Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Someday I'll get it right, a true story

One of the first gifts I ever gave my future wife was a pair of shoes. Since the size of her feet was not yet second nature to me at that point, you can understand how I could guess wrong on her shoe size. I went back and exchanged them for her. No problem. Then the new pair didn't fit quite right either so I returned to the store once again and exchanged for yet another half size difference. Of course, I didn't know it at the time, but this episode would prove to be a harbinger of shoe buying shenanigans to come. As another example, take this scene from last night...

"I think they are just a little too small."

"But every pair of shoes in your closet that shows a size, shows this size."

"The shoes in my closet?"

"Every shoe in your closet."

"Oh, those are too small."

"Of course they are."

Monday, November 29, 2010

Long time, no see

It's not that I've had nothing to say, it's just that it's a difficult time. Anything I have thought about posting seemed frivolous and pointless at best and moronically insensitive at worst. However, I would just like to check in and dispense one piece of advice for the holiday season.

Do NOT watch "Toy Story 3" prior to decorating your Christmas tree. You are setting yourself up for a festival of guilt. As we began drawing ornaments from the huge spread on our dining room table and placing them on the tree, we couldn't help but feel bad for all the little ornaments that were not going to make it onto the tree this year. They only get unwrapped for a couple hours and are then stored away again for another year. We could hear their little voices in our heads, commiserating about how they weren't going to make the cut because we didn't love them anymore.

Thanks a lot, Toy Story.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


First gingerbread latte of the season, folks! Drink. It. In. A tip of the cap and a boisterous "Cheers" to my contacts in the Rockies who inform me that Denver received its first dusting of snow today. I salute you with a fair share of harmless envy. The time has come, my friends. The time has most definitely come. In a related story, I am burning through my Christmas shopping with wild abandon and with great success. My old man laid down a dare to be done by December 1 and while I don't think that is possible for a working stiff, I embrace the challenge. It is going to require focus and decisiveness the likes of which I have never known, but I have faith in my shopping fortitude. Time to get after it!
(No, those strategically placed desk-size Yankee candles do not appear by accident.)

Wednesday, November 03, 2010


The Day After.

All I wanted to do was just post a couple of videos and leave it at that, but they apparently do not exist anywhere in cyberspace. Don't you hate it when that happens? I did however find the audio so allow me to briefly set up the clips.

These were SNL commercial/campaign ad parodies starring Will Ferrell as candidate Mack North. These are post-election campaign ads and I think the only other thing you might need to know is that at one point Mack North tracks down his defeated opponent in a grocery store parking lot. Enjoy.



And just in case you missed it amid all the hot air and posturing of the election madness, there was one measure that passed that I think we can all be excited about and proud of.


Tuesday, November 02, 2010

The Annoyance of Democracy


I am not passionate about any of the candidates in today's California state election nor any of its ballot measures. Yet I am almost as excited for today's election as I was in 2008 for no better reason than its symbolic end to all of the campaign ads popping up anywhere I cast a glance for the last 10 months or so. No more insultingly manipulative, childish, he-said-she-said commercials. For the non-residents, one ad actually pinned a Pinocchio nose on its subject. It was that bad. And that's just the TV ads! I get about 20 e-mails, texts, and phone calls a day. Last night I had just crawled into bed around 11:30 when I heard my text chime go off. I got up to check it, thinking any text coming in at 11:30 on a Monday is probably something I need to read right away. Nope, yet another text reminding me to vote. Thank God it's over.

A coworker said she saw Cheech Marin at her polling place. I think his silent presence alone qualifies as electioneering for Prop 19, doesn't it?

I do love the "I Voted" sticker. I wear it with a great deal of pride. Another coworker of mine said this morning that she "never votes." I was tempted to press for further explanation but who needs the aggravation?



Is it just me or is it mostly women that enjoy Thai food? I can't recall ever hearing a man suggest "Let's go for Thai food" yet I hear women do it all the time. Maybe it's code.

Monday, October 25, 2010

All Hallow's Eve-Eve-Eve-Eve-Eve-Eve-Eve!

Halloween Week. Finally.

I went to BB&B to replenish my Yankee Candle supply today and I made a switch from my usual favorite, "Autumn Leaves." Well, I made a change with my little work candle anyway. I ventured out to "Pumpkin Pie" and wow am I ever glad I did. It is a revelation! Unfortunately, I have to keep reminding myself that I can't eat the candle.

My buddy Zach comes into town this weekend. This means I will be rocking the karaoke for the first time in I don't know how long. A year at least. I have to admit, I'm nervous. It's been a while, ya know? I'm sure I'll be fine once I get that first song under my belt, but which song do I choose? I guess I'll have to read the room, get a feel for what they want to hear. It would be a lot easier if Bill Brasky hadn't eaten my song list.

I feel I need to do some baking these next few nights. Gotta have something to bring in to work on Friday, something for the tailgate Saturday, and something to indulge in Sunday night. I wish I were a better baker. With cooking, I feel like I manage just fine. I can look at what we have and whip something up. I still have much to learn, but certain basic instincts have been developed. I can improvise. With baking, I am a slave to mixes and rigid instructions. Perhaps if I actually sought out recipes more often instead of being lured by mixes on the spot.

Things were a bit slow under the ol' fluorescents last week, so much so that we found ourselves coloring Halloween decorations for our department. One of the last ones I posted up was a picture of Charlie Brown in his mangled ghost costume pulling a rock out of his trick-or-treat bag. Since then, I have been shocked and disheartened at the widespread depravity that apparently surrounds me on a daily basis. Nobody friggin' gets it.

"Why does that ghost have so many holes in its sheet?"

"Is that ghost holding a rock? Why?"


Forgive me, I don't really want to be one of those "you haven't seen (blank)?!?!" a-holes, but I guess I kind of am in this case.

I am really loving football this year. I love it every year, but usually my initial testosterone-laced enthusiasm wanes by about Week 4. Usually by then I don't want to sit inside all day unless it's a particularly good matchup. There is something in the air for me this year though I guess because I can't get enough. I actually feel a little post-football hangover on Tuesday mornings when I realize I have to wait a few days before it comes on again. I can think of no reasonable explanation for it, but I am not fighting it. Are you ready for some football? Yes I am, Hank. Yes, I am. If only my fantasy team shared my zest for the game.

I went to the movies by myself Saturday night and that is always an interesting experience to fly solo among the clouds of couples on a prime date night. It's sort of like being invisible. Or like being an ax-murderer, as it turns out. The movie let out around midnight and I had to go down to the bowels of the parking structure to get back to my car. As I got down to Level Three, it was just me and the couple a few steps ahead of me on the escalator. We all got off at Four and it did have that sort of slasher-flick vibe. The girl looked behind her nervously a few times, clearly wondering what someone would be doing at a movie theater alone on a Saturday night. I pressed my keyless entry as soon as I got in range so she would see the lights blink on my Prius and know I was completely harmless.

I just got a hankering for one of those candy cane martinis I was mixing last Christmas. Back into the closet, Christmas! The world is not yet ready for all the joyous splendor that is you! It's not your fault! Your time will come! Somebody hand me something pumpkin, STAT!

Due to contractual obligations with the National Football League, we will now be leaving this blog and moving to Monday Night Football....TOUCHDOWN ROMOCOP!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Riptide/Open Door

You know that feeling when you're standing in the ocean and the tide starts to pull you out with it? You are trying to stand tall and balanced but it just keeps pulling. You have to keep giving little steps further and further if only to keep from getting swept off your feet entirely. You don't even realize how those steps are adding up, how much ground you have sacrificed. Suddenly, you're neck deep and it takes all you have just to keep your mouth above the surface, just breathing. You try to stand but you're too deep now. You try to swim but you are simply denied by the current. You swim with everything you've got but you don't gain a stroke. So you tread water and look to the horizon, waiting for that one big wave that will carry you back to shore.

Yeah, that feeling. It sucks, right?

On a more pleasant note, I am very pleased to announce that I have adopted an open door policy on Christmas music. This is not to be confused with Open Season, which means deliberately playing all xmas tunes all the time. No, this open door policy merely stipulates that should a Christmas song occur randomly within an all-song shuffle, it will be allowed to run its course at normal volume. Call it Phase One of the transition to Christmas.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Mixed Bag

--Do you ever want to ask people to explain their ringtones? There is a lady at work whose ringtone is some sort of bastardized, uncool imitation of the "Airwolf" theme. It's not funny, it's not subtle, and it's certainly not the default. It does represent a clear choice being made. I just wanna ask her, "What are you going for here? What are you trying to say with this ringtone because I am not receiving the message."

--Is it okay to be angry with coworkers that come to work sick and refuse to go home? I hope so, because I am peeved. My boss was out yesterday with a violent stomach flu. He had gotten it from his daughter who had gotten it from his wife so this thing was no flimsy thread. This baby had legs. And yet here he was the very next day. I took one look at him and put my shirt over my mouth. He still looked peeked, sickly, pale. He even confessed to not being "totally fine." SO THEN WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE?! Who brings an infectious agent like the flu into a limited air circulation and then hands papers back and forth all day? I have been sterilizing like mad, but wouldn't you know it, my stomach doesn't feel quite right. Grrrrrrrr...

