Category Archives: Travel

Stories From My Ballpark Tour on the Section925 Podcast

A big segment of my cross country road trip has been visiting America’s baseball stadiums. I started hitting up some ballparks before the road trip and kept it going throughout the drive.  I made a guest appearance on Bay Area sports blog Section925’s wonderful podcast to talk about everything from stadium layout and  beer selection to pre-game options and expert tips. Peep the link below to hear me and the impeccable Connor Buestad break down my tour of 9 baseball games in 8 cities across America.

Spinelli

Section 925 Podcast #35 – Spinelli Tours America’s Ballparks

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On The Road Pt. 1

This is it. A cross country trip from New York to San Francisco….with a bit of an unconventional path. A shot down the East coast to Atlanta, before embarking on the road to the West. This has always been a dream for me…To see America while traversing it’s roads. To experience the unique culture of different parts of the country and see what characters i encounter, what experiences mark the journey and ultimately to see how much of it all i can affect by choosing when and where to go.

Look…I loved New York. It was non-stop fun, for real. There’s a lot about it that i’ll miss. But when i searched the depths of my soul, my heart and my head, my instincts told me to go traveling and get back to California. It made sense, after all, it IS home. Furthermore, the people that are nearest and dearest to me in this life are there…many of them are just around the corner or down the street 🙂 I’ve always said that i never wanted to leave California and now i’m coming back to her. And so the journey begins…

New York gave me the biggest middle finger on my way out. She poured rain on me as i tried to pack and ship boxes. I was battered, my body was achy, but on Thursday morning (more like 2 pm, lol) i hit the road. My first destination was to be the Charlotte, NC area where some family friends from Brazil live. But something happened as i was cruising the new York City city streets and trying to find my way to the highway. An impulse. I noticed there was a double header in Baltimore between the Orioles and Pirates. After not thinking for too long, i laughed and said out loud: “I’m going to Baltimore!” And i did. I went to Camden Yards for the first time and loved it. But more than the baseball game, my favorite part of it all was the impulse and acting on it. This is the essence of the life on the road that i’ve chosen for the foreseeable future. The freedom to make decisions on a whim and act on them. It’s a good feeling and one that’s been inspiring me every day so far. It’s these types of decisions that shape the road trip and make it unique:

It’s driving for 3 hours after the ballgame to get as far into Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley as possible before the evening ends and staying in a redneck town.

It’s a random sunset with lifelong friends in Davidson, North Carolina (the house that Steph Curry built!) that makes you feel like you’re truly seeing the country.

It’s cracking a bottle of wine you’ve had cellared for 3 years with Fernando while watching Damian Lillard hit a buzzer beating 3-pointer to clinch a series for the Blazers over the Rockets.

It’s waking up to a simple Brazilian breakfast, while your friends’ daughter runs around the house laughing.

It’s seeing your Italian cousins outside of Atlanta for the first time since you met them in Italy 7 years ago.

It’s taking your cousin to her first baseball game and doing the Tomahawk Chop with the Braves fans.

It’s staying up til 2am watching the Mayweather fight (that you bootlegged) with Domenico.

It’s feeling emotional pain when you leave your family behind for the road ahead because they were so welcoming and you want them in your life forever.

It’s almost running out of gas in the middle of nowhere in Alabama.

It’s deciding to go to New Orleans for 2 days instead of one and switching the vibe of the whole trip. (for the better!)

And that’s where i am right now. Inspired. For every single one of the 1463 miles i’ve driven so far. The conversations i’ve had with family and friends up to this point have shaped my outlook on the life i’m living and the world in front of me. I KNOW i’m on the right path and believe it or not, after talking to some travelers at a cafe this morning in New Orleans, my path is a modest one…hearing their stories of hitchhiking and taking boats to Africa put my trek into perspective. We’re all on a path to somewhere, some of them are just windier than others. One love.

Spinelli

Listen (and subscribe) to the running road trip soundtrack on Spotify:

Some photos:

The stormy Baltimore sky during a rain delay in the game.
The stormy Baltimore sky during a rain delay in the game.
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Another view of the North Carolina sunset
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Fernando and Manuella.
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Awesome view at Turner Field from behind the bullpen.
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Me, Domenico and Richelle shortly before i took off.
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The first image i took in New Orleans upon arrival.
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Oysters and rye whiskey. Sure.

