Thursday, September 29, 2005

File Under: What Are They Thinking?

The story of Bobby Martin, the individual depicted at right, is interesting. It's a story of courage, perseverance, and how one young high school student fought the system to make it through his physical handicap and play the game of football he so loved.

Me, I would have told him to change from noseguard to halfback. What the hell do I know?

(Photo/story credited to CNN; go here for more...)

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Built In A Day

Last week, despite my failure to post herein, I was working on a piece examining the perceived shift of media attention from the destruction brought about by Katrina and Rita -- which took and/or otherwise affected many, many lives -- with the random miscellany of Brittany Spears giving birth, Kate Moss's contract with H&M being terminated on account of Ms. Moss's admitted cocaine use, and the then-upcoming verdict and, if applicable, sentencing of suspect Abu Ghraib Prison Abuser Army Pfc. Lynndie England.

In other words, I was anywhere from bemused to irritated over the fact that these nearly insignificant smatterings of news were occupying headlines while, all over the Louisiana Coast, people were mourning their lost family members, coming to grips with the destruction of the majority -- if not all -- of their physical property, and accepting the fact that many of same were without homes and insurance.

On the one hand, of course, there is more happening in the world -- if not this nation -- then the fallout from mother nature's ability to dole out destruction with impunity. And while I have nothing but compassion for those who have been affected by these natural disasters, I can also understand agenda setters like Rupert Murdoch and the like moving onto new topics -- people can only absorb so much human tragedy and bad news before they either become numb, lose touch or -- worse yet -- change the channel.

However, what I found mostly depressing -- in stark contrast to the inevitable confirmation to the Supreme Court of Judge John Roberts -- was this morning's article at detailing John McCain's questioning of Major League Baseball Union Head Donald Fehr at the Senate Commerce Committee regarding baseball's in-flux policy on steroids. Mr. McCain, speaking on the Committee's behalf, pressed Mr. Fehr to provide some idea as to when a revised agreement from the players would be reached with Major League Baseball. Mr. Fehr could not give a precise date because he could not say with 100% certainty that his proposed 20-game suspension for first-time abusers would be agreed upon by the Union. In response, Mr. McCain asked Mr. Fehr -- repeatedly -- "don't you get it?" Following up, Mr. McCain said, "We're at the end here, and I don't want to [take action and intervene in Major League Baseball], but we need an agreement soon. It's not complicated. It's not complicated. All sports fans understand it. I suggest you act and you act soon."

What's depressing is that John McCain -- and Congress -- are wielding their power to clean up baseball when remains and garbage lie fallow in what used to be New Orleans. The sanctitude of a game -- albeit the "national pasttime" -- is in Congress's line of sight ahead of the plight of nearly a half-million Americans.

I understand that the country must make progress and move on and not every hand and not every microphone must be a tool to help the people of and around New Orleans; but scolding an individual over a sport's steroid policy, especially given the dire circumstances far from Washington, is callow and appalling. The government is supposed to act to help people in time of need, and this news seems to represent the exact reason why I believe the less government there is, the better off we'll be.

Put another way, I don't understand it. I don't understand it at all.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Apologies, Greetings, Plans and Misgivings

So on the eighth day after blogging, he rested.

It's been over a week since I last swung by, and despite all the excuses and the busy-ness, it's kinda hard to believe I haven't taken this long a break from this nook since November of last year. Had I known I was going to be on this mini-excursion, I would have alerted you, the dear reader, with some advance notice instead of merely a retroactive apology.

In either case, a lot has been happening -- which is why I've been away for this long -- so I suppose you should feel lucky to be here, expecting to be regaled with exciting tales of parties, hobnobbing with supermodels, eating caviar in private charters and spending late nights in uber-chic trendy bars that haven't yet been outed by "Where To Go" magazines.

Ain't gonna happen.

My week has consisted of a variety of time-consuming errands, chores, work, and some miscellaneous bullshit. Aside from days filled with work -- which (duh) keeps me occupied and running around the City from anywhere between 9:30 and 6:30 -- I have a lot of work to get done once I land home. And since the 15th was a deadline -- in theory -- I've been pushing hard to get everything wrapped up before that date; except that as a result of that particular deadline, there was a lot of fallout that -- while good for my organization -- has resulted in a lot of last-minute wrap-up that I usually don't anticipate to happen after a deadline. So for a change, the deadline brought a flurry of activity and aggravation and busy-ness, only after it had passed and not prior thereto.