--I'd like to announce my latest great crush...singer/songwriter Brandi Carlile. I've listened to her music for years and thought she was a good-looking woman, but she didn't seem like my type. She was never smiling in any of the pictures I saw so I got the impression she may be a serious, depressive type. Then there was the concert. She was quite personable, funny and, I dare say, endearing. Did I mention that she closed her set with a heart-shattering cover of Alphaville's 80s classic "Forever Young?" There was a link to the show I went to but the recording quality is better on this one. I'm smitten.


--I've noticed a couple guys in the office sporting plaids or flannels without undershirts this week. It's a bold move, but as long as the button situation doesn't work out to be too low, I think it might work. What the hell, I'll try it.

Friday, October 15, 2010

"The Sweet Life"

I gotta tell ya, I just had a very nice Thursday night.

We went to La Dolce Vita in Beverly Hills, or as it is more commonly known (on their website)...

...intimately dark and inviting, homespun and cosmopolitan, La Dolce Vita has long been the favorite destination of the renowned and famous, from presidents and celebrities to the Rat Pack and the rest of us who are looking for some of the finest Northern Italian cuisine in Southern California.

We settled into a comfortable, red leather booth in the back and had martinis on the table before bread or a menu. The swanky sounds of Old Blue Eyes emanated from rafters, or was it the heavens? The rolls were warm, the marinara complex. When I found out they were out of their famous osso bucco (They serve it one night a week and they are sold out by 8 pm? Huh?), I quickly moved to plan B, the Spaghetti d' Ischia with smoked salmon and capers in a light vodka creme sauce. Eat your heart out, osso bucco. I was feeling guilty about eating calf anyway. Man, this was easily the best or tied for the best pasta dish I have ever had in my 32 years on this planet. The saltiness of the smoked salmon and capers perfectly balanced with the creme sauce, all amid an awesomely al dente texture. Each bite was like a birthday party. Speaking of birthday parties, there was a rather large and loud one directly in front of us, which is what made the evening truly unique.

They were an ever expanding party that ultimately topped out at around eighteen people, all around one ginormous round table. They were largely Nicaraguan, rather than Italian, but they had the familial exuberance of an old mobster movie. They were loud, they hugged, they were opinionated. One older gentleman in particular was quite schnockered, but not in a way that bothered us at all. The whole group was more entertaining than anything else. Yet towards the end of our meal as we were waiting for the check, an older gentleman from their party looked at us apologetically and offered to buy us a drink. We smiled and assured him it was not necessary. Five minutes later as the drunk guy ambled around the table, he got up and came over to apologize again, asking if he may join us for a moment. Of course, we said, sliding over a bit. And so down he sat, chatting with us for the next five minutes or so. He told us that the guests of honor in their party owned a Cuban supper club in Hollywood. He gave us his card and told us to if we ever wanted to go, to give him a call and he would set it up. Of course, I doubt we would ever be so bold as to take him up on it, but we were just sort of taken by the gesture, not so much the club offer, but more so by him coming over to our table to sit. Who does that anymore, really? It was just really nice.

I'd like to say I topped this splendid step back in time of an evening off by going home and watching the old black & white I had on Netflix, "The Philadelphia Story." However, I can't lie. As it was a Thursday night and this dinner wound up being one of those two-plus hour affairs, there was only time for a "Modern Family" before bed.

For a random Thursday, I'll take it.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

I and Love and You

Because I miss New York, because I am still coming down from seeing their show two Fridays ago, and because I don't post enough things just because they awesome.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Double Down

Damn it, I just want to go to the movies all day. There's a thousand things I want to see and I am way behind. I want to reel off something like a quadruple feature, taking breaks only for the bathroom, eating, and discussing the movies I've just seen. Then when I get weary, I'll go for a nice long walk and then watch a couple more movies at home.

Realistically speaking though, you can't beat a good double feature. I remember doing the ultimate yin/yang double feature as a kid, seeing "Three Men and a Little Lady" and "Predator 2" back to back. I tried to match that contrast recently with "The Expendables" and "The Other Guys." In college, of course, it was a matter of necessity. We couldn't afford to pay 13 bucks and only get one movie out of it. I recall employing elaborate plans of dressing in layers of different styled clothing. We'd hit the bathroom after one show, shed one clothing identity for another, before heading out for the second show, undetected. You'd be surprised how much a hat can do for you in that situation.

Today, I'm happy to pay, of course. I'd be so delighted to find the time to knock out two movies in succession, why risk getting the boot at the halfway point?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

What's the deal with....

--People who refer to an SUV as a truck? It's such a clear and easy distinction; a truck has a flatbed. Boom. End of story. A Nissan Pathfinder is not a truck, it is a sport utility vehicle. The SUV category was created because such vehicles were neither cars nor trucks. If you were out sick when the SUV category was created and of the two choices, car and truck, you choose truck, I get that. But if you are aware of the SUV, how could you get it wrong? Is it truck envy? Do you wish you had a truck? You can buy a truck, you know. They are even cheaper than SUVs, generally. Maybe I will start calling my Prius a truck, just to test this, to see if anyone will correct me. After all, with that big hatchback and with those rear seats folded down, there is a tremendous amount of space.**

--The slanted shoe rack? Why would you give it a slant? It makes no damn sense at all. You've created a valuable tool, a way to more effectively store a bulky odd-shaped item like shoes and yet you've given the shoes an advantage, encouraging them to slide right back onto the floor. Make it flat and everybody stays put. It drives me batty.

--The one horizontal button hole at the bottom of a man's shirt? Why is it different than its vertical brothers above it? How long has this been going on? Who started it? My only guess is that it has something to do with tucking the shirt in, but that makes so sense either. A horizontal button is theoretically easier to come undone with the side-to-side shifting created by pants. Besides that, what sort of body type calls for a shirt to be tucked in only as far as the bottom button? Is this the Beer Belly Fit?

--Bacon-wrapped hot dogs? They smell fantastic but taste average at best. It's a sensory sham, I tell you!

Sorry, I know that is a pretty weak entry, but let's move on.

**I know some of you are guilty of this, but please take no offense. I'm just really bored and being a smartass. Pay me no mind.

Step 1: Open Mouth, Insert Foot

Wow, did I ever have a bad interview yesterday.

I am just not good at interviews. I get nervous, my mouth goes dry as cotton, and words just fumble out of my head randomly like a bucket of Legos being dumped on the floor. I lose all ability to think on my feet, recognize opportunities to convey a positive impression of myself, or say anything with any conviction or confidence.

How bad could it really have been, you ask? Let's just say that at one point I referenced fantasy football. I wish I were kidding.

The good news is I don't have to be nervous about whether I'll get the job or not. The rest of the week, I can relax, have a good hearty laugh at myself, and figure out how I am going to improve for next time.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner

When it comes to cooking a Thanksgiving turkey, I am no amateur. I'm no gourmet, not by any stretch, but I'm just saying, I've done it a couple times. Why it was in this very space some three years ago that I posted pictures from my very first turkey roasting. I thought then as I have in the years since that my turkeys were for my own selfish delight, a way of expressing my holiday spirit and ensuring I had leftovers for three weeks. Now I realize I was actually being groomed by fate, groomed for the big dance. That's right, folks. You are talking to the new Chief Executive in Charge of Turkey for the first-ever Kumpart-hosted Thanksgiving. The in-laws are in-bound! I didn't think I would get the call to host Thanksgiving until I had sprouted a couple five-year-olds and a few patches of grey. Yet here I am on the big stage in only my second year of marriage. I feel like a single-A pitcher whose inexplicably been called to The Show. Let me tell ya, I could not be more thrilled.

First, the selfish reasons. I don't have to drive anywhere. I can't imagine what this is going to feel like but I assume it will be at least moderately blissful. Second, I get to make decisions such as when to serve dessert*. As much as I love and cherish all the holiday meals at my grandma's house, one thing has always bugged me as an adult. Pie is served immediately after the meal without even a momentary lapse for digestion's sake. I am not even finished with my yams before others are on to pie and coffee. The whole thing just whizzes by. I digress...Third, I know, love, and actually even like everyone that's coming. It's a core group. I don't have to make small talk with some stranger my third cousin once removed happens to be dating. Fourth, and you had to know this was coming, I can control the music.

Far more important than any of those factors, however, is that it gives me the opportunity to show my appreciation for and attempt to return at least some small fraction of the warmth and hospitality that the Koops have always shown me. I wish I had a big house in suburban Chicago so I could really give this thing the true Griswold treatment, but I will do my best to make due with what I have, an apartment, an oven, and some decent wine.

If weather and mothers permit, I am thinking that perhaps after dinner we'll do a special screening of National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation on the back patio, Christmas lights shining, fire pit crackling, hot chocolate** steaming.

I can't wait. Luckily, there is much to look forward to between now and then such as Halloween, a weekend lovers' getaway. First though is the big one....the one we've all been waiting for....tomorrow night.....


*This is not entirely up to me as my wife and stepmother will also be heavily involved, but they can claim control on their blogs too.

**Or Irish Coffee. Either/or.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Now Hiring

One of my favorite jobs I ever had was working at Borders. Sure, the hours were inconsistent and sometimes grueling. There was your occasional pain-in-the-ass customer. Restocking the periodical shelves was like an agonizing game of Where's Waldo. Yet overall, it was a fun experience, at least according to memory. I, of course, had spent many a non-working hour reading or sampling music. I think there is something to be said for working in a familiar, enjoyable place even if the work itself is uncomplicated and not challenging.

