The Media is Making Me Like Jameis Winston Again

There is no excuse for Jameis Winston. No matter how die hard of a Florida State fan you may be, the actions of the Heisman trophy winning QB are not ones to be defended. He has made so many silly  mistakes in his short time in the limelight that it is probably more appropriate to compare Jameis to Dennis the Menace than it would be to compare him to other Seminole greats like Charlie Ward, Warrick Dunn, and Chris Weinke. I am not taking the time to write this today because I want to stand up for Mr. Winston. I am writing this piece because because the media has made me want to to stand up for Jameis Winston.

Let me preface my opinions on the coverage of the star quarterback with this: I was not overly offended by Winston’s latest screw up. As I type that out, I almost feel like I have committed a sin. The 24 hour news cycle has placed sports fans in such a politically correct environment that I feel like if I am not ready to crucify Jameis Winston, I am an ignorant person. But even still, I am not afraid to admit that I did not have flames coming out of my nose when I found out about the FHRITP saga.

Was it stupid? Yes.

Thoughtless? Yes.

Immature? Yes.

Malicious? No.

Jameis Winston got up on a table and yelled a vulgar line from a viral internet video to a bunch of other college kids. He wasn’t commenting on women’s rights, or trying to show the world that he was in favor of sexual assault. He was being a stupid college kid. He was yelling something that every other person in the student union had probably heard one of their friends, in an effort to be the funniest guy in the room, yell out before. This didn’t take place in a 3rd grade classroom. It took place in the midst of a bunch of young adults who probably heard things ten times worse when they went out to the bars that night.

At this point, it probably seems like I am defending Jameis. That is not my intent. I am simply trying to express that of all the stupid things he has done, this is certainly the most mild and harmless. If I am being completely honest, I think Winston should have been suspended for the entirety of the first game against Oklahoma State for his infamous theft of the crab legs. But that did not happen. He played in that game, and then decided to be stupid in public again just a few weeks later. Enough was enough. Jameis Winston was finally punished.

The administration suspended him because of the compounding effects of his carelessness. It was the straw that broke the camel’s back. It wasn’t about cussing in public, everyone speculated, it was about finally getting through to Jameis Winston that his actions as a whole were unacceptable.

Yet it wasn’t enough for the media. Not even close. Throughout the whole circus, they weren’t satisfied. They still aren’t. As they have done with every other screw up on the Winston front, ESPN and their counterparts have beat the proverbial dead horse to death. Let’s look at a timeline of events:

  1. Deadspin.com puts out an article under the title “Jameis Winston Yells ‘F*** Her Right In The P****,’ Killing Meme”. The article consisted of a bunch of tweets from students at FSU saying they had seen Winston jump on the table and yell the vulgar phrase. While Twitter is never a concrete source, the volume of tweets posted at the same time indicated that it was probably a solid bet that Winston had in fact yelled the phrase. So Deadspin had broken the story of this momentous occasion. If you take a look at Deadspin’s headlines as of this moment, you will find the following: “Keith Olbermann Takes A Big Ol’ Poo On Derek Jeter”, “The Eagles Are The Whitest Team In The NFL, And Other Fun Facts”, “Phil Spector’s Mug Shot Is Scary As Hell”. But since this story involves Jameis Winston, it begins to spread around the web like wildfire, despite the fact that it was first published on the sports equivalent of TotalFratMove.com
  2. Troubled by the fact that the student’s tweets are becoming so public, the University decides to take a pretty unprecedented stance. They get out ahead of the national media and suspend a player for saying something vulgar to a group of other students. They give Jameis a half game suspension.
  3. Paul Finebaum and the rest of ESPN lose it. Literally, they go absolutely nuts. Up in arms, they demand a further suspension of Jameis Winston, convinced that half of a game on the bench against what is perhaps the toughest team FSU will play all year is completely insignificant. Mark May declares that FSU coming back to win in the second half with Winston at the helm would be “The worst case scenario” and continues to seethe when talking about Jameis throughout the pregame for Auburn v Kansas State on Thursday night (Noteworthy: Mark May was arrested on three separate occasions while playing college ball for Pittsburgh). Some radio personality named Zubin Mehenti goes on an entirely overboard tirade on live radio, trashing Jimbo Fisher and basically calling Jameis Winston the stupidest human being on the planet (listen here).
  4. Jimbo Fisher comes out and staunchly defends the half game suspension, proudly stating to the media “We’re in charge. It’s our team. That’s what we thought. We went with the consequences and we’re ready to move on.”
  5. FSU’s Athletic Director and Interim President decide to completely disregard Fisher’s statements from the previous day, extending Jameis Winston’s suspension to a full game less than 24 hours before kickoff at 11pm Friday night. They cite Winston not being truthful as the reason for the harsher punishment, but appear to have keeled to the demands of the media in the eyes of most logical observers.
  6. Jameis Winston comes out on to the field in full pads for warm up. ESPN loses it again, and wild speculation begins. A shot of Jimbo yelling at Jameis to go change is shown on repeat for the entirety of pregame. ESPN, seemingly giddy that this has occurred, begins to speculate more and more wildly about why Jameis possibly would have thought it would be acceptable to be in football pads on the sideline.
  7. In a game for the ages, FSU beats Clemson in overtime behind a gutsy performance from back up QB Sean Maguire. ESPN shows forty eight separate shots of Jameis Winston throughout the telecast, including an elongated view of him running on the field to congratulate Maguire.
  8. The media talks about little in the wake of Florida State’s victory except the fact that Jameis Winston came out dressed in pads and how disrespectful he was to have done so.
  9. Media criticizes Winston for stealing Maguire’s fifteen minutes of fame by running out on the field to congratulate him.
  10. Jimbo comes out and says that Jameis dressing out was entirely a miscommunication and was the fault of the team, not the player.
  11. Media continues to harp on the fact that Jameis came out dressed in pads despite it being clearly stated that it was not his fault.
  12. Some media personalities begin to come out and declare that they do not believe a one game suspension is enough. They want more.
  13. See number 11.
  14. See number 12.
  15. Repeat number 13 and 14.

Are you getting where I am going with this? The media is not going to stop until they bury this kid. They are blood thirsty. Up to this point, they have had pretty much everyone, including FSU fans, support their criticism of Winston. But when is enough going to be enough? When is their lynch mob mentality against Winston finally going to become so tiresome that we all start defending him again?

For me, that moment came a couple nights ago when I read a column in the Orlando Sentinel by David Whitley entitled “Despite FSU win, Jameis Winston disappoints Seminoles”. The topic of the article was pretty standard given the day it was published: Jameis Winston coming out for the warmups in pads. But this article was different. It was venomous. It was worse than Finebaum’s propaganda. It seemed to express true hatred. The whole article is a pretty disgusting attack job, in my opinion, but the last three paragraphs were especially troubling:

It’s obvious Winston’s behavior wasn’t modified after he damaged property, or Publix’s profit margin or students’ ears, not to mention how he treated the coed who accused him of sexual abuse.

Maybe almost ruining his teammates’ national-championship dreams will get the grow-up message through his thick head. “I think it will,” McCoy said.

If it doesn’t, Mr. Awesome truly is an idiot.

As I read this passage, I began to feel my whole opinion on Jameis Winston changing. Let’s remember something. Winston was NEVER CHARGED in the sexual abuse case. It should be a non issue. He has certainly made a slew of mistakes that are issues, but they are childish ones. Drinking soda from a water cup, breaking a window with a BB gun, shoplifting a package of crab, cursing in public. Like I said earlier, Jameis Winston deserves to be compared to Dennis the Menace. He has the rap sheet of a 12 year old trouble maker.

It is completely acceptable to be disappointed in the immaturity that Jameis Winston displays on a constant basis. It is fine to hold the opinion that enough is enough. You are right to want him to grow up. That being said, lets not cave into the picture that many members of the media are trying to paint of this 20 year old football player. Let’s not think of him as an evil individual. Let’s not associate him with Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson just because he said some curse words around the same time that their domestic abuse scandals came out.

No matter how many stupid things Winston has done to hurt FSU, he has done a hell of a lot to help FSU as well. Let’s not forget that. If the media does not stop this perpetual tirade, they are eventually going to be hit with a backlash. They have already made me want to like Jameis again despite his stupid actions, and if they keep it up, I’m sure a lot of you will be with me on that.

