Friday Q&A

man holding microphone while talking to another man

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Let’s do this.

OK, so first of all, keep in mind that you’re asking this question of an unemployed man who spent his entire morning trying and failing to convince a toddler to put on pants. I never went to journalism school, I’m not sure I’ve ever called myself a “journalist” unironically, and I always tried my best to avoid big-picture strategy sessions because corporate buzzwords make me giggle inappropriately.

The short answer is: I have no idea, and you should look with great suspicion upon anyone who speaks with confidence on this topic and comes to a conclusion much firmer than, “I have no idea.”

There’s irony inherent in me talking out of my ass here: One of the aspects of contemporary media that I find most frustrating is the total obliteration of the notion of expertise. And though I can appreciate the value of scrutinizing and sometimes undercutting the entrenched institutions establishing expertise, there are outlets out there right now that essentially operate as though a Harvard-trained epidemiologist’s perspective on COVID-19 is no more valid than Kid Rock’s.

An innocuous example I frequently cite to describe some of my frustrations at USA Today is this article, headlined “Baseball players are getting fat like us,” and based on truly preposterous analysis that used BMI — a metric by which Mike Trout is considered obese — to reach a conclusion that would be dismissed out of hand by anyone who has seen a baseball game in the last 15 years.

I had received, rejected, and publicly mocked the same pitch less than a week before the paper amplified it in the opinion section, and I found it both troubling and unsurprising that whoever made the decision to run with it did so without consulting any of the six full-time staffers the company paid to know about baseball. “Baseball players are getting fat like us” is a great headline that people are going to mindlessly click and share on Facebook, and while I never met anyone who worked on the opinion page, I have no doubt those people were operating under a mandate to drive up traffic numbers. And, hey: Everyone has the right to an opinion! Let’s check in with Kid Rock for his take on Major League Baseball’s obesity problem.

Pageview-driven journalism, I believe, does more harm than most people realize, and I genuinely do not think Donald Trump would be the president today if the media industry had figured out and settled on a better way to make money.

None of that really even approaches an answer to Mike’s question, which — again — I am just not in any way qualified to answer. I can say (with hesitation, because I’d like to someday be employed again), that I think access can be overrated, especially in the case of something like Trump’s daily coronavirus misinform-athon. It just doesn’t really matter if you secure the ability to ask the guy a question when his answers show no correlation to the truth. Obviously there are huge benefits to access. But it often requires concessions.

And I can say that I hope paid subscription models prove successful in the long run, but that’s not at all insightful. Right now, it’s just as easy to imagine an accelerated Idiocracy, with press conferences by the end of Trump’s next term covered exclusively by the Ow My Balls! radio network.

The only other perspective I can offer is this: The internet is still a very new thing, historically speaking. Online media as we know it isn’t old enough to drink, and it’s probably unreasonable to expect an advancement of this magnitude to sort itself out so quickly. Right? The printing press generally gets a lot of credit for the onset of the Renaissance, but it was still some 70 years between Gutenberg’s invention and the Mona Lisa.

The excellent book The Sun and the Moon details an incredible hoax perpetrated by the New York Sun in the 1830s, but I found it just as interesting for its depiction of the early days of daily newspapers and their myriad parallels to the early days of online media. Early newspapers operated pretty similarly to early blogs — there were a ton of them, they were typically the work of one editor, they were unabashedly partisan, there was little accountability and constant jockeying for attention — and over time, some succeeded and some failed and some combined and some moved to the fringes.

Point is, I think, we’re still figuring this out. I don’t think the ball ever stops rolling, really, but I hope when it slows down, it does so in a place where there’s some appreciation for what’s actually true and not just what people will accept as true on Facebook.

OK, now to the food questions:

I’m sorry to say this, Ben, but it can’t be done. Taco Bell comes from magic, and the magic only happens inside Taco Bell kitchens. There are a bunch of recipes online that attempt to approximate it, but I’ve tried precisely none of them, because I don’t believe Taco Bell is something mere humans can replicate with any accuracy.

We talking just grilling, or full-blown smoking? If you mean the latter, I’m best, most practiced, and most consistent with baby back ribs, primarily because they’re so widely available and they’re my wife’s favorite of the meats one might smoke. But my personal favorite, if I can get it right, are beef ribs (a.k.a. “dinosaur ribs”). They’re hard to find and tricky to cook, but when you nail it, they’re so good. Better than brisket even, I think because the fat is better distributed throughout the meat.

