Friday, June 22, 2007

Temporarily Blind

I'm hideously vain, it seems. Or maybe just a little. You decide:

My ten year high school reunion is this weekend, and for reasons I can't really explain, I'm very excited. Part of it is, after a month or so in New York, this will be my first trip home and I will get to see my family, friends, etc. And I'll get to drink with some of them. The other part is, like most nerds, I want to show everyone I went to high school with how much I've changes. There, I said it. I can explain it, it's just embarrassing.

One very noticeable change is I no longer wear glasses. In high school, I not only wore glasses, I wore huge, thick glasses. The kind that Buddy Holly would refuse to wear because they were too geeky(this was true of every year except my senior year, I think, when I adopted more sensible frames). So I'm excited to show up sans-two of my four eyes. Then, yesterday, disaster struck.

I'm down to my last pair of lenses before I need to order new ones. I thought, for some reason, they would last until the reunion. Having just moved, I hadn't found a new optometrist and my vision insurance card hadn't -- and still hasn't -- arrived in the mail. A long-winded way to excuse myself for not having a back-up pair of lenses. So yesterday, my left lens develops a tear, and promptly disintegrates in my hands.

Oh-fucking-no...what am I going to do? I thought. I am NOT wearing glasses to this thing...think...think...eye exam? lenses? in two days??

The thought of going to that reunion wearing glasses flat-lined my excitement. I don't want people to see me as I was; I want them to see me as I am now!

Sure, my hair is a lot longer, scraggly, I'm not as helplessly skinny, and I'm not as socially inept as I was -- but goddammit -- I don't wear glasses anymore! That's the important thing that everyone should see.

Everyone being an entity that has yet to be defined. I have no idea who will come, who I will remember and who will remember me. It could all be an empty exercise, like doing squats while eating a Big Mac.

So, I had an eye exam this morning, and luckily -- despite astigmatism in my right eye -- they had a pair of lenses in stock I could wear while waiting for my prescription to come in. Disaster averted.

Someone better notice. I'll try and post some pictures of the hopefully splendid event.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Secret At Subway

I'm a big fan of Subway. That is, I eat there semi-regularly. That's right, I moved to New York only to grab lunch at a chain restaurant. Does it remind me of home? Is a six inch club comfort food, keeping me anchored in a strange new world? Or am I just lazy? Who knows.

During one of my recent jaunts to a Subway, I spied something peculiar behind the counter. Not a rat, a cockroach, rotting veggies or a snotty rag. Something much more vile: a copy of Rhonda Byrne's The Secret.

Much has been written already debunking this book, so I won't get into the ridiculousness of the "law of attraction" and the re-cycled, re-hashed version Byrne springs on the world. To me, though, this book is blatantly immoral. It preys on human insecurities, and it teaches people to blame themselves for things beyond their control. This book advocates the idea that thinking poor, makes you poor. Can I get a big, Steve Tyler bellowing sized WHAT THE FUCK?

It also says, at one point, that to lose weight, you should simply avoid looking at fat people. You read that correctly. Don't change your eating habits, don't exercise, just avert your eyes when Fatty Fatty Fat Fats walks by. That's fucking brilliant.

Send positive vibes out into the universe, and it will respond. Wish for things. Fine. I wish for the utter and complete failure of Rhonda Byrne. Give me that, you stupid fucking secret.

Oh wait, that's not a positive vibe. So it won't work. There are always loop holes; easy ways to explain why whatever new-age hooey won't work for you. For example, you can't just wish to be out of debt, you have to wish for it by just imagining yourself with lots of money. The Secret teaches that if you dwell on your debt, the universe will interpret this as negative feelings toward money, and won't send you any. Kind of like an emotional ATM.

This is easy to see in the real world, people with money are happy. Happy people get money. Hahahaahaha, why didn't I see that before? I must have been running in circles.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Runner Who The Race Outran...

