Monday, August 31, 2009

Greetings From: Denver!

Today, I am feeling Denver.

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 Left My Heart in El Segundo

Wow, it's been a while. It feels good on a hot Sunday night to begin the babble.

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.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

There is something wrong with me...

I was at Target Monday night and I happened to catch a passing glimpse of a fall wreath in the Smith & Hawken section. Just like that, I'm craving a pumpkin spice latte and fantasizing about huge piles of red and gold leaves.

Last night, coming off maybe one of the hottest days of the summer mind you, I was listening to Christmas music and itching to watch "Miracle on 34th Street."

It's still friggin' August. I think I might be turning into an elf. I'd ask for help, but the scariest part is...I don't really want it.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

In looking for the Newman pic I used below, I stumbled on this. How funny us this?


Friday, August 21, 2009

We're Famous!

Finally, my face in print!
(click on image for better view)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


I have decided to combine my love for music with my efforts to raise funds as part of the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer. I am excited to announce the release of a very special mix CD called "Simply The Breast."

Over the next few nights, after walking of course, I am going to be putting together a collection of great music that hasn't gotten a lot of attention. A collection of somewhat hidden gems if you will. As many of you know, I take my playlists very seriously. I love those moments when I've got a song playing and someone perks up and asks, "Who is this?" Conversely, I love being on the other end of that scenario too. It will come as no surprise then that I adore-a Pandora and think Itunes' Genius is, well, genius. Obviously, I can't make a single CD that would fit everyone's varying tastes as well as those two musical engines can, but I think I can find a common though eclectic ground of songs that are so universally awesome that it could be overall pleasing to most good people I know. This is my challenge anyway.

Then comes the fundraising part. While it's probably very very illegal to "sell" a CD of other peoples' works, as a separate proposition, I am sure this wonderful collection of music may very well inspire listeners to donate $20 to the crucial cause of breast cancer which kills 40,000 women a year.

So please, friends, if you would like to hear some great new music, please just let me know where to send your copy of "Simply The Breast."

And if you would like to make a donation to the fight against breast cancer, you may do so using my personal page through Avon, sponsors of the upcoming Avon Walk for Breast Cancer, Los Angeles.

I would love to share this great music I have stumbled on which I feel enriches my life.

Donations to Avon will go toward funding access to care and finding a cure for Breast Cancer and are, of course, tax deductible.

Thanks everyone. I really hope you like the music.

P.S. Obviously, you don't want to post your address in the comments so email it to me at, who am I kidding, chances are I already have all 10 of your addresses and you could easily just write "I'll take one," but let's play along, shall we?

Avon Walk For Breast Cancer - Training Report - 4 Weeks To Go

I hit a nice milestone last weekend.

On Saturday, I walked all of 20 miles! We started at 6 a.m. and finished around 1:30 p.m. That's 7.5 hours of walking to you and me! I fared much better this time than the previous weekend when I did the 15 miles. I attribute it to better walking gear, better nutrition and hydration, and better company. I joined up with some fellow Avon walkers for a training walk led by a veteran walker (and breast cancer survivor) and it made such a huge difference to have people to talk to. Our leader gave me some great tips for the big walk and taught me a new stretching exercise that I know saved my hips and knees a lot of pain. Most importantly, as tired as I was at the end of the 20 miles, I knew if it were the actual event, I could have easily squeezed 6.2 more miles out of myself, eaten a big spaghetti dinner, and done another 13.1 miles the next day. It was a good feeling, to be confident that I will be able to do this thingI am also counting on my USC Trojans to give me a morale boost by winning at Ohio State that Saturday night. Fight On.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Have you ever wondered?

Why is the soup of the day on Friday always Clam Chowder?

P.S. Take it easy, Conrad. I am NOT saying that it shouldn't be, I am merely asking why it is.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Thunderin' Thursday

So "500 Days of Summer" definitely lived up to expectations. Now I am looking forward to this new Mike Judge movie, "Extract." I couldn't find the embed code for the trailer so here is the good old-fashioned link:

Funny, no? I especially like the part about the sweatpants, not to mention the presence of Mila Kunis, Kristen Wiig, and Ben Affleck as a long-haired, bearded bartender. I'm seeing great potential for this one.

Speaking of Mike Judge,...I forget how it started, but I got on a weird Michael Bolton kick this morning. Very weird...