For just straight grilling, it’s either skirt steak or chicken thighs. I cook a heck a lot of the latter, and I’ve gotten pretty good at making it so the skin gets nice and crispy without drying out the interior meat. Dark meat chicken is so far superior to white meat chicken that it’s absurd they charge you more for white meat at fried chicken places.

The bar for “replacement level” plummeted so much in the last two weeks that, if we’re drawing an analogy to baseball, it’s like the league just added 25 expansion teams.

A well-made PB&J, I think, has always been sturdily above-replacement, though a bad one — especially if someone fails to put peanut butter on both sides, so one side of the bread gets sogged up with jelly — can definitely perform at replacement level.

Three weeks ago, I would’ve told you a replacement level sandwich is some pre-packaged lunchmeat (think Oscar Mayer ham) on white bread with American cheese. The type of sandwich you might find pre-made and pre-cut in the refrigerator area at a gas station convenience store: Readily and perpetually available, inexpensive, bad, but not going to kill you.

Today, I made a sandwich from two pieces of American cheese on a toasted English muffin from a box that had been sitting in my freezer for about a year. That’s the replacement-level sandwich now.

Losing it

woman holding ice cream tub

This is a stock photo that came up in a search for “Crazy.” (Photo by Edu Carvalho on Pexels.com)

Five or six years ago, New York City endured a brutal winter. I forget the specifics, but I recall that basically every time one storm’s snow melted, another snowstorm came, and it got extremely cold for a while. What I remember best was people losing their cool after being holed up for months: A guy on line at the coffee shop snapping at the barista over something stupid, a woman having a full-blown shit-fit about getting a parking ticket, etc.

For anyone who’s not insanely wealthy, there’s a trade-off inherent in living in New York City: You give up interior space in exchange for extra things to do. People say things like, “well, the bar downstairs is my living room,” or, “we like to think of Tompkins Square Park as our backyard,” and most of the time, they’re not wrong. But when life, for whatever reason, forces everyone inside for a while, we start feeling crushed by the walls around us. And I recognize that this is true to some extent everywhere, but the effect is amplified here, where it’s rare for anyone to have more than 500 square feet to themselves.

I’ve whined before about how difficult it is to find ways to keep a 2 1/2-year-old physically active at this particular juncture in history, but this morning I found a pretty good one. I took the kid and his little yellow basketball to an open field in the park and basically played fetch with him, and, to my surprise, he loved it. I got some much-needed exercise out of it myself, as I’d basically throw the ball as far as I could, wait until he got about halfway to reaching it, then sprint to catch up with him while he giggled with delight.

Then something horrible happened: Some other kid showed up and wanted to play with us. He was extremely sweet, and at first he seemed content to just kick the ball if he got to it first. I was fine with that. Then he started picking the ball up and moving ever closer to me and my son, and when I looked to his caregiver for assistance, she was on the phone.

My normal inclination, even if the other kid was riddled with visible chicken pox or something, would be to just sort of shrug and let him play with us for a while. But this is obviously different. I am myself chock full of autoimmune disease, and I certainly don’t want to be responsible for giving my wife the ‘rona and risk having her bring it into a hospital to distribute to kids with serious underlying conditions.

Also, and not for nothing, I don’t know the kid’s deal or if he lives with any vulnerable people, and since my wife works at a hospital and my son can’t keep his hands off door handles, I can’t say for sure that I’m not an asymptomatic carrier of the disease.

But I’m never, ever going to scold someone else’s kid, so instead I just kind of kept looking at the lady, seeing if she might intervene, growing increasingly frustrated. Pretty soon I just gave up and went home. I said nothing, but I wanted to say, “lady, are you f@#!ing kidding me?”

Then, like two minutes into our walk home, I heard a jogging bro ask exactly that of a masked older woman who had her dog off-leash. I didn’t see what happened, but I assume the dog ran into his path. And I thought to myself that this guy was giving in to the urge to be uncool at a time when it’s way too easy to be uncool, and that he was clearly the villain in the scenario.

Then the dog, a little yippy thing, started running behind the guy, and the old woman — no joke — started yelling out, “Bite him! Bite him! Bite him!”