This is what occurred to me as I escaped to the Williams-Sonoma at lunch today. They had a french onion soup starter, pumpkin spice quick bread, and a harvest blend stuffing kit from La Brea Bakery! As usual, the place smelled like sweet bread in the oven, and the faces around the counter were friendly and personable. I wanted it all. I wanted to go all "Julie & Julia" and cook my way through the whole damn store. Today's was only a browsing mission, however, a scout if you will. I will be back. Oh yes, I will be back.

Back to my point though...As I was leaving and relishing the joy that is Williams-Sonoma, I had an impractical fantasy. What if I just worked a string of retail jobs at my favorite stores? One day at each store, maybe two-a-day a few times a week. Could I live? Maybe not, but it would be fun, wouldn't it? Besides, think of the discounts.

I give you my list of stores I would work at if I were actually to lose my mind and implement such a plan:

(In no particular order)

Book Soup
Amoeba Records
Portrait of a Bookstore
Ballard Designs (I know it's a catalog, not a store but this is a stupid fantasy anyway)
LL Bean (see above)
Cost Plus World Market

Friday, September 24, 2010


Correction: I was horrified to find that I had a spelling error posted large as life for 9 straight days. I humbly apologize.

Well, I am bored as hell (shocker!) and I thought I should throw something up here so in the absence of anything worthwhile, I shall regale you with a tale of last night's encounter with a surly barman. Let's call it "(Petty)Showdown at the Formosa Cafe."

Arriving at the historic Formosa Cafe around 8:30 for The Doug and Mara's fundraiser, my lady friend and I made our way to the bar. Whilst imbibing on the first of several free cocktails, we eyed a miniature, A-frame menu advertising appetizers at Happy Hour prices. The veggie spring rolls were too great a sumptuous value to resist. We ordered them. They came, Nicole ate them, all was well...or so it seemed. A short while later, Ellen arrived and had designs on veggie spring rolls of her own. These, however, would have to be of the full price variety as the mini-menu had been replaced by one far more physically and economically imposing. We ordered them anyway. They came, the broads ate them, all was well...or so it seemed. When the check came, I noticed that we'd been charged the full, robust price for both sets of rolls, rather than one-and-one, happy hour-to-regular. I jovially pointed this out to the waitress who immediately agreed as to the error and vowed swift reparations. I thanked her, gave her my credit card and she vanished to the unseen kitchen area. That's where, as we would later find out, someone got to her. She came out moments later to ask me how many veggie spring rolls had come out in the initial serving, because someone in the kitchen (with Dina?) was asserting that we got six, which was apparently more than the Happy Hour portion. I assured her I had no idea since I had not partaken, but that, regardless, we had ordered the first veggie spring rolls under the pretense of the low low price as it was displayed to us and would probably not have so splurged otherwise. After all, I had enjoyed a turkey sandwich on the way over. I did stipulate that I was certain the first spring rolls had arrived on a decidedly smaller plate. Again, she was gone. Moments later, a strange man dressed in black emerged, seemingly from thin air, and inquired if we were "the people with the veggie spring rolls." In my own subtle way, I answered, You got it, Butch. Well well well....This man in black was visibly perturbed. He said that while he was going to adjust our check to reflect a one-and-one price tab, he just wanted me to know that we DID get six(!) veggie spring rolls. He was adamant about the number we had received and consumed and that number was SIX! Not two, not four, but six. The implication, of course, being that we are somehow responsible for knowing how many veggie spring rolls are served in any of their various price tiers and that by eating the allegedly additional spring rolls placed in front of us, we were making a commitment to pay for them. You-eat-it-you-buy-it kind of thing. I acknowledged that we'd been so informed and somehow managed to keep my immeasurable gratitude for his lesson in ethics contained. Then he somewhat brashly asked to confirm my mini-menu story. I stood my ground, the truth standing behind me like a big brother with his arms crossed. The man in black then pointedly checked to make sure that this mini-menu had now been taken away, seemingly so that we could not try any more of these shenanigans. We showed him that it certainly had, most likely sometime around when Happy Hour ended, or ten minutes after we polished off the last of the first veggie spring rolls. With one more fleeting yet still prideful assertion that we had gotten six spring rolls, the man in black was gone. The waitress returned with the new check, still cheerful, still as disinterested and baffled by the scope of this minor battle as I was. Sure enough, there was the receipt with the old total and there was the receipt with the new total. Everything's kosher, right? Wrong. The credit card receipt, the little guy you actually sign, still carried the older, higher total of injustice. What was I to do? Track down the innocent waitress again and drag this trifling tragedy out even further? On another day, after another drink, that just may be exactly what I would have done. Alas, it was not to be, not on this night. On that night, the point was conceded to the man in black. In the end, he just wanted it more. I scoffingly signed my name as if writing a check for a parking ticket, including an impartial tip for the waitress who was unwittingly caught in the crossfire. I downed the last swig of my martini, paid my respects to The Doug, and called it a night, without the slightest flutter of regret or shame. After all, we did get six veggie spring rolls.


And look at that, it's now time to go home!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Big, Huge Announcement

After many hours of deliberation and careful calibration, I am very pleased to announce that the Fall playlist is complete! September 15th already, but, finally, it is complete!

Not that size matters, but...

We're talkin' 421 songs, 1 Day, 1.80 GB of devastatingly appropriate music for the Fall season, real or mostly imagined. I leave you now to enjoy a celebratory cup of chai tea.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

No NOT Walk Alone

So I'm out running this morning and I'm on my way back when I come to a stop light where a small, residential street feeds into a mid-major street. I see this kid on the corner on his bike, waiting to cross. I'm looking around for where this kid's parents are, but there is no one. This kid is smaller than my five-year-old nephew who is in Kindergarten. He's on training wheels for crying out loud. Cars are whizzing past at an average 37 mph in this exact type of intersection where I have almost been hit myself several times by cars making a right turn without looking for peds. Even if a car were looking, they wouldn't see this little guy who, even with his helmet on, was no higher than my waist. We just stood there, the three of us, him, me, and the other me that was standing beside himself in shock over this situation. Anyway, the light changed, we both made it across and the next block to school was back in the quiet residential area. Safe and sound for this morning at least. But still, are you fucking kidding me?

Friday, September 10, 2010

Walk Alone

When I was about ten years old, my fifth grade class spent three days at this sort of outdoor science school up in the mountains, Camp Hi Hill. The curriculum was comprised of hiking to a natural spring, star gazing, and various other scientific stuff that I can barely even vaguely recall. I do have two lasting memories from this little excursion. The first is the "memory stick" each of us brought home with us, my first exposure to the sentimentality that would later blossom into the lost art of yearbook-signing. The second memory was in hindsight the most valuable aspect of the whole trip.

It was just around dusk as our cabin group was being led by our counselor to the top of the mesa from some unknown point to which we had hiked. Our counselor stopped us on the trail unexpectedly. We all sat down and he explained what was about to happen. We were about five minutes' walk from the top of the mesa, he said, where the rest of the campers would be waiting. He told us that each of us, one by one, would be walking the rest of the way up the trail on our own. It was to be our personal, solo walk. For someone who was already towing the line between bravery and fear just by being up there with all these strangers, away from family for the first time, this was no walk in the park. It was a mildly scary proposition. But there I went, out into the trees alone. I can't lie and say I remember it vividly. Honestly, I just remember walking, the myriad whistles, cranks, and hums of the wild forest around me, and the first twinkle of pride when I made it through to the other side unscathed.

Last night though, as I was trying to fall asleep, I was thinking about how nice it is sometimes to go for a walk alone. I hear more, I see more, I experience everything differently. The best part is the opportunity to be truly and completely alone with my own thoughts. Really, how often do we get that in our daily lives? I even recalled specific walks I had taken over the years that had each been very important to me in their own way. A walk by myself is a way to work things out. As I began thinking about this, it occurred to me that it very well may have started that night in the woods. I would think that had been the point, to plant a seed of independence or self-reliance. I don't know that it's as simple as saying "it worked." A big part of it, I'm sure, is simply growing up. But I will say, I really enjoy my alone time when I get it, be it a walk or the occasional Saturday night grill and football game at home.

That's all. Just saying.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

ARE YOU READY FOR SOME FOOTBALL?!!!...No? Not interested? Oh. Okay.

There is something very very wrong with this world when a man (me) cannot find a single buddy to go to a friggin' football game with. Not one. I can't afford it. I have plans with my girlfriend. I have a family thing. I have to get up early Sunday morning. All fine, iron-clad(ish) excuses if considered on an individual level, but when viewed as a collective whole, is there really any just cause that I had access to four(!) tickets for the USC game this Saturday yet will end up watching it from my couch? (Rhetorical)

Did I mention it's the 2010 home opener?!

What. The. Hell.

It's cool. I can tailgate on my back patio, drinking fall seasonals*, grilling burgers, making macho jokes to Mr. Frodo. At least I save a few bucks, which offsets the cost of my recently acquired lederhosen. So I got that going for me, which is nice.

