Monday, December 22, 2008

Something for you to read, Part 13

Check out this slate.com article on Jean Shepard, the man behind A Christmas Story and long-time radio icon. The piece reads as a thoughtful once-fan memoir, and has a tragic element that is as believable as it is sad.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Something for you to read, Part 12

Plenty of interesting stuff on the old series of tubes this morning, but here are a few I think worthy of your attention:

(1) An intriguing and heart-rending article from the Financial Times (originally published in the spring. I believe but wish I could not believe the fact cited in the article that more humans are enslaved today than at any other time in human history.

(2) A brief polemic by the amazing George Packer, an anti-poetry at the Inauguration screed that, despite my support for poetry and greater public awareness of it, makes a lot of sense.

(3) A pretty excellent, lengthy piece in the NYT that ties the continuing economic collapse to the rotten ideologies of the current White House occupants in such a compelling way that even the last standing market conservative has to say, "yeah, you got us there."

Sunday, December 14, 2008

spreading the wealth

As we all know, it is particularly important these days to spend our few disposable meager dollars wisely and, whenever possible, locally. This weekend I did my best to hold true to that. I think I did a pretty decent job.

I've been looking forward to this past weekend for quite some time, both for the opportunity it provided to support some of the cultural/commercial institutions I'm fond of and to get my holiday shopping finished.

Friday I hit up Day 1 of the Asterisk auction, buying some great lamps and tables outright and placing introductory bids on a half-dozen or so pieces. I had been grumping about during the afternoon and had all but made up my mind to make it a quick trip in and out of Tremont, but I ended up sticking around the gallery for longer than expected and when I finally left, before I got to my car I got a call from a friend in the neighborhood that wanted to meet up for dinner. I decided to go for it and hit up the new cupcake place and Visible Voice while I was waiting. The ladies at the cupcake place were super sweet (which bodes well for the baked goods) and the dudes at Visible Voice not only tipped me off on the new Cleveland brewery I mentioned yesterday, but also called and found out what the new special sandwich of the month for December is at Melt when it came up in conversation.

When I met up with my friend and his wife, we drove around the neighborhood for a while before deciding to grab dinner at Fat Cats. By the time we settled on that choice, we were in the wrong corner of Tremont, and when I went to pull a u-turn, we caught sight of the new gourmet chocolate and beer store, where we made a quick stop, snagging 6-packs and chocolates before getting back on the road to dinner.

Dinner was nice, especially in terms of the company. It was a relaxed, pleasurable meal, with lots of laughs and good conversation. We stuck around a while after settling the check, probably to our server's chagrin, but I think we made it up to him on the tip.

Saturday I ventured over to Waterloo, where I enjoyed a cup of coffee and some nice chit-chattery with the fine folks at Music Saves and Shoparooni as I bought a couple christmas gifts. I also came to the realization that my sister is the only "cool" person I'm buying presents for, and as much as I might like to, I don't think the rest of my family will appreciate the idea of me just spending all my money on cool things for her since all they want are gift cards to places where I refuse to buy them. After Waterloo Road I hit some other east side stops and finally made it back to the home hood. I didn't feel like going home, for whatever reason, so I grabbed my latest road book and went into Pub on Lee for a Christmas Ale.

(Note of explanation: By "road book" I am referring to the book I always have stashed in my car, in case I find myself waiting for something and pining for the written word. They are usually short, of topical interest, and of the nature where you can go a few weeks between cracking covers without losing to much of the point. Currently, the road book du jour is Robert Conquest's classic Stalin and the Kirov Murder, which is quite amazing.)

Although my firm intent was to have one beer and then go home, when I was at the end of the first beer I realized I still had a half-chapter to go and figured I'd drink another. When that one was down to the dregs I was in the middle of an interesting conversation with the manager and another patron about Civil War prisons, by the end of Christmas Ale #3 the conversation was still riveting, though the topic had changed to assassination attempts against Hitler. I was in a stupor after #4 and managed to disengage from the bar stool. I then went home, watched sappy movies about teen pregnancy, and blogged nonsense before having a cute long phone call with an ex from college that never seems to disappear from my life (which is a nice thing).

Today I woke up, did some work at home, and then went to meet a friend for brunch at the Beachland Ballroom. The Beachland brunch is a wonderful thing, though everyone I try to convince of this thinks I'm crazy. I truly believe its menu competes with any other in town, with the added bonus that there is never a wait YET there is always a cool person or three spinning excellent tunes. Today I had a lovely coconut risotto with grilled apples and pears, a billion cups of coffee, and a crazy agua fresca concoction. After eating, my friend and I (and her friend) popped into Shoparooni (again), where I dropped $80 on the print I'd almost purchased the day before and six bucks on some killer old man soap.

Next, we crossed the city and hit up Bazaar Bizarre. It was my first time in the former American Greetings complex, and that place is such a cool use of post-industrial space. The bazaar event was cool, and I was able to snag most of my remaining gifts, including a cool neck-tie clutch purse for my hipster sister, a t-shirt for my hard-rock lovin' brother, a pendant thing for my mom that was purple enough that she'll wear it and funky enough that I didn't mind buying it for her, and a repurposed old work shirt for my trendster other brother.

After the bazaar I hit up Tremont again to see which items I had successfully bid upon at the Asterisk fundraiser. Turns out I was almost entirely shut out, but the one piece I did win was a cool mid-sized painting by Dana Depew that is already proudly hanging in my hall corridor. I also got a great price on a piece held over from the previous show, now gracing the wall above my sofa (or, rather, Smelly's sofa, as she's the one that sits on it). After leaving the gallery (but not before doing my best to help Dana lighten the keg of Labatt Blue in the entryway), I decided to pick up a sandwich for home at the delicious place across the street from Visible Voice. Natch, it was closed, as it has been every time I've tried to go in the last few months. Perhaps it is out of business? If it isn't, it will be soon with its hard-to-predict service hours, though I digress. I stuck out with the sandwich shop, but since I'd already parked I figured I'd stop into the new record store that has opened in Tremont. This didn't make a lot of sense, as I am not exactly an owner of a record player, but fuck it, right? I went in, very quickly perused the limited CD section, and then snagged a couple art-zines and indie comic books, including the best titled thing I've seen since Jonathan Lethem's You Don't Love Me Yet: "Every Girl Is the End of the World For Me" by Jeffrey Brown. While I was checking out and talking to the owner dude about cool Houston neighborhoods, I got a text from a friend saying she thought she just passed me in Tremont. Twas I, I responded, and we scheduled a quick impromptu brew session at a nearby watering hole. It was a nice, unexpected event, and I enjoyed the hour.

Eventually I made my way home, poorer by quite a bit but in possession of some nice gifts and some great work by talented local artists. As the weekend closes out, I feel like I accomplished my goals, both in terms of crossing things of my shit-to-get list and also putting a small amount of cash back in the hands of some of the folks that make Cleveland as good of a place to live as it is.

light and frenchy

Although I've always found Sofia Coppola to be a bit of a poser with the incredible luck of having the daddy she does, I do admit that she has hit the nail on the head with this commercial.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Welcome to Indigo Imp!

I don't know how this happened without me hearing a single peep, but apparently a new microbrewery has opened in downtown Cleveland. I suppose it helps I haven't read a Scene in a few months.

Regardless, I only learned of this new addition last night, when I rudely invited myself into a conversation between the staff and another customer at Visible Voice. Apparently you can only buy this fine ale at the brewery store and a single other location, Lilly's Handmade Chocolates in Tremont (another place I never checked out until last night and is also worth patronizing).

They've only released 2 different beers so far, a blonde and a winter one. At 12 bucks a sixer, I decided only to splurge on the winter six-pack, but my friend snagged a blonde six-pack and his wife had the genius idea to swap halvsies. Long story short, I have three of each cooling in my fridge, and if I remember to, I'll post my thoughts after I crack one.

It might be a bit, maybe a special occasion (if anything special ever happens to me again), as the price is kinda high. If $12 is too steep for you, even to support a new business actually making a home in downtown CLE, you can get them for a few bucks cheaper at the actual brewery. Check the website for the d's.

Gone.

This weekend has been chock full o' stuff and is only half way over. I'll post more later about the events, but right now today's greatest hits consist of the following:

- Getting my oil changed FOR FREE (Thanks Simon's on Lee Road!).
- Christmas present shopping at Music Saves.
- Bumping into the ex for the first time since breaking up in August.
- Getting afternoon drunk on 4 Christmas Ales.
- Telling my dog I would not be giving her bedtime kisses because I saw her eat a fly. She either didn't understand my words or didn't care, as she ate another one, and then proceeded to spend the next 10 minutes raping her 2 foot tall Stitch doll (as in Lilo and Stitch) that has been her "lover" for the last few years. I'm still not giving her bedtime kisses.
- Now I'm watching Juno and bizarrely wishing I'd knocked someone up when I was in high school, justifying this total nonsense with the knowledge that if I had, the little bastard would be around adolescence by now and I'd probably be back in the black. That or I'd be living somewhere under an assumed name, working for cash under the table, not holding my breath for any father of the year awards.