This isn’t exactly next-level insight, but to those of us lucky enough to be healthy and active and out and about to the extent that we can be right now: We must chill. No one has ever dealt with anything like this before, but we need to keep in mind that no one else has ever dealt with anything like this before. It’s been, what, three weeks? This could stretch on for months.

4 horrible tips for working at home

selective focus photography of woman using macbook pro

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When I decided to relaunch here, I planned a helpful post full of tips on working from home. The way I figured it, a whole lot of people accustomed to office life have recently been forced into makeshift workspaces in their houses and apartments. I spent much of my 6 1/2-year tenure at USA Today working remotely, and I thought maybe readers could benefit from my experience.

Then I realized, wait a minute: I’m unemployed! How am I going to give people advice about how to succeed while working from home when I demonstrably could not do it myself?

And, truth be told, none of my best or most productive days at USA Today came while working from my apartment. I always did my best work on location or in coffee shops. If that job — and my enthusiasm for it — died by a million pinpricks and a couple sucker-punches, working remotely was undoubtedly one of the pinpricks. I think I kind of stink at working from home. It’s boring. It took me a while to come to this conclusion, but I think I actually prefer human interaction to not wearing pants.

The only good advice I could give to someone working remotely would be to get out and go to a coffee shop, and for a lot of people that’s not currently an option. It’s too bad, because I have a really good mental map of Manhattan coffee shops with ample seating, reliable wifi and clean bathrooms.

Here are four bad pieces of advice for working at home:

1) Plan to exercise later: It might be nice to go out for a jog or a ride or a skate or a power-walk first thing in the morning to get your blood pumping. But that also sounds like a lot of work, and your TV is right there. Plus, you’ve got to eat breakfast! Why not plan to exercise later, and enjoy some television now while you eat your breakfast? And then, when breakfast is done, continue enjoying some television because you might as well finish the show.

Now that you’ve watched the show, you definitely don’t have time to exercise before starting work, but you can always exercise in the evening when you’re done. Or tomorrow, I guess. Tomorrow sounds good. You’ll start exercising tomorrow, for real.

woman in yellow sweater holding white ceramic plate

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2) Always be snacking: Portion control is tempting, and one might even suggest you’ll eat less and be more productive while working from home if you transfer any snacks you’re going to eat into little bowls before taking them to your work area. But you show me someone the person who suggested that, and I’ll show you a sucker with an extra dish to clean.

Eat right out of the bag, baby! You’re cutting out a needless step — that’s just efficiency — and as an added bonus, an empty potato chip bag makes for a handy trash bag for the detritus of the rest of the snacks you’re going to eat in the day, since you’re best served lazily munching on junk food for nine straight hours instead of taking the time to prepare and enjoy a proper meal. Some trash is inevitably going to spill out of your makeshift trash bag onto your desk, but luckily that fits nicely with Tip #3.

3) Wallow in your own filth: My dad worked from home my entire life — still does, matter of fact — and started every day by taking a shower, putting on a button-down shirt and khaki pants, and heading upstairs to the room in the attic that served as his office.

What’d he do all that for? Since there’s a chance you’re going to exercise in the evening, it’s downright wasteful to shower and get dressed now. Stay in your sweatpants. Are they starting to stink? Nah, that’s you. But you’re not going to see anybody anyway. Try to avoid mirrors.

4) Take everything personally, say nothing, and let it fester: Just because you work remotely doesn’t mean you have to be the squeaky wheel. It’s often hard to gauge someone’s tone in electronic communication, but if you feel like some offhand comment in a work chatroom or supervisory oversight is a personal slight, it almost certainly is, and you should definitely take it that way. Don’t bother following up, either. Just stew. Let it eat at you over time. It’s just more evidence of how little they appreciate you and all the hard work you’ve done. To hell with them, really.

Shortness of breath

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I took my bike out this morning. I live at the bottom of one of Manhattan’s few hills, and before I got to the top, I found myself huffing and wheezing.

For the fifth or sixth time in the last two weeks, I became convinced I had the ‘rona. I started scheming on how I might quarantine myself from my wife, who works in a hospital, and considering options for childcare for our toddler. But by the time I got to Central Park, I realized I was breathing easier.

I don’t think I have COVID-19. I think I’m just out of shape.

I have no unique insight into the pandemic sweeping my home city and much of the planet. My wife does, but it’s not mine to share, and she prefers I keep her out of my digital nonsense. If you’re looking for useful information about the coronavirus, you’ve come to the wrong place. Obviously.