*I found a Widmer Bros. Oktoberfest brew at Bevmo.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

A Good, Deep Breath

When I was living in New York, which I cannot believe was a decade ago, the city would get to me. The crowds, lights, subways, and the cramped, vertical, walking-city layout were key factors in what it made it so damn thrilling to live there, but I would also reach a point where if I didn't see a tree and a patch of grass, my head was going to burst. These moments were easily recognizable and always lingering even when the need was not immediate, like feeling the jaws of a vise on your head even before it's tightened. Thank God for Central Park.

Living in Los Angeles, with its vast spread, sea breezes, and mind-numbing traffic, I've never felt the urgent need to break away from the city because it doesn't really feel like a "city." Or so I thought. When I touched down in South Dakota last week, I realized I actually did need to escape from LA and that my head was in fact dangerously close to popping. The difference was that this time, the tension had been building painlessly, gradually like a slowly filling helium balloon. I didn't know how badly I needed to get out of town until I was already gone.

What a break it was. It was more than a break, it was a recalibration. It was a deep breath and a slow, careful exhale. I'd been to South Dakota and Denver many times before, of course, but this was the first time I can say I truly felt like I was going to a second home (Just ask brother Wayne and he'll vouch for me helping myself to his pantry). Maybe the best way I can organize my thoughts on this is to break it down by day.


First stop, directly from the airport should always be Armadillo's ice cream shop (seasonal). I had a steamburger, of course, and then satisfied a month-long craving for a milkshake with one of their signature concoctions edible only with a spoon. The Snickers Delite, folks. I friggin' love Snickers.

The nap. Is there anything better? I cannot tell you the last time I had a legitimate nap prior to that afternoon. And I went deep. I was dreaming.

Return to the scene of the crime, the winery of our wedding. Now that was weird. It felt like it had been a lot longer than a year. It felt kind of like going back into last year's classroom, assuming that conjures good memories for you. It certainly did for me. I caught myself telling every employee I came in contact with, like showing the new kids where the graph paper is stored. "Let me help you pick out a few tastings, youngster. I got married here last year."

And they had even managed to get all the candle wax off the hearth.


Uncle Jim took me fishing, my first time. The power and peace of the utter quiet. The sky. Holy shit, the sky. The purest, brightest blue, an ocean touching this lake. The term "big sky" hit home. The endearing, dry banter of Uncle Jim and his son Rick, playfully picking on each other all day long. My first and only fish! He was too small to keep, but, he fought like a marlin. The honor in keeping the tiniest fish that died as we removed the hook, scooping him back out of the water even though he had less than an ounce of meat on him. Rick was not going to let him lay to waste. A ham sandwich and a PBR never tasted so good as they did out on that boat, with a line in the water.

Deadwood, always Deadwood. The big, fancy suite you'd never expect to see in this Old West gambling town with its giant tub, fireplace, and complimentary slippers. Sharing a bottle of wine with the winemaker and his family (i.e., me). Hitting the tables and losing my shirt. The graciousness and sincerity of the dealer we had all to ourselves who implored me to never give up on my artistic dreams. Sometimes it's just so much easier to be open with a stranger.


Like Willie Nelson said, "a bloody mary morning." After years of trying to like them, I am finally(!) on board. It's a good thing because I needed a little hair of the horse that bucked me and then kicked me as I tried to stand up. The luck that began with finding the only place serving a breakfast sandwich at noon. The luck that continued as I hit my straight flush, taking all my money back and some of theirs, all with one foot out the door. The convertible. A '91 LeBaron, but a convertible nonetheless. Driving (see, rocking) through Custer State Park, top down, "American Woman" blasting. The striking scale of the Cathedral Spires. Driving through "The Eye of the Needle," aptly named for the size of this rock tunnel. Wondering what the first car to drive through it might have looked like. The kindness of strangers when the convertible wouldn't start again (it is a '91 LeBaron).

Sitting on the back patio that night, sharing several bottles of wine with the winemaker and his family. The crackle of the fire in the chiminea. The often underrated magic of seeing stars, their power to remind you how small you are...in a healthy way. The way the flicker of firelight seems to filter out everything but honesty on the faces it touches.


The road trip. Denver, by way of Wyoming. Desolation, isolation, service station. The crap we buy there. Snow fences, open spaces, a metal cowboy planted on the hilltop for no apparent reason. The budding anticipation for the Little America Resort in Cheyenne, building from mild amusement to ecstatic glee after hundreds of miles of roadside billboards.

The reward of reaching family at the finish line.


Playing in the sandbox, building cities, farms, construction sites at once. The jolt to the imagination that is trying to keep up with the kids. Wiping the sand from Claire's eyes, trying not laugh too hard that she has dumped the entire cup of sand right on her head. The unspoken fun of taking little Caeden to kindergarten. Promising to take care of his monster truck until he gets home (I think I left it in the car. Oops.). A new outdoor mall for the Gap/Banana Give-and-Get 3-Day sale. Hey, I have come to love that sale. Plus the sales tax is lower in Colorado. The surprise and joy of my first Papa Murphy's pizza. Sitting out back, watching the sun set over the Rockies.


The Wedding. I love everything about weddings and this one was a knockout. The beaming pride of families coming together. The naked humility on the faces of the bride and groom as their big moment finally arrives. The indomitable tears everyone knew were coming yet are still utterly sincere. Then, the party. The brotherhood that builds around the bar. Dancing with any man, woman, or child in my vicinity. Dancing with parents. For a music fascist like me, realizing sometimes (though rarely) the song doesn't matter in the least. The 10 year-old who could give me lessons on being a ladies man. Letting go, looking around to find everybody falling with you. Everybody pretty much cutting footloose. The summer camp camaraderie of everyone staying in the same hotel.


The Day After breakfast, trying to remember everything you still desperately need to recover from. Noticing the same confusion on faces around the room. Asking "Hey, wasn't that you doing the Thriller dance?" while waiting on the wafflemaker. Saying goodbye, wondering when you might see them all again. Hoping it won't be long.

Finally, coming home. Dropping your bags, picking up the cats, and getting ready to start over.

Monday, August 30, 2010

How You Know You've Had a Great Vacation

When you walk back into work Monday morning, your boss says, "Welcome back. You didn't think you were getting paid for last week, did you? When I said you could have a week off, I just meant you could be gone," and you just smile and say, "Oops, I guess that was just a misunderstanding."

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Take this job and...

Chewing the fat with the old man last night and he asks to our neighbor if she's ready to retire. She said she was mentally ready but not financially ready and I quickly added an "Aaaaaamen." He asked me "Yeah, but what would you do if you retired," clearly (because I know his points before he does) taking the angle of one of these people who say they tried to retire but were bored out of their minds, etc. If these people really exist, I am happy for them, but sure know I am not one of them. What would I do if I could retire? Whatever the f_*k I want, that's what.

I would exercise without time constraints, I would read the paper over breakfast, I would read all the books I want to read, see all the movies I want to see, travel the world, see all the family and friends I never get to see, learn my guitar, take various types of classes, write actual letters to people....I really could go on all day.

I realize I am kind of going back to my post not too long ago so I will keep it brief.

The thing is, his perspective is radically than mine, assuming he was agreeing with the "Who, me? Retire?" crowd. His job is meaningful. As I am finally reading Outliers, as I pledged, the author defines a meaningful job as having three criteria: "complexity, autonomy, and a relationship between effort and reward in doing creative work." His job meets all three and God bless him for that. My perspective, however, is quite different. You could argue there's complexity, but really, I am so used to it, I could do it in my sleep by now. As for the latter two, not by any stretch of the imagination.

The author goes on to say something that might be completely obvious even out of context, but it struck a chord with me.

"Hard* work is a prison sentence only if it does not have meaning. Once it does, it becomes the kind of thing that makes you grab your wife around the waist and dance a jig."

I long...I yearn...I ache to dance that jig.

*I would argue that the same could be said for easy work and that easy work considered a prison sentence, in its own way, is as painful as hard work.


I feel I am a man on edge. These last couple days I can feel my fuse shortening and everytime somebody comes near me with a proverbial matchstick, I am afraid they are going to be the one that gets burned when I finally explode.
I couldn't tell you why, not definitively anyway. Sure, there have been a couple situations at work or with the folks that could have motivated this sour mood of mine, but I can't say for sure whether it was those negative experiences that caused my fed-up-edness or my preexisting angst that painted those encounters in such a negative light.
I know if I allow this tension to continue to build, that an explosion, while bringing an instant of relief, will only be outweighed by the aftermath of guilt, apologies, and reparations. So what then. The wine apparently isn't working. I've got tennis tonight. If I play well, there is hope that might help to turn this thing around. If not, there is a growing chance I may go McEnroe. Beyond that, I may resort to sitting in the dark and listening to mellow music. Maybe a nice long walk and a series of deep breaths. Is this what yoga is for?
At least I can recognize it. That way, I can at least try to turn the heat down when my blood starts boiling. Then again, maybe this method of swallowing anger and frustration is only what causes this backup of the emotional pipes. Maybe if I allowed the occasional controlled burn, I could avoid these impending 500-acre brushfires. Three consecutive metaphors! Look out, I'm on a roll!
Then again, maybe the problem is not me. Maybe all these little things that are driving me to the brink of sanity are not overreations at all. Perhaps it's a weird coincidence that all these injustices and episodes of rudeness are all happening to me in a short span of time and my handling of the situation is actually more well-adjusted than the next guy's would be. Yeah, let's go ahead and rule this theory out immediately.
Deep breath. Count to ten. Hear the music. "Smell the sea and feel the sky."
Thank God I am off next week. Heading for the heartland. This trip, for me anyway, could not have come at a better time. It might just save me from the straight jacket.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

And in other, more interesting news...

