Monday, December 14, 2009
It was a stressful weekend of shopping, cleaning, and reorganizing, the nerveracking clink-clink-clink of the chain pulling my little rollercoaster car seemingly straight in the sky. With the Christmas parties of Friday and Saturday night, I could begin to see where the track appeared to end, curving out of sight into a plummet downward. As I cruised home from my grandparents on Sunday night, I felt that brief moment of weightless joy as the climb has ended, just before the pull of gravity snatches you back to Earth. Coming back from a nice visit with my family, I felt a sentimental rush and sensed perhaps for the first time that the holiday season was actually here all around me, no longer an idea in my mind or a series of notes on the calendar. Even though I was in my car alone, speeding down the freeway, I felt that rare, joyous sense of being in the moment.
I think it started on Saturday when we were cleaning out the office, clearing room for Bill Brasky and Sarah to sleep when they arrive this week. I opened the bottom cupboard of my bookcase for the first time in at least two years and began going through old photos and letters. Nothing like sifting through the past to remind you of how far you've come and all the places you've been. I read letters from my friend Adam he sent me while he was in on his mission in Japan and I was away at school. Reading these letters he wrote when he was probably only nineteen, he already had a clear sense of direction and purpose, saying how he wanted to practice law and join the Navy. Ten years later, that's exactly what he's doing today. I found letters from an old girlfriend. It's always amazing to me to see these little time capsules, these expressions of love that was so true at the time, but seems so odd when seen in the context of the present circumstances. I, of course, am happily married. She is married and has a daughter. It's a simple concept, I guess, that people love for a time and then things happen, you move on and find your ultimate happiness with someone else. But it's always amazing to me how it happens. I felt like Ebenezer Scrooge viewing my memories large as life through a pane of snow-frosted glass. One second you are there again and then the window turns dark and you are standing in the cold with a ghost. That sounds much more grim than I mean it to. There was no sadness involved at all. Obviously, things turned out for the best and I wouldn't trade it for the world. My point is just to say how interesting it is how our lives truly are journeys, how what we know to be true today can change so drastically by tomorrow, and what an odd sensation it is to flip open the book of this journey and find yourself a hundred pages back, just like that. It's also fascinating to me how old letters can occur to you as new information. I found one letter from the old girlfriend where I guess we had had a fight and she was apologizing, but standing firm on the her request that had apparently started the whole thing. And what was this request by which I was apparently so offended and opposed? To set aside time for us to go on a date just the two of us...once a month! What nerve!, right? Oy. Don't you just look back at yourself sometimes and just shake your head about what an idiot you were? The solace, of course, comes when you realize you can't know anything without learning it first and that the mistakes of the past have only paved the way for a better future. So Nicole(2), my bride, the next time you trip over one of my many faults, just be thankful you didn't meet me earlier!
I read letters from my mom when she was living in Italy as part of her training. In one letter she referenced where I could stay when I came to visit and some of the things we might do when I was there. I was surprised by this because I don't recall ever entertaining any idea of going to visit, which I am sure I didn't. Who knows, the young punk me probably thought he didn't want to stay with a bunch of priests. I'll give myself a slight break though in that I had never traveled to Europe at that point and barely had money to grab a burger and a beer so the whole idea probably just seemed unreal to me. In every letter from my mom, whether she was telling me about her experiences in Rome or her realization that she was finally in the right place in her life, one phrase common to every letter was to say "write me." I felt my heart sink a little bit, realizing if she kept telling me to write her, it was likely that I had not. As fate would have it, she called me later that day and I was able to apologize for being a self-centered twenty-year-old. Luckily, she had not been holding a grudge.
Perhaps the most meaningful experience of the whole process was reading letters and cards from my late grandmother, on my dad's side. Of course our passed loved ones remain alive in our hearts, but to see her handwriting and hear her words in my head...she was alive again. It was as if I had just pulled these letters not from a dusty box on a shelf, but from the mailbox out front. I laughed as I was reminded how she would go on telling me all about the lives of her old friends or coworkers, people I had and would never meet. I will say, I was more able now to discern the point she was trying to make, but it was more about reliving the little quirks that made my Nana unique. As more of the new information from old letters I referred to earlier, I learned or was reminded that my grandpa on my mom's side had gone to visit her in the hospital before she died. They had probably not seen each other since my parents divorced some seventeen years before so this gesture really choked me up for a moment. This was a feeling that would carry over to my visit on Sunday and have my heart feeling so full on the drive home Sunday night.
It's the sensation of looking at people you've loved and held on a pedastal for so many years and suddenly, amazingly, you see them in a new light and you realize you love them even more than you thought you did.
I had a really nice visit while I was down there, my last chance before Christmas. I felt like I was able to not only enjoy the company of my family, but also to express to them how much I loved them, if only by being fully present and staying as long as I could. After spending so much time on Saturday revisiting the past and its inevitable regrets, I appreciated the present all the more. In the moment--it's a great place to be. No idea how to get to it, nor how to stay, but you sure know it when you are there.
This is what the holidays are all about for me, a reaffirmation of all that is good in life, the people that are most important, and all the ways in which I am blessed. Okay, that and egg nog. And mulled wine. And cookies and other sweet indulgences. So to recap, that's a egg nog, mulled wine, cookies, various other sweet indulgences, and a reaffirmation of all that is good in life. Done and done.
Now the coaster begins to point downward and the ride really begins. Bill Brasky arrives tomorrow night. Hanging with the guys all week leading up to Kissen's wedding on Saturday. Disneyland(!) Sunday. Off to Denver on Tuesday. Ice skating, gift wrapping, dogsledding, stew-cooking, family, family, family. It's Christmas at last! This is me, arms in the air, ready to scream my head off the whole ride through.
Tuesday, December 01, 2009
One reason I start early every year is that there is so little time actually available to do all the holiday-related things I want to do each year. Every year I think of baking all day one day, seeing a million movies, making people gifts, writing out Christmas cards, writing out Christmas letters, visiting friends and family, curling up with Mr. Frodo and a good book, playing boardgames, taking a trip up to the mountains, going to Disneyland, decorating the tree, having a Christmas cocktail party, going caroling, volunteering at a soup kitchen, exercising to offset the holiday gluttony, chopping wood, going to Starbucks for seasonal delights, strolling the beautifully decorated canals of Belmont Shore...I seriously could go on. The problem is I lose 40 hours a week to fluorescent lighting and paper pushing. Other than the three paltry weekends that fill up around Halloween, I am forced to fulfill my Christmas checklist through fantasy, daydreaming if you will. This, my friends, is why I decorate the office and play Christmas music with two weeks until Thanksgiving, because I need audio/visual aids. I sometimes wonder if I sometimes had the free time to do all the things I'd like to in a holiday season if I wouldn't explode. In the wise words of the immortal Clark W. Griswold, Jr., I might be the jolliest asshole this side of the nuthouse, needing plastic surgery to remove my smile. Man would it be sweet. Of course there is one crucial element of that list that absolutely cannot be spared nor can it, unfortunately, be daydreamed away....shopping.
