Tuesday, May 31, 2005

D.C. Dispatches (Mostly food, with an interlude at the movies and a dress shop)

Watch out for the next step, it’s a doozy! Or, in other words, this is one long post.

At times with Kate and Bart, I feel as though the three of us are a real life Turk, Carla and J.D. from the sitcom Scrubs. Not because we are terribly funny (sure, we crack ourselves and the random waiter or cab driver up, but no one else thinks we’re amusing) but because we would probably have a lot of fun living under the same roof, and adopting a dead stuffed dog and naming it Rowdy definitely sounds like something Kate and I would do for shits and giggles. In other sitcom worlds, Pablo, Kate and I used to say that we were George Costanza, Kramer, and Elaine from Seinfeld (cue argument between Kate and Megan over which one of us is Elaine… it is so clearly me…. no one else could be Kramer except Kate), and Bart has really turned into a nice Seinfeld over the years.

Anyway, I digress.

On Saturday night, we headed out for the Melting Pot near Dupont Circle. As we were seated, Kate declared, “I’m gonna get my drink on!” as our African American waiter handed us menus, nearly burst out laughing and quickly walked away. “Our waiter is going to the kitchen to laugh at the whitest girl ever saying she’s going to get her drink on,” I said. “I am not the whitest girl!” Kate snapped, “I’m Sicilian.”

Melting Pot was cheeserific – the Swiss fondue and the dark chocolate fondue with chambord were both great. Kate and I had the Surf and Turf for our main course and B had the seafood trifecta of salmon, shrimp and scallops. I greatly enjoyed it – especially the cheese course – they gave us plenty of bread and I detected a hint of nutmeg. Yummy. Kate pointed out that it’s rather expensive and wouldn’t it be better to spend that sort of money on a meal at 1789? I agree, although Melting Pot meal money wouldn’t get you a full meal at 1789, so I think the point is moot. It would get you a meal at Montmartre, though, and it might be better to spend a lot on a meal there…. although they don’t have fondue.

Afterwards, we had drinks at Cloud, which apparently also has tapas, but we were too full for a snack at that point. Kate had a terrible and bizarre martini with rosemary and pear juice. The experience was pleasant though, as we were able to sit outside – the inside area was horrendously crowded, loud, and filled with skanks and striped-shirt wearing types.

On Sunday, Kate and I headed to Annapolis to see her possible wedding dress. The woman who owns the shop and designs the dresses was not in, which according to, oh, everyone, is a good thing. I got to see Kate’s most likely dress and it was very beautiful and flattering. I won’t go into more detail, because she’s superstitious about such things.

Aiding us in the quest was the wonderful Frances. Frances has all sorts of stories about the crazy people who come in looking for wedding and prom dresses. For instance, about the high school girls looking for prom dresses who weren’t wearing underwear under their jeans? “You know those jeans were going to be smelling nasty around 5 o’clock.” Or the bride who wanted her dress to have a plunging neckline down to her navel? “That will only work if you’re going to have a hooker wedding. Are you having a hooker wedding?”

I tried on a bunch of bridesmaid dresses, and I’ll be the first to admit that I find it a little sad that the first person to see me naked in quite a while is the middle-aged former truck driver turned caterer and dress shop seamstress Frances, but hey, she made the experience as painless as possible and Kate now has a better idea of what the bridesmaids, or BMs and we call them and then snicker, should be wearing.

Next stop? Home for some martinis and then to the movies. And yes, Kate and I were horribly annoying at the movie theater, especially during the trailers. As a trailer for Cinderella Man showed – Kate: I wish someone would put Russell Crowe out of his misery. Megan: I wish people would stop encouraging Ron Howard by going to his biopic films. In unison: Ugh, Renee Zellweger. I know, we suck. But it was fun anyway.

Dinner that night was at Sushi Ko, on the outskirts of Georgetown. Kate and B’s friends accompanied us. The friends are a new couple, and frankly, are a little tough to take. I’m starting to think that perhaps there should be a 4 month moratorium on new couples, in which they are not allowed to go out with friends as a couple until they have been together for 4 months and can keep from making out in public.

Sushi Ko is ranked as the second best sushi joint in the DC area. Last time I was in town, Kate took me to the “third best” which was quite good. I found Sushi Ko rather disappointing. Kate and I split the age tofu, which was almost as good as Tawara’s. Then I had three rolls – salmon/avocado, yellowtail, and crunchy eel. The place was totally cheap on the fish – in some of the rolls there was only a tiny sliver of fish accompanied by a ton of rice. The rolls were all traditionally wrapped, when some of them ought to have been inside out. The crunchy eel roll was simply strange and was not served warm or with sweet sauce. Kate had the chef’s selection of sushi, which, for $18 ought to have included a roll with the 9 pieces of sushi they gave her. The music was a strange mix of mid-90s top 40 and the d├ęcor was… cheap, as Kate put it. I think next time, we’ll stick with “third best” sushi in town.

Monday’s breakfast was at Bread and Chocolate, because I was in the mood for eggs benedict. This was my second time there, and I think I’m ready to write it off. My smoked salmon eggs benedict was decent, although the chef is a little cheap on the hollandaise sauce. Kate’s California salad was completely terrible, and the service was more than lackluster. I think we need to find a new breakfast nook in the District.

Highlights in the gustation department? Kate’s gorgonzola spread and her metropolitan martinis (3 parts Absolut citron, 3 parts cranberry juice, 1 part chambord, and a wedge of lime). And since she is a wonderful host, she always had coffee ready for me in the morning, and half & half in the fridge. On the whole, a beautiful weekend in South East.

You bring light in, to a dark place

Saturday morning found me setting out on my DC trek. I left at 10:30am, and long story short, it took me seven hours to get there. Normally, it’s a four hour drive…. and when I am able to drive like a total maniac, it’s a three and a half hour drive. Traffic on the Turnpike was a little bad around the shore exits, but around 7A, it cleared up and I made it to Delaware in good time.

I had started off the ride listening to Johnny Cash. “Folsom Prison Blues” was my song during the bar exam, and “Ring of Fire” is a good song to wake up to as you drive. Then I turned it off for
This American Life. You know, it was bad enough that This American Life was dreadful this week (the theme was animals, but it was very disappointing) and that Car Talk cut out because I was too far south.

Then disaster struck. Route I-95 South was shut down due to an accident. SHUT DOWN. It took me about an hour to go three miles. Word to the wise? When the Maryland State Police tell you to take a detour, don’t listen to them. I took the Route 896 to 40 detour which was a complete waste of time as it was completely backed up and plopped you back in the midst of horrible gridlock on 95. I have decided that in the future, it may be worth the exorbitant money to fly or take the train to DC.

The traffic caused me to miss my appointment at
Aria, where I had made my appointment one freaking month in advance and the bitches refused to squeeze me in at another time. They’re lucky they make nice bridesmaid dresses, because otherwise I’d write them off.

So, given my rageaholic status, you can imagine that sitting in traffic on Saturday started to make me a little crazy. The best way for me to combat road rage is to listen to very loud, preferably moody or grumpy music.

When I found out that 95 was shut down, I popped on My Bloody Valentine, Loveless, which did the trick for a little while (thanks for the loaner, Phil). Then I switched over to Jimi Hendrix. When I was 17, I went through a phase where I only listened to Hendrix for months. I have only pulled out my Hendrix in the last month or so, but I’ve really been enjoying it. And for the record, yes I sang along in the car, yes I drummed, and yes, people were laughing at me as they drove past. I don’t care. Anything to keep my head from exploding in traffic.

