Monday, September 28, 2015

Here's the Wind-up...

OK, so I was working off-site last Thursday, numbering and photographing framed art at our old building, when my cell phone went off.  When I looked at it, it said I’d missed a call from Robin, my boss.  Then the Facetime app went off, which was weird.

When I answered, I could see Robin and another co-worker grinning up from the screen.  Robin said she had some good news.  Instantly, I figured it was something job-related, like I’ll get to keep mine once our company’s sale (to a rival) is concluded.

But this was even better.  She told me I’d won a raffle we were having, giving me the honor of throwing out the first pitch at the Orioles game Tuesday night.

On the outside, I smiled and expressed my happiness at this once-in-a-lifetime thrill.  But on the inside, I was more like,

Here’s the fuller story…

As I’ve mentioned before, our company has been sponsoring the Orioles this year.  We made an ad buy so that every so often, our logo shows up on the rolling billboard behind home plate.  We also sponsored a food drive for the Maryland Food Bank.  All season, I’ve been able to get discounted tickets, in specified sections.

With all this going on, Camden Yards was the perfect place for our annual employee event.  So for tomorrow’s game against the Blue Jays, we’re having a pre-game party in the picnic area behind the bullpens in center field.  And as a sidelight, there was a charity raffle to win the opportunity to throw out the first pitch.  Which I won.

I can’t decide whether this is a karmic gift in return for being a generally good dude, or I’m being set up to fail on a large stage, in return for being a godless heathen.

When I came in on Friday, I receive the “official” notification via email, a sign on the digital message screens,

in addition to a number of congratulatory messages from those copied (including my boss’s boss).  I responded to all:

Thank you for this tremendous opportunity.

I’ll try very hard not to trip over the mound or hit anyone in the stands.
And I promise not to wear a Pittsburgh jersey.”

This will be nerve wracking enough.  I don’t need the additional experience of getting booed by 20,000 people.

When I emailed my buddy, the CFO, with the good news, he emailed back, “Holy blown rotator…  And DON’T TOUCH the grass!!!!!!

I responded, “I am totally going to touch the grass.  I may even do snow angels.  Gotta watch the rotator cuff, though… don’t want to have to go on the DL.”

You remember our tour of Camden Yards in July, right?  I got reprimanded by the tour guide for daring to brush the grass with the back of my fingers.  Well, look at me now, buddy… I’m ‘bout to walk all over that grass.  That I’m going to bend down and riffle through it with my hand goes without saying.

The CFO’s other point was more of a concern… Four years ago I had a partially torn rotator cuff.  It took me several months of physical therapy to get it fixed up.  But even still, I haven’t thrown anything more than a wiffleball ever since.  I’d have to test it out a little bit, to see what I’d be capable of.

At work, the women in my department asked how far I’d have to throw it.  I know that the pitching rubber is 60 feet from home plate, and these honorary throw-out-the-first-ballers usually toss from up in front of the mound.  So I measured out 50 feet (it helps to wear a size-12 shoe) along our hallway.  [Gulp]

I’m 50’ from the double doors alllll the way down there.

Yipe.  I was definitely going to need some practice.

So Saturday, I went to visit my brother so that I could throw a bullpen session with my nephew, Daniel, so I could find a suitable arm slot.

We threw for about 10 minutes; I’d guess that was around 20 pitches, 15 of which didn’t go straight into the grass.  Luckily, Daniel was pretty good at scooping them.  Anyway, I think I found my delivery.  I just needed to gain the confidence that one brisk pitch wasn’t going to re-tear anything.

Yes, I could just go out there and lob in a rainbow, but where’s the adventure in that?  Right off I decided I wanted to use a windup I used to toy with back in my Pony League days. 

There used to be a great Cuban pitcher for the 1970s Red Sox, named Luis Tiant, who would swivel around during his leg lift until he was facing the outfield, and then whip around and deliver the ball.  He looked like a knot being untied.

I thought this would come as a surprise, but when I mentioned it to Daniel, he said, “Yeah, that’s what Dad said you’d probably do.” 

Brothers just know these things…

So yeah, this will be a bit of a high-wire act.  If it all works, it will be brilliant.  If I sail one into the stands, or straight into the grass, I risk ending up on a Sports Center blooper reel. Go big or go home, I guess.

