It’s too damn hot; baseball burns, plus a tune from Portland’s MELT

Good Saturday morning; the president of the United States remains racist. The fiancee is out buying a wedding dress today, so I’m staying home in the air conditioning. Today’s track is “Sour Fruit” from Portland’s own MELT; both the sludge pop and the band’s name fit today’s deadly heat all up and down the Northeast. If you’re in this neck of the woods and you absolutely must go outside, drink plenty of water, and have an extra buck on you to buy water for someone else. Be good to each other. Now in baseball:

The Orioles were bad last year and they remain bad, but you wouldn’t know it last night if you watched them disembowel the Red Sox with an 11-2 lead in Baltimore. The Orioles played good baseball at home in a surprising near-double-digit win, while the Red Sox couldn’t seem to field or hit against them. Hell, David Price allowed six runs! The Red Sox already have the postseason slipping from their fingers; they’re eleven games behind the Yankees in the AL East. Sure, it’s not as bad as the O’s, who are a staggering 33 games back. But if Boston can’t turn this weekend around, they’ll find themselves hanging out with Baltimore and Toronto when the playoffs come. Xander Bogaerts doesn’t like that idea.

Meanwhile, the Mets played another extra innings game against the Giants last night in San Fran, with the Giants once again winning with a run, this time at the bottom of the tenth. The game didn’t go as long as Thursday night’s, but it ended in a similar fashion, with Dominic Smith fumbling the ball and allowing the Giants to score the winning run. This time, Alex Dickerson ran home from first off of Pablo Sandoval’s fly to left field. The score put the Giants at .500 for wins, and the Mets farther back from wild card dreams. Perhaps Citi Field tickets won’t be so expensive in September after all, I guess. Mets play Giants again tonight for the third of four games in this series, which they can tie if they want.

Rosario’s just like “Bro… Dom… come on.”

In New York, Yankee Stadium stank of sweat as fans and players stuck out a hot night to watch the Yanks beat the Rockies 8-2. Although the Rocks got an early lead with two runs in the second — Ryan McMahon hit his tenth career home run for one of them — they couldn’t keep up with the heat. The Yankees, however, know how to play baseball in the Bronx humidity for the most part. With the bases loaded in the bottom of the third, Edwin Encarnacion grand slammed the ball, bringing the Yankees up 4-2. Some sloppy fielding from the Rocks got the Yankees two more runs between then and the sixth. Then Aaron Judge took the plate, homered — his eleventh this year — and sent both himself and DJ LeMahieu around the bases. The Rockies couldn’t cool off; Yanks won it 8-2.

Speaking of not dealing with the heat, Bud Black had a problem with the ump last night over a checked swing; God bless these Jomboy Media breakdowns:

Both the Yanks and the Rocks will face off again this afternoon, when the heat index will hit its peak. I might watch this game just to watch folks in Yankee Stadium sweat like pigs, because — you know — schadenfruede.

Again, if you’re outside today in New York, or anywhere in the Northeast, or — shit — anywhere, drink water. Dress light. Look out for your neighbors. This world will kill us all and fat fucks with the power to do something about it won’t. Don’t wait up for them. Be good. Stay cool. +


Mets and Giants square off in San Fran; New York nods off after sixteen

I thought I wouldn’t make it to the start of last night’s Mets/Giants face-off in San Fran, since the game – scheduled for 9:45 EST – aired on SportsNet after my bedtime. But somehow I found myself in the throes of a cleaning binge when Madison Bumgarner threw the first pitch, and my head hit the pillow at the top of the ninth, with New York and San Fran tied at one. I figured that the game would go to extra innings, so I shut off the TV and the light and tried to get to sleep.

After about an hour of restlessness, I woke up to get myself a cup of water. Curious about the outcome of the game, I checked my phone and saw the game still tied at one. In my blurry-eyed haze, I couldn’t tell what inning they’d reached; I knew it was one of the bigger ones, though. I chugged my water down and headed back to bed.

At some point in the night, I heard something go bump; our apartment looks towards the trash, so someone had probably just thrown something out, but you can never tell. Awakened, I checked the game again. Pete Alonso had just homered to bring the Mets up 2-1. Inning? Top of the sixteenth. “End it,” I whispered. “Jesus, just end it.” I went back to sleep.