The MLB Trade Deadline: Dealing With Losing Your Favorite Player

I’m new to this. The whole caring about a pro sports teams thing. Don’t get me wrong, I have always followed professional sports very closely. I am a fan of the NFL’s New York Jets, and could even be considered a dedicated supporter of the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks. Up until about a year and half ago, however, I had never been fanatical about a pro team. That level of fandom had always been reserved for college sports and my beloved Florida State Seminoles. Growing up with a father and brother who had both graduated from FSU, I was a die hard Nole from the time I emerged from the womb. My family lived in New York until I was 14, but that didn’t stop us from having season tickets to Florida State football. Just before I started high school, we  even moved to Tallahassee so that I could establish residency and get in state tuition at FSU once I moved on to college. So yeah, you could say I have always been a fanatic about FSU sports.

Pro sports, on the other hand, could never equal the passion, intensity, and feel good moments  that were so ingrained in the woodwork of college athletics. That was my mindset, at least, until 2012 when I began following the Oakland Athletics. As an intern in San Francisco, one of the finest baseball cities in America, I had no choice but to follow the MLB that summer. Up to that point, baseball had never really been my thing. I had season tickets to the Mets when I lived in NY, and even had the pleasure of attending the only game the Mets took against the Yankees in the famed Subway World Series in the year 2000, but I still had never become too entrenched in the dynamics of the sport. When I moved to Florida and began getting more and more involved with the sport of lacrosse, I lost all semblance of an interest in baseball. Yet here I was in 2012, a twenty one year old college student living in a city in which being a baseball fan isn’t really a choice, it is a necessity.

The logical choice would have been to start following the Giants, but I had always been partial to the underdog. As such, I began taking a vested interest A’s from across the Bay. At the time I started following them, the A’s were at a season low eight games below .500 and seemed to be spiraling out of control. But then the month of June came, and something clicked with the team. Over the next month and a half, the A’s started winning. As I left San Francisco and returned to Tallahassee for my final year at FSU, all the sports talk in the Bay Area was abuzz with the prospect of Oakland actually finishing with a winning record. And then the run came. I watched from my living room in Florida as the Athletics surged to win thirteen out of their last fifteen games in the month of August. Even with this stellar stretch, the A’s still trailed the division leading Rangers by five full games with only nine left to play. Winning the division seemed impossible, but no one told that to the rag tag bunch in Oakland. The A’s finished the season by winning eight of the their last nine games, including a sweep of the Rangers in the final series, and ended up winning the AL West. Even though the A’s went on to lose to the Tigers in the first round of the playoffs, I was hooked. The Oakland A’s exhibited everything that I had thought was absent from pro sports, They cared about winning more than anything else and were a team in the truest sense of the word.

Fast forward to the present day, almost two years later, and I am now a permanent resident of San Francisco. Despite living just two blocks from AT&T Park (the home of the Giants), I am as fanatic and rabid of an Oakland A’s fan as they come. I watch every single game, many of them live in Oakland, and find the enjoyment of my everyday life genuinely linked to whether the A’s have won that day or not. This may seem sick to some of you, but we all have our addictions. Mine is sports.

Needless to say, I have been quite the happy camper since Opening Day. As we sit on the cusp of August, the Oakland Athletics are unarguably the best team in Major League Baseball, holding the best record and ranking in the top five among all teams in nearly every statistical category.  Earlier this month, the A’s made the biggest splash in baseball when they traded a group of impressive prospects for starting pitchers Jeff Smardzija and Jason Hammel, formerly of the Chicago Cubs. While Hammel has been entirely unimpressive in his first four outings in an Oakland uniform, Smardzija (or “Shark”, as adoring A’s fans like to call him) has proved himself to be among the elite starters in the game. Coupled with Sonny Gray, the young cornerstone of the organization, and Scott Kazmir, an All Star in the midst of an awe inspiring comeback season, few could argue that the A’s starting rotation wasn’t the best in baseball. Even with this being the case, when I saw the Oakland Athletics mentioned among the teams aiming to trade for Jon Lester, the Red Sox star who was the prize of the players made available as we approached the day of the trade deadline, I was utterly convinced that Billy Beane would work his magic and make Lester an Athletic before all was said and done. As I went to bed early in the morning of July 31, I was giddy with the overwhelming belief that we would move another slew of prospects along with promising starter Tommy Milone to grab Lester off the block. Never in my life did I imagine that when I woke up I would would be bombarded with texts from friends across the country that the A’s had in fact traded for Jon Lester, along with former A’s favorite Jonny Gomes, but had given up Yoenis Cespedes in the process.

Yoenis Cespedes has far and away been my favorite player ever since I began following baseball avidly back in 2012. A Cuban national who defected from his home country to come play for the A’s, Cespedes is one of the most talented baseball players to have graced the league over the past few years. He has elite power at the plate, and is the two time reigning Home Run Derby Champion. He also has what is possibly the best arm is baseball, as you can see here:

Cespedes is one of the most exciting players to watch in baseball. Not only does he hustle on every single play, but he is the consummate teammate. Everybody in the clubhouse loved Yo, even though he barely speaks English. Whether it was a pie to the face after a walk off, or a high five after a tough loss, Cespedes was our guy. He was the face of the A’s. He was even funny:

When I woke up to find that Yoenis Cespedes was no longer a member of the Oakland A’s, my initial reaction was devastation. There was no excitement about adding an ace in Lester, only depression in losing my favorite player from my favorite squad. I had never experienced this type of feeling in my time as a sports fan. As an avid college fan all my life, I had never had to worry about the prospect of a trade. Sure, we lost star players to the NFL or NBA, but they were moving up. They were progressing to the next level. After all, the Noles never had to play against Charlie Ward, Warrick Dunn, Peter Warrick, Al Thorton, or Toney Douglas after they had graduated. Clearly this is not the case with Cespedes. Not only is he going to another team in the MLB, he is going to another team in the American League. Seeing as Yoenis is now a foe of the Athletics, I can no longer cheer for my favorite player. In essence, I have to find a new favorite player (I’m looking at you Donaldson and Smardzija). This is not a feeling I am accustomed to as a lifelong college sports fan, and it is not one I am looking forward to.

As I have taken the time throughout the day to objectively evaluate the trade, I am once again impressed by the wizard that is Billy Beane. While I obviously do not love this trade from an emotional perspective, I am certainly a fan of how it impacts our chances at bringing home a World Series title. With this move, the Oakland A’s have accumulated one the most deadly potential playoff rotations baseball has ever seen. The ERA of Lester, Gray, Smardzija, and Kazmir currently sit at 2.52, 2.65, 2.92, and 2.37 respectively. You have brought on a player in Lester who has not only won two World Series championships as an ace, but has also beaten cancer, all at the age of 30. If a guy with that type of perseverance can’t teach this team how to win in October, no one can. This rotation has a chance to be considered among the greatest of all time and, barring unforeseen circumstances,  is certainly the best since the Maddux, Glavine, Smoltz, Neagle powerhouse the Braves put together in 1998.

Even with the move the Tigers made today to acquire David Price, the A’s are now the clear favorite to win the World Series. You have four bonafide pitching stars to send out during each game of each playoff series. Each of these four guys could be the Game 7 starter for more than half of the teams in the league. There is no need to argue who is now the ace of this staff, for all four of them are the aces. In addition, you add a guy back to the clubhouse in Jonny Gomes that is familiar with the organization and is a perfect fit as far as mentality goes. Tigers fans everywhere will contend that the A’s made the moves today out of fear of the the pitching staff in Detroit, but that is flat out inaccurate. Billy Beane made this trade, and the one earlier this month, to win a World Series this year. It does not matter who the team that we face in the playoffs is, with the squad we now have assembled, there is no doubt we should win any 5 or 7 game series come October.

I am clearly biased, but I do believe that this is the year that the A’s will pull it off. Billy Beane has gone all in, and I am confident this group of players and coaches will finally reward him with a championship for doing so. Why then, with my belief in winning a championship at such a high level, do I feel hollow as an Oakland A’s fan? I guess it must be getting used to this whole trade thing. Losing your favorite player to another squad isn’t easy. I’m sure if we do go on to win the title, trading Cespedes will not be on the forefront of my mind, but it is certainly going to take some getting used to in the meantime when I look in left field and Yo Power is no longer there. To Yoenis, thank you for your time as an Athletic. I wish you the best in Boston, except of course when you play the A’s. To Lester, welcome aboard. It should be a hell of a ride, and I speak for all A’s fans when I say that we are glad to have you along. Green collar baseball is about to take over the league.

PS: Rays fans, I feel for you.