The Fall Seasonals Are Here! The Fall Seasonals Are Here!
Ohhhh, my friends. What a sumptuous surprise to stumble upon during a lunch break Ralph's run. My heart leapt, my loins sunk, my stomach remained fairly stable, considering. The Sam Adams Octoberfest brew! The New Belgium Hoptober! There was even a liter bottle of some Sierra Nevada seasonal brew that I'd never even heard of! It bore a burnt sienna label with a stream and golden leaves! In the voice of Terrence Mann, Autumn will come, Ray. Autumn will most definitely come. You probably noticed that the six-pack of Sammy pictured above is resting atop a twelve-pack. If I told you that it was a seasonal brew combo-pack, you'd probably tell me how those are a ripoff because they always sneak in some disgusting curveball brew like "Cranberry Lambec." I would agree with you, but today, my friends, I am thrilled to report that we would both be wrong. For this combo-pack was solid throughout. Of course, you realize this is only the beginning, the first whiff of smoke signaling the raging fire of Fall still to come. Why just looking at that photo above, I was moved to imbibe a hot mug of chai tea with peanut butter toast, finally willing to entertain that my most sacredly loved of seasons was almost here again.

I Just Don't Get It

Why do some people waste so much of their time on the so-called guilty pleasure entertainment, i.e. really really shitty, brain-sucking, soulless, depraved reality shows? When there is so much good stuff to watch, read, or listen to and so little time to get to it all, who can consistently waste time with the garbage?

Now hold on a second. I understand the value of mixing in a little kitsch. I am not saying I am Mr. All-High-Art-All-The-Time, not even close**. I understand that, even though you know it's bad and bad for you, sometimes you just want Taco Bell. I get that sometimes you'll come across a bad movie on cable, but it's a fun bad movie because maybe you used to watch it growing up or maybe you just feel like not thinking for a while. I get it and I am right there with you.

No, what I am talking about are the folks who watch nothing but the crap. I know a couple very intelligent people who love to laugh at the absurdity of the celebrity gossip that Yahoo "News" gives the weight of global warming. They enjoy watching "Jersey Shore" or the latest Kardashian calamity if only to revel in how tasteless it is. But here's the thing, as far as I can tell, the crap is not offset by more valuable venues visited the majority of the time. They're not reading the New York Times or catching up on "Mad Men" and then clicking over to "TMZ" for a little levity. As far as I can see, and I have been paying attention, it's all-asinine-all-the-time. Don't you see that it's never going to stop if you keep looking at it?!

WHY?!?!?!?! It's maddening, isn't it?

**For evidence that I am not playing the snobby high-brow card, see previous post.

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Not Expendables

In honor of last weekend's top box office grosser, I would like to list my top ten action movies featuring cast members of "The Expendables," or, as it turns out, my top ten Stallone/Schwarzenegger/Willis action movies. You will notice that none of the "Rocky" series appears on this list because I don't think they really classify as action movies. They are boxing movies, their own genre.

10. Tango & Cash - great chemistry, genuinely funny moments, a kickass 4x4, and Jack Palance as the bad guy

9. Commando - "Remember when I said I'd kill you last?....I lied."

8. Predator - "Come on, I'm here! Kill me! Do it now!"

7. Cobra - The toothpick, the muscle car, the laser-pointer aiming device...plus a truly scary villain.

6. Rambo: First Blood Part II - Probably didn't invent the "gear-up" sequence, but did it as well as anyone. They even carried it over to the cartoon.

5. Die Hard 2: Die Harder

4. The Running Man - Watch this movie and tell me we are not three years away from this actually happening.

3. Terminator 2: Judgment Day - I don't think this one has aged very well, unfortunately. Edward Furlong's whiny brat John Connor is tough to take.

2. True Lies - Three words: Jamie. Lee. Curtis.

1. Die Hard - "Yippe ki-yay, motherfucker."

Friday, August 13, 2010


Tomorrow morning, me and a couple of my guys are embarking on perhaps the greatest double feature pairing in recent memory.

10:10 a.m. "The Expendables" followed by a 12:30 "The Other Guys" with a beer in between.

Does it get any better than that? I don't think so. Wooooooooooo!

On the flip side, one of my coworkers is doing "Eat, Pray, Love"* and "Charlie St. Cloud," perhaps only to prove there is a yin to my yang.

*Do I want to see "Eat, Pray, Love?" Of course. But come on, "Expendables" first.

On a side note, I recently gave a guy friend my favorite book as a gift. I came this close to giving him "Eat, Pray, Love" as well, not having read it myself but based solely on the subject matter. In the nick of time, I saw that the opening lines of the book are her begging to be kissed by a guy named Antonio. Wow, that was a close call. Can you friggin' imagine?

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Thursday, August 12, 2010

A Rebel Without a Claus

I know it's August.

I know it is 75 degrees out.

I know there is still a month and a half of baseball to be played.

I know it's still fashionably acceptable to be wearing linen shirts and white pants.

I know all these thing. And I do embrace them.

But I just listened to a Christmas song*, intentionally and in its entirety.

Because I just needed it, that's why. I might listen to three more by days' end. Sorry, coworkers.

*Ironically, my selection was Johnny Mathis' version of "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas."

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


Sometimes it's the little things.

Ever since we moved in, we've been living with this ceiling fan in the dining room. It's not a bad looking model, but it's still a ceiling fan, which confounds me as to why it was ever installed in a dining room.

"Gee hun, my soup is just too darned hot. Would you mind cranking on the ceiling fan for me?"


"(Groan) Ohhh! Look at this table! It's covered in dust!"

"But we're out of Pledge and paper towels and our guests will be here any minute!"

"Fear not, kitten. I know exactly what to do..."

Suffice to say, we never used the thing. Not even for light as it had some godawful energy-saving, ambiance-sucking fluorescent-looking bulb inside it. Lighting was a real challenge actually. Candles are nice, but sometimes you want a nice, soft glow without the romance, ya know? Sometimes you want a casual warmth as opposed to a seductive warmth and we could never find the right balance using the other lamps around the room.

Last night, it all became moot. Our lighting crisis was zapped to oblivion with the snap of a breaker. Thirty minutes of observed labor and awkward conversation later, and we had a brand new chandelier installed! But wait, that's not all. Are you ready for this? We also had the electrician install.......(drum roll).......a dimmer! A dimmer! My kingdom for a dimmer! Man oh man, I wanna tell you....

That chandelier really ties the room together. I just laid down and stared at it. Casual warmth up the wazoo! And really, slide it down a quarter inch more, light a couple peripheral candles and, boom, seductive warmth. Romanza bonanza.

I just wonder why it took us this long to see that the solution was so simple, as obvious as a riddle that kids get in two seconds when their parents rack their brains for hours. No matter, the new era is here now. The new Era of (Dining Room) Enlightenment.


Then there's the shower caddy. Eureka! What a marvel of efficiency and practical design! I'm not talking about the shower caddy as a concept. That's old news, of course. I'm talking about the new one we just installed after the old one rusted out. I tell ya, nothing pleases me like outstanding organization in the shower and they really made a quantum leap forward with this model. I can see they did their homework. It's like they read my mind or could sense my frustration with the various shower elements hanging out all over the place like a big lady in a small bra. The shampoo is held tight against the wall, no longer free to fall forward, impeding the stream and spraying water everywhere! Never again will the slippery soap slide off its perch into the waters below! There is now a lip corralling it like with the pride of a sheppard.

Everything in its place, my friends. Everything in its place.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Hello? Hello? Is anybody there?

I have been sitting at my desk doing absolutely nothing for the last three hours. Nothing. Zero. Zilch. Wait, I did send a few business emails. So I got that going for me. For the last half hour or so, my boss's door has been closed and my two coworkers have disappeared. Save for the occasional remote cough or the snap of a stray binder closing, there is dead and utter silence. I am tempted to put my head down at my desk or blast some music, as much for my own enjoyment as to prove a point. Maybe I'll just scream. I am alive here! I wonder how many people across the world right now are sitting at their desks, staring at their monitors, and wondering, like me, if time has frozen still or if they have become invisible. I've got a big book order on the way. Perhaps I'll start reading in such times of despair. Maybe we should get a bird. At least then I would have someone to talk to. You know what would be great? If we had a bar downstairs in the lobby. In times like these, who could fault a sane man for stealing away for a quick beer and a few minutes of a ballgame. Great, I'm being driven to drink at work. This could be the beginning of the end. Ha! Like there is ever going to be an end!

(Fifteen minutes later)

After talking to my friend Christine for a few minutes, I feel a little better. Still, when the door closes behind me today, the radio is going up and my voice is going hoarse.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

What's the deal with honey?

It comes in a little plastic bottle. The honey is contained inside the bottle, which is often shaped like a bear. The honey comes out of a little tiny hole on the top of the bottle. There is a lid that snaps closed over that little hole. Now it's a gewey substance so I can see how when you end your pour, how a little residue could be left around the honey hole. So then why is it that halfway through the bottle, the entire exterior of the bottle is covered in a film of honey? It gets all over your hands, it pools on the bottom of the cupboard. It's like juggling pine cones. You handle it for ten seconds and you're chasing sap all over your body for hours. How does this happen? How does the honey get all over the friggin' bottle? It's like it travels through the plastic by osmosis or something. I love honey. Love it. But this stickey situation (ding!) is cause to reconsider. I just don't get it.

