Friday, June 30, 2006

Fun In The Sun, Laughter In The Rain, Juicy Gossip, Oh My

Most summertime memories -- the good ones, anyway -- revolve around food, alcohol, sex, or a preponderance of a combination of these things. At least that's been my experience, anyway. And judging by the completion of Kaia's first week in NYC since April, I think that theory is accurate. However, having said that, I don't remember enjoying a week more since the last time we were together.

The weather in NYC has been oppressive; there's no other word that sums it up as accurately or as succinctly as does that particular word, and the combination of heat, stagnant humidity and no letting up of these two phenomena means that people are grumpy, tired and move slowly. So traffic has been worse, the subways are more crowded, people-watching is either for masochists or cheap thrills (or both, depending on your perspective) and the city is not a fun place to be, aside from the presence of my houseguest. Still, upon arriving home tonight, Kaia and I did a bit of cleaning out of my apartment and then decided -- sort of on a whim, actually -- to hit Bed, Bath & Beyond at 60th and 1st and do a wee bit o' shopping. The only real obstacle to us doing so was the fact that there was a medium-power thunderstorm hitting New York at precisely the same time we were a) hailing a cab; b) walking three blocks to the store; c) laughing while getting soaked; d) passing Scores and feigning deliberation as to whether we'd skip BB&B and instead hit Scores; and e) laughing and kissing.

We wound up grabbing over a hundred dollars' worth o' goodies, most of which included some accessory-esque furniture, a desklamp, candles and their various acoutrements, and a bouncy superball that resembled an 8-ball. I unpacked and set up the new lamp, which is far nicer than the one it replaced, and the rest of the goodies will be set up tomorrow after we collectively assemble, bag and haul away the crap from my place. We're about halfway there, but I can honestly say I can see the progress we've made thus far, and I'm looking forward to the remainder thereof; my place won't be featured in any Pottery Barn catalogs just yet -- in fact, the only pictorial my place will inspire will likely be a "Before" picture on "Queer Eye For The Straight Guy." However, it's getting there -- feng shui, uncluttered, comfortable and presentable. Nice.

Upon returning, we noticed that there were some e-mail and AIM messages waiting for us; because we each spend so much time online (both individually and collectively), we've retained some "hangers on," ie people that see us from time to time online in chatrooms. Another friend of ours, someone who is a real, bona-fide friend and with whom we have hung out a lot, mentioned to us that a guy she knows from one of the chatrooms we frequent was telling people that I was planning on proposing this week to Kaia, and that we had indeed gotten engaged and she was moving to New York to plan the wedding. I'm not sure if we have all the "facts" straight, but that's what our friend described to us. Since we haven't taken that particular step -- yet -- we were both amused on some level that this creative fantasy was being discussed unabashedly by someone who neither of us has ever met, nor do we know on any level. So as I relayed this news to Kaia, she hopped online and hit the chatroom which was originating this stuff and confronted the guy who was discussing our lives as if it was fact and he was somehow in the know.

The guy, it turns out, isn't a bad person, just sort of stupid; why anyone who doesn't know either of us -- literally, we had never even heard of this person, let alone told him our most private plans and/or secrets -- would openly discuss our lives was sort of disconcerting, at least on some level. However, after Kaia insistently but politely inquired about how he came about his info, it was made clear that he had dated an ex of mine -- I expressed my sympathies to him on this regard -- and he thanked me knowingly. Apparently, he had heard all about Kaia and I from this particular person, and subsequently he had heard lots more from other people about us both. Again, while he had heard about us from others, he hadn't ever had a conversation with either of us -- but since he had so absorbed so much PR from other people, I guess he assumed he'd join in and toss in a creative nugget or two. To his credit, he immediately apologized; and while his commentary, whether it reached one person or one hundred, is sort of insignificant (although Kaia made the excellent point that had I been planning to propose this week and she somehow learned about it online via an IM would have made for a very interesting proposal). In either case, she was more angry over being the topic of conversation than was I; I figure that if you as a couple share the bulk of your life online, eventually what you share -- whether accurate or not -- will be shared on some level as well by others. We're very discreet, except in our happiness; we're not jumping up and down on couches on nationally-syndicated talk shows, but if I had the opportunity to do so and it wasn't obvious, I'd probably do the couch-jump to let the world know my feelings for Kaia. But again, I think -- at least to people who know us -- it is obvious enough and what isn't said or demonstrated publicly or privately is irrelevant. I personally found it both curious and sad that people who never met or spoke with either of us felt it was appropriate to discuss our private lives. It's one thing if you're George Clooney or Charlize Theron; we are not, however, public figures and would not have expected people we don't know to care one way or the other if we're engaged, together, swinging or estranged. In either case, while I think Kaia was genuinely ticked off, I wasn't angry but wondered why this phenomenon continues. I guess at some point these types of incidents (and people) will abate; but until then, there's a reason why we opt for privacy even if people we don't know won't respect it, at least we know plenty about theirs -- not as if we want to, either.

More Later...

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Celebrating Good Times at Good Places With Good People

Another post-August, 2004 event to celebrate... my mother's birthday coincided with Kaia being in New York, so the five of us got to celebrate. We originally had plans to hit a French restaurant on the West Side, but at the sort-of last minute, we instead chose Eleven Madison Park. I'm not exactly sure how to describe the restaurant or its cuisine, although the words "phenomenal," "magnificent," "incredible," "memorable" and "perfect" pretty much describe the experience perfectly.

The place is chic but not museum-esque; it's sort of like a W Hotel, albeit one featuring better lighting and more space. The colors were earth-tone, for the most part, with comfortable banquettes of black leather and classic wooden chairs. We sat down around twenty after six, did a little gift-distribution, then ordered up a bottle of Poilly-Fuisse, which wound up being perfectly chilled and a perfect before-dinner wine as well as a perfect complement to dinner.

Speaking of dinner, we started with a tomato-based consomme of seafood featuring scallops, lobster and a taste of what we guessed was Osetra caviar. To follow we had a mini tasting appetizer menu; selections of goat cheese mousse, oysters with finely-diced cucumber and tuna were standouts, although the entire platter, served to each section of the table, were awesome. Appetizers followed, including Hawaiian prawns, foie gras, salmon carpaccio and a variety of other dishes. For dinner, my sister and Kaia each had halibut which was prepared so perfectly that I can't recall ever tasting halibut served in better fashion. I wound up ordering a rib-eye steak that was so soft I could have used my butter knife to cut it. In all, the five of us enjoyed everything that was presented to us.

Dessert was as wonderful as was the rest of the meal. Most of us ordered souffles with a peanut butter ganache and roasted banana ice cream; at first I wasn't thrilled about the prospect of banana ice cream, but that all changed when it arrived and I tasted it. My sister ordered a warm blueberry tart with cornbread ice cream and again we enjoyed. And while they didn't make too much of a fuss -- ie no embarassing, off-key renditions of Happy Birthday -- they lit a candle and presented my mom with a "customized" birthday dessert and a Kodak moment. They presented us with trays of petit fours to conclude the meal and in doing so the staff and the chef of Eleven Madison Park successfully won over the five of us without so much as a moment's hesitation -- we'll return again often and with equal anticipation.


By the time dinner (and our ability to stay awake on a long Monday) wound down, we all walked the two-ish blocks to the garage to retrieve the car and begin to go our separate ways. I drove us all to my sister's apartment where she disembarked, then to my building where Kaia and I hopped out and wished my mother a final Happy Birthday before my parents got back on the road and went home.

Kaia and I relaxed a bit on the couch before heading to bed, and while I should probably be with her as she sleeps, I decided to swing by the HoB for a recap before this wonderful night, and these wonderful memories, fade, if even a bit.

It occurred to me as I began this post that celebrating my mother's birthday with my family and with Kaia would have been wonderful whether we were at Eleven Madison or at 7-Eleven; it was special and we had a wonderful time together, and while I enjoyed the restaurant and the wonderful dinner we all shared immensely, what was really wonderful was us being together and sharing time and space with one another.