On the 21st, I had a friend in town for 24 hours -- he was on his way from DC to Singapore, an 18-hour flight which sounds grueling -- so I left work early so we could chill out and get some sushi before he headed back to the airport the next day. Other than that, life has been pretty even-keel -- Yankee baseball, Giants football, the impending Ranger hockey season, and -- last but not least -- Kaia occupy my time and my thoughts.

A few issues I've been dealing with concurrently -- my Palm, a LifeDrive model I bought in July, keeps rebooting and erasing itself. Normally this would be considered a lemon ("citron," as my other half says) but the main problem is that it's actually some of the software I've stuffed onto the Palm that keeps freaking it out. And while it, on the surface, seems exceedingly boring and not worthy of inclusion here, I mention it because it seemingly happens several times a week, and I'm actually getting closer to determining the problem. Either that, or I'm getting closer to throwing it against a wall and seeing how many pieces into which I can get it to splinter. I'm not sure -- but either way, the light is nearing at the end of the tunnel -- so that's progress no matter how you slice it.

Another interesting nugget of truth I've realized over the past couple weeks is that my attempt to cut out Diet Coke -- in part, if not entirely -- from my diet as a result of my finding some new stuff to drink in lieu thereof might have been a failed experiment. I started drinking Vitamin Water by Glaceau,a line-up of flavored waters infused with vitamins and other good things as well as a bit of flavor in them (and, subsequently, about 125 calories or so a bottle). I actually drank a lot of it out in San Francisco and preferred it to soda, so when I got back to NY, I bought a bunch of the stuff. The flavors vary but, essentially, there are different formulas for different purposes -- morning nutrition, energy, focus, etc. Personally, I think the variation is bullshit and it's all the same basic stuff with just different colors and flavors, but neither here nor there. The main reason I am mentioning it here is because I think I had an allergic reaction to one or more of the flavors that I've tasted, which include focus ("more clarity"), essential ("more morning nutrition"), multi-v ("more calcium") and revive ("more recovery"). I like the varieties -- lemon, citrus, tea, and "dragonfruit" -- but I had some kind of serious allergic reaction that left me feeling all itchy. So I'm back to Diet Coke and instant gratification. I'll work my way back to Pellegrino one of these days, but in the meantime, if anyone needs a few extra (unopened) bottles of Vitamin Water and doesn't mind hives and sneezing, gimme a holler.

Finally, in addition to my Fantasy Football habit -- which I was dragged into by a good friend -- I recently accepted an invite to a Fantasy Hockey league. I know -- next thing will be collecting comics, wearing a pocket-protector and playing Fantasy Chess -- but I've realized it's not as geeky as I thought. Essentially, for me, it just gets me more interested in the sport as a whole rather than merely rooting for one team, whether it's baseball, football, hockey or baseketball. The key difference, however, is that with football, it's basically two days a week of an hour (tops). I tweak my team before the games begin at 1PM on Sunday, and then do some more tweaking on Monday night or Tuesday once the last game has been played. It's a lot less complicated than I assumed. However, Fantasy Hockey is a bit more problematic as there are always games on -- nightly, daily, constantly -- so I'll have to either be more attentive to what's going on throughout the NHL or not be very successful. Either way, I'm pleased that I'm (thus far) 3-0 in Fantasy Football and the only unbeaten player in the league, so I must be doing something right.

The final item in the "where have I been" laundry list is not doing laundry -- unfortunately -- but instead setting up a wireless router for my parents, who recently purchased a Dell Inspiron notebook. They've had computers in the house, but they've always been way too old and far too unusable, so we decided -- together -- to get them a notebook, a wireless connection (so they wouldn't need to bother with wires) and a printer. So the first step was getting the cable modem from their company; that finally happened so I made my way to Jersey this past weekend, but in the process of setting up their internet connection, I found out -- after an hour of attempts to get everything set up -- that their cable server wasn't functioning properly and I would need to do all of what I had tried doing again the following weekend. So as it stands, I need to go back out to New Jersey and set everything up for them -- not a terrible thing, incidentally, but a pain in the ass.

A little more detail: normally, the hardest part of establishing a wireless connection is setting up the WiFi router. So, since it took me about an hour to find out the easy aspect of the installation -- physically connecting a cable modem to a notebook and getting onto the Internet -- was not gonna happen, I was kinda tweaked.

That's basically the way things have been going -- easy, simple things that I anticipate to take little or no time have been slowing me up as of late. Going to the bank, there's a line of 25 people. The market is inundated with a Weight Watchers Field Trip and one semi-blind cashier. And then there're the "retired" people on the bus. Everything takes longer than it should.

Other than that, I'm just doin' peachy. Although I was saddened to discover that Maxwell Smart, aka Don Adams, passed away at the age of 82. I remember seeing The Nude Bomb (as well lots of re-runs of Get Smart) and every time I hear the word "claw" I think "Da Craw."

One final note: I was out and about in NYC today and picked up one of these. I highly recommend it for inducing stupidity, smiles and a carelessness that, as we evolve into adulthood, we all-too-often leave behind.

I'll be right back.

Monday, September 19, 2005

A Birthday Cab Back In Time

Judging by the fact that it's been a few days since I last made my way 'round these parts, I opined it was time to return to the HoB and check back in with the masses. I first must admit I never expected the reaction I received to my last post. A lot of friends privately touched base with me to let me know they'd read about Josh's passing and were sorry for my loss, and I was amazed, touched, impressed and thankful for the friends who indicated they were thinking of me, whether by comment, phone, e-mail or e-card. So first and foremost, thanks to everyone who checked in, no matter the medium. It was very much appreciated.

As for the last several days, I didn't have much planned as I half-expected I'd be going to Jersey to pay a shiva call or just to check in with Josh's immediate and extended family. That actually didn't happen; it will likely this upcoming weekend, however, so until I actually visit with his family and pay my respects, it will kind of hang over my head a bit. I'm not sure if it's guilt over not being at the funeral or stopping in to see his family this past weekend, but either way I won't really feel like I did the right thing until I actually do.

In the meantime, a friend of mine celebrated a birthday this past weekend in a bar in the Village. The 203 Lounge, located at 203 Spring Street (at Sullivan), provided a perfect backdrop for the smattering of partygoers. Some of the people at the soiree were friends she had made while on a cruise last year (let me know if I'm wrong on the timing, anyone). Between the people I knew and the people I met that night, it was a group of about 15-20 and was a lot of fun. The party was originally called for 9 but I made it downtown and through the front door around 10-ish (fashionably late a la NYC). I spotted some friends in the back and pretty soon I saw the birthday girl, so I got the mandatory introductions and met most (if not all) of the attendees. It was a bit difficult to make out everyone's names due to the loudness so I hope to get some sort of recap later, but the bottom line was it was a fun get-together and the people were great. I took a shitload of pictures and posted them at The House of Boogie photo site, a sister site to this one, so if you're so inclined go take a peek. I didn't bother captioning any of the photos but I was pleased with how they came out; the room itself was nearly pitch black, aside from the random light or votive candle, so the fact I managed to get anyone in focus and in frame shocked me a bit (thank you Nikon). I had a great time.

Around midnight or 12:30 a good friend of mine at the party asked me if I was ready to leave, and since I'd been running around the City the night prior and up early that morning to hit the gym, I agreed to head out with him. Since he lives in Brooklyn, we did a bit of walking to find the F train he needed to get home, and it turns out the nearest F was at 6th Avenue at West 4th. Being that it was so late and I was a bit hazy from two Grey Goose-tonics and a Corona (and a Diet Coke chaser), I sorta forgot where I was until I realized -- slowly, much to my friend's amusement -- that this was near my old stomping grounds. I'd spent many nights (and early, Visine-soaked mornings) down around this neighborhood. Only four blocks up Sixth Avenue, at West 8th, once stood Electric Lady, my band's studio of choice; It's Only Rock and Roll, a store that sold bootleg LP's (and, later, CD's) and memorabilia of rock and roll in general (and where one night, after a concert, Robert Plant walked in at ten to midnight in search of photos of himself with his band onstage); Revolver Records, the off-shoot of It's Only Rock and Roll, featuring mostly CD's and very few LP's, where Chris Rock used to go to find Prince bootlegs; and a variety of restaurants, bars and late-night shenanigans about which I can only bemusedly, and silently, smile through my recollection.

So, back to reality, after my friend descended into the subway, I continued on for a bit in search of my past and a cab, and not in that order.

I made it to 7th and found a soon-to-be vacated cab; I looked the part, sporting a white-check shirt and jeans and a pair of low motorcycle boots, so I didn't feel that out of place. However, as I later recounted to Kaia, there were a lot of women floating around that night wearing little or nothing. I didn't particularly mind, except it made me miss her as I briefly explored the Village. More importantly, it reminded me that soon, in the not-so-distant future, she'd be accompanying me on these late-night explorations, and that gave me some solace as I climbed into the back of the cab and headed back uptown.