I also read up on Jimi while driving (or rather, sitting in traffic). I started off with “Hey Joe,” on which Jimi sang for the very first time. Apparently, he really hated his voice. He also created the walking bass line for that song, which is my favorite part. Other interesting tidbits? “Foxy Lady” is probably about Mrs. Roger Daltrey (aka Heather Taylor), and is the only song Jimi ever wrote when he was in a happy mood. “Fire” was literally inspired by Jimi’s desire to warm himself by bassist Noel’s mama’s fire, and “Manic Depression” was inspired by his manager’s quip during a press conference that he seemed rather manic depressive.

When I was again able to drive at a normal speed, I switched over to Basement Jaxx and Underworld. All in all, I’d say my idea worked well – when I finally arrived at Kate’s I was tired, but calm.

Kate had her gorgonzola spread and a cold martini waiting. One martini, and two eps of Chappelle’s Show later, I felt much better.

Friday, May 27, 2005

The D.C.

I'm off to our nation's capitol this weekend to see Kate and Bart, and perhaps most importantly, stuff myself into an array of easter egg-colored bridesmaid dresses. Pick your favorite here.

Have a great memorial day weekend, kiddies, and I'll be back to blogging on Tuesday.

Dust and Ashes

When I was a junior in high school, I was pretty typical in my self-centered attitude. I did not have a happy teen-age experience until I got to college, and as is usually the case, I thought my life was completely horrible and so on. So when I was 17, in attempt to make me a little less self-centered, my mom made me start volunteering at the Center for Food Action, where she was (and still is) employed as a social worker.

Anyway, the summer I worked there was one of the more formative experiences in my life. I think I probably continued to be a self-centered teen in many respects, but I did come to realize that, even in a wealthy area like Bergen, there were a lot of people who had a rough time. Even more so than that, I worked primarily with a group of female senior citizens, all of whom were retired and wanted to give something back.

I volunteered at the CFA for many years after that, and didn't really stop going until I started law school.

Yesterday I found out that my friend Bertha, who trained me in the pantry and worked with me for all those years, passed away this week. She was 85. Bertha was this tiny little woman who had grown up in New York. Bertha was Sicilian, but when she was very young she had married a Mc (literally, her last name was McIllwee). Her husband had died at a realtively young age, they had never had children, and Bertha never remarried.

Simply put, Bertha had an awesome life. Every year, she and her other widowed friends would travel to some remote destination. She loved volunteering, which she did almost every day at some place or another, and ballroom dancing, which she did with equal gusto. She enjoyed regaling us with tales of her childhood in Catholic school (and how she liked to sit in the back of the class because "that's where the boys were."). About five years ago, she had heart bypass surgery. Within two months, she was back at CFA, bouncing around and cracking jokes. She went on and on about how great her doctor was. "Look!" she yelled at me, as she literally pulled up her shirt in the middle of the food pantry to show me her nicely healed scar. "You can barely see it!"

I haven't seen Bertha in a couple of years, which is why I was surprised by my reaction. When my friend Mike died, it literally felt like someone was sitting on my chest for weeks afterwards - in other words, I physically had a heavy heart. And I felt that way again when I heard about B.

She should have lived forever, or at the very least, till she was 110. She ought to be planning a trip to Tokyo or getting elected the queen of the "seniors'" prom again. She taught me something about the value of living life alone, on your own terms, surrounded by lots and lots of loving friends and extended family. And while I know that 85 is a ripe old age, and that if anyone soaked every last bit out of what you can get on this green earth, it was Bertha, I still feel a little bit of bitterness that she will no longer be bumming around Mahwah in her beat up jalopy with the "I'd Rather Be Dancing" bumper sticker.

So, Bertha, please consider this a belated thank you for everything you taught to me. I know that if there's anything after this, you'll approach it with your typical joie de vive. And if there isn't, you'll simply continue to remind me of the importance of having fun and doing good, no matter the situation.

The 8th Best Burger in New Jersey

After seeing that our little dive bar had made the list on AOL's cityguide for 8th best burger in Northern New Jersey, the co-jerks and I headed down Speedwell Ave to Collins in Morris Plains.

We all had the same thing, more or less - a medium rare burger with cheddar cheese on an English muffin. Philly and Dan had onions on their burgers, I don't like veggies to muck up my burger experience so I went without. Lynn and Dan ordered onion rings, which were quite good, and I stuck with fries.

On the whole, the burger was really quite excellent - it was cooked as ordered, juicy and big. The cheese was melted and the English muffin was a nice touch - big enough to soak up the juice but not so bready as to overwhelm the meat. The best part was the price - $5. Our bill (we each had burgers, fries or onion rings, and a round of beers) including tip was $14 per person. Not bad, considering how stuffed I was.

I'm such a fan of Collins' steak sandwich that I'm not sure if the burger could take its place, but it was an excellent burger. Not having had burgers at the other joints on the list, I can't really give an informed judgment. But rest assured, there are many more burgers in my future, and I'll get back to you.

FYI - Monday is Collins' lobster special - $10 lobster.... and it's actually good.

Why don't you play the game?

Last night I managed to horn my way in once again to Philly's poker game, and I am pleased to declare success. Sure, sure, I didn't do as well as Rajeev, who at the end of regular play needed an excavator to push all his chips around like he was Scrooge McDuck, but given the poor start to the evening, I feel entitled to pat myself on the back.

The game starts with pot limit Texas Hold 'Em with a $20 buy-in. In the past, I have been able to nurse that $20 for the entire evening, but not so last night. Rajeev kept getting great hands, and Sharif kept tossing in chips like they were going to rot otherwise. So, it was with some trepidation that I put in another $20. I'll just say that for the most part, Hold 'Em was not kind to me last night.

But Omaha! Fucking Omaha, whom I so hated before, has won me over. The rules for Omaha are here, in case you are unfamiliar. Almost every hand that I had a big win on came from Omaha, and at the end of regular play, I had won back the $20 I lost with a little extra. Wheee!

Then it was time for the $10 tournament. The tournament is no-limit and by the end of it, we had upped the blinds to 200/400 because the hour was late. I wound up winning, although I felt a little guilty about it because I actually won a decent pot on a king high. Lame.

The bad part of the evening - getting into my car at 1:40am for the looooong drive back to Mo Plains. God, why must it be so far away? If I still lived in Belleville, it would have taken me 20 minutes to get home. Plus, the Holland tunnel, which is really the quickest route back to Mo, is down to one lane outbound after 10:30pm for construction, so I had to take the Lincoln. But, the trip home was quick and I got to hear Earth, Wind and Fire's "September" on the radio. I love that song.

One other highlight of the night - dinner came from Wogie's, which specializes in cheese steaks (with Cheez Wiz! Hooray! Relax, they've got provolone and American cheese too). Yummy.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Location, location, and a view

I'm a little obsessed with real estate this week. Real estate, and the grossness of Tom Cruise.

Okay, question.

Would you rather live in this Fifth Avenue sort-of 2 bedroom roughly 1300 sq/ft apartment with a big old terrace and sweet view of the skyline for close to $5 million,

or

this 15,000 sq/ft bad boy in Montclair for $3.7 million, and a view of the skyline in the leafless months,

or

this Tribeca condo with a cute garden terrace and 3,700 sq/ft for $3,275,000 (don't forget the $1900/month maintenance fee)

or

this Brooklyn Heights brownstone co-op of 2,600 sq/ft for $2.2 million (sweet kitchen - it's got a subzero! - and master bath)

or

this Greenburgh Westchester home of 5,000 sq/ft on 1.5 acres for $2,975,000 (again, a beautiful kitchen and master bath)

or

this 1400 sq/ft loft in Hoboken for $879,000

or

this 1500 sq/ft apartment in South Beach, for $830,000 with a view of the water, a terrace and beach access.

