One moment

Anthony Bourdain

This one hit hard. It hit too close. It hit like a freight train out of nowhere. It hit me right where I live.

Anthony Bourdain. Chef. TV travel host. Smart ass. Philosopher. Lived with depression. Died by suicide in Paris via hanging.

Damn near every story I read about Bourdain talked about how he was “the last person they expected” to die by suicide. OK, but…

Anthony Bourdain had a moment. And we are all sad.

I truly believe this. I never got a chance to really materialize it until reading a story from Newsweek — http://www.newsweek.com/2013/05/22/why-suicide-has-become-epidemic-and-what-we-can-do-help-237434.html — about how the rates of suicide have risen. It fits. You may have another way to describe it, but this works for me. Anthony Bourdain had a moment and he was gone.

It doesn’t make this any easier, that is for sure.

Bourdain was a wisecracking curmudgeon of our time, a TV host/chef who traveled the world, ate great food, drank the best drinks, had friends nearly everywhere in the world to show him places many of us will only dream of visiting and he had cameras following his every move to bring it back to you as plain as the sun in the morning.

You couldn’t come up with a better way to live, to make a living. But…

He also suffered from mental illness. You can get a sense of his melancholy and yearning from his TV shows “Parts Unknown” and “No Reservations” as you binge them throughout the weekend. (By the way, Netflix will remove “Parts Unknown” on June 18. Get cracking.) My wife caught it very early on. That’s her job. She deals with mental illness in others. My job was to be Bourdain, absorbing and taking it all in to give the viewer the experience. I missed it until she told me.

I saw a lot of “what I wanted to be” from Bourdain. I wanted my journalistic career to be the catalyst for my travels, my adventures, my experiences. Hemingway. Hunter S. Thompson. A first-person journalistic view of what happened. Bourdain did it with a sense of wonder, of education, of experimentation. If it went wrong, he was angry. If it went right, he couldn’t be happier. It all revolved around food and how it spoke about the culture, always around the food and the people.

Bourdain lived. Yes, we all live in our own way, but damn, it was a glorious way to live. Travel. Eat. Drink. Repeat. And, throw in enough lessons on how everyone is the same — family first, food as culture an history teacher — to tie it all together.

I got a taste of it. I worked in the Napa Valley for 3 years at a weekly newspaper to experience life there. Growing up just under an hour south of the region, Napa and the valley above it was always this mystical place. I loved it. It was mystical, but it was magical in how everyone worked — agriculture, culture, marketing, myth-making, family and wine. Always, the wine.

I traveled throughout California, Oregon and Washington in my career. I remember some of the best Mexican food I’ve ever had in a small restaurant outside of Chico. One of the best breakfasts ever, outside of the Highway 29 cafe in American Canyon (now closed), was a hole-in-a-wall in Wilsonville, Ore. that I stumbled upon before covering an OSAA Board meeting that dealt with a local wrestling program gone wrong in 2001. The best burgers I’ve had are on the Harbor and in a greasy spoon joint in Richland.

Yes, in Bourdain style, I listed places I ate. That is what I remember. I remember the people and I remember the food. I would have taken Bourdain’s gig in a heartbeat. I may not have been as good, but I would have enjoyed myself as much as he enjoyed it. He had the contacts, too, which helps.

All told, I am sad. I am sad that he is gone. I am sad that he isn’t around to show us (and the world) what is good on this planet and what is good to eat. He was damn good at it. And I’m selfish, because I miss him. And, I want him back to continue to do what he did best.

So, I’ll continue on. I’ll do what I do, but I’ll do a bit more Bourdain when the time comes. I’ll go to a local restaurant instead of a chain franchise. I’ll see what the locals see, instead of the tourist traps. I’ll drink a bit more wine and ask more questions to learn and grow.

I’ll take what I learned from Anthony Bourdain and honor him. And, in time, I’ll be less sad. I’ll still miss him, but I’ll be less sad and I’ll learn a bit more. This is how I’ll honor him and thank him for his work and for his life.

He will be missed. Greatly.

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Spring Break, friends

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“Hello friends…”

I don’t think it is possible for me to call this past week, aka Spring Break, interesting, because it wasn’t. It was rather just a normal week than a relaxing one.

On Monday, I was able to cash in on Little Caesar’s Free Lunch Pizza promotion, which went into effect when the University of Maryland-Baltimore County defeated Virginia — a 16 seed over a 1 seed — in the opening round of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament a few weeks back.