Overall, the night was a lot of fun, and I'm glad I made it to the party. I think everyone had fun, and it was a good appetizer to next month, when another friend and I are hosting an after-sin party in mid-October (I'll expound on this later). In either case, it's a good thing to be able to celebrate good things with good people, and this was no exception. Especially given the context of Josh's passing, I was thankful to be able to have fun with fun people, and it definitely woke me up and got me smiling. And my trip down memory lane -- a/k/a 6th Avenue -- was also a nice, brief visit into a past that I don't shun as much as I eschew in favor of the present and the future.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Reality Without Compromise: A Friend Lost

About 13 months ago, after I ended my engagement and ventured back to 47th Street to return the ring I had used to propose, I reluctantly, almost hesitantly, saw the man from whom I'd purchased the ring. His father, a man I had met when I was nine, was a great guy -- possessing an ever-present smile, a deep, hearty laugh, and blue eyes that always twinkled, especially around kids. His father had contracted a disease which I believe was called "Myelodysplastic Syndrome," which is a form of leukemia (if anyone has more info on this, feel free to comment or e-mail me). Hearing he was sick, I delayed acting on my decision to purchase the ring, because I didn't want to complicate his battle with my situation. I wasn't worried, because this was a man who was, to me, almost larger than life. In retrospect, I realize I made the wrong decision. He succumbed to his battle around July of last year.

In the subsequent months, first when I purchased the ring from his son, Josh, and later, after several fittings with my then-fiancee, and the eventual return of the ring, I had thought a lot about Josh and his father, Howard. Apparently, Josh had had some type of brain tumor but, by the time I finally stopped in to see him (after his father had passed away), he was in remission and doing very well. His older son had just had his Bar Mitzvah and Josh and his family seemed to be great. By the time I last visited him to drop off the ring, I advised him that I'd be back in no time to purchase a new ring. That was a promise I intended to keep.

Over the past couple months, I'd been considering taking Kaia to look at rings, and with her coming to NYC next month, I'd decided to take her to see Josh. Knowing she knew what she liked, and knowing Josh is a friend who I trust implictly, I was aware of the significance of this step. And I was ready to proceed -- without hesitation.

On my way home tonight, we received a call from my father who had been reading the paper and saw the news -- Josh had passed away this past Sunday, September 11th. There were no details, but based on his recent history, and that of his father, I knew he had not been out of the woods. He might have been fine when I last saw him, and he might have still been suffering. But either way, upon hearing the news I went numb.

I suppose it will take a few days for me to process the news -- but what bothers me most is that I didn't make it to his funeral, which was yesterday. All I do know is that I -- eventually -- will purchase another ring, and I will learn from my past mistake and not offer it to the wrong person. More importantly, I will think of Josh when I make the purchase, and will also think of him every time I see Michael Schumacher's name, a Mini Cooper, or a Morgan 4/4. And every time I think back to my hometown, or come across the Kiss album Dressed to Kill, I'll pause just a second in deference to the memory of a friend and someone I cared about who, somehow, is no longer in this world. Thinking about his family -- two kids under 15, his wife, his mother, his sister -- just makes me sad and wonder how this could happen.

Or as Don Henley wrote, "the more I know, the less I understand."

Rest in peace, Josh.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

The Tendrils of Reality

Every so often, I get pangs of wistful longing, having a girlfriend who I care for immensely in a city 3,000 miles away. Eventually, the rational mind takes over the heart, one reminding the other that she'll soon be living in New York and, one day, we'll be waking up next to each other without the need for phones, e-mail, instant messages or telepathy.

Since I had returned from my trip West to visit her (a week tomorrow night), we've spent a good amount of time thinking about each other and how incredible we are together in every way, shape and we always seem to be thinking the same thing, having the same feelings, and knowing what the other is about to say or do. Those things aren't irrelevant, mind you -- but as great as they are (both to experience and as signs of where we are at), they're not the most important thing. That, if I have guessed correctly, is that we're never better than when we're together, and that neither of us has anyone in this world with whom we'd rather be. We've managed to stuff about two full months of time (in week-long bursts) where we are together 24-7, and it still amazes me how we never have any real disagreements or difficulty.

Why this topic continues to dominate this space and my consciousness, for obvious reasons, is that the reality creeping in -- Katrina, the devestation therefrom in New Orleans, the Roberts nomination to the Supreme Court, the start of the football season and the quickening winding down of the baseball season -- these things are, technically, reality. But the truth is that reality is when Kaia and I are holding hands, exploring New York (or San Francisco), or New Jersey, or wherever we have been and/or will be. Reality is us being together, and all the other stuff -- politics, sports, the City (on either coast), parents, family -- is all secondary. I never quite grasped that to its full extent until I arrived home last week, and I think that is why the enormity of she and I is still curdling its way around the grey matter (what little there is) between my ears. I didn't quite understand the magnitude of she and I; I know I've never cared about someone more than her, and I have never craved the presence of someone like I have hers. But knowing where we are going just reminds me how insignificant everything else is.

I'm sure I'll return to my sardonic, analytical, sarcastic, arrogant, descriptive and condescending self soon -- but sometimes this sappy, easy-going, introspective wave is a good place to catch a ride. And among other things, I like the cause of this feeling, wonder why it took so long to attain, and count the days until I get an endless supply thereof.

If she were a drug, I'd be a full-on junkie. And I'd gladly overdose as much and as often as possible.

There's some reality for you...

Friday, September 09, 2005

Deliriously, Thankfully, Smiling

As promised, despite a needed day of resynchronization after landing in Newark late Wednesday night, here is my wrap-up of my first visit to San Francisco: it rocked.

I'll elaborate, but if two words were all I was allotted in my description of the trip, those would be sufficient. The City itself is wonderful, the weather is mostly pleasant and comfortable, the people are friendly and hip (much like Toronto), and it's overall a very inviting, welcoming place. Kaia's family is as I expected: warm, caring and attentive. I got to see a good friend of mine who happens to live in the city, and it's been years since I last saw him, so getting a chance to say hello -- in person -- was really great as well. And, of course, last but far from least, Kaia herself made the trip worthwhile. As I advised her numerous times over the course of the last week (and before as well), even if she lived in Idaho I would have been happy to visit her just to be able to spend time with her until she is a permanent New York City resident.

Expounding on that theme, the truth is that San Fran, besides being a wonderful city, is largely irrelevant. The real key to why the past week or so was so amazing is that she and I just work. Every time we spend a week or two or three together -- mostly 24-7 joint expositions -- we largely do nothing but smile. As per usual, we spent the entire visit together, save for an hour or two I spent watching TV late while she went to bed early (to be joined soon thereafter by me). In the mornings, I ran downstairs to a nearby breakfast place -- Noah's or a deli down Chestnut Street -- if she didn't feel like getting up, but for the most part, we were together for seven straight days. In fact, the biggest chunk of time we spent apart was my jaunt to see the Yankees with her father -- which represented about six hours. Otherwise, we were locked at the hip. And not once did we have anything even remotely resembling an argument.

The negative Nancy in me considered this carefully, wondering if the reason for this magical, peaceful symbiosis was in fact a result of our visits being spent during conditions other than "real life." Except we've spent time together -- large blocks thereof like this one -- where one or both of us has had to go to an office and do work and attend to real-world responsibilities. In those cases, our responsibilities have been relaxed a bit -- I've managed to take a half-day here and there when she's in town, and she worked from home on days that she would otherwise be in her office -- but the fact is that we've handled the time we've spent together thus far with such complete comfort and ease that it's obvious we're a perfect match. And while it makes us both very happy to acknowledge that, it almost -- almost -- frightens me to know that there is someone who knows what I'm thinking, how I'll react, and how I feel inside without a word being exchanged or even as much as a glance. Why it doesn't frighten me is because I have that same knowledge of who she is: what she's thinking, how she's feeling, her hopes, her dreams, her goals and everything that makes her who she is.

And that is a daunting, monumental power to have over someone else. But as Billy Joel revealed in his 1995 song "Shameless," sometimes it feels good to know there's a person who is there as your safety net, your human blanket, your warmth, your confidant and your helping hand, even if it means surrendering some measure of your autonomy and your control over your life proper. As he sang, "I'm shameless, I don't have the power now, but I don't want it anyhow, so I've got to let it go."

I think, given the cyclone I endured a year ago, I've learned where I made my mistake. I (voluntarily or otherwise) entered into a situation where I didn't want to be, with someone I didn't really respect, care for or even admire and who had, for lack of a better phrase, no sense of identity and no ability to enjoy life. Now that I've found the perfect person for me, I'm -- thankfully -- in a position to understand, appreciate and cherish her and how she fits into my life and me into hers. We still have details to address and timing to work out, but those logistics -- her moving to New York, us getting a place together, getting engaged, and making a life together -- will all come. To yet again quote Billy Joel, in "This Is The Time," he sang "I'm warm from the memories of days to come." Now -- right this minute, more than ever -- I fully understand what he meant. With the knowledge of being with the right -- the only -- person, nothing is ever insurmountable. I feel, in some respects, like I've reached a new level of consciousness, and as irritating and arrogant as that might sound -- I swear, Oprah, I'm just jumping up and down on this couch on national TV to tell the truth -- it's how I feel.

I like California.

* * * * *

If the sun refused to shine, I would still be loving you.
- Led Zeppelin, "Thank You"

Well I'm shameless when it comes to loving you
I'd do anything you want me to
I'd do anything at all

And I'm standing here for all the world to see
There ain't that much left of me
That has very far to fall

You know I'm not a man who has ever been
Insecure about the world I've been living in
I don't break easy, I have my pride
But if you need to be satisfied

I'm shameless, baby I don't have a prayer
Anytime I see you standing there
I go down upon my knees

And I'm changing, I swore I'd never compromise
But you convinced me otherwise
I'll do anything you please

You see in all my life I've never found
What I couldn't resist, what I couldn't turn down
I could walk away from anyone I ever knew
But I can't walk away from you

I have never let anything have this much control over me
Cause I worked too hard to call my life my own
Yes I made myself a world and it worked so perfectly
But it's your world now, I can't refuse
I never had so much to lose
I'm shameless...

You know it should be easy for a man who's strong
To say he's sorry or admit when he's wrong
I've never lost anything I ever missed
But I've never been in love like this...

It's out of my hands...

I'm shameless, I don't have the power now
But I don't want it anyhow
So I've got to let it go

I'm shameless, shameless as a man can be
You can make a total fool of me
I just wanted you to know

I'm shameless...

- Billy Joel, "Shameless"

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

The West-Coast Lift-Up and Liftoff

The last few days have gone by so quickly it's hard to get everything straight in my mind, let alone here. But there has been lots happening, so I'll do my best to get everything in this better-late-than-never post.

Since I last checked in, my other half and I spent Saturday together doing some basic stuff: sight-seeing, shopping, walking around downtown and relaxing and having fun. Saturday night, we went out with Kaia's parents, who I was meeting for the first time. I can't say for sure, but I think everything went very well. Her mom is very sweet and down to earth, and her father and I have been exchanging e-mails back and forth for the past several months, so when the four of us finally got together at Town Hall, a restaurant south of Market Street in San Francisco, we had a nice time. After a nice, albeit loud, dinner, we shared a couple desserts and upon the bill arriving at our table, I offered to pay our share of dinner, but I was politely rebuffed by both of Kaia's parents. After quietly offering to at least leave the tip, her dad gave me a curt 'no' -- replete with a smile -- and we left together with a circuituous trip through the City.

We stopped prior to arriving at Kaia's apartment so her father could show me a part of the City that we hadn't yet seen. Prior to dropping us off at Kaia's apartment so we could make our way back out, he offered the two of us the opportunity to go to the Yankees-A's game the following day together rather than he & I. Kaia thanked him but declined, so we made brief plans to meet up the following day.

So Sunday, come 1:00PM, we showered and headed to a nearby mall to meet her Dad. He & I headed to Oakland (McAfee Coliseum) and wound up sitting about ten feet or so behind home plate. The first pitch was scheduled for 5:05 and we had some food prior to the game, but by the time the first pitch was thrown, Derek Jeter slammed it into right-center for a home run, and the Yankees led the rest of the way. The game was great, despite the chill in the air, and while the seats were great it was nice spending time with her dad. He's very much like my dad in that he's down to earth, prone to laughing and very easy-going. And while the topic of what my intent was vis-a-vis Kaia never was discussed, I assume that neither he nor I needed to bring it up just yet. After the game we went to their house to meet Kaia and her mother. The four of us hung out for a bit before we left to return to the confines of the City proper.

Monday we got together with Kaia's parents as well as her sister, her sister's husband and their two kids, Sammy (age 4) and Cole (age 1). We did a few brief errands nearby, got some brunch and then headed over to their house mid-afternoon. We had a wonderful time, despite the two of us being the last to arrive. I'll post some pictures of the entire gathering, including Sammy and Cole. Needless to say, it felt like home.

