Saturday, September 10, 2005
  On Curt, Chinese food, and Strange Capitals
Today began innocently enough around quarter-to-eight in Jamestown, RI - also known as Conanicut Island and founded in 1636 by Roger Williams.

It's no ordinary day. Today - Saturday, Sept. 10 - is the first day of TLBR's Nine States, Nine Dunkin Donuts and Three Ballparks in Three Days extravaganza. This massive undertaking coincides with my moving to Milwaukee and starting up the new gig. The luxury sedan was packed up, the gas tank filled, my wallet drained from the gas tank filling, and there's no looking back.

ESPN did 50 states in 50 days, but my average of three states a day is so much better. And my theme song is too. The Worldwide Leader jammed that "Life is a open road" tune by Bryan "Cuts Like a Knife" Adams down your throat.

The Nine States theme, however, blows it out of the water. It took months of planning, remastering, and tons of data and marketing research throughout the demographics of my readership.

Actually, I lied. It was the first song that came on the soothing hi-fi sounds in the luxury sedan. And that song was (drumroll, s.v.p...) "Stuck inside of Mobile with those Memphis Blues Again" by Mr. Robert Zimmerman.

In fact, as Ashford and Bradford bid me farewell as they always do when Exit 1 in Rhody becomes Exit 93 in the Nutmeg State, the first 50 minutes of the drive was all Zimmerman/Dylan. WRIU, 90.3 FM, was playing a marathon of Dylan tunes and it was terrific to hear and fitting for the beginning of a lengthy roadtrip.

RIU usually doesn't impress with their range, but I was able to take their signal strong into the high 70's in Connecticut.
So today's itinerary consisted of: 1. leaving Rhode Island; 2. Navigating through Connecticut; 3. Parking in New Rochelle, NY, picking up some stuff from my old office from the guy who moved into my old apartment, grabbing my sneakers from my old locker, and heading to the Toilet for an afternoon matinee of American League baseball; 4. Navigating out of New York and into New Jersey; 5. Some sort of dinner; 6. Navigating into Pennsylvania; 7. Catching some shut-eye in Harrisburg.

Today's line: 7-for-7. Which, coincedentally, is what Tony Graffanino batted today. (not really, but he was 3-for-5)

But there is also a greater goal that I need to achieve. One that will require diligence and attentiveness (yes, it's a word. look it up, webster.). My goal is to drink a large coffee from Dunkin Donuts in every state that I travel through.

The Rhode Island one was easy. RI leads the nation in DD shops per capita, averaging one shop per 5,600 residents. I grabbed a large hot/light with skim/one sugar at the one in Richmond at the foot of Rt. 138. At exit 40 in Orange, CT, I pulled off for a medium, same characteristics. By this point, if you wanted to hook a few wires up to me, the caffeine count in my body could power Poughkeepsie, NY for the week.
After stopping by New Ro for a bit, I departed for the Toilet in the South Bronx. Why the "Toilet" references, you ask? Well, if you look at Yankee Stadium, it's kind of shaped like a bowl. And since it's usually filled with shit, you get the lovely poo-poo, ca-ca metaphor.

Moving along...

I won these seats a while back at a golf outing/benefit. I went with my friend Sean who, over the past seven years in New York, was an individual I dealt with both on a personal and professional level...and he's second to none. I won the tickets in a golf outing raffle that he sponsors.

Sean's a Yankee fan, but I don't hold that against him. Not everyone's perfect, like Tom Brady. And he's also a Packer fan, which I'm beginning to realize that I had better sympathize with that sort of thing. And I don't think it will be a problem, as long as Cheesehead folks realize these three indisputable facts:

* Tom Brady is already a better career quarterback than Brett Favre. No debate. I don't care if Farverer has started 300 games in a row or's not the Hall of Longevity, it's the Hall of Fame. Sure, he'll be there, but he's not better than Tom.
* Desmond Howard and Andre Rison were flukes.
* If Troy Brown plays, Drew Bledsoe has two Super Bowl rings.

The seats were good and the game was better. I was nervous coming into it because that it my nature and that is my defense mechanism. I watched the Red Sox (check!) offense sputter the last two nights. I remember the Yankee comebacks of old. I have watched Curt Schilling's last few attempts to be a starting pitcher. I knew Manny Ramirez was slumping and hadn't homered in his last 60 at-bats.