I love Christmas shopping as long as 1) I have ample time so that I can go at an enjoyable pace and 2) I have a list to work from that I feel confident about. In other words, almost never. And that is what creates the darker side of Christmas in my head. As Kory or Adam or actually almost any friend can attest, I am chronically indecisive. I think about things way more than they usually merit. I hem and haw about which jeans to wear each day. I agonize over what to have for lunch. When it comes to something as meaningful as giving Christmas gifts, I fall victim to paralysis by analysis year after year after year. I think that's nice...but would they really like it? I don't know.....Do they already have one? I don't know if when they open this it will mean to them what it means to me to give it to them. I could explain it I guess, but how good a gift could it be if I have to explain it? Should I just go with a gift card? No, I refuse. Should I ask so-and-so what they want since they probably know? That's just giving up. What about this, this seems like them. But is it personal enough or does it scream "work gift being re-gifted?" Is it wrong to give Christmas stuff as Christmas gifts? I guess it might be since they don't open it until the pinnacle of the season. What about tickets to something? Then they'll think I'm implying that they have to take me and will not believe me even if I swear otherwise. I got it! That would be perfect! Boo-ya! Shit, I can't really afford that. You know what, the budget is a guideline. This is the gift and the cost is secondary. Although I think so-and-so is bound to be getting them that. What if they like the one from me better and it causes friction in their relationship. Better play it safe and abort. Screw it, I can't make a good decision in this hypertensive state. I'll sleep on it and start fresh tomorrow.
Every. Single. Time.
It really saps my Christmas spirit, I tell ya. Friends, please know this, if I ever give you a gift that you don't like, it is not for a lack of care or thought. If it truly is the thought that counts, chances are, it's the greatest gift in the world even if your taste says otherwise.
P.S. Which Christmas album should I get, Tony Bennett, Diana Krall, or Neil Diamond? I can't make these choices on my own.
Monday, November 30, 2009
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
There was an incident in the parking lot this morning that, if I didn't know better, would otherwise prove to be just such a rude awakening.
A coworker and I arrived at precisely the same moment. She was closing her driver-side door just as I was opening my trunk. I yelled out a "Hello" in my usual workplace Russian accent. She replied. I then turned to gather my things. In a matter of five seconds, I slung my messenger bag over my shoulder, closed the trunk and looked over, expecting to see my coworker there waiting for me. She wasn't there. In a state of shock, I turned toward the building and saw her walking 20 paces ahead, making a beeline for the door. I couldn't believe it.
Luckily, I know not to take this particular instance personally. This coworker is famous for not being a morning person and I have the utmost confidence that this was not a slight against me personally. However, I think it could still prove to be a good test for the future. It's definitely a choice you make. Last week, another coworker (on the other side of our bullpen wall) arrived at the same time as me. As it became clear that I was waiting for her, she, without making eye contact, began fidgeting in her car with various nondescript busyness. Now that was clearly someone buying time to avoid what they feared would be an awkward walk-in. I know because I've done it myself.
"Oh shit there's so and so. You know I really need to clean out this middle console..."
Thursday, November 19, 2009
I knew Conrad was going in January. He found out that one of the execs we used to work for had a place there and, I don't know how, but he procured use of the place. And for no charge at that. I was happy for him, of course, knowing it would be an incredible experience for him, but as I told him, I was also openly envious.
According to him, he asked me if I wanted to go, but I told him even if I could get the time off work, which was highly unlikely, that there was no way I could afford it. I actually think this part is probably 100% true. The part where we begin to diverge is where he says he twice offered to buy my airfare. The first time, or so the story goes, I refused because I didn't believe him. The second time, he claims, I turned him down again, saying even if he got my ticket, I would have no money to do anything once we got there. While that certainly sounds like me, I just can't believe I would be so short-sighted or dense as to turn down free airfare and free lodging for the top destination on my places-to-see-before-I-die list over something as ultimately trivial as spending money. It's unimaginable to me and I will admit I can be very stupid sometimes. But I digress.
Come to find out, The Doug was now on board for the trip. That didn't really change anything for me, except refresh the topic in my mind as I see The Doug more often than Conrad these days since Conrad is in Atlanta. But still, the timing is financially incompatible for me so what did it matter? In the waning hours of a slow work day, I looked into airfares on a whim. They were over $900. Case closed, so much for that daydream.
Then I got an email from a coworker with all sorts of travel deals. She has no idea why she gets them or when she starting getting them, but she makes a habit of passing them along to us. I am skimming one of them and see a link for LA to Barcelona for ~$500. Whaaa? Turns out it's legit. So I talk to Nicole. Apparently, she is pining for the Wife of the Year Award because I can think of no other way that she greenlights this thing. She's not working at the moment so times are tight, not to mention that the travel dates would mean spending our first New Year's Eve as a married couple some 6,000 miles and an ocean apart to say nothing of the fact that I would be going to Barcelona(!) without her. And yet, she gave me the Go seemingly without hesitation. All I can guess is that having been there before and knowing how badly I wanted to go, she valued my happiness above all else (And the award goes to......Nicole!). So I had that going for me, which was nice...
Next I had to clear it with the boss. He's going to be in Germany for almost the exact same period, but that could have worked for or against me. I don't know. One thing that was definitely not helping me was that I was already the first one in our department leaving town for Christmas. What could I do, that trip was booked, and, besides, that's Christmas. I wasn't about to mess with that even if I could. With nothing to offer as bargaining collateral, I pitched him the idea, stressing it as perhaps my best opportunity to see my most desired location on the globe. He would need to think about it, of course. If he were to come back and say no deal, I would not have even been that disappointed as I knew it was really too much time to ask for right now. I would have chalked it up to fate and moved on. But he said yes.
In the end, it all fell to me. To go or not to go. Could I afford it? Absolutely not. Was it the responsible choice? Probably not. Would it mean we would be homeless and hungry? Well, not necessarily. Was it an incredible opportunity and perhaps my best shot to see Barcelona? It just might have been. Sadly, I must admit that knowing me, I would have bet that I would play it safe and let the parade pass me by. It didn't use to be that way with me, not as much anyway, but it has been since adulthood took hold. I am glad to report that, like most others, it's a bet I would have lost.
I decided that if I waited for the perfect time to do something like this, I would probably be waiting for the rest of my life. The airfare was as low as it gets, the lodging was free. What more did I really expect to have going for me? There is no perfect time for anything. There are only opportunities to act and the choices we make at those moments in time. I looked in the mirror and decided I was much more likely to regret not going than I was to regret going. The time was now.
So I booked it.
Barcelona, stay there, I'm coming to you.
