Monday, March 30, 2015

Trippin' the Burgh

I should probably start by apologizing for the last post.  Who knew that the day after I wrote a funny post about an incident on a plane, that some other plane would be deliberately crashed into a mountain?  Pretty sure there was no hummus involved with that one.

So onward to much lighter fare…  Last weekend, I took a road-trip out to Pittsburgh with Sitcom Kelly and her Sitcom Sister, for a Penguins game against the Phoenix Coyotes.  I was pretty excited about it on several levels, not least because this was my first chance to get the new car out on the open road for more than 5-6 miles.  She handled beautifully.  (The car, not Sitcom Kelly.)

Also, this was my first extended chance to use my iPhone and the Google Maps app, for GPS navigation.  I loved that, except every so often when the app would just drop out, I assume because of a cellular dead spot. 

We left Friday morning, and the trip was fine, once we got past the car fire that shut down I-70 just a couple miles out of town.

Naturally, I ended up behind two trucks, so I couldn’t see squat.  Luckily, it didn’t last very long; just ten minutes.  Could have been a lot worse.

Anyway, we got into the Doubletree about 2:30, and adjourned to our own rooms.  I was stoked because I ended up with a suite, with a separate bedroom and a mini-fridge.  The mini-fridge would have been perfect, had Sitcom Kelly not talked me out of bringing some beer with me.

Why would we take the trouble to go to Pittsburgh if we’re just going to sit around and drink beer in a hotel room?

I had to remind her of that, when she told me, “I thought you were bringing beer…”

We had plans to meet up with my Burgh blogging buddies at 6:30, so we had a few hours to kill.  The sisters decided to take naps, and I was going to have one too, but I wasn’t quite ready yet.  So I decided to further test my Google Maps app and ask for walking directions to a liquor store.

We got off to a shaky start.  I hate it when they start off with, “Go Southeast on Chatham St.

I mean, what am I, a Boy Scout?  How the fuck do I know which way is southeast?  You know where I am, Google, just tell me to go right or left! 

So because I started off in the wrong direction, I had to find my way around the block first, before making a 5 minute walk in 15 minutes.  It would have been fun, if it hadn’t been so cold out.

Because I didn’t want to look like a complete maroon, I had my earphones on, so that when the Google app spoke, only I heard it.  I suppose everyone that saw me just figured I was talking back and swearing at the music they thought I was listening to.

And then I had to re-adjust again because, as I learned, liquor stores in Pennsylvania don’t sell beer, only wine and liquor.  But the clerk sent me down to a bar, who could sell me a 6-pack for the room.

This time, I made it back via a more direct route, and was able to surprise the Sitcom Sisters with some beer, before we, you know… went out to drink more beer.

Our plans were to meet up with Cassie, Facie, and Tom the Carpetbagger at a place called Sharp Edge, on Penn Ave.  I was pretty sure I could get us there, but just to be safe, I thought I’d use the iPhone/earphone trick again.  Sitcom Kelly was not amused.

OK, actually, she was amused, because now she thinks I want to date my Google Maps girl, like Joaquin Phoenix in the movie “Her.”  (And if she sounded like Scarlett Johansson, I totally would!)  We spent some time over the next few days, trying to come up with a name for her. 

It had to be just right, so I wasn’t going to jump on anything right away.  I finally came up with the perfect name, by the end of the trip:  “Honey.”  Or more formally, “Honey Google.”  As in “Here Comes Honey Google.”

Or on the other hand, I should just call her “Scarlett.”

We got to Sharp Edge about 45 minutes early, which was perfect for me, because for the first time ever, I wanted to get someplace before Cassie.  Score!

It also gave me time to get familiar with the beer menu.  As you may recall, I am by no means any kind of beer connoisseur.  I’m perfectly happy with my wimpy American light beer, thankyouverymuch.  So I had Yuengling, which was fine because I’ve Yuengled before.

Cassie showed up before too long, followed quickly by Facie and then Tom.  It made me very happy to get together with my great good blogging (or in Tom’s case, Facebooking) friends.

Something about the shadow from the direct overhead lighting, makes us all look like psycho killers.  Sorry guys, I should have turned on the flash.

