Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

My Sense of Humor in a Nutshell

Last night, me and my significant other were perusing the menu at a local restaurant. The waitress came up to us and noticed the cast on my wife's right hand. She said to her, "Wow. What happened?" Before my beloved could respond, I said, "I accidentally pushed her down the stairs."

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

You Like a' the Juice?

To celebrate my graduation from college in May of 1996, my mother took me and my girlfriend at the time to the Olive Garden. The nearest location was more than 30 miles away, but the one who birthed me felt it would be well worth it. I'd never been there, but was up to giving it a shot. I've never been a fan of pasta, so opted for the pizza. It wasn't bad.

A few months later, I was newly dating my wife-to-be. We loved driving to LaCrosse that summer; going to a movie and the Italian eatery. One afternoon while there, I saw that they had white grape juice. Wondering what it tasted like and thinking it might be good, I ordered it and found it to be delicious. They served it in a small glass, so I typically ordered two refills while there. My beloved started calling it our love juice (insert joke, if you're so inclined).

There was an older waiter who frequently took our order. He became part of the tradition of our visits there. One weekend in 1997, I asked our favorite server for another hit of white grape. A moment later, he came out with the following in his hand:

My jaw dropped somewhat. Here I'd thought it had been some exotic brand, not necessarily from Italy, but certainly not a confection made by Welch's. My partner admitted surprise that our "love juice" could be bought at any major grocery store. After that, the juice lost its luster a tad though it still tasted the same. The item is no longer on the Olive Garden menu.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

$1 Entree

It's that time again, time to save a few bucks at my favorite restaurant in the world, Friday's.

Leave a note in the comments and I'll email you a coupon good until April 30th for a $1 entree with the purchase of one at the regular price. It can be used over and over again. As a bonus, you'll also get a coupon for any appetizer you want for one cent as long as you sit in the bar and order a beverage. I ate there earlier this evening and it should surprise absolutely no one that their chicken strips taste even better priced at a meager dollar.

Friday, March 20, 2009


A friend of mine and I were talking this afternoon about the career arc of Nicolas Cage. He has a new movie out today called "Knowing" which looks about as compelling as most of the other films he's been in over the past 4 to 5 years. Ten years ago, he was at the top of his game starring in one of the best action movies I've ever seen, "Face/Off", and showing dramatic chops in films that easily could've been crap ("City of Angels", "Bringing Out The Dead").

He was still good in the early '00s, most particularly in "Adaptation" in which he played twins who were writing screenplays. Since 2005, his films have been downright intolerable. Not that I've seen many of them, but a quick look over at RottenTomatoes will tell the tale. Here are a few of the ones I'm referring to: "The Wicker Man", "GhostRider", "Next", "Bangkok Dangerous", and "National Treasure 2". My favorite movie columnist was discussing this very issue in a piece I came across a half hour ago.

Will the Cage of old ever return? Probably not, but thankfully he made a minor masterpiece about 5 years ago that I was lucky enough to see on the big screen. It's called "The Weather Man" and I highly recommend it.

Saturday, March 14, 2009


I signed up to get emails from Obama late last summer. Back then, I read virtually every paragraph of every message. Now I look at the first sentence or so and then delete them. I don't have the heart to unsubscribe (yet). My mother purchased Obama's second book "The Audacity of Hope" for me last November. I made it through about half before getting bored with the dryness and all the talk of America's founding fathers. Last week, I replaced the Obama button I had on my jean jacket with one that says, "I am the Hope of Humanity" (I got it at the Ashland retreat). I've really not paid much attention to what Obama's been doing since he was inaugurated a month and a half ago. I feel that he's doing the best he can and am not too concerned about the details (though the porkiness of the stimulus bill is a cause for concern). Overall, I'm very happy he was elected, but it's fascinating how fast he went from something fresh to same ol', same ol.

About a year ago, I upgraded from a 96 Neon to an 05 Elantra. I felt like King Shit for quite a while, but now it's just my car, nothing overly special. Same thing for the 08 Accord that my wife has. These things speak to how fast we adapt. Even those who win lotteries eventually go back to the level of happiness they had before. Is this good or bad? It's hard to say, but such is life. It's quite possible that we adapt more slowly to losing things than we do to gaining them. I know it took me a great deal of time to get over the loss of my first dog. When a long-term relationship ends, it can take an incredible amount of time for one to gain true acceptance.

In sum, I'd say it's best not to jump to conclusions that you'll be forever happy if you obtain this or that.

It may make you feel that way for a time, but it's not gonna last. Like the best orgasm, it will be over before you know it. Best to enjoy what you have and leave it at that.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Doody Balls

I woke up yesterday morning feeling constipated, but certain that with a bit of fiber, I could bring my creation to full fruition. After taking my morning meds, I ingested a few fiber capsules. With that, I was set and evacuated for a short time. I knew there would be more to come, so walked a bit around the house knowing that exercise is a good way to "get things going".