Now I can never in good conscience get popcorn at a movie again! Did you hear what I just said? I can never get friggin' popcorn at a friggin' movie ever a-friggin'-gain! Not without feeling like I am about to blow up like Eddie Murphy in The Nutty Professor. What's next, a riveting expose about the nutritional value of ballpark hot dogs?** Why would they do this to me as we stand at the threshold of the holiday season, prime movie-going time? Are they trying to ruin my Christmas? With all the naysayers I am encountering lately, I am beginning to think there may be a secret, subversive strikeforce aimed at sabotaging my Christmas spirit. I wonder if Glen Beck knows about this. No matter, my spirit is impenetrable and undeniable. Bring it on, I say!
**I have been watching The Today Show every weekday morning for years. As much as I can't stand Meredith Viara (sp?), I do love the Anne Curry and the indomitably jolly Al Roker. I believe Matt Lauer was on my man-crush list when I posted that a while back. Anywho, the more I watch it, the more I realize how much of the show is devoted to the issue of peoples' weight or weight loss. If it's not a segment about how unhealthy our favorite foods are, it's a story about how someone lost 150 pounds. It's really The Today (You're fat!), Today (You're not) Show.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
I'm decorating this office for Christmas today, even if I have to fight my coworkers off in the process. The time has come. Since we're not going to be here much the week of Christmas, I think the decoration period should begin one week earlier so as to ensure the proper incubation period of our Christmas spirit. Speaking of Scrooges, has anyone seen the Jim Carrey "Christmas Carol" yet? I am pumped but there are a lot of movies to see so I don't want to go if it sucks or induces motion-sickness.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
LUNCH SALE!!! 4 HOURS ONLY!!!!
Wow, four hours only, I'm thinking it must be a helluva deal they are giving me, a deal so great they can not offer it any longer than those four precious hours for fear of going out of business. So I read on.
SAVE 20% ON ANY SINGLE ITEM*!!!!
Okay, so that's not exactly a price slasher, but hey, after tax it takes 10% off of something and, sure, I'd rather pay 90% than 100. So I'm interested. Then I scroll down and check where the asterisk leads me to the fine print:
*Excludes: Burton, EA Sports Active, Odyssey, championship merchandise, adidas golf, Adams Golf, Asics, Atec, Baby Jogger, Bowflex, Brooks, Carhartt, Callaway, Cleveland, Cobra Golf, Columbia, DeMarini, Easton, Ektelon, Fitness Quest, FootJoy, Gun Safes, Head, Horizon, Jugs, K2, Kettler, K-Swiss, Lobster, Louisville Slugger, MBS Mountainboards, MBT, Merrell, Miken Sports, Mission, Mizuno, Mongoose, Nextt Golf, Nike Pro, LIVESTRONG, Nike Hyperize, Nike AF1 and Jordan, Nike Golf, Oakley, Prince, Pro Feet, Puma, Rawlings, Razors, Rollerblade, Reebok EasyTone, Salomon, Schwinn, Skechers Shape Ups, Skycaddie, Sole, TaylorMade, The North Face, Thule, Titleist, Tour Edge, Trend Sports, Under Armour, and Worth, all electronics/optics, ellipticals, treadmills, home gyms, weights, benches, Yakima, select basketball systems, canoes, kayaks, boats, trolling motors, fish locators. Some additional exclusions may apply. See website for details.
Gee. Thanks, Dick.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Thursday, November 05, 2009
Tuesday, November 03, 2009
--It occured to me over the weekend that the Yankees are really the Ed Hardy of baseball. Nauseatingly expensive, overpriced, superficial, tasteless, soulless, and yet incredibly popular. Wearing Ed Hardy really defines you as a person, though not the way those wearing it think it does. So does rooting for the Yankees*. I think Bill Simmons put it best when he said "rooting for the Yankees is like rooting for the house in blackjack."
*Amanda excluded from this thesis
Friday, October 30, 2009
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
"Hey Boss...Yeah, I woke up this morning and I just felt fantastic. I mean I am really feeling spectacular. I don't think I should come in today, lest this spirit end up being contagious. Thanks for understanding. I'm sure I'll be back tomorrow."
I don't know, I don't think it would fly. Ah well, days like this are what daydreaming are for, right? I give you...
My Fake Day:
--I think I would start off with a pumpkin spice latte from Starbucks. They've been back for over a month and I have had, what, two? What is wrong with me?
--On that note, I am also long overdue on the fall playlist. Thanks to Wayne, my operation is mobile now. I started work on it yesterday and after about 2 hours I was not through the letter D. I don't think I want to spend the whole day on the computer though so I'll go with an on-the-go list of James Taylor and Alison Krauss.
--I think the first thing I would do is hop in the car and head east, out to Oak Glen. That's apple country, folks. I have also heard rumors of foliage, but I don't want to get my hopes up. Let's just do some apple picking. Let's walk around the orchard and just smell the trees and the dirt and the fruit. Just truly breathe. I brought sandwiches so we can eat lunch right out under that old tree. On our way out of town, we'll stop into one of the local diners for fresh apple fritters and cider.
--When we get home, we'll put those freshly picked apples to use. I am not a big fan of apple pie generally. I have nothing against it, but if I am having pie, I would prefer blueberry, pecan, or pumpkin. Then again I have never had a freshly home baked apple pie! House Rule #1 for my kitchen: Any serious culinary effort must be accompanied by a glass of wine. Now that that's settled, Well get our hands dirty making a good old fashioned apple pie. This "house" is going to smell like the bakery in heaven on Christmas morning.
--While the pie is baking, I'll take a walk up the street I am naming the Miracle Quarter-Mile, that oft mentioned block where the trees think they are in New England and not West LA. It's a nice little walk, especially with the Halloween decorations some houses have put up. One has a group of young white-sheet ghosts circling around a tree in the front yard. I'll snap a few photos, gather some of the red and yellow leaves that have fallen.
--When we get home, we'll pull that pie out of the oven and cut right into it. I know it's supposed to cool, but who can wait. I'll abide a sloppy first slice. I think I'll put a slice of cheddar cheese on mine. I've always heard about this, but never actually tried it. Maybe that's the missing ingredient for me and apple pie. It's worth a try.
--After pie, we'll play a board game or, better yet, take a nap. A sugar coma is no big deal if you are able to just give in to it, go with it.
--When we wake up, we'll hop in the car again and head for the beach. Sidebar: I know I have stretched time a bit here. It would probably be 8 pm by this point, but this is fantasy so I'll stretch this day as long as I want it. I drive home along the beach everyday and as great as that is, I never stop. It's so beautiful, I don't want to pass it by so quickly. I feel the urge to walk down to the water, stare out for more than fleeting glances as I avoid a head-on collision with oncoming traffic. But I would prefer to not do it alone either so today is the day to do it right. We'll walk along the beach hand-in-hand like a living chick flick (the we I have been referring to all this time is, of course, Nicole). When the sun finally sets and the pink sky begins to turn dark, we'll hop back in the car and head towards home, stopping first at...
