Sunday, May 29, 2005

Up In The Clouds

Part of the fun of holiday weekends is celebrating doing nothing; the other part is celebrating not having to do anything.

Thursday came and went. Kaia arrived early and settled into her "okay" suite at the W New York, and I got back to my apartment a bit early from downtown. So by the time I managed to pack up the last-minute stuff, get myself showered and ready to walk out the door, it was about 7:30. I managed to grab a cab and get to her room by 8ish, and from there we've been floating along happily. We spent about an hour relaxing and laughing and cavorting on her "so-so" terrace. I had no idea she had gotten a terraced room; in fact, it's not so much a terrace but a patio that could easily hold 30 people.

Later that evening (emphasis on the "later"), we had friends over to hang out for a little while -- just to have some wine and kick back, really -- and then they split around 1-ish and we fell asleep, exhausted and spent from our first day together in awhile.

Friday was a work day for both of us, unfortunately; she had deals that needed to be handled ASAP (read: by the end of business) and I had a few things to handle downtown, so I reluctantly left her in the room to handle her work while I headed downtown to pick up some papers, speak to a few city people, and resolve a couple issues. Concurrently, my grandmother -- who lives in Buffalo -- was having a procedure so my parents and my uncle flew there the day before to be with her and make sure she was okay throughout the entire process. Around 1ish I called my dad, who advised me that she came through beautifully and was doing well, so I breathed a huge sigh of relief and finished up my stuff. By three I was on my way back uptown to 49th & Lex and went from there.

Kaia and I had dinner with friends who were in town for the weekend (and who have a train back to Maryland in less than five hours from this particular moment); since they were staying in this particular hotel, we all went down to the hotel restaurant (Blue Fin, I think), hung out in their lounge, had some tasty eats, chilled out and just relaxed for awhile. Since they have a little one, we sent him upstairs to put the little one to bed and the three of us hung out for another hour or so. Then after we bid goodnight to her, we went out for a little walk around the neighborhood -- midtown east isn't really a neighborhood, but you get the point -- and then we headed up to sleep.

Saturday was a blur; we wound up frolicking for a while (no one uses the word frolicking anymore, and I think that's a shame) and spent some time in the sun on the terrace. Thereafter, we made our way down to Soho to check out a few apartment buildings -- one of which hasn't been completed and required us to wear hardhats in our on-site viewing thereof -- and then we taxied back uptown to prepare for a night at Lincoln Center. We decided to skip pre-concert dinner because we had grabbed a late-ish lunch at Mercer Kitchen, so after the concert -- which was absolutely incredible -- we hopped across the street to Fiorello's and had a smattering of tasty eats. A little shrimp, scallop, asparagus, artichoke and mushroom combo to start, followed by the special of the day, soft-shell crabs, and a filet mignon of tuna (with a balsamic glaze) and we were filled. Dessert will have to wait for another day (or night).

Today's check-out day, and we are heading to my place to drop our stuff, make a hasty exit and then head back down to Soho. We're also going to make it our business to grab something at the Yankee Clubhouse Store for Kaia's father, who gave Kaia one of his baseball cards from Yankee Fantasy Camp to give to me. I'm going to scan it in and put it on a Yankee background so he can use it for wallpaper on his computer. He might not, but I think it will be a trip. Either way, he and I have been going back and forth, and he even had recommended she and I go to Yankee Stadium to see the Yankees yesterday (the day they eventually lost to the -- blech -- Red Sox 17-1). But in making the suggestion -- and clarifying that he wasn't trying to meddle but merely give his opinion -- I was pretty relieved. I've been in relationships where the parents did everything but wipe their daughter's ass, so when he made mention of the game, at first I was a bit on guard; but he specifically went out of his way to let me know he wasn't meddling, and the fact that he knew enough to do so assured me that I've got nothing to worry about.

That, and the bet between he & I looks more and more like one I shall win. It should be very interesting when he and I finally meet; I'll have to feel him out as to when I can start teasing him about his betting acumen; in all fairness, however, I've already started doing so via e-mail, so I doubt we'll have much in the way of difficulty in that department. More importantly, he knows I love his daughter and that it's reciprocated; he knows we make each other very, very happy; he knows (from her friends that have met me and reported -- to a degree -- back to her sister) that I'm relatively normal. And he knows that she and I have so much fun that all we do, for the most part, is laugh.

Ah...look at the time. I need to be out of here, in the shower and downtown with my other half toot sweet...we'll do more checking in later, time permitting.

Enjoy Memorial Day or whatever it is you're celebrating!


Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Heavy Cloud, No Rain

It's been a weird couple of days -- since Monday, I've been going non-stop getting my apartment in shape for visitors (not just my other half). So I've gotten all my cleaning in and delivered back to me, the laundry's all done, everything has been dusted, and the only thing left to do is clean out the fridge and run around my place with the Swiffer. All the crap has been stowed, packed away, tied down and/or stuffed into every available crevice in which I could fit it. And I can actually open all the closets without a pile of stuff pouring down on me.

Aside from getting everything ready, and knowing my checklist has been checked, re-checked and checked off, item by item, I'm running on auto-pilot because I want to make sure everything is great. But as we've both discussed, it's not about whether there's dust on the TV door on the wall unit, it's about how we are when we're together. Based on the past, I've tended to forget that very important fact: the little things are, in fact, the little things. The big things: how much fun we have no matter what we're doing or where we are; how we can communicate with one another without speaking; the fact that we're always laughing with one another with regularity; and that there's nowhere I'd rather be on Earth than hanging out with my other half, no matter the time or place. Big things indeed; and it's really nice when the big things are the good things too.

Speaking of good things, I checked out the first four seasons' worth of Seinfeld on DVD; I've been too busy to rip them onto my computer and burn a compilation of one or two discs' worth of the best of the best, but I am looking forward to doing so once a rainy day arrives with no other to-do items on my checklist. That means I'll probably get around to it sometime in 2007 -- mebbe.

More good things: the Yankees continue their climb back to respectability by plowing through the Mets and the Tigers. On top of that good news, Kaia's father and I have a running bet as to whether the Yankees will be within five games of first place in the East by June 4th; he says no, I disagree. And much like his daughter and I, we rarely disagree on anything. But we haven't discussed George W. Bush, the war in Iraq, Vietnam, Billy Joel and the art of racing. Somehow, however, I'm not too worried: the guy's not only lots of fun, he's a menschy, warm guy -- and as I have alluded in the past herein, the squint test works yet again. If you'd asked me a year ago where I'd be today, the last thing I'd have anticipated was being incredibly happy, excited beyond my ability to articulate same, and looking forward to meeting my girlfriend's parents and the future in general. As Hemingway wrote, The Sun Also Rises.

So on top of all the errands and the bullshit my other half and I have endured to get to tomorrow, we both are barely able to contain our excitement at knowing tomorrow we'll be looking into each other's eyes and wondering how we went as long as we did since we last were in one another's presence. A couple weeks ago we were discussing a variety of possible plans on our agenda, including going to a possible Yankee game (in fact, my sister's boyfriend invited us, with them, to a game tomorrow night which we can't attend because her flight gets in too late), seeing a show, going to the Philharmonic, seeing a variety of friends and family, restaurant tours and walking trips. Now that tomorrow is within reach -- a mere matter of hours -- I think it's safe to say that neither of us has anything on our agenda but each other.

And that perhaps is the biggest thing of all.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Monday, Monday

It’s been a Monday for the most part. There’s lots to get to and even more to ponder, so I won’t waste time with the usual gettin’-to-know-you bullshit that pervades most of the entries herein, but I will say this: life, for the most part, could not be better.

It started with a long morning commute that culminated in me at my desk.

I retrieved my voicemail – a message or two – and returned the calls, then headed downtown to get some errands accomplished. I had stuck around the office a little longer than I normally would have to make sure the server, which I’d fixed up with a friend (a new RAID drive and we were good to go) on Sunday morning, was up and running. More background on Sunday: problems arose but – despite taking a bit longer than anticipated – I got out of there in time to hang with a friend for a couple hours at Brother Jimmy's.

Back to Monday. I got downtown and did what I needed to – some drop-offs, some filings, and a whole lot of research at a City agency I frequent. On my way back to the train I stopped by J&R Music World to pick up a Palm WiFi card I’d ordered. It did the trick – I can now surf with the Palm – but the card, when used, eats batteries like termites going through a pile of popsicle sticks. So I’m guessing I won’t be doing anything beyond checking quickie e-mail and scores when/if necessary. Incidentally, for those few of you – and you know who you are – who swing by the HoB via portable devices – ‘Net phones, PDA’s, mini PC’s, etc. – do not fear. I plan to get a mobile version of the site up and running at some point (when there’s nothing else to do and the TV’s broken).

In any case…I returned to the office to find my sister opening a somewhat large box and a couple of things on a small credenza/table in her office. My other half had mentioned she wanted to get something for Ozzie, my sister’s shitzu, and went ahead and ordered a combo dog treat jar and a food dish for him. Both are fire-engine red each with a silver bone. I’d seen the pictures online (go here if you want to see them – doggie not included) and thought they looked great, but they were even nicer in person. My sister was on the phone (with who I thought was my other half) but it turned out to be my father. We all talked a little business and then she finished unwrapping the goodies and asked me for Kaia’s contact info to call and thank her. In the meantime, as she was moving around to get something by her desk, I went to pet Ozzie on the head and he let out a high-pitched yelp. We both stopped completely and looked at him, thinking “What the hell was that?” Ozzie is almost completely silent – for the most part, aside from the doorbell ringing, the only time he growls or makes any noise whatsoever is when I play rough with him (in which case he and I have conversations in growl, although he’s far more fluent therein than me). So hearing him yelp instantly worried us both. I pet him again behind his ears and, sho’ nuff, El Pooch let out another high-pitched yelp and we knew something was amiss. So within 20 minutes, she had already contacted the vet, gotten him packed up (he comes to work with us every day) and left to go to the vet’s office. I figured it was nothing serious, but when a relatively silent dog yelps, you listen, and you worry.