On my way in Monday morning, I observed two seagulls perched on the fountain out front, staring at their reflections in the glassy black tiles. I was momentarily tickled by this but did not think anything else of it as we are only a mile or two from the ocean, but then there they were again when I left for lunch. It's now Thursday and they are still here, just hanging out. I snapped a couple photos of them this time which I will post when I get home to the proper cord. In the meantime, I think I shall name them....Buddy (after Buddy Hackett who voiced the seagull character in "The Little Mermaid") and Kim (because if my dad is going to name his cat after my son, I am going to name my seagull after him). Buddy & Kim, Kim & Buddy. I like it.

I am loving summer, but, damn it am I ready for Fall. I should say "Fall," as it exists here only as a state of mind, not as an actual season of weather.

Sure could use Conrad's homemade chair this weekend...Native-American Giver! (I realize that my attempt to make the term "Indian Giver" politically correct is kind of like the scene in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation when the little girl is talking with Uncle Clark and uses the term "shittin' bricks." Clark says, "You know you shouldn't use that language" to which she corrects herself by saying, "Sorry. Shittin' rocks.")

The Albums of Summer 2009: Paolo Nutini's "Sunny Side Up" and The Flaming Lips' "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots." I realize the Lips' album was released 7 years ago but I wasn't ready for it then so it's new to me in '09, okay?

Training for this Avon Walk is a killer, man. I did 15 miles last weekend and just about collapsed when I walked back through the door. I was pretty much ruined for Sunday. It sounds so easy, walking. Even if it is for 6 hours at a time, it's still just walking, right? You would think so. I would think so. We would both be wrong. My hips felt like Bo Jackson's. Despite many snacks and water along the way, my energy was totally tapped. When I started out, I was whistling a happy tune, la dee dah, look at the trees, isn't it nice to be out walking, etc. By the last third, I was deleriously singing along loudly to Jimmy Buffet, gawkers be damned. And this was only 15 miles. Day one of the big walk will be 26.2. Luckily, I still have time to build up to it. It's just tough to set aside 6 hours on a Saturday to train, ya know? Kind of throws off the whole flow of the weekend. This Saturday, I'll be rolling out of bed around 5 to squeeze in 20 miles before lunch. If you don't see me Saturday night, you'll now know why...I'm still walking. But it's all for the cause! I got some new shoes and other gear this week that should help, and I will be bringing mental toughness to the table too. Mama said knock you out!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


I know I've talked about this before, but since when does that stop me from saying it all over again....I get it from my old man.

It always amazes me how powerful a simple scent can be. The other night, I was on one of my walks and for the briefest of moments I smelled Disneyland at night. It could have been Knott's Berry Farm too. It was a unique bouquet of street vendor hot dogs, pavement, water (like a fountain), and the summer night air. Even though I only caught this whiff for a second or two, I was overwhelmed with the desire to be at Disneyland. Not only that, memories of many teenage nights at Knott's Berry Farm came flooding back like the splash down on the log ride. No, I was not high at the time.

Today as I was walking out of Target, I got the smell of popcorn in my nose. Sidebar: doesn't the popcorn at Target always smell incredible? Anyway, within those few steps between the corn and the door, I was reminded of all the lazy summer days spent at the movie theater. Lakewood Center to be specific. The big one, not the smaller Lakewood Center South. Now I can hear Mr. Moviefone in my head telling me for the umpteenth time where it is located (Faculty, South of Candlewood). I smelled the popcorn and it was almost like being back there. I could see it in my head, the ginormous theater, the cardboard cutout ads on the way in, the gold curtains. And of course, the many summer blockbusters we saw there, with a big bucket of highly "buttered" popcorn and a Mr. Pibb or Cherry Coke. For a minute there, I really longed for the freedom of the old days, having nothing to do but play and little more to worry about in life at all (it was a brief period in time, the worry-free). I can't tell you how badly I wanted to skip work and head for the movies.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Tough Loss

I have today off work and despite it being a gorgeous day, I committed myself to staying home and writing. As I'm sitting here pecking away (and not doing very well at that), I find out that one of my heroes, John Hughes, has died of a heart attack while out on a morning walk. Very very sad. I just pulled up the IMDB list of his writing credits. Some of my all-time favorites...

Home Alone
Christmas Vacation(!!!!)
Uncle Buck
The Great Outdoors
She's Having a Baby
Plains, Trains, & Automobiles
Some Kind of Wonderful
Ferris Bueller's Day Off
Pretty in Pink
Weird Science
European Vacation
The (fuckin!) Breakfast Club(!!)
Sixteen Candles
National Lampoon's Vacation

I can't think of a single writer with a resume that could come close to that in terms of movies that people love to the point that they will watch them again and again and again. On that list, everything from "Home Alone" down to "Sixteen Candles" are one after another with not a dud to be seen in between. That's a six year hot streak of 13 movies that will stand the test of time. Just awesome.

