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.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

The “bestest” Christmas gift (for a fortysomething like me)

This appears in the Monday, December 30, 2013 edition of the Business Mirror.
The “bestest” Christmas gift
(for a fortysomething like me)
by rick olivares

If you’re in your 40s do you still get up for Christmas presents?

I’d say it depends on what gift you receive, right?

When giving gifts, I have a simple solution in trying to figure out what to give. If I know the person well, it’s easier to get him or her something because you know what they like. As for others, why in the hell do you want to give something to people you don’t really know? I’d rather just greet them.

Conversely, we have a rule in the house -- give something useful if not just give them a greeting card. The unwanted stuff gets put in a closet never to be used. It’s given away later on, sold in our annual garage sale, or even worse, thrown in the waste bin. I am sorry if I have to say that but that’s how it is.

And that brings me back to my Christmas present.

I received a pair of second hand coffee table books: For the Love of the Game, My Story by Michael Jordan, and One Hundred Years: The New York Yankees The Official Retrospective from a cousin of mine who lives in California.

I once had these coffee table books that I purchased in the United States a long time ago. They have been a part of a book collection that I was proud of.

Sadly, I lost almost everything during Typhoon Ondoy in 2009 when my apartment was under water. I wasn’t able to save much. My books, magazines, and compact disc/digital videodisc collection that had taken much of my lifetime to put together was destroyed.

The loss and my house being looted post-typhoon left me even more devastated. Books aren’t only founts of knowledge but also signposts of the times and they hold meaning and memories like songs. I had my NBA at 50 book signed by a few NBA players while my Yankees tome was signed by Reggie Jackson and Yogi Berra in some of my first trips to Yankee Stadium.

Since then I have gotten over the post-disaster depression and moved on with my life. In doing so, I jettisoned many material things after that having decided to instead concentrate on other things.

But life has a funny way of taking you back.

As a media practitioner, reading and viewing material is part of my lifeblood. The mind can only work so much and play tricks on you. What is on the printed page and on video sets the record straight.

Early this year, the opportunity to reacquire “NBA at 50” came up. Like many of my other books, I too lost this to Ondoy.

Now coffee table books have small and limited print runs. I scoured amazon and eBay like mad and to no avail. Juan Ponce de Leon probably had better luck searching for the Fountain of Youth. You see, when coffee table books are sold out that’s it. It is rare that they get another print run. You’re best bet is to go to used book stores and pray that they are available and in good condition. Mint conditions are rare and you have to pay a princely sum for them. But beggars and collectors cannot be choosers.

I found NBA at 50 on the Internet and paid a small sum since it was second hand but was charged a premium for having it shipped over pronto. It isn’t a the hardbound version but the soft cover version and the cool thing is, it arrived in time for me to have a photo taken with NBA Commissioner David Stern who helped put this book together nearly a decade ago. The copy I got is the updated edition that included the 1996-97 edition to commemorate the NBA’s 50th season.

The commissioner ribbed me about getting the cheaper softcover version. I said I originally got the hardcover that I lost to a typhoon. He kidded me back by saying, there are no such things as typhoons or global warming (to go with a smile).

So the “new” second hand book now has the first of its new memories.

The other two books – For the Love of the Game and One Hundred Years – are a little harder to procure because the suppliers do not deliver to the Philippines.

That changed on the evening of December 25th when I got them as gifts from a cousin of mine in California. The books were heavy and my cousin hand carried them from LAX (she was going to be charged extra if she placed them inside her luggage).

I couldn’t wait to get home that night. And once I did, I was like that kid who first purchased them at Barnes & Noble in Times Square all those long years ago. I stayed up until the wee hours of the morning reading them. To use a kid’s expression – “they were the bestest gifts one could ask”. And they sure are. At my age, I can pretty much purchase what I want. But these two books, made me happy.

The dust jackets have creases and folds; no-no’s for OC collectors like me. But beggars… 

With a day job working at Gatorade, trying to bring Michael Jordan over to the Philippines is a crusade for my and some colleagues. If successful, my copy of “For the Love of the Game” will have its new memory.

And sometime next year, I hope to make my first visit to the new Yankee Stadium. When I used to live in the Big Apple, not a week went by during the baseball season when I would make my pilgrimage to baseball’s hallowed cathedral to watch a game. It reconnected me to my departed grandfather who introduced the game and the Yankees to me when I was young. And I got to see my favorite sports team play the game and go to the World Series.

Hopefully once more, I will be able to meet some of the Yankee old-timers or even some of the new players to ask for pictures and autographs. You know, make some new memories.

And that’s how gifts and books should be – laden with good vibes and even more “bestest” memories.

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