Monday, June 26, 2006

The Art of Long Distance

As I flitted about preparing to leave the house -- ready for a full day of work and then a post-work celebration with my family for my mom's birthday -- Kaia happily slumbered, her "commute" being the short walk from the bedroom to her notebook PC charging silently on the ottoman in my living room. The phone's loud ring pierced my attempt to keep the apartment quiet so my other half could continue dreaming, and it turned out it was my sister, who was calling to advise me there was a segment on the Today Show discussing Long-Distance Relationships. Since Kaia and I are components thereof, she knew I'd be interested. We hung up and I quickly fired up the TV, set the volume low, and watched. It was very interesting, and the woman on the segment -- I missed her name -- mentioned an article written by Mary E. Morrison that was featured in Tango Magazine, both in print and online.

I haven't had a chance to peruse much beyond the article or the site from which it came, namely the Tango Magazine website, but they both seem interesting and a worthwhile read. I found myself nodding in assent as I read the article, and while I wouldn't necessarily suggest couples undertake long periods of physical separation, Kaia and I have found ways to keep our relationship current, fresh and immediate. As I indicated in my commentary on the article, being far away from one another physically doesn't mean a hiatus to the relationship; there are things a couple can do to remain "intimate" -- and I'm not referring to 900-number-type steaminess on the phone, instant messages or via web-cam. I think, for the most part, the difference, aside from a lack of touch and smell and eye contact, a short hiatus -- a month or six weeks -- can be safely survived assuming two people are on the same page in many respects.

It's been said that a relationship must be based on compatible personalities, simply because after a number of years, the physical appearances change, so relationships based solely on physical attraction will change. Relationships based on compatible personalities have much better odds at survival because -- to be blunt -- interacting, not fucking, are what make good relationships great. The sex and the physical stuff are components of that, but they're something akin to the whipped cream and the cherry on top of the sundae, not the actual sundae itself. Incidentally, for those whose thoughts immediately went to the prurient after reading the whipped cream/cherry phraseology above, get a handle on yourself. But please do so in private, especially if you're reading this in a public place, like your office, the library or on a wireless device on a bus.

In short, Kaia and I have this great thing going, and I'm -- for the most part -- focused on how great this thing is rather than focused on the fact that we're 3,000 miles apart. It could be even better, and once we're both living in NYC, it will be; but until then, we celebrate each other and "us" with the knowledge that, whether the person is next door or half a world away, finding someone you're crazy about and can't live without is far more valuable than the convenience of being two doors down from someone with whom you don't mind spending time once in awhile. The bottom line is that we have this thing happening, and the aforementioned article removed the shroud of what felt like a secret between us; knowing there are other people out there like us, lighting up during phone calls, messages and e-mails, is a curse and a blessing. But it doesn't change the fact that whatever it is, it is great, even if it's only temporary until we go "local."

Tango Magazine's website is www.tangomag.com.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

The Rain, The Men & The Boys

Sunday in Soho is a near-tradition for us; since November of 2004, when we began seeing one another, Kaia and I have made heading down to Soho -- whether from my place or from one of the W's littered throughout the City we made our temporary home -- a regular jaunt. Today, despite the ominous weather, was no exception.

We did a little shopping for shoes -- she of the semi-platform, black, strappy number and me of the Tsubo bowling shoe-esque thing. I passed on mine, mostly because I couldn't choose between these and these...but since we also Z Gallerie'd in search of goodies for my mom's birthday tomorrow, I did wind up procuring several other equally groovy items for her as well as for myself. There also were a few goodies I encountered which I will pick up for Kaia once she returns to Cali and bring with me when I head out there for her birthday in July. But in the meantime, I can probably survive without either pair of Tsubo's -- I can handle the unsatisfied longing sensation of being sneaker/shoe-less.

We wound up hitting Mercer Kitchen, as per our usual, but the food -- which as always was memorable and worth a pair of $20 cab rides alone -- was secondary to our concerns over friends of ours out and about. The first was our friend who was meeting his brother in DC to pick up his stuff for the ride back to Georgia. His cell-phone, I believe, uses a Singapore country code, and no matter how often I tried calling him, my US Verizon phone wouldn't let me dial out. I left a message at his parents but nothing yet. Second was a friend of ours whose other half was in Paris on business; Kaia called him several times and sent an e-mail prior to arriving in NYC, but we hadn't heard a thing. Between both of these situations, we are a bit concerned because, while we don't expect a minute-by-minute call-back from either, at some point we are hoping that everything's okay with them both and we'll hear back from them soon.

We managed a threesome of dishes at Mercer: a tuna/wasabi pizza that's always incredible; a shaved fennel salad that was really incredible, despite also being really healthy; and the tuna spring rolls, which are served together with a spicy sesame oil/soy glaze and an avocado/wasabi puree. We both agreed that we could have that same meal daily and would never complain -- ever.

After lunch and a brief walk-through and quick-purchase at Kate's Paperie, we began winding down -- the weather, between the oppressive NYC heat and the darkening skies, have a way of separating the men from the boys when it comes to putzing around Soho, which was fine by us; a few raindrops here and there aside, the heat subsided for most of the afternoon as did the usual throngs of tourists who seem largely unaware that Louis Vuitton actually is sold in stores rather than on tables manned by men of Jamaican or African descent. So we headed back to my place, our various missions accomplished, to relax and to procure some good eats at Eli's before Entourage and Dane Cook's Tourgasm arrive on HBO. With tomorrow night dinner out for my mom and both of us facing lots of work to keep us busy until then, we opted for an early, relaxing night together rather than anything else. We'll figure on hitting The Devil Wears Prada or Superman Returns if we become terminally bored with one another, but since that hasn't happened in the 20 months we've been together, it's likely the only movies we're watching are the ones after hours on my bedroom TV.

In either case, as is typical, we seem to spend a lot of our time laughing and enjoying being together; I'm not sure how easy it will be getting out to San Fran in July, but unless there's a really severe work situation occupying my time, I'm figuring on getting out there at some point around her birthday. Real life, as it stands, can and is something we do between visits; however, until we're spending our daily lives in each other's physical presence, life's little obstacles seem to be a bit daunting but, for the most part, little.

Speaking of which, I can hear her breathing as I conclude this post, so I'll just duck out now and promise to return at some point in the next 24 or so hours. If there's anything good to report, we'll make sure and make mention (and/or include pics) during our next stop.

A New Look

After much ado and effort, the new template -- shiny, waxed like Kojak's noggin and filler-free -- is up and running. There are tweaks to be had, but for the most part, this is it. Anyone who's got issues with it should file their grievances with the management.

Friday, June 23, 2006

The World Keeps Spinning

So just shy of 7PM, I'm barely beginning to return to being myself. The last few days have been a whirlwind -- in almost all respects a good thing -- that is now evolving back to the calm pacificity of normal day-to-day life.

It all started last weekend; as Friday neared, I mentally assessed the apartment cleaning, laundry and organization in my very near future in preparation of Kaia's visit on the 22nd. By Sunday, which was Father's Day, I had done a good chunk of my laundry, gotten a lot of cleaning done, removed any excess crap from the apartment I could, and managed to retain my sanity. Then, walking into my apartment around midnight Sunday night coming home from Jersey, I got word that a friend of mine was coming into town from Singapore (via India) and was going to be kickin' it for a night (Tuesday).

So Tuesday came, my friend got into town and met me at my place about the same time I normally get home from work. We hit Dos Caminos, as I indicated earlier, and everything was all peachy; Wednesday morning, about 5AM, my friend split and I wound up zombied for the majority of the day, but since I had pretty much finished my pre-Kaia prep to that point, there was nary a worry. I figured I'd come home, fall asleep and then call it a day -- and that's when my friend told me that he opted to come back to NYC rather than stay in DC for a few more days doing pretty much nothing, so he got on a train and wound up coming back to NYC. We ended up hanging for a while on Wed. night, ordered some kickin' BBQ (from Brother Jimmy's) and called it a night.

