The World According to Keitho

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Archive for May, 2011

What’s the deal with hockey?

Posted by keithosaunders on May 28, 2011

Watching a hockey game is like sitting in on a meeting of a secret society that you are not a member of.  You can decipher the gist of what is going on, but you have no idea how the details work, or how they are implemented.

Every few years I’ll go on a playoff hockey watching jag.  This has been one of those years.  I watched a lot of our local San Jose Sharks, who went deep into the playoffs, but were eliminated earlier this week by the Vancouver Canucks.

First of all, let me say that hockey is an amazing sport to watch.  How these guys are able to make pin point passes on skates at break neck speed while being pursued by 250 pound gorillas is beyond me.  And they still have time to fight!

Hockey is a non-linear sport.  Viewing it on television, you never know who is on the rink at any given time.  Think about it — they’re constantly changing lines.  You are at the mercy of the announcers to let know who is on the rink.  In baseball there’s a set lineup — you know where everyone is at every moment of the game.  Sure, in football and basketball there are in-game substitutions, but they occur during breaks in the action.  Hockey players are change on the fly.

How do they know when to change?  The announcers won’t tell me.  They must know — half of them are former players.  I think they don’t want us non-hockey people to be in their exclusive club. 

You have the three-man lines, as wellas the two defencemen.  Do the defencemen work in tandem as pairs, or are they separate entities?  Do they see more ice time than the forwards?  How do they know when to get off the ice? 

These are mere quibbles.  Hockey is a great sport, albeit a perplexing one.  And they have one of the great traditions in sport, in which the players line up after the conclusion of a playoff series and shake hands.  I watched the victorious Boston Bruins shake hands with the Tampa Lightning after tonight’s game 7.  The players appeared to have genuine affection and respect for one another.   Good job out of them.

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Armegeddon on interstate five

Posted by keithosaunders on May 24, 2011

I just returned from a long weekend with my kids visiting my father in Las Vegas.  We had a good time, even though it was a lot of driving.  To get to Vegas from the Bay Area, you must travel over 100 miles out of your way south on interstate five, then turn east through a mountain pass on route 58, before turning north on interstate 15.  Around the horn.  There is no direct route — the Sierras get in the way.  Consequently, it takes nine hours — really ten, because you have to stop to eat.

It was shocking to see just how much the gas stations on the California interstates price gouge.  Stations were charging $4.5o a gallon and up.  At one station, just south of Baker, CA, I paid $4.99!  It was like living in Europe minus the health care.  Once you arrive in Vegas, gas goes down to a manageable $3.78.

On Saturday, everybody was talking about the rapture guy.   Even my 10-year-old daughter was talking rapture.  It was in the air. 

In the meantime I was spending the afternoon talking to my Dad while the kids were at the pool.  Like many senior citizens, my Dad has vivid memories of his childhood and young adulthood.  I love to listen to his stories of family history, as well as his life story.  I feel that I get a whiff of what New York was like in the old days, as well as a feeling of connection to those in my family that I never knew. 

I mention this because in the back of my mind, while my Dad was talking about family history, I couldn’t help but make a connection with the end of the world. After all, at 84 he is nearing the end of his life.  It got me thinking about the end of things — about having everything behind you, as opposed to in front.  I wasn’t sad, but perhaps a little melancholy.

Of course I didn’t take the rapture threat seriously, as you can tell from the tone of my previous post, but I felt anger towards this person who started the rumor.  Once a story such as this it is out there, and especially once  it is media-driven, it is impossible not to at least consider the possibility, albeit infinitesimal, of it being true.

And for that, I would like to slap this guy.  How dare he put these thoughts into my daughter’s head, let alone my own?  Life is stressful enough, as evidenced by the gas prices I had to pay on the way to Vegas.  (and we only drove because plane tickets were $300)  Why should we have to dwell on Armageddon when we have enough agida already in our lives.

Like the f&^%ng idiot New York Mets owner!

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Keitho’s guide to the rapture

Posted by keithosaunders on May 21, 2011

Wake up.

Have favorite breakfast (dry cereal and coffee)

Remember to set fantasy lineups on off-chance that I can move into first place before the flood.

Watch Bay Area series, Subway series, and Mavericks vs Thunder, so that I will be able to give all the folks in heaven an up to the minute sports update.

Listen to My Favorite Things

Watch a few episodes of the Honeymooners and Curb Your Enthusiasm

Forgive that flute player for dragging me out to Davenport, Iowa in 1993 for one gig, driving all night non-stop from New York City, and docking my pay $25.00 for oversleeping and being ten minutes late to the soundcheck.

