Archive | December, 2010

A Night Out

22 Dec

…or How To Impress Jeff Klein if You Are a Girl: A Story in Three Parts

Part III: Chasing with the Blue Stuff

*****

Now that I’d eaten my weight in pasta and correctly named the Bulls as being from Chicago, there was one last thing left to do.  It is somewhat anticlimactic to talk now about our boozing ways during and after the basketball game, considering that most of the best quotes from the night involved food and sports, but anyone who has spent any amount of time with Jeff knows that he placed a high priority on relaxing and hanging out with friends.  Of course, this would often involve imbibing copious amounts of alcohol.  In that sense, I guess that night was just another typical one.

Jeff was strong and big and tall. I, on the other hand, am short and female and Asian.  It’s not hard to guess which one of us could hold our alcohol better (I told him once that one day I’d drink him under the table. He just laughed at me).  Nevertheless, I tried my damnedest to keep up, and Jeff did more than his fair share to encourage me along.  Before dinner, during the basketball game, and afterwards, Jeff would ask me every once in a while, “Hey Thao, want to take a shot?”  Like I’ve said before, it’s pretty hard to say no to him, so my responses that night only ran the gamut from, “Yeah!” to “But I’m dru–okay.”  That night, thanks to Jeff, I discovered that I really didn’t need a chaser to down tequila.  Jeff somehow even convinced me to chase a shot of something vile with yet another shot of the more palatable Curacao.  This was peer pressure at its best: I like to consider myself a strong-willed woman and I’m still not sure how he managed it.  My memory is a bit hazy, but I’d like to think that I managed to impress him by still being conscious and coherent after all of the hard liquor.

After drinking probably twice the amount that I did, Jeff was also conscious, also coherent, and mostly reasonable.   Much later, after the basketball game had ended and we’d moved our shenanigans over from KDR to ADP, I found myself dancing with Jeff as he held his ever-present beer in hand.  At one point, after he’d accidentally splashed some beer on me, I told him accusingly, “You spilled beer on my dress.”  Jeff simply looked at me, paused, and then proceeded to pour half of the rest of his (very full) cup of beer on me, chuckling the entire time.  Right afterwards, I think he hugged me.  Somehow he got me to think that spilling beer on me was hilarious.

I recount these stories not because I think our drunken escapades from that night were anything especially remarkable–far from it.  I know for a fact that Jeff got up to much more interesting and memorable shenanigans at other times.  These anecdotes, I’m sure, will be fondly rehashed whenever any of us get together and reminisce.  My reason, then, is that this night exemplified how much fun he was and how much he loved life.  Jeff was always a huge proponent of taking the time to nourish the body and the soul, of appreciating the little things; that night I experienced firsthand how he always managed to spread that joie de vivre to those around him.  (It is partially because of all that, I suppose, that I could never say no to him or be really mad at him.)  I can’t think of a single moment that I spent with Jeff where I didn’t have fun, where I wasn’t wholly at ease, where he didn’t make me completely and utterly happy.

Thanks to Jeff, that night out–and my every other interaction with him–is a dear memory that I will always hold close to me.

 

sometime after Jeff convinced me that chasing one shot with another was a good idea

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Christmas Morning

13 Dec

Jeff was a throwback in the sense that traditions, particularly family traditions, meant everything to him.  And in our household, there was no more memorable tradition than the ritual that started every Christmas morning from the time Brett was about 5 years old.   Not surprisingly, Brett, as the youngest, was always the first one up at the crack of dawn every year ready to bolt downstairs to open presents.  Jeff, 7 years Brett’s senior, would of course be content to sleep till noon or later if we let him.  So what to do ?

Five year old Brett had the common sense answer.  “I’m gonna jump on Jeffrey,” he said. Sounded like a reasonable plan.  But first, he had to wake Drew up, which was actually quite easy.  One gentle shake-of-the-shoulder and kiss on the head from Brett, and Drew (always the mellowest of the group) was up and ready.  And then the moment of truth- Brett started from the end of the hallway, began his sprint toward Jeff’s room, built up a head of steam, and upon the approach to his bed, he began his racing dive into the air.  With grace and style, he landed with a belly-flop on his brother.  Most brothers would probably have come up swinging.  But from the day Brett was born, nobody could light Jeff up like a Christmas tree more than his baby brother, and so once he was jolted from his slumber, he just laughed and hugged the little man.  And then they began the processional downstairs to see if Santa had come that year.

From that year on, the tradition held.  Every single Christmas morning, Brett woke Drew up gently, and then sprinted, dove, and jumped on Jeffrey (Brett never called him Jeff).  I would imagine that with each passing year, this ritual became increasingly painful for Jeff as Brett got bigger, stronger and heavier.  But even last year, with Brett at 15 yrs. and about 150 pounds, Jeff awakened with a smile on his face.  It helped that he always had a greater tolerance for physical pain than most mortals, but his acceptance of being pounced on derived more from his love of family traditions and his immense love for his brother.

