spent the day with my daughter, who was next in line after my wife to catch the wicked cold that infected said sinuses. On our way out, another friendly colleague saw us standing, ready to bear the brunt of the now 20 degree cold, and asked, "You wanna ride?" Hot damn, the day can't get much better! But when my wife picked up our kids from day care, she was concerned with my daughter's "swollen" eyes. So, we thought we'd take her to the doctor, and I'd skip my workout at the gym. I was pretty tired, as I'm still being antibiotic-ed, and it was my first full day at work in almost a week, so i wasn't too upset. When I saw my little girl, I wasn't concerned much at all with the swelling, as it simply looked like allergies, and rather than rush her down to a different doctor, we would wait until her pediatrician was back in his office tomorrow. So, I would hit the gym after all. Back, shoulders and a little bit of bi were the added prescription for me. I lifting things up and put them down many times while listening to the glorious new Decemberists album, The King Is Dead, yet another item I highly recommend.

So I got home, had a great dinner, prepared by the Mrs., of spaghetti with peas and grilled pork chops stuffed with plenty of garlic, and sat down to enjoy the Ranger game. This blog, was the last thing on my mind. My daughter, my wife, and I were simply hanging out after dinner as my boy fell asleep while watching cartoons about an hour earlier. All of a sudden, blood curdling screams were coming from the bedroom. My boy was pissed, and he wasn't having it! He sat in my wife's arms (where he usually is when he's not roaming the apartment looking to slam things into out TV) for a good 20 minutes, and the screams became more piercing, and the tears flowed like money into a Congressman's off shore bank account. We decided to try and let him cry it out, cry himself to sleep. Not having it. After about 15 minutes, I went in, knowing that we'd have to go and put my daughter to sleep soon anyway, and I picked him up, and I held him. I whispered in his ear lots of things that I'll never forget and he'll never remember. I professed my love, and gave him all of my heart, the little guy was really upset. But slowly, he stopped crying. His deep, I just got finished crying breaths, became fewer and farther between, until it was just me and him sitting there, staring nto each other's eyes. My wife had already put my daughter in bed, and while my son and I were having our moment, she was being obsessive compulsive like me, lining up all of her sleep buddies and counting them. One, two, three four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten. And then all over again, and again, and again. I swear, I DO NOT DO THIS WITH MY SPORT COATS, SHOES AND TROUSERS, really I don't. I only do it weekly, to assess where the gaps are, and what I "need" next. She was waiting for him to go to sleep. She needed to be with her brother. And I was hoping he wouldn't, so we could keep looking at each other, and I could keep feeling my eyes soothe him. Thats what I really needed. Then it hit me.

HOLY SHIT. I am one lucky mother fucker. I have a wife, who takes care of me and is the best mom I could have asked for for my kids. I have a daughter who shares the same annoying characteristics (they're not flaws) as her old man. And I have a son, who I can sooth with a whisper and a glare and who can teach me what it means to live life. We have food on our table, a roof over our heads, and while we may bitch and moan about allergies, we are all, thankfully, generally healthy people. And we have LOVE. I know that soon enough, I'll succumb to the things I want, and I'll "need" another bespoke sport coat, or tweed suit, or overcoat, or pair of shell cordovan boots, and I'll really believe I need it. But just in that moment, in the night light of the hallway in their bedroom, in the glare of my son's eyes and in the compulsion of my daughters mind, I knew I've already EVERYTHING I'll ever need.

I'll never forget tonight, though I'm sure I'll forget that I now know I have everything I need. So in case I do, I know its right here, in print, on the internet. I know I am a lucky man. Now if only I could remember that.