--...Don Antonio's, because great Mexican food is the fare for all seasons. Aside from the sumptuous tacos, fajitas y margaritas, one of my favorite qualities about Don Antonio's is its festive atmosphere from the stalagmites of the cavern room to the white twinkle light, yellow-tile patio. I think my affinity for all things festive has been well documented by now. Dos tacos, por favor, una pollo y una carnitas. No flan tonight though, more pie awaits at home.
--The only thing better than spending time in a home overcome by seasonal scents is coming home to it, that first smell as you walk through the door. We're in for the night now. Cue the sweats. What to watch on TV tonight....hmmmm.....oh look at this, there is some sort of sporting event being televised. What are they calling it, basketball? And what is that team, the Los Angeles Lakers? Why are they giving them rings before the game begins? They are NBA Championship rings you say? This is good, let's stick with this program.
--Then, we'll watch "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown." Because it would not be the season without it.
Not a bad day, I think. And look at that, by entertaining my dreams for what the day could have been, I have killed off half of what it must be, getting ever closer to the whistle blow that portends all that it still might be. Time for lunch!
Friday, October 23, 2009
One step closer to the mustache. Two gargantuan steps to go still, but we're still alive. I think I had four heart attacks and two strokes last night while watching that game. We might need to force a Game 7 just to get on the right foot with Lackey. As it stands, last night's pull could seriously affect his decision on re-signing.
Just another little morsel on ridiculous sports fans' superstitions that occurred in the early innings of last night's game...Here's an IM conversation between me and Kissen:
Bottom 1st, Halos have runners on 2nd and 3rd, no outs, Torii Hunter at the plate
(Me) (5:13:52 PM): TORII COMES THROUGH!!! 2-0 HALOS!!!!
(Kissen) went away at 5:15:38 PM
Vladdy doubles, Kendry singles, Angels are on top 4-0 with no outs
(Kissen) returned at 5:17:48 PM
(Kissen) (5:18:40 PM): nice
(Kissen) (5:18:47 PM): I was on the can
(Me) (5:19:14 PM): guess what we might need you to go back there for the next few hours
(Kissen) (5:19:31 PM): I got a lap top with Wi Fi
(Kissen) (5:19:33 PM): shouldn't be a problem
(Kissen) (5:19:42 PM): let me see if I can cause a 2nd wave to hit
Maicer flies out, Juan Rivera grounds into an inning-ending double-play.
So in this case, it didn't seem to matter, but still, that's a true friend that's willing to go back to the bathroom stall for the sake of his friend's team.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
A coworker was under the misunderstanding that my beard was a playoff beard, grown until the Angels either win the whole thing or get eliminated. I told her my beard had nothing to do with that, especially since I've been sportin' it since June. But then I got to thinking....
I pledged that if, by some miracle, the Angels manage to dig themselves out of this 3-1 hole and win this series, I would happily shave my beard as a sign of solidarity.
Then I was telling the boss about it this morning and he suggested I kick it up a notch and pledge to go with a mustache.
"If the Angels pull their heads out and come back to win, I will go mustache for the week of the World Series," I proclaimed.
He then went over the top on me and challenged me to commit to going with the 'stache for a full year if they should get to the World Series and win.
This is no small pledge. A year is a very long time to have a mustache. I remember last time I went to the porn 'stache, I was tickled by it for the first week. By the second week, the joke had worn off and people stopped laughing at me. At that point, they had just accepted that I looked like a sleezebag. Think of all the people you meet in a year. All those people would think the mustache was me. What about all the weddings, birthdays, etc. where you need to take real photos? What if I have to go on a job interview? Unless the position is with Vivid Entertainment, I think I could pretty much count on not getting that job. It's basically a choice to sacrifice my dignity for an entire year. That's something that could change a man. But wouldn't the joy of winning the World Series against such horrific odds fill me with an inner dignity and pride that could not be touched much less ruined by something as superficial as physical appearance, you ask? Maybe.
This is not something to rush into. A rash pledge of this sort is never wise, even when you know the chances of it actually qualifying make it a pretty safe one. I am going to stew on this until game time. I will post my decision here later.
Stay thirsty, my friends.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
...The feeling went right down into her middle, and set loose something else, a spirit she'd never realized was there, much less locked up and trapped. And, they were still on the road, not even to the (grand) canyon yet! How would it feel when she could get out, walk ten paces and there would be the great space stretching miles and miles and miles? She couldn't imagine it. The profound opening of the earth. Great wonders all had powers to set free in you what wasn't free. Poets wrote about it. Only the dragging, grinding, minutiae of every day--cooking, driving, talking on the phone, explaining yourself to strangers and loved ones, selling houses, balancing checkbooks, stopping at the video store--all that made you forget what was possible in life.
Probably she'd faint. Certainly she would be speechless then cry. Conceivably she'd want to move out here right away, realize she'd been living her life wrong, and begin to fix it. That's why the people she sold houses to moved--to go where they could live better. They made up their minds--at least the ones who weren't forced into it by horrible luck--that they and not somebody else ran their lives."
An excerpt from "A Multitude of Sins" by, my favorite author, Richard Ford. I crossed this passage while waiting for an oil change today and I just wanted to share because I love this guy's writing so much.
P.S. Why do I not own a bow tie by now?
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
A new day has dawned. The old pipes are out, the copper and the new showerhead are IN. Have you ever seen a man moved to song by water pressure? This man was singing a happy tune as he was pelted by a torrent stream of shower water this morning. My delicate skin had atrophied under the low-pressure regime I had been living with for so many months. It was a shock to the system to go from the drip-drip pressure I had to kneel under as it fell straight down to the tub floor to the stand-back-and-hold-on pressure of the Commando 450. I think I might have bruised. But man oh man, what a shower.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
--Another fine day of what I call Richmond Weather. Chilly and grey with a chance of showers, perfect for a fine lunch of chili and beer at my favorite place in El Segundo. I'd love to hole up there for the better part of the afternoon with a brew and a book.
--El Cholo tonight. I've always found that to be an odd name for a Mexican restaurant because of the connotations associated with the word as slang. I figured that couldn't be the meaning they were going for when they named it, but I never knew what the literal definition might be. Until now. Thanks to end-of-day boredom and the wonderous powers of the internet, I bring to you the actual Spanish dictionary definition of "El Cholo":
cholo [cho’-lo, lah]
1. Person of half-European and half-Indian parentage.
It's so much more clear to me now.
--If, God forbid, the Angels should fall to the Yankees in Games 1 & 2, you can start the blame right here. I wore my red halos hat and 2002 jersey for each game of the Division Series and you can see the results they produced. Due to bachelor party restrictions (VEGAS!!!!!), I will be virtually unable to don my uniform for these next two games. I am very, very conflicted about this. If the Angels could win Game 1, it would really give me a huge boost going into the rest of the weekend. And if you think I'm crazy, I quote Crash Davis:
"Don't fuck with a winning streak."
I know it's ridiculous, but I am not alone in this, right? I know for a fact Cruiser ordered his sister to NOT go to the bathroom and maintain her position during the 9th inning rally in Game 3 of the Boston series. And I think he was right to do so. Man oh man, halos...let's just win Game 1 and put the whole thing to bed.