Homeless But Not Hopeless: The Story of a Man, His Art, and an Unlikely Friendship

 

Tim

The man you see above is Tim Plummer . “It’s Plummer like the football player,” Tim tells me, alluding to longtime NFL quarterback Jake “The Snake” Plummer as we speak casually on the front steps of my San Francisco apartment. “I’m supposed to be famous anyways!” he exclaims with a huge smile and a chuckle, acknowledging the irony of his previous statement. Tim is one of nearly ten thousand estimated homeless members of San Francisco’s population, although you would never know this was the case given the cheerful demeanor he constantly exudes.

My friends and I first met Tim one night not long after I moved to San Francisco. We were returning from a music festival, all of us dressed in ridiculous costumes, when we stumbled upon Tim sitting on a fire hydrant on my street corner. Rather than asking us for money, as most people would be inclined to do if they were in his position of need, Tim approached us as if he was a friend we had planned to meet up with at exactly that moment all along. He greeted us with high fives and fist bumps, seemingly disregarding the fact that he was now interacting with a group of twenty-somethings disguised as penguins and furry green monsters, among other things. It wasn’t long before our conversation turned into to a full blown dance party, Tim exhibiting a beat boxing talent that far exceeded the horrible dance moves we were putting on display for a group of slightly disturbed onlookers. As all good things do, our festivities with Tim that night came to an end before too long, and we headed home after tossing him some money that he would later use to buy food. Tim had never so much as made a mention of us giving him cash. He seemed to know ahead of time that we would enjoy his company so much that we would offer him some help without request.

After that night, I would stop and have friendly conversations with Tim on a daily basis.  He was always jovial and polite, not just to those who gave him money, but to every person he encountered on the street corner. Each time I spoke with Tim, I couldn’t help but wonder how a person who lived his life with so little could maintain such a  positive outlook. I also began to notice how hard he worked for any scrap of income he could bring in.

Tim was nothing like the stereotype society attributes to the homeless. He was not lazy, in fact, he was just the opposite. It would not be an uncommon occurrence for me to leave for work at 8 am and find Tim power washing the side walk on my street. It was also not uncommon for me to come home from dinner at 10 pm and see him hauling heavy items from a nearby basement  to the back of a van. Tim received most of his work opportunities from a kind neighbor who would employ his help for handyman tasks of a wide variety, but he never hesitated to accept an additional odd job from a local business. As long as there was money involved, Tim would tackle the task with a determined spirit.

Tim’s upbeat attitude and unflagging work ethic made him a popular man in our area. It seemed that everyone knew him, but even those who had never met Tim were immediately drawn to his personality. Like many others in the neighborhood, I soon came to consider Tim as an indispensable part of our community. It was not until late one fall night, however, that an unforgettable event would occur. An event so powerful, that it would lead me to forever call Tim a true friend of mine.

 

Half a Life Squandered

tim photo

Before we get to the happenings of  that pivotal night, it is only fair that I tell you the harrowing tale that is Tim Plummer’s life. Tim told me this story over a series of long interviews that took place, as many of our conversations did, on my front steps. No matter how tragic the topic he was addressing during these interviews, a smile would remain on his face. Tim held nothing back during these exchanges. He was honest about his mistakes and the continuous neglect he demonstrated. It is certainly not a pretty narrative, but the path that his life has taken has shaped Tim into the man he is today.

Tim was born in Berkeley, CA in 1967. His  biological father was absent during his childhood, and Tim was raised by a single mother for the majority of his formative years. As the youngest of thirteen children, Tim has nothing but fond memories of  his early youth, despite the fact that his mother had the responsibility of him and his many siblings entirely upon her shoulders. “My mom did what she could. I was raised by a single parent. I’ve only seen my Dad two or three times. Other than that, everything was good. We was raised good, we ate good, we were clean, had clean clothes. My mom, she provided for us real good.”

When Tim was eight years old, his mother was remarried. Since Tim was the baby of the family, he was the only one of the children who went with his mother when she moved with her new husband to North Oakland, about 5 miles away. While the rest of Tim’s siblings stayed in Berkeley and were taken care of by the oldest of his sisters, Tim was whisked into a much more fortunate situation. His new stepfather owned a trucking company, and they moved into a nice, small home in which Tim had his own bedroom. It wasn’t long, however, before things took a turn for the worse. “My step pops was an alcoholic,” Tim told me during one of our conversations, “he was a functional alcoholic. He was the type of alcoholic that functioned, but he was a violent alcoholic. I had never experienced that. It scared me.” One night, at the age of twelve, Tim could not bring himself to look on silently as his mother was once again beaten by his drunken stepfather. He went to the kitchen and retrieved a knife. He then approached his stepfather from behind and plunged the blade deep into his back. Tim’s stepfather was rushed to the hospital, where his life would be saved by the resident doctors.

Just a twelve year old boy, Tim was sure that his fear motivated act would land him in prison, but that would not end up being the case. Instead, Tim was sent to live with the rest of his siblings back in Berkeley. While it seemed like avoiding juvenile hall was a blessing at the time, it turns out that moving back to Berkeley may have been one of the most detrimental events to have taken place in his young life. “When I moved back to Berkeley with my brothers and sisters, I got hooked up with the drug trade.” It did not take long for Tim to find himself deeper in the drug trade than any pre-teen should ever be. At the ripe age of twelve, Tim sold his first crack rock. His dealings in the drug game would only escalate from there.

The stabbing had a very different effect on Tim’s stepfather’s life than it did on that of the young boy. Upon being released from the hospital “Step Pops”, as Tim now affectionately refers to him, swore off all alcohol. He would  end up never having another drink for the rest of his life after that night, and eventually went on to become a preacher. With a clear head now on his shoulders, Tim’s stepfather forgave him, and it wasn’t long before Tim moved back in with his mother and Step Pops.

Fearing that North Oakland was too dangerous an environment for Tim, his stepfather soon moved himself, the boy, and his mother to Pittsburgh, California. Pittsburgh was much more affluent than North Oakland, but that didn’t mean that Tim stayed out of trouble. “Pittsburgh, at that time, they didn’t know nothing about being ghetto; the hood and stuff. But I did, so I kind of took advantage of that.” It wasn’t long before Tim had created a name for himself in his new neighborhood. He began doing the pesky jobs that no one else wanted to take on for the families in the area, giving him a good reputation among the parents and allowing him to assemble a group of friends his age. “I was like a leader. I don’t know how it became, but they kind of followed my lead. I had a nice little crew.” Unfortunately, Tim began using his role as the leader among his friends for shady purposes. He soon had the group of children stealing bike parts and engaging in many other misdemeanor activities. But for Tim, this petty theft was not enough. “I found out where the drug trade was at in Pittsburgh and I started selling dope.”

When Tim entered high school at the age of fifteen, he had already become an experienced drug dealer. Taking advantage of the naivete of the students at his school, Tim would spend much of his day selling drugs to his classmates at prices that far exceeded the street value. As a 9th grader, Tim found himself working in a routine that saw him arriving at school for his first period gym class, after which he would sell pot in the school courtyard. He would then leave the school grounds, heading for the streets to sell crack and other drugs to the more hardened users of Pittsburgh. Tim would return to school several hours later each day, always making sure to be back in time for his favorite class, wood shop. “I loved wood shop because I’m an artist. I would always come back just in time for wood shop, which was sixth period. I used to make my Mom all kinds of stuff.” The small bit of teenage normalcy that found its way into Tim’s life was entirely contained in that sixth period each day. As soon as the woodworking class ended, Tim would return to the streets to sell dope.

By the time he turned sixteen, Tim’s life had turned upside down once again. Just a junior in high school, he was already expecting his first child. With this life changing event in mind, Tim dropped out of school to work full time at his step father’s trucking company. Despite the fact that he now had a stable source of income and a daughter on the way, Tim showed little advancement in terms of his maturity. Failing to recognize how detrimental his conduct could potentially be to his daughter once she was born, Tim continued to plunge deeper and deeper into the drug trade. With his mind clouded by personal drug abuse, he showed a complete lack of poise when his his daughter was born a shocking five months premature, weighing in at just one pound and one quarter ounces at the time of birth.  “The day she was born, her [the mother of the child] family came to get me. So I told them ‘Ok, I’m on my way’. But instead of being on my way, I went and got drunk. I was celebrating. I was a youngster, I didn’t know what was going on.” It took Tim two more days to finally make it to the hospital, at which point he saw just how troubling the premature birth was: “She was littler than my hand.”