Mull it over and get back to me. If the shitty weather keeps up, I'm definitely headed for South Beach.

Whoa, I'm an alien, I'm a legal alien...

Today on NPR's Morning Edition, there was a piece about how local sheriffs in New Hampshire are frustrated that the feds aren't cracking down on illegal Mexican immigrants.... so when these local sheriffs catch illegal immigrants, they arrest them for the state charge of criminal trespass. Arg. One of the sheriffs justified it by saying it was a matter of national security and that if the feds didn't know about these Mexican immigrants, think about all the other illegals they didn't know about! Yikes! The Mexican embassy has hired the local ACLU chapter to represent the aliens.

Okay, the sheriff cites to the whole 9/11-terrorists-are-coming-to-get-us pathos and the best way to stop them is by.... arresting illegal Mexican laborer with criminal trespass. Huh? Okay, first of all, most of the September 11th highjackers entered the country legally, soooooo, there goes that argument. Second.... yeah, I still don't even get how busting Mexicans in New Hampshire is connected to national security.

My favorite part was when the sheriff said that he, of course, understood why everyone would want to come to the States because we are, after all, the greatest country ever, but that there were legal ways of doing such things.

Just in case you thought being an illegal immigrant in the States is a good time, check out this article in today's Times.

On a completely unrelated note, if you recall from yesterday, I commented on a Curbed post regarding a gold-dipped 600 sq/ft, $800K studio on Christopher Street. More irate reader comments here, and more people wrote in with other gold-dipped apartments here. Funny stuff.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Lies My Teacher Told Me

My friend Pablo is a New York City public school teacher and he looooves to lie to his students. If you know Pablo, then that's not a big surprise - as I've mentioned before, he convinced our classmates in Spanish class that he slept in a bed made of tupperware. His skills also allow him to haggle at Best Buy and get his iPaq fixed by Hewlett Packard for free. Some of his college friends thought he was majoring in piscatology. It is definitely not a good thing to be gullible around Paulito.

He has convinced his students that the principal is his mother, and that in fact, half the teachers are related; that an absent science teacher was going to be on the next installment of The Apprentice, which, by the way, many of the teachers wound up believing too; that an absent social studies teacher had quit to become a Vegas showgirl; that there's pool on the roof of the school.

Beyond the lies he's told to his kids, he managed to convince a dude who was hitting on his friend in a bar that he was from Ireland, wouldn't drink American Guinness because it's shite and was getting his master's degree in ceramic engineering. And when we were in high school, he had me believing for months that he had a girlfriend from Ramsey.

Kate, who, aside from being one of my oldest and dearest friends, is also Pablo's best bud from high school, is also a skilled liar. She convinced her boyfriend that she had shaved her head except for a tuft of hair in the front; had her roommate in college believing that she showered with her underwear on because she didn't like to be naked; and invented a lesbian lover named Mudabwe from Kenya.

Watching the two of them, you'd think that you could learn how to lie. But I'm truly terrible - it's the physical turning beat red and the giggles that I just can't stop. It's like my own internal lie detector, which forces me to be honest. I've come to believe that telling an intricate lie requires just enough truth to seem real, the ability to think on one's feet, and maintaining eye contact and a straight face.

Can you lie to a liar? I've never seen Pablo pull a fast one on Kate, but just this past year, Kate convinced P that his official title in her wedding would be "bridesbutler." Awesome. So here's to the liars, who make me laugh and keep me from falling into a pit of gullability.

But will $800K be the new Arcade Fire?

Lucy: I know how you feel about all this Christmas business, getting depressed and all that. It happens to me every year. I never get what I really want. I always get a lot of stupid toys or a bicycle or clothes or something like that.
Charlie Brown: What is it you want?
Lucy: Real estate.

A lot of my friends are looking into buying property - houses, co-ops, and the what not. I find this trend somewhat scary. For a long time, I thought I really wanted a house with a little porch and a yard where my unnamed dog could gambol about and a nice patch of earth to garden. In my desperate cling to youth, I have now decided that I'll never buy a house, I'll just rent forever. Probably, I'll change my mind again. Anyway, it ain't a buyer's market right now, so I guess it's good I have a fear of such things.

Philly's favorite website, Curbed, has been pulling articles about prognosticators remarking about the real estate bubble burst. Amongst all this, there are reports of a 600 sq/ft studio on Christopher Street that is going for $795K. No shit. Anyway, Curbed printed the very funny letter of an incensed reader regarding the studio. For those of you shopping in the Manhatts, or surrounding area, I hope that Curbed is right and $800K is not the new black.

Also of interest in the real estate department, the Times has a sampling of what you could buy in the 'burbs for the amount a 2 bedroom apartment in Manhattan would cost. Lord almighty, that house in Long Island is heinous. And explain to me again what's so great about Westchester?

If I were going to buy a house, it might be in wonderful Nyack, NY..... I know, I know I have talked up my love of New Jersey, but I'm on a Nyack kick right now because it's on the water. And they have really good food. And it's Rockland County, which frankly, ought to be subsumed by New Jersey.

Although, if I had unlimited funds, I might consider buying this joint in Montclair.

Best Burgers in the Jers (oh, and some hotdogs in NYC)

This post is courtesy of my friend Gena, who kindly informed me that AOL's cityguide had posted the best burgers in New Jersey. You can see it here.

The list:

1. Arthur's Tavern - Hoboken
2. Big Ed's BBQ - Old Bridge
3. White Manna - Hackensack
4. Jackson Hole - Englewood
5. White Mana - Jersey City
6. Arnold's Charbroil - Montclair
7. Hiram's - Fort Lee
8. Collins Bar - Morris Plains

9. The Restaurant - Hackensack
10. Isn't listed?!?!?


I've never heard of White Manna, but apparently there's one in Jersey Shitty and Hackensack. And of course, my beloved Collins made the list! Woo-hoo! Clearly, there are no good burgers in South Jersey, thus proving to me that South Jersey is mostly worthless, except for beautiful Cape May county and Atlantic City. Oh wait, this issue is the North Jersey addition, that's why there are no South Jersey burgers. Whatever, I still think SJ is mostly worthless.

And consider yourself forewarned, because Gena has been to Arnold's in Montclair and does not think it deserves to be on the list.

You can view all the other top-tens too - including breakfast, brunch, cheap eats, and pizza.

And in the Times today, a great article about excellent hot dogs in New York.... the author also mentions hot dogs in New Jersey too. But this guy is clearly a connoisseur of the New York hot dog.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Some skits, biotch

So, yesterday I went home and I finally cracked open my season one DVD of Chappelle's Show. Cue me in my office, singing "Chappelle's Show, Chappelle's Show" over and over again. When I'm home, I have a dance to go with it, but I'll spare you. Seriously, I know there are some of you out there who have dances to go with TV show themes, so don't judge me!

Anyway, I listened to the commentary that goes along with the first ep. Apparently the Chappelle's Show song had words, but it didn't go with the music, so they just told the guys to keep singing "Chappelle's Show" over and over.

Interestingly, Dave said that he and Neal Brennan (co-writer) both hate it when people use the word "skit" instead of "sketch." So he and Neal kept using "skit" as an inside joke, but now everyone on the show says "skit" instead of "sketch." As Dave put it, he has a tendency to do that with words and things that he finds annoying or wrong - the "n" word being a prime example.

Anyway, one of my favorite parts so far was the PopCopy employee video sketch in which Dave asks "You might be wondering why we should treat the customers so poorly. Why? Because fuck 'em, that's why!"

"Because fuck 'em, that's why!" might be my new motto for the rest of my life. I hope that my boss asks me why I did something some time soon....

