The Great GoogaMooga


This is such a Brooklyn conversation...it's so disappointing.

That’s what one guy said to his friends. He was standing in front of us in line for a Food and Music Festival in Brooklyn. It was at that exact moment that I realized the day would be filled with many ridiculous things said. And that’s when we decided to capture them for memory.

The festival was called The Great GoogaMooga. 'GoogaMooga' means "Giant food clusterfuck." 

Or something like that. 

Brooklyn gets all kinds of reputations for different reasons. Be it Mommies or Hipsters or whatever, I had a strong feeling we would come across all of them and more. Not just because we were in Brooklyn, but also because we were at an all day food/music/wine festival in Brooklyn on the nicest Saturday of the year and well… it’s was ripe for ridiculousity.

And people were already in a spicy mood when they got in because to start, the festival gates opened 30 minutes late, which in New York equals 5 hours. So there was that to season the mood.

The longer you are single the more you care about music festivals.

The same group of friends said that while waiting to get in. They were referencing their 35-year-old friend who thought it made sense to pay five thousand dollars for the VIP section at some music festival. They were right.

I am 28 and I enjoy music but care very little about music festivals. Way less than a large majority of my friends. Mainly because I’m afraid of the sun and I think spending all day out in a dirt field in a tank top and using a port a potty should be a once a year kind of thing. But that’s not something that repels everybody.

But if I don’t enjoy festivals now, I can’t imagine being 35 and thinking “Ya know what? I’d really like to start attending music festivals!”

Eventually the gates opened and we got inside the festival where we immediately started purchasing every delicious gourmet food item we could find.

Seeing as this was a pretty hyped up festival, and it was in Brooklyn, and the time we live in, everybody was taking pictures of everything, myself included.

People would buy food and then immediately have their friend take a picture of them eating it. Like this bacon wrapped hot dog with guacamole and sour cream for example.


No filter, extremely delicious, I’m tagging it.

That’s what somebody said while eating a chicken wing. No filter meaning she wasn’t going to alter the photo. Which if you are taking a picture of yourself eating a chicken wing, you shouldn’t need to doctor it to make people understand how much you enjoy said chicken wing.


See? Happiness.

Hot Dogs, Chicken Wings, and duck, holy crap the duck. It seems like everything was made with duck. Duck in dogs, duck in donuts, duck just… being itself. It was ubiquitous. Which prompted one of the food vendors to drop this bit of gem on a seemingly confused patron.

If you’re a vegetarian, honey, this is NOT the place for you.

And boy was he right. There was so much meat that at one point we needed to lie down on the grass and take a nap.

Well, I mean, the lay down on the grass part was intentional, the taking of the nap just kind of happened. But when I woke up 3 women instantly tied me into a conversation taking place across from me.

They were the kind of women that one might start to instantly dislike for no good reason. I’m not saying I felt that way, I’m just saying, ya know, people.

It had a lot to do with their conversation actually. And even though I listened to their conversation for a solid 20 minutes, I still had NO idea what any of them were talking about. Mainly because they all seemed to be talking at the same time.

What’s that album that says don’t put your hand in the béarnaise sauce?

This preceded a lengthy discussion about a guy, presumably one of their boyfriends, having actually put his hand IN the béarnaise sauce, which was apparently some sort of egregious transgression which was unforgivable.

I, on the other hand, couldn’t even understand why somebody would have an album that referenced béarnaise sauce.

And the next day he went down a slip and slide, a SLIP and SLIDE. AAAAAAAA slip and slide.

Girl number three said this as the other two continued talking. I couldn’t figure out if she was emphasizing slip and slide to get their attention or if she was trying to convey that a slip and slide was a bad thing. Has any adult ever caused an argument by going down a slip and slide? I can’t speak from experience.

Eventually I had to get up and walk away because if I didn’t leave then I might never have. It was like watching trashy TV.

So we wandered in and amongst the thirsty patrons waiting in line for the limited supply of poorly organized alcohol distribution. I won’t go into the details but when the line for tickets to purchase alcohol is longer than the line to actually get said alcohol, you have a serious problem on your hand.

The people who were lucky enough to purchase tickets in a timely manner quickly burned through them in an attempt to take advantage of alcohol’s rumored effects.

Let’s get another beer that’s anything besides this one.

Also a challenge was choosing the right thing to drink, because while you could sample everything, that would cost you tickets. And getting tickets was only slightly less challenging than bringing the one ring to rule them all back to Mordor.

But the lack of alcohol didn’t really bother me because I was too elated to be full of mud pudding, and fried cheesecake, and all other manner of goodness.

Take care good luck and keep the faith.

Oddly enough we heard somebody say this about an hour into the festival. But it made just as much sense seeking out the food as it did leaving it behind. 

A Love Letter to Bread

Dear Bread,

This is long overdue. I know we have been together for some time now but it appears I have been taking you for granted. To be honest it isn’t until you go away (unexpectedly) that I become aware of how in love with you I am. You are never gone for long, but those moments are always tough for me. I would like you to know that I appreciate you in all forms. Sure some people may call you carbs or some other nonsensical terms, but I know it’s you. How do I love thee? Well, let me count the ways.

Let’s be honest, you are breakfast. Eggs and bacon are wonderful things but they are the flashy superstars of breakfast. If breakfast were a football team, you would be the offensive line. Going to battle every single morning in a thankless way. There would be no breakfast sandwich without you, there would be nothing to shovel our food together with. Bread, you are undervalued for all you do in the waffle, pancake, and muffin categories. It is you all along bread. You.

People laugh at me when I double up on an order of you for breakfast (Challah bread French Toast with a side of Rye Toast) but they don’t understand us and the way we work. They think that since you are both toast, you must be the same. I think not. Do they put syrup on rye toast? Do they put jelly on French Toast? Of course not. To call these 2 items the same would be like saying Bed Bath & Beyond is the same as Target.

And if I want to order pancakes and crepes with a side of German pancakes on the side, I will do so. Ya know why? Because those are all different kinds of you. You are so multi-faceted bread. How do you do it?

I know when my love affair started with you. It was in the kitchen of the Boehmcke household in the carb filled weekends of my youth; weekends that I thought were normal up until others called into question those most sacred family traditions.

It would start on a Friday night. As you remember, Friday nights in our house were Pizza night. Dad would bring home a pie from Umberto’s and Angoletto and what started as ½ of 1 slice, slowly evolved to a whole slice, and then 2, and sometimes 3. You worked so hard to keep that cheese and sauce on top of you. You did such a good job.  Every Friday night you made the weekend happen.

Saturday mornings Dad would again supply our home with bread – rolls from the local bakery. I would slather you with enough butter to grease a jet engine and consume you in 5 bites. You were light and fluffy and sometimes sprinkled with seeds.

Sometimes you would work double duty, serving as a lunch transportation vessel as well. Oh how well mustard would coat your airy interior. Hams, cheeses, vegetables, they all worked so well within you. How did you get so good at working with all foods? You are a master of teamwork bread. Damn your perfect social skills.

Sunday Mornings you arrived in a more robust form. Bagels. A dozen from the local favorite. Oh how varied and different you could appear. Covered in poppies, sesames, or infused with raisins, or dark as night in that rebel known as pumpernickel. HOW DO YOU DO IT?

Cream cheese, butter, peanut butter, you accepted all friends. You were so mother *#(@$@# tasty! I can toast you, though most times I opt not to as I am opposed to tanning and feel you should be the same. You don’t need to change for me bread. I have experimented with the many kinds of bagels you explore, except everything of course, but I don’t fault you for that will love you fresh, I will love you stale. I’m not sure what happens to you outside of the New York Area, but you don’t taste quite the same. Perhaps because you don’t feel like quite yourself.

Maybe that’s why I indulge so intensely in you here. Your bagelocity is brilliant.
One for breakfast, one for lunch and perhaps part of one to help with dinner where you had already arrived…

As pasta! Yes you remember Sunday night pasta nights in our house. Covered in marina sauce you worked your skinny, many faceted shape to the best of your ability. You really did the trick. You said, “Rich, this is home, this is love.” Or something like that.

And I know the whole time you were wondering to yourself bread, is this boy an athlete? Does he run marathons? Does he expend great amount of energy lifting heavy weights above his head for long periods of time?

Of course not bread, I just love you.

And it is from those weekends in my house to my life today that I embrace you so tightly. I would gladly lay down on a bed of sour dough and wrap myself in a warm tortilla before laying my head upon a fluffy soft biscuit. You have treated me better than any woman I have ever known. You have never made me feel guilty or wrong.

Sure a couple of times you have made me nauseous. And I will admit I have nobody to blame for that except myself. I tried to force too much of you in myself. It is not my fault, I have 3 stomachs. One for food, one for dessert, and one exclusively for you bread. You have your own place in my heart. Well, I mean, and stomach too.

Thank you for being a part of my past. And please know you always be a part of my future, regardless of what that $*(@)%!# Dr. Atkins says.

Love Always,

Richard

Unnecessary Upgrades

There are few things in this life greater than an unexpected bonus. You know what I’m talking about.

Buy one get one FREE!

Now with 20% more!

Same great formula, new low price!

And so on and so forth. It is our natural instinct as human beings to seek out more for our money. Value is king, and we seek the throne.

But recently I have noticed some products and advertisements of, shall we say, questionable value. I refer to those brands that use cunning creativity and clever messaging to make us think we are getting more than we paid for.

Example A.

Due to the dental trauma I have had in my past, I have become a prolific flosser.

Thus I floss. I keep floss in my backpack, the pockets of my coats, at my desk at work, everywhere. I am paranoid. I even throw some in my pocket if I’m heading out to something like a Corn on the Cob party… if such a thing exists.

I use some brands that have a flavor, and some that don’t. But I’m not generally picky. Though it wasn’t until I visited my sister’s apartment on Easter that I really began to question floss.


The picture is blurry but trust me, you are reading it right.

High Tech Dental Floss.

High Tech? Really?

What makes this dental floss high tech? Was it made by NASA? Is this the preferred floss of astronauts in the Apollo program? Do they regularly get together for Tang cocktails at the end of the day and make fun of the proletariat who subject themselves to regular floss?

Neil: So Buzz I was using some floss the other day.
Buzz: Woah woah woah Neil, regular floss? Hey Other Astronaut that nobody remembers the name of, Neil was using REGULAR floss. What an amateur move! I can’t believe he didn’t crash our ship into The Sea of Tranquility.

High tech dental floss? Really? I turned the package over to see if I could scope out the deets of what made this dental floss so fantastically high tech but I found nothing. If only I had seen the packaging I could find out why it had been called high tech in the first place. Because I have to admit, to me it looks a lot like A PIECE OF WAXY STRING. And if it were “regular tech” or “low tech” dental floss it would just be A PIECE OF STRING.

