24-Karat Party

Hank Stuever: It’s gold parties now, here in the de-gilded age. The women who used to invite all their girlfriends over to their fantastic homes for good wine and catered nosh on the pretense of selling merchandise to one another (Pampered Chef! Rolls of fancy wrapping paper for school charity!) are now inviting one another over to their fantastic homes for parties where everyone turns their gold into cash (ca$h!!) and winds up convulsing with giddy laughter over such treasures as wedding bands from bad marriages or those door-knocker earrings left behind by dearly departed Nana.

“See this? This is the shah of Iran,” says Kathy Atkins, a guest at a gold party the other night in a townhouse in Alexandria. She holds up a coin ring engraved with, sure enough, a profile of the shah of Iran. “I got this when we lived in Tehran.” She also brought a zipper pouch containing some old jewelry belonging to another friend who couldn’t make the party, because she’s vacationing in Italy — “Lake Como, but a week after George Clooney left. . . . She called me and had me go into her house to look around for her gold.”

Moment of Truth

At Salon: You’re pretty accomplished as a long-form magazine writer. You’re kind of “the guy.” Do you ever think, “Maybe I’m complacent here. Maybe I should be writing books or movies, something where I don’t have that confidence”?

Yeah, I’ve put my hand at, done some fiction on the side. I don’t think it’s good enough yet to do anything with, but I’ve hammered away at that. I’ve played around with a screenplay. So it’s not a matter of not exploring different forms. Decent chance I will, at some point. At this point I’ve just been enjoying this so much. I’m kind of waiting for the moment to feel like I don’t like doing this. Each story feels new and different, so I’ve kind of trusted that feeling. But I’m open to other possibilities down the road at some point. Who knows.

Chongo, The Monkey Man

Michael Brick: SACRAMENTO — He was known as the king of the Yosemite lifers, that proud band of rock climbers, tightrope walkers and seekers who made camp on the margins of the law, sleeping under the black oaks and sequoias and California stars.

On his shoulders he carried an 80-pound constellation of canvas stowage, books and sweatpants, bottled water and mushy food, a sleeping bag and a reserve sleeping bag meant for some encountered companion of the road.

To the government, he was Charles Victor Tucker III, scourge of Yosemite National Park, fixture of the lodge cafeteria. To acquaintances, he was Chuck, harmless and stoned jester of the mountains. And to climbers the world over he remains Chongo, the Monkey Man, named for the sticky soles he had once fashioned from Mexican rubber.

This Is Water

Check out his commencement address in 2005 at Kenyon College: There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says “Morning, boys. How’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes “What the hell is water?”

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Back

I made it back to Tampa last night. When I rented the Chevy Aveo, it had 193 miles on the odometer. I turned it in with 4,412. It’s a big country.

Some good stuff for your Thursday reading pleasure:

Henry Allen: If utter reversals in the name of revelation and truth are good enough for God, they’re good enough for Richard Avedon, the late photographer and Manhattan figure whose “Portraits of Power” are on view at the Corcoran Gallery.

In the manner of Jehovah making the crooked straight and the rough places plain, Avedon makes the confident look doubtful, the dour delighted, the guilty innocent, the heroic silly, and the charming peckish. And he persuades us that that in doing so, he has shown us The Truth.

Dan Barry: The lawn mower’s whine disrupts the morning peace of Coconut Drive like an alarm clock no one remembers setting. It rises and falls and rises again, as the angry machine cuts across the front-lawn jungle of an attractive house with great location and move-in potential.

Abandoned, in other words. Three years ago, sold for $660,000; today, a ghostly parcel of failure.

William Finnegan: When the Twiggs brothers got to the Grand Canyon, on May 12th, Willard called his girlfriend, a married woman in Louisiana, on Travis’s cell phone. She had to see the canyon someday, he said. “It will make the hair on your arms stand up. It’s that beautiful.” A few minutes later, driving east along the South Rim past a spot called Twin Overlooks, Travis made a hard left and drove his car, a Toyota Corolla with Virginia plates, straight toward the edge of the canyon. There is no guardrail at Twin Overlooks, and the canyon at that point is nearly five thousand feet deep. The Corolla jumped the curb, but it did not take the plunge. It got hung up in a small fir tree, clinging to the Kaibab limestone just below the rim.

Michael Mooney: It began with an awkward phone call: “Would you like to, um, go bowling with me?”

“Go what?”

“Go… uh… bowling. Would you like to bowl with me? I’ll pay for everything, of course.”

“You just want to go bowling?” She was incredulous.

