Sunday, November 27, 2011

RECOMMENDED GRATUITY


Not since the age-old question of "Who is the EMPLOYEES MUST WASH HANDS sign in bathrooms for?" have so many people been miffed in restaurants. More and more restaurants, particularly in NYC, are showing a "Recommended Gratuity" chart on the bottom of their checks. For instance, if you bill was $50, the bottom of your receipt would read 15% = $7.50, 20% = 10.00 and so on. 

I love this, don't you? There's no math involved and thus no chance of incorrect math (unless you make one in the actual counting of physical money).


Some folks have complained to me that it feels pushy and presumptuous of waitstaff to "point out" what's expected. "Isn't it MY choice what to tip them?" I've heard more than one person inquire.

First, this is the restaurant's choice to put this chart on your check, not your waiter's/waitress'. It also helps serve as a friendly reminder to our international guests who may not know how tipping is conducted in the states. 


Secondly, it's only "Recommended" - you can always tip what you want. Bad service is bad service, and the tip should reflect that, but excellent service is priceless and must always be recognized appropriately.

If you're ever in doubt, here's a handy website called "The Original Tipping Page." http://www.tipping.org/tips/us.html

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

ZOOEY DESCHANEL


I'm about to download the album of musical christmas offerings otherwise known as "She & Him: A Very She & Him Christmas." Anyone who knows me well will be a tad shocked by that pending activity. 

I'm not a fan of Zooey Deschanel. Not of Zooey the "peronality." Not of Zooey the actress. I think there's something "off" about her ... and not in a Kirsten Dunst dodo-bird kind of way. Let me explain. 

The film performances of ZD have almost always been atrocious. She's the worst thing in the little scene Eulogy, and she somehow managed to give a unintentionally scary performance in the truly terrible thriller The Happening (by all means, check out the scene in which ZD explains her "tiramisu date" to Mark Wahlberg while running away from ... wind). Even in her now-classic holiday film Elf (w/ Will Ferrell), she's more remembered for her singing than her "acting." 

Zooey has the ability of appear both childishly googly-eyed and stoned out of her gourd, simultaneously. This is not a compliment. At 31, she's already pushed the limits of her oft-used "deer in the headlights" face, not to be confused with her "who meeeee?" face. She is the female Ashton Kutcher of the bad acting world, always inexplicably trying to harness the naivete, energy and flat-out stupidity of the world's dumbest first grader but in a come-hither bod. It feels both forced and desperate ("Look at meeeeeeeeeeee!"). 

The only performance that has suited her thus far is on display in the fantastic 500 Days Of Summer, and that's only because the character is completely aloof and uninvested in anything going on around her. A tailor-made role for ZD. (You'll notice the absence of Fox TV's "New Girl," which I can't bring myself to watch after seeing the annoying previews.)

Now the nice part (it's the holidays after all). Her singing voice is instantly atmospheric and harkens one back to the days of Dusty Springfield and Nancy Sinatra. Her just-this-side-of-a-stuffy-nose vocal stylings add a surprising layer of richness to nearly any melody she puts her voice to. She sings optimistically from a broken heart. She's quite something vocally, and so is the album. Grab it. I will.  ... I just won't be watching the music videos. 


Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

KALE CHIPS

This past summer, my friend Penny invited Honeybee and I over for a little dinner and board games. Being an avid board game player (Taboo; Catch Phrase; Balderdash), I accepted with enthusiasm.

Penny, not her real name, is a very accomplished Yoga instructor and musician. She's also cautious about what she eats. Naturally health conscience, her diet appears to have a holistic slant. She's incredibly knowledgeable of 'smart foods' and frequently shares dietary ideas that can have powerful effects in other areas of your life ... and yet, I still choose to hang out with her. No, seriously, she's lovely, funny and sharp. She's also great at board games. 



Although I'm not a slob, I can't say that I'm the kind of person that seeks out the healthiest options in grocery stores (my box of Special K cereal often rests in the shopping carriage right on top of some pints of Ben & Jerry's ice cream).

So, I naturally had a "What the eff is that?" expression on my face when Penny 'splayed out a large platter of homemade Kale Chips in the middle of the game table. (See Picture)

I had never seen anything green offered as a game night snack, barring an occasional overly seasoned Hint of Lime Tostido. As much as I looked forward to the calories I wouldn't be ingesting, I was puzzled by the other folks at the party. Smiles, when they weren't stuffing their faces, all around.

Honeybee was enjoying them thoroughly (his leg shakes when he's happy, much like Goofy in Walt Disney cartoons).

"Hun, you have to try one," he said. "You will like them."

He's usually right, so I picked one up. Even in my hand, I wasn't quite sure, as some edges were crispy, and other areas of the "chip" were soggy. It just felt wrong. I was expecting the chip to taste like a broccoli flavored Triscuit, which would've made me unhappy.

I bit in. Chewy, crunchy, healthy, salty, tangy deliciousness filled my mouth. I couldn't believe it. I am a salt junkie, but that wasn't the prominent flavor. It was the addictive texture - a little something for everyone. Penny is a great cook, so individual results will most likely vary.