I am more thankful than ever that my camcorder has always been affixed to my hand during all special family occasions.  Thus,  I have captured every single Christmas morning jump (and subsequent present opening) dating back to that first year.  I never truly realized back then just how precious that footage would become.

I candidly can’t imagine the torment that this Christmas morning will bring and how it will unfold.  But I think the answer is that we’ll take the advice of Warner Wolf, my favorite sportscaster from when I was in high school.  Before showing game highlights in his sportscasts, Warner would bark out, “Let’s go to the videotape.”  And that’s probably exactly what we will do. We’ll likely watch the video of prior years’ jumps and enjoy those precious bittersweet memories.  Because there is one thing of which I am certain- the last thing that Jeff would want us to do is to stray from our family tradition.  Even now.`

Rich Klein

The (Yankee) Empire Strikes Back

9 Dec

I think it is important to clarify Kleinsaucer’s posture towards sports. Yes, in most cases, Klein routed for the underdog, such as in the NCAA Torney (He was not a big fan of Duke winning last year, sorry Rdubs). However, when it came to New York sports, Klein routed for the winning teams through and through, much to my dismay.

For better or worse, I am a fan of the New York Metropolitans. This is in stark contrast to every other friend of mine from the qua’, including Jeff. You have to understand, Yankees fans, for lack of a better word, are A-holes. While I route for the Yankees when they are not playing the Mets, they route against the Mets every game, no matter the opponent (except when playing the Red Sox) . And, over the years, it has made me viciously hate the Yankees when playing the Mets. So, the prospect of beating the Yankees while watching it at Klein’s house with my friends was exhilarating.

Rdubs first game at Citi Field. Notice that, even at the Mets ballpark, he is wearing a Yankees hat.

The folly of my ways were no more evident on Friday, June 12th 2009. For poker and sports games alike, we always went over to the Kleinsaucer household. This was a very important time for me and the Mets, mostly because I was frantically trying to convince Jackie (my girlfriend) to become a Mets fan. We watched this back and fourth game, to see the Mets take a lead late in the game. Two outs in the ninth.  A-Rod steps up to the plate. He hits a flyball to the sceond basemen! As the ball goes up, I am screaming on the top of my lungs – afterall, it’s a routine popup!

Flashforard a few seconds later. I’m screaing, the ball comes down, and Luis Castillo (the Mets second basemen) drops the ball!

The Yankees score two runs, the Mets lose.

There I was, completely surrounded by Yankees fans, including Jeff’s dad, Rich. They were all laughing at me as I lay there on the carpet, motionless. How could this happen! I mean, yes it is the Mets, but this is not the time to drop a ball, not with the stakes being so high.

Ever since that debacle, I have had a hard time watching the subway series with all these Yankee fans, partly because Luis Castillo sucks, partly because I am scared for life. But hey, at least we can agree on the Knicks.

Lonnie

[Klein called me Lonnie (along with my other friends from the ‘qua), so that shall be my posting name. Lonnie = Elon]

