Salvatore Pane

Month: January, 2013


Let me take you back to 1999. It was a pivotal year in my sports fandom. Dan Marino, my all-time favorite football player and the unquestioned leader of my beloved Miami Dolphins, played his final game. The NBA lockout was drawing to a close, but not without affecting my enthusiasm for the game. My love affair with the NBA, and more specifically, the New York Knicks, began five years earlier when Patrick Ewing led the team to the Finals. Battle-tested warriors like John Starks and Charles Oakley lost out to Hakeem Olajuwon and the Houston Rockets while Michael Jordan hammed it up in Birmingham playing minor league baseball. I was ten years old and still vividly remember where I was when we lost the title. My mother had taken me to a pool party one of her co-workers was throwing, and I sat dry and upset in the living room watching the game unfold with the co-worker’s husband. We sat quietly, and the man only made a comment when Ewing, or more frequently Olajuwon, threw down a thunderous dunk. At halftime, my mom drove me home, and I watched the Knicks wilt. Something about the way they so utterly choked–I need not mention John Starks’ disastrous performance–endeared the Knicks to me more than any title ever could. Like Spider-Man, my favorite superhero, the Knicks could lose and even be embarrassed. This was no dynasty, and over the next five years I watched them choke again and again, tormented by Reggie Miller, Pat Riley, and then the Supreme Evil One, Michael Jordan, returned from the baseball fields of mediocrity to again torment Patrick Ewing, the college foe he’d dispatched in the NCAA title game a decade earlier.

After Jordan’s second of three retirements, it became clear that we’d reached this iteration of the Knicks’ final chance for glory. By the time I prepared to enter high school, Patrick Ewing was on the slow slide to forty and could barely dunk, Larry Johnson’s stats had regressed every season since his rookie year, and Allan Houston was about to endure a series of career shortening injuries. Even Jeff Van Gundy, my favorite Knicks coach, was about to be kicked out of Madison Square Garden forever. The window for the Knicks to get a title was about to slam shut, and what I didn’t know at the time was that both the Knicks and Dolphins were about to begin a decade of irrelevance. The days of watching Knick game after Knick game on the MSG network were about to come to a sudden stop.

If you don’t know the history, here’s what happened: the Knicks barely made the ’99 playoffs. After a series of unexpected wins against longtime rivals, the Heat and Pacers, the team lost to the Spurs in the Finals in an eerie callback to the ’94 series John Starks no-showed. Dan Marino retired. Patrick Ewing left New York. I entered high school and adopted a pretentious too cool for sports mentality I awkwardly cultivated deep into college. I found my way back to basketball through March Madness years later, but it wasn’t till Amar’e Stoudemire signed with the Knicks in the summer of 2010 when I really began following the team night in and night out again

All of this preamble exists so I can tell you this: last week I purchased NBA 2k on Sega Dreamcast for 99 cents. In it, the Knicks are how they exist in my sepia-toned memories. Patrick Ewing! Larry Johnson! Latrell Sprewell! Allan Houston! Charlie Ward! Marcus Camby! Kurt Thomas! I can replay the ’99 playoffs and fix things once and for all. I WILL LIVEBLOG MY JOURNEY INTO THE HEART OF THE DIGITAL PLAYOFFS, AND THEN AND ONLY THEN WILL I BECOME A REAL PERSON.

Over the next few weeks (months?), I’m going to be chronicling my run through the ’99 playoffs. I’ll also be livestreaming all future games on my ustream channel. Unfortunately, NBA 2k doesn’t allow you to select which teams make the playoffs, so what you see below is the playoff picture the computer dealt to me. One game in, and the Knicks have annihilated the Scottie Pippen-less Bulls to take a 1-0 lead. Purists take note, I have updated the ’99 best of five round one format to the best of seven round one the NBA currently uses today. Please forgive me.

Please, please forgive me.