What?!?

Yes, I know. I'm losing it. It is gone.

Nevertheless, anybody want to set me up with their single friend? I like brunettes.

I'm only half serious. Or half joking. Whichever you prefer.

genius, parte dos

Oh my lord.
I am so bored.
Held the hand of Satan.

Oh Laura,
what has happened to you?
Held the hand of the devil.

I was on MTV.
Everybody was lookin' at me.
Held the hand of the devil.

Genius

"I got a lot of walking to do, and I don't want to wear my-y-y worried shoes."

Thursday, December 11, 2008

a smile

I was scrolling down the page on Andrew Sullivan's blog when I came across this picture - the result of my eyebrows bouncing and smile cracking was so sudden it almost hurt a little bit. In a good way.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Morning Observations

As I climbed into my car this morning, I was waiting to see when my mood would turn dark. Not if, but when, as sometime between locking my apartment door and arriving at my office, it never seems to fail that I get grumpy. I blame this on the fact that I hate going to my office. In my line of work, I can usually work from just about anywhere, but some days I just have to go in. And it is NEVER for something I want to do. Hence the bad mood.

The last couple of morning drives I found myself feeling really anxious, a new development that I blamed on the cd in my stereo, JJ Magazine's Be Happy Love. This is obviously a spurious correlation, as I really like that album and there is nothing anxiety-inducing about it at all; it just happened to be the same thing I listened to both uncomfortable mornings. (To further expand on how much I like this album, it might be my single favorite album I've purchased by any of the several talented indie bands from Cleveland, and that's really saying something. Even as good as it is, though, I think it makes a better complement to the drive home from work rather than the drive to work. The Hot Rails cd is the best to-work local cd. The Unsparing Sea album, which is Be Happy Love's chief rival for my favorite local album, is beautiful but should never be listened to during any car ride related in any way to work, going or coming. But I digress).

So, as I settled into my car, turned the key, and the last half-dozen seconds of Track 6 played, I thought about changing the disc. But then I got distracted and started backing out of the driveway, and next thing you know I'm driving down Cedar, heading toward Hell, I mean, work.

As I'm sitting at a stoplight, I accidentally lock eyes with a woman in the car on the other side of the light, waiting for it to change so she can continue on in the opposite direction as me. The contrast betweeen her youthfulness and complete seriousness was striking and a little weird, so I look away to my right, where I notice the occupants of the hatchback in the lane adjacent to me. There is a hipster looking bearded dude in the front, and he's turned around and talking to a young woman in the back. There is no one in the passenger seat. This puzzles me, so I go into super-creepy mode and peer harder, and notice there is a baby seat in the back, next to the woman, the kind of seat for newborns. I start watching the couple, realize they are doing a cute but likely joint-numbing over-the-seat hand-holding thing and how nervous and happy they both appear. This makes me smile and feel a little choked up.

All the way down Cedar, from Lee Road to the crazy turny area just past the Cedar-Fairmount hoopla district, these folks are next to me, and I can't stop wondering about what is going on in there. I also find myself driving very carefully, like I'm sure the new dad driver is also doing. Of all the cars I don't want to get in an accident with, it is this one. (Plus I have a headlight out and my tags might have just expired, so I'd totally be the bad guy if anything accident-oriented went down.) Even when we come up to the aforementioned crazy turny part, by the rapid station, when faced with the terrible decision of whether to speed up and cut the happy family car off so I can get in the turn lane I want to be in OR fuck myself traffic-wise, I go for the self-sacrificing option. Eventually we turn in different directions and I make it to my parking lot a few minutes later. I'm actually in a good mood at this point, doing a little driver seat dancing and gloved drumming on my steering wheel. Clearly the JJ Magazine/anxiety hypothesis was flawed. I'll have to find something else to blame.

I park, walk to my office building, and notice a dude that is seriously a spitting image of V.I. Lenin just sorta hanging out. To be specific, secretly crossing the Gulf of Finland pre-revolution Lenin, with the sailor's cap and the disguise. Though with the traditional goatee. OK, that technically is a contradiction, but work with me. (It was something like this picture plus this beard from this one.) I want to ask him if this look is on purpose (I'd bet a lot of money that it is), but figure that'd be rude, so keep it to myself. By doing so, I decide I have earned a few more karma points, added on to the several I picked up by being a self-conscious driver around happy couple with the infant, and catch the elevator to the floor where my office is. (Note: I give myself karma points for just about anything.) I don't take the first elevator that comes available, as there is a guy who is probably my creepy rival and seems certain to talk to me in the elevator, which makes me infinitely uncomfortable, but another one comes almost immediately and I take it. Probably my reward for not making a comment to Lenin Wannabe Guy. I'm still waiting for the morning drive good karma payback, but that'll probably take a while, as it is certain to be big.

I get off the elevator feeling pretty good about myself and realize that I want a cup of coffee but there is no time for me to buy a cup and get to my morning appointment. So I do what any narcissistic jerk would do, particularly someone who spent his elevator ride wondering about the form in which his morning drive good karma payback would come, and decide I'll just steal a cup of coffee from the break room where a handful of colleagues have established a community coffee station. You are supposed to donate cash or coffee, but I never donate either one, yet occasionally pilfer a cup of coffee. Yes, yes, I am a bad person, a free rider, the very personification of the age-old collective action problem. Whatever. The coffee is never very good, always lukewarm yet reheatedly gross, so I don't feel bad. And for the record, this does not affect my karma point tally. It just doesn't.

At least not the karma point tally I was thinking about. Apparently there are several, as I think I have a specifically coffee-themed karma account. That would explain the three separate times I spilled my pilfered coffee, including once on my hand when it was still hot and once on my sweater in front of onlookers. I probably deserved that.

I sneak the coffee and ride the elevator back down, en route to my appointment, silently wishing very bad luck to the maintenance dude that still hasn't changed the lightbulbs in my office and the young guy with metal blasting out of his ipod earphones. (Sidenote: Why is it that 98% of the folks I ride elevators with that are listening to headphones at a volume where I can not only hear it but can make out most lyrics, even with my poor hearing, are listening to speed metal? Why can't it be something good?)

I get to where I'm going, and notice that an attractive woman I see from time to time is present and that she has recently dyed her hair a nice shade of brown. It was previously a streaky blond and the new shade is a serious improvement, given my aesthetic preferences. I think this and smile at her, a half-second after I sip my now lukewarm coffee. I only realize this might not be the best timing when the first drip of coffee droplets hung in my moustache falls and hits my lower lip and relodges in the hair on my chin.

That's right - creepy guy with a beard full of creamer and coffee leering at a woman who is now certainly regretting the coloring that is drawing her unwelcome attention. That's how I started my business day.

Not half bad, if you ask me.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Go See This Now!

I just got back from my Monday ritual (flick at the Cedar-Lee and reduced price beer at Parnell's), only on a Tuesday. The film I saw was "Let the Right One In," this tremendous Swedish vampire movie. It might be the best movie I've seen all year. You should really go check it out. I might go and see it again before it leaves the theater, which will probably be at the end of next week.

The film is sub-titled and has all sorts of interesting little sub-themes, from pre-teen lovers communicating in morse code to Cold War politics to bullying (with a kid that blends the worst of Flick from "A Christmas Story" and Tim in "River's Edge") to 70s Euro-rock to, of course, vampirism. The cinematography is beautiful and the script leaves dozens of small yet compelling questions unanswered in the most wonderful way. The film's fashion is compelling, too, as it resembles almost perfectly what you'll see among the audience members at any random winter Beachland Ballroom weekday show. This makes sense, of course, as the film is set in a suburb of Stockholm in the early 80s.

After the film and the drink, I hit up Richie Chan's for some house lo mein. Is it just me, or does the name of that restaurant remind anyone else of Los Angeles? The food was a lot like LA, too, in the sense that it was generally superficially attractive and mostly tasteless. They did, however, make the dish for me sans onion, so I guess I shouldn't hate.

Mega-serious endorsement

I need to tell you: I love Gateway Animal Clinic. And especially Dr. Abby. The difference between Ellie's care at Gateway the last two times versus the nightmare at Mandel is not just night and day, it is like the sun and the moon.

If you have pets and are wondering where to go, you can't beat Abby. You might be able to tie Abby - there are certainly plenty of good vets in Ohio - but you can't out-and-out beat her.

Thanks Gateway!