Tim’s daughter spent a full year and a half in an incubator before miraculously gaining enough strength to finally be taken home from the hospital. During this time, Tim completely disregarded the fact that his infant was continually in a life or death position. Rather than making an effort to be by his child’s side, Tim once again spent his time on the streets, rising through the ranks of the drug game. His extensive involvement in the trade of narcotics, however, would soon come crashing down upon him. Just two days after his daughter was released from the hospital, seventeen year old Tim was caught by the authorities with 5.5 kilos of cocaine, several guns, and more than $180K in cash. He was also found to be in charge of six homes that were being used as drug outposts.

Shortly thereafter, Tim was found to be guilty of  all the charges on his Scarface-esque rap sheet and was sentenced to  time in the state penitentiary.  Luckily for the seventeen year old, Tim’s older brother had served an extended sentence at the same prison to which he was headed. “When I got to the penitentiary, as I’m standing in line, four guys came up to me and their like ‘Yo, you John Boy’s brother, right? Get out of line, we got you.’ They helped me through the penitentiary. They showed me how to do it.” With these four mentors in tow, Tim soon experienced an unlikely turn around.

Whereas the majority of Tim’s young adulthood up to this point had revolved around drugs, his new life within the prison walls was entirely devoid of the sinister substances. Once he lost the ability to sell and consume drugs, Tim found himself becoming a productive individual. He soon began focusing intensely on his first love: Art. He would hand make customized t-shirts using his artwork and sell them to his fellow inmates. Lacking any formal art supplies, Tim also began producing paintings and drawings on any surface which he found to be even slightly suitable to satisfy his vast creative imagination. With art as his inspiration, he started to make strides in other aspects of his life as well. It was not long before Tim had obtained his GED after completing the necessary course load offered within the penitentiary. He was also designated as a low risk prisoner. This classification allowed him to walk freely in the area closely surrounding the outside gates of the prison without supervision and granted him the opportunity to work with sharp knives in the prison butcher shop, a job that was coveted by most inmates.

When Tim was released from prison six years after his sentence had begun, it looked as though he may have a bright future in store. Given the fact that he had honed so many skills during the length of his sentence and had spent a full seventy-two months as a drug free individual, it was no surprise that he was a much different man upon emerging from the confines of the penitentiary. He soon had a new, very serious girlfriend and was back working at his step father’s trucking company. The progress in Tim’s life would not last long, however. Just months after being released from his first prison stint, Tim was caught trafficking drugs once again and was sent back to state prison.

Nine months into his latest prison sentence, Tim received a letter from his girlfriend with a photograph enclosed. The photo was of Timothy Plummer Jr, his son who had been born just a few days prior. Just a couple weeks after missing the birth of  his second child, Tim was released. As soon as he was a free man once again, Tim and his girlfriend were married in a shotgun wedding in Reno, Nevada upon the insistence of his Step Pops, who had by this time become a pastor.

Following a familiar trend, Tim quickly bucked his new found role as a husband and family man. He returned to the streets to sell drugs and once again began neglecting everyone who was important to him. Unsurprisingly, he was promptly caught by the authorities and was sentenced to hard time in county jail. When Tim was set free from this, his third sentence, he had a new plan in mind, ” I was used to being locked up.” he told me, “That was easy. I asked my parole officer to come by my house. I felt like if I left my house I was going to get in trouble.”

Tim spent the next thirteen months on self imposed house arrest, never venturing past the fence that surrounded the small home he shared with his wife and son. As had  been the case in the past when drugs were purged from his life, Tim became a valuable member of society. He spent his time looking after his son, fixing the house, and truly being a part of his young family for the first time. When Tim’s old running mates in the drug game would come by the house to solicit his help in one ploy or another, he would politely greet them and make small talk, but would never allow them on to his property.

Once the thirteen months were up and his parole had ended, Tim finally ventured outside of his fence once again. Predictably, as soon as he was no longer confined to a drug free space, Tim returned to his old ways of dealing. “I was addicted man, I was addicted. It was all I knew how to do. Man, since before high school, the only thing I knew how to do was sell drugs.” Understandably, Tim’s wife could no longer deal with his antics. She divorced him shortly thereafter and took their son with her when she moved in with a new boyfriend. “I was so consumed with my business that I was never home. I was neglecting her and my son, I realize that now.”

Tim’s wife was not the only one who had had enough of his perilous conduct. Influenced by years of mistreatment by their son, including  such heinous acts as forging their payroll checks to get the money that he needed to buy crack, Tim’s mother and step father decided to move from California to Mississippi and to take the trucking business with them. With Tim’s only opportunity for steady work now gone, he moved to North Oakland and began dealing drugs full time. With little else on his mind but selling dope and getting high, his life spiraled further into the void than it ever had before. He spent the next ten-plus years serving sentences in San Francisco and Alameda County jails and bouncing from one court ordered rehab program to the next. Whenever he was not locked up or in rehab, Tim was dealing on the streets of his newest hood, San Francisco.

In  the year 2000, when it seemed as if there was little hope for his life to ever turn around, the many years that Tim had remarkably remained physically unscathed despite being so deep in the drug trade finally caught up to him. One night, after selling a large amount of cocaine on the streets of San Francisco, Tim entered a convenience store on the busy South Van Ness Avenue. When he exited the store after making a purchase, an unknown assailant, likely motivated by a previous drug deal, approached him from the side and stabbed him several times. With multiple gaping wounds in his torso and legs, including a slice that had severed his femoral artery, Tim weakly stumbled down the city block, leaving a trail of blood as he went. He soon collapsed due to massive blood loss. EMTs arrived at the scene not long after and rushed the quickly fading Tim to the hospital. By the time he arrived at the ER, his heart had stopped. “My blood ran out.”, he relayed to me in one of our later interviews. “They had to crack my chest open and everything. Massage my heart. That was the last stage of death. They told me after that it was the last procedure they would do on you before you done. I mean before you’re dead, literally. But they saved me.”

After being revived by the medical staff at the hospital, Tim fell into a coma and spent several more weeks in intensive care before showing major signs of improvement. After another couple weeks of care, his health had progressed to the point where he was given the OK to leave the hospital. When he was given back his belongings from the night he was stabbed, Tim discovered that the EMTs had failed to find the cocaine that he had left over in a bag in his pocket at the time of the attack. The white powder was now tinged pink from blood that had seeped through the plastic that held it. Tim stared at the cocaine, contemplating what to do. In the past, this would have been an easy choice. He would have numbed his mind by consuming some of the drugs and then would have ventured to the streets to sell the rest. But now, standing outside the hospital, something had finally changed Tim. Being so close to death seemed to have awakened something inside him. After a long period of silent reflection, Tim did something he had never done before. He walked down the street, found someone who was desperate for the drugs, and gave the cocaine away.

Since that day nearly 14 years ago, Tim has never once sold drugs again. He has also rid his life of personal drug abuse. With these vices separated from his livelihood, Tim has made his way down a road that has by no means been easy, but has seen him return to demonstrating the kindheartedness that had always been intrinsically part of his being. For a number of years, Tim even had an apartment he shared with a girlfriend, and a job as the maintenance man for a downtown San Francisco complex. Unfortunately, when the building manager for that complex changed several years ago, he insisted that Tim be removed from the position due to his criminal background. Tim has been homeless ever since, his only means of refuge a homeless shelter that lies a couple blocks from my street corner, a corner where he spends most of his time.

 

A True Friend

me and tim

This brings us to the night that deeply impacted the way I viewed the man who I, at this point, thought of as little more than a friendly character on my street corner. I did not yet know Tim’s story and the journey his life had taken when I foolishly indulged in way more alcohol than I should have on one night late in the fall of 2013. In a moment of less than stellar judgment, I had made a decision to head out to the bars that night without eating dinner after having completed a 10+ mile hike earlier that day. When I arrived at the bars that Saturday evening, I did what many twenty-somethings tend to do. I binge drank. Exhausted, and with a completely empty stomach, the alcohol hit me quicker than it ever had before. It wasn’t long before I had wandered away from my friends and found myself completely lost in an unfamiliar area of the city. Drunk to the point that I could comprehend very little, I was helped by some strangers into a cab. Remarkably, I was able to tell the driver my address and pay him when I arrived, but when I emerged from the vehicle, my legs were rendered useless. As the cab driver pulled away, I found myself losing my balance and consciousness.