No Scruffy Nerf Herders

Liana and I went to a Sunday evening showing of Star Wars, Episode III. And I declare, it was quite enjoyable. If asked to rate, I'd have to hold off. Clearly, this episode is no Empire Strikes Back, but it's by far the best of the new trilogy.

I'm not going to get into much detail about the movie itself, since some of my five readers haven't seen it yet. I will say the following. CGI Yoda was much improved over the previous episodes, finally. The love scenes between Hayden Christensen and Nathalie Portman were completely painful and Liana and I kept giggling whenever they were on screen together. You could almost see George Lucas jumping up and down in the background yelling, "More wooden!" Ewan, as ever, did an excellent job of channeling Sir Alec Guinness. And boyfriend really does look good with a beard. And two more words. Ian. McDiarmid. No one can hiss out "daaaarrrk siiiiiide of the forcccce" like he can.

The real downside of the entire experience though, were the munchkins sitting behind us. They loooved to talk, particularly during the quieter moments. I shushed them three times, no help from the parentals either. My favorite annoying part was when the kids, who apparently did not know that Anakin Skywalker is Darth Vader were loudly trying to figure out who Darth Vader was. As Anakin comes to realize that Palpatine is a Sith, the kids said "I think he's [Palpatine] Darth Vader!" Loudly. And several times.

Look, I love the original Star Wars trilogy. But I'm not some uber nerd (well, I am, but not because of Star Wars) who insists on total silence during this film. But for cripes sake, your kids are talking throughout my $9 movie experience! Shut your kids up!

Look out for those body thetans, Katie

I know it's a cheap shot, but I wasn't really sure what to write about today, so I decided to go with this.

Tom Cruise was apparently taping an ep of Oprah and he got so excited talking about his new girlfriend, Katie Holmes, that he started jumping up and down. Later, during an interview with NBC's resident douchebag, Billy Bush, he remarked: “It’s just like, “Huh? Wow, man. Wow. I was looking at her (and thinking), ‘Man, you are so cool.’ Wow, Tom, that's really beautiful.

If he keeps it up, I'm not going to see War of the Worlds, even though I saw a preview during Star Wars this weekend and it looks pretty sweet.

But doesn't it seem like he tries a little too hard to prove something when it comes to the ladies? I mean, he's a scientologist, so he's already suspect in my book, but he just gets weirder and weirder as he ages.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Live by the river

My random survey question for today....

I love bar jukeboxes. Love 'em. And I've been thinking lately about what my go-to songs are on a typical bar jukebox. I don't mean a really great mp3 player box like they have at Hi-Fi, or even at Olde Towne (yeah, they really spell it like that. It would be douchey if it weren't Suffern) in Suffern. I mean the typical, crappy jukebox.

The funny thing to me is that your favorite songs by a performer may not be what you choose at a bar. For instance, my favorite Jimi Hendrix song is "Voodoo Child" but I'd never pick it in a bar. I usually go with "Hey Joe" or "Foxy Lady." I have found in recent years that I always select The Clash's "London Calling." It just sounds good in a dumpy Irish pub. And the third choice usually goes to Marvin Gaye, "Got to Give It Up." It's really just a great song for going out.

So, mull it over and let me know what your go-to's are on a typical Friday night at a bar with a crap selection jukebox.

I need a vacation

For reasons that I won't get into, I need a freakin' vacation. Last May, my mom and I went to Bermuda. That was lovely. And after the bar exam, I went down to DC and stayed in the comfy One Washington Circle and got a massage at the Four Seasons. But other than that, I haven't really been on a vacation in quite a while. In fact, prior to Bermuda, I had not been on a trip since....uhhh.... May 2001. I know, it's very sad. I worked like a dog when I wasn't in school.

Anyhoo, college roomie Janet and I have decided to take a trip together this summer. Given our limited means, we are unable to go to Italy, which was my first choice. We have found some good deals to the following European cities. I shall lay them out and tell you why I might want to go there.

1.) Budapest - Well, I did learn how to play the Blue Danube waltz by Strauss on the piano, so perhaps I ought to see the actual river.

2.) Prague - This was the cool place to go for awhile... I think that it's no longer cool because it was cool for so long. But I'm always late to trends, so perhaps now is the perfect time.

3.) Vienna - The sausages, clearly.

4.) Copenhagen - Ummm. Hamlet. And.... danish. I like danish. Especially rasberry.

5.) Krakow - Two words. Marc Achrymienia. The Polish sensation, aka, my back-up husband in case neither of us ever pair off, is still living and teaching in Krakow. My Marcles is turning 30 this year and what better gift can I give than going to visit? What's that you say? A better gift would be a sweater from Banana Republic? Bite me.

Please make recommendations so that Janet and I can get on with it and book our trip.

I hope there will be a musical robot

I love documentaries, much for the same reason that I love nonfiction books. If it's done well (think Capturing the Friedmans, Spellbound, Hoop Dreams, No Time for Tears, Return with Honor) it will break down complicated issues in an interesting and fair way, while giving the viewer an opportunity to make up his or her own mind. And when it's done more as a piece of propaganda (think Fahrenheit 9/11, Hearts and Minds, and in the extreme, the Know Your Enemy series) it will still give you some serious stuff to ponder.

Entertainment Weekly had a piece this week about a bunch of documentaries that are coming out this year. The ones I am most looking forward to are below.

The Aristocrats - This doc is about a well-known dirty joke in the world of stand-up comics and how each comic makes the joke more or less funny depending on style. (Opens August 5)

Murderball - If you follow Sundance at all, then you've definitely heard about this doc which follows that sport of quad-rugby - that's rugby played by quadrapalegics. It won audience best doc award at Sundance. No sure what date it's coming out - but definitely this summer.

Rock School - The real story behind Jack Black's School of Rock, except that the teacher here apparentlyloses his temper when the kids eff up. (June 3)

Not included in EW's list, but certainly of interest to me:

Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room - Got an A from EW when it came out a month ago, it follows the book of the same title and apparently lays out the scandal is a straight-forward and interesting way. EW compared it to a really good ep of Frontline with better music. It's currently playing at the Clairidge in Montclair.

We must end our connection

And so, last night, the second season of Deadwood came to a stunning conclusion. Lord, how I love this show.... and don't know what I'll do before it returns for season three, sometime next year. Le sigh.

So, first things first. Cy Tolliver finally got his comeuppance! Woo-fucking-hoo! I actually taped last night's ep because I was out at the movies, and I'm glad I did because I actually had to rewind the scene where the Reverend Cramed stabbed Tolliver in the gut. My question? I wonder if that was Cramed's plan all along - if his real reason for returning to Deadwood was to seek revenge on the man who left him for dead.... or if it was just Tolliver's constant assiness that caused Cramed to stick him. Loved how he said, "God is not mocked, you son of a bitch," and then cooly walks away while Tolliver stands there, horrified, clutching his stomach and Joanie looks at him like he's a piece of shit on her shoe. Awesome, awesome, awesome.

I'll admit that I was a little nervous about Major Dad Gerald McRaney coming on as Hearst. But he was actually really good. I particularly enjoyed the scene where he and Al discuss whether Hearst will use Wu's services.

Ultimately, though, what made this ep so great, such a strong link in an already tough-as-nails chain of story-telling, was that it included a little bit of every character, and combined the smallest amounts of humor and poignance with the bloody, violent, and scheming.

Personal favorite moments - E.B. Farnum acting like a complete loony toon in front of Hearst and commenting on his diarrhea (he really is out of a speciman box, isn't he?); Tom Nuttall nearly crying in front of Al because he feels guilty about William's death - and Al offering comfort(!); Jane and Joanie getting ready for the wedding and Joanie's little rhymes about not wearing the same undergarments to a wedding as a funeral, along with Jane decking that guy at the wedding; Al referring to Bullock as "his holiness" and then kicking him out of the Gem; and Alma's moving graveside conversation with her dead husband ("I am so afraid that my life is living me, and soon will be over, and not a moment of it will have been my own — and of how my body now tells me that is fine and right.").