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Give Kareem his damn statue

Posted by keithosaunders on May 19, 2011

This morning I came across an article in the Oakland Tribune about the hall of fame center, Kareem Abdul Jabbar.  Kareem is upset because he does not have a statue in front of the Staples Center, the home arena of the Lakers and Clippers.  There are statues of Jerry West, Magic Johnson, Chick Hearn, Wayne Gretzky, and Oscar De La Hoya,  (really…Oscar De La Hoya?) but none of the seven footer from New York City, who played most of his career on the Lakers.  (he began with the Milwaukee Bucks) 

At first you may think of Kareem as just another egotistical, spoiled athlete.  I disagree.  Kareem has every right to feel slighted.  The Lakers never would have won in the ’80s without Kareem.  He has scored more points than any player in history, won six NBA championships, and six regular season MVP awards.  Oh yeah…throw in three NCAA championships while he was at UCLA.

Kareem was an unselfish player who made those around him better.  He didn’t whine when Magic came into the league and garnered most of the spotlight.  He was the consummate team player.  There was not even a hint of a Kobe/Shaq-style fued back in those days.  And can you imagine Kareem pounding his chest, or pulling out his jersey as a way of drawing attention to himself?  He was self-effacing and humble.  

Not only that, he is a jazz fan.  I once saw hin in the Westwood Tower records in the jazz section.  I discretely stood next to him and found that I came up to his waist. 

So come on, you suits at Staples.  Give the man his due.  Give him his damn statue!

Posted in basketball | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Provincialsm: Full circle

Posted by keithosaunders on May 17, 2011

I stayed for 26 years — long enough for me to feel more like a New Yorker than a Californian.  It got to the point where California barbs no longer phased me.  Sometimes I would even join in. 

Moving to San Fran was a homecoming of sorts.  Though I grew up in Los Angeles, 400 miles to the south, the Bay Area felt inexorably like California.  Every once in a while I would catch a whiff of something — a flower, the air, I’m not sure what — that would take me back to my youth. 

At first everything felt so novel to me that I hardly missed New York at all.  When I began going to clubs and sitting in, the caché of being from New York helped.  People here may not necessarily like New York, but they respect it.  Finally, all of those years of dues-paying had begun to pay off.  I am rarely, if ever intimidated on the bandstand.  My playing is aggressive, and tempos never faze me. 

At first I felt guilty about saying that I was from New York, because after all, I am really from California, and if you want to get technical, I was born in Pennsylvania.  The truth is that I’ve lived in New York longer than California, so why not?  Besides, in the interest of full disclosure, I almost always mention that I grew up in California. 

I have tried very hard not to cop an attitude about being from New York, first of all, because I don’t want to alienate people, and second of all, I remember how much that same attitude pissed me off back in the day.

While I haven’t experienced an anti-New York bias anywhere near the anti-California bias of New Yorker’s, there was a noteworthy incident last week.  I was on a gig up in Sonoma County.  It was one of those nights — I didn’t like the club, the music wasn’t hooking up, and by the fourth hour I found myself in a foul mood.  A friend of the bass player’s resembled Dick Cheney, and possessed a quiet, yet contrarian manner.  I don’t remember exactly what we were talking about, but it seemed that whatever I said he would find a way to disagree. 

When he made a back-handed comment about New York City I reached my boiling point.    There was something about the matter of fact way he said it, as if to imply that putting down New York is the most natural thing in the world.  I fixed him a steely eyed look and quietly responded, “That’s funny that you say that, because almost everyone in New York hates California.  They consider it lightweight.”

“Really?!”  He stammered.  I could tell immediately that my little retort had hit home.  The thing is, I’ve lived half of my life in both places.  I am perfectly positioned to put any of these motherfuckers in their place, regardless of the coast! 

Now, as my trilogy comes to a close, I will leave you with these parting words:  This provincialism business exists everywhere.  Forget about it.  New York, L.A., San Francisco, Chicago, Paris, Japan…we’re all a bunch of insecure assholes. 

 And you know what?  The East Bay rules!      

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Provincialism: New York story

Posted by keithosaunders on May 13, 2011

…so I packed up and moved to New York.  It turned out it was just like I pictured it — skyscrapers and everything!  I found an apartment on the Upper West Side, started exploring the city, began meeting musicians, and eventually began to gig.