AndHereComeThePretzels (an impossibly great name for a sports blog) has a great piece on Lavar Arrington, who was recently in a motorcycle accident on the Capital Beltway. Once the face of the franchise, it was unthinkable that his career would end the way Big Ben celebrates Super Bowls.

Lavar had it rough as a Skin. Every year, it seemed, he had a new coach and a new defensive scheme. The Skins had Marvin Lewis for one year, and everyone hoped -- as AHCTP points out -- that Lavar would turn into Ray Lewis + LT(honored by his number, 56). Never really happened. Spurrier, then Gibbs, then injuries, then Synder; it was all too much. He should have stayed here. Snyder and Lavar should have put their differences and egos aside and gotten a deal done.

Didn't happen. Still, we had some good times. Lavar ended Troy Aikman's career with one of the most vicious hits I've ever seen. He triggered the winning streak that saved Marty Schottenheimer's only season in Washington from being a losing one, with an interception return for a touchdown against Carolina. Those hilarious Eastern Motor commercials.

Did you know he was named in honor of Levar Burton? Neither did I; thanks Wikipedia. For some reason, that's comforting.

In other Redskin related news, our overlord Dan Snyder bought the American Bandstand franchise today. Which means he owns the New Year's Rockin' Eve broadcast, the Golden Globes, the American Music Awards, and the Academy of Country Music Awards. This means Tom Cruise should be a shoe-in for a Golden Globe next year(Snyder is invested in Cruise's production company), Mark Brunell will have a front row seat at the ACMAs, and Jason Campbell will be a presenter at the AMAs. Unless Campell gets injured, then Brunell will present.

I can't help but think Snyder is brutalizing the world of business to make up for the lack of on-field success the Skins are having; almost like he has to make up for one part of his empire's incompetence by conquering even more territory in the world of business. It's not enough that the Redskins are one of the most profitable sports franchises in the world, no, he has to own more, more, and more. I can't understand why everything he buys -- theme parks, Bandstand, Johnny Rockets, etc. -- has a 1950s feel to it, though. The Skins were horrible then. You would think he'd be buying 80s-era businesses: investing in arcades, producing the next Rambo and Rocky movies, or giving away vintage boom boxes at every home game.

Now I have no real basis for this, and I'm not saying he wouldn't have bought American Bandstand if the Redskins had won the Super Bowl, but...well no, that is what I'm saying.

Shooting Hoops

I try to take in a lot of advice, on a variety of things, and then go Bruce Lee on it: discard what doesn't work(for me), and stick with what does. Sometimes, the source affects how well I listen. When a former artillery office of the Israeli Army gives me advice to up the arc on my jump shot, I listen.

Saturday evening I was shooting solo at the courts at Riverside Park, when an older Jewish man rode up on his bicycle and asked if he could shoot with me. I said of course, a little wary because -- this being New York -- I still believe anyone is capable of being a serial killer.

After warming up a bit, he was out shooting me. His shot motion was old school, the way you'll see jump shots taken in the WNBA or NBA archival footage: the jump and the shot are all one motion. Eventually, I started matching his consistency. Then he made about ten 17-18 footers in a row, from all around the court. The only thing I had on him at that point was my three-point range; still, it wasn't a competition or anything, just friendly shooting around.

Amazingly, basketball was not his game. When the group of four young kids behind us let their ball get away from them, my shooting companion cradled the errant ball with his foot than launched the ball 60ft with one swift kick, bending it right into the hands(ok, the gut) of the nearest kid. Damn.

He told about watching the then world champion Washington Bullets play the Israeli National team in 1978, and lose, by four points. He told me about being a sky marshal on Israeli airplanes, traveling to New York in the seventies and seeing the great Knick teams play.

It was a good afternoon.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Courtesy Of The Make A Wish Foundation

I'm blatantly aping a great writer when I say, I am not qualified to live here.1

Here not being the city of New York, but rather the Upper West Side, or UWS2 for short. This is a place for blue-blooded WASPS, not a guy whose Prince George's County accent routinely comes up("I ain't got no cash, shiiit..."). The streets are lined with the upper-middle class, their stores, strollers and dogs. The nearest grocery store is more expensive than anywhere I shopped in DC, and I used to live near the Watergate Safeway. Sure, it carries frozen pizza, but only in personal size. It also carries brick oven frozen pizza, which defies explanation. The McDonald's downstairs delivers, and it has to, because no one who lives here goes in for anything other than a McFlurry, and those they eye with delight the way they might sample an exotic treat while on some far off safari sabbatical.

Finding myself here, I wonder; I ponder; I ask did I get here?

Even at work, it seems, I find myself in another world. If I overheard a conversation at my old job, it was about babies, television, current events, and pop culture. Now, if I overhear a conversation, I don't know what it's about, because it's in French. Which is great, but still makes me feel like JoJo the idiot circus boy, who won a contest and gets to work at an ad agency and shack up in Miff and Buffy's neighborhood.

1Chuck Kolsterman.

2I only know this because my GF pointed it out when Craigslist apartment ads began to confuse me.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Friday, Thank God

What a long week it's been. Work has been draining, but ultimately rewarding. I've finally been moved away from all the floor-ripping and empty desks, and now I sit among actual human beings. The only bad part is I'm in the section of the building that is having it's bathrooms remodeled, so I have to go down a floor to use the facilities. That, and now I sit within a few arms lengths of the producer of my current project. My boss, basically, but it seems weird to call him that since I potentially have many, many bosses. Not that he is a bad guy or a slave-driver or anything, it's just...not my style.

I've discovered, much to my delight, that I live within a few blocks of both a Loews Theater and a Barnes & Noble. I'll be spending a lot of time at both this summer. I already paid the B&N a visit, buying a couple of books on New York, some titles for work as well as a new Nirvana biography. Summer reading at it's best(except for the work books).

Speaking of my neighborhood, it amazes me how relatively crowded the streets are after nine. It always looks like a party just let out somewhere. One more thing to get used to. Along with the fact that I somehow didn't realize that my new apartment does not have a microwave. Instead of instant oatmeal, I have three to five minute oatmeal. Which is just as good, except for the additional cleaning.

One thing I'm very glad my apartment has, is a working air conditioner. The New York sun isn't at Heat-Death-Ray readiness yet, but it's getting there. With only one room to serve, my AC unit will have no problem keeping me cool all summer. Hopefully.

One thing I thought about, late last night before I fell asleep, was the movie Big. I'm sure someone else has said this before, but don't you think it really weirded out the Josh's mother when her son grew up to look just like the guy she thought kidnapped him? Or did Josh go out of his way to grow a beard/mustache? Also, could you convict Elizabeth Perkins character of statutory rape? Or would the illusion of age be enough to dodge the charges?

I need to sleep more.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

The View

The view from my new apartment. I'll have to enjoy this, since it's only for the summer. I had to work late tonight, but at least it's rewarding work. Plus, the week is half over. Come on weekend!

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

I Wish Mr. Brooks Would Visit Mr. Happy Fun

That was a two day weekend, right? It felt like three. Come Sunday, it felt like I had been away from work for a long time. I guess that means I had a good weekend. It didn't start out good, it started out with over-priced, over-cooked fillet mignon.

My girlfriend and I had dinner in Little Italy Friday night. We stopped at the first place that served bread and appeared air conditioned. After being seated, the waiter asked us if we needed to see the wine list. I said no, since I wasn't in the mood and my girlfriend doesn't drink...usually. Looking down at the menu, I didn't see his reaction, but my girlfriend said he seemed pissed. Great, it's going to be one of those nights, I thought.

Don't get me wrong, I mean, I get it. Wine, appetizers - they all add up, which to a waiter usually means a bigger tip. Don't be visibly pissed though. It's not my duty to order over-priced wine. Okay, mister waiter? No hard feelings, right?