But wait there's more ... Kale is very high in beta carotene, vitamin K, vitamin C, lutein, zeaxanthin, and reasonably rich in calcium ... and yes, I cut and pasted that from wikipedia.



Here's a recipe from allrecipes(dot)com. Super easy to make! Try it!

Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Line a non insulated cookie sheet with parchment paper.

  1. With a knife or kitchen shears carefully remove the leaves from the thick stems and tear into bite size pieces. 
  2. Wash and thoroughly dry kale with a salad spinner. 
  3. Drizzle kale with olive oil and sprinkle with seasoning salt.
  4. Bake until the edges brown but are not burnt, 10 to 15 minutes.                 

Enjoy!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

SIXPOINT 'THE CRISP' BEER

I'm not much of a drinker.  I blame (and thank) my dad, may he rest in peace.  


When I was a kid, and I'm speaking of a time when I was in the single digits of my life, my dad would give me "sips" of beer. Sometimes a can. Even back when I was eight, I knew that Budweiser he was drinking was crap. (My dad was a drunk on a budget, basically.)


Anyway, sips here, sips there. This wasn't BudLight by the way, so yes, not only was I getting buzzed at the age of eight, I was accumulating oodles of unnecessary carbs.  I must state that my parents were divorced at this time, so my mom is in no way accountable for my underage drinking nor my caloric intake. 


All those sips add up, and by the time I could drink legally, I was a little burnt out on beer. The taste of it actually nauseated me. Many, many, many years later, when I moved to NYC, I realize that, "hey, this city is effing expensive ... and beer is always the cheapest thing on the chalk boards of the dives I'm going to. I guess I should rethink this relationship."


So I experimented, with my beloved Honeybee (a german) as my guide. I now have two favorite beers, which of course, dear readers, are both a tad pricey. I love the Belgian beer Duvel, which is just flat our expensive unless you buy it at Trader Joe's, and I love Brooklyn, NY's own Sixpoint Crisp.


Both of these beers are super-fizzy, have a lovely light freshness to them, and don't cause me to bloat. They're both rather highbrow (Duvel comes corked; Crisp comes in packs of four, not six), so if you're ever on a date, or a drinking business meeting, step it up and order one of these puppies. 


You'll get all the fizzy buzz without any of the fatty bloat. For more on Sixpoint, here's their info:  http://sixpoint.com/

Saturday, August 27, 2011

COCONUT WATER


It's all the rage, allegedly. Yet another "water-like" beverage that has only slightly more benefits than drinking actual water. Have you tried this ... stuff? 

I have, and I won't spend much time discussing it. It tastes like something your dentist would make you rinse with just before oral surgery. Milky, dense and "warm," even when the package is ice cold, which is just weird. After a particularly long bike ride on Governor's Island recently, I still couldn't make it through my Zico mini-bottle.

Even more recently, my friend Matt really wanted to try it (ignoring my testimonial). His reasoning? "It's supposed to be so good for you." So is church, but you don't see me choking that crap down either. 

Stick with water for hydration, and bananas for potassium. If do you happen to love the taste of Coconut Water ... by all means, pleeeeeease let me know why. Again, the TASTE, not what it "does" for you. Go on, tell me how "delicious" it is. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

DOMINO'S PIZZA

I realize that what I'm about to write may alienate some readers, as well as encourage some to make a relatively unhealthy dietary choice. This is a gamble I'm willing to take. 


Recently, Honeybee and I were at home, exhausted and starving, a combination that often leads to horrific choices ending with pints of Ben & Jerry's Red Velvet Cake Ice Cream. Anyway, after a couple of not-so-hot edible experiences with some other local pizza places, we decided to order from that beloved 90's delivery staple, Domino's. 


Hoping to "Avoid the Noid" (and risk being seen in public), we ordered online.


Wow. The entire online ordering experience with Domino's was a cheese-filled breeze. Excellent, actually. Easy to order, and their website enthusiastically detailed the process for us. At one point, the website even informed us that "Luigi" (not his real name) was "boxing" our pizza. It's that specific. 

The pizza itself was delicious, with ingredients that tasted as fresh as anything I'd tasted recently from other delivered endeavors. 

Log on, order up and bon appetit! ... I'm serious. Click For Domino's

Sunday, August 21, 2011

"THE VIEW"


Dear Readers, 

You may have been wondering where I've been for the past few months. I've been all over the place, truly. The Poconos, New England, Europe ... but mostly, I've been working my tail off at my "job job." Not my first choice for summer fun, but such is life. 

Because I've been so busy with work, it forced me to make some hard decisions about the free time I was left with. I felt forced to hold a mirror to my eating, sleeping and exercise habits, and I realized that I'm an ice-creaming eating, sleep-deprived, fat ass. 

This self-inventory did not stop there though. I checked my DVR listings off and on during this time and was shocked at how many episodes of The View I was expected to catch up on. Could that much time have truly passed? But I dove in to a couple of episodes anyway ... and decided that I was giving up on "The View."