Of course, I’m sure my handlers will have a laundry list of things I’m not supposed to do.  (And if they knew me, it would be the size of a scroll.)  And I assume I’ll have to sign some kind of liability waiver in case I hurt myself.  I’ve already been in contact with the person who’s supposed to be my guide.  I haven’t let on about doing anything unusual, lest she feel the need to add to the scroll.  Better to beg forgiveness than ask permission, I always say.

She said I was allowed to take one person with me, to stand down on the track while I do my thing.  I chose to bring Robin.  Can’t hurt to bring your boss, right?  And it gets me out from having to choose from among friends. 

I plan on handing her my iPhone and having her video my performance, for better or worse.  And I presume the company will have camera coverage as well.  Sitcom Kelly was already coming to this game, so she may be able to elbow her way to the front to get an unimpeded view.  As for the rest of my workmates?  All of our seats are in the left field upper deck.  I don’t think they’ll be able to capture the true drama of the moment.

I put in a great deal of thought regarding which jersey to wear.  On weekdays, the Orioles wear white, so the Mojo Handbook dictates that I match that from one of my three white jerseys: Manny Machado, Matt Wieters and Chris Davis.  Rather than worrying about which player to represent, I looked for which shirt looks least like a “knockoff.”  I decided to go with the Manny.  And it doesn’t hurt that he’s the only one of those three who is likely to be around next season.

So I think I have accounted for everything I can control, which leaves me with only one remaining worry, which I can’t:

What makes it worse is that if they have to reschedule, I will only be in town on Wednesday, because Thursday I’m heading to Florida to visit the folks, where I will remain for the rest of the baseball season. 

I wonder if they’d agree to play the makeup game on Wednesday for me, instead of Thursday, so I don’t have to miss out.  Baseball players play 162 games anyway; why quibble over one lousy date?

So, wish me luck… I may need it.

I wonder if anyone’s ever thrown out the first pitch wearing a plastic poncho?

Monday, September 21, 2015

The Tall Girl

I’ve had this story on the back burner for about as long as I’ve been writing this blog.  Tonight, I’m sick of politics and I haven’t done anything blog-worthy lately, so why not tell the story?

Bonus: I get to cross something off my Blog Idea List.  I haven’t used anything from it in ages.

I was living in upstate New York, I guess it was about 1991.  I had only moved there from Cleveland in 1990 and was having zero luck in finding female companionship, aside from the strip clubs.  That made about a 3-year dry spell for me, so I decided to do something drastic… I joined a Personals Dating Club for singles.  Obviously this was before the internet age and online dating.

With this group, they had a monthly newsletter, the purpose of which was to post dating ads.  You’d write your ad and they’d run it with a phone exchange attached.  For a fee, anyone interested could call and leave you a recorded message.  Then you could call into your exchange, and for another fee, listen to all your messages.

Not being a dummy, I’d call the line and record all the messages with my answering machine.  That way I could listen as long and as many times as I liked, without running up a bill.  And during sad times, I’d have a tape I could play full of a bunch of women telling me they wanted to go out with me!

These were “hit and miss” adventures because there was rarely a photo involved. You didn’t know what the other person looked like until you showed up for your date.  So I went on a number of dates, and even some second dates, but nothing really took hold.

On one of those dates, I met the Tall Girl.  We went out once, had a reasonably good time, but never really got together again.  I think she said she didn’t have time for dating.  I was like, “OK, whatevs.  Back to the tape.”

(I never went out with more than one prospect at a time.  I’d pick one, then ride it out to the end. Only after one of us decided we’d had enough, would I go back and pursue what I considered the next best option.)

A couple of months later, the Tall Girl called me again and wanted to go out.  I was surprised but agreeable.  She said at the time of our first date, she was still embroiled in a somewhat rocky relationship, but now she was free and clear.

Now, when I say this girl was tall, I mean she was TALL.  She stood 6’1” and had a 36” inseam to her jeans.  Now, I’m 6’3” and I only wore a 34” inseam.  She said she carried most of her height in her legs.  I’d never been with a girl that tall before.  It was thrilling, but a bit unnerving too.  I mean, it really messed with my perspective.

To think about it, for every girl I’d ever been with, my default view of her was always looking down at her, and her looking up at me.  In some cases, I used to use steps or curbs to raise her up a little bit for a kiss goodnight.

