"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Monthly Archives: February 2011

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The St. Jetersburg Winter Palace

There’s a story in the Times today about Derek Jeter’s infamous new mansion – St. Jetersburg, as the locals have dubbed it. 30,875 square feet, two three-car garages, and no yard.  Right on the road with a six-foot fence for privacy. “Seven bedrooms, nine bathrooms, a pool, two boat lifts, a drive-through portico,” whatever that is.


I dunno, you guys.

With the caveat that Jeter has the right to do whatever he wants… this just seems strange,  doesn’t it?  Jeter’s spent his New York tenure living well – apartment in Trump Towers, famous girlfriends, tropical vacations, clubs – but he hasn’t typically been so over-the-top about it. If it’s possible to party with models in a classy sort of way, he generally has. And I admit I don’t know much about the etiquette of mansion-building… but isn’t this a little… tacky?

How big is The House That Jeter Built? Well, it is slightly smaller than an average Best Buy electronics store, and twice as big as the late owner George Steinbrenner’s 13,480-square-foot house in South Tampa.

Rodney Kite-Powell, curator for the Tampa Bay History Center, said Jeter’s house was bigger than all but two of the original 1920s-era apartment/hotel buildings originally built on Davis Islands.

Whenever star players are in contract negotiations, there’s always a moment where I think, “How the hell can $15 million a year (or whatever it is) not be enough for you?!” But it’s become clear over time that when you have that kind of money it just doesn’t seem like as much as one might think it would.  So I might say to myself, “Who would ever need that much space?! One boat lift really wouldn’t suffice?” But I guess it’s all relative, and when you get to that level, your perspective is different. Also, to be honest, I am not entirely sure what a boat lift is, but if it involves moving boats around in any way then I think my point stands.

Jeter won’t talk about this – the mansion, not the definition of a boat lift –  which is understandable, but I’m genuinely curious as to what his thinking was here.

And regardless: Can you imagine how much crap A-Rod would take, if he built this?

Oooo La La

Riding on the Metro…Picture taken outside of Brussels by my uncle with his iPhone.

Million Dollar Movie

I was taken with Mark Ruffalo’s performance in “The Kids Are All Right” last year and friends said, “If you think he was good in that, you have got to see ‘You Can Count on Me.'” I finally got around to watching “You Can Count on Me” over the weekend and they were right. Laura Linney and Ruffalo are both wonderful and give the kind of performances that are so believable you forget they are acting.

The movie, released in 2000, was written and directed by Kenneth Lonergan. It is tender without being sentimental. Lonergan shows the kind of restraint that I cherish–he never hits us over the head, never goes for the obvious, over-the-top emotion. He lets uncomfortable feelings hang and is confident enough to leave matters unresolved. It is so expertly directed that watching it, I was reminded that great directing is not just about technical wizardry, it is about serving the story, understanding pace and rhythm, and respecting the audience enough to fill in the blanks. This movie proves that you can be modest without being precious. I’d like to watch it again soon.

Afternoon Art

de Kooning detail…

New York Minute

Memory Lane

A friend of mine from high school lived across the street from me. Once a month or so we’d end up on the same subway car and kill the 40 minutes between 207th st and 59th st rehashing old high school stories and exchanging latest news on our mutual friends. He was the point guard and captain of the basketball team and I inherited those titles after he graduated even though only he bore the burden of actually being good at basketball. So we always had topics to cover.

I have tons of chances to reminisce over college experiences. My wife was in my graduating class. But high school has slipped away almost completely. When my friend moved, I realized this was probably one of my last chances to hear these stories.

One day, we were chatting and the third person in our A Train three-seater perked up and said, “I went to that high school too.” She was a few years younger than us, but she knew some of the people we knew.

And then I didn’t know what to do. Was she now in on the conversation? We had over 100 blocks to go – and, after a few niceties I just kind of settled back into the previous exchange. Now I feel guilty, like I should have included her more. But those few years of space made her just about as alien as everyone else on the train.