Thursday I went about my business pretty much as usual, as I had stacks of work to address on top of everything happening behind my apartment door, so I spoke to Kaia early Thursday and wished her a good flight; she was excited to be on the way to NYC, but she was tired due to some night-before-flight insomnia, so I figured once she got here, the three of us would just chill out and have a quiet, early night.

She arrived and my friend, who had never met her, hung out with her a bit before he split to give her some private/wind-down time in the apartment; meanwhile, I did everything I had to do office-wise and then headed home and finally got a chance to see my other half. In the meantime, my friend had been out shopping, come back to the apartment, gone running and then, on top of everything else, came in a little while after I arrived. So we just relaxed for awhile -- I had invited my sister to come along with us to dinner and thereafter, but she'd hurt her wrist a few days prior and was taking meds so she was pretty much wiped and ended up staying in, so we headed downtown to Jane for some Salmon Tartare with Avocado and their version of plain-ol' Fried Calamari. I wasn't absolutely starving, but I can without a doubt say I don't remember the last time I had as nice a meal as I did last night. We had drinks, the salmon/calamari appetizers, and I had a balsamic-glazed pork chop. My dinner companions each ordered the tuna, which was incredible -- as is everything else, seemingly, at Jane -- and we decided to skip dessert and head back out into the night for more fun at Pravda at 281 Lafayette.

Pravda's a Caviar/Vodka bar par excellence...I'd last visited these digs about ten years ago, and I'd partaken of both some awesome caviar and some kickin' vodka (I still don't remember the name of the vodka I first tried there, but it makes Belvedere seem like lighter fluid in comparison). What I found interesting between visits was that since there was no more bar-smoking, the place was merely cozy, not Moscow-authentic-cloudy, and it was a comfortable space rather than a busy, stuffy atmosphere. The last time I was there was during Pravda's "Hot" phase, and now that there weren't supermodels and pro athletes filling the space, it was just a fun, easy-going late-night club crowd. We tried a caviar-vodka sampler and just relaxed with the aforementioned; to be sure we had plenty of quality beverage, Kaia ordered a bottle of Cliquot. Between a glass of after-dinner port at Jane, the vodka and the Cliquot, I can pretty much confess I drank more last night than I have over the past month.

Either way, by the time we rolled home and fell into bed -- with my friend, like a stone, passed out on my couch -- we went to sleep happy, a little tipsy and very happy.

This morning, my friend was a little hung over -- no morning run -- but otherwise none the worse for wear. Kaia was more tired than usual, which didn't help matters in connection with her 8AM conference call -- but I was pretty much ready to go early, and wound up in three or four fifteen-minute conversations with clients before I even left the house. By the time I did, it was a half-hour later than I'd wanted to leave, and as per usual, even with my friend moseying around the apartment, I asked myself why I was leaving instead of climbing back into bed with Kaia.

The day went by quickly; today, like the last week, was incredibly -- and oppressively -- humid and muggy. It hit 85ish but it felt more like 95. To add insult to injury, I had to travel an hour to Brooklyn to attend a building inspection that wound up lasting three hours instead of what I expected, which was more like thirty minutes. We spent most of our time in vacant (ie non-air-conditioned) apartments; but we also got to spend time up on the roof -- nice, sunny and hot, with no breeze -- and down in the cellar, which was hot and muggy and smelled of mold. Goody...

By the time I made it back through my door, it was nearly 5:30 and I was ready to drop. I washed up while my friend was out for a run, so Kaia and I hung out until he returned to collect his stuff, pack up and make a 7PM train back to DC. We three hung out until he taxied to Penn Station, then Kaia and I picked up where we left off -- which was basically both of us in need of a nap and some private time, so we did so for a little before she nodded off and I remembered some work stuff that needed quick tweaks. And I figured, while I was here and she was napping, I'd stop in for a quick blog.

We're going to spend the next 24 hours relaxing; while I'm sure we'll hit Soho at some point, I'm guessing we'll do so after the sun sets to avoid the blistering, prohibitive humidity. I've been running around the entire week in it, and there's nothing better than getting undressed after a long, sweaty day while standing in front of a 14,000 BTU air conditioner. Well, perhaps it's having someone else undress you while standing in front of a 14,000 BTU air conditioner. But that's sort of a moot point.

We haven't seen each other for a couple months, so we're going to make sure we make up for lost time; but in the meantime, tonight's a movie/order-in/reacquaint night. I am glad my friend was in town and able to meet Kaia and spend time with us both; but there's something to be said for alone time and for making up for lost time. If I happen to be remiss in keeping this space current, at least, in advance, I think I have a good excuse...I'll be sure, as much as possible, to check in when I can, and I'm hoping to update the photosite as well, so if/when I do, you'll know.

More later...

-B-

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Stupidity As Its Own Excuse

I'm not politically correct, as anyone who has spent any amount of time here knows; and despite being a rabid New York Yankees fan, I give credit where same is due. Thus, when Cal Ripken, Jr. broke Lou Gehrig's "Iron Horse" streak, I applauded his achievement. And despite the obvious involvement of steroids, I enjoyed watching Mark McGwire, another non-Yankee, blast past Roger Maris' single-season home run record.

However, Ozzie Guillen, the manager of last season's World Series-winning White Sox, generally typifies the exemplary dumbing down of society at the cost of success. Essentially, my theory is that, whether in sports or in business, if an individual -- no matter how abrasive, abusive or generally disliked he/she might be -- achieves results, than his/her quirks, oddities and/or shitty personality is overlooked. The sports world is a useful, frequent example of this phenomenon: Bill Parcells is an abusive, dictatorial egomaniac, and treats almost everyone around him with condescension, ridicule and disgust. He's also won two Super Bowls and is regarded as an impressive benchmark when it comes to NFL coaches. Bobby Knight achieved greater success as a coach of Indiana's Men's Basketball team; however, his personality offended so many people in that school's administration that they fomented a political witch hunt that wound up with his ouster. In the non-sports world, Donald Trump is a fairly good example of egomaniacal, abusive and nasty -- but The Donald makes money, and, frankly, from the couch watching him berate future Apprentices, he's more entertaining a caricature than derisive. But few would dispute he's like sandpaper on silk.

Then there's Ozzie Guillen. Ozzie is a fiery former player who happens to be of Venezuelan heritage. Recently, Chicago Sun-Times columnist and Around the Horn contributor Jay Mariotti wrote an article criticizing Ozzie's use of relief pitchers, and last night, when asked by other reporters about Mariotti's piece criticizing him, Ozzie's response was: "What a piece of [expletive] he is, [expletive] fag."

Now whether or not Mr. Mariotti is gay is irrelevant. And frankly, this is baseball, not Geopolitique. So if Ozzie decided to use a gay slur that is usually uttered by cretins, white-power supporters and fifth graders to describe a reporter -- to other reporters -- that's his business. But what really -- really -- blew me away was what followed.

Columnist Greg Couch, also of the Sun-Times, wrote a column today in response, calling for commissioner Bud Selig to suspend Guillen for his use of a "hurtful homophobic" term.

According to the ESPN.com article describing this incident, Guillen responded thusly:
Before writing the column, Couch asked Guillen for an explanation. Guillen defended his use of the term "fag" by saying this about homosexuals and the use of the word in question: "I don't have anything against those people. In my country, you call someone something like that and it is not the same as it is in this country.''

Guillen said that in his native Venezuela, that word is not a reference to a person's sexuality, but to his courage. He said he was saying that Mariotti is "not man enough to meet me and talk about [things before writing].''

Guillen also told Couch that he has gay friends, attends WNBA games, went to a Madonna concert and plans to go to the Gay Games in Chicago.