The crowd wasn’t too big and the wait was not very long, so that’s a win. The lunch pizza — a pepperoni pan pizza — went to my wife for her lunch. Her car ended up in the shop with some transmission problems. Oh, also learned on Monday that Grays Harbor has little to no rental cars available. Go to Olympia, specifically Enterprise, the official rental car company of the NCAA Tournament.

On Tuesday, while my wife was driving around a 2017 Toyota Corolla, I had an impromptu eye appointment. This was key, because on Thursday morning, I was at the hospital for a quick procedure to remove a 2cm wide/2cm deep bubble cyst from my lower left eye lid.

The procedure was in the morning and I was home with The Masters golf tournament on the television as I slept on the couch. Many of my drug-aided sleeps went like this: Jim Nantz welcoming me to sleep with a smooth “Hello Friend…” as he narrated my state before I shuffled off into a dream.

It was weird, yet comforting, that Jim Nantz took the time out of his busy schedule to help me sleep and rest on Thursday. Thanks, Jim.

Before the procedure on Wednesday, I headed to Tacoma with my former boss, but a good friend, to get him a new Apple computer. This is his first-ever home computer and he needed one he was familiar with. At the Apple Store, I found out that I knew more about the computers and how to get logged in and running than the “blue shirts.”

Three times during our stay in the store, I was offered a “blue shirt” and a chance to help them out. I declined, but just in case this teaching thing doesn’t go well, I have that going for me, which is nice.

Friday was a home-bound day, mostly work around the house. I had no desire to go anywhere.

On Saturday, a few errands, including a trip to Hoquiam Brewery to fill up a few growlers for the weekend, took up most of the time. NXT TakeOver New Orleans was the main show and it didn’t disappoint. Johnny Gargano vs. Tommaso Ciampa was one of the best matches I’ve seen in years, including the several New Japan Pro-Wrestling events earlier in the year.

I will leave a video of Gargano and Ciampa, when they were #DIY, doing #GloriousBombs on Bobby Roode during his time in NXT at the bottom.

And today, I’m typing this up to finish before the start of a marathon WWE WrestleMania  show. Also, Jordan Speith is making a huge charge for the Masters title and I need this computer to watch the end of the tournament with wrestling on the big screen.

So, Goodbye Friends. See you next time … a tradition unlike any other.

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Fortnite in the classroom

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One of the few tricks I learned in the classroom as a substitute teacher was to listen and adapt.

Recently, the free-to-play (microtransaction) game Fortnite has been a big topic with high school and middle school students. It is enough to get an entire class derailed into a loud crash with just a mention of the game or a reference that most of the class gets.

Life as a substitute teacher is tough enough, especially when the students make up their minds that they aren’t going to listen to you no matter what you say or do. However, if you are able to connect with them, life is a bit easier for everyone.

Fortnite, which is Minecraft with guns, has been a great common denominator between the students and I. A few quick words about Loot Lake, who some of the best players are and how to get a mid-40s teacher better at the game has worked wonders.

The fact that it is free to start has made it popular, but the game play is a lot of fun. I’m not very good at it. My skill in shooting games needs a lot of work, but I’ve switched between Fortnite, Overwatch, SW Battlefront II and Madden in my playing rotation. When it is a fun game, I’ll play… even when I’m not good at it.

Most of the time, the boys are the ones discussing Fortnite. The girls are more irritated of the game, but some of them are pretty good players as well. I know girls play the game. They talk more trash during squad play than the 8-year-old boys.

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Seriously, are we doing this shit again?

Seriously, this is why we can’t have nice things. Opening Day 2018…

… but then, you can have the best thing you need and want. These two are two of my favorite indy pro wrestlers out there and their tag team was great. Now, Ciampa is the ultimate heel and has been great. Gargano is just one of the most solid wrestlers out there. Both of them are capable of tearing down the arena in the ring.

And I can’t wait.

Watched both ends of this @HBODocs event from Judd Apatow on Garry Shandling. It is really, really good.

All told, life is good. Life is good. Until it isn’t… ha ha.

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McGregor-Mayweather

 photo McCMay_zps7vonquiv.jpg

OK, the fights. It has been a long time since I’ve seen a full boxing card and the undercard was interesting enough to make the main event worth the buy-in. So, I did. Also, the price of beer was in my range and I didn’t have to drive to Olympia to watch it in a theater.

