Friday, January 30, 2009

The "Five"

I've always loved mysteries.

I read mysteries, watch mysteries, write mysteries, the idea of the unknown and trying to solve the unknown is endlessly fascinating to me. Since my shameless obsession with the detective genre is well known to my family (they were all characters in a weird Agatha Christie / Clue hybrid I wrote when I was 10) I actually ended up a suspect in an unusual episode this week.

My grandfather's wake was on Wednesday (NOTE: The funeral is in May since the ground is frozen solid at the moment. No I have never heard of this before either). Since the funeral is kind of the main event and weather conditions have been abysmal in Oneonta, the family around the country was told not to travel and come in once May rolls around. As much as I hated to miss the first service my budget / vacation days only accommodate one trip back and I had to settle for calling home to see how everyone was doing.

Due to my screwy sleep schedule I often knock out for an hour or two when I get home. I woke up Wednesday night to a message from my mother which simply said:

Mom: Hi Honey. It's mom. I just had a question for you. Call me when you can.

It was too late to call her back that night but I was a little concerned something might have gone wrong. She didn't sound upset per say but her voice was odd.

I called yesterday to get a full recap of Wednesday's events. There had been a great turn out and full police escort. The radio did a tribute to him and people shared stories including the time he saved someone from a burning house which no one in my family had heard before. Overall my mother sounded very happy with how everything had turned out. We talked for several minutes before she got around to asking whether or not I had sent over a certain floral arrangement.

A large "shield like" arrangement of flowers had arrived. Whereas the other flowers and gifts had names attached this one did not. The flowers on the wreath spelled out "Five". . . and no one has any idea what in blue blazes that means. By default the families thoughts drifted to me since I wasn't there and with my four other cousins that would make us "The Five" but sadly this odd familial tribute was not mine.

So now we have a conundrum on our hands. What is the "Five"? The shield brings up the idea of it being someone on the police force but they were all at the service and no one took credit for it. And why "Five"? My favorite theories so far:

1. Rich's idea was that the wreath was intended for the "Five" family. The thought of there being a "Ted Five" amuses me to no end.

2. My personal favorite, my Grandfather was part of some sort of experimental super hero group back in the 1940's entitled "The Five" whose last surviving member sent the flowers.

My mother is playing Sam Spade and calling the delivery company in the hopes of tracking down the sender.

That's all I have to report for now...we'll see how this pans out.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Saturday Night Is The Night For Fighting

If you watch enough boxing you are going to run into several phrases that will be repeated by the announcers ad nauseam. Some that immediately spring to mind:

  1. “Styles make fights”
  2. “Boxing is the theater of the unexpected”
  3. “He doesn’t like it to the body” (NOTE: Who in fact DOES enjoy being hit in the stomach? This one is so old that it’s an exclamation in a 1949 film The Set-Up)
  4. “That’s why they fight the fights.” (Normally said after an upset)
  5. “Every great fighter has one last great fight in him”
  6. “Good big man beats good little man"

Personifying the first five sayings was Saturday night at the Staples Center as “Sugar” Shane Mosley managed to beat the crap out of 4-1 favorite “The Tijuana Tornado” Antonio Margarito. For my money there was no way Margarito loses the fight, he was too young, too tough, Shane was over the hill, there was no way Mosley could pull the trigger anymore. I called the fight Shane’s last stand and was looking forward to Mosley putting on a helluva show before falling to the stronger, younger champion. The mere mention of a Mosley upset caused Rich and I to roll our eyes:

Sure it could happen but we could also all be killed by an asteroid tomorrow, I wasn’t exactly banking on a boxing miracle.

As I ate crow in front of the rabid Staples crowd, the largest ever assembled in the arena, watching Shane take Margarito to school I wondered why this was happening. Why was this event, which on paper defied all logic in fact playing out as it was. Was Margarito’s war last year with Puerto Rican superstar Miguel Cotto to blame? Was the rumor that Margarito was caught cheating before the fight influencing his behavior causing him to be distracted? Was Mosley’s new trainer that much of a factor that the over the hill veteran suddenly regained the abilities of his prime? At the end of the day it was probably all of these factors and more, it really doesn’t matter though because no matter what happened, this is what Rich and I looked like throughout the fight:

Of all the old sayings I would have to say that number 2 is my favorite because it’s true and also why I keep coming back.