"I called that of this man [Mariotti],'' he told Couch. "I'm not trying to hurt anybody [else]."

When did people take such pride in their stupidity? When did being a bigot, a moron and a backwards-ass, judgemental simpleton be acceptable? When did Ozzie Guillen forget he wasn no longer in Venezuela and it was no longer acceptable to refer -- in front of an open mic speaking to reporters -- to their colleague in such a derogatory way? And frankly, when did Ozzie Guillen decide he wouldn't mind being referred to as An Ignorant Spic?

To be honest, I think him referring to Mariotti as a fag is not an awful thing, unless, of course, Mr. Mariotti is gay. Attacking Mr. Mariotti for his sexual preference is shitty and absolutely unacceptable and should probably result with Mr. Guillen in court, whether or not Major League Baseball and/or the Chicago White Sox opt to fine him. If Mr. Marrioti is not homosexual, it's still not right -- but it just shows Mr. Guillen has the mentality (and the political correctness) of a ten-year-old. If I were homosexual I would probably be offended, but the truth is I'm more shocked over Mr. Guillen's explanation and rationalization of this stupidity than the actual remark.

If nothing else, I'd be embarassed if I were a White Sox fan; Ozzie's not a bad manager, he's just plain stupid. But I would really love it if a reporter decided to interview him, or would refer to him in an interview with another manager, and refer to him as that dumb spic, and excuse his or her remarks with "I didn't mean anything by that, I just wanted to let Ozzie know what I thought of him."

Thanks to Ozzie Guillen for demonstrating stupidity as its own excuse.

George Carlin in 3:14 from The Tonight Show

George Carlin from The Tonight Show (Video)

Be warned: while this is yet another incredible, mind-blowing monologue from the man who constantly reinvents himself, this might give you a bit of a headache if you try to absorb it in one sitting. -B-

I'm a modern man, a man for the millenium, digital and smoke-free. A diversified multicultural post-modern deconstructionist, politically, anatomically and ecologically incorrect. I've been up-linked and downloaded, I've been inputted and outsourced, I know the upside of downsizing, I know the downside of upgrading. I'm a hi-tech lowlife, a cutting-edge, state-of-the-art bi-coastal multitasker and I can give you a gigabyte in a nanosecond.

I'm new-wave but I'm old-school and my inner child is outward bound. I'm a hot-wired heat-seeking warm-hearted cool customer, voice-activated and biodegradable. I interface with my database my database is in cyberspace so I'm interactive I'm hyperactive and from time to time I'm radioactive.

Behind the eight ball, ahead of the curve, ridin' the wave, dodging the bullet, pushin' the envelope. I'm on point, on task, on message and off drugs. I got no need for coke and speed, I got no urge to binge and purge, I'm in the moment, on the edge, over the top but under the radar. A high-concept, low-profile medium-range ballistic missionary. A street-wise smartbomb. A top-gun bottom-feeder. I wear power ties, I tell power lies, I take power naps, I run victory laps.

I'm a totally on-going bigfoot slam-dunk rainmaker with a proactive outreach. A raging workaholic...a working rage-aholic. Out of rehab and in denial.

I've got a personal trainer, a personal shopper, a personal assistant and a personal agenda. You can't shut me up and you can't dumb me down 'cause I'm tireless and I'm wireless, I'm an alpha-male on beta-blockers. I'm a non-believer and an overachiever, laid back but fashion forward. Up front, down home, low-rent, high-maintenance. Super-sized, long-lasting, high-definition, fast-acting, oven ready and built to last.

I'm a hands-on footloose knee-jerk headcase. Prematurely post-traumatic and I have a love-child who sends me hate-mail.

But I'm feeling, I'm caring, I'm healing, I'm sharing, a supportive, bonding, nurturing, primary care-giver. My output is down but my income's up, I take a short position on the long bond and my revenue stream has its own cash flow. I read junk mail I eat junk food I buy junk bonds I watch trash sports.

I'm gender-specific, capital-intensive, user-friendly and lactose-intolerant. I like rough sex I like tough love; I use the f-word in my e-mail and the software on my hard drive is hardcore, no soft porn.

I bought a microwave at a mini-mall, I bought a minivan at a mega-store. I eat fast food in the slow lane; I'm toll-free, bite-sized, ready-to-wear and I come in all sizes. A fully-equipped, factory-authorized hospital-tested clinically-proven and scientifically-formulated medical miracle.

I've been pre-washed, pre-cooked, pre-heated, pre-screened, pre-approved, pre-packaged, post-dated, freeze-dried, double-wrapped, vaccuum-packed and I have an unlimited broadband capacity.

I'm a rude dude but I'm the real deal. Lean and mean, cocked and locked and ready to rock. Rough, tough and hard to bluff. I take it slow, I go with the flow, I ride with the tide, I got glide in my stride. Drivin' and movin', sailin' and spinnin', jivin' and groovin', wailin' and winnin'. I don't snooze so I don't lose. I keep the pedal to the metal and the rubber on the road; I party hardy, and lunchtime is crunch-time. I'm hangin' in, there ain't no doubt, and I'm hangin' tough, over and out.

Current Events

A friend of mine hit town prior to Kaia's arrival here on Thursday; he's HQ'd in Singapore most of the time, but since he works for an international organization that frequently has him traveling all over, it's hard to keep track of where he's at at any given time. For the past few months, he'd been in India, and he wound up hitting NYC after a pair of flights totaling 16 hours with a brief stop-over at Heathrow.

For the most part, his schedule is relatively up in the air, so he doesn't necessarily know when he'll be in town, but we discussed him coming through NYC on his way to Maryland for some errands he needed to address, and it just happened that he got here yesterday afternoon and was on his way back out this morning around 5AM.

Seeing my apartment for the first time since his last visit, which was about five months ago, he immediately saw Kaia's influence -- the place, as I indicated with my last post -- is relatively inhabitable. At least it was before he got here -- now, after a 12-hour stay, it looks like a hotel room that's been run through by a pack of crystal-meth bingers. Okay, mebbe not that bad -- but it doesn't have that velvety sheen of a new car under the dealership lights. That's not exactly a bad thing, of course -- I need to do some laundry and some more prep before Kaia gets here anyway, so a little extra work isn't a big deal.

Last night, incidentally, we opted to go "healthy" rather than doing steak or pizza as is our want, and while we've usually hit a variety of the local sushi places, since we've both been consuming plenty thereof as of late, we decided to do Mexican, so we hit -- on Kaia's suggestion -- Dos Caminos on Park Avenue South.

We arrived around 8; I'd already been a few times with Kaia, but he was very impressed and surprised that, even at 8, the place was packed solid like a club at full swing on a Saturday night. Still, with a reservation, we snagged our table and were consuming table-side guacamole and warm, freshly-made chips within twenty minutes. We followed up the guac and salsa and chips with a tuna ceviche, which was really incredible. It had a sushi-quality freshness to it but it had the kick -- albeit a light, non-overpowering essence -- of citrus and balsamic vinegar. He had a big-eye Tuna steak for dinner (seared perfectly) and I got crab-crusted grilled shrimp. We had some margaritas (none of that frozen crap you find at Friday's, Houlihans, Bennigan's or Shenanigans) that, coupled with an overall lack of sleep for us each, wound up -- for me, at least -- making my head spin. After dinner -- no dessert because neither of us could eat anything else -- we took a quick walk around the block to check out an apartment I'm considering renting.

The building itself is small -- only five or six units -- and since it's got a terrace and is a one-bedroom, it's probably something I shouldn't pass up. However, the other side of that coin is that the layout isn't perfect, which means I might wind up tossing some of my furniture in order to comfortably live in the place. That doesn't worry me much -- it's likely I'll chuck a bunch of my current furniture once Kaia and I finally get our own place anyway -- so it's just a question of whether I'll be able to store all the crap I've got in tow and what I'll do with the rest of the stuff I wanna keep but can't.