By the time we left, we were both ready to sleep, and we landed in bed and slept late into Tuesday morning, Kaia doing work and me trying to see through hazy eyes. By the time we headed out to do some light shopping and some sight-seeing, we had only part of the day left. We just soaked in what sun there was while quietly counting down the hours we had left together. After we dropped everything off at Kaia's apartment, we headed out for dinner to Izzy's Steaks & Chops on nearby Steiner Street. We had the choice between Izzy's and Bistro Aix, right across the street, and since it was getting late and we wanted to get home and spend some quiet time together, we picked Izzy's over Aix only because we wanted less foofy and just a comfy place to have a nice dinner. We took a semi-private booth which, as per usual, featured a wall of condiments (BBQ sauces aplenty, plus Tabasco -- both red and green -- and a selection of barbecue-friendly vinegar). Kaia ordered the drunken shrimp -- a shrimp stew replete with an herb and beer basting -- and I got a New York sirloin. We each had Izzy's potatoes -- awesome -- and creamed spinach. Neither of us could finish dinner and we slowly made our way back to Kaia's stuffed and in bittersweet acknowledgement it was my final night in San Fran.

Soon after we made it to Kaia's, one of her best friends -- Kevin -- arrived back to town via Chicago and made his way over to her apartment for a quick meet. We were all going to go out prior to his going away for the holiday weekend, but Kaia hadn't been feeling well so it was delayed until Tuesday night. But -- despite him being tired from a load of fun in Chicago and ready to drop -- he made it by, which I thought was really awesome. He's of course a great guy, and the next time I head out West we'll definitely spend time hanging out -- assuming, of course, that he doesn't come to NYC prior.

This morning was a quick run-through -- having packed last night, gotten everything together and organized all my crap, we hurriedly got everything organized and headed out to the airport. Before I knew it, I was watching Kaia's car disappear onto the highway and I headed inside to check in, go through security, and spend the flights (I connected through Dulles) contemplating our relationship, how happy we are and how hard it continues to be to say goodbye.

More later.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Coolness and Other Flavors

The majority of my interest in San Francisco is, of course, one sole resident and her family, but by nature of my exploratory personality, I must admit I was looking forward to visiting this city not simply for the dozen or so people I'd be meeting and/or spending time with once I arrived here.

The City itself, ie the busy, bustling sector that houses the commerce and the high finance the City offers, was not my first view of the City. Quite the opposite, in fact; Kaia lives in a section of the City known as the Marina, which -- without being overly obvious -- is less than five blocks from the Bay. The plus side is that the view from her roof deck offers a wide expansive view of San Francisco Bay, the fog as it barely separates from the water, Alcatraz, the Presidio, Pacific Heights and a memorable view of Marin County, which, of course, is right beyond the most notable landmark of them all, the Golden Gate Bridge. From her roof, seeing the Golden Gate is as impressive as seeing the GW Bridge or any other New York landmark; it also serves to remind me how small we are in the grand scheme of things.

The other side, of course, is that her neighborhood is not "City-fied" -- the tallest structures in this neighborhood are three or four stories, which gives the neighborhood a very cozy, town-like feel. In fact, as I mentioned (several times, to Kaia's mock chagrin) to her is that this part of the City reminds me of the main thoroughfare(s) of Ridgewood, New Jersey; small buildings, very basic in design with facades and roof design that suggest Spanish or 80's Socal. The colors are bright, happy, relaxing and beckoning, and nothing here screams "Leave, you do not belong here." That, of course, is largely the antithesis of even the most welcoming, cozy New York neighborhoods -- which, even as I write these words, seems like an oxymoron in and of itself. My neighborhood in NYC features lots of green and small stores; but suddenly, spending time here is anything but forbidding or presumptuous. It's very comfortable, like a new, perfectly-crafted pair of Cole Haan loafers.

As for details, we've been spending a lot of time out and about. On my first day, we got some lunch at a Mexican uber-cool restaurant -- nothing hoity-toity and not Taco Bell (leaning a bit closer to the former, but not really). Subsequently, we did some napping and some exploring, and I must admit the City is really a nice, homey, comfy place. It actually reminds me, on some level, of a more exclusive version of Ann Arbor, Michigan. Everything is tailored to creative, new, and inviting. The bars are cool but mellow; the restaurants are cool but mellow; and the shops are most definitely cool but mellow. Just like Soho, the only universal here is that everything and everyone seems hip and most places are not cheap -- and they all seemingly give off the "c'mon in and bring plenty of cash" vibe. I could see living here, no question about it.