Monday, December 1, 2008

CLE-: Asterisk Gallery's Visual Roast of Clevo

This past Saturday I finally had the pleasure of checking out Dana Depew's latest showcase at his gallery, Asterisk, in Tremont. I've been impressed with Dana's art and, perhaps even more so, his curatorial ability since I moved here. A few months ago, though, I started to realize that his eye and organizational skill seems to be getting better each new show. I raved about his "Counting Days" group show (about the pending departure of our current not-so-dear leader Dubya) in October and thought a show of its type couldn't be topped.

And then he goes and does it again with the CLE- show. I can't remember the exact name of the show, as the postcard is in my car and it is way too fucking cold and crappy rainy to go out and get it now, but we'll just refer to it as the show where a whole host of local art talent each took their shot at visually expressing the blighted suffering it is to be an artist in Clevo.

A number of uptight folks got their panties in a bunch over this show - most notably the douchey lames at the Greater Cleveland Partnership who actually threatened legal action against the gallery. That's right, folks. The development organization in charge of revitalizing the cesspool that is the NEO economy is spending its time hassling artists rather than, you know, helping deal with the problems of our community. If I was a supporter of that group you can better believe I'm rethinking my 2009 commitment. Kinda smacks of RNC donors and how they felt after hearing about Sarah Palin's $150k shopping spree. Then again, though, if you are only now getting irritated with the boneheaded moves of the GCP, you probably haven't been paying attention to the last couple years of disastrous PR activities they've been floating, with the ridiculous Cleveland+ campaign Exhibit #1. (Prediction: If Dana and company bring this show back in a few years, there will be plenty of critical energy spent on roasting that loser of an ad campaign just as there was on duck eggs like "Cleveland's a Plum" and "Cleveland: Love it or Leave it" and "Cleveland: You gotta be tough." Welcome to the club, fellas.)

But I digress. My point is not to burn the GCP folks, as much fun and as necessary as that might be, but rather is to praise the cultural vitality of the CLE- show. It really is quite wonderful and worthy of serious public praise. (Or will saying so get me a cease-and-desist letter, too?) Moreover, I think it was, despite superficial appearances, an empowering artistic exercise. After all, the folks showing their work here are Cleveland artists, folks that haven't left for greener cultural pastures but rather have been slamming their work out, day after day, dreary ass winter after dreary ass winter, determined to bring their aesthetic message to the orange and brown huddled masses, like it or not.

So, without further ado, please cast your gaze on the photos below. My apologies in advance - to you and the artist - as the photos don't do anything justice. Let me know if you have questions about any of the work - most of the artists there aren't identified. And if you fall in love with anything, let Dana know, as many of the pieces pictured here are likely still available for purchase.






























Friday, November 28, 2008

Anatomy of a Feast (Kinda)

For those of you wondering how exactly the miracle meal described in the previous post came together, here is a rather sad selection of photos of my dinner. If you are thinking, "Hey, this Cleveland Bachelor guy seems interesting and I'd like him to cook me dinner some time" - well, congratulations, your mind is about to be changed.








Battle Royale: Thanksgiving 2007 vs 2008

Last year:



This year:




For the second straight year, I did a solo home-cooked Thanksgiving. I just love the 5 day weekend too much to give it up by driving back to my folks in Illinois for the stretch. Anyway, I'm a TERRIBLE cook, and my repertoire tends to involve taking stuff from the grocery store and slightly funkify it.

For dinner this year, it was Bob Evans turkey and gravy in a bag, pre-mashed potatoes, pre-mashed yams, home-made Midwestern delight (aka the green bean/fried onion/mushroom soup casserole), corn niblets, and Stove-Top stuffing. With a sweet potato pie for dessert.

Yes, I am a glutton. Just about every day of the year. But today you can't give me shit for it. Cause it is Thanksgiving.

Anyway, with a few little dashes and fancy kitchen moves, I was able to make things a little better. For the yams, for example, I melted a little butter with some curry spice, coriander, and this weird bitter chocolate/chipotle steak rub stuff I bought at some gourmet chocolate place in Pittsburgh, and doused the serving. For the corn, I stirred in some poblano pepper and parmesan/herb seasoning. And now, as I type this, I'm too drowsy to remember what I did with the turkey and the stuffing, but I did something. And it worked.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Anyone know who is singing in this commercial?

Get on The Hot Rails!

Here I sit, sluggish from my mostly store-bought but still delicious Thanksgiving dinner, killing time between episodes of the House marathon on USA (I've already seen the current episode) and averting my eyes from the debacle that is my alma mater's (TAMU) effort against Texas in the Lonestar Showdown tonight. (Ugh - as I typed the previous sentence the t-sips launched a bomb to the Aggie 1 to set up what will probably be a 33 point lead. By the time I finished this post, they had stretched it to a 39 point lead.)

Nothing exciting is happening today, so I am forced to reminisce about yesterday, which possessed a reasonable degree of excitement. After wrapping up my last "real" day of work for the calendar year, I headed home for some Q.T. with Smells. After a while it was time to rock, and I headed over to Collinwood.

Stop #1 was Music Saves, where I purchased the recently released Danielson retrospective. This purchase apparently put me over the top of the "purchase enough music and get a record for free" bar, so I snagged a gratis copy of Jessica Lea Mayfield's new album. I haven't heard it, but I've certainly seen a bunch of positive press about it. Ordinarily I'd dismiss the buzz as mere homerism, but I did have a chance to see her play at the Happy Dog last winter and she is the real thing. I'm looking forward to digging into the record soon.

Next and final stop was the Beachland Ballroom, which has evolved over the past 15 months to become my favorite place in all of NEO. I got in, ordered up a Genessee tall boy for a mere $2.50 and had a slice of pizza and mini cupcake courtesy of the folks at This Way Out, the vintage store in the basement that was celebrating birthday #3. I like the store and over the year-plus I've lived here I've found a few cool things, including a great long-sleeve beer delivery shirt I gave one of my brother's for Christmas last year and a crazy paisley mini-suitcase still waiting to be given to my baby sister (now 17!) to carry her cds to gigs to sell. As nice as the stuff there is (and, of course, the folks down there selling it), they weren't the reason I was there.

No, The Hot Rails were the reason I was there. I first saw these guys play a quick, haphazard set during the Waterloo Arts Festival and thought it was awesome. Great sense of humor, great stage presence. I've seen them open for bands here and there since, and when I saw they were on tap for the aforementioned anniversary party, I was all about it. The fact that The Dreadful Yawns were also on the bill didn't hurt, and even made up for the fact that To Be A High-Powered Executive was. I don't know why, but I don't dig that band. They are certainly very talented and mesh together well, but I just don't dig it. It doesn't help that each time I've seen them play they've had some lame, too-cute-by-half matching clothing thing going on.

But I digress. I was there to see the Hot Rails and, as an extra bonus, meet up with a new concert buddy and see a couple of cool folks that I had met while canvassing for Obama in March prior to the Arcade Fire show at the same venue. TBAHPE opened and did their thing, followed by the Yawns, which played well but not as energetically as they did the last time I saw them (though that was an album release party or something, so I guess it makes sense). Finally, The Hot Rails hit the stage and did what I was hoping they would do: rock. They started with some J. Geils band, filled the middle of their set with their own tunes, and closed with a two-song Geils medley. Throughout the show they peppered the audience with hilarious merch advertisements and filled the place with artificial smoke, a welcome staple of their stage show. My new concert buddy commented to me that someday, twenty years from now, we'll all find out that shit gave us cancer. Probably so, but you know what? Fuck it. I loved it. And I can't wait till the next time.

Obama High

Dear Councilman Reed,

I, too, am a supporter of President-elect Obama. But don't you think this is a bit premature?

Thanksgiving

I'm thankful for my dog.
And my new house shoes.
And my upcoming 45 days off from work.
And that America chose Obama.
And that I haven't run out of ideas.
And for friends, old and new.
And for a city with lots of cool stuff, and lots of cool people dedicated to keeping it here.
And for lots of other stuff I am too fuzzy-headed to think of right now.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

R.I.P. Zima

Zima is dead. Read all about it here.

I was 16 when Zima hit the market, the age where you first start segueing as a non/barely-drinker from "girly" drinks to beer. I remember, as the article suggests, the gender implications of being called a Zima drinker and am still proud to admit it was never in my early drinking repertoire, although I admit with shame that Boone's Farm (Strawberry Hill, baby!) and MD 20/20 (kiwi-lime almost every time) were.

I will admit, though, that over the years I drank several Zimas here and there, often at the end of a night when it was the only thing left in the cooler. I never, at least not that I remember, did the green jolly rancher thing. Though I bet it was cool. Just don't admit it to me if you did, as you will be judged. Harshly.

Impossible Science

So the last week or so I've been trying - and failing - to scientifically determine the answer to a new domestic curiosity in my life.