Unless of course you are referring to the fact that it has a mint flavor that makes it high tech? In which case my toothpaste is high tech, so is my favorite ice cream, and those odiferous markers we were all so keen on huffing in elementary school, which is why I’ve got so much goddamn brain damage.

High tech, psha. Yea. Whatever.

Example B.

I was out in my neighborhood recently, walking to the store when I passed a food cart which is regularly parked, on the sidewalk on the corner of my block. It is Halal food. It is usually made by one guy in a big metal wagon that can hitch to the back of a truck and be pulled away. They prepare things like chicken and lamb shwarma. Shaved meats served in a pita with lettuce and tomatoes and one of either “white” sauce or “Spicy” sauce.

Side note: I have been to many of these vendors around the city and I have never heard these called anything except “white” sauce and “spicy” sauce. Which leads me to believe, nobody has a clue what the hell is in these sauces. But I digress.

So anyway I was walking past it recently when I noticed this sign.


Hrm. Interesting.

Now for those of you who have never eaten from a truck such as this let me give you a little knowledge. I have never ordered anything from these guys that has taken longer than 90 seconds to prepare.

Whose life is so busy that they can't afford the 90 seconds to eat some shwarma, or as it is otherwise known; Street Meat?

Listen, this isn’t The French Laundry, this is not El Bulli, this is chicken on a stick, scraped off with a glorified Mach 3 by a guy in a truck and thrown into a pita with some extremely ambiguous sauce. What kind of lifestyle are you leading that you can’t spare the 90-second wait for that indigestion you are most certainly going to get?

I have thought long and hard about it and the only person I could think of is somebody mid marathon who is jonesing for some lamb. And that is fine. But if you are running a marathon and think eating street meat in the middle is a good idea might I suggest you save yourself some time and just start throwing up now.

The other feature, “we deliver”, made me wonder how he would deliver. Would he just book it from his truck and hope nobody stole it while he was out? Or would he just push his whole “restaurant” to the person’s house? Just move his wagon to their front door.

Hey honey there is a Halal restaurant in our yard. Do you know anything about this?
Why yes I do sweetheart! It’s our lunch!

I figure this guy has either made 0 or 1 delivery in his lifetime. Maybe it was just put up to scare the competition, not that this guy has any competition in my neighborhood. Unless of course you consider restaurants without wheels to be competition. In which case, yes, there is plenty of competition.

Example C.

I mean, really I just have to show the picture.

  
And really I don’t know what else to say here so let’s just go through the logic progression shall we? OK.

1.     I have some jewelry I no longer want and would like to sell. OK cool.
2.     I would like to find a place that will give me money for my gold and diamonds.
3.     Hey you know who might give me good money for my gold and diamonds? The guy who uses a scissor to cut my hair off for 10 dollars whose shop is in the entrance to the subway. Now THAT is a guy I want appraising my jewelry.

Oh and by the way. He also shines shoes and replaces watch batteries.

BONUS!

Can you imagine if there was a Halal truck that bought diamonds, cut hair, and sold high tech dental floss? Now that is a value add I can believe in!

The Second Rant


Again, my document of things I want to write about is growing at a rate faster than I can possibly handle. So, much like I did in The First Rant, I have compiled a short list of topics that don’t require their own post but (in my scientific opinion) are still worth mentioning.  What follows are things that have been marinating in my brain for better or for worse.

Bagels

Living in New York I am very particular about my Bagels. As I am about my pizza as well. There are many bagels I enjoy. The sesame is a fine bagel, as is the pumpernickel, the cinnamon raisin and several others but there is one bagel I don’t get;

The Everything Bagel.


Pass.

I am opposed to this bagel on so many levels. The first being that, for whatever reason, the Everything Bagel is always cooked next to my most favorite of the bagelino family, the egg bagel, which has no seasoning. You’d think they would cook the everything bagel next to the salt bagel or maybe… in its own oven in a different store… in another city.


Its like a plague on other bagels. A bagel plague... a plaguel.

I mean it’s barely a bagel, it looks more like an art project.

And ya know what if you like the everything bagel, I don’t judge you, but can we get some kind of restriction on what is in this bagel? Everything is not an ingredient list. What the hell is in an Everything Bagel? Garlic? Cheetos? Bleach?

It’s like knocking the spice rack over into the mixer.

Is there anything more uninspired than the ingredient list for an everything bagel? I can only imagine the originators of this recipe.

Bagel Maker 1:  What should we put in it?
Bagel Maker 2:  Umm everything.
Bagel Maker 1: What do you mean everything?!
Bagel Maker 2: I mean everything!
Bagel Maker 1: You are gross, I hate you.

Solicitation Emails

Now I don’t condone solicitation emails. You know the ones I am talking about, those emails that say you stand to gain a 40,000,000 Euros if you will just help this dethroned king from Zimbabwe transfer his funds to the Chase Bank in your neighborhood.

The scams take good money out of the pockets of decent humans every year. But the people writing these emails are idiots! I mean they are written in such crap English. You’d think they would hire a decent English-speaking criminal and say

Hey, we are looking to rip off some of the Americans, would you mind rewriting this scam email so it sounds legit?

I think some American criminals could really clean up by consulting for these international hooligans by just suggesting they stop starting out their emails with “Dear Honorable Sirs.” Stop talking to me like I am Nobleman from the 14th century, unless of course you meant to send this email to a Renaissance village, in which case you have other problems.

Airplane Charges

I was on an airplane recently that had those need little TV screens in the back of the seat in front of you. My first thought was “yippee, free movie time.” But no, I was wrong. There was a rental fee. Do you know how much the fee was? 8 dollars. EIGHT FRIGGING DOLLARS! How the hell does that make any sense?

At the movie theater I pay 13 dollars to sit in a good quality seat and watch movies on a screen that is roughly 80 feet.

I can order a movie on TV for like 4 bucks that I can watch from the comfort of my couch (in my underwear no less…. Don’t judge) and eat the food in my fridge.

And yet to sit in a too small tin and pleather shit seat on a noisy plane next to some inflated troglodyte with seemingly 7 elbows and watch a 5-inch screen? 8 dollars!

I can’t even sit back in my seat with a screen that size. I need to lean forward so my face is almost touching the screen. And god forbid the person in front of me puts their seat back while I’m watching, they’ll shatter my nose like a Ivan Drogo. Because nobody ever just gently puts their seat back, they thrust it back like they just hit Mach 12 in their Jet fighter.

Is it too much to ask to use the same care in backing your seat up as when you back up your car? Just take a peak over your shoulder to see if there is anybody directly behind you before you punch the gas like you’re in a chase scene in the Bourne Identity.

Fitness

I pulled a muscle stretching the other day. I think that’s a good sign I’ve hit rock bottom in terms of physical activity.

Wine

There are millions of wines in the world. The odds that your local restaurant is going to have your exact favorite is usually pretty slim. I was tending bar recently when a guy came in and ordered a blush.

A blush? Do people still order blush? What is this, Sephora?

Another customer said to me, “Do you got Moscatto?”

No, I replied.

“You don’t got no pink wine? Damn you don’t got none of the wines I like.”

Mmm indeed.  You have my sincerest apologies. And by the way, thank you for bringing your brand of class to our fine establishment. Leave me your name and number and I will also let you know when we have added Twinkies and Jerky to our menu.

Cologne

I regularly rant against the funkiness of stinky people. But mind you stink is a broad spectrum of which the atrocities are many.

While I used to enjoy the odoriferous benefits of Polo Sport, I think it is important that you don’t smell like you DRANK a bottle of it before you left the house.

And as long as we are talking what people shouldn’t smell like I would like to mention a perfume for Women called Moon Sparkle.


Moon sparkle? I cannot imagine an audience for this product that doesn’t also regularly discuss the pros and cons of Unicorn ownership and spend their days attaching ribbons to the back bumper of their cars.

Moon Sparkle sounds like the name of Rainbow Bright’s horse.

Saddle up Moon Sparkle, we’re going on an adventure!

Somebody brought it to my attention recently that now they make Moon Sparkle for men. I have GOT to believe that the audience buying this product is limited at best. I’m not the manliest of men but I get the feeling if you buy moon sparkle it would come with a free purse and subscription to Cosmo Girl.

But if it came right down to it I’d rather smell like Moon Sparkle than an everything Bagel… but just barely.

Snow Problem At All

Just in case you’ve been in an isolation chamber for the last week, I would like to let you know that the world almost ended this week because of a snow storm.

Well, kind of.

Here is an observation for you: The amount of snow you can tolerate is directly proportional to how much physical space you have in a city. If you are in some place like the Italian Alps, bring on the snow. Gallons, tons, oodles of it!

If you are in a cramped place like New York City? Eight snow flakes fall and every grocery store turns into a Black Friday sale with people killing each other to get milk and bread into their wagon.

Why?

Why does 1 snow storm make people feel they need to go out and buy enough groceries to last them through the end of the next decade?

It snows every year in New York. But some winters are worse than others and when the hype surrounding a snow storm starts, people go bat guano crazy.

That is assuming of course, that the snow actually comes.

If, like last week, the blizzard actually comes, congress shuts down, crime stops, and there is nothing to report about except the snow. So you have these ridiculous news reporters out in the snow demonstrating to us just how snowy the snow storm is.

Reporting at its finest.

First of all they feel the need to take a ruler and put it in the snow to show you how much snow is out there.


As though we wouldn’t believe them otherwise. Like this idiot is going to get on camera and go;

Uh yea so far today we got about… umm…like… 200 feet of snow.

Then they do things like pick up the snow and have the cameraman zoom in as they mash it between their finger tips to show the texture.

They also get a shovel and shovel 1 scoop of snow and toss it into the street to show how heavy the snow is.

Thank you for that. I was just sitting here wondering what the procedure was for shoveling now but you went and showed me.

Meanwhile some poor shmo is standing off camera waiting to get his shovel back so he can continue cleaning off his sidewalk in peace like he was before the van full of Cronkites rolled up to give in-depth interviews with the snow.

Last week, not even exaggerating here, I saw a newscaster crawl through a snow igloo some 8 year old had made.

How does this help anybody?

I can imagine the conversation going on off camera that led to this Journalism school graduate to risk being crushed by 50 pounds of snow to demonstrate that… the snow is real?

As though there is some couple in New York watching TV as they get ready in the morning;

Wife: Hey hunny what does the weather forecast say? How bad is the snow?
Husband: Well, it’s enough to build an igloo that you can crawl through.
Wife: Enough to build an igloo?! Well then I should put on my “Enough snow to build an igloo boots” then.

Every newscast goes into crisis mode using the same huge news fonts and dramatic music they would use if there had been a terrorist attack.