Win or lose on Saturday night it was a given that Shane Mosley would be heading to the boxing hall of fame. Likewise Antonio Margarito, despite this extreme set back, has forever left his mark by winning the Welterweight crown an achievement that cannot be taken away. Someone who has never and probably will never enjoy these pleasures is Luis Tapia.

Tapia fought on the undercard with the very unimposing record of 0-2. His opponent sported the record 5-1 with 5 knockouts. While a 5-1 record is nothing to write home about, when all 5 of those wins are by knockout and the evening’s opponent possesses 0 wins, the outcome of said undercard was in little doubt. Keeping this in mind my friends and I were pleased to see that apparently nobody told Luis he was supposed to lose.

Naturally smaller than his opponent with limited offensive capabilities Luis decided he had only one chance at victory: BOMBS AWAY. Fighting the first three rounds standing directly in front of the larger man and simply throwing everything he could Luis took the lead. When his opponent was docked a point in the third round for low blows it became apparent that if Luis could hold on, he would rack up his first victory. Visibly gassed, bleeding from the mouth and now suffering from a broken nose endured in the third round Luis battled through a rough fourth round taking large shots as my section screamed him on.

When he was announced as the winner I was pleasantly taken aback, this was a rarity, the jobber of the evening pulling the win out of thin air. It’s not like upsets don’t happen but normally not for fighters like Luis. I don’t know what will happen to him next. I can name several fighters who rebounded from an 0-1 record to become all time greats (Henry Armstrong, and Bernard Hopkins) but I have never heard of an all time great recovering from two losses right out of the gate. I wish Luis well, I hope he continues to pull upsets and entertain crowds.

For twenty minutes he was able to thrill the spectators of the Staples Center and win the 20+ thousand crowd. I might have been a live witness to the best night of his life and that is another reason I keep coming back.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Carl Delberta 1916-2009

The adage goes that boxers don't have happy endings. Money and health problems seem to plague fighters from the lowliest jobber up to the best of the best. One had only look at Muhammad Ali or his arch rival Joe Frazier, who once commanded the national spotlight, to see how the lifestyle can catch up with anyone. With that said I was always glad that my grandfather happened to avoid these pitfalls and live a model life as far as I was concerned, one filled with hardship, hard work and eventual triumph.

Born to Italian immigrants in Oneonta, NY my grandfather was forced to fend for himself at a young age to make it through the great depression. After toiling in the Civilian Conservation Corps for a time he tried his hand at boxing, the sport of his hero Jack Dempsey. He racked up over 40 wins before suffering his first lost* and was the leading ranked welterweight so feared that the champ refused to fight him (instead choosing to fight my grandfathers sparring partner Marty Servo who would defeat him).

World War II cut my grandfathers fighting career short and when he returned he joined the Oneonta police force where he would stay for the next few years. Based upon his own experiences during the depression and fighting to keep a roof over his head (literally) my grandfather came to the decision that he would build a Boys Club so that no child would grow up with nowhere to go like he did. His organization started small working out of his backyard but slowly it grew, snowballing into a pillar of the community which is still thriving in the town (after several rennovations over the years the facility is gorgeous and rivals any YMCA I've ever seen).

I'm not one for gooey speeches, he wasn't perfect but who is? He lived an extraordianry life, fought as hard as he could, realized and sustained his dream and managed to hold a loving family in the process. He lived long enough to see several great grandchildren born and up until the end held his faculties and sense of humor. **

As far as life templates go I would have to say he's my # 1.

*An online source for boxing records has him in the system but their records don't hold up against newspaper clippings I have from when he fought. I know for a fact he was undefeated going into his 40th fight and have been working to correct this for years which is frustrating.