Here's the conundrum.

Smelly Ellie, my beloved beagle, loves to curl up under blankets. She absolutely loves it. She likes to get all the way underneath one and then twist it around her like we twist spaghetti around a fork. And then she passes out. For HOURS. This is what she does the entire time I'm at work when, you know, I actually have to go to work.

Every night, Smells goes to bed around 10 and when I wander my way over there, I usually have to untangle her from the blankets, move her to one side of the bed, and get in myself. At which point she uses all the blankets available to twist around her again.

Usually she gets a little irritated that I've made her wake up and that she has to do all this blanket-weaving all over again. Lots of grunts and what I interpret as dirty looks.

Anyway, a week or so ago I doubled up the blankets on my bed. She still likes to go under there, but each morning when I wake up, she's laying on top of the blankets, staring at me. This is a new thing.

I have two hypotheses, one a bit more fleshed out than the other.

First, this might be caused by the double blanket factor, and that the blankets together are either too warm or too heavy for her comfort.

Second, perhaps I am doing something in my sleep, tossing and turning in a way that makes her crawl out from under the blanket.

Since I noticed this a few days ago, I've been trying to figure out the cause of this new behavior.

OK, I haven't tried super hard, but I've wondered about it. Thing is, short of a video camera set-up, which I'm not about to use, the central problem with figuring out this answer is that I'm sleeping during the actual phenomenon. The problematic black box occurs while I'm unconscious.

Believe it or not, I've spent a good chunk of today half-thinking about this, bumbling for an investigative strategy.

And I've failed.

I'm not really looking for help, just typing it up because it is weird to me, both the phenomenon and the fact that I have spent so much time thinking (and typing) about it.

There you go. Sorry, but you don't get the 2 minutes of your life you spent reading this back.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Thanksgiving in Space

Remember when we were little and thought being in space was the coolest thing ever? I remember one of the things I always wondered about was food. This was primarily driven by the time one of my dad's friends brought my brother and I some of that dehydrated ice cream stuff that astronauts eat. I remember it was neopolitan. I also remember that one day I thought I spied one of my brother's last pieces sitting on his dresser and after he fell asleep (we shared a room), I snuck down from the top bunk and snagged it. I got back to my bed, proud of my thieving abilities, popped it in my mouth, and immediately upon biting down realized it was a piece of pink chalk. That sucked.

Even still, I still wonder about food in space. Apparently many other people do, too, as the AP put an interesting explainer story out today. Check it out here.

Morning Sickness

I've realized recently that, in my new place, I've developed a bit of a routine.

My alarm goes off, I turn it off, fall back asleep, and then wake up a short time later scared that I've missed something important.

I hop out of bed and, en route to the bathroom, stroll to the living room and look out the window to see what outdoor fate awaits me.

This isn't just a winter thing, as I've been doing this for weeks, but the last 10 days or so it has taken on a more dramatic turn as I find myself replacing the post-sleep muddle in my brain with a simple mantra "please don't be snowing please don't be snowing please don't be snowing" within the 50 feet it takes me to get from the bedroom to the window.

Today the view was shocking. SHOCKING. I went to bed last night after taking Smelly on one last visit to her favorite pee place and thought to myself how warm it must have been, as everything is melted and the ground was so soft. Today I walk out and there are INCHES of the shitty stuff coating everything. Damn!

My first thoughts were something like 1) Fuck this, 2) Where is my calendar so I know what to cancel, 3) Is today a teaching day so I can cancel my classes, 4) Good, it isn't a teaching day so I'll just loaf at home and curse the falling snow, 5) Fuck - I have to take Smelly to Tremont to see her vet, 6) Would it be terrible if I just let her ass problem wait till next week? 7) Fuck - yes, it would be terrible, 8) OK, so how am I gonna pull this off?

At point 8, I kinda hit a wall and my mind got stuck.

It stayed stuck for a couple minutes as I scanned through new emails and rationalized justifications for deleting rather than responding.

And then it hit me ... When did you become such a pussy about snow? I mean, no one likes to be cold and certainly you have to be a little more safe and patient in winter driving, but still... You are, after all, the guy who drove 100 miles in a blizzard to Wisconsin from Illinois to get laid back in college. (Note: I'm not that pathetic - I was going to school in Wisconsin at the time, my girlfriend was still there, and I was home at my parents for winter break. But, yes, the primary reason for making the trip was carnal.) You're the guy whose favorite thing to do in this sort of weather used to be strapping on some ugly Farm and Fleet boots and taking a walk. And somehow you became the guy who breaks up with new girlfriends because it is cold and wet outside and becomes all anti-social at the slightest whiff of an snowflake icon on your cell phone weather report?

Inappropriate. Unacceptable.

Sure the winter sucks. But I will make it to Tremont today.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Only 128 Days Until This Fucking Winter Dies

Two days down, nothing bad to report winter-wise. Or any-wise, really. Today was a kinda grumpy day - apparently I was in no mood to suffer fools, as I was in a no-nonsense mode from start to finish.

I left work around 4, sent a text message to every person I know on the east side seeing if anyone wanted to go see some crazy movie at the Cedar-Lee, and was totally shut out. That was actually a blessing, as the moment I sent the text I realized I didn't actually want to see the movie. Instead I hit Zagara's and Whole Foods, stocked up for my Thanksgiving feast, and bumped into Northeast Ohio's least diligent member of Congress.

I also realized that I only have 1 more day of work (as I define it, which basically means having to do stuff I don't want to do) left this year. How awesome is that?

OK, 128 days to go.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Good times

So I managed to put the weekend on cruise control and find myself feeling pretty relaxed and lazy as Sunday gets ready to become Monday.

I didn't do jack today. Slept in, got up, caught up on a few emails, took a nap, woke up about halfway through the first quarter of the Browns game, got up and watched the rest of the game, and have just sat around doing nothing ever since.

Yesterday had a little more action. After my post, I went over to MOCA to check out their Artscape 2008 event. I must say, I was quite disappointed in this event. I'd been hearing folks talk it up for quite some time, and was really looking forward to the opportunity to browse some affordable yet interesting artwork. That wasn't quite what this thing was, though. Instead, it was just another one of those local etsy-vendor group sales. Nothing against etsy or the whole urban crafts movement - that's actually kind of cool and a good way for talented folks to get a little back on their investment and hard work - it just gets a little irritating wasting time at events you think are going to be more art/less craft oriented. Last year's winter bela dubby event left me feeling the same way. One such event per year is definitely enough for me, and you can't really beat the Bazaar Bizarre gathering.

Not to be too much of a downer, though, I have to admit there was significant upside to the day. I met up with a particularly cool pair of people at the show and afterwards headed over to have a few beers (and earn some parking tickets) with them at the Coventry Winking Lizard. We enjoyed our fair share and each discovered some delightful new brews, and managed to do so without thoroughly upsetting our waiter.

Waiter Dude was a little skeptical about us, though, as he actually (and hilariously) admitted to us later in the evening. When he first came to our table, we didn't know what we wanted. This doesn't strike me as a great sin, as the beer list is 100+ selections long, but his initial displeasure was evident. Kelly picked a beer pretty quickly, but if memory serves, they were out of stock. I picked one when Waiter Dude (WD from here on out) brought her second choice over. Jose, however, was still deciding, and WD made it clear this was unacceptable.

After a while, the three of us have selected and received our first beers and WD starts in on the food order requests. At first, we smile and say we are fine. 3-4 minutes later, he's back and asks what we want to eat. We say we haven't looked at the menu yet and I even say we'll wave him down if we want something. He tells us he'll be back in 5 minutes for our order - the unspoken part being that we really better know what we want by now. This marks good and bad developments. On the good side, WD is no longer enemies with Jose. On the bad side, it is now clear he hates all three of us.

Over time, we order food, more rounds of beverages, one of Jose's friends shows up and we all have fun. Eventually, Jose makes a joke to WD about getting back in his good graces and, as noted above, he actually admits that we weren't good customers at first. Now, I think our behavior was entirely appropriate, but I also think it was awesome he admitted that he was initally disappointed in us.

WD ended up being a pretty cool dude, new to the area and pretty nice and interesting once we started talking with him. This time a year ago, I was in a situation much like he is now, exploring the city, finding lots that I liked, and looking for cool folks to be friends with. Listening to him talk about his adventures in town, it made me grateful for some of the good fortune I've had here in meeting people, definitely including the folks I was with that night.

The fact that Jose insisted on picking up the check didn't hurt, either...

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Beautiful Losers and other art stuff

Last night I met up with a couple folks and checked out the documentary Beautiful Losers at the Cinematheque.

That film is really quite something. If you are into lowbrow art or skater stuff or grafitti or whatever, you should make time in your schedule to check it out on Sunday night, the next and last time it plays.