Might I point out that what is falling from the sky is snow… not grenades.

I understand that bad things can happen with inclement weather, and it can adversely affect people but you do not need to bring me 24/7 coverage of the snowstorm 2010 as it happens. Here is how the news broadcast could actually happen.

We apologize for interrupting your regularly scheduled programming to bring you this late breaking story.

It is snowing. Bad. Stay home.

Now back to CSI Sheboygan.

Much like last year I was able to get a snow day off of work when the Snowpocalyptic Snowmaggedeon hit. Seeing as I was out of groceries (big surprise) I made the decision to go out and get a couple of slices of pizza from the place around the corner.

Well of course since I had stopped watching the idiots on TV I didn’t realize that this was probably the worst time to go. Just walking the 200 yards to the pizza place I felt like I was trying to return the one ring to rule them all to the depths of Mordor. The snow was blowing 100 miles an hour up into my nose. The walk isn’t shoveled. And I’m running, like an idiot, in snow boots because I’m starving and really want pizza.

And running through that much snow, in boots, there is really no way to not look like a complete idiot because you have to move every single part of your body just to generate enough momentum to keep going forward. Add a pizza box into the mix and people driving by must have though I escaped from a mental pizza institution.

By the time I got back in my apartment with my soaked pizza box I felt like I had just run a triathlon.

I was outside for 3 minutes tops and I was exhausted. It reminded me of when I still lived at home and had to shovel out my car.


Most snow is fun up until the point at which you have to relocate it.

I definitely do NOT miss that about living in the suburbs. Shoveling snow. Jesus. That is about the worst thing in the world. I used to really like going outside in the middle of the night to shovel the snow as it fell. It was beautiful. It was peaceful. And it’s easy when there is only 1 or 2 inches on the ground, its pitch black outside, and you are the only one around. It’s all very Zen.

But then the next morning there is 96 inches of snow, your cars have been sealed into the driveway by 3 different snow plows and you’re trying to move tons of frozen white shit with a 15 year old chipped piece of plastic attached to the end of the stick. You pull a muscle in your back, your sweating; so you take off a coat, and then your sweat is now freezing.

Yea, that I don’t miss.

Grocery Shopping

I love to eat and I am really good at it. And while going out to eat at a restaurant is always nice, there is no place more exciting to me than the supermarket.

First of all the market is a super one, they even put the word in the title. But in addition to being super, it is only there that you can find food in all its forms. It is truly the land of possibility. Aisles upon aisles of frozen foods, hot foods, room temperature foods, all screaming, begging for you to pull them off the shelf and take them home.

Rich! Rich! See how good I look in my packaging? You know you want me!

But there is one key factor necessary to ensure a successful trip to the supermarket: A person must know how to buy groceries.

I am not that person.

For as much as I love going grocery shopping, I actually have no idea what I’m doing. I mean not even half a clue. I think most guys don’t. It’s built into our DNA from our days as hunters. We don’t compare and we don’t inspect labels. We just grab.

Have you ever read about a caveman inspecting the nutrition value on a dead tiger? What about comparing the value of one dead antelope to another?

No of course not. They see, they take home, and they eat.

And that is exactly how I grocery shop. Oh look a jelly, boom, done. Are those eggs? Boom, in the cart. I know I should be looking for certain price points, and nutritional values, but I have a limited amount of time in a grocery store before my brain just shuts down and I start overfilling my cart with protein bars and boxes of Cinnamon Toast Crunch.



God I love cinnamon toast crunch. (Interesting side note: I have never in my life closed a box of cinnamon toast crunch, if I open one, I immediately eat the entire contents and then just throw out the empty box)

Men are susceptible to easily found items. Spending time foraging in a supermarket is not really our thing. I’m actually not sure why all the staples aren’t located right next to the cash register. I mean operating on that mentality in the current setup most of us would survive only on Beef Jerky, Juicy Fruit, and a copy of US Weekly.

You will never see a man looking as confused as he will standing in the aisle of a supermarket. What it really comes down to is that men get into trouble when we are given choices.

Confronted with a hot blonde and a hot brunette, we will inevitably try to go for both. Faced with a shirt that we don’t know whether to dry clean or launder, we will do neither.

That is why the grocery store is a perfect storm of possible poor decisions. The first time I went grocery shopping in my freshman year of college, I made a grocery list. And even though the actual paper list is now gone, I have unconsciously stuck to that grocery list on every single shopping trip since.

After college there was that 2 year gap where my roommates (parents) did the grocery shopping for me so I didn’t have to worry about it. But I have now been in my current apartment for almost 2 years and I realize I buy the exact frigging things I bought in college every time I go to the super market.

Walking into a grocery store is such a confusing experience; nowhere else do I feel so excited and confused at the same time. It’s like a calculus class taught by a playboy bunny. My ability to purchase groceries depends on what meal I am buying for.

Breakfast? No problem. In fact it is usually the first collection of items in my cart. Waffles, yogurt, juice, fruit, cereal, and granola. Heck, I could do it with my eyes closed.

Lunch? Um, ok, we can do this. I fluster a little bit. A loaf of bread seems right, maybe some turkey, maybe some mustard… and then my mind goes blank. I have no idea what else to buy myself

Dinner? I look down in my cart and see I have 35 chicken breasts and a carrot.

But I think one of my other problems with the grocery store is I only know how to buy food for meals. I have no idea what to buy for the in-between. This would explain why my fridge usually looks like this.



I go to the grocery store and spend well over a hundred dollars on food (not paper towels or tissues or sponges but actual food) only to get home and realize… I have absolutely nothing to eat.

HOW THE HELL IS THIS POSSIBLE?

But this will not stop me from walking over to my kitchen and opening my fridge every 10 minutes as though THIS will be the time I figure out the meal I can make out of yogurt, chicken stock, and beer.

And I’m so bad at coordinating my meals with my schedule that I frequently end up wasting food because I either overbuy food during a week when I’m not coming home for dinner, or I forget it’s in my fridge and pull it out with a thin layer of blue fur.

At which point I dry heave and trip over myself trying to throw it in the trash.

So to avoid being wasteful I started buying frozen…. Everything. Frozen vegetables, frozen chicken. I even freeze my tequila! My fridge may be half empty but my freezer is so jam packed it looks like a cold war bomb shelter ice box.



People who open my freezer might wonder what it is that I know that they don’t.

Even if I do manage to keep my food fresh I still find myself buying the same ingredients over and over again because I make the same things pretty regularly. Since I live by myself I’m not really trying to impress anybody. As long as the fire department doesn’t show up when I use my skillet, I am impressed.

The only time I buy new ingredients is when I’m making a new dish. The only time I make a new dish is when, let’s say, I have a date. And I go on a date about once every… 18 months. So at this rate I should know how to make about 6 things by the time I get married.

Unless of course the woman I marry happens to be incredibly wealthy in which case we can eat out every night.

Now that I think about it, that is a way better idea than trying to get my wife to like chicken stock beer yogurt. Yea forget grocery shopping, I’ll just marry rich.

Doogie, The Brie, and Me

Megan’s dog got diarrhea and it’s all because of the fish museum.

Here is how it happened.

This is my friend Megan.
I spent the New Year in Chicago with Megan at her Mom’s apartment. It was a very thoroughly planned out trip, it happened kind of like this.

Richard: What do you want to do for New Years?
Megan: What if we just went to Chicago?
Richard: I’ve already bought the tickets.

So we arrived early on a Wednesday morning. Megan’s lovely mother Barbara picked us up at the airport and brought us back to her beautiful apartment.

I forgot to take a picture of her.

When I got to the apartment I immediately looked for Megan’s younger sister Jaime. This is Jaime.
I ran into Jaime’s room. Jaime was still asleep so I jumped on top of her to wake her up. I was joined by Megan’s very fluffy Mini Australian Sheppard dog named, I’m not kidding here, Doogie Bowser.

Yea. I know. This is Doogie.
We get Jaime out of bed and we stroll into an as yet not painfully cold Chicago to get some breakfast. We filled our bellies at a delightful placed called West Egg and then hopped in a cab to the Shedd Aquarium.

Now, I myself am a huge fan of aquariums. I have been to aquariums in several different states and countries. And while they may not always be amazing, they are always a good time.

Not so much this time.
We get dropped off at the museum and there is a line of several HUNDRED people. The line is so long that it goes down the steps and snakes around the park out front. The line bends so much in fact that in this picture we are in line, but not even at the end of it.
So after about 30 minutes in this line a museum employee comes by and says he can get people inside instantly and starts taking people to get into the “express line.” This employee doesn't explain what the “express line” is but to me this sounds like a scam so Jaime, Megan and I pass and stay outside.

Well after another 20 minutes and another offer to get on the express line I decide to investigate and figure out what the difference is. Basically instead of paying 19 dollars you pay 39 dollars (39 Freaking dollars) which guarantees you a ticket to the 4D movie and a ticket to something at “Fantasea” which sounds like some sort of Burlesque show involving King Neptune and a dolphin.

With our extremities approaching blue we cave and decide to pay the outrageous fee. So they take us inside to the “express line” where we end up waiting for ANOTHER 30 minutes. The only difference is it was indoors.

Whoopee.

By the time we finally got our tickets  (including a ticket so see the topless King Neptune show which doesn't start for 3 hours) we were ready for some fish to blow our minds.

As it turns out, every human being in the state of Illinois was at the aquarium. I stepped on the tiny feet of no less than 40 toddlers. We had to wait on a line for everything. A line to see the skinny fish. A line to see the fat fish. A line to get in the elevator. A line to get out of the elevator. It was awful. And we were carrying our coats.

The entire time Jaime keeps raving about the 4D movie because she has seen it before. Jaime tells us this movie is amazing. This movie will change our lives. This movie will make me a good singer and thicken Megan’s hair. This movie is amazing.

This is us waiting on line for it.



We finally get into our life changing movie and does it change our lives?

No.

As it turns out a 4D movie just means that for a 15 minute film they spray water on you, whip your ankles with a string, and poke you in the back with a stick. After that we were cranky and ready to start drinking.

We left the aquarium and abandoned our plan of having lunch somewhere and just went back to the apartment. Extremely pissy and sore (from the pokes in the back) and since the view from Barbara's apartment was so grand we just decided to open a bottle of wine and decompress a little.

Well 1 bottle for 4 people is not nearly enough so we quickly opened another, and Barbara brought out some crackers and a very large, very lavish triangle of brie complete with the rind.

These delicacies were placed in the living room on the coffee table where Megan and Jaime and I sat and nibbled on them while Doogie sniffed around and looked for a cuddle. We didn’t eat much because we were more interested in drinking and bemoaning the dramatic inefficiencies of what I was now calling the Fish Museum.

I say Fish Museum because it did not deserve the title of aquarium. For me an aquarium is a happy place full of fish and joy. Whereas a Fish Museum now means a place where you pay 39 dollars to wait on a hundred lines and get poked in the back.

We were depleted. We couldn’t find enough wrong with the museum from the extra charges, to the misinformation, to the complete lack of order. We had just lost it. We were done.

So when we walked into the kitchen to join Megan’s mother for a third bottle of wine we were starting to feel more than OK. Jaime would tell us later that as we walked into the kitchen she thought to herself that she should maybe bring the Brie with her.

We continued to indulge ourselves in our 3rd bottle of wine and some time before we opened the fourth I wandered back into the living room and saw Doogie next to the coffee table but the brie was gone.

Not have chewed or half consumed but gone as though it had never existed. The plate was completely empty.

Doogie had eaten and entire wedge of Brie, rind and all and was now walking around the house with somewhere around 30 dollars worth of French cheese in his stomach that was going to make his (and Barbara’s) life hell for the next 36 hours.

It quickly became obvious the following morning that Doogie was in a world of hurt. He walked around the house in a listless kind of haze with a look on his face that seemed to say, “What have I done?”

There were many whimpers that came from the poor pooch. Many trips over the door to be let out only to change his mind and turn around when the door was actually opened. He just didn’t know what to do with himself. And in fact every time he came back in from outside, Megan’s poor mother would pick him up and put him in the sink. She would then wash his fluffy little but off so he wouldn’t leave a trace of his poor decision on anything he sat on like he did when he hopped on Megan’s white bed Thursday morning.

Even though he had done some damage Doogie wasn’t done eating.

In fact over the course of 5 days Doogie also ate other things left on the coffee table including:

A small chunk of Boursin cheese
Half a peanut butter bagel
And some eggs over medium

This was all in addition to what he was able to get from the dishwasher.

He was absolutely incorrigible. I would love to say that Doogie learned his lesson this week but I don’t think he did. In fact I am almost positive that if he saw an even larger, stinkier block of Brie on the table tomorrow that he would eat the entire thing without a second thought. So while Doogie didn’t learn anything, I certainly did.

The Chicago fish museum gives dogs diarrhea.

The First Rant

Since I began writing this blog, I have had many ideas for stories that never made it into a post. For the most part, these ideas are just one-liners too one dimensional to be fully fleshed out.

And more often than not they just get added to a rapidly growing list of ideas that never get used. Seeing as that document is now approaching 12 pages, this is my best effort to purge myself of these baby rants.

Home Made

In the south you come across a lot of signs that say "homemade." I don't know how this became the go-to marketing ploy of restaurants. To me it seems very similar to slapping the word "eco-friendly" on a product. But even if eco-friendly is a lie, it still implies something good. "Homemade" doesn't necessarily means something is good.

Do you know how many homemade things come out awful? Half the shit I "home make" tastes disgusting. Homemade means, "not made by professionals." Would you ever get on an airplane that said "homemade" on the side?" Would you use aspirin if it said "homemade"on the label?

Vanity Plates

If you have an idea for a vanity license plate you should have to submit it to a panel of judges at the Department of Motor Vehicles. And if that panel can't guess what it means within 5 seconds, you are not allowed to have that vanity plate. It is not fair for you to have a secret joke that I don't get on your license plate.

It will piss me off while I am driving. And then I will all of my time tailgating you to see if I can decode your plate. You might as well have a magic eye poster on your bumper.

Concert Encores and Side to Side Hand Waving

I understand there are some songs where some side to side hand waving seems appropriate or even matches up with the beat. But it has gotten out of hand. How did hand waving become the pinnacle of fun? "Oh my god here it comes. We are about to start waving our hands side to side, I am so excited."

Pretending I am a wind wiggler does not make me feel good. If I am really enjoying a movie or a good steak, I don't throw my arms into the air and start waving them around. I like to have most of my fun with my hands at my sides thank you very much.

And concert encores have gotten so predictable. Who doesn't know when an encore is coming? "Oh look the band stopped playing. Jeez, I sure do wonder if they are going to play an encore. Why are all the lights still off? I wonder if... oh my god the band is back on stage it's a MIRACLE!"

Just once I would like to see somebody come on stage and say, "Hey, I'm going to stand up here and rock your face off for 2 hours and give you the best concert I can. Screw the encore." That would be something I could get behind.

Light Beer

I understand that I am easy to make fun of. Seriously. Spend any amount of time with me and you will not be at a loss for material. But if you drink light beer you are no longer allowed to challenge MY masculinity. You know what light beer is? Diet soda for alcoholics.

Beer fills you up for a reason. It means you're done. And if you are full but not drunk, you shouldn't be drinking anymore. Drinking copious amounts of light beer while condescending to me does not make you tough. It makes you fat AND rude. Grab a real beer and leave the light beer to 10th graders and people who hate beer.

Teenagers

Speaking of 10th graders, it is really easy to hate teenagers.

That's it. Just wanted to mention it.

Flying

Every time somebody says "Have a good flight" to me, I always respond by saying thanks. But what else am I supposed to say? "Thank you, I'll try?" I know its just people being polite but my brain always wants to say "Oh yea, good point. I'm actually co-pilot for this one so I will be extra careful." Being on an airplane is one of those scenarios where you have absolutely NO control over the quality of your journey.

You don't get to pick the route, the plane, the pilot, where you sit, who sits next to you, how many people you travel with, etc. The only thing you are given the option of is whether you want the chicken or the pasta and even that doesn't matter because they microwave the hope out of everything so it all ends up tasting the same thing anyway.

Old Phone

How come in old movies when the phone rings and there is nobody on the other end of the line or they get disconnected, the person always hits the hang up button 3 or 4 times? Is there something in their mind that says hanging up on the person will make them reappear? Has this ever worked to get the caller back on the line? What is the logic progression that led to this? When you open the door and there's nobody there, do you close it and open it 3 more times just to make sure?

The Movies

When a film starts in a movie theater it is always, "MGM is PROUD TO PRESENT."

Well who is going to go see a film that starts out, "MGM IS SLIGHTLY ASHAMED AND RELATIVELY EMBARRASSED TO PRESENT:______?"

Food Network

I must I admit I am a little bit behind the times because I don't have cable but for some reason I get The Food Network. I been watching this channel a lot lately and holy crap I am addicted! Has anybody else seen this channel? Right, I'm sure you probably all have. But this channel is my crack!

I find it so inspiring. I go into my kitchen after watching some amazing concoction on TV feeling all ambitious and ready to create a masterpiece but all I have in there is peanut butter, spaghetti, and garlic salt. Here's an idea Food Network, instead of giving me recipes based on your suggested ingredients, why not base a show around the ingredients I have in my kitchen? You could call it something new every week. The first show would be called Peanut Butter, Spaghetti and Garlic Salt.

And the dish would be good. It has to be.

It's home made.

Losing It - Part 1

I am not an angry person. Most days I am quite the jovial bloke. I walk around town with a smile on my face and a song in my heart. But sometimes, the general mental incompetence of a select few pushes me to the edge of my sanity, causing me to lose my cool and have a small irrational meltdown.

I had mentioned before how some frustratingly detached vendors were making me angry. After a brief series of poor interactions with said vendors things got better. In fact, I had great interactions with many people. I thought my unfortunate collection of events had passed.

I, of course, was wrong.

It all started at the post office. Nothing especially memorable happened there, the place is just awful. No matter how hard I rack my brain I can think of few places on earth that are more awful than the post office. I mean at least the department of motor vehicles has seats! And there is the excitement in the air of teenagers thirsting for freedom has they get their license issued to them for the first time.

But the post office has absolutely no joy. None. Have you ever seen anyone completely beside himself to buy a stamp?

No.

Everything about the post office says; "You will wait on lines, I will give you attitude, and you will leave here depressed, crying, and possibly broke."

Let me point out that I am not anti postal worker. I am very pro postal worker. In fact, mailmen and women are some of the friendliest people in town. They are super friendly. Heck, my grandpa used to be a letter carrier for many years and they just don't make them any better than my grandpa!

But the people who work in the post office... dude... I don't know what happened to them in their lives, but it certainly wasn't good.

I think one of the big issues with the post office is that nobody moves with any sort of purpose. It appears to be some sort of time vacuum. It is all slow motion and madness. The building doesn't even look like it is open to begin with. Everything looks worn and broken and the customers in there don't have the time to be there in the first place.

Plus it seems like to do anything you have to fill out 8 forms in triplicate. There is like 1 pen in the whole damn building and that piece of shit is hanging from the counter by a braided piece of tape and string that looks like it was tied there by a one armed monkey.

The post office is 90 times more difficult than it needs to be. The automated machine is the only good thing there. But of course there is only 1 of them and it has a purchase minimum. I try to use it for everything but it is just not possible. And god forbid I need to buy 1 stamp I have to actually go wait on that crazy snaking Disneyland line of misery and revulsion.

Even just standing on that line gives you a glimpse into a hell on earth you couldn't possibly know existed. You feel the hate of everybody in front of and behind you. People's heads swing around wildly, like they are searching for something. It is as thought they think that THEY will be the ones to figure out the mystery of the post office that has eluded man for thousands of years.

Everybody takes turns letting out exasperated sighs. Only like 2 out of the 9 stations are actually staffed and open and you constantly see postal workers walking around behind the counter looking like they just came out of a coma.

I left there feeling like my soul had been sucked out through my eyeballs. And when I'm feeling soulless I head to a place that can provide me with a quick pick-me-up. I turn to my addiction.

Donuts.

Now, I have a discerning donut palate. There are few places that live up to my standards. But when I'm jonesing I head over to a nationally famous donut chain for a cream filled creation of laughter and love.

But what I end up with is a decrepit relic that tastes like I am on an archaeological dig for the fossilized remains of what once upon a time, in a galaxy far far away, might possibly, on a rainy Tuesday, maybe known as cream.

In fact it is not only the donuts that have gone down hill at this establishment, the quality of the service has taken a flying leap into the pits of horribility.

It is not just the donuts that are hollow, I am almost sure the heads of the employees are as well.

It boggles my mind because I am not sure what job could be better than handing people donuts.

What's that you say? Oh you want a donut? Oh how awesome is that because I have a donut! I have lots of donuts!

Your job is to hand people donuts. DONUTS! The last time I was in there I told they guy I wanted 30 munchkins, but the look on his face mad it seem like I had asked him to find the derivative of the square root of the metric weight of Neptune.

He asked me to repeat my request again, but I wasn't exactly sure what he was saying because he wasn't making eye contact and I could barely hear the words coming out of this guy's mouth.

I can understand that you may not be some sort of highly evolved brain genius, but surely, SURELY, you must know that you must say your thoughts out loud for other people in the universe to hear you. Right?

He asked me to repeat my order 3 times, but because he was so poor at speaking and making his question clear, I had no idea what was going on and was just getting upset.

Just give me some F#*$&^% munchkins you moron!

I knew I had really lost it when donut holes are sending me to the verge of a brain hemorrhage. You know you are in a bad way when you walk into a donut shop looking for a fight.

While I've come to expect an awful time going to the post office or buying sweet treats, I definitely did not expect to get into a fight in the library.

But that is exactly what happened next.

To Be Continued...

Change I Don't Believe In

I'm not a big fan of coins. I mean I like money as much as the next guy, but coins in general are a bit cumbersome. And for someone like me who likes to travel with as few items as possible, heavy metallic change is kind of the enemy.

But I have found myself paying a lot closer attention to my change lately. Perhaps I'm becoming more frugal, or maybe it's my fear of a complete economic collapse, either way, I'm not forsaking my coins any more for their dollared brethren. I am taking care of them, nurturing them, and using them. And it's making me realize certain things.

The first thing I've realized is that using change makes me feel like a child. I'm not sure if this is an insecurity of my own creation as much as it is imposed on me by society.

I keep all of my change either in my desk at work, or at home in an empty Gatorade bottle. When that bottle gets full I take it over to my bank and dump that change into the automatic coin counter.

It is a large machine with a touch screen and a tray that sorts and counts your coins. It then prints out a receipt which you can take up to the counter and exchange for paper money, which is my favorite.

You get some pretty interesting characters waiting in line at that machine. Characters including the creepiest looking people in the world with mugs, jugs, and dirty socks full of coins. So many coins that they often break the machine making us all wait a half our for the manager to fix it.

But it's not the machine itself that makes me feel like a child. It is the instructions. These are given loudly by audio in the voice of an 8 year old girl.

Why?

Well I guess they assume, like I do, that the only people trying to buy anything with change must still be in elementary school. They also apparently think I can't read so i have to listen to another smarter elementary school kid tell me what to do.

So as I am shaking my Gatorade bottle full of nickels into the sorting panel, this cartoon brown noser on the screen is shouting to the whole bank;

"DO YOU WANT TO GUESS HOW MUCH YOU HAVE?"

No I don't want to guess how much I have. How about this guess... Not enough!

And when I finish emptying, and she finishes sorting, she shouts with mock excitement;

"WOW YOU SURE SAVED A LOT OF MONEY!"

Shut up you little snot! I know things are different in cartoon world, but in mine $23.86 is not a lot of money. That's not even half my grocery bill. So stop patronizing me. I don't need you telling me I don't have enough money. What do you know?

About 15 years ago, maybe I would have thought a bit differently. Back when I was a kid the only things I bought were baseball cards and candy. And I always used change, piling my silver on the counter of the corner store like I was a pirate and I had just dug up me plunder.

But at my current point in life, piling change on a counter does not make me feel like a pirate. It makes me feel like an incompetent moron. Like when my drawer at work gets too full of change, I take it downstairs to the hole in the wall coffee shop to buy a breakfast sandwich. And even thought the sandwich only costs 2 bucks, I still feel kind of uncomfortable paying for it with 6 quarters, 2 dimes, and a nickel.

I wonder what the guy behind the counter is thinking.

"Oh great. Here comes the man-child with no real money."

Does he wonder if I am extremely cheap? Broke? Maybe I operate a tollbooth on the weekends and I'm skimming the profits?

Perhaps, because I can put myself in his shoes.

I bartend on the weekends at a place that gets pretty busy. Many people pay by credit card but most people pay by cash. Things usually go pretty smoothly, but there is one situation that always trips me up.

When somebody's bill comes to something like $19.95 and they give me a twenty dollar bill and stand there waiting for the nickel while I go and make change, for some reason it leaves me in disbelief. I pause for a moment and then scream, "Do you really need this you cheapskate?"

And then I fling the nickel at their face.

Maybe not.

But when the tables are turned and I am the customer, I don't really know what to do. For instance, if I give someone a twenty for something that costs $19.95, while I stand there waiting for my change I have a small panic attack.

What does the person behind the counter think about me while I stand there waiting for my nickel.

Do they think I am some scrooge hunting after every last cent? Like I wouldn't dare let any of my tremendous net worth out of my sight. So then I contemplate letting them keep the change.

But what am I supposed to say?

"Hey there friend, buy yourself a nice piece of Bazooka Joe."

How does that make me look? Oh yea I'm so wealthy that you can keep that nickel. Or do they think that I think that I am doing them a favor? I don't know! I think the best thing to do is just walk off like I didn't even notice a nickel was involved. That way we both win.

And maybe as I walk off I can add;

"WOW YOU SURE SAVED A LOT OF MONEY!"

Or maybe not.

FREE WAFFLES!

People love free. It doesn’t matter what the free thing is. When presented with the concept of “free,” seemingly rational humans will turn into raving lunatics, crowding into fire hazards and acting like flailing 4 year olds for stuff they are not even sure they need.

It’s no better in New York where you need a home equity loan just to afford a decent martini. There are plenty of free things in this city, but there are 8 million people here trying to take advantage of them so the competition is intense and frankly, chaotic.

So you can imagine how surprised I was to find myself hustling across 13 blocks and 3 avenues to stand on line for 20 minutes to get half a free waffle.

Bear with me on this one.

I love waffles. They are in my top 3 favorite foods along with donuts and my mother's Chicken Parmigian. I have quite the discerning waffle pallet. I’ve made my own, I’ve eaten at Waffle Houses, and I’ve done waffle hopping in Belgium. I am a connoisseur.

So you can imagine my elation when I heard about a waffle truck that journeyed around Manhattan selling happiness to eager patrons. It is a simple concept; a beautiful yellow truck complete with a waffle making kitchen and chock a block with all the toppings you could hope for.

The truck makes stops in different areas, and rotates semi regularly. My first and so far only encounter was last summer when my boss and I emerged from a meeting on Park Avenue and happened upon the truck.

It was like a DHL truck filled with awesome. We pooled our cash to purchase some light and crispy quadranted happiness. Walking with a briefcase and a waffle covered in strawberries and Nutella turned out to be dangerous. And my boss had to save me from getting hit by a car twice as I couldn’t bring myself to concentrate on anything but this Midas touched breakfast treat.

The waffle truck and I had not seen each other again until last week. My sister knows of my obsession with the mighty waffle and sent me an email that said.

“Waffle truck giving away free waffles from 12 to 1pm at 45th and 6th.”

This was at 11 am.

Now remember I am the guy who shows up 20 minutes early for movies nobody wants to see. So you can imagine the instant anxiety I felt about a waffle giveaway.

My heart started pounding. How many people had heard about this phenomenal occurrence? Was it worth the trip up there?

When engaging in ridiculous activities you usually want somebody to accompany you so the two of you can laugh about how ridiculous it is.

But sometimes, an activity is so ridiculous that you want to engage in it by yourself so nobody will see just how incredibly excited you are.

I thought this activity was the former… as it turns out, it was the latter.

I called a couple friends that worked where the waffle truck was making its magical appearance but they were unable to attend. So, unable to attract a cohort, and with my pulse approaching record speed as the clock struck 11:36, I fled my office on a crusade for waffles.

I was so excited I actually ran out without my umbrella even though the forecast called for a 173% chance of rain.

No time for worries!

It struck me as I was practically jogging down the street that maybe my love of waffles and my quest for a life of frugality had led me to what an uneducated bystander might refer to as “desperate” or “pathetic.”

So as I speed walked 3 avenues to take a train one stop so I could walk 4 blocks to a giant yellow truck that sold waffles out the side… I thought to myself, am I going to be late? Will this place will be mobbed? Will people wait until 12 on the dot to get on line? What about the guy who bought one at 11:59? Was he going to be pissed off that if he had waited 38 more seconds he could have saved $4.50?

And was he terrified at the strangely large group of people that were just encircling the van like a bunch of breakfast hyenas? As though they would jump him as soon as he bought his waffle.

“He’s got the waffle…. LET’S GET EM!”

But I got my answer as soon as I arrived. The truck was parked near the corner and there was already a feeling of excitement in the air. Or maybe it was poverty. Either way, at 11:45 there were already 25 people on line. I was kind of surprised but I felt relieved. I would probably be guaranteed a waffle while still not appearing to be a super dork by being first in line.

I helped pass the time by talking to the “King of Belgium” who had flown in for the occasion.

By 12:02 there were 30 more people on line behind me. And as more people walked past me to get on the line my feeling of pride devolved into that of dork. I went from feeling like I was online for a free tasty treat to feeling like I was waiting for the pocket protector store to open.

I averted my eyes as everyone passed, and not having anyone with me, and unable to strike up a decent conversation with the people behind me I was forced to kind of look up at the sky with a constipated smile on my face while the line moved slowly along.

Eventually I got my waffle with blueberries and Nutella (because nothing says “healthy” like covering your fruit in spreadable heart attack) but it was only half a waffle. Pitifully sized at that. But I wasn’t totally upset. After all it was the only way they’d be able to serve such an excited crowd.

And besides the waffle was delicious, I passed on the knife and fork opting, small as it was, to eat it like a slice of pizza. I probably looked like I had just come back from the state fair eating a waffle covered in nonsense, but hey I was happy. Plus I got to meet the founder, the waffle king, and I got a story out of it.

So it was totally worth it. Kind of. Not entirely. But the good news is I learned a little something about waffles, and a little something about myself. But I know I’ll never do that again.

Unless of course somebody opens up a donut truck…

4 Worst Food Decisions

I made yet another poor life decision this week involving food. And it prompted some thinking about my history of poor food choices. So I started making a list of the 4 worst food purchase and food preparation decisions in the history of Rich Boehmcke. Here they are in descending order.

#4 Jelly Would Have Been Better - Sometime around 10th grade

This was a time in my life when I was probably feeling a surge of confidence. I was into sports to some degree so I was hanging around a lot of guys that were going to the weight room and eating ridiculous things.

This inspired a certain courageousness and whimsy in me that was probably misguided. I remember being in my kitchen on one particular day. There were fresh cold cuts in the fridge as usual so I took the roast beef and made myself a sandwhich. I was bored with the usual condiment selection. Then I remembered there was Skippy peanut butter in the cabinet.

I thought I was being clever, I thought I was being a guy, carefree and oblivious willing to eat anything. And to be honest, the first time I actually enjoyed my PB&Beef sandwich. Perhaps I was so enamored with my incredible creativity and whimsy (lots of whimsy back then) that my taste buds completely shut down.

That is the only possible solution I could come up with.

But the second time I made this my taste buds were not fooled, nor was my judgment. Here’s a tasty morsel for you. PB&Beef in addition to having an almost entirely unchewable texture also tastes awful.

#3 The Non Stick Non Bake Pan – Fall 2005

I was living in a studio apartment my last semester in college. My living space consisted of a mattress on the floor, a walk in closet, and an oven just slightly larger than a shoe box. Most of my home made meals consisted of chips and salsa and a cheese quesadilla. But with graduation impending, I felt the need to branch out and prepare something more grown up.

I had this large nonstick pan which I used to cook my quesadillas. I don’t remember what I was cooking on this particular day but it was something on the stove in that pan.

I realized I didn’t like the way it was cooking, not fast enough or not even enough. So I heated up the oven and put the pan into the oven thinking that would do the trick. Great idea Rich!

Not so much. About 15 minutes later I noticed a faint chemical smell. Like a tiny needle of sent had jabbed itself into my nostril and then disappeared before I could process it.

But then I was overcome by the incredible stench of ammonia. What the hell was that? Where was it coming from? I opened the oven and BAM. The wave was unbearable. I quickly opened the door fearing I was going to die of toxic gas inhalation.

I pulled the pan out and put it on my stove. What the hell did I do wrong? Was I not supposed to bake this pan? I thought all pans could go in the oven. Was this not true? Where was my pan instruction manual?

I paced around my room contemplating whether or not to eat whatever I had “made.” My better judgment prevailed and I decide to throw the whole pan out in the dumpster.

So with an oven mitt on I took the burning, stinking pan out into my apartment’s parking lot, looked around for any sign of witnesses and threw the pan full of chemical warfare casserole into the dumpster and ran back into my apartment.

I then spent the next hour peeping out my window because I was sure either
A. Someone had called the cops
Or
B. The dumpster would burst into flames.

Neither happened, and I’m pretty sure I didn’t try to bake another thing until, well...

#2 The Potato Chip Incident - April 15, 2009

I bought some baby potatoes recently (Their so cute!) and decided to roast them with some olive oil and rosemary. Great idea right? So I sliced them up nice and thin, seasoned them, and laid them out on a pan to bake in the oven. Beautiful little white slices of potatoes dressed up and ready to party.

I put them in the oven on 400 degrees and promptly forgot about them until later on when I smelled them. Oh goody! You know your food is almost done when you can smell it.

Apparently, your food is also burnt to a cancerous crisp when you can smell it. I had a sheet full of black potato chips. And not chips in the tasty football game snack kind of chip. These were a pack of charcoal chips.

I was distraught. Had I wasted all of these potatoes? No, I wouldn’t let it be. So I started eating some of them. While they were crispy they were also terrible. Absolutely awful. After several I decided this was not a good idea. So I stopped and threw the rest out.

A half hour later I realized this had been a HORRIBLE idea. My chest was in pain. I felt like I had swallowed a handful of ninja stars or an Isuzu. I needed a Tums Cocktail or Zantac 836.

You know those x-rays you see of people who have a giant medical instrument that accidentally got left inside them when they were sown up after surgery? That’s how it felt. This awful pain in my chest just above my solar plexus, like one of those charcoal chips had torn a hole in my esophagus on the way down.

The pain lasted for 2 days. I no longer slice baby potatoes so thin.

#1 The Worst 36 Dollars I Ever Spent - Thursday April 30, 2009

Despite years of evidence to the contrary, I continue to think my skinny pale frame is capable of building and packing on muscle.

I attempt to do this by consuming ungodly amounts of protein in shake form throughout my day. This requires me to regularly purchase protein powder. And like all the things, if you buy it in bulk, it is considerably cheaper.

Protein powder usually comes in 2 pound containers in standard flavors like Chocolate, Vanilla, or sometimes banana or strawberry. The largest size is usually the 5 pound container. So I try new brands based on what is cheapest.

So last week I purchased 2 different 5 pound containers of protein powder from the Vitamin Warehouse. One was chocolate flavor, one was vanilla. Neither of which I had tasted from this brand before.

Eager to see if I made a good decision I brought them home and made a test vanilla shake to see if I had made a bad decision.
And in fact, I had made a bad decision.

It was horrible. No. Horrible falls short. There are things that taste off. There are things that taste bad. And there are things that taste wrong, like they go against nature. Wrong like a donkey wearing culottes kind of wrong. Against nature, inappropriate, unfathomable. This “vanilla” shake was such an abomination.

It tastes like grounded up aluminum siding. Even just thinking about the taste of that shit makes me never want to do another a second of physical activity in my life.

But unfortunately I must continue to work out and consume it because I have about 96 more aluminum siding shakes to drink.

Hey… I wonder how they’d taste with a PB&Beef?

Veganic

Ever since I committed myself to becoming a professional body builder, I have been paying a lot closer attention to the food I eat. I don’t just mean I stare at it really hard. I mean I have been reading the labels, looking at the ingredients, and trying to understand exactly what it is I am consuming.

And it’s terrifying. The ingredient list in most of the food we eat is damn near impossible to comprehend. But if you read enough labels, not only do you get really paranoid, you will probably will start noticing some buzz words.

For a moment lets ignore the ingredients we can’t pronounce, because I don’t know what the hell they are. They might be putting nuclear waste in my granola bar, but as long as it disguised as a word with 5 syllables I’ll never know.

But the first buzz word that is flying all around is “Organic.” I am a fan of organic; I want all of my things to be organic.

If I had my druthers, I would sleep in bamboo sheets sustainably harvested from a combine in Vietnam and wear clothes made of hemp that were woven by a bunch of tree hugging hippies living in the San Fernando valley, all the while eating eggs laid by cage free chickens that spend their days lightly jogging around the 500 square miles of roaming meadows deep in the Canadian countryside.

But the organic craze has gone too far. I recently went to an art show where the free promotional beverage being served was “Organic Water.”

Now I know that I got like... a C- in chemistry, but I am pretty sure that all water is organic. I don’t recall anybody inventing water. The cave men weren’t drinking from flowing rivers of Sunny Delight.

The funny thing about this organic water was the fact that it had 16 GRAMS OF SUGAR!

Are you kidding me? That’s not water, that’s what you add to rum to make a mojito!

I was having a major thirst not too long ago so I ran into a supermarket to grab an impulse beverage from near the cash register. I picked one that looked like one of those flavored water types. It was orange, and that is my favorite color so I thought good things.

I took a swig and BLEAH. It tasted like… well I didn’t really know. So I took a look at the ingredients to see.

Organic extracts of orange peels and flowers.

Ok, not really my first choice for a beverage. I have never said in times of thirst, “Somebody bring me a frosty beverage that tastes of fruit rinds and plants.” But I let it be; I moved on to the next ingredient and found the culprit.

Organic Extracts of cinnamon bark.


Mmmm bark. Just like mom used to make.

Cinnamon bark? Are you kidding me? BARK?! What brain genius came up with the idea to make a drink out of the piece of the fruit we don’t eat, flowers which nobody eats, and bark? Bring him to me so I can force feed him his own putrid devil nectar

I recently watched a non-vegan friend of mine take one bite of a vegan brownie. One. She did not take another bite because she could not bring herself to punish herself like that.

Now according to the dictionary vegan is defined as a strict vegetarian; someone who eats no animal or dairy products at all. And if that’s you, bless you my child. Good for you. I am not opposed to that lifestyle by any means.

However the vegans who made this brownie cheated. I wondered what would make my friend retch in such a way after eating one bite of the brownie. Looking at the ingredients I realized why. One of them was;

Vegan Chocolate Chips

Chocolate, as I understand it, is cocoa powder, sugar and MILK. So if there is no MILK, then something has been substituted. But the marketing department for this brownie probably had a conversation like this,

Gary: Oh crap I don’t know what’s in these chocolate chips
Louis: Well then we can’t write anything on the ingredient list
Gary: No we will just call them… umm.. Vegan Chocolate Chips.
Louis: Good idea because by the time they realize it will be too late.
Gary: Muahahaha we are so evil and smart.
Louis: Let’s go kick a puppy.

So wizards Gary and Louis have essentially created a product and informed us of it by explaining what is NOT in it. These chocolate chips have no milk.

Ok great, so what the hell is in them? By their rationale I could create a candy bar with an ingredient list that looks like this.

Does not include, uranium, zebras, or pieces of Mike Tyson’s face.

But I realized it’s all marketing. It doesn’t have anything to do with the actual product any more. It is only about what you think the product is. Nothing is not twisted.

Like the package of Moth Balls I recently saw. The front of it said:


Old Fashioned moth balls.

Forgive my ignorance, but have there been any major developments in moth balls since... ever? Did I miss the advent of the moth ball that came with cable television and an automatic transmission?

Is the word old fashioned really necessary? Or is this company just trying to appeal to the customer who seeks the kind of reminiscence that brings back fond memories of a plastic covered couch and Brylcream.


These words, Vegan, Organic, Old Fashioned, these are all words meant to make us feel something about a product regardless of what it actually is. But if you think about how you feel while you real those words, you'll lose your damn mind.

And that is why I refuse to read any more labels. I will go back to my life of ignorance. and continue eating nuclear waste granola bars. In fact, if you need me, I’ll be over here eating a Mike Tyson free brownie.

Chew On This

While I consider myself to me a relatively intelligent human being, fairly competent at most tasks, gum chewing proved to be a bit of challenge for me in the earlier part of my life.

I remember the first piece of gum I ever had. I don’t remember how old I was but I remember still feeling quite small. I believe the piece in question was an individually wrapped blue stick that came in a box of Cheerios. I begged my mom to let me have it. So she and my sister, 3 years my elder, sat on the steps while I stood in front of them as though about to partake in a spelling bee.

My mom opened it for me and handed me this sacred new candy. Her instructions were very clear. She said “Don’t swallow it, do not swallow this. Chew it, but don’t swallow it.”

As I recall I chewed it once and then swallowed it.

Throughout my youth (after I stopped swallowing my gum) my mother would only let us chew half pieces of sugar free Trident. We would ask for a piece of gum and she would tear us a half of an already pitifully small piece of Trident. As though a whole piece of Trident was more than our little mouths could handle. You may consider this to be foreshadowing.

Somewhere around elementary school a rumor started going around that the Trident that came in the multicolored paper could be eaten without being removed from said paper, and that said paper would dissolve in your mouth.

I can’t tell you how many gum wrappers I swallowed that year.

I would chew and chew and chew, periodically removing the gum from my mouth to examine what looked like a very gnarled piece of green trash, and then pop it back in to continue working this paper until it dissolved.

Gullible and determined are a terrible pair to be.