 

And follow the journey on Twitter and Instagram too! @Spinelli37 

Playlist for a Trip Around The World…

So after a month of globetrottin’, I’m back at home in SF. My body made it just long enough to get me back and then promptly broke down. But it was 100% worth it.  Another trip around the world down with the memories to prove it. I couldn’t have kept the energy alive without the tunes I bumped everyday. I usually jot down a short playlist at the end of every post of whatever i’ve been listening to at the time, but I wanted to pay homage to the tracks that comprised the soundtrack of my trip. Each one of these evokes the noastalgia of moments on this trip.  So check em out, listen, discover and enjoy!

Futebol – Brazilian Soccer

So I had the pleasure of going to see my favorite Brazilian league team since childhood, Corinthians play a game on Sunday. My buddy Fernando and I went to stadium famously know as ‘Pacaembu’ named after the part of town its in. Here’s a shot of the stadium facade:

Fernando and I have been friends for a long time. He’s worked with my Dad for damn near a decade and everytime I come to Brazil we historically hit the town as hard as possible, ‘cept ‘Nando’s had to tone it down a bit since getting married and having a kid, i was in Brazil for the wedding 4 years ago and it was epic… But the days of us pre-gaming with vodka, smirnoff ice and beer at the gas station before hitting the club are gone (It’s very common in Brazil to pre-funk while parked at the gas stations that sell all sorts of booze). Now, I’m simply stoked to pry him away from the family for a Sunday of Futebol do Corinthians! Both of our favorite team. There’s a slew of beer vendors with styrofoam coolers outside of the stadium (all totally illegal of course) and we had a few rounds before the game:

Soccer in Brazil took a turn for the worst near the start of the new millenium. Rioting was happening way too often at major games and organized cheer sections were ordered to disband for the role they played in these deadly riots. Corinthians is the only team whose primary cheer section, Gavioes da Fiel (translates into ‘Faithful Hawks’), was allowed to remain organized, since they doubled as a major National samba school. It’s pretty sweet, cause the samba crews are in the stands at the game and the fans just go crazy when they hear the drums and the team songs. Everyone sings along and everyone knows all the words. I rememeber the team anthem and the simple chants, but you pick the other ones up pretty easily, we’re not talking a complex opus here 🙂

It was a hot sunny Sunday and Corinthinas were playing lowly Linense from the inner part of the state of Sao Paulo. Corinthinas is based in the heart of the city of Sao Paulo and is one of 3 major teams based out of here. They’re really like the Raiders of the Brazilian league. They play tough, physical soccer and have a notorious reputation for doing so, as do their fans. Brazilian soccer by nature is very physical and gritty. Unlike the super technical and precise English Premier league, the Brazilian style features HARD fouls (a lot of em), lots of flopping and just flat out agressive soccer.

The first half ended in a 0-0 draw and i told myself that i’d be pretty pissed if i left the stadium and the team i grew to love as a kid, that i hadn’t seen in person in I dont know how long, drew against a crappy squad like Linense. 30 minutes into the 2nd half, there was still no score and I was getting nervous, but 5 minutes later, Corinthians striker Emerson absolutely blasted a shot from the right side just outside the box that ended the draw, 1-0 Corinthians and the crowd went totally nuts:

The chant is “Timao-aaaaooooo! Eh-Oh! Timao-aaaaooo! Eh-Oh!!” Which means “Best team” or “Biggest team” or “Our team”… In Portuguese, one word or one conjugation can have many meanings.

The game was pretty badass and thats how it ended, 1 X 0 for Corinthians. As we filed out of the stadium, a big sign reading “Cultura de Paz” (“Culture of Peace”) was boldly imprinted on the rafters for all to see as they leave. This is another indicator of the reformation of the hooliganism of old in Futebol:

One final reminder to keep the peace and not fight with each other as you leave. The police force is pretty stacked at the game, you can see some of them along the track in the video. The visiting team had a small section across the stadium from where we were and theres a dedicated force standing along their section as well.