It should be said here that I used to L-O-V-E The View, from the Meredith Viera days onward. (Yes, including Rosie's time - like it or not - she's what took the show into a whole new direction with her passionate political views. I loved her.) The way the ladies would spar and discuss the political climate was often informative and exhilarating - except for Sherri Shepherd, who can barely keep her flash cards in order, let alone give commentary on them. 

The reason I'm giving up on the show is that it has become painfully clear that they are simply unable (or afraid) to give any type of real commentary on celebrity news. Whether it's Charlie Sheen, Tracy Morgan or Lindsay Lohan, you can almost predict the lame sound bites to come ...

Joy:  (Enter joke here that with will inexplicably loop in Sarah Palin.)
Sherrie:  "Do the kids know?" "Was his wife there?" "Did anyone see her do it?" (Do your research, please.)
Elizabeth:  "What do I tell MY KIDS about this?" (Yes, you poor thing. Sorry, I can never imagine her at a loss for words.)
Whoopi:  "Everyone makes mistakes." (Yes, but not all of them involve hookers, grand larceny, racial slurs and threats of violence.)
Barbara:  "What a tragedy for all involved." (In fairness, Barbara often is the most feisty - so I won't judge.) 

YAWN. I realize that The View relies on celebs as guests, so I'm confused as to why the show brings up these types of topics in the first place? They all walk such a rehearsed tight rope whenever celeb topics come up - it's mind-numbing to watch, as if they're "giving a pass" to celebrity behavior and/or condoning it. 

They should just stick with politics, economy, health and news of the day - sans celeb stories. Otherwise, all the safe responses suggest that out of that five-woman panel, there's not one true backbone. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

THE BEST CAT FOOD

Shopping for your cat can be a guilt-ridden experience. There are things your cat wants (toys), things your cat needs (litter) and things you want to somehow diminish the fact that you have a cat in the first place (lint rollers).

I'm often confused by the manufacturers of some "scented" cat products though. For instance, we buy our cat, Shorty, hypo-allergenic "Cat Wipes." The wipes come in two scents: Natural and Baby Fresh. Both of these choices are nonsensical. "Natural" would just make the cat smell like a natural cat, which is part of the reason you're buying Cat Wipes. "Baby Fresh" is just plain disturbing. A lot of people have pets because they don't have/want kids, so why on earth would you want your cat to smell like a baby? Blech. Seriously, if I ever walked into your home and mentioned that I smelled "a baby" without seeing an actual baby anywhere in sight ... and you swore to me that you did't have a baby ... and yet I can smell a "baby" ... somewhere in your home ... I'd probably call the cops on you.

A much easier decision is that of cat food. Weruva brand is the best, paws down. A great company. Grain Free and made in the USA. Treat your cat! (Shorty would scratch my eyes out if I didn't mention his favorite kind of Weruva, Mack and Jack.)



Click for Weruva's Website

Monday, May 9, 2011

ON CHIVALRY

My friend Souxie just forwarded me an email she received from a male friend (why isn't critical to this posting). As I read the email, I was stunned by the shortest sentence within it. At one point of the correspondence, the gent wrote, "Thanks man!" 

My friend Souxie is all woman, folks. This trend of men calling women "man" "dude" and (I swear I've heard) "guy" baffles me. I realize that gone are the days in which men would tip their hat to fair ladies as they pass them in the town square, but this? Really?

I blame Randy Jackson, for starters. A grown man, referring to young teenage girls with comments usually beginning with "So look, dude ..." is inexcusable. Would the 
American Idol judge talk to Aretha Franklin that way (or any of the other ladies he has worked with)? If so, he's beyond help. If not, he - and all the dudes like him - need to clean up their acts.

I believe that chivalry isn't dead, but I do think it's lounging around in a lazy haze in about half the men out there.

Men, if you wouldn't refer to your girlfriend as "man" (which I'm guessing you wouldn't, as it could shake up an otherwise pleasant make-out session), you shouldn't do it to other ladies either. Even if you're a proud slacker. Even if your primary mode of transportation is a skateboard. Even if you have one of those overgrown Justin Beiber hairstyles that block half your face and blow gently in the breeze (which I'm kinda jealous of) ... you should
 still be able to distinguish a man from a woman.

And Ladies, if a man can't see that you're a "lady" ... he sure ain't going to treat you like one. If someone calls you "dude" or anything you are not, gently correct them. They won't do it again. And if there are any ladies out there that don't mind being called "dude" or "man" or "guy" - please let me know why it doesn't bother you.

Ladies & Gentlemen, I thank you for your time.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

STARBUCKS' "CHAI TEA LATTE"


As my eight followers know, I'm not much of a coffee drinker. The flavor consistently pales in comparison to the aroma. I love the smell, but the taste ... eh.  Starbucks coffee, in particular, is entirely too bitter and strong for me. I have enough hair on my chest, thank you. 

The other day though, I found myself in a Starbucks. It was rainy, and I was looking for cover and a beverage, and a cover for my beverage. Although they got my name wrong (how does "Briiiiian" becomes "Bran"???), she did get my drink right, so I'll give credit where credit is due. 