Confessional or This Is How Secure in My Manhood I Am

--I cannot listen to Taylor Swift's "The Best Day" by myself without crying.

--I recently asked my wife if she could pick me up a pore-reducing mask.

--I also recently had an argument with my wife about how many pillows we need on our bed...and I was for adding more.

--I adore, even crave, lavender.

--A fraction of my motivation for working out lately, albeit a small one, has been to better fit a shirt I recently bought.

That's all I got for now, but that's probably a good thing, right? It's kind of like the opposite of the Dos Equis Guy commericals.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

New Look, New Post!

I don't know what happened. The mindless haze of summer sun and fun? Sure, let's call it that. Let's just move forward, shall we?

And now the burden of having something to say...Okay, I got one...

I have been working virtually nonstop since I was 15 years old. Even when I was in college taking 18 units a semester, I worked a job at the very least 16 hours a week. You would think that by now I would be at peace with the concept of a job being a job, a necessary sacrifice of time and free will for the sake of stability in one's food, shelter, and wine. Yet lately it has been bothering me more than ever.

I have been having some great weekends. Lots of relaxing, reading, and enjoying outdoor movies with friends. You would think this release would appease me and make the work days in between more tolerable, but in fact it has had the opposite effect. The more I enjoy life on my terms, the less patience I have to waste it away on someone else's.

I don't mean to sound immature or whiny. It's not like I pout about it or throw a tantrum. Really, it just inspires my bi-monthly What-am-doing-with-my-life, Is-this-really-the-best-I-can-do mini-crisis. You know, those periods where you reflect on all your failures and unfulfilled potential and wonder what you could have done differently. Sometimes I think maybe this is why you have children, to give life meaning and to stop the endless cycle of chasing your own elusive happiness. Then I remind myself that one should not decide to have children to solve one's problems, that they are not a prescription. Besides, if the simple pleasure of feeling the sun on my face is making work intolerable, what effect is the heart-leaping joy of fatherhood going to have? The most agonizing aspect of these times is that nothing positive comes from them. All the reflection and internal sulking changes nothing. I stare at the ocean, listen to early Jackson Browne, and pray for guidance. Eventually, my mind just wanders to problems less vexing. Still, short of landing a miracle new job that inspires a sense of pride and purpose, I don't see what there is I can really do about it. Nonetheless, I have to try. Here is what I have come up with, my 6-step plan for contentment:

Step 1: Head for Vegas*. Going on Friday.

Step 2: Start writing again. Something different this time. Something lighter. So what if no one likes it or, God forbid, buys it. That becomes evident later. The value is in the doing.

Step 3: Learn to play the guitar. I know I have claimed this one before, but I went to McCabe's last night and bought a book! I'll see how much I can teach myself and then go for lessons. If you're gonna sing the blues, at least give it some accompaniment, right? (rim shot)

Step 4: Keep exercising. I'm going on three good weeks and it always helps to feel physically good.

Step 5: Go back to the improv classes. Like working out, it was something I always tried to talk myself out of (because it was terrifying and a painful commute away), but was thrilled about after I had done it.

Step 6: As a fail safe, finally pick up Malcom Gladwell's Outliers: The Story of Success, or as it's less widely known, "You're A Loser, But It's Not Your Fault." On that note...

I stumbled on a program on NPR last weekend where they were debating the existence of free will as we know it. The segment I heard was an interview with a quantum physicist who, of course, was making the point that despite what we would like to believe or what seems to us to be true, that we actually have no conscious control over our actions. He cited this study where they hooked people up to these brain wave machines and told them to press this button at some point in the next three minutes, whenever they chose to do so. Conventional wisdom would have you expect the results to show the brain sending the signal to the fingers to press the button and then for the button to be pressed. However, they found that the brain sent a signal reacting to the action before it ever sent the signal to initiate the action. This study seemed to indicate the subjects' brains knew when the action was coming before the subject made the "choice" to act. Of course, we are talking about minute fractions of a second here and I am sure I am butchering this study in my recounting of it (couldn't find the program in a quick search). I'm not saying I am that easily convinced one way or the other, but I was certainly intrigued by the question.

So here I am, stuck in a rut. Maybe my plans to get out of it will only further entrench me in this wedge, like quick sand or a rip tide. Maybe it's out of my hands (and brain) to change anything anyway. Maybe the metaphor of the rollercoaster of life is true in its implication that the course is already set and we are merely along for the ride. Something tells me those quantum physicists smoke a lot of pot. Regardless, what's the harm in trying?

I was confronted with a license plate frame this morning that I think sums it all up as plainly and succinctly as only a license plate frame can. It said, "So what? Enough already."

And with that, back to work...

*This trip was already planned, but the timing works out well, doesn't it?

Friday, June 25, 2010

You Make The Call

If I am hanging out with two native Germans and one fellow American, and the two Germans choose to converse only in their first language, what's the ruling on that?

A) Good for them. They probably relish the opportunity to speak German and feel a little piece of home for a change.

B) For a minute, it's cool, but beyond that it's just rude. It's the most obvious and blatant means of making people feel totally excluded from a conversation. English is the language the fours of us all speak so how about we go with that, okay?

When am I?

It is high tea time here around the ol' officestead. Everyone had me pegged for chai today, but they were dead wrong. As I explained, I had chair yesterday and it was just too confusing for me to deal with. Chai is the tea of Fall, of sweaters and museums and complaining that it doesn't rain enough. Chair is no summer tea and as you well know, we are hardly to July. My autumnal heart was befuddled. I can't do that to myself again today.

Green all the way.

Friday, June 11, 2010


What a beautiful morning.

Awakened, as usual, by the hungry cries of Mr. Frodo in plenty of time to get up and make coffee before the opening kick.

A bowl of Wheaties. Two cups of coffee. The morning paper chalk full of bitter pills of info on the Laker loss and the NCAA witchhunt.

A full game of World Cup soccer before even thinking about getting dressed for work.

Nice little Friday.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

A (Larry) Bird In The Hand Beats Two In A (George) Bush

I am starting to realize I might not have room in my life for both sports and politics.

Okay, so that's overstating it a bit, but I will say that I have taken a hiatus from caring about anything political and it may be directly linked to the dearth of thrilling sports stories developing this week. You've got the Lakers and the Celtics in the NBA Finals, of course. That alone is enough to monopolize a fan's attention. Then you put the World Cup into the mix and the hours become nothing but a countdown until the next game. Just for good measure or perhaps to test my excitement threshold, let's toss in the Angels-Dodgers Freeway Series, amplified further still by a bet with Kissen raising the stakes (or steaks, as it were). The icing on the cake, the last touch of foreboding, which makes all this sporting action not just fun but actually important, is the impending NCAA ruling on the USC case.

There is a LOT of potential for celebration in these next couple weeks. We're talking actual jump-for-joy giddiness. On the flip side, of course, there is also potential for great heartbreak and disappointment. At this stage though, as the Lakers are only through Game 3, and the rest of the events have yet to begin, it's all nervous, elated anticipation.

I'm not sure why I started by relating this to politics, but the break has been nice and this sports bonanza has been a more than adequate replacement. Just between you and me, I didn't even vote yesterday. I'm not proud of it. I swear, I forgot. Besides, I had to come into work early so that I could leave early to make it home in time for the Lakers tipoff.

UPDATE (Thursday, 9:15 a.m.): Well that playful peppering of foreboding turned out to be more than I had anticipated. So what did I do last night when I learned of the imminent sanctions against USC? I watched "The Rachel Maddow Show." Not only do I have room for both, but it would seem they are a neccesary yin and yang.


Ended by a single rain drop:

According to my estimates, approximately 67% of my office is wearing sandals today. As recently as two years ago, sandals were something you could technically get away with if you wore them with pants, but you had to be prepared to hear one or two half-joking remarks from the powers that be. Now, apparently, we're Huntington Beach which is just fine by me. It's the summer of love! Woooooo! Let it flow!

Sunday, May 23, 2010


Do you ever have those times when there is a word on the tip of your tongue, but you have some sort of temporary mental block preventing you from remembering what it is and spitting it out?

I don't remember what the context was but, I had such a crisis about 2 months ago and today the word popped right back in there. The word was:


There, now it is on public record and the next time I forget it, I know just where I can find it. Humor me.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Say what?

My boss was born and raised in Germany. He did not learn English until he moved to the U.S. By now his English is fantastic, but we do often discuss American sayings, what they mean, what the origin is, etc. We were also just discussing the realm of nuts. It is a little slow right now in case you couldn't tell. But anyway, it got me thinking...

I submit to you that the saying "greatest thing since sliced bread" should forever be changed to "greatest thing since shelled pistachios." Let me tell you why. How hard is it to slice bread really? As long as you have a serrated knife, it takes two seconds. Was sliced bread a wonderful invention and a huge leap forward for mankind (and ducks)? Of course. I'm just saying if we didn't have it, we could still get by just fine. But pistachios...