My batteries recharged, we did some running around Friday as well -- we saw the Presidio up close. I was a bit taken aback, as I always had the vision of the Presidio as one large building with a supporting base (it's been awhile since I saw the movie of the same name) and I was amazed at how clean and how powerful seeing the water up close would be. I have my Nikon and plan on going through a few memory cards' worth of snaps before I return East, so I'll be sure and post some of the pics here. But without actually experiencing it, it's hard to get the true flavor of how crisp and easy-going this area is.

We hit a bar/restaurant near Kaia's place to wind down the evening; Kosmo's offered a creative, unique menu replete with Pottery Barn/W-esque decor, relaxed cool jazz, and a resplendant hour with my other half. We retired for the night and I've since found it hard to wipe the smile from my face.

Yesterday we ran some errands, I got a pair of low boots, and we grabbed some lunch from a local Italian deli -- far different than its counterpart in NYC but nonetheless amazing -- and then we cleaned up and headed out. We first visited the Masonic Temple in the heart of San Fran's downtown and saw an exhibit called "The Universe Within: The Human Body Revealed." Without graphic depiction, the exhibit was the result of a variety of actual human corpses plasticized -- depicting the skeletal, cardiovascular and nervous systems in various guises. It doesn't sound very interesting or exciting, but seeing the exhbit up close was macabre, interesting and a bit disconcerting. Every organ, every muscle fiber, and every strand of tissue, including veins, arteries, nerves, etc., were depicted (most in some type of dyed color, to facilitate viewing). The most memorable aspect of the exhbit -- and there were many -- was seeing an entire human corpse dissected horizontally. Essentially, it's as if a person was lying flat on his back and someone took a giant hard-boiled egg slicer and pulled it down over said individual. All told, there were about 50 one-inch dissections of the human body, all arranged with a two-inch gap between each preceding and following piece. Seeing vertebrae, lung tissue, the bones of the arms and legs, even sex organs, dissected and displayed was stirring. The other interesting part of the exhbit was the depiction of the kidneys -- which resemble, well, kidney-shaped masses that could fit in one's palm -- and the blood vessels running through them. I apologize for not being able to do justice to the wonder of this exhibit. It was something I've never quite seen before in three dimensions, although my childhood encyclopedias did an admirable job at depicting the variety of systems we saw yesterday, albeit in two-dimensional clear, "flip-over" vinyl pages.

Last night we did some quick running around and shopping and made our way through the Mission district -- not the prettiest section of the city -- before we wound up at Prego on Union Street for tasty italian. Thereafter, we finally made our way to the movie theater across the street (one of the four remaining projection theaters in the City of San Francisco) to see The 40 Year-Old Virgin. We were howling for the majority of the movie and were spent by the time we made it home.

Today's plans include some sight-seeing, some napping, some shopping and some walking around.

Oh, and I get to meet Kaia's parents tonight for the first time.

I like California :)

Friday, September 02, 2005


The blur that incurred almost a year ago culminated as my flight lifted off at about two minutes after seven yesterday morning. Between the news out of New Orleans involving Hurricane Katrina and a variety of last-minute work tasks, I managed to get packed (toting a 63-pound bag in addition to my carry-on messenger bag) and out the door at 4AM yesterday.

After getting checked in and settled at the gate, we finally boarded at 6:30AM, seated and ready to head West. The plane comprised of two rows of three seats each, but since I got lucky, I had an empty seat next to me, which meant I could keep my bag next to me and stretch my legs out. So by the time we were ready for take-off, I had a small section of plane all my own.

By quarter after seven, I had my seat all the way back -- sans-guilt due to no one sitting behind me -- dialed into my 17-hour iPod playlist, and finishing up my first Anthony Bourdain book, "A Cook's Tour."

By the time the captain's voice interrupted my serenity to advise us we were making our final approach into San Fran, I had enjoyed several hours' worth of iPod rock, wrapped up the final hundred pages of my first Anthony Bourdain book -- excellent and highly recommended, and I'll touch more on it in another post -- and I was ready to see my lady.

As the brown hills magnified through the windows and the plane buffeted against the flowing wind, we touched down; it hit me, as the plane lurched mildly, that this trip, and this moment, was in-the-making since November and before.

By the time I stepped onto the curb and saw Kaia behind the wheel, waiting for me, all I could do through the haze of disoriented airplane sleep, sleep deprivation and excitement was smile.

I like California.