As we left and got near the car, the day wasn’t complete without stopping for some local street food. Today’s fix, a Brazilian style pulled pork sandwich and a Guarana (Brazilian soda…it rules). This felt just like grabbing a Mission/Downtown LA famous bacon wrapped hot dog and i couldn’t resist taking the classic bacon wrapped hot dog photo with the sando:

And that’s how we do a day of Futebol no Brasil! Tchau pra todos!

Spinelli

Playlist:

Criolo – No na Orelha

Future Islands – In Evening Air

Grieves – Together/Apart

Pretty Lights – After Midnight LIVE Mix

White Denim – D

James Blake – James Blake

Gardens & Villa – Gardens & Villa

Grizzly Bear – Veckatimest

Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Show Your Bones

The Search for Edno de Souza…

I’ve been in Brazil for about 10 days. It’s been great thus far. It took around 4 days to get over the jet lag from South Korea; it was no joke, i couldnt keep my eyes open at like 6pm and was literally falling asleep while standing up.  A weekend trip to the beach was the perfect de-compression and I’ve been lounging in Sao Paulo (my Dad lives in Sao Bernado do Campo, about 30 minutes away from the main city center, towards the coast). I’ve got a car and local cellphone at my disposal and it’s been key to hit up the city whenever I want.

Driving in Sao Paulo is always an adventure, especially since my Accord in SF is an automatic. Suffice it to say, I’ve been catching up on my stick shift skills. It’s raining cats and dogs here on the regular and i was basically thrown out there for the sharks with the car. It was either ‘remember how to drive a stick pretty damn quick, or you’re gonna crash.’ I laughed out loud to myself in the car a few times about how crazy the driving is out here and how close i was coming to running into shit…But i didn’t, ha!

I met my grandfather for lunch yesterday and to my surprise, my Uncle Alex and cousin Anna Luiza were there too. It made me super happy to see more family:

My grandfather (Nonno, in Italian) is my favorite person in the world. Nonno is 82 and as healthy as can be. I came to Brazil for his 80th birthday two years ago and not only did he celebrate his bday, but also his marriage to a lovely lady 20 years younger than him. (My grandmother passed away 32 years ago and we were all happy that Nonno found someone to spend the later years of his life with). Giuseppe Spinelli moved from Italy to Brazil when he was 17, met my grandmother and had 4 boys, who all built their own families thereafter in Sao Paulo (My Dad is the oldest of the four.)

At any rate, seeing my family was a huge part of why I wanted to come to Brazil after my trip to Korea. But I must admit, as I enter what I hope to be my final career transition and seeing as my Dad will be gone all of next week on business, I wanted to take this opportunity to network and meet people in the Brazilian sport industry. I wish I could experience the complete immersion in the industry that I went through in Korea, but that’s a longshot at best. What I’m left with is my own research, exisiting connections that could lead to others and people my family could point me to.

I’ve got a meeting setup with a sports writer for a major daily newspaper in Sao Paulo next Tuesday in hopes of learning more about the exisiting infrastructure in Brazil for the 2014 World Cup and understanding more about the role that other countries (USA, for one) and their businesses are playing in Brazil right now. On Weds or Thurs, I’ll be heading to a city called Vinhedo where an old family friend, Harry Hull lives. I’ll be meeting with one of Harry’s close friends who has a lot of ties to International soccer here in Brazil.

Ok, I know what you’re thinking: Who the hell is Edno de Souza??? Through some research over the past few months, I’ve learned that the Tampa Bay Rays have plans to build a baseball academy in a small city in the state of Sao Paulo called Marilia. This would be the first time that a Major League Baseball team establishes a bonafide presence in Brazil. This is a really big deal for Brazil and my expectation is that over the years, Brazil could be exporting the kind of talent into baseball that countries like Columbia and Venezuela have. Edno de Souza, is Tampa’s number one guy on the ground in Brazil and all of South America. Nothing happens in the Marilia project without Edno overseeing it all. Here’s a great, albeit older piece on the Rays’ efforts to cultivate Brazilian baseball players through the academy in Marilia.

