Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Friday, January 23, 2009

New York Diary Part VII: Icing in Manhattan

You know a relationship is going to go to hell when instead of cuddling up you're watching the New York Islanders play. Of all the sports that interested me as a kid, hockey was the one I didn't get to play. It was only later in my adult life that I got the opportunity. What got me into it? I have to admit, not only was the game fascinating but the players wore the coolest uniforms. What follows is a letter to my folks about playing the game like a fish out of water.

Dear Mum & Dad:
Thanks for the dried mango although I must admit that I can buy that here at any Filipino store. Do you know that a pack of chocnut here costs a frigging $2.50? Eh, sa Pinas wala pang Php 27 yan! So the dried mango is pretty much around the same price range. But thanks.

There’s a drone in my head that’s threatening to blow up into a full-fledged headache. It’s close to midnight when I punch out. The streets are rain-swept and it lends to the chill that’s already in the air. As soon as I step out I exhale and pull up the collar of my jacket. Suzi’s Slammers next door is closing up. I nod at Jose who still has the easy smile at the end of a long day. “MaƱana,” he tosses back at me.

“No work tomorrow, amigo.” I cheerfully throw back.

“Ay ya yay,” he scratches his now unkempt hair. “Lunes, si?”


The subway’s just around the corner right beside the Barnes and Noble and Best Buy. It takes a few minutes for the train to arrive. Some of the people waiting for the train are regulars who work in the shops nearby and there’s this familiarity that we’re all working stiffs as we take the midnight train back to home wherever in the four boroughs it is.

I get off at Grand Central and transfer to the 7 train bound for Long Island City (I get off at Vernon Jackson Boulevard). Heth is performing at 51st and Lex tonight.

Heth plays an acoustic guitar and uses all sorts of effects as he plays pop songs with a jazzy bent. He’s even got CDs on sale (and a website -- If he joins Subway Idol, I'd vote for him.

I toss a dollar into the hat as I transfer platforms.

I’m renting a room at the home of a former anti-Marcos activist who has since eschewed politics for serving at the local Church. She married this Italian guy who works for a bank. The location is magnificent as it offers a view of the East River and you can see the UN Building from my window.

When I get home at night, I’d sit by the window and watch the all the lights across Manhattan and it would always take my breath away.

Real estate values have gone up and the city’s going to bid for the Olympics so you can be sure that rent and property taxes will go sky high.

I change into something more homey – just my Islanders jersey and my underwear. I’ll rest for a bit before I take a shower. I’m not one who can go to bed feeling all sweaty.

I can afford to stay up late since there’s no work tomorrow. I switch on the telly and it’s a replay of the Yankees-Red Sox game. I grab a bottle of Snapple from the fridge and sit on the bed. I really need a massage. Kinda expensive though. $10 for 10 minutes! So if I get a massage for an hour that’s 60 bucks?

Uh uh. I’d just soak myself in the tub.

There’s a knock on the door and I know it’s Mrs. Salerne. I put on a bathrobe and open the door. She asks if I’ve eaten and she made some pie. God bless this woman. I take the saucer and thank her. I’ll save it for tomorrow and put it inside my fridge. No sense in adding more stuff when it won’t digest properly this late.

I love Long Island City because of its proximity to Woodside and Astoria. They partially shot the Nic Cage film It Could Happen to You in Woodside. There these cool romantic-comedy drama movies making the rounds now: Garden State, Lost In Translation, and Pieces of April. I also did see The Fighting Temptations starring Beyonce and Cuba Gooding Jr.

Tomorrow I’ll be playing some hockey at the Chelsea Piers. I’m not good at it. Okay but not good. I can skate but I’m not yet at a level where I can make those twists and turns while rifling off a shot. So I’m what they call a “bender.” Late bloomer and lousy skater rolled into one.

Am I nervous? I’d be a liar if I said I wasn’t. It’s like riding those bumpcars as a kid and people are gunning for me coz I’ve got glasses on and I don’t maneuver good. The other week I got checked on the boards and even with all the pads I felt my bones crunch. I’ve got some bruises that have the colors of the rainbow on my arms and back.

Sam laughs at me and says like I’m like a fish out of water. Give it up, he yells as I get five for fighting. Go back to soccer or basketball.

Is there a primal urge to play hockey? Almost everyone I know roots for the Rangers. Even the guys from Bangladesh. And I thought the only thing they knew was cricket.

Game time is 4pm and I’m in D8. That’s Division Eight. The lowest of the low in the Fall League. It’s for beginners all right. If you think that it just like those “Just For Fun” divisions in the Ateneo Basketball League you’ve got another thought coming. Beginners. Rookies. Everyone’s looking to score or pop someone. And it can get rough. Unlike basketball and football where I can play without my glasses (go figure on how I can pass the ball and score), for baseball and hockey I have to wear them. But I’ve got goggles on and these damn contraption costs almost $200 since it’s graded.

I’m a left defenseman and it suits me just fine. Isn’t it obvious that I’m a lefty? And I played defense anyhow in football so I’m supposed to be at home. I’m on the third unit and its 10 minutes into the game when I come in with we change it up.

We’re playing this team from Brooklyn and if these guys are beginners then I’m the King of the Bahamas.

First minute I’m in and they’ve got a 3-2 odd man advantage. My teammate, pokes free the puck but he slaps it way past any of our teammates to reach so an icing violation is called.

The face off is close to our goal and our keeper who we all “Hadoken” stops a shot. His real name is Sonam and he’s from Tibet but Mark our team captain is a huge Tekken fan and Sonam reminds him of those characters from the video game.

I later get cross checked but only shove back. Many of the game’s nuances still do not come naturally to be and I struggle at it. If I had played this at a younger age then it might come as a reflex. I help out on the offense and get a couple of shots in. Good ones I might add.

The game ends at 5-4. The Brooklyn team wins. The plus side for me is -- I did not go to the penalty box for fighting. Bwahahaha. Our team goes for pizza and some brew.

It’s 1030pm on a Saturday night and I’m staring out of my window towards Manhattan.

And I dream.

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