I had decided to go with a fish sandwich and the aforementioned Yuengling.  Naturally, Cassie couldn’t leave it at that.  She made me try her Lindeman’s Raspberry beer, which I found quite tasty.  Tasted nothing like beer though… more like bubbly Hi-C.  But ordered one for myself, just to break out of my self-imposed beer bubble.
It was kind of an odd glass… like a shot glass, all stretched out.

For my meal, I was going ‘fish sandwich’ because we’d stopped at Wendy’s for lunch on the way, and I didn’t want another burger.  But then Cassie pointed out a particular item on the menu:
Behold the bottom listing.

It was a pork burger infused with bacon and topped with Gouda, called the Piggy Bac.  I called it the “Piggy Bake” when I ordered because, well… BAC-on.  But in hindsight, it’s probably called “Piggy BACK.”  Either way though, how could I possibly resist?  It was freakin’ delish.  In fact, it was gone before I even thought to take a picture.

We spent the rest of the night drinking more beers, talking and carrying on.  Or I should say, drinking beers, listening to Cassie, and carrying on.  I swear the girl talks like she has a dozen stories in her head, trying to come out all at once.  But that’s one of the things I love about her.  I don’t have to do anything, just laugh.

In fact, it was funny… once Cassie and Facie left, Tom and the Sitcom Sisters and I just sort of sat there looking at each other, going, “Well now what do we do?”

We ended up talking about Sharknado.  I thought the producers had a couple of D&D dice with weather events on one and dangerous creatures on the other, which they rolled and ran with the result.  Tom suggested that the next one up should be Jellyfish Snowstorm, which totally cracked my shit up.

Hey, up there… What’s that?”  [Blop!]  “Aaaaaaaaaaaaaagh!”

Oh geez, somebody better pee on Jeremy…”

Get on that, will ya Syfy Channel?

My original intention was to cover the whole weekend in this post, but I’m right about at my maximum range, and only halfway through, so I’ll be back with Part 2 later this week.  Yes, I know I could have shortened this up, but where’s the fun in that?

We drove to Pittsburgh, checked into the hotel, I took a walk, Google Maps told me where to go, then we met some friends for dinner.”  That can be the Twitter version.

In the meantime, I leave you with the words and wisdom of Sitcom Kelly, from earlier Saturday: “Which is better for an upset stomach, red or white wine?

Next up: Primo seats at the Pens game.  It’s nice to have family with connections.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Bombing a Plane

It’s getting to be that time of year when I start scrambling to get my plane tickets lined up for vacation season.  I already have my seats to go visit my parents in May. I’d just like to wait another credit card cycle before I book my annual Toledo flight.

I really don’t worry too much about flying.  I know it will be expensive, uncomfortable and inconvenient, so the bar is set pretty low for an acceptable flight.  In other words, I don’t have big expectations.

However, one recent article did catch my attention.  It seems that recently, a flight had to be aborted about a half hour after takeoff, with the plane circling back to the airport from whence it came.  Why is that?

Somebody dropped a bomb on the plane. 

Specifically, an “S-bomb.” 

In the lavatory.

Yes, somebody dropped a deuce in the can that was so bad; it polluted the passenger cabin to the extent that they had to turn the plane around and go back home.

It’s one thing to gas-bomb a car.  I mean, at least you can open the windows, unless the driver does like my brother used to when he and his buddies road-tripped to Cleveland for Steeler games, and activate the window locks just to be evil.

The plane was from England, headed for Dubai, so who knows what this guy had been eating the day before?  He could have been English, or returning home to Dubai.  I bet some bad hummus could compromise some serious airspace.  He should include his diet in a how-to manual, as in “How to Torture a Captive Audience.”  He could market it exclusively to fraternities.

On one hand, I’m as grossed out as the next person.  But on the other hand, you just have to give this guy credit.  (And is there any doubt it’s a guy?)   This dude now has a story for the ages, the next time he’s sitting around the table with his buddies.

Did I ever tell you guys about the time I stopped a plane with my ass?