When I would query about said task, the answer would always come back, “oh it takes a while.” Sure it takes a while, after a while ANYTHING will disintegrate in your mouth. I’m sure if I put a Raptor fossil in my mouth that too would disintegrate after a “while.” But my excitement at the sheer possibility of success far outweighed any ounce of rational reasoning I might have applied to my task.

But probably the biggest moment in my gum chewing life came while I was still in elementary school. These were the days when Bubblicious and Bubble Tape (6 feet of bubble gum… 6 FEET OF BUBBLE GUM) were popular amongst the gum chewing crowd. Perhaps it was the fluorescent colors, or the fruity flavor that made them popular. Maybe it was just the sugar.

I of course chewed these gums without prior consent or knowledge of my mother.

I discovered something different though, something better. Somewhere on the bottom shelf of my candy store I found a little gem called Big League Chew. I’m not sure what Big League Chew was actually made of; I’m guessing the ingredients list went something like this;

Sugar
Artificial Flavor
Heroine

That stuff was addicting. Especially the strawberry flavor. Oh man to this day I still get goose bumps thinking about it. It came in a package like chewing tobacco would, and was even cut into tobacco like strands; everything about it was tobaccoish – except for the bright pink coloring.

It was great because you could help yourself to the perfect portion of fluorescent colored strands to suit your needs.

This for me, was invariably the whole package.

Oh it started out innocent enough, putting a pinch in my mouth, and then another pinch, and another, but the taste was so good that I was soon jamming fistfuls into my gullet. Over and over, I dipped my sugary paw into the pouch only to push a pile deep into the depths of my mouth.

By the time the package was empty all I could do was sit there in catatonic state, my mouth impossible to close, while a thick stream of pink drool slowly made its way down my chin and onto my t-shirt.

This by the way almost always took place while sitting on my front porch. Yes I know, not only could I not talk and chew gum at the same time, but I also couldn’t stand and chew it either. To me, the only appropriate activity that matched Big League Chew was sitting on my porch staring at passing cars.

I would sit there like I had just shot up, who knows how many grams of sugar coursing through my veins as I slowly started to zone out and see rainbows and unicorns and mystical tiny Martians hoola-hooping on my lawn.

Ok it wasn’t that severe, but it was close. That Big League Chew was as close to the 60s as I would ever be.

Even today I get a little giddy if I see a package of big league chew. Granted I don’t go candy shopping much… or….at all any more. Believe it or not Trident is still my sugarless gum of choice. And if you offered to split a piece with me, I would most likely oblige, not nearly as outraged as I was as a child.

But you can bet your ass that if I ripped open a package of Big League Chew, it would be only a matter of minutes before that pink drool had found its way out of my mouth and onto my dress shirt.

Some things never change.

McGruff Goes to Argentina

Welcome to sunny Buenos Aires, where the culture is rich and the sidewalk is a frigging minefield. In all honesty it looks like the city suffered an anvil storm about 3 years ago because every 20 feet there is a MASSIVE hole in the sidewalk. They are not repaired so much as they are just kind of filled in with rocks, or not filled in at all. I trip every 8th step. I have twisted each ankle so many times I´m surprised my feet haven´t started facing different directions.

So I got into Bs As (that is how you abbreviate it) and caught a shuttle into town. Going through customs was a lot easier and I didn´t have to pay the 135 dollars I had to pay to get into Chile. I´m still not sure why they charge people that. It´s like they said, ¨Hey we don´t have too much cool stuff here how do we get more people to come? Charge them!¨

So I clear customs behind a man who when he was asked if he was from the United States he shivered like he had just put his thumb in a socket. Turns out he was from France. Yea I wouldn´t like it if somebody screwed it up for me either.

So I check into my hostel and go out for a stroll. I want a slice of Pizza and since Bs As has a tremendous amount of Italian culture (half the people here have at least 1 Italian relative) I find myself a place to have a slice. Good, tasty, delicious. I walk for a while and decide I want another. So I go to another place, and seeing as my Spanish is what it is... I accidentally order a whole pizza.

Now I watched the guy put it in the oven, but I couldn´t very well stop him at that point because all I would have been able to say was

¨No no, one pizza, ONE pizza.¨ So I just paid for it and ate most of the damn thing.

Bs As is beautiful and old and diverse and a little dirty. There are so many unique neighborhoods and places to eat and the shopping is incredible. So many neat and different stores. It is still probably 90 degrees out but I love it. I don´t know what the temperature is in New York and I don´t want to know.

So my second day I take a gorgeous stroll along their revamped Puerta Madero area which converted all of these old shipping building into trendy lofts and restaurants with a beautiful promenade.

I was needing a snack so I went and got an empanada. I couldn't really understand the menu, but they had something called Bife Suave, which I interpreted to mean Slow Beef... or Handsome Beef. Either way it sounded tasty. So I ordered my Handsome Beef Empanada and it was good.

I then went and found an ice cream place and ordered a cone. For you Spanish speakers out there you might know that the word for ice cream cone and the word cucaracha are damn close. I am just glad I got what I intended.


The woman then proceeded to scoop and pry a pile of ice cream the size of a bean bag chair out of the freezer. I worried that perhaps I had accidentally ordered 10 ice cream cones. It took her no less than 5 minutes to get the chair sized scoop out, but I did not complain.

I then took a 4 hour bike ride around the older parts of the city really getting a feel for the city, the immigrant neighborhoods, the new yuppy buildings etc. The city has a lot to offer.

This is where I was about to tell you a story about something that happened over 2 days but for safety reasons I will jump ahead in my story and skip this part for now. You will understand later.

The next morning I go to the San Telmo market which is full of antiques and art and local creations, lots of locals, lots of tourists, lots of walking really close to people. Places like that always make me a little concerned.


I´m always very cautious, I wear a money belt, don´t carry a wallet and keep my head on the swivel. So I´m walking enjoying soaking it up when I feel a woman walk uncomfortably close to me, and my spider sense starts tingling. I keep my eye on her and she just looks shifty. She´s too tan to be a tourist, her backpack is conspicuously empty, also meaning she´s not a tourist, and she wasn´t with friends.

So I don´t think of it until I see her again, 5 feet away from me, standing next to some German couple and she is definitely eyeing his wallet. She moves in close behind him and turns to look around. That´s when I hit her with the crook eye and she froze and tried to play it cool.


But I just kept staring at her. She stood there looking uncomfortable. I warned the German couple but realized I couldn´t just follow this chick all day. I´m not batman, I´m not polizia. And I can´t report her for being sketchy. I don´t know how to say that in Spanish. Hell if people went to jail for being sketchy I´d be serving a life sentence right now.

So I just walked away knowing that chick was probably going to get someones wallet, but like Smokey the Bear says, ¨Only YOU can prevent creepy locals from picking pockets in the markets of Argentina while you´re on vacation.¨


I was wearing my Tampa Bay Devil Rays hat this day (Thanks Grandpa) and it had provoked a couple of conversations. While at the market, a woman approached me and asked me if I spoke English (which I do) and then asked me if I was from Tampa.

Long story short she takes a picture of me and her husband and says;

¨Tell your grandpa that you met someone in Argentina who works for the Devil Rays... my husband´s the General Manager.¨

Unbelievable.

So I walked around a bunch more, bought some things, and looked over more stuff as the San Telmo market devolved into stinky hippies selling stuff they made and burning incense. I walked over to the wealthy Recoletta neighborhood and another market.

At this point I was starving so I sat down at an outdoor cafe to have lunch at like 5pm. Every meal I have had I have either been way too early or way too late for, as much as I try to blend in with the locals I cant eat dinner at midnight, go to bed at 2, and be ready for lunch at noon.

So I sit down and in my fake Spanish order something I thought looked good. My waiter, a dead ringer for Daddy Warbucks, comes over and when I tell him what I want says a bunch of stuff in Spanish and turns to a different page in the menu.

I guess he didn´t want me to have what I ordered.

So I look on the page he turned to and point to something fairly priced that says Especial in front of it. Especial? Well that must be good! He seems delighted by my choice. He brings me my half bottle of wine (which is something very prevalent down here, its way better than just one glass) and gets my setting all put together.

Then I understand why he smiled.

He brings me out what appears to be a fully grown adult cow. And I realize, I ordered the steak for 2. It doesn´t even come on a plate, its comes on a miniature grill because they want to keep it warm as I eat my 437 ounces of beef. Well, when in Buenos Aires...

I am no longer capable of burping, I try to burp but all I can do is... well... Moo.

I saw the Cemetaria Recoletta which is home to the richest families in Buenos Aires. These massive mausoleums are unreal. It is like a tiny walled-in city, but instead of every one living in massive homes, they live in these massive stone closets, and instead of living, they are dead.

Its kind of weird to catch yourself leaning against one and then go, OH MY GOD I AM LEANING ON A DEAD PERSONS HOUSE.

I saw Evita's grave. Didn´t take a picture because it seemed too creepy.


The next day I went to the Zoo, did shopping in SoHo (they have one too) and had another salad to combat my beef-itis.

There is much more to tell but I am tired, I have to prepare myself for a big day of fighting crime and ordering 2 meals at a time. Ciao Ciao.

Foosbeach

One of the problems with not knowing Spanish in a Spanish speaking country is transportation. Riding the metro is easy enough. Especially when its as beautiful as it is in Santiago. Taking a three hour bus ride to the coast however, is another story.

I was on my way to Quintero for a couple days at the ocean. I went to the bus station and bought a ticket for what was called the ´Direto¨. I thought that meant it would go directly to the beach and I could just get out there.
No, apparently direto means that the bus will pick up every single person on the highway with their thumb out, and make tons of stops in random towns. The whole trip was a white knuckle adventure for me because I didn´t know what the destination looked like and more and more people were getting off the bus. Finally at the last stop there were just 3 people left when we pulled up to a dirt field where people were riding horses, luckily my stop was the next one.

So I get out, take a taxi to the beach. The taxi, like every single taxi I have been in since I started my trip, was of course a Toyota Yaris. (You could start a clever side business Sophie) I get to the beach and am greeted by a lovely German girl who works at the hostel which is just a cute pair of houses steps from the beach.
So I drop my stuff, slather on a ton of sun tan lotion and go for a stroll along a dark sanded beach. Of course I put the lotion on myself so I couldn´t reach every spot. So there is a very red bat-shaped rhombus in the middle of my back now. Perhaps I should have gone against my instincts and said to Angie ¨Hey we´ve just met, but hows about you rub some lotion all over me?¨ Yea perhaps so.

The first night a bunch of people from all over checked in and we had a pirate party. Most of you know I do not need a reason to act ridiculous. Drinking in itself is enough of a reason. So as you can imagine, dressing as a pirate while drinking the local favorite Pisco, did nothing to subdue me. If anything it added to the nonsense because I was able to buy an eye patch in town. This was only kind of cool, because while I got to end every sentence with ¨ARRRR¨ I also kept walking into shit.