In either case, the news wasn’t bad – he just had an ear infection. As it’s pretty common in dogs with lots of fur/hair, this isn’t that much of a shock, but it’s still sad to hear a friendly, easy-going pooch express anything remotely akin to pain.

In the meantime, I had a few other things to handle, so while she made her way across town to the vet, I put the icing on a few other deals I’m handling, and then made my way over to Home Depot on 3rd Avenue. A bracket in my closet cracked (under the weight of all my spider-man pajamas – with feet and the butt-flap – I have hanging in there).

Yes, I’m kidding (about the spider-man pajamas).

The bracket was a specific design and I’d hit every hardware store of which I knew in Manhattan trying to replace it; Home Depot, of course, had the exact item I needed – in fact, they sell them in packages of two – for the hefty sum of $1.62. I paid and made my way over to meet my mother and the two of us, together with a co-worker of hers, headed uptown to my building. Before we made it, however, we stopped so she and her colleague could grab some Tasti-Delite, which is low-calorie, low-fat, low-taste ice cream substitute. Okay, the low-taste part isn’t really accurate, but it’s not quite my speed, so I passed. It just so happens that the store where we stopped for the non-ice cream is a block away from Lenox Hill Hospital, and this was the first time I’d spent any amount of time – 10 minutes or so waiting for them to get their stuff so we could continue on our uptown journey – near the hospital. And as I stood and saw the hospital, I kept being reminded of last summer and the three-month ICU stay that my father endured. Strangely, and happily, it wasn’t as much an awful memory as it was a relief to know that he is, day by day, putting himself farther and farther away from that experience and getting better and better.

What also helps is the continued support and caring friends who repeatedly ask how he’s doing. Even Kaia’s father, with whom I’m exchanging almost daily e-mails, regularly asks and never forgets to pass along his good wishes. So while seeing the hospital brings back some shitty memories, it also reminds me how many people, along with me, love and respect my father and know this world is a better place with him in it. And no, I didn’t have any Tasti-Delite.

The rest of the night was spent on laundry, cleaning up and getting myself ready for Thursday and my other half in NYC. If I wasn’t so beat and devoid of nutrition (I didn’t eat lunch and I still haven’t had dinner) I’d be jumping off the walls. And while that may sound like I’m not quite excited, I’m really looking forward to us doing absolutely nothing together. We’ve made some plans with friends, as well as reservations, tickets and goals – seeing the “Time Warner TV: At Home in New York” at the Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle is the newest item on our list – but the truth is, none of it really matters as much as us getting to spend some much-needed time together.

And I have a feeling, as per usual, we'll somehow manage to accomplish the task at hand.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

More News, Interspersed: Take It Or Leave It

So the Yankees got routed by the Mets, I spent the day cleaning, organizing, prepping laundry, doing work, enjoying the New York air (seriously, I was) and touched base with my other half throughout the day.

The stuff of excitement it's not.

At this point, despite the random dreariness of my preparation for my other half's arrival, we're looking forward to a semi-scheduled week of activities. Aside from the regulatory stuff, ie stuff you shouldn't be privy to, we've got the Philharmonic, some restaurants, some friends and some other visits/events/ideas penciled in. For the most part, we'll wing it, as per usual -- aside from seeing friends in town that we don't normally run into, we're opting for the fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants mentality, as we don't know how much sleep we'll be getting so we can't stack the days with activity. For the most part, while we do have a checklist and an itinerary, we've pretty much accepted that as long as we're hanging out, it doesn't matter where or with whom -- we know we'll have fun no matter what the situation.

However, in order to make sure everything's peachy, I got a lot of the cleaning out of the way today so Wednesday night is just a spruce-up and not a monthly round-up of dust bunnies, empties and refrigerator gremlins I can no longer recognize (meatcake!!!!). On top of that, a friend of mine who started up a blog asked me to help her with the set-up, so I spent some time thereon -- swing by her site (the link to the left for LisaBinDaCity POV).

Between making sure the bathroom sparkled and the kitchen was safe for human survival, I did about two hours' worth of top-to-bottom cleaning. I probably should call MeIris but my common sense and my memory suggest otherwise. If I haven't mentioned MeIris before herein, she was the cleaning woman who came by my apartment every other week -- actually, whenever she felt like it -- and would charge me $75 to clean my apartment. If she switched the days on me and didn't let me know, she'd show up, make sure the super didn't let her into (and therefore not clean) my apartment, then call me a few times and inform me she expected to be paid anyway. This happened a few times -- each time she had very creative excuses for not showing up on the specified day. One of her better ones was that she had to go to the doctor to check her feet. Since she spoke barely any english, I assume she meant she wanted to have the doctor check to make sure her feet were okay (as opposed to not there, abnormal, excessively odiferous, etc.). So needless to say, after I hit her with a $75 bonus for Christmas in 2003, and then she showed up, unannounced in January and did the phone call advisory for another $75 despite not cleaning my apartment, I cut her loose. So I would rather, at this point, clean the place myself than deal with the bullshit. She's not a bad person, she's just lazy, selfish, stupid and lazy (I mentioned lazy twice for a reason).

So the two-hour Saturday super-clean was successful, and the bathroom -- especially the toilet -- sparkled like the sheen of Yul Brynner's noggin (while he was alive). Then I went out to do some errands in lieu of a postponed work-errand. I was originally supposed to meet a friend of mine who wholesales computer hardware and accessories at my office to replace a malfunctioning hard drive in the office server, but he couldn't easily give me an hour or ninety minutes today so tomorrow AM is where we're now at. He's doing me a favor by basically giving me the replacement drive at cost, so him going out of his way is something I'm neither demanding nor expecting. Just by getting me the part he's doing me a favor, so once it's a done deal I'll buy him lunch and we'll go on until the next thing in the office explodes and needs immediate attention.

In addition, I am in the process of getting a WiFi card for my Palm/PDA, a Tungsten T3, which is overall a nifty lil' machine. It does Word, Excel and PDF stuff, so everything I need -- my schedule, my friends/contacts and a load of photographs -- are always with me (except when I forget to haul it along with my other crap). Problem is that it's a dead end -- meaning if I'm out of the office or away from home for more than a few hours and I need to check out something online -- whether for work or play -- I have to wait until I'm back at home or the office to find a way back to the 'Net. In a word, that blows. Being a resident/traveler of NYC means I should be able to grab a wireless connection around the City and log into my e-mail server almost anywhere at the drop of a dime; also, having access to Mapquest is awesome if I'm trying to find a building's specific location or to find out which stop to exit a subway. On top of that, I'm planning, in the next six months, to roll out a Net-based connection to our office server to allow my dad, while he recuperates, to get info off the server without having to bother us in the office to a) discuss what he needs; b) look it up; c) fax it to him; d) get the phone call from him explaining that he needed something other than what he received; and e) repeat the entire process. So the shortened version of the otherwise long story is this: once I get that implemented, both he and I can access a load of info that would and will help tremendously.

Incidentally, ten years ago, we invested in a product called pcAnywhere, which was sold by Symantec (or Norton) and, in tandem with a telephone switch, allowed us to dial into the office and access the server. Problem was/is it never really worked properly; the phone was always slow, and as soon as we upgraded to digital phone service through Verizon (not VOIP -- that came later), the process of working over the phone lines went from tricky to impossible. With the net, however, it's as easy as installing a web-based front end with a firewall exception, and unless some shitbird in some eastern bloc republic happens upon an IP of ours, we won't be attracting visitors or malicious attention. So that's a project for down the road.

So...once I nab the WiFi card it will be an omnipresent part of the work-day. Plenty of friends have Internet-capable cell phones, but the browsers thereon are awful, they're slow, they nail you with super-high per-use/monthly charges, and there's no way to effectively transfer phone-based content to a portable (be it computer or PDA). So that's no solution. Blackberry is a joke because it's barely legible and it's yet another device on an increasingly filled-out equipment belt. On the other hand, I did try using a WiFi-enabled Palm for about ten days last summer; I travel pretty thoroughly throughout Manhattan so I made a point of stopping every so often and assessing the ease of obtaining a free connection. Unfortunately, I found that 90% of the time I either needed to get a password, a T-Mobile account, or fucked. In fact, the only place I consistently was able to access the 'Net with the WiFi portable was near a small newstand/kiosk by the City Hall subway stop (the N/R/W lines, Broadway & Centre Street). It was a semi-privately-sponsored WiFi connection, but it would die after thirty minutes of use; now wireless 'Net access is slow on WiFi-enabled Palms, but it's not THAT slow. So I found I could access e-mail, check for any DOB (Department of Buildings) updates, and keep up with the Yankees scores (for Wednesday day games) without a problem -- all within about six or seven minutes. So no worries. But having one or two places -- and no more -- to reliably access the Net wirelessly is like having a cell phone that can only be used in two or three specific locations within a City. In other words, it was pointless. So I returned the Palm and went about my business. Fast forward a year later, to a WiFi enabled world (Starbucks and McDonalds offer WiFi connections -- need I say more?). So I'm giving it another shot. If it doesn't work, then it doesn't work -- but it's too juicy and too useful to continue to ignore. It's sort of like people who refuse to get cell phones; unless a person is a) paranoid and deathly afraid of potential cancer from cell use; b) extremely boring and devoid of anything resembling a life; c) cheap as all hell; or d) all of the above, there's no reason to not get a cellphone these days. They're relatively cheap (phones are free) and the plans are decent ($25 for a decent, usable plan). My point is that the cellphone has become so thoroughly ubiquitous that NYC courts who once confiscated them to prevent people using them during court proceedings no longer enforce that policy. So unless you closely resemble one of the above-listed descriptions, you should probably be carrying a cellphone, even if it is to call and say "They're all out of Kung-Pao chicken, but the pound is making a delivery in an hour, so if you want me to wait, I can go to Earl's Tire and Bait Shack and come back later."

But I digress.

I am still going back-and-forth with my other half's dad via e-mail, and we made a bet as to the Yankees' position in the standings come June 4th. It's a gentleman's bet, although we did put a $20 on it; I'd never take his money (being able to tease him for the next year or ten would be preferable to a Jackson in my pocket) and he'd never take mine (knowing I'd continue to mention Derek Jeter's injury today and a half-dozen other factors, including the fact that The Turtleneck should never have acquired Randy Johnson). But since -- in all seriousness -- it's all in fun, it's really impressive that he's not overbearing or investigative but enjoying the interplay. And in his most recent e-mail, he asked -- in a very candid, menschy way -- how my dad was doing and wished him a continued, quick recovery. In a past life, I would have anticipated that interest as a sneaky, non-altruistic way to check the status of our business and our future. Knowing my other half, and knowing her father, it's clear his inquiry was nothing more than him being a caring, considerate, menschy guy. What a change, and what a pleasure.

Aside from the bad timing and judgement on my part, my one real regret -- other than my father's health deteriorating so rapidly, which is of course a major, major regret -- was that I didn't meet her sooner. If I played my own personal version of "What If," I could surmise that she and I would be happily living in NYC, our families would genuinely enjoy interacting, and all of the pain, aggravation, frustration and dysfunction I experienced first-hand would have been erased and replaced by smiles, happiness and lots of good things. But as a friend of mine recently told me, life is a staircase -- "you can't get to the top without climbing up from the bottom." This sort of parallels my own summation of this ironic, reversal of fate, courtesy of Steve Miller's 'Jet Airliner,' which features the lyric: "You've got to go through hell before you get to heaven." It's funny how songs, movies, books and friends always seem to be able to sum things up so perfectly, so appropriately, almost as if they've been there, done that...

And to expound on that "Jet Airliner" theme, if nothing else, it reminds me that I need to schedule a flight to/from the Coast ASAP. I'm in the middle of a journey and I know where I've been, I know where I'm at, and I know where I want to go. I think I know how to get there, and I need to be on my way.

In life, seems to me, that's all for which we ever should really hope.

Friday, May 20, 2005

The Coming Week, Weekend-Style

There's lots on the horizon, but all points lead to Memorial Day Weekend with my other half. We're counting down the days, as per usual, 'til we both are in the same city and the same space, doing everything, nothing, and anything we can until the hours evaporate and she's back to the West Coast and we revert to the telephone, e-mail and our thoughts.

This upcoming weekend is a biggie; I've got laundry to get done, cleaning to bring in, organizing to do, food-shopping to handle, The Interpreter with a friend, some basic errands, some working out and some sun to absorb. But in the meantime, I've got workstuff to juggle, some work-related issues with our server to wrap up, and on top of that, I've got a lot of little to-do items to handle before the whistle blows and the weekend commences.

On top of that, the sports world has offered up yet again more juicy tidbits from which I've selected a couple of focus-worthy items, specifically the Yankees' ending their 10-game winning streak in Seattle, as well as the Detroit Pistons eliminating Reggie Miller and the Indiana Pacers, in that order. The former story wasn't that significant: it wasn't the Bobby Thomson shot heard 'round the world, it wasn't a World Series victory, and it wasn't the end of the Yankees' tenure as baseball demigod. However, the Yankees handed away a game, as they have done on occasion during this somewhat young baseball season; and while that's of little or no consequence to non-Yankee fans, it is of major consequence to me, as well as to my other half's father, who, upon receiving my e-mail, agreed with most of what I was thinking.

Sound boring? On the surface, perhaps...but it's really incredible that he and I have this ongoing, comfortable, friendly, genuine dialogue; despite not having met, we've exchanged ideas, pleasantries and points of view -- not all concurring, by the way -- and just talking baseball, with the smattering of politics or other news sifted in, I know that I am going to really like both he and his wife. Of course, it helps that they're "normal" in every sense; but the fact that they're also good people without ten lifetimes' worth of baggage also makes it reassuring. Between that, and the fact that their daughter makes me smile so frequently, on so many levels, really makes me wonder why it took this long to get where I should have been three years ago.

The other story of note, the conclusion to the Detroit Pistons-Indiana Pacers series, also brought with it, upon the Pistons' victory therein, the end of Reggie Miller's career. For those of you who regard professional basketball as an irrelevance -- and I largely agree with you -- Reggie Miller was the long-range shooter who led the Indiana Pacers against the Knicks in the late '90's and regularly buried incredible, ridiculous shots -- sometimes several within a few seconds on the game clock -- and accelerated the Knicks' demise from Eastern Conference respectability to League Doormat. He also mocked, ridiculed and baited Spike Lee, a former court-side regular for home games at MSG -- so the guy isn't all bad ;-) The Knicks, in large part due to Reggie Miller's play, went from a solid team to a bunch of carjackers in shorts, and I can't honestly remember the last time I voluntarily watched an entire Knicks game. This season was to be Miller's last, and since tonight's playoff loss ended the series and the season, it also put a cap on Reggie Miller's storied, yet controversial, career. I was rooting against him the whole time, and when, with less than ninety seconds on the game clock, he received a standing ovation from everyone at the Conseco Field House in Indiana this evening -- including his opponents, the Detroit Pistons -- it was fairly impressive.

On the other hand, good riddance to that alien-resembling freak.

There's more on the agenda, but it will have to wait until another time...I've got a few more quick things to wrap up before I crawl into bed with my other half and the darkness, and while I'd like to address the coming storm of Iran's and North Korea's nuclear capabilities, the Fillibuster Debate, Bush's Judicial Nominees and those pictures proving Janet Reno really is a man (um...just checking), I'll move on quickly. I do want to mention, however, that despite the final Star Wars film's release this week, "The Lord of the Lisp," (sic) I'm not especially anxious to see it. I was after seeing the fifth film in the series, "Send In The Clones," (sic) but since the hype began almost a year ago, and since every Tom, Dick and Harry Website has managed to fully outline every plot nuance from this otherwise almost Arthurian saga, I'm flaccid over the whole experience. Hence why a friend and I will swing by a nearby Humungaplex to catch Sean Penn and Nicole Kidman in The Interpreter. It won't feature light sabers, spaceships that resemble diseased penises, or much in the way of fanciful costumes, but it will be entertaining, well-crafted and not attended by teenagers who spank their monkeys to Sci-Fi mag stills of Natalie Portman in her dressing room.

That isn't to say that the last of the Star Wars films isn't going to be entertaining, engaging or worthwhile; and that isn't to say that Natalie Portman isn't "sponge-worthy." But until the hype -- and the traveling bands of Star Wars freaks walking the streets in full sci-fi garb -- ceases, I'd much prefer something a bit more tolerable. That, and Natalie Portman looks much better in person.

The last time I excitedly attended a first-day showing of a film was Pulp Fiction; that was a keeper. The time before that was a cold Christmas Day release of The Godfather Part III; that was, sadly, not. And the only other time I remember being excited attending an opening day movie release was a Valentine's Day in the early 90's to see The Silence of The Lambs. That was, by far, absolutely worth it. So I apologize in advance if I have offended anyone's sensibilities, but anyone who feels the need -- or actually thinks it's a cool, hip, intelligent thing to do -- to set up a tent outside the Ziegfield Theater, or any other theater showing the "Sith" flick, ought to go out, purchase a realistic replica of Luke Skywalker's Light-Saber (the one with all the cool sound effects), and proceed to shove it up their ass.

"Thank you for coming. We hope you enjoy the show."


Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Interlude: The Britney & Kevin Show

Last night I was flippin' channels and saw the Mr. & Mrs. Britney Spears reality show on UPN, which is like the ugly red-headed step-sister of TV networks. What I didn't realize at the time was that the show debuted last night -- shame on me for not keeping up with useless, inane pop-culture horseshit (which adequately describes Ms. Spears and Mr. Ms. Spears) -- so I watched it for about twenty seconds. It's refreshing to know that people this stupid are procreating; it would worry me to consider that they were in City Government, helping keep us safe at night, or raising the future of this country (um...scratch that last part).

In either case, David Letterman had the cute-as-punch intellectuals do the Top 10 List on his show last night, so I figured I'd violate copyright law and include it here. I'm sure you can find the same list at Letterman's website at, but it's so much more fun without all those crazy links, flashing icons and pictures of David Letterman's hair. So without further ado, following is last night's Top 10 List, entitled "[Britney & Kevin's] Top 10 reasons to check out their new show:"

10. Britney: There's never-before-seen footage of me wrestling an alligator.

9. Kevin: Unlike those "Desperate Housewives" chicks, we're not, like, 60 years old.

8. Britney: It's like "American Idol" except no one sleeps with Paula Abdul.

7. Kevin: In the first episode, you can see my ass.

6. Britney: I'm hot.

5. Kevin: She's hot.

4. Britney and Kevin: We haven't had nearly enough media coverage.

3. Britney: It's gotta be better than this show.

2. Kevin: If enough people tune in, maybe my wife will make out with Madonna again.

1. Britney: In the season finale, you'll find out that Dave is the father of my baby -- oops.

Incidentally, that is the longest and most thorough discussion involving Brittany Spears that will ever appear in these pages. I mention this not in striving to uphold a sense of decorum, nor to aspire to a sense of journalistic integrity, nor to focus on relevant, pertinent's that after focusing on Ms. Spears for more than 10 minutes, I get the agita somethin' fierce ;-)

So if you're looking for more Britney news, go elsewhere.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Holy Guacamole II: Electric Boogaloo

If at first you do succeed, try, try again until you screw it up.


So try again I did; I went back into the guacamole pool, repeated the same couple steps, and everything turned out well. 'Twasn't quite as good as the original batch, but I didn't get any complaints when I brought it to the office, and the avocadoes were ripe, so I didn't have much of a choice. So now I'm two-for-two on guacamole.

Other news is that my work world keeps turning and running me through my paces like a hamster on a never-ending wheel. Certainly it's a good thing that we have a never-ending supply of work that needs to be addressed -- if there's no work to be done, there's no need for me to show up or get paid -- but sometimes it would be nice to finish a major project, deadline or effort and -- instead of getting shit or aggravation as to why other things have languished in the process -- get some praise and a few quiet days to catch up with the world. I 'spose that's not in the cards, though, as every time I seem to wrap up something that seemingly takes days to get wrapped, I find my way through and reach the finish line, only to discover there's a lot more that needs to be addressed since I've focused my energies on the one recently-completed project.

Needless to say, today was that day.

In either case, the Yankees are winning, my other half is in town in less than ten days, and all is right with the world. That, and Memorial Day weekend beckons, which will guarantee at least 24 hours of semi-lucid peace and tranquility before the whole process starts itself up again.

In the mean time, I received an invite from a friend to a mongo, out-of-control party held this past weekend less than 20 blocks from my apartment, but in passing on the invite, I realized I've pretty much outgrown that life. The last time I hit one of the blow-outs, aside from those I've thrown, was when my other half and I wound up at Hi-Life in NYC around midnight, just relaxing, having a drink or two, and mingling back in mid-November for her first NYC visit. However, since then -- which seems like it was years ago -- there have been a couple more, including the one held this past weekend. And from what I've heard and seen (pictures are posted somewhere online), there was much debauchery, disturbing behavior, lewd conduct and copious amounts of alcohol-induced hook-uppage. Sounds (sic) like me, I know...I've taken a pass on all that for the time being. When my other half and I hit a party, we don't stay out 'til dawn, but we do wind up having fun and leaving with the late crowd...and as much as balls-to-the-wall partying is something which I once included on my personal resume, I actually prefer, these days, staying in or swinging by a restaurant, to getting blitzed beyond all recognition. So I'm sort of pleased, on some level, I didn't go. Plus, from all the whisperings and random observations I heard from friends and friends-in-law, most of this party was spent going over the current comings-and-goings of people I've long since forgotten about.

Aside from work, work and more work, I've been going through my apartment trying to purge about 10% of the collected chazerai I've accumulated over the past few years. So I got one of the maintenance guys in my building to hook me up with a bunch of industrial strength garbage bags (in exchange for some guacamole -- I shit you not) and I've been tossing stuff out left and right. For the most part, there's a collection of crap that I've been saving for a rainy day, and despite the fact it's sunny and 70 here, this weekend, I have a feeling, will be that rainy day.

On top of that, there's not too much else going on, other than me laying low and prepping for a week with my other half. We've been planning and ruminating on what we need to do while she's here, and while we keep on bringing up the subject, aside from a few apartment visits, we've really not gotten very far. I think it's because we both have accepted that there's nothing we really need to do beyond spend time with each other. We have plans to hit the New York Philharmonic, and we'll do dinner somewhere close by, and we have a BBQ plan and the aforementioned apartments...but otherwise, I've pretty much accepted that I don't care what we do or where we are; as long as we're together we'll have a good time.

Tomorrow is my grandmother's 85th birthday, and had Pope John Paul lived, it would have been his 85th birthday as well. We sent her a multi-color bouquet of roses in a glass vase, so hopefully it will make her smile and let her know she's in our thoughts daily. She's having a procedure over Memorial Day weekend, and I'm sure she'll be fine, but I feel badly that she still hasn't met my other half. While I generally don't worry what my family and friends think of my other half, when all of them are unanimously opposed or in favor of my girlfriend, I tend to -- eventually, at least -- pay attention. Their input doesn't have much meaning either way -- I know if I'm miserable or happy, although acting on it is another story entirely. But thus far, knowing all of the clan is completely on board vis-a-vis my other half, I want my grandmother to meet her to make it unanimous. I guess on some level it's nice when all the planets are aligned and everything works and everyone's happy; but I've been at the other end of that spectrum, and it ain't pretty -- in fact, it can be downright ugly -- at best. So between enjoying the harmony and the comfort level between she and I, and knowing that extends to my family and friends, and being excited to meet her parents -- I guess I'm just happy to be where I am, with whom, and when. And knowing that my dad is doing well, returning to his old form, and in better spirits (for the most part) each day, makes me happier than I can articulate. More importantly, I'm actually excited for him to meet Kaia's father: they both seem like the same type of person. Mellow, funny, huge Yankee fans and menschy. So I don't want to seem dissatisfied with the harmony thus far; it's just that this has so much potential and is such a good thing -- on so many levels -- I just find I can't wait for what's next on our agenda.

I guess the next thing is to make sure she likes my guacamole ;-)

Monday, May 16, 2005

Holy Guacamole!

When life serves you up lemons, you make lemonade.

When life serves you up beer, chips and tan lines, you make guacamole.

Thus sayeth the almighty Party-Hound known as a blast from the past known as Stromburglar.

Yesterday was a good day -- no work to worry about, a houseful of foodstuffs to conjur, and an empty sink. Seemed like a good time to make guacamole.

So I sliced up a rockin' avocado, twisted out the seed, carved out the green gold and lopped it into a big mixing bowl. Wasn't enough for a good amount, so I repeated the process. Thereafter, I tossed in some bruschetta mix -- dried down and nearly devoid of liquid -- then mixed in some more gaaaahlic, some red onion, a lil' bit o' lime and lemon juice, and some cilantro. On top I cracked some pepper and a few crystals of sea salt and I was good to go. But not trusting my own taste buds, I packaged it up and brought it to my sister's, and she thought it was awesome, so I now have a new recipe to add to the reper-twory. And in the spirit of being a good brother, I bought-n-brought a bag of tortilla chips too. Incidentally, I had originally planned on seeing her because we got a Staples certificate (basically a coupon) and we needed another multi-pack of blank DVD's for office/server back-ups, so I grabbed the coupon after dropping the guac and headed over to a nearby Staples.

They had the right discs for the office burner. Now before anyone gets inquisitive, keep in mind that buying blank DVD's isn't nearly as easy as is buying blank CD's. Blank CD's have, essentially, two formats: Computers & Music. If you have one o' them stereo thingies that records CD's (called a "CD Recorder" -- ooh, complicated) then you buy CD's for "music" use. If you have a PC/Mac-based CD-burner/recorder, then you buy blank CD's for computer use. Not complicated a'tall.

However, with DVD's, it's a mindfuck...first you need to worry if the drive writes to "plus" or "minus" format (as in DVD-R or DVD+R). Sometimes the drive will do both, so it's up to you to decide, which opens yet another door of introspection, doubt and worry, namely: "Which one is better? Which one is faster? Do these shoes go with this shirt?" Essentially, once you've moved past the +/- issue, then you need to determine which speed you need to procure. For example, some discs can be used with a double-speed (aka 2x) burner. Some are workable with a quadruple-speed burner (4x). And some with only work with an 8-speed burner (known in the sex trade as the flying octopus...just kidding, just checking to see if you're really reading or skimming, you bastage).

In short, there's enough confusion and worry in the second floor of Staples to melt one's ego to a pile of sea urchin-like poo. And it ain't pretty.

And for those geek-esque wise-asses who think they can solve the world's problems with three clicks and a quickie answer, the problem is that DVD's rated for an 8x drive don't work on a 4x drive, and vice-versa. In fact, the first time I attempted to make backups of a movie I'd tried to copy (for personal, home use only -- seriously), it failed. Tried again, failed again. So I bought a pile of discs that, one by one, wound up as coasters (discs which failed during the recording process) until I wised up and talked to a kid in Eastern Europe (via some forum) and he hooked me up with the answer: the discs I was using weren't compatible-ish with my drive. According to the packaging, I could have used the discs with my drive, but he hit me with a link that clarified which types of discs (speed, brand, etc.) I should use as opposed to those which I shouldn't.

So I've been burning like a maniac since, both at home and at the office, the former copying stuff I've already got on DVD, the latter being semi-daily back-ups of our office server. It's not pretty but, dammit, someone's got to do it.

I spent the remainder of the day/evening on the phone with my other half, discussing our plans/appointments while she's in town. We're working on apartment viewings as well as our plans for a mini-barbecue, and so far, we've got two of the former and half a menu for the latter. The BBQ menu will definitely include guacamole (duh) and salsa and some herb-garlic dip; then we'll go into a big london broil, some skinless, boneless chicken breasts, and either swordfish, monkfish or jumbo tiger shrimp. And we'll also do a few veggies: corn on the cob, my famous (or infamous) sesame snow peas with garlic and ginger, and mebbe a lil' mushroom-onion sautee. And for dessert -- well, I haven't figured if it will be tiramisu or a carvel ice-cream cake. 'Sides, it only needs to a) look good and b) have a lot of chocolate therein. Most of us will be too full to even consider eating dessert.

In either case, I'm still -- in the back of my mind -- celebrating another Yankee win (8 in a row). Tino Martinez, the guy who everyone said was washed up, hit another two home runs yesterday, which means he's now hit 9 home runs in 33 at-bats. To give some perspective on this accomplishment, Alex Rodriguez -- who is among the best offensive players in baseball, leads the league in home runs and he's been a full-time player since the first day of the season. Tino, in contrast, wasn't playing regularly until about three weeks ago, and he's caught and tied A-Rod for the league lead. In other words, Tino is suddenly -- and incredibly -- resurging and recalling his former abilities prior to being cut by the Yankees in 2003.

Everything, as per usual, is getting better each day...and having my father's health improving is -- as I have said before -- the icing on the cake.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Downtime, Uptime and The Second Score

Yesterday was Friday, but my workload rarely takes a vacation. Thus, rarely do I. This weekend is about work, sleep, finishing up work, thinking about next week's work, and watching the Yankees continue their inevitable and inexorable rise to the top of the American League East. And my other half.

As I wound down the work week with a rabid, foaming-at-the-mouth work project that went from comatose to wild and out-of-control, I deigned to put the finishing touches on it by meeting with one of the representatives of the owner of the property itself. We met yesterday for about 20 minutes, and once she had furnished the papers I needed in order to get everything done, she left me to my work and I ploughed ahead for the next five or so hours. I left my office with the paperwork and will get over to the office in a bit to do more with them. In the meantime, though, last night I had plans to go back to Costco and get some more stuff, so I met a friend and we made the quickie trek to Roosevelt Island and aisle-by-aisle weaved our way through the warehouse of savings.

My initial impetus for wanting to go back to Costco was buying olive oil -- regular, not the finer, faster-to-burn extra virgin variety -- and I found that Costco sells Berio Olive Oil, which is a reasonably good brand. Unfortunately, Costco only offered a $20 bottle -- nee, huge, barely-portable jug -- that could serve an entire Sicilian village for a month. Since it was too big a container -- and, as many advised me, olive oil does indeed go bad after a short time -- I opted not to bother. I did, however, get a selection of other goodies: a million-pack of Kleenex tissues (as I always seem to be running out), the illustrated version of The Da Vinci Code (which is sort of essential -- if you've read it, you'll know that Brown refers to a variety of physical objects and works of art that need to be seen rather than described), a new hardcover by James Patterson for my dad, the first season of the HBO series Entourage (a great show -- the male version of Sex & The City), more Pellegrino, more Diet Coke, a huge bag of pine nuts (for pesto, salads and some chicken dishes), two bottles of Iron Chef Sesame Garlic glaze/marinade, a big container of bruschetta mix and a six-pack of rigatone. And a five-pack of fresh avocados for some homemade guacamole.

The one negative about Costco visits are the amount and demeanor of our fellow shoppers. For the most part, both times we've visited have been fraught with so many people and so many shopping carts -- and needless to say, the many people seem thoroughly unable to navigate said shopping carts on the premises -- that it makes it difficult and a less-than-stellar shopping experience. I liken the Costco experience, as a result, to shopping at a military surplus outlet rather than buying a variety of stuff I need, want and could use; but it would really be great if, for even one hour, the whole place emptied of people and we could just run around and grab everything we needed, check out and get the hell out of the parking lot without encountering some guy for whom jibberish is not only a language but a constant state of mind.

My friend dropped me off at my place and, after three trips of my doorman and I bringing in my bounty, she split and I began the arduous task of putting everything in its place. On top of that, I had two packages waiting for me, one of which I knew to expect and another I did not.

The expected package was the replacement of an iPod room speaker called the JBL OnStage, which is (as clicking the previous link will confirm) a donut-shaped, white-colored housing of a combo iPod stand and speaker that is slick, features great, room-filling sound, and very convenient. However, as indicated earlier, this was a replacement -- apparently, JBL has had problems with the first iteration of the OnStage. Apparently, if your iPod was "playing" and you dropped it into the speaker's dock connector, the iPod would crash and/or the OnStage would fry, rendering the volume control useless and the sound emitting from the speaker as garbled, staticky and ear-splittingly annoying. I found this out the hard way as I'd toted the OnStage to the W the last time Kaia was in town (pretty much the only time I need an iPod speaker in the first place) when my iPod fried my OnStage. To JBL's credit, they set up an entire return center in anticipation for anyone experiencing this problem; however, despite this being a "built-in feature" of the early version of the product, their replacement of the product was contingent on you paying to ship them your defective one, which meant another $15 or so via UPS. So while I think the product is good, I think their decision to have me cough up another $15 is a mistake -- the Bose iPod speaker is, at $300, twice the price of the OnStage, but the Bose has more power (and therefore better sound), a built-in remote (where the OnStage does not) and, had I it to do over again, I'd be a Bose customer. So, while all's well that ends decently, caveat emptor.

The other package? 'Twas a French-cuff leisure shirt that I'd tried on last time my other half and I were in the Banana Republic store down in Soho. They didn't have my size, but we both liked it. So knowing I'd had a rough week she surprised me. I actually had arranged for a surprise for her as well, but mine isn't due until late next week, so she beat me to it. It was nice to come home to something I liked, but even nicer knowing she was thinking of me.

As per usual, she quietly, without warning and without keeping score, manages to make me smile and keep me happy. I've always regarded myself as a "happy," upbeat person, but I'm constantly -- and surprisingly -- impressed at how effortlessly she manages to show me what I've been missing. It's not in a shirt, in a bouquet of roses or even a whisper. But despite the intangibles, it's obvious and tangible and omnipresent, and if I could, I'd bottle it.

That is, if I haven't already.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Fire & Ice, Two Ways

It's been a hellish week, but as much as it's been difficult, I managed to survive and am even looking forward to a fun-filled weekend.

It all started about ten days ago but really picked up steam this past Monday, when I was conference-calling for about an hour each day. On top of that, I was getting frantic phone calls from the representative of the building owner, who was also frantic, to say the least. Essentially, and through no fault of ours, the project was delayed about four months, and because of the delay, the client was on the hook for the extension fee , an extra $100,000. But the profits were measured in eight figures, so another $100k is no big deal. But it is a big deal when the fee needs to be paid in full prior to the granting of the extension and when all the money's tied up in the project, not sitting around waiting to be distributed or paid to a banker.

So the tension on the owner's side, which included a half-dozen relative amateurs, was palpable and coming through to me during each phone call. And if I didn't clarify earlier, I have been getting five to six calls an hour from their office. Most of these calls were to confirm prior calls, clarify things that had already been clarified, and go over things that I assumed had been nailed down the week prior.

On top of that, I had an ongoing dialogue with an architect involved with the project who a) spoke only a decent amount of english, but did so in a very sharp asian accent; b) was very nervous about signing anything that his office hadn't prepared; and c) was unfamiliar enough with the project to need to review a 500-page set of the plans, which he first had to order from another office. So I was getting frantic calls from him -- sometimes three or four an hour -- and his office would call me on my cell phone, for the most part, only when I was in the office. When I stepped out to hit the bank, a market to get lunch, or even to use the bafroom, they would find a way to miss me and leave me voicemails -- frantic, repetitive, pleading voicemails -- with regularity. And when we did connect on the phone, we usually spent a good deal of time asking each other to repeat what we'd just said, due to a) semi-reliable cell reception; b) his accent; c) my vocabulary; and d) his random, generous and liberal misuse and misunderstanding of the relevant terminology.

If that wasn't enough, I had a half-dozen other matters that were heating up, and while, for the most part, those quietly heated up on the stove without boiling over, each issued little hints that they're getting ready to hatch. So as I power through the main project I've been handling the entire week, I've got a half-dozen others steaming away in the ass-end of my brain, insuring that this week's sleep has been strictly comprised of long naps. I don't stay up nights worrying -- far from it -- but with so much on my head, it's hard to get anything else accomplished.

It's not all bad, of course...I'm continually amazed by how much I enjoy talking to my other half. We've both had very very difficult weeks, and while neither of us folds under pressure, we both have been so preoccupied with work that we've had less time to actually interact. Despite our mutual work schedules edging into our personal time and our collective consciousness, we still have made time for each other and, without speaking for her, I know she's made this week a lot more tolerable and been, largely speaking, the sole reason for me laughing and relaxing in any way, shape or form. I've been taking work stuff home with me (ie paperwork), but once I'm done for the night we've spent an hour or three going over the world from each our perspectives. On top of that, we've also been trying to schedule apartment visits so we can try and get a soft move date for her into more firm territory.

We've been tossing around preferred living areas of the City; the upper east, Soho, the Village and the Upper West. But since we're not really partial to any one area of the City, I'm guessing we'll wind up finding a place we really dig and then acting on it. In the overall scheme of things, it occurred to me that we've been together for about seven or eight months, and on some level things between us have progressed very quickly. But -- probably because of the distance -- it, on many levels, seems anything but quick to me. And while I am obviously excited about the prospect of waking up with her on a daily basis, I'm just glad she's there in spirit if not physically. That, and I miss our cab-rides downtown and the spooky house, which, one day, I hope to buy and christen "Chateau L'Boogie Aun La Petite Chat." I think it's French -- you can look it up.

The final parting glimpses from my perch are just repetition -- her dad and I have been e-mailing back and forth and he's a genuinely good guy. Honestly, despite the results I encountered the last time I met a woman's parents, I cannot be more excited about meeting hers. I've spoken to both of her parents on random occasions, but meeting in person and getting an idea of where we are -- and presenting it for the public -- is really the interim goal. All of our families and friends know how happy we both are, but until we're viewed in person by everyone, it's sort of hard to communicate. So we'll just go on being happy and making each other laugh and let everyone else catch up later. We've got conversations to have, places to see, stories to share, a life to live and time, while eternal, is far too short.

And we've got a cab to catch.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Boogie & The Hand Jive

Every day is a reflection of the day prior. Not sure who said that -- it could be a Buddhist proverb, it could be a nugget nestled within the confines of Sun Tzu's The Art of War, or it could be something that oozed freshly from my mind. Whatever the case, I received a call from my other half this morning and, as per usual, it was nice -- despite the fact that it was about four o'clock in the morning on her coast -- to talk to her with the sleep still in my eyes.

However, fatigue -- both mental and physical -- took its toll on me, and after I got home tonight and threw in a few loads o' laundry, I put everything away and settled in for a half-hour of the new Wes Anderson DVD "The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou," starring the usual cast of characters, including Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Angelica Huston, etc. I wound up falling asleep about a third -- perhaps -- through, so this shouldn't serve as a review thereof, and, frankly, I enjoyed what I watched while conscious.

Around midnight here I woke to a ringing phone and to my other half leaving her third message of the night. She was falling asleep and assumed I had already done so, so she left me a goodnight message and was about to hang up when I stumbled across the living room to grab the phone. We spoke for a half hour or so as I read aloud her father's e-mail, which had us both giggling sleepily, before I wished her a good sleep as her yawns became more and more prevalent. Then I responded to her dad, and, finally, wound up here. So with the sounds of Eric Clapton's 461 Ocean Boulevard in the background, I am attempting to fight through the haze of semi-sleepiness and chronicle the day. Though it's mellow, "461" is an album filled with slow but intense grooves ("Mainline Florida," "Willie & The Hand Jive," "I Can't Hold Out" and "Motherless Children"), a quasi-veritable cauldron of grungy blues smoldering right below the surface. Perfect as an inclusion to the eventual HoB soundtrack (K-Tel Records Presents...).

Work-wise, I've been power-surging through one or two major projects, as per usual, and I'm making lots of progress. The players in the main project sport a variety of factors which make it complex, difficult and nearly never-ending, but I'll have it tethered to completion soon. Within the confines of this problem, I've been battling language barriers (half of those involved are native Asians and sometimes misunderstand or are confused by terminology), lack of experience, and just plain ignorance. However, the saving grace is -- above the fact that everyone knows the ultimate goal is to get this wrapped up and on its way -- most of the people with whom I'm dealing on this, despite the language barriers and the other aforementioned obstacles, are all doing their best to be of help, which, frankly, is far from the norm. So that's a plus.

The Yankees played a day game in the Bronx, and my sister's boyfriend got tickets for choice seats -- two rows behind the visitor's dugout. He actually offered me a ticket, but due to my immense workload, I had no choice but, unfortunately, to decline. I told my sister to go in my place and bring a camera. Originally I thought the seats were behind the Yankee dugout, but no matter -- being so close to the field, especially at a baseball mecca like Yankee Stadium, is an offer on which one should never pass.

Even more importantly, the game -- which was a see-saw battle for nearly the entire nine-inning term -- wound up being a 13-9 Yankee victory. Anytime 22 combined runs are scored in a Yankee win, it's a good win. While I would prefer the Yankees blast their opponents by 20 runs a game each time they take the field, this game was a keeper: the lead changed hands at least four or five times, and there were home runs as well as run-scoring extra-base hits. What this means, especially for you non-baseball people, is that for us baseball people, a "pitcher's duel" -- ie a low-scoring, suspenseful, tense game -- is not quite as exciting for the non-baseball fan who would seemingly prefer to see shitloads of hitting, RBI and baserunning. In short, therefore, I'm glad they picked a great game, and a great day, to visit the Stadium.

On top of that news, I also had a chance to enjoy the new Robert Plant album, entitled "Mighty Rearranger." Without going into a lot of specifics, Mr. Plant -- who is nearly 60 and whose voice is reflecting his age -- assembled a new band (known as the "Strange Sensation") and put together a bunch of mostly mellow, slow-burning songs. There are quite a few keepers within the twelve tracks, but I need a few more listen-throughs before passing judgement. I will say this: it somewhat amazes me that his stuff, from his pre-Led Zeppelin work to nearly everything since -- never seems to be boring, formulaic or staid. For me, his music is sort of like Eric Clapton's: there is just nothing he can do that is awful or sub-standard. Don't get me wrong: like Eric Clapton, a small percentage of Robert Plant's stuff has regularly inspired me to hit the "next track" button on the CD player consistently -- but I am amazed that in his fifth decade making music, he is still able to convince me that he is the real deal.

Today marks two weeks prior to Kaia's arrival in NYC for Memorial Day weekend. Coupled with my e-mails with her dad, I can't really articulate how excited I am about where we are, but each time I examine "us," especially within the confines of my personal history, I keep returning to the same conclusion: everything feels so comfortable, so perfect, so right, that I am genuinely and instinctively longing for us to move forward. I feel my patience slipping and myself getting distracted whenever something reminds me of her. And aside from being knee-deep in work at the office, I seemingly find more and more that reminds me of her, no matter where I am or with whom. Despite the fact that it's almost painful for us to be on separate coasts, it's a pain -- and an optimism -- that I will gladly endure.

Something which I found to be very cool, by the sister, hastily preparing to leave the office to go to Yankee Stadium, offered to try and get a t-shirt or a ball signed for Kaia's nephew Sammy, who currently is relegated to being a San Francisco Giant fan (poor kid), and her offer of same was really nice. She wasn't able to get a signed ball because she and her boyfriend didn't arrive early enough at the Stadium, but the offer was very considerate nonetheless. In my e-mail exchange with Kaia's dad, I mentioned that my sister offered but was unable to obtain a signed ball. And just in that interchange, and his response, I sensed that -- despite the non-ball -- this is the right situation for me. Again, I can't really explain it, but like my ongoing work project, this -- a lifetime project -- seems to be clicking in place on a daily basis, as if it was a barrage of scattered puzzle pieces that were suddenly assembling themselves before my eyes. The nicest part of this whole ride is how it seems to be on auto-pilot and nearly out of my control and yet well within my control, all at the same time.

If this discourse suggests I am dizzy, prone to babbling and incredibly happy, then, for lack of a better phrase, I've done my job.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

The Squint Test

My week started out innocently enough. I had a pending assignment from a long-time client to wrap up (or at least move to the next level) a matter we'd handled, at least initially, about 18 months ago, and it had appeared on the horizon quickly and suddenly without much warning. So once Monday morning arrived, I knew the matter would need my focus.

Throughout the day, I was dealing on and off with it, but because of the variety of players involved in the actual deal, I was getting a lot of misinformation and confusion, contradiction and elaboration. Couple that with the fact that the people central to this matter had never before engaged in this type of business venture, and I was handling a cast of characters who were confrontational, uninformed amateurs. Ideally, not the best way to commence a work-week.

So as Monday faded and evolved into Tuesday, more of the proverbial shit was hitting the fan. Early Tuesday I had a pretty jarring conversation from one of the players, a long-time guy with whom we've literally done hundreds of these types of deals. He was nervous, concerned and -- in connection with this matter, anyway -- prone to overreaction. So when he flipped out on me before I even began my commute to the office, I tried to let it slide. And so by the time yesterday disappeared into the past, I had most of it under control. There's still a third or more of the project, at least on our end, that needs to be handled, and the pressure is still palpable, but not nearly as much as it was the day or the week prior. But it reminded me that, despite our business not literally involving life-or-death decisions (ie like emergency-room doctors, surgeons, etc.) people do get incredibly lathered up when there are six figures involved. Understandably, of course -- but when you combine a lack of knowledge with confusion, cross-opinion and a large amount of money, and then multiply it by the number of interested/involved parties, things do tend to get a bit sticky.

As I worked through the bulk of this situation, I was regularly -- here and there -- in touch with my other half. She actually helped to keep me sane and to see the end of the tunnel, although I was pretty much in that zone without her involvement. But I didn't really understand how much she helped keep me at even keel -- which is a state I am almost perpetually situated -- until I was talking with her in the early evening, prior to leaving for the day, and I found myself smiling despite the chaos and the rancor that had defined the last 48 hours of this project. And the one thing that makes me smile was knowing, despite all the excitement I was navigating, that I actually was able to, for a moment, step outside myself and see how much she was helping me cope.

I suppose that's not much of a revelation, and I make every attempt to fill that same role when her corporate adventures -- deadlines, missing information, finger-pointing -- reach fever pitch. But it's a testament to her, as well as a statement of where I've been, that she is able to keep me calm, focused and smiling no matter how violent the storm swirling all around me. I hopefully was able to express to her my gratitude. And what really impressed me was that she knew -- and knows -- my sensibilities, for the most part, almost exclusively keep level as if maintained by gyroscope -- and yet she still was able to inject some sanity, calm and happiness into a day or two that could have very well gone without. It's a fine line: keeping someone happy in a completely maddening situation without overstepping one's bounds. And she walked it -- that proverbial, ever-changing line -- with aplomb, grace, skill and generosity.

Needless to say, reflecting back on it, I keep smiling and wondering how I got so lucky.


Break up the Yankees! After the first few weeks of the season brought nothing but losing, the Yankees went from being a doormat to returning to their form of several years ago. As of last night, they won their fourth straight behind the strong pitching of a young Taiwanese import, Chien-Ming Wang. Couple that with the story Tino Martinez, the former Yankee first baseman who was unceremoniously replaced by Jason Giambi two years ago. Tino Martinez was brought back to the Yankees in the off-season as a backup to Giambi. Unfortunately, since Jason Giambi's struggles (his off-season admission that he -- sort of -- used steroids and his awful, awful hitting) continue, Tino stepped in and has homered at least once in each of the last four games. The ballpark is alive and the culture of losing, which defined the team over the first few weeks of the young season, is hardly a memory.

I continue to exchange e-mails with my other half's dad. We were discussing the aforementioned Taiwanese pitcher, Chien-Ming Wang (who I refer to in my e-mails to him as Wang Chow Mein) and every e-mail from her dad is a veritable smorgasbord of humor, baseball memories and perspective on "the game within a game." He's very complimentary and I know he's enjoying the back-and-forth as much as I am, but as we continue this correspondence, I see why his daughter turned out so wonderfully. I haven't spoken much to his wife, ie Kaia's mom, but she too seems great. And with my upcoming trip to San Fran, I realize that the first meeting of her parents seems less and less like a test and more like the chance to spend time with good people.

I remember a friend of my family's, who is about ten years younger than my dad, recently told me that the best way to understand what kind of person your significant other will become later in life is to look at her parents and combine the best and the worst of their personalities. He called it the "squint" test, and he said it never failed him. So try as I might to squint and examine the situation, I can't help but feel that, whether I am squinting or my eyes are wide open, I have reason to smile. And as The Beatles once sang, things are getting better all the time.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Day Of The Mama

Any time a family holiday, ie Mother's Day, Father's Day or Thanksgiving, pops up, I get excited. I enjoy spending down time with my family, because, while I work in a business with my father and my sister, it's always a bit hectic and I'm usually on the clock, so when we get to spend time away from the office, it's good.

So yesterday being Mother's Day was no exception. My other half and I were on the same-ish schedule, because her family was heading out from Marin to Napa, which meant she needed to be on the way to her parents before I even left my apartment to handle my Mother's Day errands. So for a change, despite being three hours behind, her schedule was running ahead of mine.

Once dressed, I finished prepping my Mother's Day cards and headed out into the cool spring NYC air. I picked up a bouquet of pink and white roses for the guest of honor, then dropped them off back at my apartment and headed out to Eli's Gourmet, a gourmet market a few blocks from the Casa de Boogie. Dinner per se was already handled, but my job was to set up a combination of brunch and dinner appetizers and other snackable fare. We were going to be in New Jersey around 3:30, but we rarely do dinner before 8, so that left four hours of noshing that needed to be addressed.

Since my mama had already gotten a few dips, I didn't bother with any of that. Instead, I picked up fresh guacamole, sweet roasted-corn salsa, a bruschetta mix (just diced tomatoes, onions, olive oil, garlic, capers and basil), two loaves of bread -- one triple baguette and a ciabatta loaf (one or both for the bruschetta), some duck pate, both white- and blue-corn chips, and an organic mango from Mexico for dessert.

Once we arrived in NJ, we started prepping everything. Neither of the loaves wound up being ideal for bruschetta, because both were very airy and thus had a lot of space in each slice, so we opted to skip the garlic and toasting the breads and just used the slices to scoop some of the mixture onto the bread. Considering it was so nice out, it was almost preferable having the non-toasted bruschetta at room temp. On top of that, we sliced up some cabachons (a fancy word for gerkin pickles) and set them out along with the pate. We also had some chopped liver, grape tomatoes and baby carrots, and the fresh guac -- which was almost as good as the table-side guacamole at Rosa Mexicano -- was awesome. On top of that, my sister's boyfriend brought champagne so we enjoyed it along with all the yummy foodstuffs. We went through about 80% of it, which meant I'd bought just enough to make sure there wasn't too little but wasn't too much. So far so good.

Several hours (and another Yankee shutout) later, we were just sitting around, digesting the good eats, and watched as my mom opened her Mother's Day goodies. We had a real problem figuring out what to get her, but we ended up getting her a couple of things from a store near the office, and to our relief she was very pleased with our choices.

Once the gift-opening and the digesting were in the past tense, I managed to steal away and call my other half, who, unbeknownst to me, was back in the car on the way back from Napa with her parents. As she later 'splained to me, they had gone to a function/event at a country club and it was over by about two or three their time, which put them -- duh -- in the car on their way back to Marin. So on top of the usual pleasantries, as well as the "Happy Mother's Day" greeting for her mom, her dad, it seemed, was coaching her on Yankee uniform numbers, which, as I explained to him, will be part of the quiz I am preparing for her to test her loyalty to the Yankees. The quiz is similar to that from the movie Diner, which both she and her dad loved, and when I originally advised her father via e-mail that I was prepping said quiz -- and if she failed said quiz she'd have to endure an hour of Shakespeare as performed by Joe Pepitone -- I thought he might be a little put off. "Testing my daughter?" Instead, he laughed, as did her mom (as she advised me). So now, with the three of them in the car, her father -- turning the tables -- had her ask me former Yankee Gene Woodland's uniform number.

Now, admittedly, I am a long-time Yankee fan, since about 1976 and before-ish. But I don't even know who Gene Woodland is, let alone that he indeed played for the Yankees or in what capacity. So I bluffed. "40," I answered. I could hear her father in the background telling her it was actually 14. Hmmm. So he was about to fire another salvo when I responded, "Ask your dad this one: Danny Tartabull." She started laughing. "He'll know that one for sure," she responded confidently between chuckles. Several seconds passed and Kaia advised me that her father was notably silent. In the background I heard her mother laughing and then, slowly, her dad as well.

"Tell him 45." We all started laughing, although I think her dad wasn't laughing as much as the rest of us were ;-)

Dinner rolled on a little while later. We prepped three two-person london broils with some garlic, soy and olive oil, let 'em marinate for a couple hours, then stuck 'em on the grill. On top, my sister sliced up and sauteed a few portobello mushrooms with two cloves o' crushed, sliced garlic and some olive oil (sense a theme?) as I prepped some onions with some cracked black pepper and -- you guessed it -- olive oil. After about fifteen minutes of grill time, the onions went on the top rack o' the grill. In the meantime, I started in on the salad -- a mozzarella, tomato, basil and onion salad with extra virgin olive oil and some balsamic vinegar. We also had corn on the cob and health and cucumber salads (the former just a bunch of marinated veggies, the latter cucumbers in some vinegar with dill). And as dessert-time approached, we sliced up a fresh pan of brownies and topped each with whipped cream and chocolate sauce. Not over the top, and not a cake, but a tasty way to wrap up a day filled with eating and relaxation.

I took a bunch of pictures with a new digicam I'm reviewing. It's called the Nikon Coolpix S1 (Link), and the fargin' thing is so damn small that it's almost difficult to use. But it fired up in no time, took incredible pictures and was a lot of fun. Included below is a pic of Ozzie, my sister's shitzu. Having an unobtrusive camera around is a nice thing to have, and when it takes great pictures and doesn't make doing so a big deal, it's a plus. And it's always nice to have pictures of memorable, happy events to remember.

And it's always nice to have memorable, happy events to remember.

Happy belated Mother's Day to all of you mothers out there...and you know who you are :-)



Sunday, May 08, 2005

Back In The Hunt

For the most part, and for better or worse, being a Yankee fan this season will be a lot like riding a rollercoaster: loads of ups and downs, some thrills, some chills, and once it's over, there'll be a whole lot o' nausea.

Today's game was a stark contrast in potential and ability as compared with the last four. Against Oakland, with Mike Mussina firmly in command, the Yankees shut out the A's behind a complete game from "The Moose" and looked as crisp as a freshly-starched broadcloth dress shirt. The past week, the team was ready for the Major League Baseball Follies reel, today they're balleting through their defensive assignments, playing small ball, and taking the extra base, bunting, playing smart. Yesterday I was pulling out my hair, today I'm proud to wear a Yankee cap. Rollercoaster.

While it seems almost bizarre, I'm still exchanging e-mails with Kaia's dad, and there's no question that he's a good guy. I think at this point, until he and I meet in person, we'll continue going back and forth -- with us agreeing almost 100% on everything we've discussed -- and just try at establishing rapport and finding common ground. Except that seems sort of overstated, when it's clear he's a good guy -- down to earth, committed to the Yankees (how could that be bad?), menschy, considerate and complimentary. Since I've been discussing the back-and-forth with Kaia (and she discusses it with him as well), it's a strange but really nice way of getting to know her dad. I mentioned to her that when I am out there I want to show her mom how to use Photoshop because, up until now, her mom has been working with actual photos -- she does things to them to alter them and make them her own. I'm not exactly sure what she does, frankly, but I am fluent enough with Photoshop that with her mom's abilities and artistry and my skill with Photoshop, she might very well try something new. If not, it's okay -- but I am simultaneously relieved and pleased that I have things in common with her parents other than simply wanting the best for her. And despite knowing everything happens for a reason, I am increasingly amazed as I watch the pieces of the puzzle com together to form the bigger picture they've chosen.

The final stop this weekend is to my parents' to celebrate Mother's Day. Since my grandmother is back home, this will be a day just for the five of us to chill out and enjoy some family time. I'm sure I'll be checking in with Kaia and her parents, so we'll have to figure out the telephone tag-team to allow me to say a brief hello to her mother and possibly her dad, and her to my mom as well. Other than that, I don't see any small details -- or big ones, for that matter -- adversely affecting what should otherwise be a nice, relaxing day. The one negative is that we're spending family time apart, and that never seems to feel too wonderful. But as time marches on, I know that these types of days will be spent together, either here or there, but either way, with family. So all and will be right in the world.

Then again, the Yankees are playing today, so mebbe I oughtta wait until after the game's over to comment further. I guess we'll see. But even if they lose, I'm looking forward to having a smile on my face and inspiring same on others as well.

It's going to be a long, long season.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Where Have You Gone, Joe DiMaggio?

It's 10 O'Clock; do you know where your baseball team is headed? If you're a Yankee fan, that's a question whose answer is readily, and unfortunately, obvious.

In 1995, a variety of young players were populating the Yankee system, not merely at the big league level but in the three levels (AAA, AA and Single-A) of their minor league teams. Some of those players -- Bernie Williams, Andy Pettite, Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera -- were gaining experience and preparing for greatness. In what would be then-captain Don Mattingly's final season, the Yankees marched into the postseason and challenged (and lost) to Seattle.

The next season, Mattingly's replacement, former Seattle 1B Tino Martinez, joined other first-time Yankees like Derek Jeter to propel the team, with a phenomenon resembling inertia, to the postseasonm under the tutelage of Joe Torre, a nondescript replacement of Buck Showalter. They survived a first-round challenge from the Baltimore Orioles, beat the Cleveland Indians, and earned the chance to meet the Atlanta Braves in the World Series. The first two games were played in New York, and both games were soundly won by the Braves. So heading back to Atlanta, the Braves were up 2-0 and in complete command.

Three games in Atlanta later, the Yankees had won three straight and, incredibly, on an October night, the Yankees won a fourth consecutive game and won the World Series.

Since that night in 1996, the Yankees had been on a magical ride: their shortstop, phenom Derek Jeter, grew to national prominence; their pitching staff was among the finest ever assembled in the modern era; their closer, Mariano Rivera, was nearly perfect -- if the Yankees had a lead with him on the mound in the 9th Inning, it was all but over. Their hitting, defense, baserunning and efficiency were the best in baseball, and their pitching -- from their starters to middle relievers to their closers -- dominated other teams' hitters.

Including 1996, the Yankees won four World Series to date. Last season, they were yet again on an almost destiny-like trip to the World Series after taking a 3-0 lead against their long-time rival, the Boston Red Sox, when the unthinkable happened -- they collapsed and Boston went on to win four straight (and four more consecutive games to sweep the Cardinals in the World Series). Since then, things haven't been quite right.

Baseball players and baseball fans are an observant, superstitious lot. We know enough to step over but not onto the foul lines extending to first and third base from home plate. We never mess with a streak. We stick with rituals. And when things aren't working, life doesn't get much worse.

Tonight's third loss in four games against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays (among the worst teams in the league) put the Yankees in last place in the American League East. Tonight sealed this season as the worst start to a Yankee season since 1975. The pitching is ineffective (and incompetent), the defense is porous, the offense is anemic, the baserunning is moronic, the proclivity to move the runner over into scoring position is almost non-existent, and the team is as low as it can get. So where are the Yankees headed?

If no new capable pitchers are acquired or called up from the minor leagues, the Yankees will continue to lose two of three or three or four; and if their hitters continues to slump and not get on base via the walk and steal bases and move the runners along, they will continue to lose. And their problems will get worse, not better.

So while, on this supposedly happy Cinco de Mayo, the Yankees, and their fans, are feeling as low as they can get. I expect that Joe Torre will be fired by mid-June if this continues (and it will get better, but even then, I'd be surprised if he survives the season). The only positive thing about this season is that it will force the Yankees to infuse their team with young talent and a few established players. But their continued success over the past nine years virtually guaranteed a down season, and if this is one awful season, many Yankee fans can tolerate it. If this is the start of a dark period for the Yankees, fans like me won't be too happy. But the pendulum swings both ways, so I am hoping the team pulls out of this funk they're in in time for the important games to be played.

I'll be giving some occasional Yankee updates herein, but the truth is unless the team starts winning, the bottom line is that the only updates will be the promised and/or expected changes that will start come June 1st and beyond. And if you're a fellow Yankee fan, expect to be a little sour after reading my take on things. I've had about enough of Cashman and Steinbrenner mortgaging the future of the francise for the chance at a big name like Randy Johnson or Gary Sheffield; I would prefer they keep the yoots and build from below rather than buy from above. So this is, and it will continue to be, a long, long season.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

House of the Rising Boogie

Some say the best things in life are free. Others say they have lofty price tags.

I say they're $39.99 a month.

My week started out with more e-mail from my other half's father, which was mostly focused on the (plight of) the Yankees, but also on some other semi-related topics. For the most part, it's very cool. He's very funny, down to earth and easy-going -- like Kaia -- and he's a Yankee fan, which puts us -- weird or not -- in the same boat, in that we're commiserating at how awful the Yankees are doing. On top of that, though, we're feeling each other out a bit as if we were first meeting right before we have to spend a week together in the same cramped quarters. And while I am conspiring with my other half to get out there to hang with her and the mespuchah, we're not going to be spending 24-7 with her parents. So it will be a bit odd having had a bunch of e-mail conversation and never having met him. In fact, after our fifth or sixth reply to one another -- actually, I've lost count at this point -- I asked Kaia whether her dad goes both ways (wink wink). They do, after all, live in San Fran ;-)

Seriously, I am very happy to have been going back and forth with him via e-mail -- in some ways I wish I didn't work with my dad so I could communicate with him via e-mail and force him to figure out how to use the PC. Kaia's dad is only now getting the hang of e-mail completely, and he's not far ahead of my dad vis-a-vis PC knowledge, but there is definitely a generation gap between those that know the 'Net and those that don't. But sooner rather than later, he too will get the hang thereof. The one nice thing about talking to her father via e-mail is that I get the sense that he and his wife are very nice people, down to earth, and very cool. She's met my parents and agrees with me that they'll get along, so I'm not worried about that, but until we are all in the same room and smiling, I won't know for sure. And based on my history, I know when something is right and when it's not, so I shouldn't worry, but, then again, once everyone is in the same location and happy, I won't be worried :-)

The other cool thing about our back-and-forth e-mails is that he sees the Yankees -- and baseball in general -- in much the same way my dad does. They're both from the generation that worshipped Dimaggio, Mantle and Maris, and they each rattle off players from a past I never had like they're in today's box scores. And in back-and-forthing about baseball, I've gotten to know plenty of non-baseball about my other half's dad, and I am really excited to meet him and his wife. As they say in France, what a difference a year makes...

In the meantime, speaking of my other half, I've sort of neglected her the past 36 hours as I had a friend in from out of town. He was nothing short of amazed at the status of my apartment -- neat, organized, and downright habitable. Both he and I gave credit to my other half via telephone, but since she's not here that's as good as it gets until she is. But once in awhile I fire up one of her currant candles or catch a whiff of her perfume on my sheets or on my robe, and it feels -- just for a second -- like she's just around the corner on her way home.

So he and I hit the Stage Deli this afternoon around 3:30 for lunch, since I'd been downtown and he had gone across town to research something with a friend of mine, so by the time we both were back in the office and hungry, we opted for a carnivore's lunch of corned beef, turkey, pastrami and brisket, aka the "High Cholesterol Special." This was the first time we'd eaten in the restaurant itself because, since the Stage is so close to my office, we usually do take-out and wind up kicking back in the land of desks, PC's and telephones. But today, since his time in NYC is so brief and I was so overrun with work, I figured we'd get out for an hour and chill without interruption. Since my other half and I are planning to visit he and his other half in Maryland this summer, as well as a good friend of hers, her husband and their first child, a three-month old daughter, we'll definitely have more time to relax and enjoy some down-time, but today's the second day of the new filing quarter with a major City agency I frequent, so work is work and play is another day.

The one cool thing about the Net, not simply getting to "meet" my other half's dad at a fail-safe 3,000 miles away, is the fact that I keep in touch with loads of friends all over the place, be it around the corner or around the world. And since the other half and I spend so much time apart, the phone and the Internet are crucial to us staying together until we're in the same city. So for only $40 a month, I feel like I'm still in touch with a lot of people who I'd normally not "see" too often, and 3,000 miles -- and a 36-hour trip to Japan -- aren't such obstacles when I'm in need of "human" contact.

Oh, and the file-sharing rocks, too.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Ruminations and Machinations

Today I hit Jersey to spend time with my grandmother prior to her trip home, as well as to hang with my parents and my sister and her boyfriend, who scored me an HoB sticker and guitar pick (HoB being the House of Blues -- the original, in Chicago). One of these days, when I have some time, I'll start up an HoB photo album and start including more goodies -- like the aforementioned HoB sticker -- somewhere on the site so the names, locations and sexual positions mentioned herein have visual as well as linguistic value. Don't hold your breath, but mark my words -- one day it indeed will happen.

The short version is the visit was great: it lasted only about five or six hours, but we had a nice time. The weather cooperated -- it was in the 60's and mostly sunny in NYC and NJ so being outside was a pleasure rather than an impossibility -- and we enjoyed marking the end of Passover by snarfing bagels, lox, egg/tuna/whitefish salads, a variety of veggie salads and an ancillary dose of some other Jewish-inspired brunch fare. The only real downer of the day was another Yankee loss, which inspired another e-mail from my other half's father, who is slowly but surely getting the hang of electronic communication. He even mentioned a related article from today's New York Times, and one of these days I'm going to teach him how to link to a site in an e-mail. Sure, it's strictly newbie stuff for most of us now, but everybody had to learn how to navigate the web at some point, so I'm sure by the time I've completed his tutelage, he'll be surfing Japanese porn sites with remarkable aplomb.

Seriously, he and I have been lamenting the Yankees' awful performances, concurring that they seemingly get older and older with each passing game/loss, and theorizing how to improve the team. Being that he attended Yankee Fantasy Camp awhile back, he suggested that George Steinbrenner sign him to a deal to play second base -- his argument that he would be cheaper, already has his own uniform and would strike out as efficiently as Jason Giambi, in my opinion, has more than merely passing merit. Unfortunately, George hasn't returned his calls. So we shall see.

Speaking of links, a friend scored me a link for a site called "Needies." The site, as you'll discover if/when visiting that link, sells electronically-equipped stuffed animals that sense when you hug or otherwise pay attention to them, as well as when you show similar affection to their fellow Needies, and speaks up if you're not showing him/her enough affection. In other words, modern technology has invented a stuffed animal that gets jealous of other stuffed animals. I'm not really sure if I am repulsed by this invention or if I want to go out and buy four or five of the little fuckers, but one thing's for sure, I was howling as I perused the site. Their tagline touts them as follows: "Needies are interactive plush dolls inspired by codependent, high-maintenance relationships." And we all know someone who fits that description. So if you decide you want to buy a Needie, make sure you buy more than one for the co-dependant, needy, clingy one in your life.

Speaking of cool gadgets, I heard about a device that is designed to help curb snoring. Since I am a card-carrying member of the Snorers Club, I took a gander at the item, which is called "The Snore Stopper." As described, this is an electronic bracelet which, upon sensing the wearer's snoring, provides a mild electric shock, which, presumably, inhibits the snoring. Most of these anti-snoring products, however, aside from a doctor-prescribed CPAP machine, don't do anything but separate people and their money, a la snake oil. In either case, I took a look at the page and immediately sensed a breakthrough about to occur. Sadly, however, when I wrote an e-mail to the company asking if the model in the picture accompanies the product, I was advised that she doesn't. Alas, looks like I'll be snoring until further notice. But, happily, I did sense an interesting possibility: a sado-masochist wearing the bracelet could have his/her snoring domanitrix keep that bracelet going all night long. And for people who sleep late, instead of having a loud alarm clock to wake up everyone in the house/apartment, the bracelet could be equipped with or hooked up to an alarm clock so it could be used as a wake-up device as well.

I really do think I'm onto something here. I just haven't figured out how to make it safe for people with waterbeds.

In the meantime, there's not much newsworthy stuff going on; that Jennifer-What's-Her-Name is back in Atlanta with her family, her quasi-fiance and a big trunk full of issues, and North Korea test-fired a nuclear missile. Kooky. In more important news, the movie version of The Hitchiker's Guide To The Galaxy, written by the late Douglas Adams, finally hit the big screen this weekend. It earned something like $21 million, ahead of The Interpreter (a cool-looking action-thriller with Sean Penn and Nicole Kidman), which earned about $14 million, and XXX: State of The Union (starring Ice Cube), which earned about $13 million. The reason why I mention these three films is because the first two are movies I'd like to see -- a rarity, incidentally, when two films I would like to see are concurrently playing in theaters -- and the third movie looks even more horrible than the original XXX, which was one of the biggest pieces of dogshit ever committed to film. To expound, I think Vin Diesel makes The Rock look like Sir Laurence Olivier. And that first XXX was so bad I can't believe it was a live-action piece and not claymation.

And it made $13 million.

Somewhere, P.T. Barnum is counting ticket stubs, smoking a cigar and laughing his ass off.