Cup of Coffee: June 13, 2024

Travel talk and some bits and bobs

Good morning! And welcome to Free Thursday!

Also: happy birthday to my wife Allison! I won’t tell you her age, but it’s a multiple of 11 and a lot of great ballplayers wore it as their number.

[Editor: Scott Rolen? Frank Robinson? Tony Dorsett?]

Um, no, but moving on!

I am writing to you from Manchester, where Allison and I landed this morning. I don’t know what we’re doing today, but by the time you’re reading this I will have at least polished off a full English breakfast from The Koffee Pot. Tomorrow we’re going to see James. On Saturday morning we’re taking a train down to London where, on Saturday evening, we’ll see James again. There are far worse pretexts for international travel.

More quick hits today. And not in any particular order, but yes there are some baseball items down there somewhere. You’ll just have to pardon my travel-based, sleep-deprived incoherence.

Settling the Scores

The Orioles won their sixth straight and the Nationals won their fifth straight, so good for baseball fans in that general part of the country. Atlanta and Oakland each dropped their fifth in a row, so their partisans are not so pleased.

Individually speaking, Jeimer Candelario, Donovan Solano, and Jackson Merrill each hit two homers yesterday. Bryce Miller tossed seven shutout innings. Sonny Gray had a nice game, allowing one over seven. Carlos Correa had five hits.

As for the scores:

Twins 17, Rockies 9
Brewers 5, Blue Jays 4
Giants 5, Astros 3
Padres 5, Athletics 4
Orioles 4, Atlanta 2
Nationals 7, Tigers 5
Cubs 4, Rays 3
Reds 4, Guardians 2
Mets 10, Marlins 4
Red Sox 8, Phillies 6
Cardinals 4, Pirates 2
Yankees 11, Royals 5
Angels 8, Diamondbacks 3
Mariners 2, White Sox 1
Rangers 3, Dodgers 2

Odds and Ends

  • The Dodgers acquired Cavan Biggio from the Blue Jays in exchange for minor league pitcher Braydon Fisher. Biggio had been designated for assignment by the Blue Jays last weekend. For the Dodgers this helps address some infield depth issues occasioned by Max Muncy’s injury and the general ineffectiveness of Chris Taylor, Kiké Hernández, and Gavin Lux. For the Blue Jays this, sadly, signals the beginning of the end of their Nepo Baby experiment. Keep a bag packed, Vlad and Bo;

  • Reliever Jorge López has agreed to a minor-league contract with the Chicago Cubs. López, you’ll recall, recently made headlines for launching a ball into the stands after being ejected from his final game with the Mets in late May. Then he gave a postgame interview in which he called the Mets "worst team," or, depending on who you believe, said he was the “worst teammate.” Either way, it was too much for the Mets who DFA’d him. As far as pitching goes, López appeared in 28 games with the Mets this year posting a 3.76 ERA (102 ERA+) in 26 1/3 innings pitched. He should be useful for the Cubs. A change of scenery, don’t you know.

  • All-time NBA great Jerry West died yesterday. West was one of the best players of all time. He was a fantastically successful executive. He was the NBA logo, of course. He was also a product of Chelyan, West Virginia, which is about 45 minutes up the road from my hometown of Beckley, so I’ve always had an extra bit of affinity for West, even if I never got to see him play. Rest in Peace to a guy who was already a living legend by the time he traded for Kobe Bryant and signed Shaquille O’Neal in the same damn week, and man, has any sports executive had a better week than that?

  • Sony Pictures Entertainment has acquired Alamo Drafthouse Cinema. I’m so old that I remember that one of the most important antitrust decisions in the history of American jurisprudence prohibited studios from owning movie theaters because that sort of vertical integration was inherently anticompetitive. To be fair, this particular arrangement is a lot different from the days when MGM owned a massive theater chain in which only MGM movies could play, but it’s a reminder that even in an age of modestly resurgent antitrust enforcement, we’re a long way from the days in which we truly cared about this sort of thing;

  • The writer Laura van den Berg has an article in New York Times Magazine about how much she loves humid summer weather of her native Florida. She writes, “I long for sweat. Last year, I moved to upstate New York from Florida. All winter and spring I tried to sweat. I missed it terribly. I attended hot-yoga classes in heavy layers in an attempt to sweat as much as possible . . . Some of my most visceral childhood memories are of sweat. The smell, the slickness, the taste. Growing up, I spent a lot of time outside and, thanks to all the sweat that clung to my skin, I was always coming home covered in dirt, grass and sand.” And she just goes on like that, talking about how she just loves the oppressive, wet blanket of heat one finds in the Sunshine State. I’m all for freedom of speech, but I think Ms. van den Berg should be arrested and imprisoned for the rest of her life for that kind of wrong-think.