Friday, October 09, 2009
NOT NOW!!! OF ALL THE TIMES, NOT FRIGGIN' NOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
SEVEN DAYS FROM VEGAS AND I AM GETTING SICK NOW?! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!
MOTHER*CK$*N SON OF A B&TCH!
It's times like these that I really hate working in an office. Infected #1 got sick a week ago. Then another person was stricken. Then it hopped over the wall into our department. One of my coworkers is out today. I have been feeling it in my throat and as of today I feel it in my head which means that's about all she wrote. It drives me nuts. One person gets sick and like dominos, the rest of us go down in order. Everybody wants to be a hero and not miss work and who suffers for it? Everyone. SICKOS, STAY HOME! Some of us have Vegas trips you could be sabotaging!
Thursday, October 08, 2009
--Next week there shall occur a momentous reunion. The return to Dollar Beer Night. Back in the old days, when we were all working at Warner Bros. and living in the valley, Wednesday nights at The Park in Burbank were a tradition. Conrad, Bill Brasky, The Doug and I would all convene for the greatest promotion of all-time, Dollar Beer Night. We did it just about every week it seems. Sometimes even The Cruiser drove all the way up from Long Beach. It was no big deal at the time, just buddies hanging out drinking many beers for little money and harmlessly oogling the bartenders. It was such a no-brainer that I think we took it for granted. Then I moved to the other side of the hill, Bill moved to Portland, and I lost touch with this sacred event. Conrad carried the torch for a long time, but even he eventually moved on. Well next week, we're turning back the clock (I meant figuratively, but the literal clock turning has to be soon too, right?). Bill will be in town under unfortunate circumstances, but we intend to seize the opportunity for good use. The return to Dollar Beer Night! Next Wednesday! KISSEN! THE DOUG! ME! BILL FREAKIN BRASKY! Grab your bags, It's on! (Cruiser, this is your invitation) The only drawback is that Conrad, The Godfather of Dollar Beer Night, The Patron Saint of Dollar Beer Night shall not be able to join us.
--Between all the football and baseball watching, the seasonal delights at Starbucks, and all the beer, it says here that if you don't gain a minimum of 8 pounds this time of year, you are letting the good things in life pass you by.
Here is the part that's so stupid, it makes my head spin...People are actually criticizing HC, Jr. for this. Seriously? Seriously. Criticizing him for disapproving of Blackface minstrelsy? They are calling him a hypocrite in light of his playing an African-American preacher on a sketch comedy show? If I could slap the collective face of these ignorant people, I would.
There is a difference between a White person playing an African-American and Blackface. It's not even a small difference. There is a vast chasm separating the connotations of the two. To even try to compare Harry in the MadTV sketch to Blackface is a degradation.
Friday, October 02, 2009
Have you seen these Tecate Light commercials? You know, the ones for the beer with "REAL CERVEZA TASTE."
We changed boxing with a champion both sides could root for....
(Footage of Oscar De La Hoya)
We changed cars by making them dance to our own beat...
(Footage of a car bouncing with its hydraulics)
We changed the boogie man by giving him a name...
(Footage of a drawing of and newspaper headline about the mythical Chupacabras)
We changed fashion by making it our own...
(Footage of a Latino male walking down the street wearing a t-shirt with Spanish words written on it)
First of all, who is "we?" Tecate Light? So Tecate Light is taking credit for inventing hydraulics, the Chupacabras, and Oscar De La Hoya? No. I'm pretty sure they mean Mexico. Still, I just don't get what they are trying to say exactly. Mexico revolutionized the black t-shirt by putting something Mexican on it? Okay.... Mexico changed the boogie man by calling giving him a name? What about the people that came up with "The Boogie Man?" Old news, I guess. It just makes no sense to me.
How about this one for the T-Mobile phone with Google? The one with Whoopi Goldberg, Phil Jackson, Jesse James, and the Cat Stevens song.
Whoopi touches the phone and slides a screen showing a drawing of her as a cartoonish vampire, "Count Whoopula..." Okay.....That's an important feature, I suppose.
She then hands it off to Phil Jackson who touches it and cues up aerial video of what I presume to be Montana....So you're telling me you can see video on the phone....AMAZING.
Next is Jesse James. He touches it and cues up a photo of he and some random guy.....Are you saying it has the capability to show a still photograph too?!?! GET OUT!
"T-Mobile presents the first phone that becomes 100% you."
What the crap does that mean? What is the big benefit they are selling me on here? Desktop wallpaper? I really don't understand. I wonder if there is an IPhone app that explains vague, pointless commercials.
One other thing about this product. They call it "The Google Phone" on the street, but the commercials always call it such and such phone "with Google." Now I'm not trying to be sarcastic here, but isn't any phone with internet capability technically "with Google?" We're talking about an internet search engine, right? Or is it some sort of operating system on the phone? Somebody must have one. Please, explain.
Also, is anyone else getting a little paranoid that Google is taking over the earth?
Thursday, October 01, 2009
October has arrived and that means baseball postseason. For the 4th time in the last six years, my Angels will face the Boston Red Sox in the first round of the playoffs. The Angles have never beaten Boston in a postseason series, going 0-4 dating back to the 1986 American League Championship Series. A few times, you could say they probably had the better team, but, regardless, failed to get the job done. The thought of enduring this matchup once more leads me to my theme of the day...Am I ever gonna catch a fuckin' break?
I've been working in production accounting for seven years. For nearly as long as I have been in, I have tried to get out. There have been fleeting glimmers of hope over the years, but nothing ever developed beyond the earliest stages. I've applied for other types of jobs in various fields and never, literally not once, been called for an interview.
Within the current job, I have been in line three times now to travel with the show and three times, some admittedly fair, some not, I have gotten the shaft.
I could go on and on, but I realize my point is already getting lost. I don't mean to whine about every little thing in my life that hasn't worked out like I might have hoped. Believe me, I realize all the luck I have had and all the many wonderful things I have to be thankful for. I realize how many people in the world would listen to my best effort at a pity party and would be doubled over in laughter if not slap me in the face. My point is just that you notice things in life that seem to develop as patterns. Baseball teams have mental blocks about teams they can't seem to beat, people get pigeonholed in careers they never wanted, vital issues are buried under counterproductive prideful bickering (cough--POLITICS!--cough, cough), etc. Don't you ever just feel overwhelmed by a sense of unfortunate predictability, like the course of everything is a train on a track and any alternate outcomes are merely the pretty trees you stare at out the window as you ramble on out of control?
Of course there are exceptions. The Red Sox were slave to a negative pattern themselves for quite a while there before completely turning the tables. My dad was a clock-watching desk jockey before busting out of the grind to start a successful photography business. I did get a very unexpected promotion one time. If it's not all cyclical, it at least does ebb and flow. There is solace to be taken in the hope and likelihood that good things will come. But at the same time, there is a sense, I think, that some things become less likely to suddenly change the longer they chug along on their current course. The longer I get pigeonholed, the longer I am going to probably continue to get pigeonholed. It perpetuates itself. But again, it's not just about me.
