Wednesday, April 9, 2008


So UCLA lost in the Final Four last Saturday. Their third trip in three years. 1-2 in FF games, 0-1 in championship games. Very humbling one hand but hard to complain about our overall success on the other. Some Kansas fan actually developed an interesting algorithm to determine how safe a lead was. For "fun" I put in UCLA's two biggest leads (4 points at 10-6, 16:13 and 5 points at 5-0, 18:00) as well as their last lead (12-11 at 15:27). Not surprisingly their leads were 0% safe. I hate basketball.

In other UCLA BBall news, the LA Times reports that Kevin Love is definitely going pro while Darren Collison is undecided. It even mentions the possibility of Shipp going (unlikely), Mbah a Moute declaring but not hiring an agent and likely coming back, Aboya staying in school but not playing (in order to get a masters degree), and Dragovic to go back to Serbia and play professionally (what?!?!?!?!). In another article, ESPN says they're both leaving as well as Russell Westbrook even though Love's mom is denying he made a decision.

One thing I was pondering in my semi-drunk stupor during the second half of UCLA's loss was how I (and so many other people) are so wrapped up in all this sporting hullabaloo. My rationalization is three-fold; I've played a LOT of basketball in my life, I went to school at UCLA, and watching the games is a chance to build community.

I played in youth leagues, Jr. High, High School, Intramurals, and adult leagues. I currently play with a bunch of guys on Tuesdays at a gym off of Venice. I probably pay more in gym fees for those 3 hours (or so) a week than I would if I were a member of Bally's. I truly enjoy playing and is one of the few ways I can be induced to run around and get some exercise.

I also graduated from UCLA in 2001. As I said, I played Intramurals there, saw a bunch of games while I was in school (although it was during the dark Lavin years and I stopped really going during my 2nd year and only attended sporadically until I got season tickets a couple years ago). My friends and I would see the players on campus, knew who they were, and had random encounters with them over the years (I got to help Ray Young with a pager problem once while my buddy almost got into an altercation with J.R. Henderson). We joked about drafting Jelani McCoy onto our IM team after he quit the real team for smoking pot.

But do those reasons adequately explain how caught up people get in the games? Does the joy of winning outweigh the negativity of loss? Is it just a reason to act like we did in college and remember our revisionist histories of when everything was great and we had no responsibilities (I say revisionist because while college was great I still somewhat remember drinking too much, eating too much, not having enough fun with the opposite sex, having no money, and stressing over school). Or is it a way we build community and shared experiences? I've been to the SF Salooon so much the past three Marches that I know who the owner is, his daughters, and even his wife. We know that he got new TVs this year and changed some of the booths but kept some of the tables that are a couple inches too short.

I guess that the overall experience is still gratifying since I'm still going to buy tickets for next year and will probably watch most games on TV. However, instead of going to every game it looks like a couple friends and I will band together so that we aren't obligated to go to all of them. I'm not sure if this means we're emotionally drained or just apprehensive about the prospects for next year's team. So I pay my money, hope the kids all make the best decisions for themselves (get your degree if you aren't a first round pick!), and wait to see if I catch the fever again next season.

Friday, April 4, 2008

All The News That's Fit To Print

A friend forwarded me a sweet link today about my hometown of Cambria, CA. The link is from the Real Estate section of the NEW YORK TIMES! Crazy. For a sleepy town on the coast of California, Cambria has hit the big time. Of course, you may also remember the infamous post written by Tannaz about the best vacation she's ever had, or a little movie by the name of Arachnophobia.

The totally rad part about the article was that the place I used to work in high school, Main Street Grill, got a huge shout-out. There are a ton of really good restaurants in Cambria (my favorites are Robin's and the Sea Chest) so getting named is pretty neat. I usually end up eating at the Grill when I go home and my favorites are the ABC Burger (Avocado, Bacon, and Cheese) as well as the Tri-Tip steak sandwich and the beef and pork ribs. But the fish sandwiches are also good and the fries, when fresh and crispy and hot, are tremendous because of the special seasoning salt. Hell, the only thing I don't recommend is the calamari sandwich. It's a pressed steak of squid and it's like chewing a big piece of rubber. They also grill it instead of deep frying it so it just sucks that much more. As an aside, Main Street Grill's sister restaurant is the Firestone Grill in SLO.

Alas, the comment about it being an old fogey town is also true. I never even considered moving back there after college (although I did briefly flirt with moving to SLO). The only bar that stayed open late, the famous dive Camozzi's, closed down last year and it's supposed to reopen as more of a high-end lounge named 'Mozzi's. Boo000. The Cambria Pines Lodge only stays open until midnight although they do have live music almost every night. Just ask my mom who's playing (she likes Louie Ortega).

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Birds of Paradise

The LA Times, led by columnist Steve Lopez, is having a neat contest: leading up to the Festival of Books during the last weekend in April, they are taking user submissions for a serial novel. Lopez wrote the first chapter and all other chapters are submitted by users and voted on by editors. I gave it a shot (and failed, but thanks to The Bird for helping).

Without further ado, my entry:

Falco looked down Wilshire from his fourth floor office. The cacophony of voices in his head were being drowned out by the pounding of his hangover. He asked his secretary Diane if there were any messages.

"For the third time, Councilman, NO." Diane was a slender brunette divorcee. An out of work actress, he hired her as a marriage supplement but soon realized that his tenuous council position required at least one person responsible enough to answer the phones and deflect his wife. "Nobody has called in the last five seconds, five minutes, or five hours. Do you need an aspirin?"

He sighed and pulled out a handkerchief to wipe his brow as he tried to piece together the previous night. Bonner's attitude worried him but not as much as the black Mercedes . A gulp of his Baileys-fortified latte did nothing to clear the fog in his mind. He was trying to get Carmen into the cab with him after the club closed and thought the sedan in Jumbo's lot was the same as the one from this morning. It didn't help that the car from the morning was standard issue for strippers, actresses, and all the rich kids from the Valley to Torrance. Hell, the parking lot had been full of them when he spoke at the commencement ceremony at USC last Spring.

Carmen had never been less willing to go home with him. In the months since their initial meeting at Charlie's Labor Day pool party he had been to the Clown Room at least three times a week. Always the big talker, Falco never paid much heed to the questions Carmen asked about his work on various committees. He thought she was only being polite - getting to know him so she could brag to her girlfriends who were dating pimps and pushers. Now Falco realized she was much more dangerous; a girl with memory, connections, and an agenda.

He called out to Diane, "Lady Di, you'd better make it four, this is going to be a long day. Can you clear my schedule and pull all the notes from all of last month's BF and HCED meetings?"

Diane silently walked into Falco's door and dropped the tablets onto a notepad. She returned to her desk, opened the Council's database, and did a query on Business & Finance and Housing, Community, & Economic Development. She formatted the report, emailed the bundle, and printed the file. As Falco read the report, Diane discreetly went to the Ladies' room, turned on her Blackberry and wrote a message, "C, F asked about meetings. Said nothing about last night. See you at 7. D"

"Di, can you please get Ernie on the phone?" Ernesto Garcia, or Ernie to his friends, had gone to school with Falco nearly 40 years ago. Falco never would have survived growing up white in Latino East Los Angeles without a friend like Ernie. He couldn't count on Ernie for campaign contributions or door-to-door canvassing but he could rely on him for all the other services a politician in LA needed.