Pistachios are far and away the best tasting of all nuts. This point is not open for discussion. However, I will often shy away from the deliciousness of the pistachios because they are such a pain in the ass to get out of their shells. It's no coincidence that the best nut is also the highest maintenance nut. It's one of nature's classic jokes. So when they started selling the pre-shelled pistachios, that, to me, was the defining moment of greatness to which all others should be compared against. There was only two periods in time, Before Shelled Pistachios and After Shelled Pistachios, or B.S.P. and A.S.P. 'Twas the vortex, my friends.

The cooler with wheels, that was also a great invention. One might say it was the greatest thing since shelled pistachios.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Two Common Phrases That Are Long Overdue For Retirement

1) "Really?"

As in the SNL Weekend Update segment. As in, "Come on. Really? Really, Officer? You're gonna give me a ticket for jaywalking? Really?"

2) "I like where your head's at."

Monday, May 17, 2010

Thank You

Just wanted to say thank you to everyone for their good anniversary wishes. It's weird, cool thing these anniversaries. Kind of like having your birthdays on the same day. Anyway, I was really touched by all the texts we received over the weekend. Thank you for remembering and taking the time to wish us well. It was a beautiful weekend. Really could not have been better. Now I am back at work and feeling like shit (just tired, sick), but I'll post pictures later!

Friday, May 07, 2010

Where's a genie when you need one?

Can I just say that if I had a wish, it might be that I could just BE Will Ferrell? I feel like he is the living incarnation of the life I dreamed of.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Pants? Check. Shoes? Check. Starbucks cup in hand? Check.

There is a girl at work here who walks in every single day, without exception, carrying a grande or venti Starbucks cup. She's a very nice person and this is not really about her, but it got me thinking...

Not so much about the roughly $350 a year that adds up to, but rather, what does that cup really stand for, aside from the obvious caffeination. My theory is that some people rely on the Starbucks cup as a symbol of power or readiness. Think about it, a person carrying a Starbucks cup (grande or larger--don't even try to come up in here with your "tall" boy) has more visual cache than a person without one, or so the theory goes. I think these people are using it as a crutch, something to occupy their hands, subconsciously sensing this cup gives them an air of authority or general with-it-ness. It's like a clipboard, a walkie, or a headset in that way. And who knows, maybe they're right. Maybe it works.

**As I googled to find an image for this, I found many photos of Hollywood actresses with their Starbucks, talking on their cell phones. I guess a second theory might be that it's a way to look cool too.

Folk or Fight

Joni Mitchell in a recent LA Times interview:

"Bob is not authentic at all. He's a plagiarist, and his name and voice are fake. Everything about Bob is a deception. We are like night and day, he and I."

Them's fightin' words! This is the kind of bulletin board material that can only end in a face-to-face showdown! Can I promote this?


Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Sweet Sweet Summer

Summer is here. We've seen flashes over the last few weeks, but it was always followed by rain or gail force winds. Maybe it's just that I am really feeling the mood, but I think this time it might be here to stay.

Last night, we drove down to Long Beach to see David Sedaris. Carpool lane was wiiiiiide open. We were cruising along like we were riding a monorail, eating sandwiches and listening to my new Diana Krall album. I've never really thought about jazz as summer beach music, but this really worked well. I was probably taking a visual from the tranquil shore scenes in the inside cover art, but there was a romantic elegance to the music that had me hearkening back to a peaceful afternoon in the Caribbean, sipping rum punch and watching the sun set. Before you roll your eyes, you should know that I wrote that last sentence in my best Ron Burgundy voice. We got down to LB in time to have a preshow glass of wine out on the terrace. The view was nothing spectacular, but I was reminded how good it feels to be outside on a warm summer night.

Last night was the opening act today's headliner. Sunny and warm, I drove down to the mall at lunch, windows down, blaring the feel-good music of The Samples. They're a 90s band from Colorado that play kind of unpolished, jam band music that reminds me of what Sting might sound like if he had a side project back in the day. Pottery Barn was all shells, nautical decor, and bright patio dining umbrellas. I felt like I was in the Hamptons. And I've never even been to the Hamptons. Walking into Williams-Sonoma was, as usual, like walking into someone's house at dinner time, smelling something incredible, and knowing you can't stay. Today they were roasting pork with some heavenly seasoned Chipotle marinade. Alas, it was not ready yet. Instead I drooled over the pineapple margarita mix and the Ad Hoc Chocolate Frosting (chocolate knows no season in my book).

I'm telling you, it was really really hard to come back to work. To rub margarita salt in my wounds, somebody pulled up to me at the first stoplight riding...a classic green Vespa. So now I am imagining puttering on my scooter through the cobblestone villages of Tuscany or Provence, shopping for local art and fresh bread, cheese, and wine for dinner. However, doing simple, repetitive math in a window-less, climate-controlled office is a close second.

Summer is out there, I tell you. It's waiting for me. I've got my deck shoes on and I am ready to go. And it's only Wednesday. At this rate, I'll be rolling into work on Friday wearing a grass skirt and a sombrero.

!Cinco De Mayo!

Most asinine thing you will hear today, most likely several times:

"I'm not Mexican."

OOooooohhh so you believe that we should only celebrate the holidays that apply directly to us rather than celebrating the many cultures and people of this world. Hey, if you want to live that way, you go right ahead. Personally, I relish the opportunity to celebrate anything. I'm a celebrator. You don't need to be Irish to celebrate St. Patrick's Day. You can be a Roman Catholic and still find beauty in Chanukah. You can be Republican and still go green for Arbor Day*. When in Rome, I say!


*While already celebrated by several states, Republican President Richard Nixon proclaimed the last Friday in April to be National Arbor Day. We just missed it! Damn it!

Monday, May 03, 2010

Music Mania!!!!!

Lot of action lately.

I got my first review up on T-Bone's music blog. I spent about two hours last weekend digging for new music and finding some unbelievable stuff, like Joshua James.

Saturday night we went to see Stephen Kellogg (awesome) open for Needtobreathe (very disappointing). As usual, I made an ass of myself gushing over Mr. Kellogg at the merch table. "Your music cuts straight to my heart" was bad. I think I hit rock bottom with "I like to go running. I know a lot of people like to run to hip hop but your music really gets me going." Yes, I really said that. Did I mean everything I said? Yes, I did, so I shouldn't feel THAT bad, but still.....embarassing. This is what I do, which is why, seven times out of ten when presented with the opportunity to say thank you to an artist whose work has touched my life, I will opt not to. Anyway, he signed my poster "Thank you for the kind words," which is great, of course, as it will remind me of those words every time I see it. Sigh.

Then on Sunday was that Amoeba Garage Sale. It was intense. I met Bernie and T-Bone there and when we finally walked out, we realized we had been down there for two solid hours. I think I blacked out at one point. Still, it was worth it. CDs and vinyl for a buck each. And we're not talking Color Me Badd here. There was some great stuff in there. I don't even recall everything I brought home but here is a small sample:

Oscar Peterson Trio
Top Gun soundtrack (yeah, I said it)
Miles Davis & Gil Evans
Billy Joel
Glen Campbell
Diana Krall
Duke Ellington
Benny Goodman
Ben Kweller
The Samples
Jackson Browne
Steve Martin

Did I mention I found the Willie Nelson, Don Williams, and Ron Sexsmith I needed at Fingerprints last weekend? I haven't even looked at the flash drive filled with tunes that Bernie gave me. I'm neck deep, I tell ya, neck deep! Put your dancin' shoes on 'cause we're pushing straight on through 'til morning!

As if this were not enough, the James Taylor/Carole King album comes out tomorrow. Does this entry age the shit out of me even beyond the years I've actually lived? Probably. But hey, good music is good music. I'll come back with some indie emo-rock tomorrow.

What's for dinner

Every weekend I seem to eat worse than the last. This weekend included, burgers (2 times), fries, beer, chips, pizza, more beer, and a quesadilla. Oh yeah, and burgers a third time (forgot about the late night McDonald's). Dear Lord. I do so well Monday through Thursday and then the wheels come off the wagon...and the wagon carenes into a vat of grease.

Friday, April 30, 2010

There are no words....

There's really not any need for commentary on this. If you're with me, it speaks for itself. If there's anything I can say, let it just be that I wish there was a way to wrap up everything about this concept, this video, and all its participants....to wrap them up inside a tortilla of TMZ and Perez Hilton and set the whole fucking thing on fire.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Bloop bloop bloop bloop

Have I mentioned that my entire office has the same text message alert tone? I swear it's the sound effect to an old Nintendo game, I just can't place it. Ah well, I get plenty of chances to identify it. About 500 chances a day to be specific.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

It's Over

You know what, I am done with peas. No more peas in my life. They are just too damned small. They're difficult to negotiate onto your fork and the small amount you are able to accumulate for a bite is still too small to give you any kind of real, full flavor. Give me some broccolli, some asparagus, even lima beans, but, please, peas no more.

Still Here, Mixed Bag Tuesday

--I sat on the couch for about two hours Saturday listening to new (to me anyway) music on Itunes. I've said it before, but I'll say it again, Genius is genius! I compiled a list longer than my....well, it was long*. Come to find out my timing could not have been better as Amoeba is having their first ever garage sale! Hooha! It's gonna take a lot of discipline not to blow Frodo and Sophie's college fund come Sunday morning.

--Speaking of music, my buddy T-Bone has started a music blog and invited me to participate. Here's the link. It's basically new album and conert reviews. My first review should be up there shortly. As you can see, T-Bone is fairly prolific so I would imagine he'll be writing the bulk of the stuff. He did a great report on this year's Coachella Festival.