There is something to be said, of course, about creating your own destiny. Like Sarah Connor said, "No fate but what we make." There's a line in one of my favorite songs on the new Avett Brothers album which simply advises "Decide what to be and go be it." I believe that's true to some degree. I'll accept my share of responsibility for my life as I've made it for better or worse. If there are aspects I don't like, I could, presumably change them. I just wish I knew how. Better yet, I wish I knew what change within my personality would enable me to know how to change my life. I think I probably have a lack of drive, but now what? Is there a switch I can flip or is this one of those things that's supposed to change automatically when you recognize it like "I'm sorry, I just realized I'm being an asshole. Forget everything I just said"? I think maybe it's as much a lack of drive as it is a lack of direction in which to point the proverbial car.
Again, things could be worse. Far, far worse. And I'm sure they will be at some point. It's not that I'm unhappy. Generally, I'm not only happy, but damn near go lucky to boot. I guess my point is that however the change needs to come, whether by the natural progression of life, my own personal intervention, or some combination thereof, I am definitely ready for the turnabout. In other words, I am ready to catch a fuckin' break.
But it's not about me. That would be self-absorbed.
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
--Apparently, my floormats are trying to kill me.
--So it's looking like it will be me and the cats on Halloween night. My plan is to watch USC dismantle the Ducks of Oregon on their home field and then watch some Halloween movies. These are the ones I am thinking of as of now. If you've seen any of them, please weigh in.
"Nightmare Before Christmas"
"Halloween" (John Carpenter, not Rob Zombie...I have seen this one, but it's a classic)
"The Thing" (Saw this so long ago it's like never seeing it. I'm concerned even though it's scary, that the arctic setting will not feel Halloween-y)
Any other ideas?
--Well, I have great news. I have received the official OK from my coworkers to start my Christmas music the week of Thanksgiving. A huge victory for my cause.
--Speaking of Christmas music....Have you heard Bob Dylan is releasing a Christmas album this year? Should be interesting. I'd like to see Norah Jones put out a holiday album. Seems like a no-brainer to me. There are a lot of artists/groups that would make some quality holiday music, I feel. Ben Folds, Ben Kweller, Ben Lee...and those are just The Bens.
Friday, September 25, 2009
Thursday, September 24, 2009
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
off the plate, 2-1....
check swing foul, 2-2....
Feels like October, doesn't it?
Another foul...No, if it were October, we's inexplicably squeeze and the tying run would be out at the plate.
Pop out to 1B. Shite. Come on. Deep fly out ties the game. Contact play probably on.
1-0 to Maicer Izturis.
3-1. Hitter's count, kid.
BASE HIT! BASE HIT! IZTURIS SINGLES, KENDRICK SCORES! AFTER TRAILING 5-0, WE'RE TIED AT 5 IN THE 8TH!
Can somebody please explain this Tecate Light commerical to me? I just don't get it. I get that it's a Mexican beer company and when they say "we" in the commercial, they are claiming to speak for the entire country and its culture. What I don't get is what they are actually trying to say...I am sure it will show for the 57th time tonight at the next commercial so I will quote it verbatim. In the meantime....
WILD PITCH MOVES IZTURIS INTO SCORING POSITION AND THEN ABREU WALKS ANYWAY!
Why do so many pro athletes live in Florida? This Phil Hughes kid is the perfect example. He's from Southern California and he chooses to now live in Florida? Bullshit. Only an idiot would make that switch. I get that's for tax reasons, but my question is what designates the official residence? Could he own a hut in the Miami ghetto and get the tax shelter? Does he have to spend X number of days there yearly?
That strikeout from Vlad was my fault. Trust me.
Come on Torii! Find me some green double-I! Or strike out. It's okay though, we rally to tie!
You know what I got at Trader Joe's tonight? Beer Bread Mix. Beer. Bread Mix. Who knew?! Trader Joe, you never cease to amaze me.
Unfuckingbelievable. After checking the runner approximately 19 times, we try a pitchout and guess right, but can't execute the throw to 2nd. I think one reason I love this team is because I see a lot of myself in them.
This is the most touching commerical for men's hair coloring that I have ever seen...Cue the flutes!
It occurs to me that with something like 12 games remaining in the regular season, I have been to all of 2(!!) Angels games this season. I blame Kory for never coming through with free tickets. I think he's been holding out on me.
Ouch. Is there anything more deflating than a strike em out, throw em out double play to erase the tying run from the basepaths in the bottom of the ninth? Probably, but it's gotta be close.
Alright. Game over. Congrats Yankees, but you're still not beating anybody in the American League in the playoffs.
Friday, September 18, 2009
My plan for tomorrow:
3:00 a.m. Feed Mr. Frodo (non-negotiable)
6:58 a.m. Wake up by own choice
7:00 a.m. Watch ESPN College Gameday, have egg white breakfast sandwich
7:40 a.m. Walk to Starbucks for Pumpkin Spice Latte (Father joins at this point)
7:55 a.m. Stop at Whole Foods to buy sauerkraut, pretzels
8:10 a.m. Walk up to leaf-changing block and back
8:30 a.m. Read paper, more Gameday
9:30 a.m. Begin vigorous cleaning, play new music
11:00 a.m. Shower
11:15 a.m. Toss football around
11:35 a.m. First Beer of the Day!
11:40 a.m.-12:10 p.m. Prepare food - Grill sausages (you catching the Oktoberfest theme?)
12:30 p.m. USC Trojans @ Washington Huskies! FIGHT ON!
3:30 p.m. Take nap.
4:30 p.m. Go for walk to elementary school and back
5:15 p.m. Watch movie, likely a tense drama
7:30 p.m. Leave for Wine & Cheese Party in the valley
I just can't wait.
All times are approximate
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
We even look drunk, right?
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Wednesday, September 09, 2009
--Does anyone else wish we could just skip September and move right into October? I mean, really, do we really need September? Do we need to go to college football games played in 100-degree heat? I don't. Give me rain. Do we need all the false hope of teams like the Texas Rangers beating teams like the Red Sox for the Wild Card spots? It's not going to happen so let's just skip to the point. Same with the Angels. Once again, the Angels and Red Sox appear to be on course for a first round matchup. Can't we just skip ahead to the 2nd round and somebody just tell me what happened? We lost in 5? Fine, I'm used to it by now. We won?! We actually won?! Awesome, but I'm kind of glad to have missed the stressful cloud of defeatism that I would have undoubtedly endured. Can't we just cut to the chase?
