Damn Patriots

I was talking to a friend after the AB circus was cancelled in Oakland, leaving the deranged diva as the most toxic free agent since Kim Kardashian filed for divorce five minutes after marrying some NBA player.

“As long as Brown doesn’t sign with the Patriots, I’m good,” I joked.

“Dude . . Brown just signed with the Patriots . . ” My friend replied.

Of fucking course he did.

If there was any debate as to the most reviled franchise in professional sports, the New England Patriots just won it, again. Seriously . . gimme a more hated group than the boys from the 508. And no, ISIS doesn’t count.

Once upon a time, my beloved New York Yankees held that title with a seemingly eternal grip. In a swath of history that began with the Murderers Row lineup of 1927 and plowed through war torn lineups in the ’40’s, the golden age of baseball in the ’50’s and expansion in the ’60’s, the Yankees remained the most recognizable symbol of enmity in sports. They were immortalized on stage and screen as Damn Yankees, harmonized in Simon and Garfunkel’s Mrs. Robinson and despised by opposing fans everywhere.

They answered an eleven year championship drought- from 1964 to 1975- with a bunch of mercenaries and sons of bitches when the “Bronx Zoo” iteration won three straight pennants and two World Series titles in the late ’70’s. After which came ever more creative rivals to their most hated throne. The Los Angeles Lakers held a time share for most hated team in sports in the eighties, but Magic buffered any possibility of nuclear enmity. The Dallas Cowboys took up Mickey’s mantle in the ’90’s, but not for long enough a time to breach the gap.

The Russian hockey team was hated whenever the Winter Olympics came calling, but that was a matter of Stalin and Sputnik more than sport. The Edmonton Oilers were hated until Gretkzy was traded to America, after which all was forgiven. The Mets moved out of the Yankees basement in the mid eighties and became a renegade team of hate-worthiness, but their hard partying ways derailed any chance of a long term reign.

By the time the James Gang Miami Heat went Banksy on the Association in 2010, it was too late. The Yankees had already lost their Evil Empire to the New England Patriots. And it wasn’t even close.

The nexus of this changing of the guard came in the fall and winter of 2001-2002. The Yankees were at the height of their villainy entering a campaign in which they had added ace pitcher Mike Mussina from the rival Baltimore Orioles to a team that was favored to win a fourth straight title. When September 11th happened, it muted the national hatred for the pinstripes. Some fans even forged a temporary alliance with the Yanks on account of a city’s gaping wound. When the Yankees lost the World Series to the Arizona Diamondbacks, it signaled both the end of a dynasty as well as their title as the most hated team in sports.

We just didn’t know it yet.

In February of 2002, the Patriots upset the heavily favored Rams in Super Bowl 36. To that point, Bill Belichick had been a middling disappointment as head coach and Tom Brady was a little known backup QB turned starter. The irony is that the Patriots shouldn’t have even made it to the Super Bowl that year, but for the “Tuck Rule Game” in which a Tom Brady fumble was ruled . . get this, an incomplete pass. Oh, and the team they beat in that infamous game? Jon Gruden and the Oakland Raiders. You really cannot make this shit up.

Fast forward seventeen years and the Patriots just screwed Gruden and the Raiders again with their signing of Antonio Brown. Unlike that first Super Bowl victory, the Patriots are no longer a feel good story. They have presided over an unprecedented run of success and scandal in the time since, collecting 6 Super Bowl titles, 9 Conference titles 16 division titles and more -Gates than the poshest neighborhood in Hollywood.

So now the most hated team has the most hated player. It’s the sporting equivalent of the Manson family adopting Pennywise. And okay yes . . Tom Brady is probably going to start acting his age this season and the Patriots can’t possibly make it back to the Super Bowl again and oh wait . . hold on I’ve got a phone call. Hey! It’s me calling, from this time last year!

Hey what’s up? Oh really, I said the same shit this time last year? 

Umm . . . never mind.

It doesn’t seem possible that a team birthed by monarch butterflies on a farm (I read it on the dark web) . . a team that once wore uniforms straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting . . a team that calls itself Patriots, could elicit the sort of rage my Yankees once took for granted.

It’s gotten so bad that after my pal Big Papi’s Orioles were basically eliminated from postseason play back in June, he told me he would be rooting for my Yankees to win it all. To which I replied with “Fuck you,”

I wonder if Antonio Brown plays baseball.