Dear Readers, I've fallen in love with Starbucks' Chai Tea Latte. It doesn't matter if it's Iced or Hot - it's like Christmastime in my mouth. A delicious, comforting blend of spices that will tickle your taste buds and  ... blah blah blah. Just get it. I love it. You will too. Try it.  Oh, and never name your child "Bran."


For a Starbucks location near you ... and they're everywhere ... http://www.starbucks.com/store-locator

Monday, April 25, 2011

IF YOU LIKE ADELE


For those of you who've yet to buy/download Adele's latest album, 21, you must. The purchase is a no-brainer. It's the #1 album in the country right now, and it deserves to be. She's got a powerhouse of a voice and she's a great storyteller. You never question that this chick has lived through that of which she sings. It hasn't left my sound system since Honeybee brought it home for me.  Adele's voice is unique in the sense that where other singers are so good you want to sing along (Carly Simon comes immediately to mind), Adele's so good you don't.

Choice Tracks (besides the already-a-big-hit Rolling In The Deep): Set Fire To The Rain, and Someone Like You

If you already have Adele's latest, and want the feeling to last and last, may I suggest:

JOAN OSBORNE's Breakfast In Bed from '07. Yes, the sad truth is that Joan Osborne, for all of her great music since, may forever be labeled a one-hit wonder for the 1995 smash One Of Us, in which she poses hypothetical questions involving God on public transportation. 

It's a shame. I've seen this gal perform live on a few occasions and she never disappoints. She's got an incredible voice with amazing range. She can glam it up for a throaty ballad, groove aboard a soul train, and rock out to any country-infused diddy. She's a wildly versatile rarity that is hard to categorize, perhaps contributing to her lack of "success" in the pop music charts. 

Breakfast in Bed may be my favorite album of Osborne's. Loaded with great covers and original tracks, it's one of breeziest, most casual albums I've ever heard, each track being sung exceptionally well. There's nothing not to like here. Grab/Download this one.

Choice Tracks: Baby Is A Butterfly, Heart of Stone, and the cover Kiss & Say Goodbye

Friday, April 22, 2011

ON THE SIDEWALK

Ohhhhhh Sex And The City, when you left us seven years ago, did we ever realize the mark you would leave on each and every one of us? (And no, I'm not talking about that crap sequel people can't seem to stop hating.)

SATC made every single gal in NYC think that true love (or hell, an available man) was right around the corner, despite the 4:1 ratio of single women to single men in this city. 


SATC
 also made folks think that walking side-by-side-by-side-by-side (four in a row, no less) down any sidewalk is completely acceptable.  It isn't. Sometimes, the sidewalk isn't even big enough to begin with. Also not acceptable: Walking dead-center in the sidewalk when walking solo (the way Carrie always did whenever she "couldn't help but wonder..."; or the way Charlotte did whenever she wasn't acting completely stupid).


So, I feel that I need to clarify something: When you do find yourself walking alone down a city street (New York, or elsewhere), let's try and keep things copacetic by staying to the right, shall we? Yes, I know it's very romantic and winsome to stroll leisurely down the center of the sidewalk in a major metropolis, taking in whatever vista that happens to be before you, but please think about the other 90% of world: the folks who actually have somewhere to be. 

My favorite frustration along these lines is the person who believes they can do it all, and all at once: Protruding shopping bags to the left, dog on an extended leash to the right, baby carriage in front and all the while gabbing away to someone on their phone. What are these people trying to prove? Is "now" the only time they have to run all of their errands and walk their dog? And, more importantly, why is he/she acting like "the multitasker in the plastic bubble" - completely self-contained as they take up 70% of the sidewalk?

I realize some folks often don't have much choice: single mom/single dad, I get it, but you can always scoot over to the right a
 little bit more. I also realize that I've used one ratio and two percentages in same post. Now I sound cranky and nerdy. Just stay to the right, people. Thanks. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

"THANK YOU" CARDS

I love seeing my name handwritten on an envelope. It's always the best mail. It means no one's going to ask me for money, tell me that I owe them money, or ask me to renew a subscription to a magazine I typically only read half of.

Recently, I received a Thank You note for attending a friend's party. It was short, sweet and sincere. It meant so much to me though that someone took the time out of their day to send one. Seriously, I felt like Countess LuAnn De Lesseps. It meant so much to me in fact, that I began to consider buying "You're Welcome" cards, but remembered they don't make them. Or do they?

These days, it's common to receive Thank You texts, emails and Facebook postings, and I do this myself, as you can never say Thank You too many times. (The exception to this, of course, is Janet Jackson, who has a tendency to overdue her "Thank You's" whenever she performs live.) 



There is something to be said though about the literal gravity of a Thank You card. It actually stays with the person ... until they put it in the recycling bin. But still.