--I realize Eric Mangini used to work with Bill Belicek, but what is with all the cloak & dagger mystery about their starting quarterback? I get the back-and-forth of a natural position battle, but announcing that you will not publicly name a starter and will only inform the two players themselves? Why? We're still talking about the Cleveland Browns here, aren't we? And is it not still a 50/50 shot? Are they going to pull a Ted Dibiase and bring out some entirely new Undertaker character as their final, mystery teammate? When the offense comes on to the field, are they really hoping for the Vikings' defense to see the starting QB and shit their pants in shock and awe? "OH MY GOD, IT'S BRADY QUINN!! NO! NO! IT CAN'T BE! NOT QUINN! I THOUGHT IT WAS GONNA BE DEREK ANDERSON! WHAT IN BLAZES ARE WE SUPPOSED TO DO NOW?! AAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH!" Come on Coach, get over it.
--Why do they not make pants in length 33? 32 is too short, 34 is a little too long. Of course, I error on the side of a little bunch around the ankles, but to the eye of the world that may not know any better, it looks like I don't know how to wear pants.
--I was pondering an agonizing "What if" this morning. What if I had to choose between Disneyland and wine? What if I had to give one of them up for life? It's a very tough choice, but it didn't take me long, which may surprise you as will my decision, but I realized I value Disneyland above even wine. It's complicated but the reasons are obvious, I think.
--Went to the cast and crew screening of the movie Nicole has been working on, "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs." I didn't have high expectations going in and I wasn't really feeling it for the first 15 minutes or so, but by the end I could honestly say I loved the movie. Really cleverly done. I would recommend it even to my adult friends.
END OF SIDEBAR.
--It's funny to me that espn has launched a new site called "espnboston.com." Doesn't it seem more appropriate to create a new site called "espn-every-other-city-besides-boston-and-newyork.com" and keep the main site as is since it's already pretty much a boston sports site? I know, I know, they also created an espnchicago site, but, come on, that's just window dressing. We all know it.
--I didn't see a single minute of the US Open, but I am thrilled not only to see Federer lose, but to see him whining to the chair umpire during a replay. To see the smug smile and seemingly impenetrable veneer of confidence cracked was refreshing.
--Then there's Serena. I don't know why, but my reaction to that whole tantrum was to imagine it from the line judge's perspective. I wonder what I would have done if I was at work doing my best and someone told me they were going to shove a calculator down my throat. I'm not sure I would take it very well. Then again, I know I probably wouldn't react very well to being called for a friggin' foot fault either.
That's all I got for now. Check back later for Why I Hate Tim Tebow.
Tuesday, September 08, 2009
I got pink wristbands.
Here was my thinking...Pink is the big color for the Walk. Pink shirts, shorts, ribbons galore. Pink is going to be everywhere and on everyone. Except on me. I shalt not done pink shorts. I am going to be walking step for step with all the pink-clad people so it's not like I need the pink to prove my dedication. But I just felt like to wear no pink at all might be kind of party-pooper-ish so I thought the wristbands (sweatbands) might be an acceptable compromise. A showing of solidarity. What's the vote on this?
A) Totally fine. It's a good cause and if the color of that cause is pink, then so be it. Just as long as you only wear them for the two days of the Walk.
B) There are simply no circumstances under which it is acceptable for men to wear pink.
Things A Man Might Scribble On a Cocktail Napkin While Sitting Alone at a Bar On a Saturday Night Having Many Beers While Waiting For a Concert
People conversing all around
He has a power
He sees everyone in detail
The two ladies huddled giggling around an iphone
No one sees him
Times like this
I'm glad I have my beard
A man's best friend
Can be his beard.
**By comparison, the legend goes that Aaron Sorkin wrote "A Few Good Men" on cocktail napkins. Aaron Sorkin I am not.
Tuesday, September 01, 2009
As a man who does more than my share of ipod walking, I can say with conviction that there is no finer place in the U.S. for it than New York City. It's a very cinematic city, and since our generation tends to think of our lives as movies about ourselves, it makes for a rich setting for a musical montage of our walk to work or to the deli on the corner. With so many unique characters crammed into such a small space, every turn brings a surprise, every first glance of daylight climbing the steps out of a subway station, stimulating. New York is also such a walking city in general that it provides frequent and varying opportunities for ipod walking. I can recall walking to A Tribe Called Quest while on my way to an internship and feeling cool, if not tough as my steps subconsciously fell in rhythm with the beats. Another time I was walking to class along Washington Square park, listening to one of my favorite bands whom I had just discovered, the now dissolved Nickel Creek. As I huddled inside my pea coat listening to "When You Come Back Down," it began to snow and I remember the music and the scene intertwined so beautifully that, even if just for a second, I was pulled out of a very upsetting time and reminded that if moments like this could still exist, maybe everything else would be okay too.
I believe that certain things, or people, happen to us in our lives at the exact right time, so much so that it can't be coincidental. Maybe not the most convenient time, but as it turns out, the right time. I think certain songs enter our lives at certain times in the same way. Have you ever heard a song for the first time and been overwhelmed by a sense of greater truth and understanding, an injection of a feeling that someone else truly empathises with you, more so than any friend who says they "understand?" For me, this song in this moment was exactly that. In hindsight, I don't think it's that great of a song, but all that matters is that it reaches you. It doesn't always have to be a tear-jerking tune lamenting lost love either. It can be a song that gives you chills and makes you sing because nothing else can express the excitement and joy you're feeling inside. It's like the scene in "Jerry Maguire" where he's just left Cush's house and is searching the radio for something to rock out to. Rolling Stones aren't doing it. Definitely not Juice Newton. Then he hits "FreeFallin'" and he's...freefallin'. Sometimes, of course, it's luck, even bad luck. But sometimes it's more.
Back in New York, I would be finishing my Monte Christo and coffee and off for a walk through Central Park. The leaves might not be changing quite yet, but if the right song comes on, I could be embedded in autumn just the same.
Monday, August 31, 2009
Val posted some pics of Caeden over the weekend and in one of them (2nd one from the top), I swear he looks 16 years old. I see that picture and I imagine walking through the door and instead of being greeted with a running-start hug, hearing the deep voice of a young man saying "Hey, what's up?" Frightening.
What can I say, I miss the Koops, both Denver and Rapid City chapters. When I say I'm feeling Denver, I'm assuming both chapters would be united under one roof as they usually are when I've been there. I'd like to be playing Construction with Caeden, making faces at little Claire, cooking a pork shoulder with Wayne, having a beer with Dave, marveling at the various culinary and crafty delights that Val has seemingly whipped out of thin air, laughing at Nicole and Donna as the waterworks start flowing right on cue.
I checked the weather and apparently it's much cooler in Denver which would be most welcome. I recall Wayne talking about how great Colorado was in the summer and it occurs to me I've never been during that season. Once in the late fall, but otherwise always winter. I'd like to see some leaves on those trees! I'd like to see Aspen or Breckenridge, maybe put my feet in a stream, us men do a little fly fishing. Ever since the legendary John Tesh album, I've always wanted to see a show at Red Rocks so I'd work that in there too. Why not a Rockies game while we're at it? They have a beautiful ballpark (so I hear) in resurgent, upscale downtown Denver. We'll hit the game and go for dinner and drinks at one of the stylish eateries in the area.