It was great.  I liked the city and contrary to what I had been told, I found that people were friendly and welcoming.  There was just one problem:  They hated Californians.  Let me rephrase that, as hate is too strong a word.  They looked down on Californians.  They joked about, ridiculed, and were generally unpleasent towards people of the west coast persuasion.  Californians were too laid back, flaky, vain, and above all, didn’t swing. (the unkindest cut of all for a jazz musician) 

My Great Aunt Ellie was like a grandmother to me.  She and my Uncle Herb took me under their wing, taught me how to play bridge, showed me Coney Island, Flatbush, and Sheepshead Bay.  For someone such as myself, who had grown up without grandparents, it was invaluable to have this window into what my family history looked like. 

 Every Sunday I would watch the Mets game (or whatever sport happened to be in season) at Ellie and Herb’s apartment in downtown Brooklyn, feasting on Herb’s renowned tuna salad for lunch, and take out from Su Su’s Yum Yum, their local chinese restaurant, for dinner. 

One day we watching the Mets play the Dodgers from Los Angeles.  For those of you not familiar with Dodger Stadium, just beyond the right field bleachers there are a group of palm trees which are visible from certain camera angles.  Midway through the game, apropos of nothing, Ellie remarked, “Those palm trees look dusty.” 

I knew Ellie hated California, but this was too much.  The palm trees looked dusty?!  What hope did I have of ever fitting in with my adopted city if even my own Aunt, who I loved dearly, could not accept California?  And who insluts palm trees?!

The thing is, there is a grain of truth in New Yorker’s feelings about the west coast.  There is a certain vanity out west, as well as a complacency.  What I could never understand, however, was how people could feel free to bash  California in front of someone who was from there.  It was as if my being in New York meant that I had rejected the west coast, and thus would be receptive and understanding of the insults. 

Even within the city there exists a kind of micro-provincialism.  Manhattanites think that the boundaries of New York end at the periphery of their 13 mile long, and 2.3 mile wide island.  Anyone with a 718 area code knows what it’s like to be condescended to by the proud owner of a 212 code.     

It took me a long time to get used to it, but eventually I did.  It was remarkable how universally scorned California was.  I saw this as a shortcoming of New Yorkers.  New York is the greatest city in the world.  Why bother insulting other places when it’s a moot point?  

But I have to admit — I was guilty of it myself.  The longer I lived in New York, the more it felt like home to me.  Truth be told, I would occasionally insult California too.  Once in a while.  

Next post I’ll come full circle with San Francisco provincialism.  Then we’ll go over weights and measures.

Posted in New York City | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Provincialism

Posted by keithosaunders on May 11, 2011

I grew up in Los Angeles in the San Fernando Valley in a town called Van Nuys.  When I lived in L.A. I thought it was a the center of the world.  I thought it was a glamorous place full of hip movie stars, and great musicians. 

As I got into my teen years and was exposed to, and began playing jazz, I began to wonder about the wider world, in particular, New York City.  Both of my parents grew up in New York.  My father had great memories of his childhood there, and he vividly described what it was like to grow up in New York during the pre and post World War II era.

I got into my late teens and began hanging out with the great drummer, Dick Berk.  He had lived in New York in the early ’60s, and he would spend hours regaling me with stories of all the great musicians he had hung out with and played with.    

New York was like a mythical place to me, filled with jazz clubs, great sports teams, colorful characters, jazz musicians, and places to hang out until all hours to the night.  What could be better?

There was one problem.  Almost everyone else I talked to hated New York.  I was told, in no uncertain terms, that it was a crime-ridden, rat-infested, over-priced hell-whole, and that I should have my head examined for wanting to live there.  When you recall some of the films of the 1970s — The Out of Towners, Taxi Driver, and Mean Streets — you can see why it had a bad reputation.  Of course, most of the people I knew had never been to New York, but that didn’t stop them from badmouthing it.

Furthermore, they told me, the people were rude, unfriendly, and unwelcoming.  When I responded that I wanted to experience the greatest jazz scene in the world, I was told to grow up — that there was no future in jazz.

To be continued…

Posted in jazz, New York City | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

The classless Lakers

Posted by keithosaunders on May 10, 2011

What can you say about the cheap shots delivered by Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum during the fourth quarter of last night’s Lakers/Mavericks game?  They were both inexcusable, but Bynum’s was particularly vicious; he clotheslined Mav’s guard, JJ Barea, as he was driving towards the hoop.  Bynum easily could have put Barea in the hospital.  This was followed by an instant ejection, at which point Bynum took off his shirt, as if to underscore his toughness and defiance. 