Think of all the factors involved.  People crap on airplanes all the time.  But this one not only had the pervasiveness to foul the whole cabin, it had the hang time to stay a while, and not be nullified by everyone’s “scent fatigue.”  (You know, the way the smell of something fades away after a minute or two of smelling it. It’s the only reason most of us can stay on the hopper long enough to read an article or two.)

I thought an airplane’s air filtration system was supposed to completely filter all the air in the cabin every couple of minutes.  This one must have been overloaded.  I bet no one volunteered to change the filters after that flight…  All the duct-work probably blistered and corroded.

Geez, I wonder if the oxygen masks were activated.  A guy would have to claim ownership if he got the masks to drop down.

I wonder if the rest of the passengers knew who was responsible.  I’m surprised they didn’t go all Flight 93 on him and beat him to death with the drink cart.  I’m pretty sure I’d keep my head down and blame someone else, preferably someone else’s kid.  Or cat.  Played correctly, dude could have been the mack-daddy of Silent but Deadly.

When I first started out in record retail, my boss had that kind of fumigating power.  We had a back room that was huge, with the rest rooms on one side, and I swear, that guy could render the entire room uninhabitable.  We used to call him King Colon.  I’m pretty sure that whatever he produced in there had the same qualities as the acid-blood from the aliens in the “Alien” movie series.  He probably had a plumber on retainer.

We’d plead with him to please take a break and go home to do his business.   Luckily, he lived nearby.

Maybe he ate hummus too.

Anyway, I hope that plane bomb was a one-time episode, and I don’t end up witnessing number two.

Monday, March 16, 2015

In Honor of St. Paddy's Day...

…Here’s one of my favorite traditional Irish jokes.

A man stumbles up to the only other patron in a bar and asks if he could buy him a drink.

“Of course,” comes the reply.

The first man asks, “Where ye from, matey?”

“I’m from the auld sod back in Ireland,” replies the second man.

The first man responds, “Ye don’t say, I’m from Ireland too!  Let’s have another round and drink to the Emerald Isle.”

Of course, replies the second man, and the bartender pours them each another shot.

Curious, the first man continues, “Where in Ireland are ye from?”

“Dublin,” says the second man.

“I can’t believe it,” says the first man, “I’m from Dublin too!  Let’s have another drink, to Dublin!”

As the bartender lined up another round, the first man inquires further, “What school did ye go to in Dublin?”

“St. Catherine’s,” the second man replies, “Class of ’63.”

“Jaysus, Mary n’ Joseph,” exclaimed the first man, “I went to St. Catherine’s and I was in the class o' 1963 as well!  Bartender, another round for me an’ my Irish friend here.”

About that time, one of the regulars comes in and sits down at the bar.

“What’s going on tonight?” he asks the bartender.

“Same old,” the bartender says.  “The O’Malley twins are drunk again…”

Happy St. Patrick’s Day.  Do try not to get too caught up in the festivities… You gotta work tomorrow.

Monday, March 9, 2015

The Binge-Watching Bluz

I love binge-watching TV series from DVDs… It can either be a show I’ve never seen, or a replay of shows I’ve loved from Back in the Day.  A couple weeks ago, I was re-watching Dexter, seasons three and four.  (Poor Rita…)

But when I was picking up my Dexters at the store, I spotted another video collection from my younger years. It was a show I never missed, and enjoyed well through syndication.

I’m pretty sure I started watching it during its first season; I may have missed the first couple episodes.  But I didn’t miss much after that, even if I had to set up the VCR timer to tape it while I was out.

It started in 1986.

Holy crap, nineteen eighty-freakin-six!  I was managing my first record store, in Cleveland, living in a one-bedroom apartment.  Man, LA seemed so shiny and cool to me.  Of course, living in Cleveland, Buffalo seemed shiny and cool in comparison.

But here were all these gorgeous people, wearing amazing clothes.

Well, they seemed amazing to me at the time, and miles away from anything I’d ever worn.  But it’s funny how time changes perceptions.  For men, a nice suit is still a nice suit, but the women’s clothes were definitely something out of a time capsule.  Apparently in the 80s, all the women were supposed to look like linebackers.  With the shoulder pads they were wearing, they could barely fit through a doorway.