I'm really glad we went, as it was the best culture documentary I've seen in some time. Afterward we grabbed a drink at the Barking Spider, talked about pop art and the Obama campaign, cemeteries in Boston, the difficulty in finding good vets, and that's about it. After the first round, we all decided to head home, and wandered back over to the CIA lot where our cars were buried under an inch or so of the evil winter white stuff.

The rest of the weekend is chill. Heading over to the MOCA event this afternoon, then probably kicking it at home tonight, though if I get antsy I can trudge through the snowfall to grab a drink somewhere on Lee Road. Tomorrow I might check out Nicholas & Alexandra at the CMA, though that all depends on what time I wake up tomorrow, it being a no-alarm-clock-day and all.

More immediately, however, I'm now going to go turn on the shower, lie down in the tub, and wait for the hot water to turn gradually lukewarm, popping up at the (hopefully) perfect moment where it is not yet too cold to bathe comfortably.

Blown Opportunities

Nothing super exciting this week. And that title should probably be in the singular, as I think I've only blown one opportunity. Still, one is enough, right? We'll get to that in a bit.

Anyway, Wednesday I made my way to Stark County for the first time. I survived, even got gas for $1.73, which was cool. Thursday I had a stay-at-home day that I had somehow booked chock full of terrible. An immense pile of grody dishes simply had to be done, followed by sorting of a ton of laundry, loaded into my car right before a quick walk down to the dentist to get a cavity filled. I got the typical shot of numbness, a half-face full, and it was really strange. I haven't had something like that in probably 20 years, maybe more. It was sorta freaky. Afterwards, I had a tough time talking, which didn't make the next stop any better: getting a haircut. I have a great person I get my hair cut by, a cool young woman named Andrea at Fast Eddy's, and the appointment seems to go by in a half-second because the conversation is usually so easy. Last time was a little strange, of course, being that it was the infamous "saw my ex-girlfriend and ex-friend walk down the street hand-in-hand" haircut, of course. Anyway, I get there, get my cut, talk like a doofus, and go to the next stop ... laundry. Ugh. I hate laundry. Hate laundry.

But I did it. I went in, put everything in the washers, and then walked down Coventry to kill the 20-30 minutes I had till the next switcheroo. I only made it to Brigade, where I chatted with one of the dudes about the fashion zeitgeist and what it says about the economic underpinnings of the current American psyche. And bought a cool Shades of Greige blazer for 75% off. That's right, $165 down to, uh, $40 something with tax. I'm not a math person. Oh yeah, I also popped into American Apparel and almost bought a delightfully tacky bright yellow v-neck, but figured it would probably end up on the same hanger as my similarly-colored yellow blazer which I have never worn once since purchasing. At least that only cost a few bucks from some vintage place in Austin.

Afterwards, I headed back to the laundromat, and started shifting stuff from washers to dryers. As I put my comforter into the dryer, I asked the cute girl next to me how many minutes she thought I should put it in for, because I didn't have much of an idea how well the dryers work and, well, because I'm super creepy.

She told me her opinion and did so without screaming or vomiting, so I took that as a sign that she totally dug me. As a result, as I walked back over to where I had left my jacket and book, I noticed she was now folding up several pairs of hospital scrubs. She looked young, so I figured she was a nurse, and, since my creepy quotient of the day hadn't yet been filled, I asked her if she was a doctor while nodding to her laundry. I said "doctor" and not nurse because I figured she'd be flattered or something and, in the off chance she actually was a doctor, I wouldn't screw up by insulting her as a nurse.

Naturally, it turns out she is a brand-spankin'-new doctor, doing a stint at the clinic. Nice, huh?

I think I mentioned she was cute. She was, though in a way that is not usually my style, kind of a "tastefully applied make-up and well-chosen jewelry (traditional jewelry, not funky or DIY)" sort of way. Probably a sorority girl in college, though in one of the brainy ones, neither slutty nor Omega Mu style.

I tell her I'm a doctor, too, but only the fake kind (i.e., Ph.D., not M.D.) and that my parents are totally ashamed. She laughs and we start talking about being new to Cleveland, what we do for our jobs, cool things in Houston, and other stuff. By the time she finished folding her last load, it seemed pretty clear that she would giver me her number if I asked.

Of course I didn't. I did help her carry her laundry basket to her car and then, in this awful, awkward, parched throat sort of way ................ gave her my card. Mumbled something about giving me a holler if she ever had a free night and wanted to do something cool and gave her my fucking card. Can you believe it? Well, I suppose if you've been reading this blog for any length of time and thus have some idea of my inherent lameness, yes, you can believe it.

Anyway, so that's my blown opportunity. Cute, nice, new to Clevo, no friends outside of work DOCTOR and I leave her and her laundry with my business card.

I swear, I need to write a romantic advice book for dudes, then burn it, and bury the ashes in a deep dark hole. Or have it translated into obscure foreign languages by translators that consistently confuse "do" with "don't."

Only 130 Days Until This Fucking Winter Dies

I have decided to introduce a new feature to this here blog of mine, a countdown till this terrible winter ends.

Yeah, I know, this terrible winter hasn't even started and it certainly hasn't been that terrible yet.

But it will be terrible. You know it and I know it.

So, in the virtual pages of this blog, I plan to chronicle our inexorable slouch toward spring.

D-day is April 10, chosen in honor of the Indians home opener.

Yes, I recall that winter travesty in 2007 when the Indians had to play in Milwaukee for the first part of the season because the then-Jake was a snow mound. That isn't the point. This decision is all about symbol. I mean, I could go with my birthday in June as the end of winter, but that's a little bit of overkill, isn't it.

So anyway, here we are, post #1 out of an uncertain number of posts. So far, no cars stuck in ditches, no blizzards trapping me in unwelcome places, no breaking up with people because the weather has me depressed, no nothing. Yet. But it will come.

And, hopefully, so will spring.

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Difficulty of Finding a New Vet (revised to avoid lawsuits)

As many of you may know, I recently moved to the east side. Since doing so, I've replaced lots of "old" places with "new" places, from my dry cleaner to my bank to my grocer. Most recently, I contemplated changing vets, and took my baby dogder Ellie this week to Mandel's Veterinary Hospital. The appointment didn't take long, but it was long enough to ensure that I personally will not be going back.

At least, I won't be going back to let Dr. West see my pup. Everyone else there was kind and professional, and I didn't have the opportunity to meet the real Dr. Mandel. But Dr. West's professional performance was such that I'll not return.

My beloved Ellie is the nearest and dearest thing in my life. Sure, that's a function of my singleness and low-grade level of estrangement from my nuclear family, but it is also a testament to the deep affection I have for the young lady.

Poor Ellie is also plagued by less-than-perfect anal glands. (I'm sorry, I know this is a little gross.) About once a year or so, one will get impacted and she'll need to go in for manual expression (which is a nice way of saying something really gross). The first few times this happened I was a little slow on picking up the problem, and the glands became infected. The last few years, though, I pick up on it pretty quick and am usually able to get her into the vet to get everything cleaned out before she needs antibiotics. Over the years, between no small amount of independent research on both the breed and the disease, and enough conversations with vets and observed expressions, I know my way around the jargon, the options, and what to expect.

Which brings us to today. I noticed Ellie scooting and sniffing a couple days ago, took a look at her bum, and saw that one was pretty swollen. I made an appointment at the Mandel clinic for this afternoon. Went in, waited 10-15 minutes, and then were shown to an examination room. The tech came in and asked me for the second time (fourth in all that day from the staff) exactly what we were doing with Ellie today, and a few minutes later the vet, Dr. West, walked in. She asked, yet again, what we were doing with Ellie today -- apparently these folks don't believe in charts or, you know, communicating with one another. After I told her, she asked if this was the first time. I said no, as a beagle she has poorly developed anal sacs and this is a once a year or so problem.

At this point, I must've said the magic words, because before doing anything else, Dr. West said that surgery sounded appropriate. I said I was aware of the procedure but had been advised by previous vets that such a surgery would be expensive, invasive, and had a lot of downside. She responds, defensively and unconvincingly, that Dr. Mandel has done a lot of such surgeries and she has never seen any problem afterwards. I say thanks but no thanks and that I'm happy to just keep an eye on her and bring her in to have the glands expressed when they backfire.

She is visibly displeased, yet lubes up her finger, pokes around a bit, and comments about how swollen they feel (no kidding, doc), and how it just doesn't seem like she can get them expressed. She disengages and says the next step will be to schedule an appointment to put Ellie under sedation, flush her out, blah blah blah.

In other words, schedule another appointment, put the dog under anesthesia, and spend a lot of money to do what every other vet has done for regular office visit prices before, without needing to knock the dog out.