 

 

 

 

Ashes To Ashes

FRANCE-FIRE-NOTRE DAME

Robert Louis Stevenson once said that mankind is never so happily inspired as when it made a cathedral.

And so it was that in 1163, more than a hundred and fifty years before the world would come into full bloom with the dawn of the Renaissance, hope was risen with the first bricks of a timeless symbol that would come to define a city, a nation and the world it would grow up inside of.

The name possessed a gravitas and evoked reverence the world over. It was a symbol which transcended religion. The underpinnings of this wondrous creation of man was a muse to pilgrims and painters and poets and the dreams they had in common.

Deep within the womb of this timeless place, history was birthed countless times. Henry VI was made King of France here, and later, Napoleon was named Emperor inside its confines. And in the early 20th century, Joan of Arc was beatified inside the cathedral by Pope Pius X.

Our Lady of Paris survived the French Revolution as well as two World Wars. And when its health was failing in the nineteenth century, Victor Hugo’s book “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” helped usher in a revitalization effort. The medieval spire, which had been removed a century earlier, was rebuilt.

The significance of that spire is testimony to the efforts of a group of people who ventured back inside as the fire was laying waste to the roof of the cathedral. A group of public servants and firemen formed a human chain and retrieved several priceless artifacts, including the Crown of Thorns- believed to have been worn by Jesus on the cross- and the Blessed Sacrament. The roof, constructed from 5,000 oak trees by more than a thousand men, could not be saved.

It was sometime around 8 p.m. when the spire was taken from the world in a heap of ash. A symbol of hope and faith, stolen away by the flames forever. And as the sun set on the city, our Lady of Paris said goodbye to the world.

And Jesus wept.

3 Days in Woodstock

Woodstock Poster

🕊️-Imma be rolling out a series of posts on Woodstock that will appear on the blog each Sunday until I exhaust all the groovy gravy I supped up on my trip. I’m going with the rather unoriginal title of “3 Days in Woodstock” since I also happened to spend three days inside this mesmerizing state of mind. Forty nine years removed but right on time-🕊️

Sometimes history asks for the moments that spiral into legendary tales, and sometimes the moments just storm the gates and make the history that exists in perpetuity. Three days in August of 1969 accomplished both of these things.

Of all the things I thought I knew about Woodstock, the elemental truths proved most elusive. Curiosity provided me with the impetus to get there, after which the education filled in the gaps and provided solvency. The rush to break things into three dimensional congress produced a thread of events which peeled back the layers of all the things I thought I knew, and replaced them with all the things I learned.

Woodstock Festival

Having booked passage to Woodstock New York back in May, you would think I’d have done the requisite homework as to the actual site of the legendary film festival. The fact that I didn’t turned out to be a brilliant mistake. Because it mirrored the event itself; unprepared for what was to come but earnest in the desire to get there.

So it was that a couple days into my trip, I was ready to make the journey to Max Yasgur’s farm. Which ain’t located in the town of Woodstock, or even all that close. The sojourn to music Valhalla covers almost sixty miles in a spindly, winding gallivant of paved roads and unbeaten paths.

Walkill Poster

The Woodstock Music and Arts Fair- billed as three days of peace and music- appeared doomed from the start. The organizers of the three day concert battled the banks, the local townships, the Mayor of New York and even themselves in the lead up to what would become a touchstone moment in the age of Aquarius.

The town of Woodstock became synonymous with the festival due to the fact the investment group that helped finance the event was named Woodstock Ventures. The name stuck, even though the location changed several times. After it was determined that Woodstock could not hold the festival, the towns of Saugerties and Walkill would take turns withdrawing their offers, leaving the organizers with little time with which to find a home.

Woodstock Concert Ticket

Twenty eight days before the concert, Max Yasgur came forward with an offer to rent a portion of his six hundred acre dairy farm in Bethel as the venue. He wasn’t in tune with the counter culture phenomenon of the time, and he would drive a hard bargain on the price he was looking for. It wasn’t out of the kindness of his heart so much as the verity of his beliefs that the event would prove transcendent inside a turbulent period in our nation’s history.

Woodstock Nuns

I arrived at the entrance to this legendary place and was greeted by a sign which reads Bethel Woods Center for the Arts. A short ride delivered me through a labyrinth of special access entrances and several football field sized parking lots. The museum sits off to the right; a statuesque peak that rustles up the roaming hills that surround it as if a storyteller looking to gain the attention of a restless audience from the brightly lit stage.