[Photo Credit: Infectedwithrage]

So This Is What It Feels Like To Go Insane

Last night I got home around 2 AM and still had some work to get done; this ad came on at about 3:30. You will note that it’s for a personal injury law firm and that it features a crudely drawn rapping, dancing squirrel.

I don’t think they should be allowed to air something like this at that hour. If it wasn’t for YouTube, which confirmed for me that this is a thing that exists, I might have checked myself into Bellvue.


Beat of the Day

Man on Spikes

Eliot Asinof is most famous for writing “Eight Men Out.” (He is less famous for once being married to Marlon Brando’s sister.) Asinof played minor league ball in the Phillies system for three years before World War II. His first book, a novel about a minor league lifer, “Man on Spikes” was published in 1955 and to my mind is one of the best baseball novels. It is a hard, gripping portrait of baseball under the reserve system (none other than Marvin Miller wrote the foreword for the most recent edition of the book). The prose is plain and clear, the details are vivid and Asinof displayed considerable skill as a dramatist.

If you’ve never read it, pick up a copy when you can. It’s well worth it. Here is an excerpt, from a chapter about an old ballplayer named Herman Cruller:

And now, before the umpire hollered “Play ball!” for the last time that season, Herman felt deflated. He could not look forward to the tension and excitement of the game. The crowd was there, sweltering even in the shade of the stands behind him, pressing the players with their boisterous presence. Even the bleachers, where the Negroes sat blistering under the naked sun, were full and demanding. They were all there, defying the heat, for this was “the big one,” the game that decided and ended a season of games.

Herman looked up into the stands and watched people fanning themselves with their programs, their throats already parched from rasping calls but soon to be lubricated by long draughts of cold beer. For years he had listened to their routine, opinionated braying during the practice hours, the little pieces of stupidity from the big blaring voices. Sullenly, he watched them hollering their pre-game nonsense: “Lefty Moss stinks. He couldn’t even strike out my Aunt Mabel, and she’s ninety-one!” “I’ll bet ya a ten-spot he goes the route, horseface; I’ll bet ya another ten-spot he wins it too!” “Aah, hell. Gowann.” Thinking with their brains in their asses like a bunch of children betting their hard-earned money as if they knew what they were talking about. For all the years he had played professional baseball, for as far back as he could remember, he hated the loud ones in the crowds who had watched him those thousands of innings. He hated them for their fickleness, their blaring derision, their hooting and squawking, the sadistic way they kicked at the guy who was down. He hated the phony effort at what they called sportsmanship, the brief moment of applause that supposedly justified the hours of razzing they had really come to revel in. It was as if the ballplayers were not playing a game they could watch and enjoy, but were caricatures representing objects of love and hate, were either heroes or villains. And if they had love for a player, still they were quick to jeer at him when he booted one or fanned with a crucial run on base. They seldom considered the player a human being, capable of error as well as competence. Their money was their admission to the arena, and it gave them rights unlimited. For half a buck they could scream and jeer and sound off with their cruddy opinions as if they were speaking gospel. When they felt like it, they unleashed their venom against a ballplayer who displeased them until their scorn itself was part of their picture of him. He was a bum in their eyes, and he had to battle against them with as great a power as he did against the legitimate opposition on the field. When the crowd was down on a kid, the odds were you could count him out, for he was hitting with a pair of strikes against him and the rattling of catcalls in his ears.

He had seen the whims of a crowd make a goat out of more than one good ballplayer and then ride him right out of the league.

But it was the crowd who paid him for his stinking forty bucks a week, fair weather and foul. If he forgot, the management was right there to remind him. Baseball was a big game, and all kinds of people came to watch it for all kinds of reasons. He was paid to play for them all.

But the afternoon was hot and he was tired, and the game was a chore. It wasn’t in him to please this crowd.

You’re bitter, Herm, he told himself finally. You’re bitter and beat by the heat. You’re old and tired and near the end of the stinking line in this game, and you’re taking it out on a bunch of people no different from yourself. Give yourself another year or two and you’ll be paying your dough to sit up there and guzzle beer with the rest of them.