Medical care, whether for dogs or humans, should be thoughtful and not immediately jump to the most invasive (and most expensive) options. Yet that's what Dr. West did. Without really listening to my explanation of her problem or trying for more than about 30 seconds to do what I was in there paying to have done. When I didn't immediately embrace her rather draconian treatment advice, she got pissed and went through the motions. Her last words to me were that she would go prepare a steroid shot and antibiotic prescription and that someone, whether her office or another vet, should look at Ellie again in a few days. In other words, she'd failed in her attempt to express Ellie's glands, mostly because she barely tried, because she was irritated that I had the audacity to disagree with her feelings about surgery, which she had told me about before even looking at the dog's ass, and now that she had failed, she was throwing some drugs at the problem (which she knew wouldn't do a damn thing to express the impacted gland) and sending me elsewhere. Anywhere else.

Oh, and she said that feeding Ellie canned pumpkin would solve all her problems. Hmm. Call me skeptical, but this seems like an unlikely panacea.

Anyway, moral of the story. Don't switch vets just to save 30 minutes on the road. And if you must make a change, don't just do a little google searching to find out the nearest place with an operational website.

As for Ellie and I, we'll be calling Gateway and seeing if Dr. Abby is working Monday or Tuesday. And if not, we'll look into some east-side vets recommended by the irreplaceable Becca from the wonderful Mutt Hutt. A quick post-failed vet visit phone call to her got me plenty of reputable leads, which I should have done in the first place. Anyway, lessons learned, and all it cost me was $$97.93.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Even I can't fool myself

I don't know what I was thinking, really.

I was watching this movie that ended at 8:10. Another one was supposed to start around 9. I thought this would be plenty of time to walk down Lee Road, gathering to-go menus from the various eateries around my 'hood, before ending at the Chinese place at the corner of Cedar and Lee.

It, of course, didn't work out that way. I decided to take a right turn out of my driveway, and then, once getting on Lee, walked down to Taste, a new restaurant (within the last week or so), asked for a menu to take home with me, and ordered a drink so I wouldn't look like a total loser.

That drink, well, it was the beginning of the end.

Next, I hit up Brennan's Colony. I ordered a beer, and started eavesdropping on these two girls that were both engaged and both rethinking their engagements. One was leaning toward going through with it, the other was all but certain that she would be ending it that night. The one who was planning to end it was also eating Buffalo Wings, which I took as a sign, as it is my favorite food.

I tried some low-grade flirtation, which immediately failed, and went back to surfing the web on my phone. Eventually 3 more beers came and went, and I placed an order for both buffalo wings AND a buffalo sandwich. By the time my vision was getting blurry, my food arrived, and I paid my tab and headed home in the cold.

My walk home was odd. Sure, I was buzzed, but I also saw a lot of stuff that shouldn't have been going on on a cold winter's night, including a neighbor lady standing in her driveway and puking and a neighbor dude (from a different house) raking the snow in his lawn. I'm not yet sure about the neighborhood in which I have become the newest resident.

Anyway, I make it home, scarf the majority of my food (a testament to my gluttony, if nothing else), watch the end of the running Law & Order episode, and prepare for bed. Tomorrow I have to work, though with the hangover I am likely to experience, well, it probably won't be a very promising day.

I have no doubt I'll be regretting those beers, but especially the doubling-down upon Buffalo Americana, in the A.M.

Torn

So here I sit, in my living room, watching Predator sequels, and periodically gazing out the window as the snow keeps keeps keeps keeps dropping from the sky.

It is really pretty.

And really fucking cold.

Boston, Part 5: Escape from Boston

Once again, the morning was difficult. I never really had a good sleep that night, waking every hour or two, tossing and turning. Eventually it was just time to get up, pack my things, and head out to the last event of my trip. While I packed, I half-watched yet another History Channel documentary, this one about Liver-eatin' Johnston, an old Indian killer from the west. True story! Then I snagged a individual-sized Boston creme pie (which was apparently invented at my Hotel, the Omni Parker House, also credited with inventing the famous Parker House roll that will be gracing so many family tables later this month on Thanksgiving) for breakfast.

It was now time to go to work, and ss I made my way to our assigned room, I realized I still felt uncomfortable (and a little queasy) about the conversation the night before. I was gonna have to process that quick, as the colleague in question was appearing with me on a panel. We both entered the room, and made a point of talking to other people. Real mature, I know, but I couldn't figure out what to say. I was mostly waiting for her to say something about how she was drunk and feels like a fool.

Eventually the event gets going and we manage to make it to the end. I make a quick exit, and as I am about to the stairwell, my colleague says she needs to make something about last night clear to me. I figure this is the point where she either apologizes or tries to clarify any misinterpretations I may have had about what she was saying.

I was wrong.

She starts with some soliloquy about how she had been sexually harassed and therefore that made Sarah Palin a superior candidate in her mind to Barack Obama. My tongue was on bite mode and I just nodded and listened. But then she gets back to race and starts making some claims about being powerless as a white person because of descriptive representation in her former hometown, blah blah blah.

I try to interrupt by saying I'm uncomfortable, but she keeps cutting me off. Eventually, I say something along the lines of, "I don't know why I can't end this conversation. I don't want to talk about this with you." She goes off about liberal fascism and how I obviously can't tolerate any different perspectives ... and I just say Enough. I have a plane to catch. Gotta go. See you next time, in Chicago, in the spring. Bye.

And walk away.

And feel like I'm gonna puke. I'm really bad with this sort of thing. I never knew I was such a puss when it came to confrontation.

Anyway, I grab my bags from my room, check out, feel way to flustered from the conversation to figure out how to take the train to the airport and say fuck the extra $20 and hail a taxi. Taxi gets me to the airport, where I'm a lot earlier than I expected to be (like 2 hours). I go over to Legal Sea Foods, or at least the airport equivalent of it, and enjoy some fried clams and a crab roll (and a couple bloody marys to boot). Ok, I didn't enjoy the crab roll, but the clams were good.

I eventually go to my gate, 45 minutes or so before boarding, and wait. And wait. And wait. And wait.

About 30 minutes after the original boarding should have started, they announce there is a small mechanical problem currently being fixed (nevermind the idea that any problem on a machine that flies several thousand feet in the air can be small) and that it would only be another 10 minutes. About 15 minutes later, the same guy gets on the intercom and I reflexively reach for my bags. But he isn't beginning boarding. He's letting us know the flight has been cancelled.

They have us all get in line rebook, but it takes so long that by the time they get to the end (where I, of course, was standing) one flight to Philly (where I was connecting) had already left and the next was about to. After that, there was only one more left in the day but it got to Philly too late for me to catch a connecting flight to Clevo. And somehow, this problem wasn't technically the fault of the airline (evil, incompetent U.S. Air) so I'd be stuck paying for my own hotel. This was not acceptable, so I threw a fit. At this point, I couldn't think of anything else to do, and I was still all eaten up inside about the race-tinted conversations of the night before and that morning. After my tantrum ended, I asked if I could be rerouted through a different city. The lady at the desk said yes, and sent me through to Charlotte. I didn't bother asking why she failed to check that in the first place, just grabbed my bags and new boarding pass and hiked down to my new gate.

I eventually arrive at Charlotte (which is the nicest airport I've been to in America), then get my ass back to Cleveland, where it is, of course, freezing. I deplane by 930, get my bags by 10 to 10, pick up Smelly Ellie from my friends in Lakewood by 10 after, and am home before 11. Thank god.

Boston, I had a good time with you. I'm not in a hurry to go back, but these last couple trips have moved you off my list of cities I avoid going to to the cities I'd go to if someone else is picking up the tab list. You are still no San Francisco or Chicago or even New Orleans, but you aren't an Atlanta or Houston or Los Angeles, either. Congratulations!

Boston, Part 4: Long Day, Longer Night

If I thought the previous day's morning was tough, 5:30 AM on Friday came with even greater difficulty.

I rarely get up at that time, and if I do, it is usually the result of (or precursor to) something tragic.

By 7, I was at a publisher focus group, earning my daily bread (and a couple hundred bucks) in exchange for my time. Jose went with me, and we were done by 9. Walking back to the hotel, we did some graveyard touristing. Returning to my hotel room, I prepped some comments for my next morning's presentation, then half-watched/half-dozed through a couple History Channel documentaries about the hunt for John Wilkes Booth and then scientific study of the Antietam battlefield.

Later, Jose and I headed over to a great Chilean place for these beautiful sandwiches called Chaceros and some killer empanadas. One of these days, I'll get the photos off my iphone and post them here. They were that delicious and visually impressive that I had to get all lame foodie nerd and take some pictures in the restaurant.