And last but not least, Wolcott. Garrett Dillahunt, who plays Wolcott, also played Wild Bill's murderer Jack McCoy last season. I couldn't really understand why Milch brought the same actor back this season. But I really do get it now - Dillahunt completely makes you forget that he was McCoy. He's that good. He was truly excellent last night - his nervousness around Hearst, his attempt at explaining himself when Hearst finds out about what he did...

And finally, this is Al's town. Watching all of his maneuverings come to fruition and his down right cheerfulness as he stands on the balcony with The Chief, watching the wedding festivities? The perfect way to end a great season.

Things to ponder before next year. Is Tolliver going to die? I'm guessing not. Will Joanie reopen her brothel? How will Bullock react when Alma has the baby? Will Alma even survive childbirth? What's Al's plan after elections? Will Wu learn more English? Will Johnny ever get a clue? Will Bullock stop being such a goddamn tool?

See you next year, hoopleheads.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Regret

I would like a place I could call my own
Have a conversation on the telephone
Wake up every day that would be a start
I would not complain of my wounded heart
"Regret" New Order

The theme of redemption has always been a personal favorite in film and literature. The theme of regret.... not so much. I have an appreciation for it, but my thoughts on regret have always made it less emotional for me. I have always thought that if one is generally happy with who she is, then you can't have too many regrets about the past - even your mistakes have framed you and made you into the person you are.

But that theory only address the regrets that a person has about our own personal choices. This was illustrated in an article I read last weekend in Entertainment Weekly about Wu Tang Clan member and founder, the RZA. Regret, when it comes to how we have hurt or failed those we love, is really just another word for guilt.

Aside from addressing the rise of Wu Tang and the RZA's current career as a composer and his aspirations in film, the article was really about the regret and blame he shoulders for the death of his cousin ODB last fall. The RZA trains with a Shaolin monk, Yan Ming, who is really his rock. The article states regarding the day ODB died: "When Yan Ming arrived at the RZA's midtown apartment, he was lying face down on the bed. 'He was totally shut off,' says Yan Ming. 'He couldn't speak, he didn't want to eat. To watch him, I felt such pain. He takes responsibility because he thinks he has the power for his family.'"

Who hasn't, at some point, shouldered responsibility that wasn't their's to shoulder? And then felt regret and guilt at the inevitable failure?

''I didn't give him the chances that I should have,'' he insists. Today, the RZA still believes he could have willed ODB well. The punishment we give ourselves is almost always worse than we deserve.

News and Notes

Here's some miscellany for a Friday afternoon.

Kate called yesterday to tell me that she's seen the new Star Wars movie, and she generally enjoyed it. Apparently CGI Yoda looks a lot better this time around. And while Kate says she'd probably be disappointed no matter what, she was the least disappointed with this installment in the new trilogy. Her work buddy (and my Deadwood e-mail pal) Matt also saw it yesterday and he said it was much better than the last two, in fact, he'd give it 4 out of 5 stars.

Tonight is the start of the weekend Subway series at Shea Stadium. Needless to say, in a few hours Phil and I will cease speaking to each other. He's got tickets for tonight's game. I'd be jealous if I weren't overly stuffed with soybeans and craving a nap. Lupica addresses the fact that Willie Randolph (the Mets manager, and former third base coach for the Yanks) will be facing his old buddies this weekend. Go Yankees!

My New York Times boyfriend, Nicholas Kristof, had a great op-ed a few days ago about liberal bible thumping - he writes "Liberals can and should confront Bible-thumping preachers on their own terms, for the scriptural emphasis on justice and compassion gives the left plenty of ammunition. After all, the Bible depicts Jesus as healing lepers, not slashing Medicaid. " Too true.

Tomorrow is the Preakness Stakes, round two in the Triple Crown. I'm not betting, but I don't think Giacamo is going to pull it off.

Our Darker Angels

I'm going to be talking about The O.C. season finale in this post, so if you don't want me to spoil what happened, don't read. Unless, you're Philly, in which case I already ruined it for you. Also, don't read this post if it annoys you when people overanalyze stuff like The O.C., although if any episode was worthy of a Philip Caputo quote, then its last night's.

Last night while driving home, I caught the end of Fresh Air with Terry Gross in which she interviewed journalist, novelist and all-around fascinating guy Philip Caputo. Caputo may be best-known for his seminal memoir A Rumor of War, which dealt with his time as a lieutenant in the Viet Nam War, and his subsequent military trial for murder (if you have never read a book on the war, I highly recommend Rumor. It is impossible for any of us who are not vets to really understand the adage that "war is hell," but we can come close to an understanding by reading stuff like Rumor). Anyway, Caputo went on to become a journalist who covered the Kent State massacre and won a Pullitzer for coverage of the 1972 Chicago election fraud.

So, Caputo was ostensibly there to speak about his new book Acts of Faith, which is a fictional account of real events in Africa. He and Terry got into an interesting convo about war in general and he said "Those who do not realize the darker angels in their own soul will fall prey to them." He's borrowing somewhat from Nietzsche's "when you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes back" so that if you fight monsters you must take care lest you become the monster. In other words, we all ought to take an honest account and realize some of the terrible things we are capable of, if we ever hope to control it.

I was reminded of this while watching The O.C. last night as this ep touched on several characters' darker angels and conversely made me ponder my own. Here's the recap.

The whole Kirsten is a giant drunk thing felt like it came on a little quickly this season, and in real life, I think it's wholly unlikely that Seth would have no clue. But this is The O.C., so I'll back off from the whole whiny realistic thing. You don't watch The O.C. for a realistic representation of anything, and just the same, when they do handle a situation realistically, it's great. So even though it came out of nowhere, I thought everyone's reactions were spot on - Sandy thinking he might be overreacting and wondering if he could fix it himself, Seth's initial anger and blaming his dad, Ryan's resignation, and Summer's sad, knowing look when she see Kirsten at the funeral.

It is with this huge reminder of his own mother's inability to kick the habit that hangs around Ryan as his brother continues to make a mess of things. So that when Ryan finally learns about what Trey did to Marissa, you can see him blinded by the rage. It's not just what Trey did to Marissa - it's everything that Trey has ever done to hurt and disappoint Ryan that rears up and sends him speeding to the apartment. We all knew Ryan was a puncher... and he's also the teen who frequently acts like he's 40 while surrounded by his typically dysfunctional and crazy friends. He is no longer able to hold it together, no longer able to let the "good kid" archetype stand. It was, quite frankly, an amazing tail spin.

The final scene in which Trey is choking the life out of Ryan and Marissa shoots Trey was fantastic and I can't wait for next season. This show is usually about the over-the-top and it does it well. But there are subtler themes and character development that The O.C. also really hits well. Kudos. And make sure your confront those darker angels.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

I and my Anhabelly

Well, to wrap up this week of birthdays, it's time to pay tribute to the woman who taught me about horse racing, trashy reality TV, acceptance of others while holding yourself to a too high standard, and everything great about ESPN.... Miss Anhabelle.

Anhabelle and I went to law school together, and while we officially met right before Thanksgiving of first year, we didn't become tight until evil evil Evidence during second year. But Anhabelle had the distinction of being the only other girl that hung around with the Scorpions (yeah, don't ask.... suffice it to say that those were my law school friends and they were all boys). For my birthday during first year, Anhabelle braved Broad Street in Newark in search of tacky airbrushed cupcakes for me. She couldn't find the Broad Street Bakery, so she asked an 80-year-old Latino gentleman walking down the street. He pointed her in the right direction, and as she passed, he slapped her ass. Yeah, I know. Those cupcakes came at a high price.