“Kind of like a sweet, you know, all-American date,” I said, a nervous cramp in my chest.

Silence.

“Yeah, I’ll go bowling with you. What time do you want to go?”

So it was set. My first date with a prostitute would be at a bowling alley in west Broward. We could talk about whatever she wanted. Do whatever she felt like doing. As long as it didn’t involve anything even close to sex.

Filkins

From The Forever War: The green hoods appeared busy, and one of them stood up. He held the man’s severed right hand in the air, displaying it for the crowd. He was holding it up by its middle finger, moving in a semicircle so everyone could see. The handicapped and the women. Then he pulled his hood back, revealing his face, and he took a breath. He tossed the hand into the grass and gave a little shrug.

I couldn’t tell if the pickpocket had been given any sort of anesthesia. He wasn’t screaming. His eyes were open very wide, and as the men with the hoods lifted him back into the bed of the Hi-Lux, he stared at the stump of his hand. I took notes the whole time.

I looked back at the crowd, and it was remarkably calm, unfeeling almost, which wasn’t really surprising, after all they’d been through. A small drama with the orphans was unfolding in the stands; they were getting crazy and one of the guards was beating them with his whip.

“Get back,” he was saying, drawing the whip over his head. The orphans cowered.

I thought that was it, but as it turned out the amputation was just a warm-up.

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The Stadium

The first time I went to work at Yankee Stadium, not the first time I went to Yankee Stadium, but the first time I went to work there, with a pen and a pad and a press pass, was Opening Day 2003. It was cold, and had snowed the day before, and so there were men, late that morning, a few hours before the first midday pitch, melting snow in the dugout with hot water from hoses. Steam slinked from the dugout and into the tunnel and down toward the concrete corridor outside the Yankees’ clubhouse. It hovered there like a thick white cloud. I walked out of the press room, down just a bit from the clubhouse, and saw this, and stopped, and half-expected the ghost of Babe Ruth to emerge from the fog.

The structure itself was not so special. But the place was.

THINGS had happened there.

PEOPLE had been there.

Somehow that was tangible.

And when it was full, 55,000 full, it became a living thing.

Tonight that ends. Reading Tyler Kepner’s piece in this morning’s NYT made me nostalgic in a way I wasn’t expecting. It reminded me that the last World Series game ever played at the Stadium was on Oct. 25, 2003, and that I was there. I like that.

In retrospect, though, the Stadium’s real goodbye began not quite a year later, on the night the Red Sox beat the Yankees in Game 7 of that ’04 ALCS to finish their unprecedented comeback from 3-0 down.

Allow me this indulgence.

October 21, 2004

By Michael Kruse
Times Herald-Record
mkruse@th-record.com

New York — The Yankees, the winningest franchise in the history of professional sports, lost last night in a way no baseball team had ever lost before.

They lost to the Red Sox, lost to their rivals for a fourth straight night, lost the right to go back to the World Series.

Lost.

Kevin Brown made what has to be considered one of the worst starts in the history of any pressure-packed postseason situation, Javier Vazquez might’ve been even worse in relief and the Yankee hitters flailed for six innings at Sox starter Derek Lowe.

And Joe Torre’s $194 million team — up three games to none, three outs away from sweeping this series on Sunday, with Mariano Rivera on the mound — fell last night 10-3 in a Game 7 dud of historic, potentially cosmic proportions.

This had never happened.

Not ever.

No team in this sport had won the first three games of a best-of-seven series — then lost four straight to lose the series.

“We had four games to win one,” Yanks captain Derek Jeter said back in the clubhouse. “We didn’t do it.”

What this means this morning is this:

The Red Sox are going to the World Series, and the Yankees are not — and for the fourth straight year will not win the only trophy that matters to this title-fat franchise.

Read. Repeat. Understand. The Red Sox — the Red Sox! — are going to the World Series, and they’re going at the expense of their eons-old, Babe-buoyed bully in the Bronx.

More long-term postmortem?

With George Steinbrenner around?

Heads will without question roll.

The less tangible, much, much more far-reaching ramifications of this result could be a seismic shift in the tenor, the very nature of what for the last 86 years — ever since the Sox sold Babe Ruth to the Yanks in 1920 — has been a woefully one-sided rivalry.

Curses?

Nineteeeen-eighteen?

No.

These 2004 Red Sox beat the Yankees head-to-head in the regular-season series. They beat the Yankees last night — the last four nights — and finally, for the very first time in their little-but-tortured history, they beat the Yankees when it really, truly, totally mattered.