I realize this kind of trip is not possible right now for obvious reasons, but this is a daydream after all so why not go big?
SIDEBAR: I was lucky enough to stumble upon a lone mango among the mire of green bananas and soft apples in the company fruit basket. I seized this opportunity, but I was reminded of the complications that come with eating nature's tastiest of candies. Eating a mango is a lot like making out for the first time, it's just a sloppy mess. It's about as clean as mudwrestling, but even more fulfilling. Don't get me wrong, it's well worth the cleanup not to mention the awkward looks you get as you stand alone at the kitchen counter with mango juice all up in your beard, dripping down from your hands. That mango was a prize so I was not ashamed. Somewhere, however, there is someone who knows how to carve these things so that you can eat them in a somewhat civilized manner with minimal fruit flesh loss. I intend to find this person and beg them to take me under their wing passing their wisdom down to me.
Sunday, August 30, 2009
I moved desks again at work, my new location affording me the greatest computer monitor privacy one could hope for short of having an office. My time wasted on this blog should be at an all-time high. Problem is, I've been too damn busy to take advantage of it. Not the good kind of busy either. I've been the kind of busy that consists of tedious, grueling, repetitive work that numbs the brain rather than stimulating it. Every morning (weekday morning, that is), as I begin to pore over receipts and calculate exchange rates, my heart and mind wanders to wherever I'd really like to be. Every day it's some place different. One day New York, Barcelona the next. Maybe I'll try to relieve these urges with a quick entry here, a working stiff's daydream travel channel, if you will. Couldn't hurt, I guess.
There are also the times where I look around and feel like there's no place in the world I'd rather be at that particular moment. Sometimes these opposing feelings occur one after the other, which is confusing. It kind of cheapens both feelings, actually, and leads me to think I'm a whiny loser and a sentimental fool at once! But I digress...My bride and I spent last Friday night painting the town red. That might elicit images of fine dining, dancing, and cavorting in general lavish bliss, but I should mention the town we painted was El Segundo.
I love El Segundo. I really do. It's nearly as close to the ocean as Manhattan, Redondo, or Santa Monica, but it's somehow preserved the feel of a quaint, quiet, charming beach town without any of the bloated self-image or wandering topless schizophrenics. There is no singles scene in El Segundo. I'm not sure if there are even any legal residents between the ages of 19-35. Someone might want to look into that. In the meantime, El Segundo lives on as a family town with a legitimate Main Street, with parades, mom and pop shops, and no need for an Olive Garden or Wal-Mart. I don't mean to discount the value of a good shopping mall, Barnes & Noble or Jiffy Lube, but the beauty of El Segundo is that while all of that is within ten minutes' reach, it's safely situated on the other side of the wall known as Sepulveda Blvd. Still convenient whenever you need it, but existing in your life strictly on your terms. Wow, that hit home. Now I'm sympathizing with Olive Garden. Anyway, it's a great little town where I always see kids skateboarding and playing, and their parents out for an evening walk. To me, El Segundo is idyllic and I would live there in a second if ever won the lottery.
We began our date with dinner at the Richmond Bar & Grill, where I have had lunch every Friday for over a year now. The walls are adorned with kitschy vintage signs like "Next time bring your wife" or "If you're drinking to forget, please pay in advance." The draft beers are always changing and the people are always the same. There's no obvious alkies (I go incognito) or starving actors. The Richmond is a family bar where you feel everyone there is a friend of a friend if for no better reason than you all appreciate the same qualities in your bar & grills. And did I mention they make their own chips? We dined on a couple of chicken sandwiches and pale ales and said hi to the waitress who knows me as a regular. Finally, I'm a regular! We sat at the bar and it was the rare Friday night dinner out that was actually relaxing. No fuss to get a seat, no valet, no coronary when the check came.
After dinner, we had a little time to kill. My bride wished she had gotten a schooner instead of a paltry pint (that's my girl) so we journeyed down a block to the Purple Orchid Exotic Tiki Lounge. In the age of monosyllabic infamy for clubs and restaurants (see Toast, Milk), all I needed to fall in love with the Purple Orchid Exotic Tiki Lounge was to say its big, long, beautiful name. The interior of the Purple Orchid Exotic Tiki Lounge (try saying it, it's great fun), is about everything you could reasonably expect from a tiki bar in a small town. Purple felt pool tables, native Hawaiian wood carvings, blowfish lamps, and stiff boat drinks served in ceramic hula girl glasses. We did one at the Purple Orchid Exotic Tiki Lounge and walked back up the block for our main attraction.
I had always seen the Old Town Music Hall as I crossed the street from my Friday lunches at The Richmond, but I never realized it was still in business. I was never there at the right time. The Old Town Music Hall is a time machine. From the carnival-style admittance tickets to the old-fashioned red-and-white striped popcorn boxes, to the home baked macaroons served out of tupperware, the place just oozed nostalgia. And we hadn't even been inside yet. The pride of the Old Town Music Hall is the Mighty Wurlitzer Organ, a relic from the silent film era, beautifully restored and rejuvenated by the owners of the theatre, Bill Coffman and Bill Field. The console of the organ sits at the front of the intimate, 188-seat theatre where it controls over 2000 pipes, moving percussive instruments and effects. At about ten after eight, one of the Bills (I don't recall which) walked down, sat at the organ and told us briefly about its history and how he and his late partner had put it all together. Bill was an older guy and though he spoke of him without a drip of sentimentality, it was easy to discern that Bill missed his old friend and partner. The idea of these two guys creating this gem together and one Bill carrying on the show after losing the other struck me as very sweet and romantic, as did the Old Town Music Hall as a whole. Bill then began playing the organ and the entire front wall of the theatre came to life with the action of the thousands of its moving pieces. It was like Phantom of the Opera meets Alice in Wonderland. After that brief introduction, the movie screen rolled down from the ceiling and Bill continued his fine organ playing as musical accompaniment to an old Laurel and Hardy short. I'm telling you, it was a time machine. Following the follies, there was an intermission(!). We had to go out for more candy and popcorn, feeling like kids who could eat anything they wanted and did, if not just to soak in the atmosphere of standing in line outside as the leaves blew down the dark street lit only with the glow of neon from the Richmond across the way. Then began our feature presentation..."Casablanca." Widely regarded as the greatest screenplay of all-time and personally one of my favorite films, seeing it in this place, on this night, somehow it meant a little more this time around. I envied Nicole as she was seeing it for the first time. When Rick uttered that most famous of last lines and the credits appeared, the audience applauded. It was not a grand or totally surprising gesture, but like everything else at the Old Town Music Hall, it was a small thing that, to me, held a greater meaning.
Any other Friday night, we may as well have been at The Landmark, swirling our pinots at the wine bar and seeing a newer, louder movie having to do with Nazis. I'm fine with that date and we do it all the time. On this particular Friday night, however, I felt blissfully content to be in El Segundo. It felt good to go small.