So by the time 1 am came, and we´d had some drinks, and I was trying to shoot pool, while wearing an eye patch... well, let´s just say we never finished that game.

The next morning I tried surfing in an ocean with an extremely powerful undertow. Our surf instructor was face down on the beach when we met him. He also didn´t speak English. He was very friendly though and I had a Mexican friend with me who helped translate. That however did not enable me to do any real surfing.
I did a lot of paddling, a bit of flailing, and some partial drowning. And then my cord broke and my surf board floated away. So I watched as the locals on the beach laughed at the skinny pale kid trying to run after his surf board which was moving way faster than him. It was around this point that I stepped on a sharp sea creature... or a steak knife... it really could have been either one. So I pretty much lost at surfing

We then went into town, got some groceries so our Mexican friend could cook us a feast. When we got back we played paddle ball and volleyball. I lost at volleyball as well. So I had pretty much lost at every activity I had played. So for that nights Mexican feast (we all dressed as banditos) we headed down to the bar and I tried to redeem myself at pool. Once again I lost.
All of a sudden someone from the hostel comes up to me and tells me these two Chilenos want to play me in Foosball or what they call, ¨TAKKA TAKKA¨ (say it out loud, its fun).

I honestly thought I was about to get hustled. Like this was some sort of a scam. Hey, get the gringo with the bat-shaped rhombus on his back to play Foosball, we´ll take him for every peso he has. I was even more skeptical when before I event agreed to play these kids are betting. They wanted me and the Australian kid who I´d been paired up with to bet them beers. So I said OK.

It is at this point that I must reference my senior year in college when we had a Foosball table in our house. This is one activity I do not suck at. Those Chilenos bought us some beers after a rousing game which we won 5 to 1, then they won the second game, but the third game we claimed in the name of of the pale folk! They had raised the stakes at this point so we were playing for empanadas! We felt bad taking their money though, so we just kept their pride. It felt good.
I woke up the next morning with a considerable amount of mosquito bites on my feet and hands and arms. There is one on my finger so big that it looks like I am wearing a flesh colored engagement ring.
Not cool.
Hopefully I don´t get yellow fever, but there´s really no guarantees in life.
I jumped into town around noon to go back to Santiago and got right on a bus which said ¨Direto¨ and this bus stopped at every street for about an hour. I was nervous I would never make it back to Santiago. Also when I got on the bus the driver handed me a tiny key which I said wasn´t mine, then he said something which I pretended meant it was for the bathroom. So I kept it.
As you can imagine my Spanish is still nonexistent. I only know 2 phrases, and ¨Please don´t molest me¨ has turned out to be only slightly more useful than ¨My wife is an engineer.¨
So I get back to Santiago, crash for the night, go to the airport the next morning and fly to Buenos Aires super early. I will tell you about Buenos Aires as soon as my rhombus heals.

Cookie Cookie Cookie Starts with Me

I am going to miss my metabolism.

Now granted I am 25 years old, in great health, good medical test scores, low cholesterol, healthy waist line, and no reason to worry. But I am well aware that my days of eating anything I want, whenever I want, as often as I want are numbered. And when my day of reckoning comes, my waistline is going to blow up like a peep in a microwave.

I wouldn't be worried if I didn't eat so damn much. I must eat, all the time. It's not that I am a compulsive eater. But I have a problem not putting food in my mouth. If a Mexican fairy came into my home and put down a bowl of infinite tortilla chips and salsa in front of me, I would eat it until my internal organs leaked tomatoes, and flooded my belly with deliciousness.

I don't have a shut off valve. Take bread for example. If a restaurant provides a basket of bread for a pre-meal snack, I do not think of it as a way to stave off hunger. No, my goal is to eat as much of that bread as I can.

Especially if I am working out at the time (I'm really into fitness) I eat like a maniac. My largest expense every month is food. When I go grocery shopping I have so many bags I feel like the person ringing me up will ask, "Excuse me sir but is anyone else from the orphanage coming to help you carry these bags?"

I eat healthy during the week, but sometimes I slip.

One weekend not too long ago, I woke up, had some Bruff Cakes for breakfast (Bruff Cakes, for those of you who do not know, are brownies made in a muffin pan and then finished off with frosting to take on the best characteristics of brownies, muffins, and cupcakes), which I followed up with 2 bagels with cream cheese. Then for dinner I had a small pizza (thin crust) with a Caesar salad on TOP of it, and then I chased that with an ungodly amount of ice cream from Cold Stone.

Had I been running a marathon the next day, this might have been a wise menu choice. But my athletic activity for that Monday was staring at a computer screen for 8 hours.

I visited my parents' in South Carolina for Thanksgiving. I of course got to stuff my face with all the food I'm too incompetent to cook on my own. And I started shoving my hand in the cookie jar every hour. I ate like I was on the Fatkins Diet. Or maybe the South Beached Whale Diet.

This past Christmas weekend involved another trip to the parents', which meant more eating of sweets. I was in the HOV lane on the obesity highway and I didn't even mind. I walked into my parents' home to see not 1, but 6 plates of Christmas cookies sitting on the dining room table. It looked as though we were getting ready to distribute treats to everyone in town. But no, they were just for our family Christmas.

We have four people in our family.

So I did what any normal 25 year old with a healthy metabolism does. I started eating 13 cookies a day. Not just as dessert. I would have a couple after breakfast. Some after lunch, and then a sensible dinner.

That's actually a lie, I ate a cookie every time I walked by them. My logic goes like this, if 1 of something tastes good, then a 100 of something must taste even better.

The piles of cookies were so high, it seemed I had barely made a dent. So I rationalized I hadn't eaten that many cookies. And the cookies were so frigging tasty.

I was like a crack addict. If I had gone too long without a cookie I started twitching and my skin started to itch. Cookies dipped in chocolate, then rolled in sprinkles and crushed up Andes Mints? I mean come on! After a while I didn't even taste them. I just wanted to inject them into my blood stream so I could pass out on the floor in a cookie coma.

I never have to worry about a problem like this at home, because I will never walk into a store and buy 400 cookies. I will never walk past a truckload of cookies sitting on my dining room table. I don't have a dining room table, or a dining room... I don't even have a table. But if YOU have a table full of cookies, yea I'm going to eat them.

My mother bought me some pants for Christmas, that when I tried them on Christmas morning, fit perfectly. When I tried them on again 3 days (and innumerable cookies) later, I fully expected to need one of those button extenders so that my pants would close. Amazingly they fit.

In order to battle the fear of my impending obesity I went for a jog. It was like trying to drive a car with a gas tank full of Pepsi. My system was so full of cookies I was downright lethargic. I felt like I had a wagon full of fat 12 year-olds strapped to my waist.

The holidays are almost over now, and I refused to take any cookies home with me back to New York. I have no need for them. I am not making any New Year's resolutions about cookies or fitness or anything. But I am making a goal to not do so much binging when it comes to cookies.

That is of course until I go and visit my parents in April, because that's when we make Easter cookies, and then I'll really do some damage. It's round 3 in Cookies versus Metabolism. It's going to be epic.

Signs of the Times

As a New Yorker, I have grown quite accustomed to signs throughout the city telling me what to do and how to live my life. Some of them are very important (Trains do not stop at this track) some of them are just plain confusing (No Standing) but they all carry some bit of value.
I realize it is important to read these signs. I read all of the signs that I see. It is because of this that I know that subway litter causes track fires. I always mind the gap, and I typically wait for the little white man to appear before I cross the street. I believe if someone took the effort to craft a sign to educate me about something, it is my duty to abide by it.
That is, until I went to visit my mother in South Carolina.
I was looking forward to a couple of days down south, a little golf, a little southern cooking, and a whole lot of relaxation. I fully expected to be seduced by the slower pace of life, and the southern drawl that infuses every word. And I was, but what I did NOT expect, was to be completely baffled by the signage. I guess when life moves that slow you can both dwell on insignificant details, and completely miss the important ones.
There are actually 2 signs in particular that can pretty much sum up my entire time in the swamps of South Carolina.
My first encounter was at a gated community of my parents’ friends. There is a small fenced-in pool for residents and their guests to use. It was a nice little facility that was quite empty when my mother and I rolled up for a swim. I am always curious how late things are open so I walked over to the pool rules to see what the last swim time was. Imagine my surprise when I saw rule number 6:
Persons with diarrheal illness or nausea should not enter the pool.
For me, if I have either of those things I typically don’t stray far from my favorite toilet. But I could understand their worries about small children leaving deposits in the pool. I guess nothing should be taken for granted. However rule 7 kicked it up a notch:
Persons with skin, eye, ear, or nasal infections should not enter the pool.
Isn’t this common sense? I know how painful it is when you get chlorine in your eyes, or water stuck in your ear. I can only imagine how it would feel if you had an infection. But the one that took the cake was rule number 8:
Persons with open lesions or wounds should not enter the pool.
Open lesions or wounds? OPEN LESIONS OR WOUNDS? Is this a housing development or a leper colony? Who the hell is walking around with an open lesion thinking to themselves, “Hmm, you know what would feel good right now is the incredible burning sensation of some pool chlorine in my exposed flesh.”
Come on. I am not sure if the pool manager once managed a pool for an amputee hospital or an STD clinic, but I did not feel some of his rules were needed.
I fully expected rule number 9 to say:
Persons with gout, scarlet fever, or the Black Death should also not enter the pool.
But it didn’t.
The other sign that had me wondering was a lot more cut and dry. It was on a local highway from Savannah back to Hilton Head, on a road that had more than a few creepy broken down trailers along its side. And then I saw it. On a big piece of white wood maybe 4 feet in width, written in black spray paint:
FRESH SHIMP
Really? That is your sign? Your entire business is comprised of people seeing your sign and then driving down a dirt road to your apparent “Shimp” stand. Don’t you think you would have taken at least a second glance at it? To be honest, at that point, it really doesn’t matter how amazing your product is, you could have “Magical Talking Shimp” if you cannot even spell the name of your product, it is going to put a serious dent in your drive by customer traffic.
It is not even the spelling mistake that gets me, because we have all stopped something in the middle, walked away from it, and then come back to finish it while forgetting a letter or a word. That is fine. But this did not appear to be a new sign. This sign had been hanging for a while. Literally thousands of people had seen it. The owner had to have seen it every single day.
He must have thought, “Well gosh, I spent 3 minutes spray painting it, and another 2 minutes nailing it to that tree… I couldn’t possibly spend 9 seconds drawing an R into there. No, I will just leave it and hope for the best.”
Hey, if it works for him it works for me. Just don’t expect me to stop my car to support the local economy. Now if you don’t mind, I’m going to check myself for open wounds and lesions.