Meanwhile, once we saw the neighborhood and the place, we split and returned back to my place, which was around 10. Both of us were spent so we basically wound up crashing, him on my living room couch and me in my bed, about 10:30. The alarm, however, woke us, as directed, at 4:15 and he was out the door and on his way to Penn Station at 5.

Kaia's due to get here around 5ish on Thursday (tomorrow) and he might wind up coming back from Maryland for a day or so if he has the time, so despite not having seen Kaia for awhile and wanting some private time, it will be good that the two of them will be able to meet. I explained to Kaia that he and I have known one another for 18 years, making him one of my oldest and dearest friends. Considering he's going through a lot of shit right now is tough, but I figure if I can help out by being a good friend it's a no-brainer.

Even if, post-visit, the apartment looks like a hotel room that's been run through by a pack of crystal-meth bingers...

Monday, June 19, 2006

Covering All Bases

So...after walking in a few minutes before midnight, I dug into more cleaning of the apartment -- putting things away, sorting some recent laundry/cleaning items, getting things organized, the usual -- and then basically fell into bed. However, in the meanwhile, I've got lots of shit happening in the recent past and the very near future, so I'll address everything quickly:

Rita and the Cali peeps: Pizza was rockin', and the next time I'm on the West Coast, Kaia and I will try and head to SoCal...in fact, we might just meet in LA and spend a few days there before we work our way back up...but 'twas a blast seeing you guys, so thanQ and backatcha :)

To the "ThreeHairyLadies" (someone who responded via e-mail to my last post including a critique of a new TGI Friday's offering for douchebags): Sorry you thought the commercial was good. My recommendation is to quit your supermarket stocker job and become a dishwasher for TGI Friday's. From the grammer and the speeeeeling in your e-mail, I'm sure you'd fit right in.

To "RighteousRick," thanks for clarifying that the second guy in the commercial shouts "Pork!" and not "Steak." I'm glad some among us have the kind of exciting life that would warrant, nee, permit, such a useful use of such little grey matter.


Meanwhile, back in the land of non-make-believe, my place is almost -- not quite, but almost -- liveable. There's very little crap strewn about, albeit more than what you'd find in, say, a Pottery Barn catalog. It's actually kind of funny -- Kaia and I have done the whole Pottery Barn shopping excursion -- she fights me tooth and nail for a sage-ish everyday suede or microfiber couch for the future -- and yet, we never get around to really worrying about what our place will look like. Pottery Barn catalogs always seem to depict warm, cozy spaces, and I give them credit -- almost none of the PB scenery includes people, and people -- not stuff made of wood, glass, metal and leather -- is what makes a house a home. You could fill up a five-story structure with all the furniture annually produced this side of Siam and it wouldn't be a home. But give me an aerobed and a decent comforter, a small TV with a working remote, two glasses, a fridge, a pair of power toothbrushes and my other half, and that's really all I need.

Okay, maybe a wifi connection and a high-speed Centrino notebook with a second power supply, too. But that's not asking that much.

One final note: the Carolina Hurricanes put the nail in the coffin and raised the Stanley Cup tonight. Even for people who could give the smallest shit this side of Herve Villechaize about hockey -- and I'm not one of them -- I'd imagine seeing grown men cry and jump up and down like kids has to be emotionally memorable. But even if you don't know the backstories -- the guy who grew up in a dead-end, backwards-ass town in the middle of Nowhere, Canada, or the guy whose father worked three jobs just so he could buy his son a good pair of hockey skates, or the guy who played for 18 years just for the opportunity to win the Stanley Cup -- it's exciting. I was sorta-kinda pulling for the Oilers, because there's a lot of heritage there for me personally (being a Ranger fan sort of means you have to root for the Oilers, and not just because of the Wayne Gretzky or Mark Messier connections). But just seeing these guys celebrate -- and not just the 15- or 20-year vets but Carolina's 20-year-old goaltender who earned the MVP of the playoffs -- was a nice moment. It wasn't the same for me as watching the same game, 12 years ago, when the Rangers outlasted the Vancouver Canucks to win the Stanley Cup; the Rangers, that night, won their first Cup in 54 years, and I will probably never forget the look on Mark Messier's face when he got his hands on that Cup as a Ranger. Nor will I forget the sounds outside the Garden, or watching the handshakes between Vancouver and the Rangers, nor will I forget the photos, the lights, the smiles and the tears. And I wasn't even playing or in the building that night. Ah, I digress...what is it about that chalice that inspires children to dream and men to become giddy and weak like schoolboys I have no idea; but when it's at stake it is some mighty powerful juju. So even if it wasn't the Rangers' year, there's always next year. And the year after that...and the year after that...and so on...and so on...and so on...

To Be Continued ;)

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Circular Motion

Saturdays creep up on me without warning, and this one even moreso. Tomorrow being Father's Day, I'm heading out to Jersey to kick back with the family, and I've got some goodies in tow for my dad (obviously), but the main thing that's on the docket is the impending arrival of Kaia on Thursday, and this coming Tuesday, a friend of mine stopping in for a jaunt between Singapore and DC.

I'm trying to get my place in order (ie safe for human survival) so obviously I've been preoccupied doing that. Basically, I'm trashing or hiding everything that doesn't belong out, and then, on top of that, cleaning any surface as much as possible. Normally, that's not too-too difficult, but my place is not "normal." So it's a pretty daunting task. But between projects and work, I'm getting it done -- slowly but surely is better'n nuffin', as they say.

Kaia's out shopping and getting herself ready to hit NYC for a few weeks, so while she's running around, I'm cleaning/organizing/laundracizing in meanwhile. In the background is Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final (between the Carolina Hurricanes and the Edmonton Oilers). The game is exciting because Carolina's ahead 3-2 in games so if they win, the Cup is handed over, so the tension -- even if I don't care much about either team -- is palpable. On some level, these types of games remind me of when I used to play in a league; we didn't play playoff series, however; we'd play one-off games (on occasion we'd play a best-of-three, but rarely because of the distance involved of non-NYC teams). Even if it meant we needed to beat four or five teams to win the championship, it was -- in our eyes -- playing one Game 7 after another. Game 7, in hockey parlance, especially in the Stanley Cup Finals, is the hockey equivalent of Defcon 1. It's the most tense, pressure-packed game one will ever play, and even though we weren't playing for the Stanley Cup, for us, skating out onto the ice to the strands of Joe Satriani's "A Train of Angels" was akin to us going to war. Why I mention this comparison is that professional hockey players play the game to win the Stanley Cup, period. But the fact that they collect a six- or seven-figure salary is a nice consolation for the teams that don't win the Cup each year. For us, there was winning the Championship -- or nothing.

Meanwhile, I've been seeing a commercial somewhat frequently advertising TGI Friday's meat-lover's grill platter. Apparently this new offering features several different types of meat; the ad features a group of four guys that are served said selection. Thereafter, the first guy, in a deep "guy" voice, proclaims: "Beef!" Another guy shouts "Steak!" A third guy pipes up with "Ribs!" Then the fourth guy holds up a stalk of broccoli and sings "Vegetable Medley!" The other three look at him like he's just come out of the closet. Sensing the awkwardness, Vegetable-Medley-Lame-O grabs his fork, pokes at some sausage on his plate, and shouts "Sausage!" And, apparently, these four dipshits partake of their pre-packaged Grade D dogfood.

Every time I see that commercial, the possibility of me a) actually partaking of this particular offering; b) ever going to TGI Friday's -- ever; and c) wanting to eat anything -- period -- after seeing this commercial decreases exponentially. It's not quite as appetizing as McDonald's "Cholesterol McPlosion," but it's close.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Hands Off

Way back in March of last year, I first saw and discussed "Super Size Me," the Morgan Spurlock documentary about his attempt to canvass the nation and consume nothing but McDonald's food for 30 days. His intent was to show that McDonald's food was unsafe, unhealthy and could be a significant reason why we as a nation are facing obesity as an epidemic.