**A fact that wouldn't really fit anywhere but the man LOVED gadgets. My mom's theory was since he grew up dirt poor he wanted to possess the wildest stuff. My personal favorite was a megaphone which also had built in songs. He would walk around the gymnasium in his club blasting When The Saints Go Marching In and annoying the crap out of everyone. We had fun.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


So as it turns out I am in fact a fan of paint balling.

I had been once before a decade ago and my highlights involved:
-not hitting anybody
-getting nailed in the groin
-being shot in my unexposed neck

and I wasn't exactly running out the door to try it again.

However a trip out to Valencia with some coworkers ended up being a lot of fun. I'll spare you the boring details but there was one notable highlight. Adam, who as it turns out is quite the paint balling enthusiast, brought two professional guns from home which were head and shoulders better than the pieces of junk rented out by the course we went to. At lunch after several hours of playing with said piece of junk weapon, Adam offered me the use of one his professional guns. Where old reliable shot one paint ball at a time, Adam's Ferrari of a gun had duel triggers and was built for rapid fire. Just handling the thing was nerve wracking considering it didn't come cheap so of course the following exchange would HAVE to occur.

Adam: Are you sure the safety's off?
Moi: Let me check.

(I click the safety off and graze the trigger, promptly shooting Adam in the leg)

In my defense, at least I didn't shoot him in the face.


I would feel weird not posting anything about Barack's inauguration today and yet at the same time not living through the 60's and the civil rights movement I feel woefully under equipped.

Let me settle with I am very happy with this turn of events. Rich describes it as a peaceful coup and where else in the world is that even possible? My mother said she's been waking up more hopeful in the last few months following the Obama win and for someone to cross generations like that is pretty special.

I don't envy the position he's in, things are bound to get worse here before they get better but Obama inspires hope in a way like few others I have seen before and that's certainly a great start.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Trouble A-brewin'

Seeing how easy it is to get stuck in a routine I really want 2009 to be a year of new experiences. With this my mantra for the new year, I was excited to hear that Garrett wanted to take a three hour course on how to brew beer from home.

Worst case scenario: A filthy kitchen and a story to tell.
Best case scenario: A new hobby which always ends with me drunk.

What first struck me about the class was that it was taught by the same gentleman that runs the insanely hard trivia night at Irish Times on Tuesday Nights. It was odd seeing him outside the bar, my life resembles a macabre sitcom as it is with or without recurring side characters. The next thing that hit me was how simple and yet remarkably nerve racking the brewing process is. There is only ten or so steps but the use of timing and proper wielding of ingredients is so precise that the entire endeavor can unravel in a hurry. The worst part is since weeks are needed to properly ferment the beverage you could spend a month brewing the beer just to discover you've made something undrinkable.

Garrett and I spent a few hours yesterday running around gathering supplies and then got to work. I'll spare you the boring details but as The Chargers got slaughtered on national television we went step by step through the preparation process. At around 5:30 we approached completion, two steps (cooling the brew and adding the yeast) standing between us and the end. The booklet that came with the kit which reiterated what was covered in the class advised getting a temperature reading on the brew before dropping in the yeast and as I went about cooling my pot Garrett decided to take a reading on his Belgian Pale Ale.


As he was nearing the finish line the damn thermometer broke adding the unwelcome ingredients of glass and some mysterious red fluid to the mix. After a moments debate Garrett did the right thing and dumped his pot. I can only imagine his frustration since that's an entire afternoon down the drain...literally. Thankfully it's experience for next time. While I would have been P I S S E D, he handled himself like a champ.

My red ale is hanging out in the backyard hopefully stewing in its own deliciousness, only time will tell. Either way the class and the entire kit cost a few bucks so I guarantee to make this process worth my while and soon the red ale will have some friends.

11 Down, 2 to go

It's around 12:30 in the afternoon and I've been at work since 3 in the morning. The show I work for lives for award season since that's when all the stars come out to play. Where in the past our focus has been primarily on The Emmy's and The Oscar's this year we paid a lot more attention to The Golden Globes, hence the early call time. I was going to write some kind of "jeez this sucks" blog but come to think about it why not try something a little more constructive.