Plus, right before theYankees official "we're almost going to take the field, guys" theme song - which is the instrumental to "We Won't Get Fooled Again" by the Who - the Toilet had Pat Benatar's "Invincible" cranking.

Nothing like a little Pat Benatar to get your blood pumping. Love truly is a battlefield. And heartache to heartache, we stand.

Well, the do-or-die situation that Pat sang about ended up the latter rather than the former. Manuel hit a 3-2 fastball to the Tracey Towers and Schilling looked more like Bloody Sock than Bloody Suck going eight full, yielding five hits and two measely runs. Sox win, 9-2, and all is well.
It was taxing, though, having to try to speak monosyllabically so that Yankee fans could understand. After a while, it helps to just point and gesticulate and end all your words in "uck."
After hitting the D-Double on North Ave. for a large usual, it was time to put the Empire State in the rearview, at least until the roadtrip to St. John's. Bidding Manhattan farewell, gazing across the Hudson from the GWB and sending much love, respect and the best out to Shawn, who perished four years earlier in lower Manhattan on United 175 (I'll never forget), I was in Jersey.
Roll 'em up. The sweet smell of methane was in the air. Like the old joke goes: a man and a woman had been dating for a while. As things progressed physically between the two consenting adults in the bedroom, the woman whispered to the man "I want you to kiss me where it smells funny." So the guy jumps out of bed, grabs his car keys, and says "Ok, I'll take you to Secaucus."
(I will be here all week, you ungrateful sods, so tip your waitress. And the lamb is to die for.)
Somewhere off of Rt. 78, I got hungry and stopped at Ting Ho's Chinese takeout place. Ting Ho looked just like every single solitary Chinese food place I've ever been to. Now, if you want to make the joke about them all looking the same, go ahead, be my guest. I'm just saying, they all have the same interior decorator?

I ordered the General Tso combo. Not too difficult. It's a Chinese takeout place, right?


If you go to Burger King, you'd expect that you'd get a tasty hamburger in a timely fashion, right? It's not the first time someone ordered a hamburger. And since "burger" is prominently featured in both the name of the restaurant, as well as the order, things should proceed rather smoothly.

Not so with Ting Ho and General Tso's combo #13. I waited 10...15...20...25 minutes. Finally, I had enough and walked out. The woman yelled at me. I told her I didn't have time. She told me I didn't pay. I told her I didn't have to. She said I did. I told her I didn't get my food. She said it coming. I said not fast enough. (isn't that exciting dialogue?)

So I went to McDonald's, ordered a quick #2, went across the street to Dunkin Donuts for a medium usual, and headed back on the highway.
Once into Pennsylvania, I was cruising along. Literally. At some points, I looked down and realized that I was traveling 90 mph. That's not good, especially for someone with a recent speeding ticket on the record (dismissed for a good driving record, ah thank you.).

Of course, when I realize that I'm speeding...I sped through, yep, you guessed it, a speed trap.

There is no way that I was getting out of this one. The State Trooper had to get me. I was flying. Right past him. He had a gun and was checking everyone.

Well, it couldn't have been a radar gun. It was probably a hair dryer. No cop. No ticket. No trying to use "well, I know Trooper Doyle in Rhode Island." I slowed down to 80. Ok, fine. 85.
Route 81 was kind of barren and dark. Lots of road work, but not much scenery, and it was making me tired. Until I took the turn for route 83. It was like I was driving that desert road from California to Vegas.

And by Vegas, I mean Harrisburg. The place looked like the friggin' Moulin Rouge compared to, well, Hershey. And Harrisburg is the capital of Pennsylvania? Who knew? I sure didn't.

They signed the damned Declaration of Independence and filmed Rocky in Philadelphia - it was even the Capital of the United States. But no, let's make the capital of this 30-some odd electoral vote state Harrisburg.

That's like picking some old mill town to be the capital of New York.
But regardless of all the witty banter and cynicism, I'm happy to be here in Harrisburg and look forward to settling down for a nice night's sleep.

Tomorrow, it's an early rise to pick up Steve in Pittsburgh and head to Cleveland. Wow. Pittsburgh and Cleveland in one day. Don't y'all hurt yourself while queueing up trying to be me.

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A daily - or every-other-day - account of all there is in my head
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(I vow to attack this endeavor with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind.)

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