End it, they did, but not in the way I wanted. The Giants scored two runs at the bottom of the inning to take the lead and win the game 3-2 against the Mets. I can defend New York’s slip; they had traveled from Minnesota that day and had to play baseball late at night, and the game had gone on for far longer than anyone had expected. Fielding goofs and sluggishness on the grass after sixteen innings of well-fought baseball? I won’t fault them for that. Bumgarner did pitch an excellent first nine, so I’ll give him and the Giants credit for holding the line.

I knew that the Giants and Mets would find themselves at odds with each other; Syndergaard does as well against Giants batters as Bumgarner does against Mets batters. I’ve found – as a fledgling baseball fan – that batter effectiveness against a pitcher or pitcher effectiveness against a batter can help determine the outcome of a game. Sure, Jeff McNeil ran home in the top of the first off an Alonso out. But the Mets wouldn’t see another score for fifteen innings, until Alonso hit his homer in the sixteenth. Again, credit to the Giants for their perseverance.

It seems like the Mets’ loss after sixteen comes from the same wanting for the game to end that I had. Alonso homered; the Mets, thinking they had it in the bag, got a little sloppy. Frazier struck out swinging on a full count. Chris Mazza – up to pitch at the bottom of the inning – struck out swinging too, also on a full count. Amed Rosario walked, then got picked off trying to steal second base. Then Chris Mazza bungles on the  mound, giving Alex Dickerson a double, then Brandon Crawford another double which allows Dickerson to score. Mazza hits Austin Slater with a pitch, then gives Kevin Pillar a single which loads the bases for the Giants. To cap off a bad last inning, Mazza throws a base hit to Donovan Solano, which gives Brandon Crawford the winning run to home plate.

Again, I can’t blame the Mets for wanting it to end. But couldn’t they have ended it with their eyes still open, instead of falling asleep before they left the field?

Whatever; both teams played a good and even game up until the end, and they’ll play three more games in this east-meets-west matchup. I read this fun factoid, by the way:

Sure, both the Giants and Dodgers had moved to California for the 1958 season. But the Mets are a New York team, and the Giants were a New York team, so it’s like a Subway Series ending deja vu, or something. I don’t know. I’m still half asleep. +

Mets win two against Minnesota; Rand Paul and racists don’t make it feel good

I switched back to a more classic look for Caffeinated Jam because I got tired of the grid-style magazine format. Also, because the blog has taken a more personal approach as of late, I got nostalgic for the simplicity of the old Tumblr sites I used to keep. Ah, Tumblr, a platform I never used well. I tried to make long diatribes about politics and music work while other folks racked up thousands of likes and reblogs from posting a single two-frame GIF of a dancing potato.

Yesterday afternoon the Mets made their second game against the Twins look like a modest repeat of their game on Tuesday, keeping a tight score throughout the first half. Jeff McNeil’s belt fell off while he tried to catch a ball in the bottom of the second, and the Twins pulled ahead to a 3-2 lead in the fifth, and it seemed like we would get another gaffe-filled day out of our beloved New York team. But the Twins would supply the better part of the goofs later on, as fielding errors from Eddie Rosario and Miguel Sano allowed the Mets to blow the game wide open. Dominic Smith homered at the top of the seventh, and in the eighth, the Twins threw their defense out the window as Mets batters brought in the runs to make a 9-3 lead.

The Mets sealed the Twins’ fate, however, when Pete Alonso — the first baseman who many on Twitter said needed a good moment — had his moment when he rocketed the ball almost out of Target Field, clocking a 474 ft. homer for the books. The hit brought both Alonso and Dominic Smith home, making a double-digit score for the Mets and leaving the Twins in the dust. Minnesota, shaken, never recovered, although Eddie Rosario hit a groundout to help Mitch Garver score in the eighth; the Mets beat the first-place Twins 14-4 in the end.

You would think that a massive victory like this would keep me riding high throughout the day, But then I went on Twitter, as I do, because I hate myself and have never done well with self-care, and I saw the news of Trump sycophants screaming for Ilhan Omar’s deportation even though she has citizenship and voted for 9/11 first responders to receive financial aid from the government that day and has done more to try and unify the country than the President of the United States, even though that doesn’t say much because the President has done nothing and you could say the same thing about a lot of folks.