You have Mauro “Mamma Mia” Ranallo, Al Berstein and Paulie Malignaggi on the mic to call the fights. Ranallo is excellent and was very much so on this night. He was prepared, spot on and enthusiastic. Berstein is such a pro, tough to say anything bad about him. Malignaggi wasn’t bad and this was the first time hearing him.

Steve Farhood is the on-air scoring commentator. I’ll take Harold Lederman every day and twice on Sunday.

One side note: I met Jimmy Lennon Jr. when he called the MMA fights a few years back in Tacoma. Great guy, great conversation about boxing and the mix with MMA in recent years.

Conor McGregor vs. Floyd Mayweather

The walk-up for both fighters was really fun. McGregor all business as he walked into the arena and to the ring. Hands up, full of confidence. The crowd is pro-McGregor, big time.

Mayweather came out in a ski mask, like a thief. Here is your heel. There are boos coming down as he’s walking out. The rules are traditional boxing. Here. We. Go.

The ref is laying down the law: you are both pros and champions. This is a boxing fight. The Irish crowd is singing, loving the early action.

McGregor came out fast early and took a good Mayweather punch early. McGregor is always busy early, getting a good uppercut with 35 seconds left. McGregor won the first round. That uppercut was pretty, a counter punch that Bernstein noted that punch is a rare thing against Mayweather.

Second round: Another fast McGregor start, took another good Mayweather shot and is keeping the pressure up. Mayweather isn’t moving much, which is weird, like he’s saving energy.  Give that to McGregor again, who is pushing the pressure. 2-0 McG.

Third round: Mayweather was smiling at the camera, looking fresh and easy. McGregor is working hard and it showed in the corner. McGregor’s reflexes have shown through, hits behind the head. He’s been warned. The crowd is “ole ole ole” for McGregor. Still good for McGregor. 3-0 McG.

Fourth round: “South of the equator, to the peninsula” – Mauro Ranallo on McGregor’s possible low blow on Mayweather. Close round. Mayweather has come out of his shell and is beginning to throw punches. Not hard, but good placement by Mayweather. McGregor is still keeping pressure on. And, McGregor is landing good punches to Mayweather and it is registering. 4-0 McG.

Fifth round: Jab and angles are in McGregor’s advantage so far. McGregor’s jab is very, very good in MMA, so that has translated very easily here. The different angles, because of McGregor’s arm length and shifty stance, is making Mayweather work hard. A lot of clinches and close “phone booth” fighting by both here. Mayweather’s punches are hitting, but not weathering McGregor. That is key. Mayweather is in a fight and that is something very few people expected. Farhood gave it to Mayweather and has it 3-2 McGregor. I have it 4-1 McG.

Sixth round: Mayweather has opened up on McGregor. Good flurry of punches by Mayweather. McGregor weathered the storm and stuck his tongue out. Fun fight. Both had their moments, but Mayweather got the best in his flurry. He is waking up. I think he used the early rounds to save energy for the later rounds. 4-2 McG. (3-3 Farhood).

Seventh round: Mayweather is getting more punches in. McGregor is beginning to eat more punches and is beginning to show some wear, especially fatigue. McGregor is still in this, but he is breathing hard. 4-3 McG. (4-3 May Farhood).

Eighth round: Mayweather is continuing to turn and show his back when McGregor comes in to punch. It is frustrating McGregor, because it is blatant. Both are now trading punches. Close round. Tough to score. Go 5-3 McG.

Ninth round: This is where the money will be won here on out. McGregor has only gone 25 minutes once in the octagon. Mayweather lives in the late rounds. Good start for McGregor, hurting Mayweather twice in the first minute. It is a boxing match, but McGregor is gassed. He is struggling in this round. He looked up at the clock and looks weary. Mayweather is stalking him. This is intriguing drama. Mayweather won the round late, 5-4 McG, but McGregor is in uncharted territory. This is going to be great.

10th round: Mayweather took the offense, punched three hard shots to McGregor and the ref stopped it. He never went down, but he was gassed out.

All in all, Mayweather stepped up in the final five rounds to take the fight. McGregor went 8 1/2 rounds hard and then gassed out. The stoppage was the right call, because he would have been hurt. McGregor said he was fine, but the ref made the call.