Here’s the catch (no pun): I can’t find contact information for Edno de Souza anywhere… there’s a LinkedIn account with 1 connection (clearly dormant), I’ve sent e-mails to the city of Marilia, the Marilia newspaper, the Tampa Bay Rays, etc… and I just can’t track this guy down. Heck, I’m starting to feel like Nicolas Cage’s Charlie Kaufmman, chasing down Meryl Streep’s Susan Orlean in ‘Adaptation’. I’m fascinated by the idea of a major league baseball team coming to Brazil. In researching, i’ve found that Brazil’s baseball scene is much bigger than I would’ve ever imagined. There are actual leagues operating here out of smaller cities, largely in the state of Sao Paulo and MLB International makes its presence felt via occassional clinics.

While finding de Souza might represent a sort of holy grail for me while i’m out here, the path i take in looking for him is inadvertently teaching me more about baseball in Brazil. (In fact, while grabbing links for this post, I’ve already found some new leads on Edno). My career goals are all over the map, literally. I love San Francisco, want to be there for a long time, but being based out of California and have the ability to travel to Brazil regularly for a sport organization is my dream. We’ll see what happens next week…..

Spinelli

Play List:

Seu Jorge – The Life Aquatic Studio Sessions – SJ’s covers of David Bowie tracks in Portuguese

My Bloody Valentine – Loveless – A timeless album. This is ‘Soon’

Zero 7 – Simple Things – The first and still their best album.

Criolo – No Na Orelha – New Brazilian artist i added to the arsenal. Check it: ‘Nao Existe Amor em SP’

Median – The Sender

Atlas Sound – Parallax

Atlas Sound – Logos

Givers –  In Light

LCD Sundsystem – LCD Soundsystem

LCD Soundsystem – Sound of Silver

Ulrich Schnauss – A Strangely Isolated Place

Geographer – Animal Shapes – Coming to a Mike Torres bday party near you….

Gold Panda – Lucky Shiner – Another fine Ghostly International artist

No Age – Everything in Between

The Art of Brazilian BBQ (Churrasco)

So I spent the weekend at the Spinelli family beach hideaway in the Riviera de Sao Lourenco in the northern part of the state of Sao Paulo. We’ve been going there for the better part of the last decade and my Pops has been building a new house up there. We’ve had a sweet little 3 bedroom spot for some years now and the outside area looks like this:

At any rate, there’s nothing to top off a day at the beach quite like coming back and having a big bbq, Brazilian style. I’ve gone all out and done a Brazilian bbq in California a couple of times: The ever jolly Dallas Byelery’s 29th bday in Redondo Beach and the France vs. Brazil match from the 2006 World Cup at my old pad in Goleta (let’s not talk about what happened in that match,  but we’ll just say the food stole the show). And lately, i usually make Brazilian style marinaded wings for football game tailgates.  Follow along and i’ll drop some knowledge on the Art of Brazilian bbq (Churrasco):

1) It’s good to have many different cuts of meat:

In this spread, you’ve got 2 different ribeye cuts, linguica (brazilian sausage, not the smoked portuguese one common in america), seasoned chicken wings and the ham shaped roast is Picanha, the most traditional Brazilian cut. I’ve seen it translated into everything from rump roast to top sirloin, but the way its butchered in Brazil is unique. It’s seasoned, like most meats are for Churrasco in rock salt and ONLY rock salt. It locks in the moisture and keeps the meat super juicy and delicious.

2) Make sure you’ve got a legit barbecue with wood coals:

This particular one is a rack stlye cooker. it’s also common to have bricks with holes lining the back wall to accomodate large skewers with a single roast on each one. You’ll see this at a Fogo de Chao anywhere in the US, or at Espetus in SF. Here, you have the linguica and the chicken wings cooking over a hot open flame.

3) One word: Caipirinha. The most traditional Brazilian drink is made with pinga (also called cachaca or aguardente), which is distilled from sugar cane, muddled together with sugar and lime, that’s it. Here’s a saucy little pitcher i whipped up:

Caipirnhas and beer are complementary products. Once you’ve run out of lime or got too lazy to get up and make more, just start slugging beer. It’s awesome.