But I do have a heck of a lot of experience spending time alone in my apartment, and it strikes me that a whole lot of people are currently adjusting to spending time alone in their apartments. And if I have any marketable skills whatsoever, they include the ability to entertain bored people from the confines of my home with only the use of my laptop and an internet connection.

I started this site in August of 2009 in part because I worked in an area of the SNY office that was otherwise empty for most of every workday. I was lonely, and writing here helped me connect with other bored, hungry Mets fans looking to kill time at work. (For a while, I think, TedQuarters could boast one of the internet’s very best comments sections — not because it was ever the most active, but because it was reliably insightful and respectful and hilarious and fun — and I don’t know that anything I’ve done professionally has ever been quite as satisfying as helping to cultivate that small but generally excellent online community.)

mona lisa with face mask

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As the primary caregiver for a delightful but predictably dependent 2 1/2-year-old, I can’t often say that I’m bored anymore. And I feel like raising a child is a defensible thing in practically any situation.

But at the same time, I don’t feel good about the idea of entirely sitting this shutdown out when basically the only thing I know how to do might now, in some way, offer some value to someone somewhere. This is my paltry contribution to this war effort, my post-9/11 American flag cake: Starting today, and running until either a) baseball comes back or b) the virus renders it impossible or c) my kid stops napping reliably or d) it becomes clear that no one at all is reading, I’m going to post something fresh here every weekday to help distract you and me both from the horrors happening around us.

It’s not much. I can’t put toilet paper on your shelves or money in your pocket or certainty in your future, but maybe I can help you think about something other than those things for, like, 10 minutes a day. That’s obviously presumptuous — who the hell do I think I am? — but it’s also therapeutic for me, and the site’s called TedQuarters.

I haven’t published anything anywhere since the last post on this site in October, but my understanding from some baseball-writer friends is that they see some backlash to anything they put out that’s not about COVID-19. I understand the sentiment, but I strongly disagree with it. Same goes for something I read in the N.Y. Times recently (and can’t find now) arguing that fiction writers shouldn’t write coronavirus-themed fiction until after the pandemic is over, if then.

I don’t think anyone gets to tell anybody what they can make or when they can make it, as long as it’s not hurting anybody else. Picasso started painting Guernica four days after the bombing of Guernica. Did no one say, “too soon?”

If you don’t want to read about baseball right now, don’t click on Eno’s stuff. If you don’t want to read fiction about pandemics, don’t read fiction about pandemics. What difference does it make to you if it exists? I’m not interested in math metal at this stage of my life, but I’m not tweeting at Meshuggah to tell them to stop.

Which is all to say: If you don’t want to read about random shit I find online, sandwiches, or cargo shorts, don’t visit TedQuarters.net. If you are, then by all means, come on by. As I referenced, I’m aiming to do most of the writing in the early afternoons while the boy naps, so you can probably expect to see something new by about 3 p.m. every day. I can’t imagine I’ll write much about the virus, but I also can’t imagine avoiding it entirely, given the grip it has on all our attention right now.

I’d be surprised if I write a whole lot about baseball, seeing as there are hundreds of employed baseball writers putting out good baseball content despite the complete absence of baseball right now. But, hey! Maybe some of that content will be so compelling as to suck me back in.

If you’re curious what I’ve been up to since I left USA Today in August and lost on Jeopardy! in September, it’s not terribly interesting: I’ve been mostly on dad duty — enjoying the hell out of it (at least up until they closed the zoo and the Met and the Museum of Natural History) — plus hosting baseball trivia and general trivia at my friends’ bars, and trying to fulfill my lifelong dream of writing fiction, which, it turns out, is extremely hard.

I plodded through 50 pages of a novel, but about a month ago, I read over the first chapter and noticed that it totally sucked. When I started it, I was so bitter about my career that the tone and voice did not reflect, at all, the person I am now or the writer I want to be, plus I was so desperate to be literary that I made the mistake of choosing a close third person narration where first person would’ve been so much more natural. Also, it was sci-fi/speculative fiction set in 2029, but it obviously did not account in any way for the terrifying, paradigm-shifting shit happening right at this very moment.

I’m still trying my hand at fiction, and you might even get some of it here in the days and weeks to come — it depends how long this thing lasts, I guess. But you’ll also get some stuff about Taco Bell, for sure. Thanks for reading. I missed you. Wash your hands.