What happened next is very vivid in my my mind. As I stumbled down the sidewalk, on the verge of falling to the ground, I found myself being braced by an individual who I had not noticed was on the street corner. Clearly aware of my dangerously intoxicated state, the man who had kept me from falling then picked me up and began walking with me in his arms up the street towards my apartment. When we arrived at my door, the man reached into my pocket, removed my keys, and unlocked the entry way. He then gently placed my keys back in my pocket, carried me inside, placed me down in a safe place, and left, locking the door behind him. That man was Tim Plummer.

Tim Plummer, a hardened criminal. A man who had spent much of his life dealing with the most morbid of individuals. A man who had little to his name besides the clothes on his back. A man who I had spoken to on various occasions and had given a couple dollars to here and there, but had never truly done anything to help.  A man who had no reason to make the effort to keep me safe that night, but did so anyway. A man who, given the little he had for himself, could have easily stolen every one of my possessions that night, but instead exited my home harmlessly. Tim Plummer. A man who I now consider to be my friend.

Masterpieces, Straight From The Street Corner

art drawing

After that night, I made it my mission to learn more about Tim. I asked him about his life, and discovered his troubling past. I also found out more about what it was like to be homeless. I began to understand just how tough Tim’s life was without a place to call his own. I learned that he awoke each morning at 6 am to search for jobs and affordable apartments before heading to my street corner to complete odd jobs and to politely receive change from passerby’s. He told me of his life at the shelter and how difficult it could be; a night in the shelter being comparable to a night in an insane asylum. He described to me how much he wanted to live somewhere other than the shelter, but that the only places he could afford to rent were in run down hotels in the inner city where he feared he would be tempted to start selling drugs again. I was taken aback when he told me that he stayed out on the streets til 2 am each day, the latest time he could before the shelter doors were locked, just so that he would be exhausted enough to sleep even just four hours each night with the screams and voices that swirled around him in the shelter. I was thrilled when I discovered that he had reconnected with his children, and that they came to the city to see him whenever they could. I was encouraged when he informed me that he was in the process of getting his record expunged.

Most of all, I was desperate to find a way to truly help this man, in the same manner he had selflessly helped me on that fall night. I wanted to tell Tim’s story to the world, but couldn’t figure out how telling his tale could bring him the help he needed. Then one day, a couple months ago, the missing piece I needed to bring Tim’s story to the forefront fell into my lap. This missing link returned to Tim’s life much like he used to return to school each day for sixth period when he was fifteen years old. No matter how dire the circumstances were, this passion found a way to resurface in Tim’s life. All along, as Tim cycled through being labeled as a convict, a thug, and a bum, one thing had never changed. Underneath it all, he was still an artist.

One day, several weeks ago, as I rounded my street corner, I found Tim sitting on the fire hydrant where I had first met him. He was doing something I had never seen him try his hand at before. He was drawing. With a large piece of Styrofoam propped across his lap and a couple colored office pens in his hand, he was hunched over in a state of deep focus, only looking up to examine the building that lay in front of him. When I approached Tim and looked over his shoulder, I was amazed at what I saw. Tim was not just drawing, he was creating an amazing work of art. The piece was so vivid and detailed, that I had no words to describe it. He had transformed the Styrofoam into a landscape that perfectly depicted the building that sat in front of him, with aspects of his imagination expertly blended in.

 

jack's phot

Watch a detailed video profile of this piece here.

If you have not seen Tim create a work of art in person, it is difficult to comprehend the skill it takes to produce something of such beauty with nothing more than a slab of packing Styrofoam and several run of the mill colored pens. If you want to try to understand, I recommend grabbing a piece of Styrofoam from around your house and trying just to write your name. Then imagine producing one of these works, complete with shading. It is unfathomable how Tim is able to create such lifelike images, without even the use of a ruler, on such an unforgiving surface.

As the weeks passed, Tim created more and more works of art. It was not long before I knew that these amazing pieces were exactly what I needed to be able to tell his story. I was confident that I would be hard pressed to find the person who did not appreciate what Tim was creating with so little at his disposal. There was only one problem. Tim was garnering so much interest from people passing by while he was working on his pieces, that he was selling the treasures faster than I could photograph them. I could hardly blame him. The sale of his art work was necessitated by the little money he had. Even though Tim knew he was selling the pieces for less than they were worth, he had little choice if he wanted to be able to eat each night. After a bit of convincing, Tim agreed to hold off buyers at least long enough to allow me to photograph the artwork. Since then, he has even given me several completed pieces to hold on to so that he is not tempted to sell them for less than they are worth. Below are some of Tim’s works of art that I have been fortunate enough to capture on film up this point.

cah box photo

 Watch a detailed video profile of this piece here.

skyline photWatch a detailed video profile of this piece here.

Giants phot

Watch a detailed video profile of this piece here.

cash man phot

Watch a detailed video profile of this piece here.

 money

Note: This piece is on cardboard, not Styrofoam

 Watch a detailed video profile of this piece here.

motorWatch a detailed video profile of this piece here

The Past Does Not Dictate The Future

Imagine if I told you that I had a friend that I wanted you to meet. I then went on to tell you that this particular friend had been a notorious drug dealer, had been to prison upwards of ten times, had stabbed another man and had been stabbed himself, and had repeatedly neglected and abandoned his family. Would you come with me to meet this man?

Next, imagine that I told about another friend. This friend was about as cheerful and positive as they come. He is an aspiring artist with a massive talent, has an incredible and undying work ethic, is polite and thankful even when things are at their worst, and is an incredibly devoted person who would do anything to help anyone in need. How about this friend? Would you object to meeting him?

What if those two friends were the same person? If I asked you to come with me to meet Tim Plummer, would you? I fear that in the present day and time, there would be far too many people who would not. There is no denying the fact that Tim has made more mistakes in his life than any of us could count. It is clear that he wasted a large majority of his years, years that he could have spent nurturing his wife and two children, growing his beloved step father’s business, or even working to be a famous artist. Tim could have done things differently, but he did not. There is no changing that. Why then, do we find it necessary to focus on something that cannot be altered?

It is truly a shame that many people will read the story of Tim’s life and highlight nothing but his mistakes. They will fail to acknowledge the most crucial part of this piece. It is not that this man’s life has been down a dark path, but rather that when he found himself at the deepest of depths, he fought to persist. He did not fall into the abyss, despite how close he was to disappearing into its darkness. Instead, he has fought and clawed each and every day to become a better man.

One could say that Tim has changed, but I don’t think that is the case. I think Tim has always been kind and valuable, but that he made decisions that caused these traits to be masked. It took until he was middle aged man for him to come to the realization that he was throwing away his life, but he is now showing himself to be the man that he truly is.

Tim believes in himself. I believe in him too. There is no reason not to. If you can find it within yourself to look past his troubled history and instead judge him for the man he is today, you will see a motivated artist who is doing everything he can to live up to his potential. He is trying to make it in this world. Who are we to tell him that he cannot just because of his past mistakes?

I am expecting big things from Tim. I know that he will not give up on his dream to become a successful artist. He will persist and he will succeed, even as those who focus solely upon his past stand in his way. Tim can teach us all a vital lesson: A person’s past is not always reflective of their current character.

Next time you walk by a person in need, homeless or otherwise, do yourself a favor and do not allow your mind to wander towards the negative. Do not dwell on what they have done to end up in the position they are in. Instead, focus on where they are going from here. When I look at Tim Plummer, I do not see a former convict and drug dealer. I see a friend, and an artist on his way to the top. Everyone deserves to be judged in this manner. We are all deserving of a second chance.

 

contact

New York Times: You’re Guilty Until Proven Innocent

As a graduate of Florida State University and a die hard fan in every sense of the word, it is not surprising that I immediately took notice of the New York Times article that was released today regarding the mishandling of the Jameis Winston case. While many FSU faithful would say “Don’t give the New York Times the satisfaction of reading this article”, I completely disagree. I think all FSU fans should thoroughly read this piece and all the comments associated with it.

I made an effort to review this piece in a way that separated my obvious bias towards FSU given that I am an alumni. However, seeing as I have followed this case so intently all the way through and have read Megg’s entire report, I feel that my perception of this article is quite different from a casual New York Times reader.

While this article surely does raise some solid points regarding the mishandling of sexual assault cases at Florida State and throughout our society, it is very clear to me that this a crafty piece of work by a journalist with an agenda.

For those of us who have truly followed this case, it is easy to see that this article covers a very targeted and select number of aspects of this case and arranges them in a way that is meant to paint a picture of Jameis Winston as GUILTY  beyond the shadow of a doubt. The author makes no effort to place any shred of credibility on the side of the accused, and edits the material that composes the article in such a way that makes it seem as if the alleged victim could not have possibly have falsely accused Winston.