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Edward James Olmos and the Next Big Thing


Cathy Day recently tagged me in The Next Big Thing, a series of blog entries where writers across the genres interview themselves and promote their books. Basically, I answered a bunch of e-mail chain questions. It’s come to this. Expect interviews from Tyler Gobble and Jay Varner next week.

What is the title of your novel?

Last Call in the City of Bridges.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

On one level, the book is about how modern twenty-somethings mediate loneliness by turning to virtual friends on Facebook and Twitter instead of seeking comfort from physical, flesh and blood people. I was living in Pittsburgh when I started writing the book—this was in the summer of 2009—and the majority of my friends suddenly and en masse moved away. We tried to keep in touch via Facebook, but I quickly found myself feeling more depressed as I “liked” their photos and made comments on their links. I don’t think I’m alone in this feeling.

What genre does your book fall under?

Literary fiction? Humor? Coming of age? Pop culture? Maybe wacky literary pop culture infused coming of age fiction?

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

You know Edward James Olmos? The dude who played Admiral Adama in Battlestar Galactica? The sixty-five year old actor made famous in Stand and Deliver and Selena? I have this weird fantasy for a film version of Last Call where Olmos plays every character kind of like the barbershop scene in Coming to America, or more accurately, Eddie Murphy’s less successful venture, The Nutty Professor 2: The Klumps. Olmos plays nerdy twenty-something protagonist Michael Bishop. Olmos in drag plays love interest/pastor’s daughter Ivy Chase. Olmos plays Michael’s dead best friend from high school. Olmos plays everybody. The soundtrack is completely culled from Busta Rhymes’ 1999 sci-fi epic Extinction Level Event: The Final World Front. I would definitely watch that if somebody made it.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?


Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

The novel was published by Braddock Avenue Books, a fantastic independent press based out of Pittsburgh. It’s headed up by Jeff Condran and Robert Peluso, both amazing writers in their own right. My work is represented by Jenni Ferrari-Adler of the Union Literary Agency. She’s a great editor, and she’s been an absolute pleasure to work with.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

I completed a “draft” of Last Call in about four months, but it was missing major characters and what eventually became the ending. It couldn’t be more different, and it took me about three years of editing for the book to become what it is now.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Man, this is ridiculous. Because if I say, “this book is a lot like The Great Gatsby,” I come off as a total douchebag. Instead, I think I’ll list some books that inspired Last Call: Goodbye, Columbus by Philip Roth, The Rachel Papers by Martin Amis, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh by Michael Chabon, and anything and everything Lorrie Moore has ever done.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Kanye West. A$AP Rocky. Patrick Ewing. Spider-Man. Spider-Ham. Spider-Man 2099. Spider-Ham 2099. The world in Super Mario Bros. 3 where everything is really big. All the levels in Super Mario Bros. 3 where Mario gets to ride around in a giant green boot.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Look. I’m the worst at trying to convince people to read my stuff. For a brief, terrifying couple of days I thought You Better Fucking Read This: A Novel was a good title for the book. So I don’t know. If you want to read a book about the internet, sex, booze, classic Nintendo games, relationships, Obama, Pittsburgh, Kanye West, religion, death, and finding your way in the world, this might be a book you enjoy.

Jeffrey Condran on The Next Big Thing

In September of 2001, I was teaching at La Roche College. They sponsored a scholarship program called Pacem in Terris that brought students from ‘conflict and post-conflict nations’ to study in the United States. The very first course I taught there had roughly 20 students. Only one was American. The rest of the class came from Rwanda or Kosovo or from nations all over the Middle East. Going into the classroom to teach on September 12th and in the days and months that followed –years, really – was a life changing experience. My students’ shock and fear, the way they suddenly had to reassess their feelings about America and Americans, and they way their lives and characters would be tested during the rest of their time here – to suddenly be thought of as the enemy in a country for which most had developed true affection – were experiences about which I felt compelled to write.

–Jeffrey Condran on The Next Big Thing

Carmelo Anthony Doesn’t Know How To Dress Himself: Part 7 Of An Ongoing Series

melo bus

Kevin Garnett sucks.