Friday Q&A, pt. 2: Food stuff and randos

Man, I haven’t even thought about it yet. Actually, I haven’t even thought about the Super Bowl much at all. I’ve spent most of my days wrapping things up at the office, and most of my nights struggling with jetlag and trying to sleep. Joe Flacco favors Haribo Gold-Bears, as I do. That’s about all I’ve got, Super Bowl wise. I pretty much missed the NFL Playoffs.

I’ll probably have wings. That’s unoriginal, I know, but I haven’t had much time to plan a menu, I certainly haven’t ordered ahead, and I’m totally sweet at making wings. So I’ll get to Fairway and buy up some wings (assuming they’re not already sold out) and Buffalo those suckers up. Maybe I’ll talk my wife into making guacamole, and probably she’ll be excited enough for her first Super Bowl in years without any looming obligations that she’ll do it. So I’ll have wings and guacamole, like everyone else. And then I’ll fall asleep in my easy chair before halftime, because this jetlag.

Yes! We ate incredibly well in Southeast Asia. A lot of that meant stuff we already knew about — pad prik king, pho, banh mi and the like. But some popular regional foods were new to us, especially khao soi in Northern Thailand and cao lau in Hoi An, Vietnam. They’re both noodle dishes, and, interestingly, they both include both boiled and fried noodles. But the similarities end there: The khao soi noodles are swimming in a yellow curry broth with vegetables, the cao lau are served with fresh pork, lime and an array of fresh herbs. They’re both amazing, and I’ve used Menupages.com‘s find-a-food search to figure out where I’m going to try both in New York.

I’m not sure it counts as cultural, but the most eye-opening thing was definitely the difference in traffic patterns and roads. I think Americans — at least this one — tend to take our infrastructure for granted, but it’s pretty amazing the way so much of the contiguous part of this country is linked by our interstate system, and how you can drive in a reasonably direct path from anyplace to anyplace mostly via huge, well-paved two- and three-lane highways. In Ho Chi Minh City, a bustling, modern metropolis of over nine million people, we needed to take all sorts of odd sidestreets and alleys to get from the airport to our hotel — and our hotel was close to the center of town. I don’t know if it was something the driver was doing to skirt traffic or what, but it was enough to make a lifelong New Yorker appreciate the Van Wyck. And the traffic inside Ho Chi Minh City is unlike any I’ve seen anywhere: thousands upon thousands of mopeds and seemingly far, far fewer traffic lights per intersection than we’re accustomed to, creating an oddly ordered chaos expertly and somewhat patiently negotiated by the locals but appearing completely overwhelming to tourists. Check out some of the videos on YouTube. It’s mesmerizing.

And all that’s to say nothing of the grueling songthaew trips we took in Southern Laos, which were amazing and confusing enough to make for their own blog post sometime when I’m not charged with cleaning out my desk before getting out of here.

Friday Q&A, pt. 1: Baseball stuff

If you’re not on Twitter, you missed the announcement: Starting Monday, I’ll be writing about baseball for USA Today Sports. I’m very excited.

For Edgin: Why not? It’s difficult to predict which relievers will ultimately earn closer jobs and the elusive “proven closer” label, but Edgin seems to have as good a shot as any. He throws hard, he’s got pretty good control, and he strikes out lots of batters. His ERA wasn’t great in his tiny-sample first Major League stint, but his peripherals (besides his home-run rate) look strong. I’d say the biggest thing working against him is his handedness, as unless the Mets have one or two more viable lefty options for middle-inning specialty work, they’re probably going to want Edgin there.

Also, I’m not ready to write off the idea of Bobby Parnell eventually emerging as the Mets’  closer. I know he has struggled in limited opportunities in the role, but Parnell’s been a good big-league reliever for three seasons. Now that he seems to be settled on the knuckle-curve as a second pitch, I don’t know why he couldn’t succeed in a ninth-inning job.

As for the fat sandwich: Yes. I wrote about it here, back before I reviewed sandwiches proper.

I don’t really want to troll on my way out the door here, but I’d say this seems like LOLMetsing of the highest order. Especially the caption on the bottom photo. I mean… c’mon. But then I clicked it, so the joke’s on me.

UPDATE: Actually, on second thought I’ll amend that. Clicking through the rest of the Daily News’ website after reading that story, it seems like they’re blowing out every possible angle of the A-Rod/PED/Miami thing. So that’s probably just one of them, and hey, a Mets connection. Only the caption is LOLMetsy.

