Wednesday, June 28, 2006

No Crying in Softball

My firm has a softball team, which I stupidly agreed to play on. Miraculously, there are only three attorneys who play on the team - everyone else is staff... or staff's kids. And thank goodness for those kids cause they are ringers. They smack the cream cheese out of that ball.

Anyway. Growing up, I was not athletic. I played soccer like most kids in New Jersey, but I was not good. And as you get older, it becomes less about playing for the enjoyment and more about playing to win, and the kids who suck gets yelled at by the other kids for sucking. That was me - sucky. Also, I was that kid in gym class who was always the second to last picked (usually there was one kid in a class who was worse than me.... actually, said kid was usually not worse than me, but just happened to be less popular and sometimes you'll take the skinny kid with no reflexes over the kid with cooties). Not helping any of this was the fact that I seemed to perpetually get knocked in the head with the ball. My mom used to buck me up with sotries about how, when she was in high school, she failed gym, but she was the class valedictorian so who cares?

On the flip side of all this, I love team sports. Love love love. Baseball, soccer, basketball, hockey, and I bet I'd love rugby if someone would explain it to me. But since the age of 15, the only sports I have even bothered playing were tennis and golf - solo sports. That is mostly because, if you suck at those sports, the only person you disappoint is yourself. I hated that look that the good kids on a team would give each other when you struck out, or popped up, or dropped the fly ball - it was just so much easier to be a spectator.

Our firm softball team was formed last year and when I heard there was a team, I wondered how I could weasel out of playing. At the same time, I like watching softball and wanted to be supportive. Also, I wanted a team jersey. Our team captain, a fellow associate, is a pushy young man and somehow I got railroaded into playing. Tonight was my first game. Wendy gave me these words of advice: "Don't get hit in the head with the ball. I know you like to do that."

During first year of law school Josh went out and bought a Nerf bat and balls and as a break, we would go out behind the school and just hit the ball around. It was a great stress reliever and a great motivator. I learned that I still remember how to hit a ball from when my sister taught me as a kid (in an unrelated note, my sister taught me all the really important stuff in life - how to write my name, how to tie my shoes, the alphabet, and how to hit a ball). So I felt vaguely confident that I could hit the ball, though I was pretty sure it would just be an out. But still, so long as I didn't strike out!

I really didn't want to play any defensive role, though - I am not so great with catching a ball with a glove. So one of the paralegals and I traded off with catching duties, which seemed the place where I would do the least damage. At my first at bat, I did indeed pop up. But I didn't strike out! That was seriously my main concern. It takes effort to strike out at softball, and I know I am bad, but I didn't want to be that bad. I wasn't the worst catcher ever either, and after a few innings, I was definitely getting a handle on using the glove.

My second at bat - one of our law clerks had reached first base, and there were no outs. So no pressure - I could make an out and there would still be two chances for the rest of the team to score a run. But I got a hit! I got a hit! Grounder towards third base and I beat the throw. Hooray! Eventually, thanks to the people on the team who are actually adept at this sport, I scored a run. The aforementioned law clerk and I were both thrilled that we had contributed.

During the top of the 7th inning, though, the batter took a big swing and foul tipped the softball.... right into my face. Umm, yeah, it really hurt. Right into my eye. I staggered around for a minute, afraid to pull my hand away from my face, until one of my cohorts pulled me off the field. Luckily, other than some quick swelling, I could still see. But I might have a shiner tomorrow. After consultation with the teammates, it was agreed I should take out my contact lens before my eye could swell shut. Fun. Then there was some conversation about how I shouldn't over-ice my eye because the vitrious fluid could freeze. Also fun.

I called Dad when I got home to tell him the news. He was, naturally concerned, and wished I had been wearing a mask. But when I told him I had gotten a hit and scored a run, he couldn't contain the excitement in his voice: "You did??? That's wonderful!" Dad loves sports too, and I think he always quietly, secretly wished he had had athletic daughters he could go root for, instead of a coupla nerds who stayed inside reading (one of whom was always fighting him for the sports section). He asked if I cried when I got hit. "Nope." "You didn't cry, and you got a hit. You're tough, kid."

