Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Farewell to the Peanut Gallery

Look, I know that when a co-worker gets a job somewhere else, I'm not necessarily losing a friend. A friend is a friend no matter where they are and the best ones are those with whom you can reconnect after months, or even years, and it feels like no time has passed.

But at 5:01 pm on Thursday, September 15, I will be losing a truly great friend and teammate. Not losing as in death, Lord forbid, but losing out on the chance to see her every day. That's the worst part when a colleague to whom you are close gets a new job; it's just not the same when communication is mostly limited to e-mails and texts. That's why I'm thrilled that Nina Tarantino has a new job but just sad that I won't be seeing her every day.

I first met Nina when I was still an usher with the Padres and I remember that the two people who would always say hi to me were she and her Compadres Club partner, Harrison Boyd. As someone aspiring to move from the gameday staff to the front office, I just appreciated that they would always take time from their busy duties to chat with me and other ushers.

When I was promoted into the office in 2006, I couldn't believe my good fortune that those two friendly people, Nina and Harrison, were in offices next to mine. It made the often intimidating transition much easier. I came to learn that Neen had joined the Padres as a high schooler, and stayed through college at SDSU, and that with her brother JoJo as a bat boy, Padres Baseball was truly a family affair.

Now, people often ask, "Why the heck do you and Nina always call each other 'Peanut'?"  Oh, thank you for asking <tilts head slightly>.

In those first few months in the spring of 2006, Nina and I would habitually hear each other's conversations, jokes, and such - the hallway was super-narrow - and blurt out our own thoughts and responses. Sure it was eavesdropping but it was funny and good-natured. One day I was teasing her about something, I don't know what, and she says, "That's enough out of you, Peanut Gallery!"  So henceforward we just called each other Peanut.

(One day I even found a Snickers wrapper that proclaimed we are all residents of "Peanutopolis". I left it on her desk and when she returned, could hear her famous, "Enh!! Oh boy.")

Well, in every workplace, there are some people who remain as strictly colleagues, others become good friends, and others become like a sibling to you. Peanut became like a sister to me.

She yelled at me when I spent too much money on girls I liked. She would schedule her workouts so she could help me with my prosthetics and weight machines in the weight room. When I walked into the lunchroom, she was the first one to stand up to help me heat up my meal. She encouraged me to join her in trying the San Diego Rock 'n' Roll Marathon.

And just like a sister, she was uber-protective. I know that whenever I'm in public, people might naturally stare at my arms. I'm cool with it. Not Peanut. I've seen her, after our crew once left Woodstock Pizza, walk back in and go up to two grown men and say, "What, you've never seen a guy with two hooks before? Do I need to punch each of you in the face?"  True story <raises palm>.

I just knew wherever our crew would go, Nina would have my back.

And at the Padres, where your friends become your family, she was the glue, she was the anchor. From 2006 - 2011, she helped keep us all together, through good times and bad.

When I was blessed to accomplish my dream of publishing my first book - Swinging for the Fences, available on; that's Swinging for the Fences, available on - Peanut was the first person to go online and buy a copy. She then told all her contacts about it and propped up my book on her desk so visitors would ask about it. For three years!

We've had incredible memories together. Swigging champagne in a party limo in Vegas. Spraying bottles of bubbly on the sidewalks of Little Italy on New Year's Eve. Jumping up and down on rickety bleachers at Aztecs basketball games. Clinking beer bottles at Shore Club. Throwing combined Gemini birthday parties at Club Altitude. Laughing when she came to Karen Madden's annual famous Halloween party dressed as a bumble bee and crying out, in her high-pitched voice, "Why can't I get a buzz?!  Ha!! A buzz!"  Ok, maybe you had to be there.

But you can appreciate how we would reference LaDanian Tomlinson's way of saying "strength" as "screnf".

Or how we lamented when the Pads lost the division by one game in 2007 and 2010.

Or how we've been there for each other through personal adversity.

Or how we cried together at our teammate Denny Russell's funeral.

Forgive me if this is blatantly corny. Like I said, I know our friendship's not ending, and it never will. But when someone leaves your workplace, you don't see them every day and it's different. And I am really going to miss seeing Nina "Peanut" Tarantino - and her mom Jaye Bird and father Tanktop Tiny - as much as I do now.

She is a sister and a true friend.

What's the matter with you, you've never seen a man get mushy before? Do I need to punch you in the face?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Summer of Riches?

There are two things I want you to know: 1.) I am not posting this blog on Facebook. Sure anyone can find it easily but there are times I want you, my blog Followers whom I appreciate, to see posts that others might not necessarily see.  2.) I'm the type of person who thinks summer begins on Memorial Day and ends on Labor Day, although I'll give leeway for weeks like this one where it's hot, hot, hot.