Some examples of this targeted editing are as follows:

1) Near the beginning of the article, the author clearly insinuates that the alleged victim was roofied at Potbelly’s, stating “The woman did not appear drunk, her friends said. But after a stranger gave her a drink, she recounted, her memory became hazy and fragmented. Soon, she found herself in a taxi with three unfamiliar men, all of whom turned out to be Florida State football players.” What the article fails to mention is the toxicology report that was done on the alleged victim. Per an article from the Orlando Sentinel from December 6, 2013, “A toxicology test based on samples taken shortly after the woman reported the incident showed she was not intoxicated or under the influence of any drugs.” You would think that in such a thorough journalistic effort would at least point to these results if they are going to make such a bold inference as the use of a date rape drug. 

2) The article fails to mention, even once, the inconsistencies in alleged victim’s account of the event and the actions of her legal team in the aftermath. There are many that can be highlighted, but these are a few of the most glaring:

  • The accuser, in the original police report, identified the victim as being between the heights of 5 foot 9 inches and 6 foot 2 inches. This is clearly indicative of a person of average stature. Jameis Winston is 6 foot 4 inches.
  • The accuser originally claimed that she sent a text message to a friend about being in a taxi with someone she didn’t know. Cell phone records show that no text message of this sort was ever sent. The only text messages found to that friend from that night are ones asking about a missing ID (which is the only text the article mentions) and a later text about being at home.
  • The attorney of the accuser continually stated they wanted this case to stay out of the spotlight and away from media attention, yet continued to fuel the media fired by constantly releasing statements to the press such as this one, which is contradictory in and of itself:

3) The author very skillfully includes the portions of Chris Casher’s testimony that fit consistently with what the article has said up to that point. You will notice that the recording from Casher’s testimony is edited and cuts off before expressing the many quotes from him that indicate his staunch belief that the sexual event was consensual. If you would like to hear the entirety of the interview with Casher, you will see it paints a very different picture from the edited snippet included in the article. The article very rarely references this belief by both witnesses that the act was consensual.

4) The article clearly refers to the friends that the alleged victim was with that night at Potbelly’s, Monique Kessler and Marcus Jordan, but fails to mention that both Monique and Marcus confirmed that the accuser showed no signs of intoxication whatsoever. The article also peculiarly forgets to include the fact that Monique Kessler willingly stated that she believed the alleged victim left the bar willingly with Winston, and even saw a text message exchange between them, “I know for a fact that I saw a text message on her phone that said ‘Meet me outside,'”. 

5) The article paints Winston to be a major star and a media tour de force, which of course he is now, but fails to acknowledge the fact that Winston, while noted by intense recruitniks, was a virtual unknown to the rest of campus at the time of this incident. The only mention that the article makes of Winston’s nobody status at the time is to bury this in the middle of a passage about Potbelly’s: “A redshirt freshman quarterback, 6 feet 4 inches and 235 pounds, Mr. Winston had been a prize recruit, well-known in football circles but not yet a widely recognizable name.” The rest of the article refers to Winston as if he had always been a star on campus and that the mishandling of the case was driven by the desire to keep the best player on the football team safe. In reality, Jameis Winston meant nothing to FSU football at the time of this incident. In fact, at the time, many believed that Clint Tricket (now the starting QB for West Virginia) or Jacob Coker (the projected starter for Alabama next year) would be the starting quarterback in 2013 because Winston was devoting so much of his spring to baseball. What motivation would the police force have for covering up a case to protect a young athlete who could potentially be the third string QB on the football team and was an every other day player on the baseball team? This is a question that the article never brings to light.

6) The article fails to delve into the curious timing of the breaking of this case. It is true that the the case was not truly investigated for a full year after it occurred, which is clearly a major error. What this article does not explore is why the investigation was opened up again. Matt Baker, a reporter for the Tampa Bay Times obtained a leaked report of the incident on November 6, 2013. At this point, FSU had just come off of a major win against rival Miami. The team was 8-0, and with few challenging opponents left on the schedule, looked more than poised to make a national title run. Jameis Winston had also become the far and away favorite for the Heisman trophy. Why did Baker decide to request this information exactly at this point? Is it not reasonable to wonder if the motivation to do so lay in FSU and their star QB’s rise to the top? This is a question that is worth exploring, but of course this investigative piece chose to ignore it entirely.

 

Many will take this article to be law rather than certain facts arranged in a manner expresses the author’s opinion. Few will acknowledge that the New York Times could be at fault with parts of this article, they will only point to FSU being inadequate and Jameis Winston being evil. One thing is fore sure, the casual NYT reader will not take the time to read this statement that was released by FSU in response to the article.

In a time when the media fuels general consensus, a major outlet has once again keeled to the temptation to tell only the story that they believe will be the most sensational and noteworthy. The truth is that we will never truly know if Jameis Winston raped that girl that night. Having met Winston on several occasions, I truly do not believe he would be capable of such an act. He has been a kind and well mannered member of the FSU student body every time I have encountered him. But my opinion does not matter. Just like the opinion of the New York Times, driven by their desire to put forth a blockbuster story, does not. In this great country, the law is that You Are Innocent Until Proven Guilty. It seems that the New York Times would prescribe to a different notion, Guilty Until Proven Innocent.

While I do see the benefit in bringing the mishandling of sexual assault cases to the forefront, there is no need to do so in a manner that aims to taint the legacy of an outstanding student, athlete, and member of the Florida State community such as Winston, who by all legal and technical means is an innocent man. It is also not fair to the alleged victim to bring this story back to the front pages. It will only bring both of them further scrutiny and unfair turmoil. The New York Times taking aim at FSU is understandable, but writing the article in a way that clearly seeks to bring the events of that night back into question is a move that could ruin two young adults lives. There is simply not enough evidence to make a conclusion on this case. That is never going to change. So why continue to stoke the fire at the expense of two young people? It is a despicable decision that is entirely indicative of the state of the media today. It should be clear to all of us by now that The New York Times will tell any story that will gain them readers, without taking as much as a moment to consider those who will be affected by its publishing. That, in my opinion, is shameful.

The Five Best Meals I’ve Ever Had In a Bar

Bars gain notoriety for a wide array of  topics. Most often it’s the atmosphere or the type of crowd they attract. It could also be the specialty cocktails they offer, the vast selection they have within a given niche, or even the expert bartenders that compose their staff. There is one category, however, which I feel is the unsung hero of a truly transcendent bar: The Food. Now don’t get me wrong, a bar can still be exceptional without having great food. Some of the best bars I have ever been to don’t even offer food at all. That being said, a bar experience can only be improved by the presence of some glorious grub to pair with a frosty pint of beer or a finely crafted cocktail. With this in mind, I have hearkened back to my finest memories of the most delicious and satisfying meals I have had in drinking establishments around the world.

5. Buffalo Stew at The Original Tommy’s JoyntSan Francisco, California

Tommy’s Joynt is a true San Francisco institution. Billing themselves as the city’s first Hof-Brau and painting the words “World Famous” across the side window, the folks over at Tommy’s certainly are not shy about the history of their establishment. Tommy’s Joynt has been around ever since 1947 and was clearly sprung out of a depression era mindset. The experience at Tommy’s is truly unlike any other. The best way I can describe it is to say that it is a hybrid between a landmark bar and a school cafeteria. Now when I utter the feared words “school cafeteria”, I do so only to describe the layout. I am certainly not comparing the food here to that of your average lunch lady. Tommy’s Joynt is set up in a manner that has you wait in line for your meal in the exact same way you would in a mess hall, leading you through a river of eager patrons to a food altar of epic proportions. Once you are fortunate enough to have snaked through the line, which is always at least 30 people long, you are rewarded by being faced with one of the toughest  “What should I get?”  decisions you will ever make. I mean, seriously, you try choosing among these options (this is just half of the board):

Whatever you choose at Tommy’s, you will be delighted. Whether it is one of the the meats that is expertly carved right in front of your face, a sandwich that is stacked high to the the heavens, or one of the magnificent daily specials, there is no doubt that you will be satisfied. Even though it is tough to make a wrong choice at the Joynt, I am a huge proponent of declaring the best item on any menu which I have tried. In the case of Tommy’s, it is the much lauded Buffalo Stew that tops my list. Not only is the meal unique, it is the epitome of comfort food. One bite of this phenomenal melt in your mouth concoction, and you will sink into your chair, overcome by your stomach’s ecstasy. You can choose to eat the Buffalo Stew in one of two ways, in a sandwich or over a heaping portion of rice. The starch vehicle you choose really has little bearing on the final outcome, as the stew itself is the leading lady in this film, and her performance is absolutely remarkable. The individual flavors that compose this dish are not especially distinguishable, rather they are a harmony of ingredients working together at the highest of levels. The buffalo stew at Tommy’s Joynt is the type of food that warms your entire body and makes you want to slip into a blissful food coma. What might such a joy inducing meal cost you? All of $8.45. That is a tough deal to beat.