Monday, June 26, 2006

Bacon that will buckle your knees

I love steak. Rare steak. Medium rare, if it's closer to rare. It's probably my favorite food, if one were to insist that I choose just one. Despite this love, I have never been to Peter Luger, by all accounts the mother ship for steak lovers. That is, until Saturday.

Our IT guy at work had tossed out the idea of a trip before co-worker K had quit, and she had gone ahead and made plans for a group of us to go. Originally, the trip was planned for the same day as Kate's wedding, and so I thought I wouldn't be able to go. I was understandably pouty, and Philly kindly offered to go with me to Luger (he has been on many occasions and proclaims their hamburger to be his favorite above all others), but my co-workers rescheduled so that I could join. While I have a great deal of fondness for Matlock, I am not close with anyone else who was going, and so to some extent, I wish I had been there with Phil & Co. or the law schoolers, but whatever.

Long story short, we all met up at Matlock's prior to steak dinner, because he lives in Brooklyn Heights and it's a lot easier for the Jerseyers to get there than to where Luger is located (Williamsburg, near the Marcy Ave subway stop, which is not the easiest subway line to get to) so that we could all head over together. And not surprisingly, K wound up not coming, but that's neither here nor there.

We arrived at PL in time for our reservation, all of starving. We were seated on the second floor, and as expected, the decor looks like it hasn't been updated since the 50s and the place is really rather brightly lit. Unexpectedely, I found the waiters to be a gregarious bunch, all quite polite and nice, and while I had been warned that requesting a menu would be met with "attitude," we were offered menus by our waiter and there was no roll of the eyes when we accepted the offer.

Phil had told me to be sure to order at least one slice of bacon prior my steak. I had asked for a description, but Phil simply said that it was fantastic and he didn't want to say any more than that. As our IT Guy remarked, "This is bacon that will buckle your knees." It actually did. A thick slice of Canadian bacon, and I really don't know what else to say about it except that it was the best damn slice of bacon I've ever had.

Matlock and I split the steak for three, medium rare, as did another pair at the table and we all pretty much stopped talking when the steak came. For the record, there is a steak for two, but the steak for three was surprisingly manageable when you split two orders between four people. The steak is a porterhouse cut, dry aged and broiled. It comes out on a plate, gets tipped up so all the juices and grease accumulate and get spooned over the steak. Also, the steak is sliced for you, making the sharing process a heck of a lot easier.

The steak was, and forgive me for all the superlatives flying left and right, the best I've ever had. I simply cannot compare it to other steaks - its flavor, thickness, juiciness were in a class by itself. I do, however, wish we had ordered the steak rare. The medium rare was a little too close to medium in my opinion (though the filet side was actually quite good in terms of rareness).

We also had sides - creamed spinach (delicious, though really, it's hard to muck up creamed spinach), German fried potatoes (think hash browns) and french fries. All quite good. Dessert? Matlock and I split the chocolate mousse cake with plenty of schlag (fresh whipped cream) on the side. Again, outstanding.

Yes, I wanted to die by the end of the meal, though that was temporary. A few weeks ago, I ate so many onion rings in a sitting, that I felt ill for the rest of the day. The nice thing about great food is that no matter how much you stuff yourself, you don't actually feel sick at the end of the meal. Very full? Yes. Maybe a little too full? That's debateable. But later in the evening when I was playing poker back in Manhattan, I did not feel nauseous when the guys ordered pizza. So there you go.

I look forward to many trips back to Peter Luger (hopefully next time with dearer friends). The end.

PS - I'll have my Deadwood and Entourage commentary up tomorrow evening. For now, it's bed time (I think my body is still digesting steak).

Monday, June 19, 2006

Shut up, I'm hot

When I was in law school, one of my buddies recounted a story about how his overweight brother came to stay with him for an extended period. One hot day, said buddy brought a girl home and was horrified to find his fat brother sitting in the living room with his shirt off. When the buddy asked his brother to put a shirt on, the brother said, "Shut up, I'm hot!"