--Speaking of music and record stores, I was down in Long Beach Sunday and, of course, I stopped in Fingerprints. Who should I happen to run into there, but my cousin Ryan. It was really weird because as I was parking, I remembered that he lived down there now and I had a feeling I was going to see him. I went over and hung out with he and his girlfriend at their place and then we all met Cruiser and Jen at Joe Jost's for schooners, specials, billiards, and such jukebox classics as "Night Moves" and "Winds of Change." We had a grand ol' time. It was really cool because Ryan and I had been practically inseperable as kids, but only seen each other every other Christmas or so in our adult years. After Sunday, I have a good feeling that that is going to change. Family becoming friends to boot! Who knew?

--Does anyone else watch "Damages?" Man, what a friggin' great show. This season really blew me away, especially that season finale.

--Still playing tennis, though not as regularly as I'd like. I felt like I was making real progress and then came an unexpected two-week hiatus. Last night I was a mess. Very frustrating. From now on, if Juan can't play, I'm going to the court to hit against the wall by myself.

Well, that's all I got at the moment. Ya gotta ease back into these things.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Tiger Tales

Let me start by saying that celebrity humor, for once, has been a source of great relief for me.

Since The Masters started on Tuesday, I was really surprised and dismayed by the reception Tiger Woods seemed to be getting from the local fans as well as the media. He was quoted as saying how moved he was by the support he got from the fans out on the course, how great everybody was, etc. etc. Apparently the "get in the hole!" sheep were all too willing to start baa-ing for their favorite shepherd once again. And the media coverage seemed to slant the story as a comeback tale, neglecting to rehash any of the most unsavory details of his scandal. It's not that I think they should. We all know by now what the story is and we don't necessarily need to hear it reiterated for what factually amounts to a sports report. It's just that I am entertained by their choice not to do it since it has really become S.O.P. for most celebrity scandals. For example, if South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford were to donate $1 million to a local food bank, the coverage would still go something like:

"South Carolina Mark Sanford was in Columbia this morning to present a local food bank with a personal donation in the amount of one million dollars. Officials say the donation is the largest single donation they've ever received and will feed thousands of otherwise hungry and malnourished South Carolinans for as long as one year. Sanford has come under fire recently for committing adultery, disappearing to South America without notice to meet his mistress, and for using state funds to aid him in his affair."

So to see reporters, FEMALE reporters mind you, simply say how Tiger Woods was back on the golf course looking to repair his image and, hey, he shot a 4-under to boot and leave it at that was a little disheartening.

Now don't misunderstand me yet, because I sense you are about to. I am not getting on a high-horse and saying that Tiger Woods' personal life is any of my business or that he should not be allowed to go back to work because he committed adultery. I don't care what celebrities do in their personal lives. I truly don't. Obviously, cheating on your wife is a horrible thing and I don't want to make light of it, but Tiger's marriage is simply none of my damn business. So this is not about me judging him for the cheating. Who cares.

I will, however, be happy to pass a little bit of judgment based on the nature of his affairs, specifically the shit he allegedly said in his many text conversations with these mistresses. Have you read this stuff? Here is a link. Warning: it's extremely graphic. After reading this, I don't feel guilty for saying that it's a fucked up person that says these things to a woman, even one he's having a torrid affair with. This is not just dirty talk that pushes the envelope in the name of sexual excitement. This is sick, sick shit. This is someone who has some issues. I was wondering to myself, how could a person read these texts (which to my knowledge have not been disputed as false) and still head out to the course and say "Go Tiger! Go get 'em buddy!" I'm not saying they should go out there and heckle him or ridicule him. Personally, I wouldn't say anything at all. But, really, "Go Tiger"?

And then the Nike commercial came out. And then the Nike commercial parodies starting popping up. The humor and wit of these parodies and the enjoyment people seem to be getting out of them make me think the "Go Tiger" sheep are a minority and that there are still plenty of people out there that aren't sweeping his transgressions under their mental carpet.

P.S. As I type this, I forsee a huge hypocrisy flag being waved in my face. It's purple and gold in color and bears the name "Bryant" in white letters. To that I say, you definitely have a point. Kobe has never been my favorite Laker, but since the Colorado affair, I have rooted for him on the basketball court. I'd like to think that if these same texts had come from Kobe's phone, that I would not be able to root for him either. After all, like I said, it's not Tiger's cheating that turns me off to the point of not being able to seperate sports from personal life, it's the content of the texts, plain and simple. I believe if Kobe had said such things (to our public knowledge), that I would not be able to root for him. But you what, it's still fair to call me a hypocrite here. I can't say for sure that there is no trace of that in what I am saying.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

The Top 9 Ballparks I'd Love to See

Name: Miller Park
Location: Milwaukee, WI
Home of: The Brewers
Attraction: It just looks awesome, doesn't it? Of course, there's also the slide in left center where the mascot slides down following a Brewers' home run. There's the sausage race during the 7th inning stretch (I believe?). In more recent lore, Bill Brasky has told tales of the 9-9-9 Club Challenge at the park, 9 bratwurst, 9 beers in 9 innings. You better hope the bats are hot the day you try that one. It just seems like a nice, fun park with quirks and perks.
Probability of actually visiting: 9% (it's in Wisconsin, ya see)

Name: PNC Park
Location: Pittsburgh, PA
Home of: Pirates
Attraction: I think this is the coolest looking park in baseball. I love the cityscape in the background with the team-colored bridges. It also had an intimacy to it. Look at it, it's a big league park with only two levels! This is actually makes me want to go to Pittsburgh.
Probability of actually visiting: 0.00 %
Name: Wrigley Field
Location: Chicago, I-L
Home of: Cubs, Da broad shoulders
Attraction: Are you kidding me? It's one of the last parks left that actually have some real history! The Ivy! The "friendly confines" moniker! The sign out front! Old Style Beer! The rooftop seats! This is the only park where I'd feel the need to see 2 games there, one inside and one from the rooftops across the street. Not only that, but the surrounding area of Wrigleyville with its many bars and pubs (The Cubby Bear!) filled for hours before and after every game make for an all-day experience that's even bigger than the game itself.
Probability of actually visiting: 83.4%

Name: AT&T Park (as of press time)
Location: San Francisco, CA
Home of: The Giants
Attraction: It's a baseball field on the friggin' ocean. McCovey Cove has to be the coolest single ballpark feature in all of baseball (yeah Fenway, I said it!). Who can forget Barry Bonds crushing homers into the drink, kayakers out there with nets pulling balls out of the water. Say what you will about what may have been helping him do it, but you can't deny it was memorable. I gotta see this place.
Probability of actually visiting: 81%

Name: Coors Field
Location: Denver, CO
Home of: The Rockies
Attraction: The vertical-ness of it. That towering grandstand in centerfield always looks appealed to me. I think it suites the Mile-High City. Add to that the pine trees, the thin air making for many a HR, and the young and talented Rockies and I am sold. Of course, the many bars and restaurants in the upscale LoDo around the park is also intriguing.
Probability of actually visiting: Wayne? Val? 98%?

Name: Doubleday Field
Location: Cooperstown, NY
Home of: The Hall of Fame Game
Attraction: It's near the Hall of Fame. I actually don't really need to see the field at all, I just really reeeeeally want to visit the H.O.F. and this is my way of expressing it.
Probability of actually visiting: I'd like to think 93.5%

Name: The New Yankee Stadium
Location: The Bronx, NY
Home of: The Yankees, a-holes
Attraction: The sheer magnitude of the place. This is the Rome of baseball stadiums and actually cost more than the entire kingdom of Rome to create, costs adjusted for inflation, of course. I hate the Yankees nearly as much as any team, but I am above-all-else a baseball fan and I feel it is my duty to see the new stadium. Then take a scalding hot shower.
Probability of actually visiting: 81.6%

Name: Busch Stadium (new)
Location: St. Louis, MO
Home of: The Cardinals
Attraction: A really beatiful new park in what I hear is one of the best baseball cities in America. In my albeit limited experience with Cardinals fans, I've been very impressed. Who knew baseball fans could be as passionate and involved as any in the game, yet still nice, reasonable human beings. I gotta go to their home to see it and believe it. Also, Albert Pujols plays here.
Probability of actually visiting: Sadly, 19%

Name: Field of Dreams Movie Site
Location: Dubuque, IA
Home of: the "Field of Dreams" movie site
Attraction: If you love baseball like I do, if you love movies like I do, if you love the idea of something magical and surprising still being possible, then you will understand why this field is like holy ground. Not to mention, it requires a comparable pilgrimmage to get there. Sure, it's just a movie set. But I think a lot of men would understand when I say that this particular movie is as close to my heart as any work of art in any medium. There is a sacredness in that connection, like a favorite song that you feel is your song. What would you do there? a non-believer may ask. To tell you the truth, I don't really know. I imagine I would walk out and into the corn. I'd probably sit in the bleachers and stare for a while. I'm sure I'd recite the Terrence Mann speech from the film. I think the draw for this place is just as it was described in the movie, a place where people can catch a glimpse of the past. I'd even go a step further and say I imagine it to be a place to find a purity of sorts. People will come, Ray. People will most definitely come.
Probability of actually visiting: 100% (what do you have if not hope?)