As a follow-up, in August of 2005, I discussed a suit filed against Wendy's and other fast-food companies which accused them of not disclosing that the manner in which they prepare/cook french fries was dangerous and hazardous to consumers' health. The suit, incidentally, was filed by an Attorney General of the state of California (not, for example, some half-naked guy that lives in a trailer by a pond in Kentucky).

As you may recall (either having originally read it when I wrote it, or by clicking on it now), I was less-than-thrilled when I heard this suit was being brought. Aside from the fact that it's ridiculous to legally challenge a company to force it to change its food preparation technique, there must -- or should -- be some measure of choice left to the consumer. According to CNN, there is yet another legal challenge -- this one brought by a retired doctor and a consumer advocacy group -- this time, challenging KFC to use different cooking oil. My first, and only, response, is: what the hell is wrong with people?

There are a couple of caveats here -- I am sure there are people who, genetically, are predisposed to being obese, so for them, eating a half-chicken might end up sending them over the 400-pound barrier. However, for most people, if you eat two pieces of fried chicken smothered in gravy, a "country" biscuit and some coleslaw, your cholesterol will go to Defcon 2. You don't need textbooks or beakers or lab technicians to know this. Food that is bad for you will affect your health in an adverse way.

Now, understanding that people in society don't know better than to mind their own fucking business, we have Oreo cookies that are made with different ingredients so they don't have trans fats. Imagine, however, that the public pressure to change Oreos resulted in an inferior product, and the choice was, say goodbye to Oreos or let Oreos remain on the market but in an unhealthy form. Keep in mind, by the way, that Oreo cookies have largely remained the same ingredient-wise since before I was a wee lad. Am I glad they changed the recipe to make them healthier? Sure. But had I popped an Oreo post-recipe change and they tasted crappy, would I ever buy another Oreo? Nope.

Sometime in March of this year, Kaia and I met some friends on Second Avenue for karaoke. Next door to the bar in which we met our friends was The Palm, a restaurant chain known as a steakhouse that also happens to sell excellent lobster. In theory, two or more people could walk into a Palm restaurant, sit down, and order a steak, french-fried onion rings (a loaf of 'onion straws'), cottage fries (heavily-fried potato chip-like items), and then top it off with, say, a two-pound lobster, that is served with a half-gallon of warm, liquefied butter. That right there is a nuclear assault on the consumer's health. Yet no dipshit with too much time on his/her hands is assembling the masses and formulating battle plans.

No one is parked outside Balthazar to protest the prodigous use of butter and oil in the escargot and the bar steak; and no one is going after Daniel Bouloud as he ramps up the danger to your health in his $2,500 tasting menu.

The point is, at least on some level, that po' people gotta eat too. Let me rephrase.

People who regularly eat at fast-food joints should be given a choice, or at least the knowledge that what they are eating is dangerous.

The problem is, and what these meddlesome do-gooder parental types don't realize is, THEY ALREADY KNOW. If a person doesn't realize that eating a sauce-laden Big Mac, a pound of sugar-coated french fries and a gallon of sugary Coke is a problem, then they don't need nutrition info, they need a state-appointed guardian.

I'm not suggesting that these ridiculous lawsuits are being brought for profit; I understand the people who have filed these suits believe they are doing the right thing for society. However, unless the fast-food industry is deceptive and duplicitous as has been Big Tobacco, I don't see how we can compare the two, or treat the two in similar fashion. And frankly, while I understand the need to regulate Big Tobacco, I can't see -- nor do I think it sets a good precedent -- for some random seat-belt-mandating pulpit-pounder to try and command a company to alter its recipe because said pulpit-pounder has had some sort of epiphany. It's dangerous, in my opinion, to even permit these types of suits without some sort of penalty.

In the United Kingdom, when a lawsuit is tossed because it has absolutely no merit, the plaintiff is responsible for court costs and ancillary fees. I think that we should consider adoption of this policy as well; technically, it is in place, but I think it should be enforced in a much more strict manner. If I sue McDonalds because I found glass in my Angus McJr. that damaged the lining of my stomach, I think I have a legit reason to sue. Suing McDonald's because I had a psychotic break after Ronald McDonald told me to kill three people in Wyoming is a bit more far-fetched. And suing a company for eating unhealthy, fattening foods -- when no one held a gun to my head, forcing me to eat that food -- is the height of frivolity.

So to any doctor, health group or tree-hugger out there who wants to decide for me what I'm having for lunch (or what size lobster I'm ordering when Kaia and I next hit the Palm), keep your hands off my eats and I'll keep my foot out of your ass.

I think that's a fair compromise.

Monday, June 12, 2006

A Matter of Timing

Another Monday, in the books...I spent the day all over the place, starting downtown with a somewhat crucial meeting with a higher-up from a notable city agency, then worked my way uptown, slowly, to a) check out an apartment -- terraced one-bedroom in Murray Hill -- and then b) onto a meeting with a client about a shitload more buildings, one of which might house my AOTF -- apartment of the future. As I've indicated herein before, I don't have an end-of-lease date by which I need to be packed and out, but now that I'm on the clock vis-a-vis considering a move, I'm looking far and wide.

There's lots of options, but I'm reminded how viscerally unpleasant moving and the NYC rental market are, simultaneously. I'm also reminded that doing a walk-up apartment isn't necessarily ideal, but not a big deal either.

In the meantime, I'm about to dive into some of the work I didn't get done this afternoon, so that's where I'll be in the meantime. I actually got a chance to hang out with some friends from Cali that were in for the fiesta I missed this weekend, so I can't complain -- 'twas good seeing people I rarely get the chance to see -- so all in all, everything's groovy and it was good to see three from the left coast. There're more stragglers who are staying in town, so I'm happy to say I'll be seeing them through the week; but it still would have been nice to have partied with 'em without other weekly duties -- like work -- getting in the way.

Ah well...

Sunday, June 11, 2006

MIA At Earl's, NYC (Nothing Ever Goes As Planned)

MIA At Earl's, NYC (Nothing Ever Goes As Planned)

...It's a hell of a notion...

To everyone who 'spected me to swing by last night, I apologize...

A situation -- an emergency -- kept me from partying with friends near and far, and as I am sitting here trying to put together some words to explain, there's really nothing beyond regret, disappointment and my utmost apologies. So all I can say is I apologize and promise there will be no third strike; the next one will be a two-bagger into left, although I will definitely be looking to swing away and land one in the bleachers...

-B-

PS The Styx lyrics (ie my use thereof) is for Morph and Peaches, and anyone else who wore out a copy of Paradise Theater by Styx...period.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Fire On High: The Third of A Three-Part Series on The One-Way Ticket To Hell

On May 26th, unbeknownst to me, I posted the first of three installments in my "One-Way Ticket To Hell" Trilogy; this first entry focused on a Nebraska man who was convicted of child molestation but avoided prison because the judge in the case decided prison would be too harsh an experience for the height-challenged convict. Yesterday, I addressed Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's death in Iraq after the US Military dropped a pair of 500-pound bombs on his safehouse. Today's spotlight shines on Jerry Buck Inman, the 35-year-old registered sex offender who, since May 23, has committed several rapes, a burglary or two, and murdered one of his sexual assault victims by strangling with her bikini top.

Detailed in a recently-posted CNN.com article, Mr. Inman's resume, both short- and long-term, is impressive if you are impressed by stupid, mindless, repulsive, hateful, inhuman crimes against single, innocent women. Essentially, he has spent the past two or so weeks following women "he found attractive" around in his vehicle, waiting until he suspected they went to sleep, and then broke into their apartments and then raped and murdered them. In some cases, he simply raped them; in others, he raped and murdered them (and not necessarily in that order).
"I know he is overwhelmed by the attention this case has received so far," said Inman's attorney, Symmes Culbertson. "I think he's a little shell-shocked by everything that has gone on so far."
Newsflash, Symmes (Sidebar: what kind of name is Symmes?)...your client isn't a little shell-shocked; he's a spawn of Satan who drives around looking for women to rape and murder.

We've all come across, at one point or another, an individual or individuals who practice better living through chemistry, and I'm not referring to BASF "not making things we buy, but making the things we buy better." I'm referring to drugs, when teamed with therapy, that serve to control and/or inhibit types of anti-social behavior like sexually abusing children and/or women; unprovoked physical and/or verbal outbursts; and random, miscellaneous crimes that have no meaning except to the mentally-ill, unmedicated perpetrator.

Problem is, none of it works. The only thing that seemingly does work to cure these people of their mental illness is to send them to the next world.

While I don't hold all the answers here, I think there are increasingly two types of criminals, in general, that are establishing themselves among our ranks. The first is the criminal, through laziness and/or a lack of education or a combination thereof, steals money or property because he needs to a) subsist and cannot find/keep a job; b) support a drug habit; or c) earn a living doing something that doesn't require much in the way of intelligence or skill beyond breaking a window, grabbing a stereo and/or a TV, and running like the wind. This type of criminal, more often than not, winds up in jails and/or prisons and, upon his/her release, usually returns to his/her prior life of crime -- people need to do what makes them happy in life in order to succeed, after all -- so these are generally what I'd refer to as career criminals, for better or worse.

However, when we're talking about people who follow women around in cars -- and in doing so lose track of where they are geographically -- that defines an entirely different method of categorization. Mr. Inman, as an example, isn't so much as a career criminal -- he's a life criminal. This is a fellow who has no hope of being "cured" -- any guy who spends time in a vehicle with the intent of sexually assaulting a woman in her own home and then uses said woman's bikini top to strangle her -- well, sorry to say, there's no going back. Mr. Inman doesn't need therapy, he doesn't need medication, he doesn't need a court-appointed attorney; he needs a 100-pound sledge-hammer to the head -- his head. Personally, however, I understand the "sledge-hammer" clause of Boogie's Law, Part 104, Sub-Section 12, is a bit drastic. So to start, I think Mr. Inman requires, at least first, the treatment as set forth in Boogie's Law, Part 67, Sub-Section 2: castration by rotweiller (beef gravy by Heinz). Thank you to Dennis Miller for his inspiration for this particular law.

People like these, whether they are perverted sexual predators who have no resemblance to "normal" human beings, or simply abhorrent, repulsive "soldiers" carrying out their agendas of beheading and other forms of disgusting, heartless desecration of their fellow man, or merely people without the ability to function or exist in society as we know it, don't belong in prison -- they belong in caskets or in urns. Would there be anything we could learn from the Nebraska height-challenged child-molester? Or from Abu Musab al-Zarqawi? Or from a man whose sole mission on this Earth, apparently, is to defile and murder women? Perhaps.

Is there anything they can learn from us? Probably not.

Don't bother with medication, therapy and rehabilitation -- they won't work. If, as a society, we really want to show mercy and compassion for our fellow man, then put these tortured, disturbed souls out of their misery and let them go where they belong, period. Either that, or expect more news about how convicted sex offenders go free, go on rampages when the pharmacy forgets to refill their prescriptions, and expect, with every sex offender on the loose, to open another women's rape crisis center in every little town between here and Flying Turd, Wyoming.

Period.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Boom, Like That

I’m heavily slammed at work, but considering that a) I have spent more than three hours in the office today for the first time in over a week; and b) today is a particularly interesting news day, I’d figured I’d pop in and say hello.

Early this morning, I saw the mass announcement that the US Military had finally succeeded in sending Abu Musab al-Zarqawi to the next world. As a result of two 500-pound airborne bombs, al-Zarqawi and between six and eight of his colleagues are now taking long-term, permanent dirt naps.

Despite the fact that al-Zarqawi, while he was alive, was suspected to be responsible for a multitude of beheadings, bombings, and causing myriad deaths, both Muslim and non-Muslim alike, I am not sure today is a day for celebration. Why shouldn’t we – both as a people and as humans – not be glad to know that someone who willingly removed the heads of other human beings? Well, on the one hand, there is the reaction to Zarqawi’s death from Michael Berg, father of Nicholas Berg, the man whose beheading was posted on a pro-militant website in 2004. It is largely suspected that Zarqawi was responsible for performing the beheading as well as publicizing it. However, Mr. Berg’s reaction was thus:
Well, my reaction is I'm sorry whenever any human being dies. Zarqawi is a human being. He has a family who are reacting just as my family reacted when Nick was killed, and I feel bad for that. I feel doubly bad, though, because Zarqawi is also a political figure, and his death will re-ignite yet another wave of revenge, and revenge is something that I do not follow, that I do want ask for, that I do not wish for against anybody. And it can't end the cycle. As long as people use violence to combat violence, we will always have violence.
I personally cannot identify or empathize with Mr. Berg. I don’t have a son, but I know that if I did, and someone – merely to further a cause – decided to behead him and videotape the act of his murder and publicize same – I would have a decidedly different reaction. I’d more likely find a way to choke the perpetrator with his own sphincter than speak of being sorry “when any human being dies.” Firstly, using whatever logic you wish to imbue, a person who can murder another human being by cutting off his head – on camera – is not “any human being.” He – meaning Zarqawi – is/was not a human being. He is an animal. Actually, I rescind that description – animals do not desecrate one another except out of hunger; they do not eviscerate or otherwise mistreat their fellow creatures simply to make a point.

As for Mr. Berg’s assertion that this act will inspire acts of revenge, I agree in part; however, anyone that is sorry that Mr. Zarqawi is dead – aside from his family, who believe he is a martyr and is now in heaven – are not going to need any arm-twisting to continue to fight the infidel oppressors, whether it is American troops distributing food supplies, Marines killing civilians, or British soldiers maintaining infrastructure in Fallujah. The point is, the seeds were planted in Mosques through the mid-east and Asia; to think that, somehow, letting Mr. Zarqawi continue his reign of beheadings and roadside bombings to somehow ease the tensions between Muslim mujahadeen (ready to strap bombs to their childrens’ bodies) is not merely a pacifist; he is a fool. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere in these pages, sometimes taking life can also save lives – and I’m not referring to using a 30.06 rifle to assassinate an abortion doctor in his living room.

To (briefly) expound on Mr. Berg’s theory of today’s news inspiring martyrs and more violence, I think it’s relatively na├»ve to simply stop there; Arabs, in one form or another, have been killing each other over slices of land less significant than graffiti-covered vacant lots in the South Bronx. The notion of Hammurabi’s Code, ie an eye for eye, inspired the notion and the very definition of the word vengeance. These are not new concepts; these have been tinged with the turmoil that has bounded and epitomized the Middle East for the past 3,000 years. So for anyone to suggest that pacifism is a better alternative than to delete people like Zarqawi, who are anything but human, my response is that sometimes turning the other cheek is not the lesser of two evils.

Today isn’t a day for celebration, and I don’t concur with the US Military that today’s news will have an impact on the number of attacks – if anything, that number might increase in the short term. But I am relieved to learn that Zarqawi is elsewhere, even if another piece of shit sprouts forth in his absence.

Monday, June 05, 2006

The End and The Beginning

So the sine wave that I refer to as my life hits its upswing.

This past weekend was filled with work, both office-related and PC-related stuff. We got a Saturday phone call from a biggie client who needed some answers on a project they're considering; the project involves the rehabbing of a building that will cost them nearly $200 million to buy, and then they'll spend another $50 mill rehabbing it, so they needed some answers from us; when you're talking a quarter of a Billion dollars, you need to know the financial implications BEFORE you pull the trigger, and we're their on-site intel, so to speak. So while it's nice to fritter away a Saturday morning, especially when it's steamy and rainy out, it's nicer knowing that we're involved in this kind of deal, especially in a "we need the info right now and we're calling you" kind of way.