Ilhan Omar voted to pass the Zadroga Act, which in its current state would provide relief to 9/11 first responders and their families until the year 2090. A good chunk of folks voted for it, too. Mitch McConnell, with his resting Mitch face, said he’d consider it. But when the bill came to the Senate, Rand Paul — the Kentucky senator who makes plenty of Kentuckians take another shot of bourbon on a daily basis — blocked Kirsten Gillibrand’s request that the bill be approved by unanimous consent. He and Utah’s Mike Lee — a man who has a thing with dinosaurs, as we’ve reported — say that they want to offset funds from other federal programs in order to pay for the fund before they vote on it. This, as you might realize, sounds like bullshit. You’re right.

See, Rand Paul voted for the legislation which gave tax cuts to the wealthy without wondering how the government would pay the trillion-plus dollar cost. So for him to slow his roll on a much cheaper bill that would provide relief to folks who risked their lives in the face of danger doesn’t seem right. There’s other pork in the budget to which Rand could object; the Zadroga Act isn’t it. And with broad support from both sides of the Senate and a near-unanimous Yea vote in the House, Rand’s delaying the bill’s passing seems like nothing more than baseless punishment for something. Plus, he says that he wants to move money from education and agriculture in order to pay for this fund? Those departments are already strapped enough! Again, where was he when Trump and friends were gung-ho on spending trillions to get a tax cut?

I mean, we can slam Rand all we want, but he’ll just whine about how we’re attacking him like his neighbor did that one time, and then he’ll quote some Ayn Rand or something, and then run away and call his dad and cry. I didn’t know that Ron Paul still did stuff. I realized just today that he still has a show where he talks about libertarian values and such. While Googling this show, though, I saw that Ron Paul has shown some affection for Bernie Sanders, which, uh, kind of makes my head hurt a little bit.

The Mets go to San Francisco to kick off a four-game series with the Giants tonight. Game time is set for 10:45 pm Eastern, which means that I will not watch this game. I will go to bed before Noah Syndergaard throws the first pitch. I am old now, and two things give me great pleasure in this world: Baseball and falling asleep at a reasonable hour. Pray, though, that I never get so old that I start agreeing with fuckers like Rand Paul. +

Mets hold Minnesota in the first of two: Mets 3, Twins 2

Good morning. I don’t often feel sick to my stomach based on weather-related matters here in New York, but this oncoming heat wave has hit me harder than any hot weather has before. Maybe I’m allowing myself to feel bad about it. Maybe in my old age I don’t care about sweating all over the train. I used to think I had a shield of invincibility when it came to rain, sleet, snow, heat, and hail. I would walk through it all with my head held high. Now I yell at umbrellas that get blown away in the wind. It’s a matter of time before I start shaking my fist at clouds.

Let’s try to write about sports. In Minnesota, the Mets held a one-run lead against the Twins, leaving their first game at Target Field with a 3-2 win. Most of the night’s action occurred during the top half; the Mets scored two of their three runs in the first inning alone. Jeff McNeil ran home off of a sacrifice fly from Robinson Cano, and Wilson Ramos’s base hit allowed Michael Conforto to score run number two. Steven Matz showed promise on the mound at the bottom of the first, having taken over for Zack Wheeler who was put on the injured list for shoulder fatigue earlier this week. But the Twins’ problems in the field and the Mets’ magic on it kept New York in the lead at the end of the first.

Little happened up until the bottom of the third, where Twins second baseman Jonathan Schoop — in an effort to make up for his fielding error in the first — smacks the ball to clock his fifteenth home run, which puts the Twins on the board. Then, at the bottom of the fourth, the Twins become a real threat to the Mets for the first time all game, as Twins left fielder Eddie Rosario scores off of center fielder Max Kepler’s groundout. The Twins tie the game at two.

But the Mets, hot on a winning streak, don’t want to see their lead slip away. At the top of the fifth, Mets shortstop Amed Rosario doubles, then takes third on a wild pitch from Pineda to Jeff McNeil. McNeil singles on the next pitch, allowing Amed to run home to give the Mets a one-point lead against the Twins. Mets 3; Twins 2.

The rest of the game consists of the Mets holding the line against the Twins, which they do even as the Mets keep changing their pitchers. The Mets have done well against the Twins in their last several meetings, even though the Twins have the potential to reach the postseason and the Mets will need a late summer miracle to even dream about the wild card game. But although the game remained a bit of a nail-biter throughout the last half as the Mets fielders tried to prevent extra innings or losing their lead, the Mets showed that they have life in them yet. If they can keep up their momentum over the last three games, who knows?