That’s a tough question. My natural inclination is to pick the five worst players on the Mets so the team can stay competitive throughout the Mars project. But since that doesn’t seem like the spirit of the question, I’ll say David Wright for leadership and interstellar diplomacy, Lucas Duda for brute strength, Dillon Gee for guile, Daniel Murphy for determination, and Johan Santana for general awesomeness.

https://twitter.com/RandomOrlando/status/297389635724787712

Hey, I’m still a member of the baseball media, and I’m still going to be based out of New York. If there’s one of those tasting events this year, I’m going to do everything in my power to go. Obviously.

Honestly, if they can get the draft pick protected I don’t think signing Michael Bourn is such a terrible idea for the Mets. It depends on the deal, of course, but it sure seems like Bourn’s price tag has fallen far, far below the $100 million figure he was reportedly seeking at the offseason’s outset. We keep hearing about how the Mets will have money to spend in the coming years, but there’s no guarantee they’ll be able to do so with a protected first-round pick again anytime soon. Plus, watching Bourn play center field is a thrill. Guy gets to everything.

Sandwich of the Week

So this site looks a bit different today. Welcome to the new and far less active TedQuarters, I suppose. There are still some kinks to work out, all of which will take me way longer to figure out on my own than they would have with the support of my men Adam Rotter and Matt Cerrone at SNY, so be patient. And because I’m now using a stock WordPress theme, I had to make some concessions in the navigation and sidebars.

Most notably: The “Embarrassing Things about Cole Hamels” section of the blog is now just a “Cole Hamels” tab on the sidebar to the left, as spelling out the full title made the text wrap to two lines and look awful. So it goes. Know that “Cole Hamels,” here, is an abbreviation for “Embarrassing Things about Cole Hamels,” always.

Also: The Sandwich Hall of Fame list is currently a sub-category in the sandwich tab, but it’s too long for the format and you can’t access most of the sandwich reviews from many browsers. Soon, perhaps later this afternoon, I’ll create a new Sandwich Hall of Fame archive page with links to all the Hall of Fame sandwich reviews. So fear not.

Because of the theme switch, the site again uses WordPress comments instead of Disqus, meaning that two full years’ worth of awesome, hilarious, insightful comments are sort of lost to the ether. And it makes every post on this site from 2011-2012 look pretty lonely, so if you stumble upon one you like and want to leave some love, please do.

And thanks so much for all the flattering and supportive comments left on the going-away post from earlier this month. It feels incredible to know that my efforts on this site for the last several years were apparently so thoroughly appreciated. I love you, too.

The sandwich: Banh mi thit nuong, Banh Mi Cart 37, 37 Nguyen Trai, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

The construction: Grilled pork meatballs, pickled vegetables, cucumbers, cilantro, chili paste and some sort of brownish sauce on a baguette.

Important background information: I spent six days in Vietnam and tried seven different banh mi. This was the best, and it wasn’t all that close. Most of the sandwiches came from street carts or slightly glorified street carts, and in Ho Chi Minh City — where I ate the large majority of my banh mi on vacation — most of the street carts sell banh mi filled with various cold cuts, familiar and otherwise. They were all delicious, but once I tried this style, all I wanted were more like this. In fact, about an hour after I had my first, I went back for a second.

Also: Throughout our vacation, my wife and I struggled to convince locals to serve us spicy food. Many European and Australian tourists (and perhaps Americans, too, but we didn’t meet nearly so many), it seems, want no part of typically spicy Thai, Lao or Vietnamese cuisine — something we witnessed to a hilarious extent in a cooking class with some British couples who were put off by the spiciness of ginger and garlic.

So before I carry on, a plea to the Australian dude we met on a boat in Thailand and others like him: Give spicy food a chance, please. You told us you were miffed at all the restrictions they had at the place where they let you in a cage with a tiger. I promise no pepper used in common cooking anywhere presents nearly so much danger, and that developing a taste for more spice will ultimately broaden your culinary horizons and enrich your eating life. I’m not here to tell you what to do; I’m just sayin’s all.

Also, if it catches on, it’ll mean a lot less work on my end in Asia attempting to locate every vendor’s peppers or hot sauces, pointing at them, smiling, nodding vigorously and giving thumbs up. Luckily for us, the woman at the banh mi cart at 37 Nguyen Trai held up a spoonful of chili paste as she constructed the sandwich and shot us a quizzical look, so we were able to point at it, smile, nod vigorously and give thumbs up.

What it looks like:

How it tastes: Awesome. Just… awesome. Everything I could imagine wanting in a banh mi.

The banh mi cart at 37 Nguyen Trai grills tiny pork patties — think seasoned ground-pork sliders — over charcoal on a small barbecue, and there’s enough turnover that every sandwich comes with pork patties hot from the grill. They’re tender and porky, juicy but not greasy, with just a hint of black pepper flavor.

We read somewhere that much of Vietnamese cuisine is fueled by contrasting textures and flavors, a concept that should sound familiar to any loyal readers of these sandwich reviews.

This banh mi seemed the perfect embodiment of that idea: The warm pork and toasty baguette (they threw the baguette on the grill right before they put together the sandwich, a very appreciated touch) complemented the coolness of the vegetables. The intense spiciness of the chili paste matched up with the sweetness of the brown sauce. The sharpness of the cilantro complemented the acidity of the pickled vegetables.

It was crunchy and soft, spicy and sweet, hot and cold, comforting and adventurous, everything. Just an explosion of flavors and textures and general greatness. Damn. I have to go back.

What it’s worth: Oh, that’s the other thing. It cost 14,000 Dong, or about 67 cents. Plus the cost of airfare, of course, unless you’re already in Ho Chi Minh City.

How it rates: 97 out of 100. Inner circle Hall of Famer.

My Taco Bell expertise finally legitimized

Yesterday, the Internet heralded the coming of the Cool Ranch Doritos Locos Taco as if it’s a newly verified thing even though this site and many others have been all over that news for nearly half a year. Longtime friend of the program Gina Pace at the New York Daily News took time off from her diligent work on the Tom Brady moat beat to report and clarify the Taco Bell news, citing the research of one well-coiffed “sports writer and Taco Bell aficionado.”

Pack my bag and let’s get movin’

This I’ve mentioned before: Tomorrow I’m leaving for vacation. I’ll be out of the country for a few weeks, visiting various points of interest in Southeast Asia and ideally eating all sorts of delicious food that I will tell you about when I return. I may check in here a couple of times, but I’m not really planning on it and I don’t know how often I’ll have access to the Internet.

thailandThis I haven’t mentioned: After I get back, I’m leaving my job at SNY and this blog will no longer update with anything like the frequency it has for the past three and a half years. It will still exist in some fashion, and I hope to continue discussing sandwiches and Taco Bell and nearly everything else here when I’m so moved. But it will live outside the SNY umbrella, and it will not even nominally be a sports blog.

You definitely haven’t heard the last of me, and, in fact, I hope you’ve only heard the first of me. But I’ll discuss that more once I’m back from my trip and stuffed to the gills with banh mi. For now, in lieu of anything more creative, I wanted to use this post to express some gratitude.

Maintaining this blog is awesome. So is working at SNY. I became a Mets fan sometime in the winter after the 1986 World Series, and went to my first game at Shea Stadium on Opening Day of 1987. Bob Ojeda won the game and Darryl Strawberry hit a home run. Thanks to this job, I get to chat about baseball with Bob all the time. And one time Darryl Strawberry bought me a sandwich. That’s so unspeakably crazy to me. I hauled soda and hot dogs around Shea Stadium in the summer heat in 2000 and it seemed nuts then that they’d pay me to go to Mets games. Now they pay me to go and I don’t even have to lift anything. Please don’t take that as bragging. It’s just… how is that real?

I have this forum here in which I can write about nearly anything I want, from the fringes of the Mets’ roster to the far reaches of outer space. And actual human people read it regularly, and comment on it and email me with links to other things to write about or sandwiches to try. It’s so amazingly flattering, and it makes me feel awesome, and I love it.

I should say, also, that this blog would never have been possible if it weren’t for my excellent colleagues here. In making the real-job aspects of my job easier, the entire SNY.tv team afforded me time to write from the office. So thanks to Jeff, Jay, Adam, Fred, Jaime and Gil, Tom at MLBAM, and to Matt Cerrone for encouraging me to start this site and getting it set up in the first place. All the bloggers whose sites are, for now, linked in the left column here are excellent people producing good stuff and far less demanding of my time than they could have been, so thanks to them too. Really, thanks to most everyone here for being cool.