Much like today, I totally watched shows for the babes.  Jill Eikenberry’s character, Ann Kelsey, was smokin’ hot, and in Season 1, she started dating Michael Tucker’s character, Stewart Markowitz.

This was the most unlikely couple of all time, and the only reason it worked was because Tucker and Eikenberry were married in real life.  Otherwise, no one would ever believe that the tall, gorgeous power attorney would marry the short goofy-looking tax guy. 

I loved their onscreen relationship story because it gave me hope that maybe a retail schlub like me could land the hot chick.  (I eventually realized that life does not work like a network drama.)

But there was one clear reason why I even started watching LA Law.

Holy hell, Laurie Partridge was in it, and she was all grown up!  I had a massive crush on Susan Dey, so I was always especially interested in her story lines, be it as district attorney Grace Van Owen, or her romance with Harry Hamlin’s Michael Kuzac.
No couple should be allowed to be this attractive.

It was weird when I first started re-watching the first season.  The biggest thing that hit me was how “primitive” the tech was at that time.  In 1986, there were a few “car phones” out there, but they were the size of bricks, and had to stay plugged into the car.

In looking through the law offices, there were no computer terminals on anyone’s desks; they all had typewriters.  During one episode, a local nerd tried to impress a secretary by putting multiple lines on her phone, and setting up a fax machine.

The pricing cracked me up too.  First of all, one of the attorneys went to look at a beach house… I mean, floor to ceiling glass walls, smack-dab on the beach.  The cost was around a million dollars.

Fuck, you can barely get a dump around there now for a million dollars!

And the salaries… the featured law firm started out their associates at $52,500.  (They brought in a hotshot fresh out of law school for $72,500, which made waves.)  Now granted, I would have killed to make that kind of dough in 1986, but I was just a kid in a store. I wasn’t a freakin’ lawyer in LA.

I was just happy not to be making minimum wage, which they happened to mention was $3.35.

Anyway, I spent the weekend binge-watching the second season, and this time, jotted down a few “time capsule” observations.

(I’m only 8 episodes in, and I was going to wait and do a post after I finish the season, but that would only help me next week.  I needed a topic tonight!)

* Outfits… a woman is wearing a blue, skin-tight leather body suit and the camera zooms in close as she pulls a long unzip, for (hound-dog divorce attorney) Arnie Becker.

* In 1987, guys still had chest hair. They didn’t look like boy-band refugees.

* They showed Stewart Markowitz reading a report of computer “green-bar” paper. Man, I hated that stuff…

* (Secretary) Roxanne Melman had a hardback dictionary and thesaurus on her desk.

* I miss being able to slam a phone down when I’m pissed.

* An episode featured Stewart pushing the pace of his relationship with Ann, to the point of their needing therapy.  He eventually said that he couldn’t believe he could really land such a high-quality woman that wasn’t after him for his money. (He had lots of it.)  So he expended a lot of effort to seal the deal as soon as possible, so she couldn’t get away.

It was then I realized that I was Stewart Markowitz, albeit without the money.  No wonder I liked his character so much.

* Quote: “If we did that, gas would cost three bucks a gallon, and no one would stand for that!”  I almost had a spit-take.

* One of the cases was a lawsuit against a big tobacco company, which was widely described as “unwinnable.”  I’m glad that we eventually won that one, in real life.

* So far I’ve seen two visual references to oral sex, probably the first time on TV. One scene featured a bailiff under the judge’s desk, with nothing but her shoes sticking out.  In another, Mike and Gracie are making out in her office, and he just slides down out of frame, while she stands there and gasps.

I remember seeing stuff like that the first time, going, “I can’t believe they just did that… on national television… during prime time!"  Of course, by today’s standards… meh!

* In the mid-80s, there was little “political correctness.”  In fact, when they wrote Benny Stolwicz character, he was frequently described as “mentally retarded.”  There was no judgment involved; but I had to cringe when Arnie Becker told his secretary, Roxanne, that Benny could be hired, by saying, “It’s a go on your retardo.”

* They were all “secretaries,” and not “administrative assistants.”