Worth the money, even at the price range, for this one. That may not be popular, but I can say that I saw the best Mayweather fight I’ve seen in his career. And, I saw McGregor stand toe-to-toe with a boxing legend in the ring. As a McGregor fan, if you didn’t guess beforehand, I’m super happy all the way around.

Mayweather, TKO win, 10th round (1:05)

Here is what I wrote about the undercard. The best fight was the second one.

Gervonta Davis vs. Francisco Fonseca (IBF Jr. Welterweight title?)

OK, here’s my rant: Make weight. If you can’t, go to a weight division where you can. Period. I noted weight and weight gain in the Cleverly-Jack fight below, but here is where it gets irritating. Davis, the IBF Junior Welterweight champion, missed weight by 2 pounds. He was stripped of his title, but Fonseca can win it if he wins the title. Davis can’t win the title back, here at least.

Davis will still get a payday, but he should be fined heavily. Sorry, that’s part of the deal. Ask wrestlers, they know it, too. Make weight.

OK, the fight: Davis is the faster, more crisp fighter. One of the younger US fighters in the upper levels right now and he looks good. The fluffy, Cookie Monster-esque trunks by Davis, however, makes it hard to take him seriously. Fonseca is throwing punches and keeping himself in the fight. After five rounds, it is close, but Davis is leading.

🎵"G….Grooooooover…..G….George….."🎵

A post shared by Questlove Gomez (@questlove) on

Oh, at 8:20 p.m. PDT, it was announced on Twitter that the main event will be held up because of PPV feed trouble in California, Florida and other states. Ouch. That is a very bad look.

After six rounds, Davis is in control. Of course, that happens when you don’t have to work to lose the weight to make weight. Sorry… not sorry. He’s impressive and he’s more free-flowing in this fight. Farhood had it 5-1 Davis. Fonseca is a nice fighter, but he’s being outpointed by Davis. If Davis was against a more accomplished, more top-level fighter, which Fonseca isn’t (truth), Davis would have been eating those fuzzy trunks.

In the eighth, Fonseca got hit and grabbed Davis. It looked like he was going down, but Davis hit him in the back of the head to get him off of him. The ref counted him out at 10, a KO. In the replay, Davis punched Fonseca in the back of the head, then pushed him while he was down. Fonseca looked like he was trying to sell it and the ref counted him out.

In other words, what a shitty ending to a fight that was lacking in drama and circumstance. Davis wins by KO in the eighth. A sucker punch win for Davis. Ugh.

Nathan Cleverly vs. Badou Jack (WBC Lt. HWY championship)

Cleverly came into this fight as the champion. Jack is a former super middleweight champion and he came into the fight night at 187 pounds. He made weight on Saturday, which makes me wonder if he is at his true fighting level. Cleverly is at 182, which is only 8 pounds heavier than the weigh-in.

OK, I mention that because some fighters can keep their speed and stamina with the up-and-down in weight in a short amount of time. Cleverly’s weight gain is less than Jack’s and Cleverly came out firing early. Jack produced some counter attacks.

Mauro described Cleverly’s jab hitting Jack’s head as “the proverbial Pez dispenser.” Nice. McGregor showed up on the big screen between the second and third rounds. What was in the arena at the time (not many), they went nuts.

By the way, he Tweeted out a photo of him and his son, who was wearing a three-piece suit for the fight. Honestly, that’s awesome on a lot of levels. Here it is:

McGregorBabySuit

In the fourth round, Jack began to really press his advantage. His hard body shots began to make their marks on Cleverly, who began showing signs of breaking down. This won’t make the full distance, because Jack is taking over. Cleverly’s belt is in peril right now. Final 45 seconds was all Jack, who has pounded Cleverly into a bloody mess (nose). Farhood 4-0 to Jack.

Body shots kill. Tell that to any boxer, MMA or kick boxer and to your grandmama — hit the body hard and often. In the fifth round, Jack is throwing all of the punches. Cleverly’s face is a mess and the ref stopped it late in the fifth. Cleverly wasn’t responding and Jack landed several uppercuts for the win.

So, what do I know. The weight gain didn’t matter. Never mind.

Jack TKO win, 5th round. New WBC Lt. HWY champ.

Andrew Tabiti vs. Steve Cunningham

Tabiti is the younger, up-and-coming fighter who stepped up against a veteran in Steve Cunningham. Both fought a very close fight, but Tabiti landed some very good combination series through the middle rounds.