That is how I felt today.

Today is my last day of vacation, and as I considered going back to work, I found my relaxation waning. I am also still without air-conditioning because I am stupid, cheap and lazy.

When I returned from my sister's father's day barbeque, missing my mother, already stressed about work, berating myself for the things I should have done (but did not) over vacation, I proceeded to have full meltdown while attempting to make a decision about buying an air-conditioner on Best Buy online (every actual store I went to today was sold out).

Thanks, Wendy, for answering the phone and talking me off the ledge, and helping me to figure out what air-conditioner to purchase. Now all I have to do is remain cool till I get to my shitty air-conditioned office tomorrow.

The Valley Ain't So Bad

Please consider this a joint Deadwood, Entourage post.

So, after last week's Deadwood, I was a little nervous - had the show lost its edge? It felt like a set-up episode and it was nowhere near as strong as "A Lie Agreed Upon," which kicked off season 2. My fears were totally allayed by this ep - strong characterization, humor, advancement of the plot, intrigue - everything an episode of Deadwood should have and I was reminded of why I think this is hands down, the best show on television. At Kate's wedding, her co-worker Matt and I stood around talking about the greatness of Deadwood and I am fully prepared again to throw my allegiance behind it.

I love the addition of Gerald McRaney (Major Dad) as Hearst - the new camp villain. I was completely taken by surprise when his sidekick Captain Turner grabbed Al from behind and Hearst stapped Al in the hand with a hammer!!! Unbelievable! And what did I love more than that? Bullock offering to go up and "finish the cocksucker off" right then and there. Who would have thought last March that we would see a Bullock/Swearengen alliance?

As always, we can count on Charlie Utter to spell out the episode's theme. The ep was called "I'm Not the Fine Man You Take Me For." While Charlie and Joanie stand outside the Ellsworth house, Charlie listen to Joanie beat up on herself and recounts how, despite the fact that Wild Bill was his dearest friend with a true and kind spirit, Bill himself had a tendency to believe he was a bad person. I found this scene especially touching, if only because of a) the closeness with which Charlie still carries Bill's memory and b) because I know I myself have had similar conversations with friends. Tonight, some of the people of Deadwood with good hearts doubt themselves (except for Sol Star who is adorable as ever). And I liked how Jane's story about the alleged hero Custer plays into this theme as well.

There is a flip side to the episode's title as well - George Hearst may have seemd innocuous at the end of last season and the premier last week, but he is most certainly not the fine man we might have taken him for. I am really looking forward to seeing how this unravels.

And can I admit something somewhat shameful? I am so pleased that Bullock is being a little less of a tool this season. And good work to Timothy Olyphant for managing to show that while he has committed himself to his wife, Bullock has not lost his love for the widow Alma. The scene where Bullock asked Charlie to watch over the Ellsworth house and find out how Alma does in surgery - surprisingly touching.

On to Entourage. While Deadwood may be the best rounded show, Entourage is decidedly the most fun to watch. Loved the references to Almost Famous, and as ever, Johnny Drama made me laugh out loud more than once. I love how this show manages to make you root for people with whom you have nothing in common. Vince continues to grow on me, and I am always secretly touched by how Vince and Eric's friendship reminds me of Kate and myself (as for who is E and who is Vince, it changes every episode). And while Ari is a scene stealer and I love him, I really don't think this show would be half of what it is without Kevin Dillon's Johnny Drama. A review I once read pointed out that he clearly bring a little self-knowledge to the role considering he is Matt Dillon's less famous brother.

HBO, you are my summertime television savior. Thank you.

Friday, June 16, 2006

And one day you'll know where you are

I am on vacation this week, and I knew I had been bad about blogging when even Phil remarked about the lack of posting. Sorry.