The Mets play the Twins again in Minnesota this afternoon before heading out to San Francisco for a four game semi-Subway Series against the Giants. (The Giants still have New York roots, folks.) The weather forecast for today in Minneapolis: Thunderstorms with temperatures in the eighties. We’ll have the same here in New York, if not hotter. Barry rears his head, I suppose. +

Mets baseball tonight, and a change-up for Caffeinated Jam, sort of

Good of holy God, I looked at the team rankings across both the AL and NL; the Yankees have second place behind the Dodgers, while the Mets have 24th place. The Mets don’t have an awful record, but they won’t see the postseason unless they turn things around quick this summer. The fiancee jokes that we may find it in our budget to get great seats at Citi Field in September if things keep going the way they’re going. I don’t want to believe, but my head knows — and my wallet hopes, I guess — that she’s right.

No music today, on what might be the precipice of change for this site; I have enjoyed writing Caffeinated Jam as a blog for indie and DIY bands over the past year, but I want to write about other things as well. I have never found myself good at writing with any specific focus, and if I can tie in food, baseball, travel, and where to find the best bodega or halal stand in any neighborhood of New York into these articles, then I will. It doesn’t suit me to become a one-trick pony. It doesn’t suit anyone. We all must embrace versatility in this modern life; the world ain’t as simple as it used to be. Not that I knew a simple world, anyway.

I’ve sworn up and down these past couple of days because of the general racism of this country, which you see spouted from the current Administration and its leader’s mouth. Someone on Twitter pointed out that, yes, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez should go back to the country she came from and fix the problems before trying to fix America, but that just means taking the train up to the Bronx. Therein lies the stupidity and racism of the president; he attacks progressive politicians like AOC and Ilhan Omar and Ro Khanna because they aren’t white, but he forgets that they not only come from here and have citizenship, some of them grew up in his own backyard.

You as the President of the United States can disagree with folks in Congress on political issues, sure. But when you in a racist tirade say they should go back to their own countries to fix the issues there, and they’re United States citizens, you own yourself so hard that you should beg for impeachment.

To all you who say, “Well, now it’s clear that the President’s a racist”: It’s been clear. We’ve seen Trump’s ass shit racist commentary from before day one. From working with his dad to keep black families out of Trump developments, to wishing death upon the Central Park Five, to spewing birther claims against Barack Obama, to the white nationalist rhetoric he continues to utter throughout his tenure in the Oval Office, how much more proof of his racism do we need? On top of all of his other misogynistic and abusive and fearmongering speech, when will people who have power to do something about him realize that he — and anyone who supports him — does not have the nature of someone who should lead any organization, especially a nation?

When I start to get more personal — and by proxy political — is about when my writing takes a turn for the worse, and when I decide that no one cares about my opinions, and when I abandon a writing outlet for good. Hell, it’s why I have so many unfilled notebooks from high school, and from college, and from the last month or so. But Twitter can only do so much for me, and sometimes I need to go off and talk about how much I can’t stand the vitriolic policies coming out Washington, along with how people who disagree with those policies — well-meaning people — allow them to become law. I need run-on sentences, I need repetition, I need room to ramble. You need to understand just how ramped up I get when I sit down to write. For example, I’ve had three cups of coffee today, with thanks to the new cold brew machine the day job office folks have installed in the break room.

So Caffeinated Jam will continue, but from time to time it won’t focus on music. Sometimes I’ll get into the weeds a bit when it comes to my other interests. If you don’t like baseball, or a recipe for quick crock pot Mexican chicken, or my wistful memories of an old shawarma stand on the corner of 23rd and Lexington, I can’t stop you from finding entertainment elsewhere. But know this: Caffeinated Jam will always stand for the rights and the good of all folks. But if you don’t think you like that idea, then we can’t say that we like the idea of you much, either. To hell with ICE and to hell with the raids, and to hell with all of you who don’t think it’s like the goddamned Gestapo marching through the streets of America.