Some pro's about days we cover award shows:

1. Low number of graphics orders
2. Free food for lunch. As ghetto as it sounds I love not paying for lunch, even if I'm crazy sleep deprived.
3. People are in the best moods. Curiously enough it is the days where we should be the most irritable that the office comes together. Everyone, from the lowliest PA to the highest executive, is tired and just wants to plow through the program so a weird sense of camaraderie develops.

I think making it through the rest of the work day will be fine, the drive home I'm a bit worried about...

Friday, January 9, 2009

A golden era comes to a close

Since moving out to Los Angeles close to five years ago (!) I've had the honor of residing with one Christopher Buchakjian who was a bit of an urban legend back when I was in college.

Even though we were both in the film department I had no classes with Chris but would often hear him referred to in a hushed, revered tone whenever brought up since he was held in such high regards by the professors. His experimental short film, "Son of a Dagger Maker" was the student template used to judge all other films in the class and is an oddly horrifying piece of work. While scouting out Los Angeles for the big move my former roommate and good friend CR discovered that Chris needed a new housemate and put us into contact with one another. Based off the fact that:

A. Around campus Chris was a mysterious, wraith like figure
B. Had made a movie that was the definition of curiously unsettling

I honestly had no idea what to expect.

My fears however turend out to be completely unfounded since 2004 Chris has become one of my best friends. Despite the fact we're both kind of loners who spend their time on very different hobbies (Writing VS Lighting Design) we hit it off. I am certainly not an easy person to live with at all times and we managed to have a house with several line up changes and very little drama.

Greg / Chris / Adam 2004
Greg / Chris / Leo 2004 - 2006
Greg / Chris / Rich 2004 - 2009

With that said I am sad to announce that he will be moving out of our luxorious Culver City residence by February. While I wish him well on his further misadventures and look forward to my own zaniness with ongoing housemate Rich (a friend from the land of high school) and incoming housemate Jeff (another Hofstra alum) the house will not be the same without him.

Some of the top moments from an entertaining run:

10. Chris, Leo (the only person I might be able to ever go to Burning Man with) and I deciding one Sunday afternoon that in order to make more money we would become vampire hunters but then bitterly arguing over whether or not we would keep any money or goods we found on the undead. For the record I was pro keeping the loot.

9. Chris agreeing to come with me to Pirate Times on a whim where we, along with another friend Will, screamed like a house was on fire for our sections hero The Green Pirate.

8. When I suggested I liked Eric Bana as an actor Chris proceeded to sing a song with guitar accompanyment as to how much he sucks.

7. We both insanely LOVE The Doom Generation but for two very different reasons. He enjoys it as a parody while I find it a great example of what not to do while writing a film. To this day I don't know which one of us is right.

6. Adam, our former roommate had a ton of wild friends from the college he went to and parties at our place turned out to be a fairly mixed bag in terms of people. Late one night, in the middle of a crowded room while talking to two girls as a Smiths song played Chris appeared out of nowhere, pointed to one of the gals, announced "This girl lost her virginity to Morrissey" and then moonwalked down the hall.

5. Chris had lived in our house for several years before I arrived and he and his first roommates started and kept a tradition hosting orphan Thanksgiving. While some faces have stayed the same and others have changed, hosting the holiday is always a lot of fun. My folks don't even ask if I'm coming home in November anymore and having the event at our place made Los Angeles feel a lot more like home than New York City ever did for me.

4. At a club for Kelly's Birthday Chris climbs onto a platform on top of a stage and starts dancing. The platform is for hoochies only and security tells him to get down. Chris looks the large slab of beef in the eyes and instead of getting down, merely dances harder, wildly waving his arms.

3. Random Movie Madness: I used to work for Film Threat and in order to review movies they would send you a box filled with 50 DVD's...95% of which were total shit. Sitting alone was agony but thankfully bizarre curiousity drove Chris to begin sitting in on the viewings and we became a two man MST3K which turned into a lot of fun. The one terrifying exception was an unmarked 6 hour DVD of 9/11 conspiracy theory material narrated by a creepy robot voice. Chris made it through 4 hours while I watched 5 until I fastforward to the end. Chris was so freaked out he slept with his sneakers on, I slept with a baseball bat.