Tabiti is a member of Mayweather’s gym/camp and entered the fight 14-0. There is a bit of a pedigree with him working there and it showed on this night. Cunningham is 41 years old and a two-time cruiserweight champion. Tabiti’s hard combos and quick hands dominated the first half of this fight and Cunningham showed his age.

In fact, those combos were crisp, direct and delivered with purpose. He didn’t need to throw a lot of punches to win this, which is more of a knock on Cunningham. Cunningham never had the room nor the time to deliver his game plan – land anything. This went the distance, Farhood had it 9-1 to Tabiti and you can’t fault that line of thinking. I was very impressed with Tabiti, especially dominating a fight where he didn’t need to show off his chin or his strength in taking a hard punch.

Tabiti, UD win, 97-93/100-90/97-93. NABF and IBF cruiserweight title.

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Ginsu knife career

While visiting a friend who stopped in the office to wish me well on my future endeavors, he asked if I was going to write up the prerequisite “So Long, Farewell” column.

Yes. I am. Right now, in my head and in note form, I have five versions of the column that will be my final statement and mark of 18 years at The Daily World. Yes, I will have one. I just don’t know what it is going to look like and what will be in it until the very end.

I’ve read my fair share of them. All of them were heartfelt and had a tinge of sadness in them, as is if to convey that this wasn’t their choice. Unfortunately for me, I’m the one who made the choice, so that tinge of sadness will come from elsewhere.

Here’s one column idea that went through my head recently… the Ginsu knife. You know, the one on television that can slice through bread so thin, you can see through it. It is beaten up and comes right back to slice that tomato expertly and through a single piece of newsprint easily.

There are a few metaphors you can pour into it, about adversity, overcoming obstacles and staying true to form. You can draw up how well it is designed and how it’ll last forever. And, you can add the steak knives, the peeler and the decorative knife that can help make a potato look like a spiral staircase around a bit piece of pot roast.

Then, to draw it together, you compare your career to it. You compare how tough, sturdy and reliable both have been all of these years. You note how both stood up to the knocks, the pings and the misuse. It’ll all come together like an advanced Lego set.

At the end, you can sign off with something pithy, something heartfelt and something logical.

It’ll fit. Until you realized that it is a bad idea and rather stupid to compare a career that will come to an end with just over 28 years to span to a direct marketing knife set that isn’t that good. It is really stupid.

Or, is it. I don’t know. I’ll know soon enough.

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And then there were two…

The NFL postseason has come to an end, in a sense, on Sunday with the NFC and AFC Championship games.

For Super Bowl 51, the Atlanta Falcons will take on the New England Patriots for the NFL Championship in Houston, Texas on Feb. 5.

If you are looking for in-depth analysis, you won’t find it here, just a few tidbits and observations.

  • First off, here is the best National Anthem presentation from Sunday (the video is from last week, but it is the same guy):
  • Brett Favre is now in a burgeoning commercial storyline with Buffalo Wild Wings, which you know will be concluded during Super Bowl Sunday (no judgement):
  • Super Bowl 51 will be on FOX, which means the world will have to listen to Joe Buck and Troy Aikman call the game. Buck’s style is just, eh… Aikman’s style in commentary isn’t bad, but he does make Buck look good at times, which is more you can say about Phil Simms’ role with Jim Nantz on CBS.
  • The radio play-by-play teams on Westwood One have been traditionally the best at calling the games. Ian Eagle and Kevin Harlan are really good as PbP men, with Dan Fouts and James Lofton are very good analysts/color commentators. If there was an easier way to link up the radio broadcasts with the TV broadcasts (on mute), I’d love to find it.

As for the games, Matt Ryan may be the NFL MVP at the end of the season and he showed why against Green Bay. For two straight weeks (against Green Bay and Seattle), Ryan and his offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan have dissected the opposing defenses easily. Sunday’s game was tough to watch. Green Bay was never in the game and neutralized a hot Aaron Rodgers, who had to play from behind from the get-go.

New England just keeps rolling on. Another AFC title game in Foxborough, another Patriots victory to clinch a Super Bowl berth. And, ESPN will spend two weeks of mythological magic on the Patriots to hype up the game.

Enjoy the break before the Super Bowl – because that means no more football until August.

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Filed under 2017, football, NFL