Tonight the Mets play the first of two games against the Twins in Minnesota; the AL Central first-ranked Twins may pose a greater challenge to the Mets than the NL East last-place Marlins did this past weekend. Against the Twins’ pitcher Michael Pineda, Steven Matz will throw in place of Zack Wheeler; the latter has shoulder fatigue and won’t see play until July 23rd at the earliest. I see a bleak next few nights ahead for us fans of the blue-and-orange, but I have a hope in my heart that hurts for victories tonight and tomorrow. Sometimes you stare up at the face of a titan, and if you grit your teeth hard enough and make yourself look really big, you can see them eye to eye. +

Super Low releases self-titled summery debut post name change

I come to you on this Amazon Prime Day and beseech you, I beseech you, to close your wallets, to lie on the cold, hard ground, to beg the Earth for penance for your sins, and to accept your fate when the dirt claims you, lacking any mercy for you, lacking any sympathy for your shriveled soul. For the thought of a flat-screen forty-inch fiber-optic Wi-Fi enabled Fire TV on your IKEA-bought Lack stand will not save you. Yes, no, even the mere thought will never save you.

Memphis’s China Gate changed their name this past year to Super Low, after releasing two EPs since 2015. The name change spawned a full-length eponymous album, which the band self-released, although the production sounds far more like something that could’ve come from a major label drop. I’m a sucker for piano-based jangle pop, if you know my penchant for the music of Billy Joel and Ben Folds, so Super Low’s inclusion of the ivories on many songs on their new record makes it a good one in my book from the get-go. But the layering of strings, washes of white noise, and digital arpeggios on top of multiple tracks of finger-picked guitars makes for a wonderful listening experience. Tiger Adams has just a bit of chorus and reverb on their voice to create a harmonic effect even when they sing solo, and John Lewandowski’s drums keep time without overpowering Conner Booth’s melodic bass lines.

Because of the several years spent playing together as China Gate and in other musical ventures, Super Low already sound super tight regardless of this album being their first in their current iteration. Though they self-released their debut, they have the classic indie sound — something like Hiss Golden Messenger mixed with Delta Spirit — that any respectable label would want, if Super Low would have them. A track like “Lancaster”, at any rate, has sort of a post-country sound, that crossover genre that both red-state Brad Paisley radio stations and crunchy college town coffee shop Spotify DJs can share. In general, Super Low’s debut has a great summertime feel — “Silver”, “Wasp-A-Needle”, and singles “Unlimited Data” and “Runners Ups” bring on the sunshine for sure — so anyone wanting a soundtrack for the back half of the season should glean this album for songs to add to their road trip mix tapes. (Mix tapes, you ask? Are you in 1999, you ask? Yes, I am. I exist within the confines of the waning years of the 20th century. Rad! As if! Like, totally!)

Unfortunately, that’s all I’ve got for today. I must run. The Amazon droids have flown to my current location because they know that I haven’t bought anything yet. Jeff Bezos has a lock on my purchase history and will not sleep until he sees that I’ve spent money today on his website. He has his finger on the button ready to send five hundred nuclear warheads to atomize me at midnight tomorrow. I must not let fear shake me. I must not let the mental intrusions from the telepathy of the droids destroy my resolve. I must remain free from the shackles of their ultra-capitalist tyranny! Must not… give in to… excellent discounts on… select top tech items… must… consume… Yes! Amazon Echo for twenty-five dollars… Must consume… +

From a small book cafe in Lakeville, Massachusetts

I woke on Friday morning with a glorious premonition: Waves of hot coffee flowing through the streets of America, scalding and scorching the unjust and unkind, the detritus of their wasted existences evaporating out of the dark river into the deepest black of the universe, and all that remained filtering — like fresh water into the Atlantic — into my mouth. Let me swallow the souls of the guilty! Let me feed on their sins and their greed!

Sometimes I get into those moods. I like those moods, don’t get me wrong; if we all rooted out real evil at the source, we’d all have a little easier of a time getting to sleep at night, I think. But I also like the moods where I take a break, sip the coffee down smooth instead of inhaling it like Oglogoth, son of H’gheghmenoth sucks up the souls of the predatory moneylenders, and catch up on a good book or take in the local scenery of whatever strange new world into which I driven my duct-taped rental car.