So, naturally, we received no bread. Other tables, that were seated after us? Oh they got bread. I, however, had to ask for it. So that's how it is, mister waiter? Mister happy fun? Got it.

My fillet mignon -- which I had never actually had before, I just enjoyed saying fillet mignon -- was decent. I may be a complete philistine, but I prefer steaks at Outback to what this restaurant was serving. And whoever fixed my girlfriend's spaghettia alla carbonara went nuts with the garlic and salt, pushing the limits of edible. We will not be going back there, despite the ringing endorsement from Time Out, circa 1999, quoted on their website.

After having missed one showing of "Mr. Brooks" downtown, we opted for a late showing at the 86th street Loews. The show was at 12:15, and they let us in the theater at...12:15. We waited in a, albeit short, line for about a half hour. For the first twenty minutes of that wait, the line was three people deep: me, my girlfriend, and a baseball-cap wearing, sweaty loner. "Mr. Brooks" was surprisingly good; Costner and Hurt had moments together that were very creepy. They should patent that joint laughter act and go on the road, creeping people out. Dane Cook was serviceable, and Demi Moore can now say she owns the most realistic portrayal of a millionaire cop ever filmed. Wil Smith in Bad Boys has nothing on her. So, a good ending that salvaged an otherwise horrible Friday night.

Saturday, things were much better. We went to Ooki, a Sushi/Japanese restaurant on the Upper East Side. Easily the best Japanese place I've been to in New York. The service was friendly and quick. The atmosphere was chill; the open-air dining room felt fantastic on a warm summer night. The drinks, especially the plum wine, were delicious. Ooki earns special praise for pacing the salads, appetizers, and entrees so we never felt rushed or neglected. The duck spring rolls, the shrimp tempura, and the best chicken teriyaki I've ever had make Ooki my new favorite dining spot. My girlfriend, not one to hand out praise, said the sushi was the best she'd ever had.

We went to see "Knocked Up", which -- thought not has laugh out loud hilarious as "The 40 Year-Old Virgin" -- was still hilarious and heartfelt. If you haven't seen it yet, well, too bad. People applauded at the end of the film, though these days I find that happening a lot more than I remember it. I mean, people applauded at the end of the third Pirates movie as well. And while, yes, I can appreciate some of the non-blockbuster sequences Verbinski sneaked into the movie -- the sand crabs, multiple Jack Sparrows were very surreal and effective -- I don't think the overloaded, under-plotted film deserved applause. A thoughtful "hmmm"? Sure.

Sunday was spent moving the rest of my stuff over to my new apartment, shopping, and then finally, relaxing.

Which is good, because it looks to be a long week.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Music From The Motion Picture

Romantic comedies, unless they are based on Nick Hornsby novels and star John Cusack, don't usually inspire me to buy music. Throw in Jennifer Aniston, and the chances go from slim to Ritchie.

So it's with some surprise that I sit here listening to Wreck Your Life by The Old 97's after watching The Break-Up. The movie was hilarious. I never tire of Vince Vaughn, and Aniston is always great as the girl who is just a little too hot for you(so maybe your hilarious personality can make up for it). Justin Long makes a disturbing cameo, however, that will make your stomach churn and your brow bunch up in revulsion. And I like Justin Long.

Wreck Your Life is a great mix of rock and country. "Victoria" is a great, sad story-telling opener. "W-I-F-E", an ode to leaving your better-half rather than just cheating, is as pure country as you can get. The fact that the song insists on spelling "wife", talking in code, is fantastic. "Dressing Room Walls" paints a vivid picture of dying on the road, and the album ends -- appropriately -- with "Goin', Goin', Gone" which is surprisingly not an ode to the long ball. Check this band out. None of the songs performed in the movie appear on Wreck Your Life; the album(from 1995 and their second album) just seemed to be a good starting point. There is a best of from Rhino that looks pretty good.