But that's Anhabelle - she goes out of her way for acquaintances, so you can just imagine what she does for her friends.

Anhabella adorably cries at the silliest things, although in her every day life, she always seems to have her stuff together. I aspire to be more like Anh because she is just so goddamned cool - she is the original guy's girl/girl's girl. She has a deep love for the Yankees, the Buffalo Bills, Nascar racing, golf, gambling and disgusting humor, while also managing to have adorable handbags and fantastic shoes, cute cosmo glasses, and a patented "boys suck" speech for whenever a girlfriend gets dumped. To me, it is proof that there may be a god that Anhabelly is also imbued with a healthy dose of neurosis. If she were entirely perfect, no one could stand it, and no one would aspire to be as pretty, intelligent, funny and kind as she is.

Last year at Anhabelle's lovely birthday/graduation party, Kate (my date, naturally) turned to me and said, "It's a good thing that I know Anh is a little bit neurotic, because otherwise I'd hate her. She'd just be too perfect." It was the truth - Anh moved throughout the crowd with a grace and humor that puts everyone at ease and lets those around her know that she is contented in her space. It's a difficult thing to achieve and something that she does naturally.

When I bite off more than I can chew, Anh is right behind, tidying up the mess. And when I have to drive back from Atlantic City on three hours of sleep, Anhabelle will sit in the front seat and serenade me with songs she can't remember the words to.

Law school sucked in many respects, but I was blessed in the friendships I made. Anhabelle's friendship is one of those that changes your life, and I am truly lucky. Happy birthday, girl.

It's an illness, really.

I am so not allowed in Century 21. For those of you not in the know, Century 21 is a discount department store, a la TJ Maxx and Marshall's, except bigger and with more "designer" names. There's one across the street from where I work, but I avoid it like the plague. I could easily spend an hour in the hand bag department.

Anyway, Mireia asked me to go across to the 21 with her and sign off on a pair of strappy sandals she was considering. They were very cute (Ralph Lauren, nice skinny heel, braided straps) and after I gave them the thumbs up, I started wandering amongst the shoes. Oh shoes, how I love thee. So many cute and reasonably priced shoes.

And the worst part? The ladies' unmentionables department is right next to the shoe department. I am so going back there after work today. The floodgates have opened.

Confessions of a Rage-aholic

As I am a rage-aholic you'll understand that when I turned on Fresh Air with Terry Gross last night on NPR, I could not turn it off even after learning that her guest was D. James Kennedy, the founder of Evangelism Explosion International. Even more telling, Kennedy started the Center for Reclaiming America (for Christ) and "he runs the Statesmanship Institute, designed to give holders of public office tools for integrating biblical principles into lawmaking." But I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt, so I stayed tune, only to find myself in the midst of a massive rage-ahol bender.

Seriously, I almost drove off the road, screaming "What?!?!? WHAT?!?!?!" as he spoke.

The timber of Kennedy's voice is soothing and friendly and it's easy to see why his mega-church, Choral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Florida has 10,000 members. Unfortunately, I am unable to listen to NPR at work and I can't replay the interview and quote some of the stuff he said. Just click on the Fresh Air link above if you want to hear it.

First off, Kennedy insists that the founding fathers never intended for there be a separation of church and state. He's a well-read man and he has a whole bunch of quotes from John Adams and John Jay to back that opinion up. Of course, there are an equal number of quotes that could counter that, for instance, Thomas Jefferson was a huge believer in the separation of church and state:

"Believing that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their Legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between Church and State."

But never mind that. Terry Gross is a skilled interviewer, but she's no Steve Inskeep - her talents lie in getting people to really say what they think, but she doesn't necessarily go after a person for contradictions. Of course, Bill O'Reilly disagrees with me, but what else is new. (My favorite part is when O'Reilly claims that his interview with Terry is the only one he's ever terminated... god, he lies easier than he breathes. Whatever, I can't get started on Bill right now, he makes me so mad.) Anyway, listening to this guy Kennedy made me want to yell at Terry to start challenging him. She did a little, but I think she's softened up on conservatives ever since the O'Reilly debacle.

Okay, Kennedy thinks that it's the duty of Christians to support other Christians in political office, and that Christians ought to fervently pursue their biblical agenda, namely smiting gays, getting rid of pornography, making abortion illegal, and yes, promoting creationism (i.e., ending the teaching of evolution in schools). No mention about helping the poor or loving your neighbor as yourself, because apparently those Christian tenets are not important.

When Terry asked Kennedy if he wondered what Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, atheists, and secularists thought about all the stuff he had to say about how we ought to be a country based on Christian beliefs, he basically said that this country was founded as a Christian nation and we ought to abide by that. And gee whiz, why should they be pissy about me supporting Christian politicians who aggressively pursue my agenda? I don't tell them they can't support secularists! Great logic. Actually, douchebag, didn't you just say that our country shouldn't be secularist? This guy basically just said that he doesn't give a rat's ass about what people of other religions think because we're a country founded on "Christian morals." Okay, so it's at this point that my rage is at full boil.

And then he dropped the bomb. He compared proponents of evolution to Nazis and Communists. Honey, you are definitely losing an argument when you have to drop the H bomb - that's the Hitler bomb. Yep, he said Hitler was an ardent evolutionist, and that there is a direct corrolation to The Origin of the Species and the mass genocide of the Holocaust, and in fact all genocide. I'm not being hyperbolic. He actually said that.

Listen to it if you get a chance. I'm seriously going to have a stroke someday while listening to the news. But it's so good, I can't stop myself. Ahhh, rage-ahol.



Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Lynnie Lynnie Lynniekins

Today is my co-worker Lynn's birthday. If you've had the pleasure of meeting her, she needs no introduction. But I should most certainly clarify. Co-worker Mireia took exception to being referred to as "co-worker" on this blog because it makes it sound like these people aren't my friends. Of course, if you've talked to me at all in the last 6 months, then you know that I simply adore my "co-workers." They are dear friends to me by this point and they are the number one reason I get out of bed in the morning to come into work (well, the pay check is a very close second). So, "co-worker" should just put it in context that I see these people every day at work, but one should remember that really, they are good friends of mine.

Back to Lynn. When I enter a new situation, I am reserved and somewhat shy. I have a quirky (some would say "moronic" or "difficult") personality that is not to everyone's taste, and so I hold back until I get to know the people around me. Lynn is the opposite. Aside from having a lovely and effervescent personality, she is sunny and outgoing from the start. Truth be told, it was my clipped attitude that deflated poor Lynn initially and made her complain to wonderful husband Kevin that her co-workers "sucked."

Obviously, I need to work on my attitude problem when I meet people in a new situation. Because I missed out on prime months of friendship with this woman while I acclimated to my surroundings.

One day while chatting with Lynn about her childhood dog Simba, I remarked that I loved the Westminster Dog Show. "We should go to that!" Lynn remarked. I agreed. But rather than just a statement of interest, Lynn went to work and got us tickets (Watermelanie came too), set up places for us to sleep at her house and made us coffee the next morning before work. At the show, we were able to get backstage and see the doggies. Later, Lynn went off to get a soda. She disappeared for over a half hour. Where had she gone? Back downstairs to play with the dogs, even though she's allergic and couldn't stop sneezing after that.

Lynn's fun-loving spirit meant that, even though she had lots of work to do and plenty of other things to worry about, she came with me to see the circus elephants walk through the Queens Midtown Tunnel back in March. And rather than moan and groan the next day about how tired she was.... she exclaimed, "That was awesome! We have to do that again next year!"