With the Tall Girl, we would hug and I could look straight forward, right into her eyes.  It was wonderful… but weird.  It's like you've always known how to hug, but suddenly you're with someone whose arms are in the wrong place.

We started dating late in the year, probably around November.  I remember going Christmas shopping with her and that was weird too.  We’d be walking down the corridor, arm in arm, and people would see us coming and scatter out of our way like we were a couple of monsters.

We went into McDonalds once and when we stepped up to the counter, the cashier went, “Oooooh, are you guys a couple?

A couple of what, I don’t know.

At that point, I think I had just made it into my company’s home office yet, but the Christmas season was still crazy.  I was in a town far from home and missed my friends and family.  But that year, I had somewhere to go so I wouldn’t have to be alone.

I remember going to her apartment after we closed for Christmas, dropping my bag, putting the Charlie Brown Christmas CD on the stereo, and standing in the middle of her living room, just hugging, throughout the first four songs on the CD, without breaking.  I think that was a world record hug, right there.  But I was just so happy to be with someone over the holidays.  Our bodies just seemed to fit together so well, it was hard to let go.

Our bodies.  Standing up, our bodies fit together perfectly.  Lying down was another story.

See, she really was a big girl.  And I don’t mean fat.  She wasn’t fat at all.  She was built in perfect proportion to her height.  Great rack, too.  But she weighed almost as much as I did.  She had an athlete’s frame… when you talk about a “big boned girl,” that was her.  There was just a lot of her.  So when we went to bed, it was like sleeping with a linebacker.

There’s only one image I can think of to describe what it was like to have sex with her:

I felt like I was balancing about two feet in the air.  I could have planked on her pubic bone.

Now I’m not complaining, mind you.  It was just weird.  Being with her was a one-of-a-kind experience.

It wasn’t all wine and roses, though.  We were basically two lonely people who found each other, but that didn’t mean we had much in common.  One problem was music.  She had a very limited scope of what she liked, which was Madonna, and oldies; Elvis in particular.

I remember going on a road trip to see her parents, just after Christmas.  They lived about 2 hours out of town.  I was all excited about playing some music with her… I must have had a zillion mix tapes and each song had its own story.  But we started with one of her tapes, the Madonna soundtrack to the Dick Tracy movie.  We played it all the way through.  And then she wanted to hear it again.

I was like, “Seriously?  That was 10 songs in 45 minutes, and you want to hear them all again?  Already??”  (Mind you, this was a grownup, not a little kid.  I know how you parents get to listen to the same things over and over.  So you know how annoying that can be.)  But I didn’t put up too much of a fuss about it.  I was more concerned about the object of our trip, which brings me to the other problem… meeting her parents.

My fears turned out to be correct; they hated me.  To this day, I still don’t know why.  I mean, we showed up, had snacks, ate dinner, shot the breeze, then we went back home.  I was polite, friendly, sat up straight and kept my elbows off the table, and never even felt up their daughter.  I thought things went fine.

Then later that week, (or maybe the next night, who can remember?), I walk in while she’s having an anguished conversation with them on the phone, about how they don’t like me and are disappointed in her with her choice of boyfriends.

They were small-town, conservative farm people and I suspect I looked like too much of a long-haired freak to them.  (Which is a strange rap, for a bald guy.)  But they lived two hours away and we just went along as we were; hanging out and trying to figure out how to coexist in a small space, with competing spheres of interest.

It all went to hell on Valentine’s Day.  I showed up with a CD rack (she didn’t have anywhere to keep her CDs) and a Phantom of the Opera CD that she had shown interest in.  She answered the door and without even letting me in, said we couldn’t see each other anymore because she was going back to her previous boyfriend.

I was shell-shocked because all she ever did was complain to me about how lousy he was… how he was lazy and unmotivated, how he didn’t treat her well and took her for granted, and the kicker: how every time she granted him “a little favor” in bed, she wound up at the doctor’s with a throat infection.

I handed her the presents, said, “Happy Valentine’s Day,” turned my back and left.  Never called her again.  She never called me either. 

You know how you always think of snappy things to say long after the opportunity?  I should have told her, “Inside the CD, you’ll find a gift certificate for an Ear Nose and Throat guy.  Enjoy your strep.”

But that would have just sounded bitter.