[Photo Credit: Old Film]

A History of Violence

Check out this review of a tough but compelling-sounding memoir:

One Saturday night in the mid-’70s, I stood on the deck of a shabby duplex watching my teenage boyfriend — a character who could have walked out of the pages of Andre Dubus III’s powerful new memoir, “Townie” — beat another boy senseless in the parking lot below. Under the yellowish dusk-to-dawn lights, I could see my boyfriend’s blond sideburns, denim jacket and dingo boots, and I could see him punch the boy in the stomach until he crumpled to the ground, then kick him over and over until his nose and lips were split and bleeding. In “Townie,” which details Dubus’s 1970s coming-of-age in the poor mill towns of Massachusetts, there are none of the usual signifiers of today’s ’70s Nostalgia Industrial Complex, no peace-sign key chains or smiley-face T-shirts, none of the goofy stoners and ditsy girls in tube tops that American television viewers have become accustomed to on “That ’70s Show.” Instead, Dubus writes about “the apartments” where his older sister buys drugs, two rows of three-story buildings surrounded by packed dirt worn smooth, a Dumpster in back always filled with dirty diapers, used condoms and pizza boxes. He writes about an early manifestation of “Fight Club” culture at his school, where, whenever there is a fight, boys and girls rush to one spot “like they were being pulled there by the air itself. . . . Kids were yelling: ‘Kill him! Kill him!’ ”

It was his parents’ divorce that left Dubus fatherless and living in a world of violence and poverty. Dubus’s father (and namesake) was a well-known writer, famous among other things for his short story “The Winter Father,” about a man recently separated from his family. The most vivid image in the story is of the protagonist watching through his rearview mirror as his young son chases after him: “A small running shape in the dark, charging the car, picking up something and throwing it, missing, crying You bum You bum You bum.”

Click here for an excerpt from “Townie,” by Andre Dubus III.

[Photo Credit: Alan Guido]

…Your New York Knicks

…Who beat the Heat last night as the Oscars ceremonies dragged on.

Meanwhile, good stuff from Florida. Here’s Ben Shpigel,  John Harper and George King (times two).

And the Winner Is…

My ma is in town visiting, so I made a minestrone soup and we’re going to cool out and watch the cheesefest.

Moment of Silence

Rest in Peace, Duke Snider.

Nice n Easy

Yanks and Phils are on YES again this afternoon.


Sunday Soul

How about the Meters to start the day? Feel the funk, baby.

[Picture by Bags]

Dust Off the Cobwebs, Folks, Baseball is Here

The sounds aren’t the same during the spring. The parks are small so the crack of the bat gets swallowed up in space. The light is different. The games are not played to be won. But it is still baseball and for some, that’s enough.

Enjoy it.

[Photo Credit: CBS News]

Strike a Pose

Down in Florida, exhibition games are starting up, and our man Cliff will be on pernt as usual.

The Yanks will be televised on YES this afternoon. Enjoy.

Beat of the Day II

Afternoon Art

I have not seen the Cezanne Card Players’ show at the Met yet but it looks wonderful.

Mother, May I?

From the GQ vaults–and thanks to Long Form Reads for pointing it out–here’s James Ellroy’s disturbing piece on researching his mother’s killer:

The police reconstructed the crime.

My mother went out drinking Saturday night. She was seen at the Desert Inn bar in El Monte with a dark-haired white man and a blonde woman. My mother and the man left the bar around 10 P.M.

A group of Little Leaguers discovered the body. My mother had been strangled at an unknown location and dumped into some bushes next to the athletic field at Arroyo High School, a mile and a half from the Desert Inn.

She clawed her assailant’s face bloody. The killer had pulled off one of her stockings and tied it loosely around her neck portmortem.

I went to live with my father. I forced some tears out that Sunday—and none since.

[Photo Credit: xd360]

Million Dollar Movie

“Holiday” is playing this afternoon at 1:30 at the Modern.

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver