Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Oct 29 (Day 302) - 6 year anniversary with Sonia today! A story of baseball and how we met.

I didn't do a whole hell-of-a-lot of exciting stuff today, so I'll take a step back from biking and birding for a day to give you a bit of a personal look into my life with Sonia. I did ride 79 miles to reach Brawley today. Tomorrow I am going to ride 15 miles to El Centro. This will function as an off day after 3 hard days of riding. Friday I'll go ~65 miles to Yuma. There is supposed to be some big west wind (15-20 MPH) on Saturday, so I hope to use this to put down 100+ east to Gila Bend. 

As most of you know tonight is Game 7 of the World Series between the Kansas City Royals (Yeah!) and the San Francisco Giants (Boo!). Many of you know that I am a huge baseball fan, but few of you know what a huge role baseball played in how Sonia and I met. I will take a few hopefully informative and humorous moments to fill everyone in. Note, there are 2 versions of this story: mine and Sonia's. Her version might appear as a complement to this one sometime in the future. My tale will take a few minutes to spin, so grab a beer (or a coffee if its before noon), and settle in.

I am a huge sports fan. I follow the Philadelphia Flyers, Phillies, Eagles, and even the Sixers religiously. The Phillies won the World Series in 1980, and the Sixers won the NBA Title in 1983. As I was born in 1978, I was clearly not old enough to appreciate either of these triumphs. Over the next 20+ years, despite my best efforts to will my hometown teams to victory, a long championship drought struck the City of Brotherly Love. It was tough, but I stuck with my teams through it. I knew, one day, one of the teams would finally take care of business and bring the city its first professional championship in decades.

Fast forward to 2001. I had just graduated from Stanford and moved to Boston. Being from Philly, I despised and all any sports teams from New York, and, being a true baseball fan, there was no team I hated more than New York Yankees. I had to watch the Yankees win 4 World Series titles in the 5 years from 1996 to 2000. The New York Yankees biggest rival has been, is, and always will be the Boston Red Sox who, until 2004, 2007, and 2013, were the lovable losers and foils to the winning Yankees. Despite their history of miscues, I knew the Red Sox had an incredibly loyal fan base. This resonated with my own loyalty to my Philly teams. As a result I decided I would start rooting for the Red Sox just so I could fight with Mets AND Yankees fans! I spent the years of 2001- 2004 in Boston cultivating my newfound relationship with the Red Sox.

Jump to 2008. I was living at 14th and 1st in the East Village in New York City while I worked on my PhD at NYU (I started in in Sept 2004). Coincidently, there was a fantastic Red Sox theme bar right around the corner form my pad. Professor Thom's was my literal home when I was not in my lab. I was like Norm from "Cheers"! In fact, I am sure I spent more time at the bar than at my apartment. As a broke graduate student, I had neither television or air conditioning in my basement studio apartment (thankfully, landlords must provide heat in NYC). Coincidently, the bar had both of these in addition to a copious supply of beer and other spirits. I am sure what money I saved by dispensing with TV and air conditioning at my apartment ended up in the Professor Thom's till, but that's besides the point. The bar was a great place to watch sports since they actually piped the game sound into the bar. Most places just showed the game on the screen and then blasted bad/moronic top 40 through the bar.

Professor Thom's at 13th and 2nd in NYC
Yes, those are the "Lost" numbers

In October of 2008, the Philadelphia Phillies had made it all the way to the World Series where they were matched against the AL Champs, the Tampa Bay Rays. With the Red Sox eliminated by these same Rays in the ALCS, Professor Thom's had been taken over by Phillies fans hoping that the team could end the long, painful, Philadelphia championship drought. The Phillies took a 3-1 lead in games going into Game 5 on October 27. The weather deteriorated during this 5th contest and forced the suspension of play after the top of the 6th inning. This was the first time a World Series game had ever been suspended midway, and the decision to do this probably changed the course of my life for ever. Rain continued to fall on the 28th, and play was resumed on the 29th.

On that fateful night I assumed my usual seat at the Professor Thom's bar. Excitement was running high, and beers were being consumed at a furious pace. After all, I did not have a 5-inning lead up since play was resumed in the bottom of the 6th inning. At some point, into the bar walked Sonia. Being a big baseball fan herself, she wanted to watch what she correctly thought would be the conclusion of the series. She had planned to watch it at home, but one of her roommates had already staked claim on the TV for the evening. As a casual patron at Thom's, she knew the bar would have the game (with sound!) showing. We eventually ended up next to one another talking baseball and life in New York. As it was rather loud in the bar, and I was rather drunk, it took me a few tries to get her name right. At first I thought is was Silvia, then Sophia, and finally Sonia. I guess I was just that good looking that she was willing to forgive these slips.

I will confess that the details her are a bit fuzzy since Mike, the bartender and lifelong Phillies fan, was "forcing" shots into me every time the Phillies recorded an out on the Rays. Sonia seemed to know quite a bit about baseball, and when we moved onto hockey talk, I realized she was almost as much of a sports nut as I was. I thought she was really attractive, but apparently I wasn't the only one. There was another guy, Ray, sitting next to us who had been periodically chiming into the conversation. I think he was also interested in Sonia, so I had to start scheming to shed this chump. I didn't want to break out my "A game" on Sonia with some other dude watching. I had worked hard to perfect my patented, secret moves, so when Sonia got up to go the the bathroom, I had my chance to take care of the situation. I turned to Ray and said, "Look man, I think I have a good foot in the door here. How 'bout I buy you a beer and you go sit over there and give us a few minutes?" I am not sure what it says about him (or Sonia!) that he was willing to give up the chase in favor of a $2 Bud Light, but I guess you gotta know when to hold 'em and know when to fold 'em!

Once I shed the dead weight that was Ray, I was in top form. Every joke landed with pinpoint accuracy and corresponding laughter from Sonia/Sophia/Silvia. It turns out she had been living in Boston for the previous few years where she had become a big Red Sox fan. Nice! Something else we had in common! The conversation built nicely, but got tabled as the Phillies sealed the deal to win the series. I was temporarily distracted by the celebration, but I managed to keep on eye on Sonia through the high-fiving and shots. At some point I retired out front to have a celebratory cigarette. During this time Sonia had gathered up her stuff and started out of the bar. She passed me out front as I was having my smoke. She explained she was tired and needed to head home for the night. We exchanged a few more pleasantries before we said goodnight and she walked up the street (she lived right around the corner). I had had a nice time with her, but I wasn't exact sure how to proceed. I had hoped to get her number in the bar, but since as I was distracted by the end of the game I wasn't able to do this before she left. 

Our outfits at Red Sox games.
We moved back to Boston together in 2011.

I knew there was a Kentucky Fried Chicken on the corner where she was headed. I put out my smoke and set off to kill two birds with one stone. I caught up to Sonia on the street and got her attention. I told her through a Budweiser-induced slur that I had had a good time and asked if she would give me her phone number so I could call her. What happened next was like that scene from Good Will Hunting when Minnie Driver had her number written on a napkin all ready to give to Matt Damon. She handed it right over, and I promised to call her in a few days. Booyah! I told here I was going to go to Philadelphia for the parade but would call her in 3 (THREE, TRES) days when I returned. We finally said goodbye, and I rolled into KFC to chow down before returning to the bar for a few more hours. I did call her when I got back from Philly 3 days later. She always insists it was a week later. Rubbish.

Clearly, things built nicely from that night, and 6 years later we are still together. We actually discovered that, unbeknownst to either of us at the time, we lived about 6 blocks from one another in Boston (actually Cambridge) from 2002-2004. She even worked out a restaurant/bar, Grafton Street, where I went every once in a while. It took until 2008 when our lives finally intersected at a Boston Red Sox Theme Bar in New York City! Crazy!

"I got her numbah, how 'bout dem apples!"
The most incredible part of this story might be
the fact that this scene was shot in a Harvard Square
Dunkin' Donuts that was later converted to 
Grafton Street, the bar where Sonia worked!

Besides sports, Sonia and I share a huge interest in the outdoors. I am not so sure what she thought of the whole birdwatching thing when she meet met, but she has since taken a moderately strong interest in birds. The first time I took her birding in Central Park we saw a Red-tailed hawk kill a pigeon right in front of us and a group of ~25 Northern shovelers turning circles as they foraged together. I think she understood right on that first day what it was about birds that I loved so much. I will say that I have never coming closer to killing anyone than when she saw, and I missed, what was supposed to be my lifer Kentucky warbler - also in Central Park. She rubbed that in until I finally got my lifer Kentucky this year! It is great to have a partner who is so supportive of this crazy interest. She encouraged me to take the leap to get on the bike this year, and she has been a tremendous source of support this entire year. Its been 6 great years, and I expect many more moving forward. I guess I've already found the best bird out there! 


  1. Eurasian Hobby, bro. Sack up and turn the bike north.

  2. Great story. Thanks for sharing. Any chance you might hit Lake Havasu to try for Nutting's Flycatcher?

  3. Happy anniversary to you two lovebirds!

  4. And tomorrow's blog should be Sony's version :) just sayin. Was good to see you for a bit when you were here. Hop the remainder of your big year is a grand success!