The Lakers were swept by the Mavericks, the first sweep in coach Phil Jackson’s illustrious career.  In losing the way they did, the Lakers’ reputation is tarnished.  Theyhave long been thought of as a proud organization with a winning tradition, but for the foreseeable future, they will be considered a bully team. 

They are a team of thugs.  Even Kobe Bryant, great as he is, is a punk.  It is no secret that he could not get along with Shaq — there was too much ego for one court.  Those close to the team, however, believe that the problem stemmed from Kobe wanting more touches.  It’s a credit to Jackson that he was able to convince Kobe to play within a system.  How much of that was Jackson’s genius, or Kobe simply having thrived on being in the spotlight after Shaq’s departure to Miami? 

It speaks volumes about this team when Ron Artest — no stranger to thuggery — was the one to escort Bynum off the court.  You know your career is hitting the skids when Artest has to be the one to calm you down.

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Gumball unis

Posted by keithosaunders on May 5, 2011

The other day I was watching a game between the Oakland Athletics and Texas Rangers.  It was a Monday afternoon game which the A’s eventually one in 10 innings on a walk off home run by Hideki Matsui.  What struck me about the game — aside from the great ending — was the alternate uniforms worn by each team.  The A’s have these retro ’70s bright yellow jerseys that they wear occasionally at home.  The Rangers wore a bright, royal blue top, as opposed to their travelling grays.

For some reason these colors  — the yellow and blue — looked great together.  Maybe it is because they are primary colors, and bright ones at that.  They looked like gum balls.

I was searching for a photo that showed both uniform in the same shot, but could not find one.  Instead, in keeping with the retro theme, I’ll give you a photo of Coco Crisp with his Oscar Gamble style ‘fro. 

Rangers starter Matt Harrison

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Airport!

Posted by keithosaunders on May 4, 2011

No, this is not another rant about airport security!  I was scanning through the cable channels after watching a Dodgers/Cubs game, when I came across the film, Airport.  I remember seeing this with my parents when it came out — I must have been 10 years old at the time.  Since then I’ve seen it on TV a handful of times, but not in many years.

For those not old enough to remember, Airport is a film about a bomb that goes off on a transatlantic flight, and the crew’s attempts to land the plane.  You may remember the Jim Abrahams /David Zucker send-up called Airplane, starring Leslie Nielson and Lloyd Bridges, which was released in 1980.  (It’s actually a better film!)

Airport, released in 1970, was the first disaster movie.  It presaged Earthquake, The Poseidon Adventure, and The Towering Inferno by a few years.  It was what passed for a blockbuster in the age before Jaws and Star Wars.  It had a high-wattage cast of thousands, which included a middle-aged, but still handsome, Burt Lancaster, Dean Martin, Maureen Stapleton, Van Heflin, Jean Seberg, Jacqueline Bisset, Helen Hayes — who won an oscar for best supporting actress —  and George Kennedy.

I came in just as it was getting good, as the passengers were boarding the plane.  I was struck by how different plane travel was in those days, particularly the airport security, or lack thereof.  Hayes plays a women who is known for stowing away on plane flights.  She is able to board the plane simply by telling a random airport worker that her son has left his wallet, and ‘could she please return it to him.’  “Hurry,”  the worker tells her, “run and give it to him before the flight leaves!”  Just like that she is able to get on the plane.  Come to think of it, I have memories of those days —  I once was allowed to board a plane to say goodbye to my aunt. 

Heflin, plays a down on his luck ex-GI who plans on blowing up the plane so that his wife can collect the insurance.  His bomb is in an attaché case which he clings to suspiciously as he wlks onto the plane.  One of the workers notices this, and when he mentions it to his superior he is told, “I would worry if he was arriving from overseas and going through customs.  Let the authorities in Rome handle it.” 

That was all it took for the movie to rope me in.  To tell you the truth, it was surprisingly watchable, even though the special effects are laughably primitive.  The long shots of the airplane in flight look particularly fake and the night shots contain some of the fakest looking stars I have ever seen.  The film does manage to build suspense, however, and there is quaintness to the matter of fact way that it goes about telling its tale. 

Somehow they are able to land the plane without any casualities, except for Heflin who dies when the bomb explodes.  The film ends with Lancaster driving off into the sunrise to have breakfast, and sleep with Jean Seberg.  Of course she’s  at least 25 years his junior, but hey, he’s Burt Lancaster. 

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