After lunch, it was a very light drizzle in the unseasonably warm temperatures of 62-63 degrees, perfect for taking a walk. We burned off our calories by making our way across the Common and Public Garden, and then down the commonwealth mall of sculptures. We followed that as far as it would go, then took a left and then another and made our way back toward the hotel following Newbury. Newbury, as some of you might know, is a cool little shopping district, kind of like Coventry but more high-end and about 10x (if not more) as extensive. On our walk, we poked our head into a bunch of different places, including Trident bookstore (where I picked up a copy of the Believer - despite my disdain for Eggers - and some postcards), Newbury Comics (where I snagged a used copy of an old Luna album and Jose picked up a copy of the recently released Golden Smog greatest hits on Rykodisc), Johnny Cupcakes (where I admired the gaping contrast between the feminine stylized baking theme and the punk rock dudes staffing the joint, and bought a present for my friend), and karmaloop (a boutique that reminds me somewhat of Brigade here in the heights, only a bit more urban, where I snagged a cool retro cardigan for cheap), among others.

We made it back to the Common and immediately fell under assault from a group of cute but insane squirrels. It reminded me of when my family took a vacation to Boston when I was 14 and my little brother was bit by one of those squirrels. We headed over to Silvertone for a couple cocktails before meeting up with some colleagues for dinner at Ivy and, later, drinks at The Last Hurrah.

During drinks, I found myself stuck in a conversation with a colleague that became increasingly heated. She kept saying things that were tiptoeing around racism, the kind of things that you knew were motivated by racial bias when you heard them, but if you called the person out they could throw out some allegation of being a member of the PC police squad. I've come to expect this from right-wingers, as they learned a long time ago that in the battle between being called racist versus being called PC, liberals are more afraid of the PC tag than conservatives are of the racist tag. Anyway, this colleague of mine is supposedly a liberal, certainly she frames herself as a certain kind of feminist. But her comments were undeniably racist. Taken alone, they could be rationalized in one way or another, but as they piled up, an undeniable pattern emerged. From stupid shit like "no single white person lives in Beverly Hills anymore, 90210 is a myth, the Persians have taken over" to "white people can't get elected in LA anymore" to "Barack Obama gets his black from Michelle" it became increasingly uncomfortable and increasingly idiotic.

Some small part of my anticipated professional success over the next couple years is tied to this individual in a way, so I wanted to be as delicate as possible, but when she made that last one, I snapped a little bit. I didn't call her out directly, but made a passionately and nuanced statement about how such statements make me uncomfortable and I'd like to stop talking about race before any more comments are made that might make me rethink my views of some of the folks at our table. Unfortunately, this didn't stop anything, and it kept going, maybe another hour. I sat there, looking for an exit strategy that wouldn't involve me getting up and storming off, but one never came. Finally, the bar manager came over and said they were closing down (it was a little past 2), and saved us.

I got back to my room and composed myself. I wasn't really angry, but I did feel a lot of adrenaline, and I was really torn about this person and the new side of her I'd been forced to confront. Eventually, I faded off to sleep.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Damn it.

I guess my hope, as a lifelong Cubs fan, of Mark Cuban becoming the next owner will soon be dashed.

The curse manifests in many, many ways.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Boston, Part 3: Carousing

The morning came quickly, as I had to wake early for a few hours of work. Jose and I met in the first part of the day to co-present some work we'd done. Unfortunately, we'd never got around to discussing how we were going to make this presentation the night before, and that failure to communicate dawns on me about 2 minutes before we were to begin. I ask him, "How do you want to do this?" to which he responds, "You are gonna do it."

Somehow, I accept this injustice. I flip open my notes just as the chair of the event introduces us, meaning I'm gonna have to wing this thing. I do, and it seems to go decently. We finish up, no worse for the wear, and head our separate ways to do some other work. That is uneventful, and soon it is time for lunch, where Barton Gellman, the Washington Post political reporter, is speaking. That proves interesting, and afterward I'm off to have coffee with another colleague. We are soon joined by a couple other colleagues, then by buddy Jose. We eventually move the group to a bar, this terrific Irish place called the Black Rose, where we quaff a few too many Harpoon Winter Warmers (basically Boston's version of Cleveland's Great Lakes Christmas Ales).

After cutting ourselves off, Jose and I head over to the legendary Orpheum Theater, to catch the night's Kings of Leon show. I've been a fan of this band for a while, but their last two albums have let me down. They've lost the gritty freak-out southern edge of their first two records and have become something much "younger" and restrained. Still, it seemed like a cool way to see something I wouldn't otherwise see, so we did it. It was worth it, as the Orpheum is a great, old, gritty, sticky floored rock venue set in the kind of room folks saw stage plays during the 19th Century, complete with drunk hipsters dancing and waving from the side-wall luxury boxes. The bands opening for Kings of Leon were The Whigs and We Are Scientists. We walked in during the last song of the Whigs set and I fell asleep during the We Are Scientists show (thanks to the beer, I guess, but I'm not complaining - those d-bags have the worst on-stage banter I've ever seen. Ever.)

Realizing I don't want to snooze through the headline set, I invest in some $10 beer. It worked and my buzz returned. Unfortunately, the beer didn't make the dudes in Kings of Leon's hair grow any longer. That probably sounds weird, but I always liked the fact that the dudes in that band were a bunch of 70s style long-hairs. I like to imagine this band as a latter-day Allman Bros., straight-legged freaky-haired dudes standing against the fading forces of 70s rawk. Now, only one is a long-hair, the drummer, but boy did he make up for his bandmates' douchey-dos, with his guns and his tank top, as he beat the shit out of his athletic-taped kit.

As the show went on, I realized how young this audience was. That is normal, for a 30-year-old dude to realize most of the folks around him were younger. But this crowd was YOUNG, like high-school young. It became clear we were surrounded by 1200 skinny blonde high school girls and their lame boyfriends sportng 90s fraternity hair.

The show proceeded as could be expected, 85%+ from the new record, many of which will likely be played at high school proms across the nation this spring. Throughout the show wafts of weed, the scent of rock, drifted over the audience. It is quite possible the scent was emitted from the guitars themselves. Towards the end of the set, they ripped a version of "Milk," my favorite track from any of the band's records.

After the show ended, we made our way out, and started a long and nearly fruitless search for a post-show meal. We ended up back at Hub Pub, where we enjoyed some wings and steak tips. Afterwards, there was only time for a return to the room and a quick fade-to-black with the History Channel in the background.

Boston, Part 2: Surviving the Trip to Beantown

My departure to Boston was an exercise in poor planning and an inability to pay attention to little things. I put in a morning of work and, around 1:30, headed home to pick up my beloved dogder and transport her to the home of my friends that would be watching her this weekend.

I got home, finished packing, collected my doggie things, and started to load up the car. In doing so, I managed to fit to pack black dress shoes and a black belt. Worse yet, I set the bag of dog stuff on my trunk and then drove off with it still sitting there. About half way to Lakewood, where my friends live, I realized I wasn't wearing a coat. Real smart, considering I'm leaving for Boston in November. It isn't till I'm getting my dog out of the backseat in my friends' drive-way that I realize the dogfood is also missing.

I apologize to my friends and they agree to take care of the food problem until I get back. I then head over to Hopkins, hitting up the K-mart on Warren Road for a superb $10 fleece jacket. Naturally, Boston was in the mid-60s all weekend, making the jacket necessary, but now I have something new and cheap to add to my unnecessary clothing collection.

I get on the flight and, as always, immediately fall asleep, waking only as I feel the wheels touch down in Philly, wander to my new gate, board, pass out again, and wake up in Boston. As I'm checking in to the hotel, my friend Jose walks up, we check in and then grab beers at a couple nearby bars, Kennedy's and the Hub Pub. Neither were super exciting in and of themselves, but it was good to see one of my closest friends and catch up over some Harpoon IPAs.

Boston, Part 1: Prologue

Just got back from another 3 day trip to Boston. It was a good time in some ways, kind of stressful in others. Still, the workload was light, the schedule wasn't packed, I got to see an old friend, and the weather was unseasonably warm. Can't really complain.

Today I stayed in and did nothing. Seriously, nothing. I systematically went through a mental list of all the things I could do and decided not to do any of them. I needed a day like that.

Unfortunately, I also need some groceries, so I think I'm gonna have to eventually get off my chair and do something. Maybe run over to Hot Sauce Williams for some fried chicken. Yum.

Monday, November 10, 2008

winterization help needed

OK, really, one last quick hit before I go to work. (Boo.)

I desperately need to winterize this mother of an apartment I have. There are good and bad things about this place, and one of the good things is the number of large windows. That is also bad, though, as there are no window coverings preventing heat from escaping.

So.... can anyone think of any other winterization tips for the home? I have a hardwood floor, so I'm guessing picking up some rugs would be smart. Getting some drapes or something for said windows would also be smart. Any other tips for keeping home warm on the cheap (without looking like an interior designer from the Victorian age)?