Anyway, shortly after that busted up, I was introduced to Future-Ex, so I didn’t have too much time to dwell on the Tall Girl.

Instead, I had a whole new realm of crazy to experience.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Come to il Papa

You know, this guy Pope Francis, I have to give him credit.  He’s really shaking things up, not only for the Catholics but for the whole political/religious national landscape.  And I’m having a great time watching all the politicians who tout their religiosity backpedaling from this bold, yet humble religious leader.

For me, it all goes back to the early 80s, when the “Moral Majority” reared its head, determined to spoil everyone's fun.  That’s when a socially conservative religious bloc decided to throw in en masse with the Republican party, in an effort to put Ozzie and Harriet back on TV.

The Republicans, happy to welcome any band of motivated, registered voters, took them in immediately.  Not that they actually changed anything… I mean, TV got even looser with nudity and language, and music got even more vulgar, although they did get parental warnings instituted.  Of course, the parental warning became the bait… that’s how kids knew where the good stuff was.

Anyway, the point is that they accepted this voting bloc and courted their votes aggressively by talking up religious aspects while campaigning.  But when it came to governing?  Not so much, at least not on a national level.  The GOP is now, and always* has been primarily concerned with promoting big business and business owners. 

* “Always” as in “as far back as I can remember.”

Their use of values-based voters was essentially a means to gain and maintain elective office.  And all it cost was a few speeches, or some bills put forth that everyone knew had no chance of passing.

Don’t believe me?  It’s all playing out right now, as the leader of one of the largest Christian denominations in the world, the one whose believers are taught is infallible with respect to the teachings of the church, is reclaiming the original intent of said religion, which clashes with the original intent of Republican politics.

Let’s look at some of the things Pope Francis has said recently, and I’ll tell you why the GOP is suddenly demanding for a greater separation of church and state.

1. It is our moral duty to prevent climate change.  Republicans lead the charge on climate change denial for the simple reason that they are bankrolled by the fossil fuel industry to an obscene degree.  Remember, when you hear “The Koch Brothers,” they run one of the largest coal, oil and fuel conglomerations in the world.  And the last thing they want is any cutback in drilling, mining or energy usage.

When Jeb Bush said that the Pope ought to leave the science to the scientists, he probably didn’t realize that the Pope is more a scientist than Bush is an oilman.  Rick Santorum, the poster boy for Catholic politicians, was in the same corner, disavowing what the Pope had to say, which led to an interesting observation from atheist Bill Maher.  On his show last week, Maher asked Santorum, “How is it that I agree with the Pope more than you do?

It’s because the politician may believe in his religion, but he believes in the party line even more.

2. Women who have abortions can be absolved of their “sin.” This one was puzzling to me because I thought any sin could be absolved through the sacrament of confession.  But OK, if it couldn’t and now it can, because the Pope says so, what’s the problem?  That’s a completely religious argument decided by the authorized, historical leader of the faith.

The problem is that it goes against the anti-abortion orthodoxy of the religious conservatives, who seek to penalize women for the audacity of having sex without intending the pregnancy.  People like Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, Scott Walker and Santorum had a fit because they are not going to give up a wedge issue, just like that.  There is too much money to be raised by demonizing the sluts who would dare to visit Planned Parenthood.

3. Unfettered capitalism is the “dung of the devil.”  That one cracked me up.  What an orator.  He further said the poor have “sacred rights” to labor, lodging, and land.

That can’t be further from the Republican position, which is, “If you weren’t born with a silver spoon in your mouth… well, then it sucks to be you. Be sure to clean up before you go, thank you.
They don’t want to hear anything about feeding the poor or healing the sick, or anything else that Jesus actually said.  If you ask them, Jesus wants them to provide a strong national defense.  And remember those “religious” nuts in the C-Street House… that clandestine group of congressmen, senators and other power players, who believe that they are in a position of power because of God’s will and therefore whatever they choose to do, no matter how selfish, immoral or depraved, that’s also God’s will.  How’s that for circular logic?  

(That was not a joke.  Look up the C-Street House sometime.  Or just read what I wrote about them in 2009.  It’ll scare the shit out of you.)

4. Rejection of Creationism.  Like I said, the Pope is a scientist, with a degree in Chemistry.  He knows the earth isn’t 6000 years old and wasn’t created in 6 days.  And he also said that fact doesn’t necessarily mean there wasn’t a divine hand involved.  It just means that you can’t necessarily take a 2000-year-old book of stories literally.