I'm a big fan of the Thank You notes and cards by Snow & Graham. Made from recycled paper, these notes show the receiver that you care about the environment almost as much as you do about the reader. Chick Print also has some great Thank You cards. Check 'em out! Thank you.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

TOSTITOS WITH A HINT OF LIME

For years now, one of my kitchen cabinet mainstays has been Tostitos with a Hint of Lime. I love them. I will open the bag wide and survey the interiors for the most lime-bespeckled of chips. I then dig the best ones out and eat them. Later, when there are only a few chips remaining, I'll crush the chips up into a fine dust and empty the bag into my mouth. Anything to capture the zesty limey seasoning. Which leads me to question why Tostitos has yet to come out with a "Tostitos: Blast of Lime!" We can handle it, Tostitos. Bring it on.

Anyway, the conservative amount of flavor specks isn't really the issue. Lately, to me at least, the chips taste different. They taste, for lack of a better word, HEALTHY. The "new" bag (there's a "hint" that things aren't right) says White Corn, but they have an aftertaste of something multigrain-ish. No? Am I alone in this? "Made with Whole Grain" touts the bag, but there's definitely something else going on here.


I simply don't have time to contact the FritoLay people to inquire, but I'm certain I'm right. After eating the same chips for years, you can tell when the tortilla is being pulled over your eyes. I'm not "mad" about being tricked into eating healthier chips, but couldn't FritoLay balance it out a little better? They could certainly add more seasoning to make up for the flavor change in the actual chip.

I understand this is not a huge deal. I also understand that you may be furious that you just read a blog entry about my conspiracy theory involving a snack food.
 Please don't worry about me. Lord knows I'll still be able to down a whole bag in my kitchen before I'm even done putting the rest of the groceries away. 

Saturday, April 16, 2011

"AMERICAN IDOL"


I had given up on American Idol the past few years due to the lack of quality vocalists. I just wasn't rooting for anyone anymore. The last person I ever rooted for on Americal Idol was Jordin Sparks, and that was way back in 2007. I predicted she would win from her audition episode. I held tight to that prediction throughout the competition, even during the horrific Bon Jovi Week episode.

Well, the American Idol judging panel went through a much publicized overhaul, but kept Randy Jackson (never my favorite). But this entry isn't about Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler. It's not about how everyone is allegedly "amazing" - way to go, judges - or how Randy continues to refer to young women as "dude" and "man."

This is about Stefano. At press time, Stefano Langone was still a contender, and the worst contestant of the season. He's been in the bottom two consistently, and continues to survive (besting Pia and Paul, both sent home too early).


My problem with Stefano is his stage presence. Not sure what dump truck of rejected boy band members he fell out of, but every move, gesture, and facial expression Stefano displays harkens me back to a scarier time. A time filled with 98 Degrees, O-Town and ... LFO.



Stefano's face contorts to that of a person having a serious bowel movement. It all feels overblown, like he's auditioning for a Disney Cruise ship. (This is not to take away from cruise ship performers, however we can all agree that the style one would use on the stage of a cruise ship is a different animal than one for a television "concert" series.) Stefano clearly wants the people in the far rear balcony to see the expression on his face, forgetting that he's already on TV. It's very awkward to watch.


Not sure what the judges see in him, or why they gave him the "Wild Card" in the first place. Perhaps it's because of his sad sack story of how he survived a terrible car crash (the specific details of which have never been actually discussed, but we can guess from the scars Stefano showed us during his audition ... shrewd move ... that it was pretty bad).


The madness must stop. I can't sit "idol-y" by while more talented folks continue to go home. If we lose Lauren to this dramatic dipstick I'll be very upset. Dear Faithful Reader and any AI fan that just happens to be reading this, I beg of you, VOTE for your favorite - just as long as it isn't Stefano. THIS. IS. Serious.

Friday, April 15, 2011

SWIFFER DUSTERS

I recently read that most tabby cats, like my beloved Shorty, have 130,000 hairs per square inch of ... cat. That's a lot of hair. I'm envious. If you ever saw an aerial shot of my head, and you never will, you'd understand why I'd be envious of my cat's hair count. 


My partner and I adopted Shorty last year. The adoption process lasted a week. Background checks, landlord referrals, in-home inspection - the works. All was worth it though, as this grumpy eight-year-old cat has added some serious laughs to our lives. I even went so far as to make him his own Facebook page. It was a cold winter day and I was bored to tears (you had to be there), so poof, made my cat a Facebook page and he now has almost as many friends as I do. He's a character. A seriously hairy character, which is why I love the Swiffer Duster. 




The Swiffer works. Period. I run this sucker all over my apartment, even across the screen of our flatscreen screen. It just glides, for real, and picks up everything in its path. Totally worth it, and if Shorty could speak he'd confirm that, but first I'd like to think he'd thank us for adopting him. And then thank me for giving him a presence in the world of social networking. And then apologize for shedding all over the place. And then confirm that the Swiffer works. 

COFFEE & NEW YORK

I drink about three cups of coffee a week. That's it. Really. 

I love the smell of coffee, but too often the taste is hit or miss for me. I love the coffee that the little truck by my office in the Financial District serves though. It's great (with a hint, for whatever reason, of chocolate and almonds), and the truck guy is very friendly, though I don't know his name and I can't really hear him over the din of the intersection noise where his truck is placed.