Once you have paid the cashier for your buffalo stew, or whatever other fantastic decision you have landed upon, don’t forget to mosey over to the bar, where you will once again be faced with a sprawling selection. Beers from around the world and spirits of every category populate an expansive list of indulgences from which you have the pleasure of selecting. In fact, the bar side of Tommy’s Joynt is nearly as impressive as the food side. How could you go wrong at a place that has such a notable food prowess and follows it up with a beverage slate that looks like this:

 

4. Wiener Schnitzel at Spatenhaus - Munich, Germany

Seeing as this is the only international entry on this list, it is fair to say that I am quite biased towards American bar food over the rest of the world’s efforts at bar cuisine. That being said, grouping the entirety of the non-US world together is probably a bit unfair, especially when there are exceptions to my America-centric rule. Among these exceptions, the premier example is Germany. Germany is a paradise for drinkers. It is the holy land of beer, and the food that you can find in the many brew houses that fill the German landscape is some of the best in the world. This is especially true when it comes to the Bavarian capital of Munich. Munich is a city that is defined by its beer. It is the site of the Oktoberfest beer festival and is also the home of the world’s most famous beer hall, Hofbräuhaus. While Hofbräuhaus is the most notable of Munich’s beer halls, it is certainly not the only one. Each of the “Big Six” brewing giants which reside within the Munich city limits has its own beer hall. Among these many options, my favorite is most certainly Spatenhaus. The Spaten beer brand is known worldwide for its Munich Helles Lager, which be found on tap or in the bottle in nearly every city in the US. While the beer selection at Spatenhaus is obviously outstanding, especially since Spaten’s sister brands Franziskaner and Löwenbräu are also readily available on tap, it is the German fare that they are serving up which truly distinguishes this beer hall.

Spatenhaus offers a very wide range of traditional German dishes. Among these, one of the most noticeable is the “Bavarian Platter”, which is composed of massive amounts of duck, pork, sausages, and heaping sides. While this platter is certainly a mammoth, the Wiener Schnitzel is far and away the best offering at Spatenhaus. This tender breaded veal cutlet is one of the most simple, yet delicious pieces of meat you will ever eat. I am one of the biggest carnivores you will ever encounter, and among all the meat options out there, veal is most definitely my favorite. So when I say that the Wiener Schnitzel at Spatenhaus is one of the best veal dishes I have ever had, it is not to be taken lightly. The meat is fried to that perfect point where the breading clings effortlessly to the veal so that no bite is left without the crunchy coating. When you squeeze a lemon over this perfectly prepared staple, you will find yourself consuming something that can truly be classified as heavenly. The sides that are served with this dish are nearly as impressive. The spätzle and red cabbage are the perfect complement to the star of the meal. If you are ever in Munich, make it a point to visit Spatenhaus. Or better yet, plan an entire vactiation around the exceptional beer hall.

3. Fried Chicken Sando at Box Kitchen of Tempest Bar – San Francisco, California

Tempest is a dive bar. I mean it is really divey. I’m talking a bathroom mirror covered in graffiti, empty kegs scattered throughout the bar type of dive. In this case, being a dive bar is by no means a bad thing. Tempest is one of the better bars in San Francisco, chiefly because it is ultra affordable. In a city where it is not a stretch to pay $15 for a cocktail, it is certainly a relief to find a place where the craft beers are $5, the specialty cocktails are $6, and you can get a shot of Dickel whiskey and Busch beer for a total of $5. Tempest is a favorite first stop of the night for San Franciscans, and it is tough to even get in the door at any time before 9pm. Once you do make it inside, you will find a very diverse crowd that shares one common goal: to get rowdy. When the happy hour crowd starts to get hungry, Tempest certainly has a solution. While there is no food service directly within the bar, the Box Kitchen food window that adjoins to the building is an oasis of guilty pleasures. Pretty much everything on the menu at Box is incredible. It is also surprisingly gourmet for such a hole in the wall spot. As you scan the board that hangs next to the service window, you will find delights such as the roasted potato skins stuffed with pork belly and Gouda cheese and then topped with a quail egg or the sesame fried brussel  sprouts with a chili lemon grass vinaigrette. The crown jewel of the menu is not quite as luxurious, yet it is every bit as tasty. That item is the Fried Chicken Sando.

The fried chicken sandwich at Box Kitchen is, without a doubt, the best fried chicken I have ever had. It is Chickfila on steroids. The first time I tried the Fried Chicken Sando, I literally exclaimed some choice words very loudly in amazement of how good the bite was. I went in for more, not believing that a sandwich could taste that good, and boy was I wrong. With each bite, the sandwich got better and better, and I became more and more dumbfounded. The buttermilk fried chicken breast is the bulk of the sandwich, and it is certainly an expert creation, but what really takes this item above and beyond are the accouterments. The sandwich is topped with creamy Bel  Paese cheese and then smothered in the tangiest ceasar cole slaw I’ve ever had. All of this is then squeezed between a perfectly appropriate soft bun that soaks up all the many flavors that merge together in this Sando. Oh and the price for this magnificent creation is a measly $8.

After trying this sandwich once, I made it a point to tell a friend who grew up and spent most his life in the South that he needed to give it a try. I assured him that it would be the best Fried Chicken Sandwich he had ever had. Given the amount of time he spent in the South, his status as a fried chicken aficionado of sorts, and my tendency to exaggerate, he was understandably skeptical. Once he took the first bite, all skepticism melted away. If you were to ask him today where the best Fried Chicken Sandwich he has had is from, he’d be sure to say Box Kitchen at Tempest. If that’s not a ringing endorsement, I don’t know what is.

2. Ribeye Steak at McGuire’s Irish Pub – Pensacola, Florida and Destin, Florida

McGuire’s is legendary. That is the best way I can describe it. They have two locations, about an hour apart from one another, in the Panhandle of Florida. The Pensacola and the Destin locations are equally cool and equally eccentric. McGuire’s has everything. They are massive caverns of drinking delight, decorated in an unmistakably Irish hodgepodge manner. They have plenty of beer on tap, including some that they brew themselves. They also have an extensive cocktail list. One of the most popular items on this list is the Irish Wake, a bright green mixture that could knock an elephant on its ass. The bar is also covered in dollar bills. There are so many dollar bills in both McGuire’s locations, that the owners value their ceilings at being worth nearly $1 million each:

McGuire’s is much more than just a bar though, it is also a fine dining establishment. The atmosphere at McGuire’s is exceedingly casual, but the food it serves is certainly not. It would most appropriately be classified as luxury pub food. There is the 18 cent Bean Soup, which is priced as the name suggests even though the could easily sell it for $6. There are the classic bar nachos, which come on a platter that is so massive that it could feed a family of five. They’ve got incredible burgers. You also most give the Irish Boxty’s a try. The Boxty’s are basically fried balls of garlic mashed potatoes served with salsa, guacamole, and sour cream for dipping. If you think these sound appealing, wait to you see how they look:

While McGuire’s is well loved for many things, the one thing the are known for the most extensively is their steak. While the smoked Prime Rib is probably their most popular red meat offering, my personal favorite is the Ribeye. The Ribeye at McGuire’s is cut in house each day directly from the prime section of the rib and is perfectly marbled to produce an unimaginable amount of flavor. Served on a hot griddle directly at the table, this steak truly deserves a 10 out 10 rating. I have been fortunate enough to have visited quite a few fine steak houses in my lifetime, and no establishment has ever served me a steak as good as this one. I would take a Ribeye from McGuire’s over a Porterhouse from the famed Peter Luger’s any day of the week. It is seriously that good. McGuire’s is one of the most joyous places I have ever been. If you ever have the pleasure of having a few drinks and meal there, be sure to cherish it.

