It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.

Really, in a nutshell, that sums up last weekend for me. Yes, that’s right, I said weekend. This was that rare personal trip for me, which means a) It’s not company sponsored so, b) I’m trying to make like Rachel Ray and do it all for about $40/day. I’m serious. I spent all of my little spending money in Las Vegas earlier in the week going way over my self-imposed budget even though I avoided the Strip like the plague. This would be fun though. As I got my ticket 2 hours before departure, I thought to myself, “I can swing it…somehow.”

It was the kind of ill-advised, poorly conceived and meagerly financed last minute excursion that I made many times back in college. Flying business class, staying in nice hotels, and five-star restaurants has spoiled me. I had to take it back. How far we gonna go back? It was to be a red-eye flight-in town for 36 hours-all over the place-“you did all that?”-sold-out-Yankee-game-let’s go see Sergio-back at work on Monday morning type weekend. It was going to be epic.

My boy picked me up at Newark Liberty International Airport on Saturday morning; we rolled out to a BBQ in West Orange, and then dipped back to the Bronx to re-charge at his spot while figuring out our next move. By no means would this be a relaxing trip. If I wanted to relax, I could’ve stayed home and watched old movies on TBS or something. I was doing really well on my pledge not to spend any money, sipping sangrias and partaking in the plethora of carnivorous selections that came off the grill as well as all of the macaroni and cheese, peach cobbler, green beans that I could handle while having the obligatory Barack, Brett Favre and New York Knicks conversations, and halfway watching a damn good bootleg copy of Hancock on the big screen in the background.

I was so stuffed at about 7pm when we left the barbeque and headed toward the George Washington Bridge in a torrential downpour that I really didn’t need to eat anymore the rest of the night.

Since I know that Westcoast Shortee is going to ask and I don’t want to disappoint, the weekend seemed to have a Latin flavor, starting with breakfast at Las Canastillas on Broad Street in Newark, superb sangrias at the Q, and borinquen at La Fonda Boricua pupusas to scoop up the tender bistec encebollado y juevos con frijoles (grilled strips of steak, topped with grilled onions with eggs and beans) while my boy D and I talked about the Bible, the Koran, bad marriages, and hip-hop’s desperate need for a Harvard educated cat, dressed to the 9’s with pants pulled all the way up, having the melodic flow of Black Thought, the machine gun delivery of metaphors like B.I.G, and the outta-nowhere free-style creativity of Red Man, whose lyrics would speak of shakin’ up the world with one hand wrapped around a degree while the other was wrapped around the neck of the corporate world that he has mastered. You know how it is when you’re catching up with a cat you’ve known since the 7th grade.

After breakfast we headed over to Dream Hair Studio so I wouldn’t be rollin’ around lookin’ like somebody just aching to be featured in a mug shot photo. It was completely inadvertent, but the Dominican cat that lined me up and trimmed the goatee must’ve felt the need to fall in line with the Latin motif of my weekend as he straight-razored me into the spittin’ image of a hot-hitting, pointed side-burn wearing, fleet-footed shortstop from Santo Domingo. I laughed to myself when he handed me the mirror, tearing my eyes away from the TV showing Telemundo’s Saturday afternoon movie with Kevin Costner and Anthony Quinn in “Revenge” just long enough to assess my new do. Maybe I’d get credit for that half of my ethnicity this week.

The best of times it truly was on this day, even though the kitchen was closed when we finally made it to La Fonda Boricua at 12:45 AM. They made a good enough mango mojito to make me forget all about my appetite and it was probably too late to eat anyway. In 12 hours, I’d be sitting inside the house that Ruth built, fulfilling a dream to see a game in this stadium of