Wednesday found me in the city. First stop - the Shake Shack to pick up lunch for Anhabelle and myself. Then to crappy Times Square to surprise Anh with lunch. We chilled in her office briefly, enjoying our coldish burgers (getting uptown took longer than anticipated) before we headed over to day care to visit Ben. I haven't seen Ben in nearly 6 weeks, and he has gotten much bigger. Interestingly, Ben has one of the only "normal" names of the kids in daycare - some of the names I'm pretty sure are made-up. But all the kids are pretty darn cute (not as cute as Ben, but still).

Next I headed up to Willis's law firm in the "civilized" (Anh's term, and can you blame her? working in Times Square sucks) part of town over on Park Ave. Will and I chilled in his office with it's creepy glass doors and did our usual schpiel. Will and I would like to be in private practice together, but realize this would be a pointless exercise - no work would get done and we'd just sit around drinking coffee, swapping stories.

I eventually made it over to West End to poker buddy Sharif's apartment. Reefy and I were both shut out of the Radiohead tickets when they went on sale on Ticketmaster, so we pooled out resources and got a pair together off of ebay. I got into Radiohead in college, thanks to roomie Janet. And interstingly, I'm pretty sure Philly decided I was okay when he asked me one day at lunch if I liked Radiohead and I answered with an enthusiastic yes.

I have never seen Radiohead live, so I was pretty damn excited. But first, Sharif made us some alcoholic fruit smoothies. Yummy. Anyway, back to the band. Totally lived up to the hype. I dropped a large chunk of change (the better part of my NJ tax refund) on this ticket - far more than I've ever spent on a single ticket before and it's a little hard for me to say at this moment if it was worth it. I think it was, though.

Anyway, I got to hear a lot of songs I love, including "The Tourist" off of OK Computer (my favorite Radiohead album) but they didn't play "Let Down" which is my favorite song off that album (other highlights of the evening for me were "Kid A," "Paranoid Android," "No Surprises" and "Everything In Its Right Place.") It's interesting now, to listen to this album that Janet played so many times in our room and wonder why I love that one song in particular more than the others. I haven't reached a clearly articulated reason yet, but I'll let you know when I do.

The evening ended at Ginger Man, which was once again quite good, and this time not colored by a burger coma. And in other, yet related news, Philly and Emily got engaged this week. Phil is one of those people in my life, because he has been so prominently featured in my blog, that people who have never met him will ask me how he is doing. So it seems apropos to end with that, and offer the warmest of congratulations for what I am sure will be a very happy life together.

I'm so in love with you/I'll be forever blue

Last Saturday, Kate and Bart got married. I was in the wedding. Blah blah blah. You already know all this, so I'll just include some photos and a brief commentary.

Seriously? I have never in my life seen Kate look so beautiful, and this is in eleven years of friendship. Yes, yes, everyone says that all brides look beautiful, but Kate looked especially gorgeous. I like the picture above because, aside from showing off her lovely dress, she looks so happy. And I didn't even have to say anything funny to get this shot - totally candid moment on her part. That's how happy she was to be marrying Bart.

After the ceremony, the very dopey photographer took our photos outside. He was slow. There was a gang of random local kids taunting us. No fun. But bridesbutler Jason got a nice shot of me, Pablo and Kate flipping off the camera. Then we got to go to the reception! Hurrah!

We get to the K of C in Washington Township and bartender Steve sets the bridal party up with some drinky-poos. Thankfully, Kate's sister Liz-Ann(ie) had the foresight to bring champagne in the limo so we could all have a nip.

Liz-Ann and I wore the same dress (though mine sadly did not come with a sweatshirt). Next to her is McKenzie - groomslady and fellow pale Irish lady.

Anyway, bartender Steve said that this was the first wedding he ever worked where the bride and her maid-of-honor were drinking straight scotch. That's cause we're classy, Steve. After we were introduced, I was told it was time for my speech. Gulp. But it went fine - luckily I had worked out most of what I was going to say the night before.

Then it was time for some dancing. Woooo!

Kate, her mom and dad share a moment while Bart and his mother dance. Kate's family has been my adopted family for years now - over the last few years, I have spent Christmas Eve, Easter and 4th of July with them. I have always considered myself very fortunate to have not only my own loving family, but Kate's as well.