It's just an odd, odd summer, isn't it?

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

I Am The Walrus....You Are The Cat

Just talked to my old man. They got a new cat today, male. This is good, exciting news, right? You would think. I was excited for them up until the point where he tells me what they have decided to name him. I won't say the name here, but I will say that it's the name I was pretty much set on for my future son. Obviously, Nicole would have some say in that decision, but my point is this is the name I wanted and was ready to go to bat for in the baby name deliberations. And now they're stealing the name from me...for their cat. I don't know why they couldn't go with Soda. We were all agreed on Soda! I told the old man straight away that we had a little conflict here and they needed to decide whether they wanted their cat and their future grandson to have the same name. I don't think they are changing it. This should be fun. Poor kid is gonna grow up thinking he was named after a friggin' feline. And can you imagine the confusion and mishaps at Christmas?

DAD: "Ooops! Sorry (name of cat/child), that ball of twine was actually supposed to be for the cat (name again)."

DAD: "Ooops! No no (cat name), that cashmere sweater was for (child's name). Give it here now..."

STEPMOM: "Awww but look at how he snuggles into it, honey. He really likes it. Maybe his big brother will be nice and let him have it? What do you say, (child's name)?"

TROUBLED CHILD: "Seriously? Ummm..."

STEPMOM: "Say 'thank you,' (cat's name). Say 'thank you.' Here (child), here's some fresh nip for you."

Thanks, Dad.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Tales from Stumptown

Some stories from Portland that you've probably already heard...

--So we're at BrewFest on Friday...And every five-to-ten minutes someone in the increasingly drunk crowd will start a loud "Wooooooooo" that other people will join in with until it builds into a full crowd crescendo of Wooooo's. Once we get wise to this, we, of course, vow to start one ourselves by day's end. Fast forward a few hours and many many spent tokens later. We start our Woo with great, expectantly contagious enthusiasm and ample volume...and nothing happens. A few charity woos but nothing more. Flummoxed, we try again a few minutes later and again, we are collectively shunned. What the hell, fellow BrewFesters?

--Early Sunday evening, Nicole and I took a short walk up to Multnomah Village, a charming small-town-ish main street just a block or so from Sarah and Bill's place. It was after 5 so just about everything was closed. Even though it was in the upper nineties with 'Nam-like humidity, it was nice to be out for a bit and just window shop this quiet little village. On our way back just ten minutes or so after arriving, we were about to turn down a side street when my compulsion pulled me into what appeared to be the only open store in town. Even though it was not the least bit visually enticing from the street and the name of the store left me a little confused as to what we might find inside, I did not fight the tractor beam pulling me towards Post Hip CDs. Once inside, I quickly realized the dusty stuffed animals that filled the front window display (wtf?) were not a fluke. The place had the feel of a thrift store. CDs loosely grouped into genre but otherwise totally unorganized. No artsy end caps or featured albums. The listening stations were two ratty old chairs with a couple of discmans. Fingerprints, it was not, but I was loving it anyway. A middle-aged guy with Harry Potter-ish think, very round frames seemed to be the owner. He was talking to two older gentlemen seated on a couch. They weren't shopping or working; they were apparently there just to talk. It felt like an old barbershop at that point. I found a huge stack of old, used Jackson Browne, James Taylor, Rolling Stones, and Chet Baker, and I sat down to give them a listen (as if I didn't know I was going to get them). Wow, I had forgotten how great a CD sounds. A CD on a CD player with any decent pair of earphones is pretty tough to beat. Eat your heart out, IPod (and I love my IPod). Another couple came in as I was sitting there, and somehow I deduced that they were fellow merchants from another store down the street. They visited for a few minutes and I was really taken by the whole experience of this small town, very low maintenance, no frills music store that seemed to double as a local piazza just 15 minutes from downtown Portland. When I went to check out, the proprietor (I really should have known his name) stepped around several stacks of CDs piled on the floor, behind the short counter that was really nothing more than a formality. There was no cash register, just a spiral notebook where he wrote down by hand the albums I was buying on an otherwise blank page. He did the math in his head(!) and I handed him the cash (I wasn't going to dare hand a debit card). He handed me my discs in a plastic bag I would later notice was being reused from a drugstore. On the way out, I pointed out the vintage typewriters by the door and we ended up talking for another ten minutes. It was really cool. I left with a renewed faith in humanity and six great albums to boot. Viva Portland.

Mooooooon River!

In the last two weeks, I have come to relate to this scene in a very direct way. I don't know yet whether these real life vignettes of violation have made this scene more or less funny.