1. Bar Pie at Eddie’s – New Hyde Park, New York

eddies4

This is the holy grail. The definition of what bar food should be. The best pizza I’ve ever had, or could ever hope to have. The perfect complement to a beer. The ideal setting for a cocktail, whether you may desire to watch a game or have dinner with the family. Eddie’s is the model for what I believe constitutes the perfect bar cuisine. It is the home of the bar pie.

A bar pie is a genius invention. It is unique to the Northeast, and in my opinion is the best style of pizza there is. A bar pie is defined by its crust, which will literally be paper thin if executed properly. It is also absolutely vital that the crust of a bar pie be crispy and crunchy, similar to the surface of a cracker. A thin layer of tangy sauce is then added along with low moisture mozzarella and whatever toppings you may desire. You may be thinking “Isn’t that just thin crust pizza?”. No. You may not be grasping how thin the crust of a bar pie is. It is thinner than thin, yet can still sustain sauce, cheese, and toppings.

The reasoning behind the creation of the bar pie is simple: Give the people a pizza they can eat a full portion of and still have room for as much beer as they desire. How great is that? A personal bar pie at Eddie’s is 10″ and weighs in at exactly 270 calories. This is the perfect amount of sustenance to keep you from getting too drunk due to an empty stomach, but to also give you enough leeway to consume a few pints without feeling like you are going to explode. Eddie’s bar pies are also useful if you are on a diet, I guess.

Eddie’s executes everything about the bar pie perfectly. The ultra thin and crispy crust. The tang of the sauce. The exact right amount of cheese. In addition, the atmosphere is perfect. Just like the bar pie itself, it is simple. No modern architecture,  no lavish decorations, just a bar that looks like it was carved out of a 50’s diner and a dining room that resembles that of a summer camp:

eddies1                          eddies2

I am not alone in my love of Eddie’s. The hallway at the entrance of Eddie’s is riddled with autographed photos of some of the most famous people alive. While it is clear that some of them are comical falsifications, it is known that Eddie’s is a favorite of both Leo DiCaprio and Mark Whalberg. Fictional characters love this place too. In season 2 of the hit HBO show Entourage, the gang gets Eddie’s shipped to them across the country to them because the pizza in LA simply doesn’t compare (this is actually realistic, as Eddie’s will freeze their pies and send them anywhere in the continental US):

entourageeddies

I honestly couldn’t love Eddie’s any more than I do. They have perfected an art. Every time I have a slice of pizza, it makes me miss Eddie’s more. I may just have to have them ship me a few pies before my craving causes me to break down. Nothing will compare to eating a personal pie in the bar of Eddie’s though, that is happiness in its purest form.

I Refuse To Judge A Book By Its Cover

“You’re going to end up waiting tables”. I’m sure that even just reading that sentence brought a negative connotation to your mind. “Waiting tables” has become the metaphorical equivalent of “wasting away” in today’s society. I see it everywhere. On a TBS sitcom, after one of the secondary characters loses his job, he ends up being the server at a restaurant for the main characters of the program. The laugh track roars as he approaches the table to take their order. A book that I am reading about how to make the most of your twentysomething years focuses upon a psychiatrist recounting her sessions with her young adult clients. I am only about half way through, and there has already been more than five mentions of young men and women telling the author they are afraid of losing their jobs and being forced to go wait tables. I’m sure you could name four or five cases of your own where becoming a waiter or waitress has been portrayed as being equal to having the word “FAILURE” tattooed across your forehead.

When I decided to leave the tech company I was working for most recently, I had made a clear and conscious decision of what path I wanted to take. I was giving up my job in sales to pursue a dream of opening a bar. Despite the fact that I knew I wanted to own a business within the food and beverage industry, the immediate career steps I had in mind had nothing to do with the aforementioned realm. I began interviewing with startups all over San Francisco for roles on their sales teams. After each of these interviews, I left feeling confident that I had performed more than adequately, yet that something was majorly wrong. After one particularly stressful but successful interview, I found myself walking home with my head hanging down. I immediately became determined to find out why I was feeling so downtrodden despite being well received by the companies with which I was interacting. As I analyzed the root of my sullen mood, something suddenly struck me like a lightning bolt. For the past few weeks, I had been setting up interviews with any company which I could even remotely connect with my desired future in the restaurant industry. A viral video company? Well, I want to produce marketing videos for my bar, so that would be a perfect fit! A company that streamlined inventory for online businesses? My place will have food and liquor inventory! Think how much I could learn! As I walked down the crowded street and away from the building in which my interview had just taken place, I finally realized what I had been doing with the past three weeks of my life: Living a mirage.

My mind was reacting in a way that I imagine is fairly common given the social standards of today.  I was playing directly into the notion that pop culture had so clearly created. I was avoiding the metaphorical “waiting tables” like it was the bubonic plague. It was clear what I should be doing with my life if I was serious about opening a bar: working in bars. Yet I had not so much as given that prospect a moment of thought. I was a college graduate! I had been successful in my first six months in the dog eat dog world of sales! Startups throughout the Bay Area were interested in me working for them! Why in the world would I even consider stooping to a level of being a simple restaurant employee? Social pressures had me thinking in a manner that was toxic. Rather than considering what would be best for the future of my dream, I was thinking about what would be best for the future of my social status. I was afraid that if I did not end up taking one of the sales positions and instead opted to go work in a restaurant, that I would perpetually be followed by society’s laugh track. All my life I had prided myself on the fact that I did not let the opinions of others effect my decisions, yet when it came to one of the most pivotal decisions of my life, I was caving to popular outlook as if it was mandated law. It did not take long for me to realize the hypocrisy I was demonstrating. I soon knew what I had to do.

I didn’t end up waiting tables. I went one step further. I took a job as a bus boy at a popular local bar. While it is by no means a glamorous position, it is certainly worthwhile. I am a firm believer that if you want to own a small business, you must be excessively competent in each role that composes that business. While I had worked as a dishwasher, a cook, a server, and a bartender, I had never had the opportunity to be a bus boy. So I took the job. I am extremely glad that I did. The work has been more rewarding than I could have imagined. Not only am I learning  ton about what it takes for a bar to be successful, but I am also gaining a great deal of pleasure from working my ass off physically and getting paid for it.

While I am truly enjoying my role at the bar, it is not lost on me that each time I go into work I am being judged. I am sure that countless patrons look at me and say to themselves “I wonder what that kid did to end up working as a bus boy in his twenties?”. I can not blame them. Just two months ago, I am sure that similar thoughts would have invaded my mind if I was looking at myself in the role. I will never make the fatal mistake of judging a book by it’s cover again. As a population, we fail to fully consider the situations that we witness on a daily basis. Rather than taking the time to think through the myriad of situations that could make a person act in a certain way, we only analyze them in relation to how that behavior would fit into our lives. When people look at me working as a bus boy, it is not likely that they assume that I am doing so because I am looking to open a bar of my own and want to learn everything I can before doing so. At best, they probably think that I am a college student looking to make a little extra cash. At worst, they presume that I am a perennial screw up.

These judgments do not bother me, as I am confident that I am doing what is most beneficial for the life path that I have chosen. On the contrary, they inspire me to look at people in a different way. Now, when I see someone working in a role that would generally be considered as elementary, I make sure to consider all the options. What if that person is an undercover boss? What if they are working in that position as a stress release for a more prominent position they hold elsewhere? Or better yet, what if they are working their ass off each and every day to provide for their family? If a person is able to be happy, it should not matter what their job is, as long as it brings satisfaction to their life and the lives of their loved ones. After all, who would have guessed that Richard Sherman’s Dad is still a garbage man?

While it seems that “waiting tables” has become the prominent metaphor for judging a person based on their job, there are plenty of other positions that are looked down upon on a constant basis. Moving forward, I urge you to not be a person who looks down upon anyone without knowledge of the reasoning that brought them to be in the position that they are in. In the end, a job is a job, no matter what it may entail. Of all the people in the world, the one that I believe put this most eloquently is Ashton Kutcher. It is therefore appropriate to leave you with his words.

One Night In Oakland

If you’ve had a chance to read any of my other posts, you know how much praise I give to the city of San Francisco. With this being the case, you may be asking “Why would you want to open a business across the bay in Oakland if you are so fond of San Francisco?”. The answer to this question is simple: As much as I love San Francisco, I love Oakland even more. Oakland has a certain mystique. It is everything that San Francisco is not. While this video I made from the night I spent in Oakland this past Friday captures the spirit that drives the city, it is only snapshot of a vast and diverse patchwork that is prime for exploration and expansion. As I continue to find reasons to love Oakland, I will not be shy about continuing to share.