The Huckabees and Jindals of the world don’t like this.  To accept a non-creationist stance would be to turn their backs on the thousands of muttonheads who think the Flintstones was a documentary.  Or rather, the dollars they can raise and votes they can receive from said muttonheads.

Pissing off these rubes is bad for business, and by that, I mean the business of getting elected.

5. Making it easier and cheaper to get a marriage annulled.  Funny, I’m not hearing too much clamor about this one, especially not from the ones who have been married and divorced a number of times.

The Republicans should be in step with this one because the Pope is doing what they do… he’s trying to increase his market share.  He’s reaching out to divorcing people as so not to lose them.  Kinda like how the GOP is reaching out to women, African-Americans and Hispan… no wait, they’re not doing that at all, are they?
I’ve never made it a secret… you can call me the Poster Boy for Recovering Catholics.  I agree with practically nothing in Church doctrine.  But I have to like this Pope Francis.  He’s not exactly undoing everything, but he’s trying to drag the Church out of the Dark Ages, at least a little bit.  Who knows, maybe a pass on birth control will be next.

After all, like the Pope recently said, “Who am I to judge?

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

A Rocky Week

Today I’m reminded of that old Rodney Dangerfield opener, “Y’know I’m all right now but last week I was in rough shape.” [tugs at non-existent necktie]

You remember my old friends, the kidney stones?  They made a return visit, one that was overlong and not appreciated.  If you’ll recall, I had that 7-mm stone in 2013, which moved painfully into my bladder and then ceased all activity without ever passing.

It was on my left side, but they told me I also had two 5-mm ones “in the chamber” on the right side.  They stayed put, until last Tuesday.

For a while now, I’d been wondering if the original “Death Star” was breaking up because I could sense that something might be awry in the old pipes.  I thought I saw a black flake pass while I was peeing, but I was never sure.  I’m old, so it could have been dust.

Then Tuesday I was on the hopper at work, as one often is during times of discovery, when I gave one last push and Sweet Mary Mother of Fuck!  A huge pain exploded in my mid right side, just under the short ribs.

The scary thing about the first time it happened was that I didn’t know what it was.  This time, I recognized it right off, so I knew what I was in for.  I was just hoping I wouldn’t have to hurl at work.

I was more angry than hurt because I had plans that night to go to the Orioles game with Sitcom Kelly.  She had her mom’s company seats behind home plate and the team was celebrating the 20th anniversary of Cal Ripken breaking Lou Gehrig’s consecutive game streak (or just “The Streak,” as it’s known here in Baltimore).

Luckily I was still carrying a bottle of Percocets around, which were prescribed to me the last time I had a stone.  (Percocet = Oxycodone + acetaminophen.)  I waited about an hour, to make sure it didn’t just go away on its own, and then took a couple of Percs.  Not much happened in the next half hour, so I emailed Sitcom Kelly to tell her it didn’t look like I was going to be able to make the game.

Then 30 minutes later, I realized that the pain had gone away completely.  I was like, “Damn, this stuff is good!

I mean, it’s no Dilaudid, but it did the job.  I emailed her back again and said, “Wait up, I may be able to go after all.”  Luckily she hadn’t found another taker yet.  We waited another hour or so before I recommitted.  Meanwhile, we kept emailing.

Sitcom Kelly: I’m having a “how will this affect me moment.  Are you going to be grouchy?  Or will you be fun because you’re doped up?

Bluz: I will be my usual charming self.  Not feeling grouchy at all, although that may change in the face of more blinding pain.  But I will try to whimper quietly, so to not infringe on your enjoyment of the atmosphere.

I figured I’d bring the Percs with me, for when the pain flared up again.  I wasn’t na├»ve enough to think the pain gone for good.  I was concerned about drinking, though.  There was no warning on the bottle, but the Internet (I think it was had a doozy.  I learned mixing Percocet and alcohol could cause “drowsiness, dizziness, lightheadedness, difficulty concentrating, and impairment in thinking and judgment.”

I was like, “That’s just like any other day at The Bullpen before an Orioles game… What’s the problem?