And thanks, of course, to the larger Mets blogosphere for hooking up the traffic, especially my friends at MetsBlog, and Eric Simon and the folks at Amazin’ Avenue.

When I spell it all out like this, it makes me wonder why I’m leaving. But I’ve been here five years, and new frontiers await, and it’s time. The Mets’ front office seems to be in good hands, and all your yelling isn’t going to convince me otherwise. Increasingly, I find myself explaining the team’s decisions rather than berating them. Hell, not only did the Mets just actually sign the Minor League outfielder I clamored for, but Paul DePodesta then tweeted Andrew Brown’s Minor League slash line against lefties immediately following the announcement. This is fantasy-land stuff for the True SABR among us who were blogging during the Omar Minaya era.

Plus, when you get to interview Keith Hernandez on stage immediately after he publicly shaves his mustache, you drop the mic and walk away. I started writing about the Mets for SNY.tv in Oct. 2006, when I was an MLBAM employee, a couple weeks after Carlos Beltran struck out to end Game 7 of the NLCS. At the last Mets game I attended for SNY.tv, Keith Hernandez shaved his mustache on stage and R.A. Dickey won his 20th game. Those seem like as good a way to bookend this phase of my career as any I can think of. And I got to witness the Mets’ first no-hitter as part of it.

I’m straying from the point, which is this: Thank you so much. Thank you for reading, thank you for commenting, thank you for emailing. I have put a lot of thought, a lot of effort, a lot of words, and, occasionally, a lot of emotion into this site over the past few years. On the whole I’m proud of the output, and it’s led me to the next step in my career. And there’s no chance I’d have done any of it if I didn’t know there were people out there enjoying it.

Like I said, I’ll be back — both here and elsewhere. But it’s 2013, so you can also get at me on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, or via email at dtedberg-at-gmail.com.

Since I expect this post will sit here at the top of the site for a while, here are some links to select past posts to entertain you while I’m gone. Some of these were popular, some of these I just kind of liked and remembered this morning when putting this together. For lack of a better system, I categorized them the same way they are in the tabs up top:

Baseball

Feb. 2, 2009: Moving out, moving on
Oct. 15, 2009: Embarrassing Photos of Cole Hamels
March 1, 2011: Beltran selfishly punishing Digital Domain Park scoreboard
June 15, 2011: What we carry
March 7, 2012: The lobster pot

Other sports

June 12, 2010: For the Internet
Sept. 24, 2012: Is anyone really ready for some football?

Taco Bell

Aug. 31, 2011: Dear Taco Bell
Sept. 14, 2011: Mets as Taco Bell menu items

Other stuff

March 18, 2010: From the Wikipedia: The Great Auk
Feb. 25, 2011: Spaced out

Sandwiches

June 30, 2010: The sandwich that made me love sandwiches
Sept. 8, 2010: Sandwich of the decade

Video
2008ish: Matt and Ted go to Philly, Mets Weekly vendor piece
March 18, 2009: The Nooner
Oct. 5, 2012: Requiem for a mustache

What wouldn’t you trade for Giancarlo Stanton?

Look: The Mets aren’t trading for Giancarlo Stanton. It’s just a fun thing to think about, because Giancarlo Stanton is a fun thing to think about. And with speculation about potential Stanton trades pummeling the Internet, I polled Mets fans on Twitter to see what they wouldn’t be willing to trade for Stanton.

Most, understandably, said they’d give up practically anything. A few said they wouldn’t trade Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler or Travis d’Arnaud, which is… well, I think any deal for Stanton would have to start with at least one if not two of Harvey, Wheeler and d’Arnaud.

Think about it: The Mets just got d’Arnaud and fellow top prospect Travis Syndergaard in a package for one year’s worth of R.A. Dickey, plus the negotiating window in which the Blue Jays signed Dickey to an extension. It’s hard to draw a clear parallel because it’s hard to determine the value of the exclusive negotiating window, but trading for Stanton would mean acquiring four seasons’ worth of his cost-controlled services — plenty of time, of course, for an acquiring team to lock him up to a longer-term contract extension.

Harvey, Wheeler and d’Arnaud have a combined 10 games’ worth of Major League experience. Stanton has been unspeakably awesome for almost three full seasons. And Stanton’s younger than both Harvey and d’Arnaud, and only six months older than Wheeler.