Anyway, this morning I got my coffee served in this cup. I hadn't seen this cup in years, though a to-scale ceramic version exists in some gift shops here in New York.


The cup reminded me of the very city I was standing in. It was a little surreal for me. It reminded me of the years (about nine) that I've lived here. It reminded me that even through terror alerts, power blackouts, financial beatdowns, bomb threats, subway strikes, crazy cab drivers, emergency landings, endless construction, gentrification, bankrupted restaurants, rising costs, blizzards, heat waves, the Trumps, the Madoffs and the Real Housewives, the city continues to endure.


Love it or hate it or both, New York City is here for you. It's like that weird funny friend who stands outside your window, the friend your parents swear is a bad influence, waiting for you to come outside and play.

BOXING CLASSES

Certain breeds of dog will exercise themselves to death, I think I'm right about that. I'm pretty sure I heard that someplace before. It sounds true.

How I wish exercise was addictive for humans, not to the point of death, but just something that you really want to do. The reality is: it's a chore. Something you
have to do. The endorphins give you a kick and you certainly feel better once you're done, but that feeling is usually because you're done. That "feeling" does not make you want to get up the next morning and do it all over again. 

This is not to take away from anyone's enjoyment of exercise - I love the elliptical thingie myself - but I do question the notion that there are people who wake up in the morning, completely "psyched" to exercise.


I myself exercise more than a few times a week - I even got my Gym Rat badge from Foursquare (jealous much?). A crowning achievement, since I was essentially a cough potato until god invented the internet. Then I became an internet potato. 

Anyway, I was beginning to feel a little complacent at the gym recently. I could feel myself being drawn to the same old exercise machines and equipment. The same old routine. I knew I needed to shake things up, pronto.

At my old gym last year, they had a boxing class. Everyone in this class was hot, young and dripping with sweat. All things I was not, even after killing myself for 35 minutes on the Precor ... at level 3.  After moving to a new neighborhood this year, I switched gyms, and to my great surprise they too had a boxing class. To my even greater surprise, the people in this class were a total mixed bag. Some young, some old, some hot, some not, some thin, some ... not-so-thin. I was a shoo-in to easily join this hodge-podge of mediocrity. I decided to participate.


That was about a month ago - and I've been going most Thursday nights. The class kicks my ass. The hardest part is the crawling - and it's not just because there are drops of sweat all over the floor that I have to dodge for a personal reason. (The Reason: It's gross and if I were to fall in someone else's sweat drops I'd throw-up in front of everyone, including my teacher, Juan, who'd probably make me clean it up all by myself, and then make me do ten jumping jacks). 


Initially, I was seriously apprehensive of taking a "group" class. I have this fear of being the worst in any class. Even though I'm "sorta in shape," I was still petrified of falling behind in class (assuming they'd all been there for years .. or weeks). Being a good student, I went in about 15 minutes to speak with Juan. I knew that speaking with the teacher first would put me at ease before the class began.

Juan was a short gentleman, with a face that looked like it'd been seriously beat up a half dozen times. So much so, that his age could fall anywhere between 32-ish and 58-ish.

Me
: Hi, I'm Brian. This is my first class, just so you know. I'm a little nervous about falling behind and not being able to keep up, or not being able to do some of the movements. Is there anything you can tell me about the class or any tips you can give me?

Juan
: Hey, it is what it is. It's intense. You sweat. You're jumping the entire time and doing push-ups.

Me (to self):  Holy Eff.

The convo did not go the way I'd hoped, and now I was petrified. I'm going to hurt myself, I thought, or I'm going to hurt someone else.  

Before I knew it, the class started - fast. Very little warm up. The class was going by so quickly - including oodles of push-ups, jumping jacks, running in place, running in circles, crawling in circles - that I barely even had time to worry about what I was doing or if I was even doing it right. All I could do was ... do. I just kept moving and listening and moving again. It was very exciting and very sweaty.


No one was the "worst" in the class because everyone was trying and doing their best. Some people walked out, some stopped for a sip of water, but I got the feeling that everyone was just doing what they could do. It reminded me of something an old yoga teacher said to me once: Do your best. Not someone else's.  

When the class was over, I actually felt like I had accomplished something. What exactly, I had no idea.

The next day, I couldn't feel my body from the waist down - and I did not have any desire to do another boxing class. I was completely sore, like lead-filled-legs sore. It didn't surprise me - the class was non-stop - but it did take days for my body to feel okay again ... just in time for my next boxing class.
 

THE BEST EASTER CANDY

Why is no one talking about the severe deficit in the best Easter candy of all time?  

Cadbury Mini-Eggs, ye of the crispy crunchy candied shell with the solid milk chocolate goodness inside, are incredibly hard to come by these days. 


I love them. I will eat seven at time, minimum, just to achieve a complete mouthful of the crunchy creamy love that these devilish eggs provide me with. I've hit all the shops in NYC (CVS, Duane Reade, RiteAid), and though each has a Cadbury shrine of a promotional display, they don't have the actual eggs.