(I Want to Live on an) Abstract Plain

Yesterday, while on my layover at JFK, I was informed of another good pretext for international travel:

Frank Black is delighted to announce two very special shows for 2025, where he will be performing the ‘Teenager Of The Year’ album in full.

The Teenager Of The Year shows will see Frank Black play Le Trianon in Paris on Tuesday 4th February and the London Palladium on Thursday 6th February.

That’s Black Francis of Pixies, for those who don’t know. “Teenager of the Year” was his second solo album following the initial breakup of the band. The first solo album, “Frank Black” was excellent. I love it and I still listen to it a lot, but it sounded much like one might’ve expected a new Pixies album to have sounded at the time. “Teenager of the Year” was a ludicrously manic departure. It’s the album where Black let his id loose in ways he never did before and never really has since. There is no chill to that album, and I mean it in the best way possible. Twenty-two songs, some punky, some poppy, some power-poppy, some moments of thrash, some moments of tenderness, many, many moments of weirdness, but every song is a banger, and Black gave every single one of them 110%.

I am pretty damn sure that the U.S.-based Black will add some U.S. “Teenager of the Year” shows eventually, but I really should buy concert and plane tickets for London before they’re announced, lest my pretext disappear.

Another travel note

Some people’s spouses play golf. Some people’s spouses join book clubs. My spouse has dedicated the last couple of years of her life to being one of those people who maximize travel points, deeply research travel incentive credit cards, and figure out all of the ways to get us to the places we go as cheaply as possible. Sometimes for something approaching free, often on deep discounts or at luxury levels for economy prices. None of it would be possible if we weren’t empty nesters who downsized houses and paid off some bills last year, and no, most of this travel is not strictly necessary. But again, neither of us were gonna play golf, so what the hell else should be do with our free time?

The results of Allison’s Points Guy jag are absolutely wonderful, but it’s generally confusing to me. I don’t really know how any of the programs work. I don’t know whether “5,000 points” is a lot or a little. Sometimes it’s one, sometimes it’s the other. I just listen to Allison when she tells me which credit card to use at the grocery store, which one to use for Amazon orders, and which one to use for gas. I refrain from asking any questions because I probably wouldn’t understand the answers. My brain just doesn’t work like that. They make memes about the kind of travelers Allison and I are:

I like this meme not just because of the idea expressed, but because it makes Allison Nicolas Cage and she HATES Nicolas Cage.

Since we’ve been doing the travel card/points thing we’ve been able to go to airport lounges. I was never much of a business traveler back when those spaces were primarily for business travelers. Now that they’re increasingly tied to what credit card or airline status you have they’re more accessible for leisure travelers like us. Columbus only has one super janky one that would not pass muster for almost anyone who knows better, but if we have stops at major airports we hit ‘em up.

Yesterday we had an extremely long layover at JFK (when you book based on points you often have to take weird flight times). This allowed us to go to multiple lounges just for the hell of it. We breakfasted in the Delta Sky Club, lunched in the AMEX Centurion Lounge, took a quick look at the Chase Sapphire Lounge, and had pre-flight cocktails in the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse. Some of it was weird. Like this, from the Chase Sapphire Lounge:

A sign that says "reflection room"

OK, fine, I can see the need for a room in which someone can find some peace and quiet amidst the chaos of a major international airport. And if you want to call it a “Reflection Room” that’s fine by me. But what was inside the Reflection Room was kinda weird:

Allison holding up a plain white book

Allison is holding one of a couple dozen books which were on the shelf in the Reflection Room. All of them had plain white jackets. No titles or authors. When you open them there are words, but the title pages are not there. I suppose you are just meant to begin reading them with no context whatsoever and that that’s somehow supposed to relax you instead of annoy you. I’m not sure.

Anyway, each and every one of the people in those lounges, ourselves included, will be the first ones up against the wall when the revolution comes, but it beats the hell out of camping out at a gate or ordering $22 glasses of wine at Pizza Vino. Indeed, based on our travel schedules over the past year or so, I’m pretty sure the hefty annual fees on those travel cards we got have paid off in avoiding airport food and drinks alone. And it certainly makes the travel experience less stressful.

But yeah, I realize that all of this has made me a Traitor to the Cause. That’s unfortunate, but the Boulevardier in the 1850 speakeasy at the JFK Centurion Lounge was even tastier for being free, so I will face the guillotine with no regrets.

Anyway, that’s all I got today. I’ll tell Manchester that y’all said hi.

Have a great day everyone.


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