I thank you, my shivering pup thanks you, my bank account balance most definitely thanks you.

OK, as promised, off to work.

Happy Monday! (ugh)

Cool in North Canton

Ah yes, one more question for you reader folk:

Does anything know of anything cool to do in North Canton?

I have to go down there next week and participate in a post-election roundtable/panel thing. I'll be getting done around 9ish, and was pondering the thought of catching a show somewhere in Akron on my way back, but I'm not married to any one particular idea.

Any tips?

heat

Question for you readers out there ...

Where do you set your heat for your homes? Last year I waged a quite successful war against turning on the heat, but it really sucked and would be impossible to replicate because now, instead of living in a mid-sized apartment building, I live in the 2nd floor of an otherwise empty duplex.

Anyway, I'm sucking it up and expecting large-ish gas bills this winter, but I have no idea what a reasonable winter setting is. Before casting stones, keep in mind that last year I didn't turn it on, except for in isolated very cold afternoons, and prior to that I lived in Texas for several years. In fact, thinking about it now, the last time I lived in a place where I could control the heat setting, it was my parents house during high school. And I'm not about to call them, saying, "Mommy - how do I work the heater?" They have little enough respect for me as it is.

:(

It started snowing last night. It is still (kinda) snowing this morning. And cold enough in my apartment that I made the executive decision to wear my winter coat today.

I'm typing up this blog from my living room because I obviously am not yet psychologically prepared to put that thing on. My throat is a little constricted just thinking about it.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Vintage Tremont

Headed over to Tremont last night, caught a meal of mediocre Mexican and froze my ass off while we hiked across the neighborhood. Still, it was good company and I had a nice mellow time.

Best of all was the stop at Asterisk, where proprietor Dana Depew was sponsoring a 2-day show for younger artists around town. Some of the work was interesting and all of it was inexpensive, but nothing really struck my fancy. I did, however, pick up a copy of Parker Amsel's new poetry volume. And a Nixon/Agnew wood banner that Dana had built/painted for the political show last month. Thanks again for that, man!

Even better than any of that, he showed me the progress he's been making on this month's show, which opens on Friday. It breaks my heart that I'm going to be in Boston and unable to attend. This show will absolutely rival last month's and, for that matter, anything else he's done in the last 1.5 years since I moved up here. (Note: This is a reflection of how great his upcoming show appears to be, not negative commentary on anything he's already done.)

So, anyway, my point: On Friday, November 14th, take yourself to Tremont. Check out the show at Asterisk. Drink a couple beers and put a few bucks in the donation jar. Make a reservation at one of the places on this list and enjoy a $30 dinner at a local independent. FYI - The 14th is the last night of this event.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

What a week, Part 5: Epilogue

Woke up on Friday totally wiped out. I got very little sleep, was emotionally and physically drained from Tuesday and Wednesday evening, respectively, and just had to survive a half-dozen hours of routine work stuff before I could get home. I did it. Thank god. And now I'm off to grab a shower, then head over to Tremont for some culture and Mexican food.

Speaking of which - this goes out to you Cleveland: I know it is unfair to judge your south-of-the-border cuisine after moving here from Texas, but you are so far 0 for eternity. Not counting Momocho, but that high-end stuff doesn't count.

Tonight, La Tortilla Feliz or whatever gets it chance. Let's have a happy ending, ok?

What a week, Part 4: Dentistry Postponed, Browns defeat, and welcome to East Cleveland

I woke with a jolt, with a jolt of horror, about 6:30 in the morning on Thursday. I had been startled by a terrifying nightmare that seemed incredibly real, it centered around my walk back home from the theater the night before, only in it I drunk-dialed my ex and we had a terrible exchange. I immediately thought this was not a nightmare, but rather a hazy memory. Needless to say, despite my bleary-headedness, I commenced a frantic search of my apartment for my phone, which was - of course - hiding. After 4-5 minutes, I found it. Quick scan of the recent calls menu showed my fears were actually false - the worst I had done was respond a bit more flirtatiously than possibly wise to a couple female friends. That shouldn't be a big deal, though. After two weeks of friendship with me, my inherent creepiness is quite apparent, so this was (sadly for them) nothing new. I hope.

Anyway, for about 5 seconds I felt relieved, and then after that I felt disgustingly hungover. Not headache hungover, but brain-fried nauseous hungover. That one, I think, might be worse.

I decided to clear my head by walking down to Phoenix on Lee and getting a coffee, then stopping at CVS and seeing if they had any newspapers available (they didn't). Then I struggled back home, plopped on the couch, wished for some aspirin and energy and retroactive better judgment, and realized I couldn't just go back to bed. Although it was a day off, I had a cable repair guy coming to fix my screwy high-range channels. I sat around, watching bad movies, till the guy showed up around 11. After he left, I had a bite to eat, then went over for my first dentist appointment in quite some time.

15 years to be exact.

Yes, I had not been to the dentist in a decade and a half.

Why not? Well, it totally freaks me out to have someone put their fingers in my mouth. Totally, horribly freaks me out. I sweat through every article of clothing. Sad, disgusting, strange, and more.

When I was led to the dentist's chair, the hygienist asked how long it had been, and when I told her she was unable to hide her look of contempt. She started to warn me that this could take 2, possibly 3 cleanings, but then just threw her hands in the air, looked to the heavens, and mumbled something to herself about wasting time. Then she asked me to open my mouth.

Apparently, I am a very good tooth-brusher, because she was in total disbelief that it had been that long. That's good, at least. She did the cleaning and it totally sucked. I took off my hoodie when she had me rinse, and then I took off my over-shirt when she asked me to rinse again.

At this point, she and I both realized that my t-shirt was an old Daniel Johnston "Hi How Are You" shirt and that it matched the tattoo on my forearm. I felt horribly embarrassed and she said something about how I must really like http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifthe guy. I guess that's true, but I didn't want to be matching t-shirt and tattoo guy. Anyway, I figured this would only be the latest in the day's string of indignities, and gave up trying to explain the coincidence. There really isn't any good explanation anyway.

Eventually the horror of the cleaning ended and I got to see the dentist. She was nice, a sweet accented gal who was pretty helpful. She found a tiny cavity (ugh) that hurt terribly when she poked it with her scalpel and warned me away from my affection for medium bristles over soft. She also gave a sales pitch for flossing like she was on commission.

Eventually, I finish up, am pleased to realize there is no co-pay, and hike back home to see if I can squeeze in a nap before the next agenda item on my daily calendar.

I couldn't.

Instead, I came home, changed into a Browns sweatshirt, and went over to the Pub on Lee to meet Jose for a pre-game meal before catching the game at Browns Stadium. The meal was delightful (the off-menu Buffalo Chicken Sandwich is to die for), and Christmas Ale was on tap. According to Jose, it beats last year's.

We eventually get over to downtown, and hike from Jose's secret parking garage to the stadium. Then survive the bottleneck to get in. Then navigate the ridiculous climb to the tickets I had cheaply purchased. Then suffered from deja vu as the Browns did what they did the week before and blow a two-digit lead in the second half as they lost to the Broncos. Then we leave, though it took a good half-hour to exit the stadium. I swear that Browns Stadium is the worst engineered major stadium I've ever been in, at least as far as entrances and exits are concerned. You'd think the architect had seen his lover stolen by a fire inspector, giving the garbage of getting in and out of that place.

Anyway, we eventually get out, hike back to the secret parking garage, find the car after a couple false starts, pause on our way to getting into it because a drunk dude is pissing right in front of it, eventually get in, back up, and make it all the way down to the third level of the parking garage before getting stuck in traffic.

We sat there for the next 57 minutes.

OK, we didn't exactly sit there for the next 57 minutes. Every so often, we inched a little further down.

Nearly an hour later, we exit the garage, and promptly make the ill-advised decision to take Superior eastward, rather than getting on either Chester or Euclid. We eventually find ourselves in Baghdad, I mean East Cleveland, where we get even more lost. Soon we are curving around Mayfield in what would become the most confusing and strange trip from downtown to home I've ever gone on (so far). Fortunately, I had my new iphone, and the GPS tracker/map feature enabled us to figure out where we were and how off our shared knowledge of east-side roads were.

Finally, we pulled up to my place, Jose drops me off, and I trudge toward my door, mostly feeling bad that he still had to drive all the way back home.

I get upstairs, greet and then walk Smelly, and hit the hay. All in all, it was a good day - caught my first Browns game, got to hang with a newish friend, got my teeth cleaned and only had one cavity despite not visiting a dentist since sophomore year of high school, and enjoyed that delicious sandwich at the Pub on Lee. But it would have been so much better had I not started it with a hangover and finished it by saying to Jose, "Sure, Superior takes us the exact same place that Euclid does." Sorry about that, man.