Look, I'm not wanting to get anyone fired at Cadbury or at these drugstores, but I question who's in charge at these businesses. When the shelf runs dry, don't just stuff in the vacancy with more
Cream Eggs (which are - for the record - gross). Order MORE Mini-Eggs. Your customers clearly love them, hence the empty shelves.

A real opportunity is being missed here. And no, I will not be ordering them online - I'm not quite ready to enter my credit card number into the www for a bag of candy. My dear reader, if you've spotted them anywhere in the tri-state area - by all means let me know.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

ON THE MOVIES

I may never go to a movie theater again. I'm not being snide, and that sentence was not written in anger. I'm completely apoplectic. Detached. Not love, not hate. It simply disinterests me. 


According to the trade, movie box offices are reporting losses - the only time there's ever a spike in fact is when a another "Pirates of the Caribbean" flick swashbuckles its way into the world of dolby surround sound. Beyond Hollywood producing movies I actually want to see, beyond the three months it takes for a film to become a dvd rental, beyond the $12 price tag (and the additional $2 "courtesy" charge when purchased online) - going to the movies no longer has any appeal for me. 


I almost dished out $14 to see "Burlesque" (I'm a big gay sloppy Cher fan) - but things happen and two months went by - and poof! - it's now on dvd with, and I'm guessing, deleted scenes and songs. So, by waiting or "missing the boa," as it were, I'm getting MORE movie, for less action/money/energy. 


Where's the benefit of going? A larger screen? Your eyes will adjust accordingly in time. Besides, I can sit comfortably in my living room without the fear of bed bugs, my feet sticking to the floor, having to pee during a "good part" or having some crackhead shout things at the screen. I may sound a bit bitter about it, but I'm not, I can assure you. It's just that we've approached a precarious moment in time in which the list of pros and cons of going to a movie theater is so lopsided there just isn't really a reason to go anymore.

My suggestion to Hollywood would be to have different priced tickets for different movies. Why charge someone the same amount of money to see a dumbass comedy like "Take Me Home Tonight" as you would to see
film like  "The Fighter"?  I also think more people would be willing to "try" independent films if the prices were a bit cheaper. The only trend I'm seeing now is the quality of films going down while the price goes up. 

OATMEAL?

When I was a kid, the word oatmeal sounded about as appealing as a bee sting. It looked nasty. Oat. Meal. The makers of oatmeal don't even attempt to glam it up with a cool name the way the makers of Wine Coolers had to in the late-90's ("Berry Blast!" "Tropical Breeze"). Oatmeal just is.

As I get older and my metabolism slows down though, I keep an eye out for any foods that promise to keep me "heart-healthy." So, it was with a hungry gut and wild pessimism that I recently purchased
Trader Joe's Maple & Brown Sugar Oatmeal. I was buying a bunch of other things there that day and figured, why not? 


There comes a time in every person's life when you need to put down the box of any cereal that has the word "Crunch" or "Frosted" in the title, and get serious. The time to face my fears, as my hairline suggests, had come.

I must say, I was pleasantly surprised. I've learned that the trick is all about the amount of water you put in. So, if you're trying to eat healthy/healthier, just add small amounts of hot water - "water to taste" as it were - and let it sit.



Not sure if you like it pasty or mushy, but give it a shot. I never knew there was an option to how much water you put in - I always thought of it like "porridge" or "curds and whey,"both of which sound equally disgusting. Trader Joe's is a good choice in the oatmeal world, as is McCann's Imported Irish Oatmeal. Just make sure it's instant (do they make any other kind?), add hot/boiling water, let it sit for almost a minute and eat it up. It's good. I swear. 


Here's McCann's Site: http://www.mccanns.ie/p_Instant.html

BRUNCH IS FOR EATING

I was grabbing brunch with my beloved Honeybee on Smith Street recently, and we were seated right next to two truly horrible gals. Both thin and in their early 20's (but that's not what made them horrible), the gals barely spoke to one another. Instead, they looked at their smart phones incessantly. Then one would see something that she thought was particularly humorous ("Oh my god, Joe is too funny. Look!") and show the other one the witticism of Joe via the phone. I'm guessing it was a Facebook status update, from what I could see out of the corner of my eye ... and it wasn't even that funny, Joe.



This went on back and forth between the women for a quite a bit. In the meantime, I was diving into my waffle while discussing some hot topics with Honeybee (important stuff ... like if we should try a different dish-washing detergent, and if we think our cat is happy, things couples talk about). 

What blew me away more than the girls' sharing of phones to initiate conversation, was where the girls put their phones when they were done referencing the images on their devices: right on their dining table. Right next to their respective plates. I then looked around the little bistro and realized they weren't alone. A couple of other folks had their phones plunked down
on their dining tables as well.

What's wrong with their vibrate buttons? What's wrong with just not looking at your phone for forty minutes of brunch? What's wrong with giving your undivided attention to your brunchmate? After all, you must like them enough to eat in front of them, not to mention giving up a chunk of your hard-earned Saturday.

As much benefit of the doubt I can muster up, I'm guessing these ladies were not doctors or anyone that needed to be "on call." I just wish that they and others out there would start reconnecting with the person sitting in front of them instead of relying on their phone to do it for them. Check please!