David Ortiz homered off Brown in the first, a vicious, line-drive shot over the blue wall in right from the guy, of course, who whacked back-to-back, walk-off winners in Games 4 and 5 up at Fenway.

In the second, then, on Vazquez’s very first pitch, Johnny Damon, the Boston leadoff hitter who’s had almost no success even getting on base this series, lofted a grand slam into the first row in right.

Suddenly it was 6-zip.

Suddenly this ultra-important game had become the worst-case Yankee scenario.

Maybe worse than that.

But Damon wasn’t done. The bearded, long-haired center fielder homered again in the third, again to right, this time to the upper deck, and now the Sox had eight runs to the Yankees’ one.

In the big, grand stadium here in the Bronx, the 56,129 folks who came here to see the inevitable sat, silent, open-mouthed, forced to stare at the inconceivable, the incredible, the unbelievable.

The Yanks, though, did it to themselves.

Especially on this night.

Brown, whose last two starts against the Sox — one in September, the other earlier in this series — were short, ugly disasters, this time around was awful like this: 1 1/3 innings, four hits, five runs, all earned.

“I wasn’t able to do well enough to give my team a chance,” Brown said.

Neither did Vazquez.

The prized off-season pickup — the Yanks’ supposed ace of the future — came in from the bullpen, threw a pitch to Damon, one pitch, and the home team, the team with 26 world championships since 1918 was down six to the team with zero in that time.

He lasted only two innings, Vazquez, giving up three runs on two hits — the first Damon homer, the second Damon homer — while walking five.

Miguel Cairo made an error at second in the fourth. Third Yanks pitcher Esteban Loaiza made a throwing error in the fifth. Neither one of them led to runs, but they left the fans here shaking their heads, wondering what happened.

And what DID happen?

HOW did this happen?

They weren’t just up 3-0 in games. They’d won Game 3 19-8. Then there were the two extra-inning games, the Game 6 loss, then … THIS.

Last night wasn’t even close.

“Being up 3-0 and not being able to close the doors?” Alex Rodriguez said.

“Frustrating as hell.”

The Yanks scored two runs in the seventh — off Pedro Martinez, no less, who came in for an inning of Boston’s cobbled-together, post-Lowe relief — but the Sox scored two more, too, off beleaguered reliever Tom Gordon, two big “insurance” runs, no doubt, for a franchise with a proven penchant for catastrophic collapse.

Including in this spot: Game 7. Right here. Last year.

Just before the bottom of the ninth, then, on the scoreboard out in deep center here at the Stadium, Aaron Boone’s 11th-ining homer from 2003 played to a smattering of cheers from the few fans who had stayed to watch the winningest franchise in the history of professional sports lose in a way no baseball had ever lost before.

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Red

Heckert, for Esquire: Steak when you were four years old, cut up into strips on a paper plate in the kitchen of your parents’ first house, steak bound by tribunals of carrots and peas. Steak when you were a little older, at Golden Corral and Ryan’s, meat gray and slick as the back of an eel. Steak pooled in ketchup, mustard, gravy. Steak buffet at the behest of your friends’ parents, who gossiped and coughed in the smoking section. Big, flat, alien steak under the aegis of a high school lunchroom. Steak served in a restaurant in Austin, Texas, where women swung from a trapeze in a massive dining arena with waiters who wore tuxedos, steam trailing them from the tin tops of plate covers, $35 steak. A steak sermon from your steak-ordained uncle: Here is how to cut it. Here is why you should never put anything on it (leveling a fork at your cousin-in-law, who was putting spicy mustard on and ruining an otherwise perfect steak).

David Foster Wallace

I’m told the guy was a great American novelist, although I admit I’ve yet to read Infinite Jest. He was also a world-class reporter.

This is one of my favorite Wallace stories: Mr. John Ziegler, thirty-seven, late of Louisville’s WHAS, is now on the air, “Live and Local,” from 10:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m. every weeknight on southern California’s KFI, a 50,000-watt megastation whose hourly ID and Sweeper, designed by the station’s Imaging department and featuring a gravelly basso whisper against licks from Ratt’s 1984 metal classic “Round and Round,” is “KFI AM-640, Los Angeles—More Stimulating Talk Radio.” This is either the eighth or ninth host job that Mr. Ziegler’s had in his talk-radio career, and far and away the biggest. He moved out here to LA over Christmas—alone, towing a U-Haul—and found an apartment not far from KFI’s studios, which are in an old part of the Koreatown district, near Wilshire Center.

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