On top of that, I finally spent the three or four hours fixing up the PC's DVD burning 'ware. The product is called Nero, and it's generally regarded as the best DVD creation software available; that means that when it comes to taking a DVD, ripping (extracting the data from it) onto a hard drive, and then burning a new copy (designing/creating a new DVD), Nero is the best. However, judging by the number of complaints and problems the software features (we call them bugs, the Nero tech people call them quirks) it's far from perfect. It's great -- when it works. However, I've been SOL now with this program for awhile. A few other netpeople advised me on how to get around the problems I've been experiencing, so I finally took the plunge and spent a few hours tweaking my PC, tweaking the program, tweaking settings and uninstalling, cleaning, reinstalling and testing the software. Jackpot...finally got it up and running, and burned a copy of Stewie Griffin: The Untold Story (the Family Guy movie) as a test. It finally worked, despite a few bumps along the way. Normally I'd be pissed after spending $70 on a complete burning suite that had more glitches than a circa-1980's Chrysler Le Baron; but overall, I'm just pleased that I can finally get a bunch of the DVD's I've ripped/downloaded off my drive once and for all. Most people won't have a clue what I'm talking about, but for the folks at the Nero forum at AfterDawn, they'll know exactly what I mean.

But enough of the geek-speak. Back in the real world, I arrived home on Friday to find that, due to the heavy rains NYC had experienced over the past 48 hours, my building's basement had been mildly flooded; that meant the boiler wasn't functioning (aka no hot water) and the laundry room was off-limits until further notice. Since I wasn't in major need of a shower or a wash, I wasn't too-too worried. But since I had just renewed my lease -- at least in part -- it was kind of ironic. I could have called up and complained, but I've been mum about anything I'm less-than-thrilled about at my building, so I figured I wouldn't start bitching now. I'm expecting to be moving downtown at some point in the next few months anyway, so since I have a relationship with the people who own my building, I opted to take the high road (and the smart one) and not add to the number of complaints. They have other buildings which were also flooded a bit -- and which I am guessing experienced the same type of shut-down of boiler and laundry services -- so for me to complain, it would have had to be really big and really bad. It was neither.

More on the prospective move: more and more often I find that when I go out with friends, we end up, sooner or later, downtown. The same applies for when Kaia comes in. As for the former, I noticed that I had to build in a pair of $15 cab rides everywhere I went, and with Kaia, we've already begun looking at places for when she moves here, all of which are downtown, so I figured one way or the other that's where I ought to consider moving, if and/or when. Well, a new client has a pair of buildings in the St. Marks area, and since I know the area well, I decided to take a peek at one of them, and I liked what I saw. Eventually, I called him and mentioned I was interested in an apartment at the building I had seen only from the outside and wanted to take a peek inside when possible; he was very cool about it and arranged with a current tenant to show me a unit that would be identical to one he might have available, and I was very pleased with what I saw. The apartment layout is a railroad design; that means, despite the fact it's a studio, it is relatively long -- four rooms -- without doors to interrupt the flow. It has eight or ten windows, and since it's on the corner of the building, it will feature a good cross-breeze for ventilation; plus, since it faces east, there will be lots of light. The bonus is the building is pre-war (built prior to 1945) so it's well-insulated and quiet, and it is located on a quiet block that has plenty of trees and lots of pedestrians but not too many cars, so it's looking more and more like a go, at least on my end.

The only problem, of course, is that the current occupant isn't sure exactly when he's moving out, and the owner isn't sure he can lease it to me -- his wife has an employee that would like to live in the building because she has her office in the building -- so we'll see if it's a go at the end of June. If it is, I'll be pleased; and if it isn't, I'll keep looking. The nice part about being in the real estate business is having relationships with the people you're renting from, as well as from a prospective landlord. Most people see the end of a lease as a deadline; for me, it's of only mild concern. That's the pro -- but the con, as I indicated above, is that not being able to complain about legitimate problems -- like no hot water, no laundry, etc. -- can be a kick in the ass. I actually thought about that as I was contemplating moving; then I realized that I've never complained about anything to my current super/landlord over the past five years, so I figure I won't start when/if I move. Plus, this set-up will only exist for a year; when Kaia moves to NYC, we'll have a new place which will likely be one of them-thar terraced two-bedrooms with a gym and a pre-fab layout; then, when we're pushing $3k a month in rent, we can bitch and moan all we want.

Speaking of Kaia and New York, a friend of mine set up a party for this coming weekend; it's going to be held in Murray Hill and, from what he tells me, it's going to be a 150+ group o' people. Friends from Cali and everywhere between here and there are coming, so Kaia and I had planned on her coming in this week to be there; however, this is a busy work week for her -- company-wide meetings at her offices, which are not the company's HQ, so they're going to have lots of VIPs and guest attendees -- that she couldn't avoid. On top of that, next weekend -- two weeks from yesterday, actually -- is Father's Day, which she felt badly about missing. So I told her to skip the party -- I can go by myself or with friends, or meet them there -- and she can come two Thursdays thereafter, which is the 22nd. We've been apart for two months and it's painful, but knowing she's on her way here soon -- without adding to her company-wide meeting stress or her missing Father's Day -- is good enough for now. Plus it gives me some time to consider what we're doing in June for her birthday, which is in July, and for which -- depending on the moving date, etc. -- I'll be in San Fran. So while it's not as soon as we'd like, it will be soon, and we're counting the days until she's booking a one-way ticket to NYC and we're at the starting line for the Rest Of Our Lives Together.

As I wrote the last sentence, it occurred to me that there are a lot of men -- stereotypically, anyway -- who are hesitant, apprehensive or allergic to making a life-long commitment. Originally, some time ago, I was too -- but I've since realized it wasn't the commitment or the timing or the notion that I still had wild oats to sow; the reason was it was the wrong situation, ie the wrong person. I think one of the reasons why the divorce rate is so high is two-fold; first, I think many people these days consider marriage to be a condition rather than a life-long commitment (ie the notion of the "starter" marriage). Second, more importantly, I think there are people -- some of whom are guided by what other people do, whether as a result of emptiness in their own lives or a lack of self, self-worth or a combination thereof, listen to society and do as they're told rather than listening to their instincts. Luckily, I'm not in that above-described group, and between that and the bile that grew from my personal experience, I escaped, as did my father. However, this time, even with my "feelers" scanning the situation vigorously, there's nothing that worries me or gives me pause in what Kaia and I are contemplating. There are issues, to be sure -- her family lives 3,000 miles away, and the bulk of her friends, while supportive of she and I, are going to miss her when she moves -- but even a year and a half after we first met, I still can't think of anything I want to do more than spend time with her where- and whenever possible. I saw a friend a few weeks ago and he conned me into being his wingman with a couple of women he wanted to talk to in a bar; the four of us ended up spending most of the entire night discussing Kaia and I, and the woman my friend liked was more into me because I was so obviously smitten after all this time. That, and I also think she was a bit drunk and I reminded her of an ex ;)

In either case, it seems to me that as much as I have survived some awful, horrid, shitty experiences, I think having experienced a sick, dysfunctional relationship or two first-hand has either provided me with a wonderful, perfect relationship -- that I, in theory, deserve -- or, at the very least, has allowed me to appreciate just how wonderful she is and how lucky I am that we're together. Neither of us is perfect, and not every day is roses, chocolate and sunshine -- but I don't think I could or would change a thing. Even though the contents herein might suggest otherwise, I don't always take the time to acknowledge how lucky I am, but invariably when I do -- most often when I hear her voice as she's waking up or right before she's heading to sleep -- words really fail me, and all I can do is smile.

Like Billy Joel wrote, I'm warm from the memories of days to come.