Groovy Way

The walk from my car to the museum was spent wrestling myriad emotions; excitement, awe, gratitude, melancholy and fear. The excitement was palpable in the steps I took and the buzz of nervous energy that fueled them. The awe is just as obvious, because all the while I was thinking I am fucking here! . . .on a loop. The gratitude was in knowing  I had come to a hallowed place as witness to an experience that could not be replicated any other way. A tinge of melancholy reined in my exuberance as I wondered why in the hell I had waited so long to get here. And fear, the most unwelcome but the most necessary in the time before I knew what to expect. Because fear allowed me to stanch the illusory perspective I had constructed over the course of a lifetime. Fear let me know that if this whole damned thing proved anti-climactic, that I would have to be okay with it even if I really didn’t want to be okay with it.

Woodstock bus

You build these moments up in your head to play out a certain way. I wanted the moments to be plush with flowers of a long lost bloom, and I wanted to get high on the perfume of its original sin. I wanted Jimi to be spilling his guitar through my brain . . Janis to be arranging verbs in moodily wrought crazy quilt patterns . . I wanted Santana to breathe his fire across the tranquil sky . . Richie Havens to break all the rules by getting me to the risen church of melodies and lyrics whose life was seeded in a garden . . this one.

I had already broken all the rules that warned me about heightened expectations. The crush of silence was daunting, as was the modernity that framed the doorway to that cosmic driven time.  All that was left for me to do was step inside.

 

 

Finding the power of the press in our search for the Perfect Cuban Sammy

7477_1506724717947The Cuban sandwich is a testament to culinary integration, patience and abiding love. It’s quintessential element is the coalescing of big personality ingredients into one delicious mambo in your mouth.

The exact birth date of the Cuban sandwich is impossible to pin down. Stories date as far back as the mid to late 1800’s, in the cigar factories and sugar mills of Cuba where workers would partake during their breaks. It arrived on our shores during the Cuban revolution. A Cuban population that was able to get out from under Fidel’s ruthless thumb found work in the fields of the Sunshine State and a lunchtime favorite was born.

The original Cuban sammy was made with roasted pork, ham, salami, swiss cheese and pickles on Cuban bread. Upon its arrival in Miami, the salami was removed but the history was just beginning. The present day blueprint calls for pork, ham, swiss and pickles on Cuban bread (think Italian or French bread . . with a Spanish accent).

From there to here, this simple sandwich has undergone more reconstructions than Uma Thurman’s beautiful face. The marielitos who fled Havana in 1980 brought fusion, while America’s sandwich scientists brought sacrilege. The myriad takes on the original have ranged from the ridiculous to the sublime.

A couple months back, me and Linds decided to put together an Adventure Playlist: Pick a food and then search for its best example. We decided to start things off with the Cuban sandwich.

Our search for the “perfect Cuban sandwich” comes with myriad considerations and assorted complications. Namely, we live in fucking Lancaster County, Pennsylvania! That aside, we have been quite successful in our scavenger hunt thus far, uncovering hidden gems with ups, hipster cafes with crazy combinations  and corner bars whose soulful renditions brought us to tears (okay, maybe it was the drinks that did that). They’ve all had one thing in common. They were goooood.

Mi Caldero Restaurante in York, Pennsylvania became our first stop. We came up with this location by conducting a google search as follows . . Places in York, Pa where you’re unlikely to be mugged . . . Thank God for technology, yanno?

One bite told the tale. The pork was succulent . . (that’s a big deal). Unfortunately for this particular sandwich, the pork was too good. It actually stole the show. It was the culinary equivalent of Anne Hathaway in The Dark Knight Rises. Delicious and sexy and infinitely better than the rest of an otherwise solid cast. The sandwich paid close attention to detail: Its mustard/mayo’ish creaminess was a yummy salve, the pickles provided punch with every crunch and the ham was buttery and sweet. AND . . it was pressed with the abiding love of a chef who totally gets that the press is the thing. 

On a scale of 1-10, we graded Mi Caldero’s Cuban sandwich a 6. Perhaps we were a bit harsh, but hey, this is important work!

This is the first of a series of posts on the Cuban sandwich. We’ll report from the front lines about once a week until we find our winner. In the interim, if you have a take on the Cuban sandwich that you would like to share with us, please do! You can contact us at sorrylessletters@yahoo.com or you can just leave your recipe in the comment tab. Who knows? We might even try yours out.

Viva the flavah . . .