I've got other plans for Lynn, though.... like a trip to Vegas. There aren't too many people you can have that much fun with and tell your life story to with no regrets the next day. And to think of all the good times I was missing out on last fall. Happy birthday, girl.

The Curse of the Cootie Hug

Last night I had dinner with Liana, her mother, and her sisters. More on that later. The topic of cootie hugs came up at one point. Lord, how I had the cootie hug.

A cootie hug (typically perpetrated by guys, although there are female offenders) occurs when friends of the opposite sex hug. My personal experience as a singleton is that it's almost always the married men who give the cootie hug. A cootie hug is the hug where there are about two feet between the huggers, the person barely put their arms around you, and then pats you on the back. It's as though the perpetrator is saying, "You have cooties, but you're my friend and I don't want to offend you, so here's the most sterile hug I can give you."

TK suggested that there might be a concern of a breast and shoulder touching. God forbid. Perhaps a married man's dad sat him down before the wedding and said, "Son, now that you're getting married, you can't hug another woman ever again." Particularly irritating is that most of my male friends consider me to be like a sister. But would you hug your sister like that? I don't have scabies, I swear! I have no communicable diseases that you could possibly get from giving me a real hug!

Are you concerned your wife or girlfriend will feel threatened if you give me a real hug? She won't be. No sane woman watches her fella give a good friend a normal hug hello or good-bye and thinks it means something. Your lady is not threatened by me at all, trust me. She might be a little threatened by my fantastic shoe collection, but she ain't threatened by a hug.

The answer now, of course, is that I frequently find myself throwing up a high five good-bye instead of receiving the dreaded cootie hug. There's something very friendly about a high five and if the gents in my life are going to insist on hugging me like I have bird flu, then a high five it is.

BritBrit and K-Fed

Did anyone catch the premier of Britney and Kevin's reality show on UPN last night? I sadly missed it. If you caught it, let me know what you thought.

In the meantime, bless the hearts of Television Without Pity, who covered it. The recapper writes: "With his wimpy, vaginal beard, beady cobra eyes, and penchant for chillin' with his shirt off, K-Fed comes across as every bit the greasy dullard you would think he'd be, and then some."

Check out the recap here. I'm kind of happy I missed it, but then again, the busybody masochist in me wishes I had been home to see it.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Go Banana!

“She’s like the J. Lo and you’re the Chris Judd.”
--TK on my relationship with Liana

This is a big birthday week for me. One old friend, one new friend, and one law school friend in a three day period. To celebrate this, I shall pay tribute to each lovely lady on her special day.

Today is Liana Banana’s birthday. I met Liana during freshman orientation at college. There’s a special bond that you forge with the people who knew you at 18, when you were away from home for the first time. It’s probably why Liana, Becks, Brian, Janet, Lauren, Roxey, Devon, and Jerusha are still such dear friends and why you can have dinner with any one of them nearly ten years later and still feel as close as you did when it was 4am the night before an exam. But I digress. The purpose of this is not to talk about college. Okay, it’s only part of the purpose.

During my sophomore year in college, Pablo and I went on a major Simpsons kick. I never watched the Simpsons when I was younger, so every night at 7pm, we would watch the repeats. There’s an ep where, during a bus trip, Nelson and Bart start racing an apple and an orange down to the front of the bus. Ralph Wiggum tries to get into the action by racing a banana. As the other kids cheer for the apple and orange, little Ralph plaintively yells out “Go Banana!” I can’t tell you whether it was Pablo or I who started it, but “Go Liana!” in a Ralph voice became a common call. And eventually, we started calling her “Liana Banana” or “Banana.”

Following college, Liana Banana had the curious distinction of being my roommate during my three years of law school. It is no exaggeration to say that I owe my graduation in some part to her. Constant cheerleader in my quest for studying and jobs, she literally would listen every night to the latest shenanigans at school. She learned the names of all my friends before she met them and laughed at all the stupid stories I told her.

I have my fair share of addictions – shoes, World Series of Poker on ESPN, unmentionables, shampoo and baseball to name a few. But there was never any judgment from Liana’s room…. probably because she had her own addictions – Saucony sneakers, World’s Wildest Police Chases, Swatch watches, shower gel, and oh, baseball. Good thing I always had her calling me up during playoffs when she was working the night shift.

We always joked that we were each other’s wives. It may seem silly, but in all honesty, when my classmates were calling girlfriends, boyfriends, husbands, wives to check in, I was calling Liana. One night while I was out for a drink up in Suffern with Kate, my cell rang. “That’ll be your wife,” Kate predicted. She was right – Liana was checking to make sure I was accounted for. My mother slept easier in the years that I lived with Li – she knew that if I weren’t home, Liana would be on the case.

Wife isn’t as appropriate a moniker as super-supportive sister. That’s what Liana is. And aside from all the funnies and kindness she has shown me, she shines it on everyone. Liana is, simply put, the life of the party. And even though she has gotten far more than her fair share of bum shakes in life, no one would know it. She’s a trooper. Happy birthday, girl.

After the Bad, Here's the Good

Mel and I headed down to Dip, on 3rd Avenue between 29th and 30th Streets for the previously mentioned surprise party. Dip is mostly a bar, although they also have a nice selection of fondue, hence the name (which Mel had to point out because I’m too stupid to pick up on such things… Sure, sure, name your bar “Liquor Here” and I’ll be laughing for hours, but name it something non-dirty and I’ll stare blankly.).

Happy hour included $5 apple martinis, so we helped ourselves to a couple of those and gathered round Phil, Emily & co-worker Mireia, who managed to get seats (bless their hearts, as native/long-time New Yorkers, Phil and Emily really know what’s important in a bar…. a place to sit).

The party itself was a huge success – Lynn was completely shocked and surprised and it was well-worth the trip to see her have fun. The bar itself was a bit on the loud side, but not terribly so. The musical selection was…. odd I guess. There was a strange mix of new music along with older stuff… like Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror.” Huh? Yeah, I have no idea.

There were a number of waitresses floating about and it was easy to grab one and get some food off the bar menu. We ordered chicken quesadillas (kessadillers to you Napolean Dynamite fans) but found that we were still hungry. After a five minute discussion on the power and the glory of cheese, it was agreed that we needed some fondue. The giant pot of bubbly Swiss cheese came quickly and was quite yummy. I personally would have preferred more bread and less icky broccoli, but on the whole, quite good.

As the night progressed, Mel and I decided to accompany Phil and Emily downtown to
Zerza, a Moroccan restaurant on 6th Street, just around the corner from Second Avenue. Unfortunately, I was not hungry, so I didn’t eat anything there. The food looked really appetizing though. We had a couple of bottles of wine from Algeria called Medea, which I quite liked. And the atmosphere of Zerza was more to my liking than Dip – not surprisingly, Dip had a large after-work crowd and a lot of twenty-somethings out having fun. Zerza was more low-key and the lanterns, tiles, bellydancer and music made me nostalgic for my trip to Marakesh back in aughty-aught. Also, the waitstaff of Zerza was ridiculous friendly. Two thumbs up.

Mel and I stumbled back uptown to our jail cell at 2am, with enough wine to dull the cold and enough apple tobacco from the hookah to make the room smell less like feet. The following day as we trudged back to the car, Mel remarked, “Now I’m not so sure which is worse – driving back at night or in the morning.” Well, it may not have been fun on Saturday morning, but it was a jolly good Friday night.