Even years after I was done with Film Threat we would find ourselves still watching the randomest crap on television and sticking with it just to hurl insults at the screen. Movies I sat through which I never would have thought twice about otherwise.
-Akeelah and the Bee
-Live Wire
-My Tutor
-Belly 2 (Special guest star Rich doing the funniest impsersonation I've ever heard)
-Factotum (Loved the book, the movie is total crap)
-Aquamarine (perhaps our lowest point)
-Evan Almighty (How does one mock a comedy? When it's as unfunny as this film.)

2. Ridiculous late night conversations were a staple for the house and none more so than a humongous, passionate argument over whether or not one would rather spend ones time building a ship in a bottle or going snow shoeing. Chris, Rich, Trish and I yelled ourselves hoarse. BTW I remain a devout advocater of snow shoeing.

1. The house on the end of our street took Y E A R S to complete and as it was nearing its final stages the workmen would be over there at odd hours. During one arduous two week period they would wake us up early every morning hours before we had to work. As a joke I remark that in order to get them to stop we would have to dress up as construction workers and infiltrate their operation. That afternoon as I'm watching TV and Chris begins pulling random objects of clothing from his room. When I inquire what he's doing he replies that he thought we were going over to bother the construction workers. I admit I was joking but he will have none of it.

In a button down shirt wearing a hardhat and safety goggles clutching a clipboard I follow Chris who has on a hazzrd jacked and ear protection over to the house. As he taps on various parts of the house with a pen and nods to me I make gibberish notes on the clipboard until we attract the attention of the workers. Chris demands to see the person in charge and asks about what kind of hours they're keeping claming that we are from the head office and feel they may be starting work too soon. The foreman asks if we want to see the permit which Chris quickly agrees, I let him do all the talking since if I open my mouth I will begin laughing hysterically. The foreman returns with the paperwork which Chris studies making several side comments to me who is once again marking notes on the clipboard. Chris says we'll have take this up with our superiors and we walk home...TWO DOORS AWAY!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Top Of The Heap

How often can you point to the best of anything?

The Best Movie. The Best Album. The Best Meal.

What criteria do you use?

Seeing how objective the concept of the best is, I was amazed at how clearly 2008 was the best year of boxing, I would argue, in the history of the sport. This isn't to say there haven't been bigger fighters or better fights but overall the amount of quality produced on every level is, for my money, unrivaled in any other year. Sports Illustrated loudly proclaimed 2008 as the best year for sports ever citing The Giants Super Bowl win and Phelps astounding Olympic achievement but failed to recognize the pugilist specialists who delivered one helluva show.

The standout fights:

18. Alfredo Angulo VS Richard Gutierrez
17. Bernard Hopkins VS Joe Calzaghe
16. Glen Johnson VS Chad Dawson
15. Juan Manuel Marquez VS Joel Casamayor
14. Brian Vera VS Andy Lee
13. Jorge Arce VS Rafael Concepcion
12. Carl Froch VS Jean Pascal
11. Amir Khan VS Michael Gomez
10. Chris Arreola VS Travis Walker
9. Martin Santiago VS Steve Luevano
8. Jose Reyes VS Ivan Valle (6 knockdowns in 4 rounds!)
7. Joel Casamayor VS Michael Katsidis
6. Miguel Cotto VS Antonio Margarito
5. Ricardo Torres VS Kendall Holt II
4. Steve Cunningham VS Tomasz Adamak
3. Rogers Mtagwa VS Tomas Villa
2. Manny Pacquiao VS Juan Manuel Marquez II
1. Israel Vasquez VS Rafael Marquez III

In addition to Hall of Fame showings in blowouts by Bernard Hopkins, Manny Pacquiao (in all likelihood retiring Oscar Delahoya) and Vic Darchinyan.

2009 is set to be a worthy followup but 2 years at that intensity would probably cause my heart to blow out of my chest...Here's hoping!

One Year Later

So I made a 2008 resolution to keep a journal and what happens? I flake out and miss chronicling the craziest year ever. Let's try this again...