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.