Johnny Pancakes, And Other Hamptons Memories

5 Dec
Our first trip to Montauk as a mini-family occurred in the summer of 1989 when it was just me, Carey and 2 1/2 year old Jeff.  Carey and I have always loved the beach, and while we have visited many with our kids, from Nantucket to Kiawah Island to Laguna Niguel, there was no beach spot where we vacationed more often than the Hamptons.  We probably vacationed in East Hampton at least a half dozen times since that initial trip, and this past spring I decided to book yet another one (after getting confirmation from Drew and Jeff that they would actually join us) for this past summer.  Our family memories of the Hamptons were warm and many, and something told me that I should book this one, because it would likely be our last one all together, the five of us.  Not because I had some premonition about what ultimately happened, but rather because at 19 and 23 years of age, I just figured that my boys’ willingness to spend a week away with mom and dad was nearing an end.  Our beautiful Hamptons memories can be grouped into three broad categories: Beach, Mini-Golf, and FOOD (with Jeff involved, what else ?)
Beach:  We all loved all the normal beach activities like boogie-boarding, frisbee, football, volleyball and wiffle ball, but the one that Jeff pioneered for us- “smash-ball” (you know, those small wood paddles and the little colored balls)- was what kept us howling with laughter.  You see, it wasn’t enough for Jeff if two of us simply played for fun.  We had to strive to set some sort of world record for how many times we hit the ball back and forth before it finally hit the sand.  And Jeff, in his unique and creative way, came up with the idea that the two best players (he and Drew) would someday succeed in reaching a number of consecutive hits that would correspond to the year we were in.  So during our trip in 2004, the bogey was set.  Jeff and Drew (then only 13) would need to hit the ball back and forth 2,004 times before it hit the sand.  I don’t believe they achieved the goal that year, but it was 2005 when it finally happened.  In the blazing sun, they were out there hitting the ball to each other for so long that a crowd of people actually gathered around them to witness the event.  Hilarious.  And sure enough, after hit number 2,005, Jeff threw down his racket in triumph, not needing to prove anything else.  With that, he plunged into the water.  We didn’t bring our smash-ball rackets this summer, but in 2009 in Nantucket, they did it again, surpassing their old record by 4.
Mini-Golf:  Puff & Putt Golf on Montauk Highway in Montauk will always be special to our family.  From the time Jeff was a toddler, he insisted we go there several times per trip to see if he could beat his own best score, and of course, beat the rest of the family in the process.  Once both his brothers were of mini-golf age, the competition was on.  Jeff held his title as family champion until just a few years ago, when Drew took that title and never relinquished it.  This summer, Drew beat us all each time, but the competition remained fierce and it was hell of a lot of fun.
Food:  As other blog posts have noted, food was a great source of enjoyment for Jeff.  Thankfully, exercise was too, so he always looked great.  And certainly over a period of many years, we had our clear East Hampton/Montauk favorite restaurants that we would visit religiously during each trip.  There was East Hampton Point and the legendary Gosman’s Dock (both known for their amazing views of the water),  and the also legendary Lobster Roll (also known by the name “Lunch”).
Jeff loved Gosman’s because it is the place where he had his first ever lobster that he cracked open himself.  You should have seen him in that lobster bib.   The Lobster Roll is known for serving the best greasy fried fish and seafood anywhere, and Jeff was in his glory there.
And then there was Mr. John’s Pancake House, which courtesy of Jeff having a nickname for everybody and everything, came to be known in our family as simply “Johnny Pancakes”.  Johnny Pancakes is a dive.  It is a cash only, diner style pancake house with mostly unfriendly waiters and waitresses who try to rush everyone in and out to accomodate the enormous lines to get into this place during peak season.  But it is a Montauk icon.  We have on several occasions waited an hour at mid-morning to get in .  And while I often wondered aloud why we wouldn’t just go across the street to the empty pancake house there, Jeff would have none of it.  He was all about traditions, and going to Johnny Pancakes was just that.  Once in, you could make this your one meal for the day.  Jeff’s clear favorite was the chocolate and peanut butter chip pancakes with gobs of butter and syrup for good measure.  Seeing how much all my kids enjoyed going to this place made it well worth the wait.  And in August of this year, we went to Johnny Pancakes as a family of 5 for the last time.  It was just great, and Jeff enjoyed it as much as he did when he was a kid.
It will be difficult to go back to East Hampton any time soon.  But nonetheless, the memories we created there as a family will be in my heart forever.
Rich Klein

A Night Out

2 Dec

…or How To Impress Jeff Klein if You Are a Girl: A Story in Three Parts

Part II: Talkin’ Sports
Part III: Chasing with the Blue Stuff

*****

It was NBA playoff season, so there wasn’t even a question as to what the after-dinner plans were.  To his credit, though, Jeff did make an effort and asked me something to the effect of, “You don’t mind if we watch the game first before we head out, do you, Thao?”  I didn’t mind at all, actually, but I’d like to state for the record that even if I did, it is well nigh impossible to say no to Jeff Klein…especially when sports are involved.

The Celtics were playing the Bulls that night.  I remember this because during the commercial break, Jeff asked me if I knew which city the Bulls were from.  Maybe I had said something to indicate otherwise, or maybe I appeared confused before answering, but I will never forget the look of surprised pleasure on Jeff’s face when I (correctly) answered that the Bulls were from Chicago.  “Wow, Thao. I didn’t think you’d know that.”  In the spirit of not lowering his expectations any further, I refrained from telling him that while I could probably hold my own in a knockout game, my first of maybe two exposures to the Bulls was from Michael Jordan and Space Jam in the mid-90s.

Having established that I sort of knew something about basketball–at least, enough to follow along–Jeff stayed true to form by proceeding to inform me that, “Thao. Just to let you know, we’re rooting for the underdogs.” And so we did.  For the rest of the night, some of the KDR brothers and I were treated to a classic Jeff Klein style commentary of the basketball game.  He had a gift for “talkin’ sports,” so to speak, in explaining things to people and getting them interested.  I learned quite a lot about basketball that night.

Anyone can tell you that Jeff’s enthusiasm for sports was infectious.  I found myself watching many of the ensuing playoff games, partly out of the desire to have an idea of what he was talking about when that 3 am text message came (how else would I know what “tell your parents that the good guys won” meant?), but more so because he got me interested in it.  Eventually, Jeff stopped being surprised every time I mentioned a piece of sports news, although I remember him making the impressed face again after finding out that I knew of Ramirez’s 60-game suspension in baseball.  Of course, I think this then meant that he expected me to know things–there was this implicit expectation that I would not drive him crazy like his mother, Carey, did and “purposefully pretend to not know what she was talking about even though she [and I] played varsity sports in high school.”

But I digress.  For Jeff, you couldn’t know about sports and not be deeply passionate about it–this is more than evident after spending just a few moments with him or after reading a paragraph or two of his sports writing.  And so, ever since that night, every single time I open up the sports page or hear about any sports-related news, I always find myself thinking, “I wonder what Jeff thinks about this?”