So here I report to you from beautiful Lakeville, Massachusetts, a town of about 10,000 folks tucked in the southwestern end of Plymouth County. I’ve found Wi-Fi in a beautiful stone building that a few enterprising residents have turned into a cozy book cafe; the coffee here costs about two bucks for a small hot one, the stacks stand full of classics and well-known series, and you can sit in just about any couch or chair here and find yourself not wanting to get back on your own two feet. I like a place like this most of all. You don’t get a business like this in New York City for the most part. Barnes & Noble used to have the comfy seats and outlets and Wi-Fi that would work, but they took it all away in an effort to chase out the homeless. It hasn’t worked. Let me tell you, Fred — a guy I know who often camps out in front of the Union Square store selling his own books for spare change — has never been happy about that change, and I agree with him. Local bookstores forever. Support your warm and wonderful hometown book cafe today. Big ups to the late Thanks A Latte, the coffee nook in Manlius, New York that made a sleepy little shopping plaza come alive.

Last night I went to my first Fenway Park game, in which the Boston Red Sox put up a lukewarm fight against the Los Angeles Dodgers, falling 11-2 after nine innings of foul ball filled play. I now own a hat that says Fenway Park underneath the Citgo triangle, because I’ll damn myself if I ever own or wear a hat with a team logo or name other than that of the New York Mets. But I love Fenway; aside from Wrigley, no other ballpark comes close to its history, its magnificence, its culture, and its ties to its home city. Yankee Stadium? Forget it; that original park opened well after Fenway, and the new one has too much glitz and glamour. I hate to say it, but Citi Field suffers from that same modernized soullessness. I understand you have to keep a place up with the times, but Fenway has done that while preserving what has made it a classic venue for sport for over a century. Plus, if anyone ever comes up with new plans to take down Fenway and build something else, the city of Boston will break their legs, and so will I. (I’ll agree with anyone who says that they shouldn’t have rebuilt Yankee Stadium. I’ll bash the team all I want, but I’ll have a soft spot in my heart for looking at the old park during my trips to the city as a kid.)

This sort of wistful thinking leads to my ire for the Dodgers. I understand that baseball has its ways, and the business sometimes demands that teams travel from one place to another in order to survive. (Hell, I feel for Cleveland sometimes. When the Browns will the Super Bowl, the state of Ohio will separate from the United States and shoot into the sky.) And I never grew up to watch the Dodgers play baseball in Brooklyn; my parents didn’t even come around until a few years after they split for the West. But I live now right near Prospect Park, and sometimes I take a run over to the park’s east side, and I see the housing project that they’ve built atop the ruins of Ebbets Field, and I think about the fact that they built a new field for the Mets not in Brooklyn where a glorious stadium used to stand, but in a godforsaken corner of deep Queens like an afterthought. Then they tore down that stadium and built another one on top of it, and while Citi Field has some of the old touches that Ebbets used to have, part of me feels like it should stand tall and welcoming in the heart of Brooklyn, rather than alone and almost desolate near the Nassau County line. So my anger doesn’t belong to the Dodgers, I guess; it should belong to Robert Moses and Walter O’Malley whose spat in the middle of the 20th century led to what we New York non-Yankees fans must now call home for our baseball.

But I tell you, while I watched the Dodgers’ Justin Turner slug a home run over the Green Monster, I wanted to yell: “You belong in Brooklyn!” Ebbets Field would have been the second-oldest ballpark still standing, if the Dodgers had remained in it. Can you imagine Brooklyn’s own version of all the weird quirks that Fenway has to offer? That’s why I love Fenway, even if my relationship with the Red Sox remains supportive in order to honor my fiancee’s love for her home team. I sat in the bleachers and looked out over the history of that place, and wondered if I could have had a ball park like that where I grew up, or where I live now, so that I can feel like a part of something historic. I suppose, though, that you have to think of the Ship of Theseus. If you rebuild something so much — even from the ground up — and keep calling it by its old name, does it still retain its old identity? Can the Mets feel like the Dodgers? Can Citi Field feel like Ebbets Field? If they ever sneak around the Boston faithful in the dead of night to tear down Fenway — turn around three times and spit — will Red Sox fans come to find refuge in a new home?

While writing this, I had to relocate from the cozy book cafe — which was closing — to a nearby Dunkin’, which feels like the most New England thing I can imagine. I’ll head back to New York and my visions of usurping the gluttonous in rivers of dark roast in a bit; hope you all have the lights on over there. +