Too soon it was over. Happily, we were all staying at the same hotel. Pablo and I were sharing a room, but strangely we were given a king sized bed when we had asked for two doubles. Pabs went to go ask for a switch. No switcheroo, but Paulito worked his magic and got our room comped! (Good thing too, as I apparently kicked him all night and he didn't sleep so well - sorry!)

Now the newlyweds are off in Jamaica... without Kate's very nice new pair of Ray-Bans because I lost them. Bad maid-of-honor! I miss them and look forward to their return (Kate and Bart's, though if the glasses showed up, I'd be happy about that too).

Bart, love, you're stuck with us now!! Ha! On the plus side, I totally think the next time I come to DC, we should do "A Little Respect" as our karaoke song.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

I just made my first communion

(First off, sorry for the extended delay. It has been a combination of laziness, an active social life, and serious cable modem issues that make me want to whine loudly).

Ahem. So, this lady here is Kate, the bride to be, light of my life. And with her little veil on, she really did look like she had just made her first communion, which is what she told everyone in NYC who asked her if she was getting married. On Wednesday, Kate and Bart will pack up the car and drive to New Jersey in preparation for the big day, which is Saturday. For Kate, I am missing the first day of World Cup and the Belmont Stakes, though with Barbaro out of it, who really cares?

People have asked me if I am having issues with Kate getting married - honestly, I'm not. It's all quite surreal and I have actually been experiencing sympathy stress about the whole event, but I am not sad or tweaked about it. I'm just happy for them. Last night when I called to talk with Kate, I wound up chatting with Bart for awhile and he walked me through all the stuff that Kate is stressing over. Some of it silly, some of it legitimate, but all of it understandable - and Bart, bless his heart, handles it well. You see, Kate can be crazy, and so can I. A sample conversation from last night.

Me: I dropped my dress off to be pressed this morning. It's wrinkly.

Kate: That's good.

Me: Yeah. But I got worried. What if they mess it up? What if they burn a hole in the dress? What if I pick it up on Friday and there's a huge iron mark on the dress.

Kate: That would suck. Also, that's a completely irrational fear.

Me: I know. I couldn't help it. It kept me up for a little while last night. Also, I started worrying that I would get a pulmonary edema and have to be in the hospital for your wedding, and how much it would suck to know the wedding was going on and I couldn't be there.

Kate: Yeah. I've had a complete and consuming fear lately that something will happen to my face. Like I'll get a black eye before the wedding.

So you see, we are crazy. The mildly endearing part is that at least we know we are crazy. My point in all of this is, Bart knows how Kate is, deals with it well, and loves her to pieces. So how could I feel anything but happiness about their marriage? And I don't feel anything other than happiness.

But don't get me started on how stressed I am about work.

Annnnyyyway, the point in all of this was to sum up the bachelorette party! It was a great time. Ruby Foo's, though not the best food in the world, was festive, had some nice cocktails, and was very appropriate for the situation. Gotham Comedy Club was actually hysterical, and it's always nice to go to a comedy show that is funny.

Karaoke was at a place called Muse, right near our hotel in Chelsea. By this point in the evening, things had gotten pretty sloppy. But I will say that Kate did sing "Pour Some Sugar on Me" and brought the house down, her co-worker Selene and I sang a raucous duet of Madonna's "Dress You Up" which was fun [for us, but not for anyone else], Kate and I got teary-eyed singing the Beach Boys' "God Only Knows" (which is a personal favorite), and I'm pretty sure we all sang "Sweet Caroline" twice.

So now you know how a first communion gets celebrated.

Next week, I am on a much-needed vacation from work. My plans are loose, which I love, though I know there will be a trip to visit Anhabelle at work (and Baby Ben at daycare), a Radiohead concert (wooooo!!!!), a possible trip to see Shakespeare in the Park, sleeping, reading, and not working.

I'll be better about blogging. Ish.