So after work, I eased over to the ballpark and met Sitcom Kelly at The Bullpen.  Because it had been about 5 hours since I’d taken the Percs, and they had an “every 4 hours as needed” dosage, I felt fine with having a beer.  In fact, I had two, but that was it.  About 6:30, I got a bottle of water for the road, and because I was feeling it twinge up again, took two more Percs, then we went into the Yard.

We were just in time to see the Iron Man himself, Cal Ripken, come out of the dugout to throw out the first pitch.

Cal coming out of the dugout.  He saw his shadow, so that means 3 more weeks of bad baseball.

Cal taking the mound and schmoozing The Bird.

I basically felt fine throughout the game.  And speaking of “fiiiiine,” I spent at least a couple of innings talking with a good looking blonde from Iowa, who was sitting in front of us.  She was with another dude who I thought was her husband, but she mentioned he was her boss and they were in town for a seminar or something.  She was staying at a 4-star hotel right beside my office building.

I was like, “Whoo Hoo!  Welcome to Baltimore, hon!  How ‘bout you let me take you to watch the crab races?”  (You know, in my head.) 

Eventually, I spotted a ring on her left ring finger and then she mentioned being married and having kids and stuff.  [Cue dying PacMan sound effect.]  Oh well.

But it was funny because when I was talking with Sitcom Kelly about it later, I was like, “I don’t know what I thought I was going to do with her tonight, even if she was single… not with these kidney stones on the move.”

I’m pretty sure pacing around and alternately clutching my side or throwing up is not a huge turn-on.  Granted, I could have asked her to lunch the next day, but I don’t chase married women.

But maybe I should take my next vacation to Iowa.

Anyway, we (Sitcom Kelly and I) left after the 7th inning, because the Orioles were getting their asses handed to them again.  I was OK getting to the subway and riding back to my car, but the pains started again in earnest as I drove home.  I came very close to hurling in the car but managed to beat it back.  Then once inside, I got to the bathroom in time but still managed to deep-breathe it away.

Two more Percs and I was out for the night and felt much better on Wednesday.  I thought I was clear, but the pains returned again on Thursday and Friday.  In fact, on Friday, I left work early so I could have a pill and a nap.  It was pretty bad.

But then after my nap, I felt OK, and it’s pretty much stayed that way.  So maybe the two episodes of pain were the two stones working their ways out separately, and on into the bladder.  Still though, nothing has actually passed so I presume they’re still in there. 

I bet if I did some jumping jacks right now, my bladder would sound like maracas.

The rest of the weekend was pretty good.  My parents were in town so I went to my brother’s every night to hang out with the Fam.

Monday, I made my annual trip to the State Fair to bet on the horse races.  I did OK… I lost about $16 over 8 races, which was greatly aided by hitting an exacta for $25 in the last race.

The third race was strange because 3 of the 6 horses scratched before the race.  I’ve never seen a race before with only 3 horses running. 

Then as a kicker, the top two horses finished in a dead heat… a balls-on tie.  On the plus side, I had both of the horses in an exacta box.  (Meaning they could finish 1-2 with either one winning, and I’d win the bet.)  So with the dead heat, I got a payout for each combination.  On the minus side, one combo paid $2.10 on a $2.00 bet, and the other paid $2.80, for winnings of a whopping ninety freakin’ cents.

In other words, the only “Benjamin” I’d be seeing was the one on my bottle of Diet Coke.

After the races, it was back to my brother’s for the opening Ohio State game of the season.  As always, we dressed for the occasion.

I swear those kids were toddlers 20 minutes ago.

The Buckeyes are scary good this year. Between their incredible talent and cake schedule, they should have nothing to fear all season but self-inflicted disciplinary suspensions.

In less fun news, I was saddened today to read of the death of Judy Carne, who used to be on Laugh-In, in the 1960s. 

I used to love Laugh-In when I was a boy, not only because it was funny and silly, but I loved Judy Carne.  Most other people went for Goldie Hawn and I liked her too, but there was something about that little red-headed English pixie that I found fascinating and completely adorable.  I mean, I liked her even more than CatWoman, because Judy knew enough not to mess with Batman.  (Hey, I was, like, 7, so sue me for having had a limited frame of reference.) 

I used to get upset every time they’d do the “sock-it-to-me” bit and she’d get doused with water.  I hope that where ever she is now, there’s a cozy fire and an endless supply of soft towels.