* In watching so many episodes back to back, I could really appreciate how they stretched out a story line.  Back then, most shows introduced the plot and a complication, and then it was wrapped up within the hour. 

On LA Law, they would take several episodes to introduce little tidbits which wouldn’t develop into a full-scale plot point until much later.  And with a 22-episode season, they could really cover a lot of ground, in depth.

The other thing I liked was that unlike most other legal dramas of the past, the home team didn’t always win. And sometimes when they did, they still lost due to unforeseen consequences.

Anyway, I’m having a ball diving back into the 80s. After this, I have Season 3 on deck. Not sure how much further into the catalog I’ll go, but it’s been fun so far.

Maybe next I should go dig up Married With Children…

Monday, March 2, 2015

Kids Can be Very Perceptive

I heard another killer story about my nephew this week, that just cracked my shit up.

I’ve told you about little Sammy before…  Like the time when he was 5 and in front of the parents of the Christian Athletic League, upon seeing a goalie putting on his pads, exclaimed, “Those are for his NUTS, Dad!

You can get away with most anything, when you have such an angelic little face.

So, Sammy plays basketball for his school in their 9-year old league, and because they have so many 9-year olds, they have them split into two teams.  My brother and Sam were at the gym, watching the “other” team play, before Sam’s own game, so he could watch some of his friends who were on that team.

One kid, “Charles,” missed a layup on which he thought he was fouled.  He proceeded to have a falling down tantrum about it right there on the court, and carried on until the coach took him out to calm him down.

A few minutes later, Charles went back in and tried to steal the ball outside the 3-point area, which is a no-no.  Upon being called with the foul, he threw himself on the court and staged another tearful tantrum until his father had to come out of the stands and take him out of the game.

Back at home, later that evening, Sam and his mother were sitting in the chairs at the kitchen “island,” while my brother told the story of this boy’s carrying on. 

When he finished, Sammy waited a beat, looked up at his parents and very calmly said, “Charles is kind of a pussy.”

They both yelled, “SAMMY!!”  Which they followed by falling out laughing.  I mean come on, how could you not?

My brother’s wife asked if he taught him that word.  He didn’t, of course, but Sammy is a boy, and boys say things and hear things on the playground that would astonish their parents.  (Well, the moms, anyway. The dads have been there.)

I’m sure my brother never taught his son that particular term, but karmically, it’s still his fault.  He may not have taught his son to talk like that, but I know he must have taught hundreds of other sons that kind of language back when HE was the 9-year old on the playground.  He used to say things in grade school that made the teenage neighbor girls gasp. Now, it’s all coming back around.

The funny thing is that Sam’s older brother, Daniel, would NEVER talk like that in front of his parents, at any age.  But Sammy has no such filter.

Sammy is nothing if not his father’s son.

Out of this whole tale, the thing that astonishes me is how a 9-year old kid would dare to have a tantrum like that during his own basketball game, in full view of his friends and their parents.  Over not getting his way!  It just doesn’t compute to me.

If I had ever pulled something like that, I would have “gotten something to cry about.”  And I doubt I would be joining any more teams, until I could show that I’d grown the hell up.

I would have been mortified to cry in front of all those people.  I mean, I can remember two occasions as a child where I cried in public, but both of them involved getting smashed in the face with a baseball.

I wonder if this behavior might come from parents always letting kids win, to feed their ego and spare their feelings. I wrote about that once before, but basically, I’m against it.  It think it gives kids an unrealistic view of their own skills, which will become a problem as soon as they step out of the house and into a real competition.  I’d rather teach my (hypothetical) kid how to lose with grace and class, than make them think they’re better than they are, or they don’t have to work hard to win at something.

I think it also helps with the parental mystique.  I mean, it should be a big freakin’ deal when you beat a parent at something.  A rite of passage, even.

Was Charles so used to “getting all the calls” around the house that he didn’t know how to react when he didn’t?

I don’t know. I don’t know anything more than what I told you. But I have my suspicions. It sounds like a Parenting Fail, to me.

But then what the hell do I know?  As “Another Childless Douche,” the only bundle of joy I’ll ever know anything about is this one:

Meanwhile, Sammy will just keep telling it like it is…

“I’ll be bahck.”