Monday, May 16, 2005

There's budget... and then there's Habitat

This Friday past saw me headed into Manhattan after work with co-worker Watermelanie (aka Mel). The reason? Co-worker Lynn's surprise birthday party at Dip. Mel had approached me a couple of weeks before to see if I would be interested in getting a room so that we would not have to drive back to our far away homes. Back in the days of Belleville, a late-night drive back to the Jers would take 20 minutes. But living in Djibouti (aka Morris County or Sussex County as the case may be) it takes closer to an hour. Not a whole lot of fun at 2am. I agreed to the plan, and you have read about my hotel room woes with Priceline in the last two weeks.

I'm going to skip the details of the ride and the parking irritation that always accompanies a trip to the Isle of Manhats and go straight to the funnies. I had gotten us a room at the budget
Habitat Hotel on East 57th Street between Park & Lex. We entered the building and took an elevator ride to the lobby where we were given our room assignment. There was a strangely loud bar/club adjoining the lobby called Opia. Mel pointed out a small sign at the front-desk that read "Strobe lights and smoke machines available here." Errr, okay.

We headed up to our room on the 10th floor which was more jail cell than hostel room. I have stayed in "European style" rooms before, people. I was not expecting anything great from this place. But let me just say that Europeans would be appalled at this joint being pooled into their style.

The room was about 8 x 10. Once you opened the trundle bed, though, you could not walk across the room. The windows are sealed shut, which is particularly rough since it was stuffy and smelled like feet. There was a sink, a box of tissues and a cable television. The bathrooms were typical stalls… but looked like they hadn't been cleaned. Ever. I lived in a dorm for three years of college and so, I am perfectly accustomed to somewhat grimy stalls, but this really takes the cake. Also, there were no sinks in the bathroom, so you had to head back to your room if you wanted to wash your hands. I won't go into the showers because I thought it'd be safer to bathe in New Jersey.

When Mel and I returned to our room around 2am, we quickly realized that there were no towels and we would have to dry our faces off with tissues. Good. Times. To be honest, I can't remember what we were laughing so hard at, other than Mel's terrified "Oh no! I knocked your tooth brush into the sink!" Yes, the room was that dirty. The entire place was that dirty. And the lighting in the hallways was straight out of Silence of the Lambs.

For a good laugh, read the
Trip Advisor comments. "Filthy," "creepy," and "worst hotel I've been to" get thrown around. Apparently, there are residents at the hotel who are not far from institutionalization, but I didn't see any of that.

If I had paid $25 for this room, that would be one thing. But clearly, Manhattan is out of control if this place can charge $100 on a Friday night. On the bright side, every place from here on out will probably feel like it's four stars.

Poor in New York

Just in case you thought Missouri was the only place where it sucks to be sick and poor, the Times is doing a series called "Class Matters." Today's article addresses how a heart attack was treated in three different people - a wealthy man from Park Slope, a middle-class man in Bed-Stuy, and a working-class woman in Queens. The article isn't the best of the sort I've ever read - they could have done a better job of combining statistics with the stories, but give it a shot. And if you can read Ewa Gora's (the working class woman) story without aching for her, then you're tougher than I.

Act civilized even if you ain't.

I have felt, for most of this season, that a "Lie Agreed Upon, Part 2," was the best episode of this season, and possibly of the entire series. But last night was a very close second to that. What an episode.

Last night was, for the most part, all about the ladies of Deadwood. It started off with the burning of the Chinese whores' corpses and wound it's way to the grief of Martha Bullock. From Jane and Joanie's new found friendship to Trixie's musings on human nature, the women really got a chance to shine last night.

Favorite scenes - Trixie, Trixie, Trixie. It should come as no surprise that Trixie is probably my favorite character on this show, and Milch has done a nice job of developing her subtly this season. Loved her explanation to Sol about why she went to Al after William was injured: "The pimp's a whore's familiar. So the sudden, strange or violent draws her to him. Not that I wouldn't learn another way." I was also pleased and touched when she visited Alma and told her that she was sorry she had butted in on the Ellsworth proposal. As she points out, women have so few choices in this life, that when they do have a choice to make, others ought to mind their own business. Classic touch when she sniffed Alma's glass to make sure she wasn't back on the laudanum. And Trixie bossing the Gem whores around as well as being overly superstitious about Dan's boots on the bar was another nice touch.

And where last week's ep failed to move me, this week certainly succeeded. Between Alma's talk with Sophia and Martha Bullock's barely contained rage and grief, I was definitely feeling it. I also though that Timothy Olyphant did a nice job as Bullock this week - he actually managed to make me feel something other than irritation for him. Between having to make his nephew's cophin, keeping up appearances with Jarrey and attempting to comfort/stay out of the way for Martha, well, he got me. I felt for him.

As to the theme of frontier women. This show has never shyed away from how women were treated in the west in the 1800s. This ain't no Laura Ingalls world and there's nothing romantic about it. But following the brutality of the treatment of the Chinese whores, it was nice to see the women of Deadwood acting or reacting in the most important roles in their lives - for Alma and Martha, it's motherhood; for Joanie and Jane, it's friendship; and for Trixie, it's a little bit of both.

Final thoughts, is a psychopath born or made? In the case of Swearengen, it appears to be the latter. I love it when he tells stories about his youth, and I always enjoy seeing a glimmer of humanity in him. Despite his skills at acting like he doesn't give a shit, to learn that he actually cannot stand funerals because of what they meant when he was a child was a bonus. And of course, I'm pleased that Alma accepted Ellsworth's proposal.

Next week is the season finale! Looks like Hearst will arrive and the shit is about to hit the fan between Wu and Lee.

Miscellany for a Monday Morning

Before I launch into my exposition on Deadwood and this weekend, I thought I'd give you some random information, most of which I gleened from this week's issue of Entertainment Weekly.

Acccording to the aforementioned magazine's exclusive on the Dave Chappelle situation, the show is pretty much over for good. Staffers are looking for new jobs. Horrible, I know. BUT, according to a Time mag article, in which Dave spoke out for the first time since he left, he's actually on a "spiritual retreat" with a Muslim friend in South Africa, and "he has not checked himself into a mental health facility, though he acknowledges spending a single 40-minute session with a psychiatrist." He also says the show is not over and he intends to resume production when he returns.... whenever that is. Read about it here.

In the good news department, Chappelle's Show season 2 DVD will be out May 24th.

Another favorite in the funny television section, Scrubs season 1 will be out on DVD tomorrow, May 17th.

EW also reviewed John Burdett's latest book, Bangkok Tattoo. Burdett wrote Bangkok 8 which came out in 2003 and followed the exploits of a Eurasian Thai cop investigating the murder of his partner and best friend. I read 8 earlier this year and it was definitely one of the more interesting books I've read in awhile, let alone pot-boilers. Burdett has a certain James Ellroy sensibility, but what makes his stuff so engrossing is his knowledge of Thai culture and Buddhism. I can't account for the latest book, although I will certainly pick it up when it comes out in paper back, but I highly recommend Bangkok 8.

An last but not least, believe it or not, dum da da duuummmm! The Yankees have reached .500! So now, I'm impressed. Yes, yes, they still have their problems and just because Giambi got a hit yesterday doesn't mean that I don't think he should be handed a one-way ticket to AAA-ville, but I said I'd be impressed when they got to .500, and so, color me impressed.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Another Reason I'm Not a Professional Gambler

I was reading Us Weekly yesterday (yeah, I know, give me a break, all right? How else am I supposed to find out about Jennifer Garner's homeless chic baby with Ben Affleck?) and I found out that Cuba Gooding Jr. bet $100 on the Derby last weekend for total winnings of.... $1.5 million.

I was initially very sad, I mean, come on! He doesn't need that! But then Phil reminded me of Snow Dogs and Boat Trip. So maybe this is a little karma. Seriously, will they take an Academy Award away from someone?

Have a great weekend, kids.