As such, as summer winds down it seems like a good time to reflect on the season that was. It was a fun summer. Had a good birthday party at Fox Sports Grill, where I saw my circles of friends seem to be expanding. I completed the San Diego Rock 'n' Roll Marathon with K-Mad. I enjoyed several weddings - Kat's, Kim Ejanda's, Sol and Anthony's. Concerts were great too - Boyz II Men, Marron 5, Train, Ozomatli. In fact, as the Lil' Wayne show evidenced, by the end of summer I was turning DOWN free tickets just 'cause I was so tired and needed nights off.

Sports were interesting. Padres baseball was just not fun to watch. The Lakers and Bulls flamed out in the playoffs. But somehow I made it to both Chargers preseason games. Amazing.

The girl I'm seeing is cool. My friends seem to go out less because we're all just drained. But more on that in a minute.

What I'm happiest about is my speaking career has taken off. It seems like I've been speaking every week and recently I had four speeches in seven days! That has boosted me as an author and the biggest news was when 'Swinging' reached 1,000 copies - I still feel so happy and accomplished about that.

Professionally my summer took a drastic turn when I was given more of a Community Relations emphasis. I still do marketing but am so much happier in CR. Some more changes are on the horizon, though, so we'll see.

I looooved speaking at Camp del Corazon and loved speaking in L.A., San Bernardino, and Catalina and getting invited to future gigs in Ohio and Indiana. I love that my family has rallied through times more than once.

But what I hate is those tough times seem to persist. It seems like I'm always financially pressed and I'm just tired of it. I know I need to save more and spend less. I get that. But I've tried to be frugal and even cancelled a trip to Vegas. :-(  I'm just tired of feeling broke or watching every penny. I make good money. But the bills seem to claim it all right away. Frankly, this is the tightest pinch my household has felt in years and it sucks. It depresses me.

But I've learned to value what matters most: my friends, my family, my teammates. They make me laugh every day. I am richly blessed in friends. I just pray I appreciate them because that's what really matters. It's been a good summer that has ended with a financial tumble (unless a miracle occurs soon). Here's to a great, free, and FUN fall.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Irish Football: After The Storm

September 4, 2011

Winners are not those who avoid adversity. Winners are those who overcome adversity.

That’s what disappointed me the most about Saturday. ND cruises down the field, everything’s clicking, and then – not uncommon in a season opener – Jonas doesn’t protect the ball while stretching for the goal line. It was stunning but it happens. I don’t think there was one member of Domer Nation who didn’t think we couldn’t get the rock right back after the kickoff and march to the goal line again.

But something seemed to happen to us psychologically. Sure, USF was buoyed by that play but a few first downs and their heads would have been spinning again.

Starting from our second drive, Dayne threw behind receivers, dumb penalties were committed, and we just fell apart. It was a miracle the deficit wasn’t 28-0.

Errors will happen in week one – a major reason I wish we would schedule a cupcake as a tuneup – so that wasn’t overly shocking. But how we became unglued was alarming.

Case in point: Theo makes the absolutely unbelievable folly of fumbling on a fair catch. Terrible but it should anger him, right?  Not to say he wasn’t fueled by it but the next thing we see on NBC is a close-up of him on the bench, face buried in his hands, sobbing. Are you kidding me? Why weren’t there any teammates around to say either, “Don’t worry, Rid, you’ll make up for it.  We got your back.”  OR “Hey, stop crying and get your head up, Domer, there’s a lot of football left.”?

I applaud Kelly for going back to him on the next offensive series in order to get his confidence back up. But between Crist’s bad throws and Riddick’s suddenly stone hands, drops ensued. It was inevitable that frustration would soon set in.

Also inevitable were the storms that drenched Michiana. Amazingly, it looked like they would work in ND’s favor in that it gave our lads time to regroup and refocused while taking some momentum away from Skip Holtz’s Bulls.  By the way, it was weird enough seeing Jack Swarbrick in full-color and 3-D, but especially when he looked like he had just been in a brawl with Jamie the Bouncer from the ‘Backer.

Actually, Jamie would pummel him in two seconds flat and snap him in half like a rain-soaked South Bend twig. But I digress.

The extended breaks seemingly cemented Kelly’s decision to go one small jersey number forward and two gigantic steps forward at QB. #10 and his errant passes were out and #11 and his scrawny body and accurate throws were in. People complain about Tommy’s small frame but all he does is rack up yards (296) and TDs (2).

Kelly either saw amazing throws from Crist in practice or wanted to give the senior – who, remember, has a year of eligibility remaining after this one – the benefit of the doubt. Hopefully at Michigan it’s Rees at the throttle with perhaps some packages for Ghoulson included.

I first-guessed BK for not play-faking to the tight end on that first goal-line series (Logan Washburn, you’re my witness) and will really first-guess him if he goes back to Dayne. Otherwise I have no problem with the game he called, or even his Old Yeller style, as attested by ND’s 5 yards per carry, 104 yards rushing, and 508 yards overall.

We have the talent to win in the Big House. But it’s going to take a return to stressing the fundamentals. It’s going to take leaders stepping up in practice as they did late in this never-ending game. It’s going to take guys being willing to endure a hard week. It’s going to take the mindset that 0-2 is unacceptable.