"I REMEMBER NOTHING"

You may ask yourself what a gay gent in his very late 30's (me) would have in common with a straight married lady in her late 60's (Nora Ephron). It's a riddle as old as time itself. Perhaps it's because both "women of a certain age" and gay men grapple with extremely critical peers that tend to focus on looks. It could also be a "glass ceiling" thing - both parties face lowered expectations and increased obstacles. 


All of this 'proving ourselves' business can take it's toll mentally, emotionally and ... aesthetically. From Joan Rivers to "The Golden Girls" there's a strange kinship with the gays that cannot be denied. (With Nora Ephron's most recent book I Remember Nothing, I identified with her love of online-Scrabble, her concern of health and money issues, and her sensitivity when her baked goods are met with faint praise.) 


This little morsel of a book, released in November of '10, is a lot of fun. Witty, snappy and brisk, her blunt casual slightly-ranty style feels genuine. She's like that cooky, chatty aunt that always gives you the best birthday presents.


Check out some of Nora's other writing here ... http://www.huffingtonpost.com/nora-ephron


Buy the book here ...
The Amazon Link

FACEBOOK & DEATH


Perhaps Facebook isn't the best way to send condolences. I can't tell you the number of times I've seen a person's tragic status update ("My grandmother passed away today") followed by endless posts from "friends" extolling sympathy: 


"I'm so sorry for your loss." 
"Blessings to you and your family during this difficult time." 
and the slightly more casual "Dude, that sucks. Sorry man." followed by a sad face like this :0(    


How sincere. All of these "friends" going out of their way to show some sympathy ... 1.5 seconds out of their way.

Likewise, often people's Facebook profile pictures are ironic, self-congratulatory, goofy or drunken - hardly the visual aid to accompany a message of bereavement. I strongly suggest that when you want to show sympathy to a person on Facebook, send a specific message via Facebook email. Short, sweet and personable. Certainly more personable than "posting" it on the person's public wall for all the Facebook world to see. 



Or go all old school, and say it with flowers. And no, not the "Farmville" kind. 

I LOVE MY SHOES

The shoes I'm wearing right now are nasty. Worn, stained, tattered. I love them. My shoes are brown leather and over a year and a half old. I believe I've worn them almost everyday since I bought them - barring summer flip flop needs, and gym sneaker moments. I think I've polished them a total of once the whole time I've owned them. They are the most comfortable of shoes. The pair before this pair were the same "make / model" as my existing pair. (You know that scene in "The Fly" when Jeff Goldblum has a ton of the same shirts and pants? I totally get that.)

The shoes I'm talking about are
Sketchers. They're incredibly durable and look great with jeans and khakis and are completely affordable. I think Sketchers get a bad rap - perhaps it was the whole Ashlee-Simpson-as-spokesperson moment, or maybe it's just the name? 



Sketchers sounds like a children's restaurant that only serves burgers and hot dogs, but the truth is that they produce a great product.

No, I'm not getting a penny from
Sketchers for telling you this. Nor do I have stock in Sketchers, nor do I have a friend who works there. I just love Sketchers and wanted to give you a testimonial in case you were on the fence about every purchasing the goofy-sounding footwear. 


I love Sketchers. See, it does sound weird, doesn't it?

IS THAT IT?

Perhaps due to a near-lifetime spent in retail hell, I get my feathers ruffled during just about any transaction that takes place in a store. Sales people can always be friendlier than they are - so why aren't they? Service and communication-style can make or break any business transaction. Pump some personality into it, folks!

Recently, I was placing a large work-related order w/ a contemporary furniture company. After rattling off a list of needs (including several desks), order numbers, color specifications and delivery requirements and coming up to a hefty total of money - the Sales Person on the other end of the phone asked "Is that it?" 



I had just spent oodles of money. I wanted to ask "Isn't that enough?"

But I didn't, because I'm nice like that. But if you are in the retail world - perhaps asking "Would you like anything else with that?" or "May I help you with any other items before I review your order?" would be a tad nicer. Yes, that's it. 

SWIFFER DUSTERS





I recently read that most tabby cats, like my beloved cat Shorty, have 130,000 hairs per square inch of ... cat. That's a lot of hair. I'm envious. If you ever saw an aerial shot of my head, and you never will, you'd understand why I'd be envious of my cat's hair count. My partner and I adopted Shorty last year. The adoption process lasted a week. Background checks, landlord referrals, in-home inspection - the works. All was worth it though, as this grumpy eight-year-old cat has added some serious laughs to our lives. I even went so far as to make him his own facebook page: Shorty Henshel-Masefield. It was a cold winter day and I was bored to tears (you had to be there), so poof, made my cat facebook page and he now has almost as many friends as I do. 


He's a character. A seriously hairy character, which is why I love the Swiffer Duster. It works. Period. I run this sucker all over my apartment, even across the screen of our flatscreen hdtv screen. It just glides, for real, and picks up everything in its path. Totally worth it, and if Shorty could speak he'd confirm that, but first I'd like to think he'd thank us for adopting him. And then apologize for shedding all over the place.