4) Lots of side dishes:

Here’s my stepmom stirring a mushroom risotto:

She also made farofa, which is made with corn or mandioc flour cooked with oil, bacon, onion, eggs, carrots and anything else you can slip in there. You dip the meat in it, eat it with bread. It’s very versatile and 100% delicious:

I put together my signature vinaigrette: Onions, tomatoes, olive oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, oregano and my special touch, pickled mushrooms:

This stuff helps wash everything down. We eat a lot of bread with churrasco too and topping bread off with the vinaigrette is clutch. Salads and crisp veggies are always a part of the equation as well.

Here’s the spread before the final meat is done:

5) Finally, there is the meat. Here’s the picanha being cooked:

Next, Pops slicing the roast:

And here’s the finished product on my plate after a final brush with rock salt and 30 seconds on the grill:

Looks good, huh? And wait, what’s that? You’re still hungry after all of that? Ok, throw more on:

Not bad, huh? Ok, I made myself hungry re-hashing all of this so i apologize for doing it to you as well.  If you’re wondering , here’s what a real Brazilian (who did absolutely nothing to put this together, but we still love her) thought of the fare:

Until next time, I’ll be on the treadmill.

Spinelli

Playlist:

Passion Pit – Manners

Pavement – Slanted and Enchated

Jorge Ben Jor – Negro e Lindo (Here’s my favorite jam off one of this Brazilian master’s many albums; written about Muhammad Ali)

Metronomy – The English Riviera (if you like Destroyer, you’ll love these guys. This is ‘The Bay’)

Cut Copy – In Ghost Colors

Holy Ghost! – Holy Ghost! (I cant stop listening to this)

Death Cab for Cutie – Narrow Stairs (Their headlining set at treasure Island really opened my eyes to this fantastic album. This one kills it)

Real Estate – Days

New Order – Ceremony (My Dad loves this and so do I…Here’s a classic)

Caribou – Swim

Hot Chip – Made in the Dark

People Watching in Dubai

I’m about halfway through my 5 hour layover in Dubai and i’m posted up on a cushioned one seater at a starbucks; sipping green tea and watching the thousanda of people in transit walking by. I’d upload a pic of my vantage point, but the wifi here is terrible. You’d think a country with an infrastructure this rich, would have a stable connection to the internet at the airport, but alas, that is not the case. With that, all i’m left with to describe this scene is words…

This is the first time i’ve touched down on middle eastern soil and it’s been quite a culture shock. Way more so than in Korea. For starters, the main strip of the departure terminal is a seemingly endless Duty Free shopping center. Every name brand you can think of is represented here. It’s clear that i’m in an arab nation, as all signs are both in english and arabic. Many arab women are fully covered, exposing only their facial features. Next to the bathrooms, are ‘prayer rooms’ and periodically, an islamic prayer chant can be heard over the PA.

Not to be lost, however, is how multinational the people in this airport are. Every step i take, i hear a new language. There are arabs, africans, europeans, americans, asians… All of many varieties. I’ve been chatting with a guy from South Africa who builds golf courses in China… It makes me wonder what’s beyond the walls of the airport? Is this a microcosm for the cultural representation of the city or is everyone just trying to make the most out of their layover just like me?

In just under 3 hours, i’ll be on my way to Brazil. Havent been back “home” in 2 years. But right now, i cant stop thinking about Seoul. As soon as i left the city and got on the express train from Seoul station to Incheon airport, i started to feel the uncomfortably familiar feeling of nostalgia and longing that i’ve come to know when travelling alone. It must’ve been bottled up as i experienced Seoul with 25 classmates. But this is the emotion you feel when you’re in a transition period. You put what youve just experienced into perspective and realize how lucky you are to have been there. You miss the people you were with and you think about the next phase of your journey and do what you can to calm the anxiety. And i’ve been here before…i remember this feeling… When you’re somehere youve never been before and you ponder what a massive planet this is. Here it goes again…….

AS

Playlist

Pretty Lights – Taking Up Your Precious Time (was on repeat the entire 10 hr flight from Seoul…lulled me to sleep and brought me back to consciousness)
The Orb – The Orb’s Adventures Beyong the Ultraworld