I'd already go through all three of the weekly rags I get, so was perusing Billboard's Book of Number One Hits while on the throne; It devotes a full page to every number one hit from 1955 ("Rock Around the Clock") to 1988 ("Together Forever" by Rick Astley). I bought the publication close to 20 years ago. You know you're pretty hard up for reading material when you start looking over CD liner notes.

As luck would have it, I was off work for the day, so was able to spend most of my time in a bathrobe. In the end, I probably ingested about 8 FibCaps. I've said it before, but those things are miracle workers.

When I feel like I have to go, but can't quite get it out, 2 tabs makes everything alright. They're like InstaLaxatives.

In the early evening, I dug around the basement for a couple pages I'd written back in '05 about Brandy, our Saint Bernard. I found both pages and had a chuckle being reminded of things I'd forgotten about:

"I remember when it would snow hard, I'd go in the front to shovel and Bran would sit there eating as much snow as she could."

I know I could drop some more friends off at the pool this evening if I just took a couple more tablets. Destiny awaits...

Thursday, March 12, 2009

I Love the 60's

In the latest issue of Newsweek, there's an article about a concert recently put on by early 90's relics, MC Hammer and Vanilla Ice.

One of the more interesting points expressed is that most of the people in attendance were only just being born when the two were at the top of their game. In other words, they weren't the kids who initially bought the albums, but who came to the music later through VH1 reruns or listening to an older siblings music collection. They're nostalgic for the music of a prior generation.

I've done this myself. In 1986, at the age of 15, I grew dissatisfied with pop music and began purchasing cassettes by 60's Motown artists. After a few months of collecting the greatest hits of the Supremes, the Temptations, the Jackson 5, the Four Tops, etc, I moved on to the Beatles.

I started with their greatest hits and eventually obtained every one of their major recordings. While others in my class were listening to Bon Jovi and Whitney Houston, I was spending my spare time reading all I could about the group from Liverpool that changed the world. Though they broke up shortly before I was born, their music is so much a part of me that it really does feel as if I grew up during the 60's (when their albums were initially released).

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

I'm a Dollar Menuaire!

Yesterday afternoon, I went out for a late lunch with a friend of mine. Under normal circumstances, we'd go to Burger King, but my bud suggested we hit McDonald's since it's more conveniently located. I was a bit apprehensive since I haven't been big on their stuff since the late 90's, but figured, what the hell.

We met there and he mentioned that he didn't want to have too much to eat as he still wanted to have room for supper that evening with his gal. We both chose items off the dollar menu. I chose a regular hamburger, a small fry, and an orange. As I sat down and looked at my food, I realized that it was exactly what I ate at Mickey's as a child. I never liked cheeseburgers, so always had a hamburger and all the fries they served back then were small ones. I felt a surge of nostalgia as I consumed the "food".

My parents frequently took us to McDonalds as kids. On one notable day shortly after the introduction of the Chicken Nugget, my father went up to the cashier and asked for "some chicken nuts". I specifically remember this commercial from 1982:

In the mid 90's, my first girlfriend and I would walk to the local Mickey's every week or two. She would eat her meal while I looked over the day's paper. I'm not sure what made me stick my nose up at it a number of years ago; probably just got tired of it. After going there a few hours ago, I think I've been a bit too hard on the place. I plan to go there a couple times a month for the forseeable future. I know it's not really good for me, but getting a hamburger and small fry isn't near as bad as those who opt for a BigMac and large fry (even if they do order a Diet Coke).

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

20-Year High School Reunion

This summer, my high school class is having its 20-year reunion. We've had just one before; 5 years ago (our 15th). Though I wasn't popular by any means in high school, I went half a decade ago to see how my compatriots looked and in a way, to go back to all those years ago. My wife came along with me. There were 300+ in our class and about 1/3rd showed up for the reunion.

A number of people said hi to me as we all sat down and ate a dinner that we had chosen beforehand. Something quite interesting, though not surprising occurred after dinner: everyone seemed to gravitate to the cliques they'd been in in high school. The dirtballs went outside and smoked, the jocks stood and talked to the pretty ladies while consuming not inconsiderable amounts of alcohol.

There were a few girls who were somewhat interested in me in my high school days and it was nice to see them again. Though a bit older, we really weren't all that removed from those formative days. The music (80's, naturally) grew too loud for my tastes and after talking to a guy who was considered a nerd in high school (and surely still is today), we headed out.

I'm somewhat mixed on going back this summer. If it's gonna be like it was in '04, then I don't really want a part of it. On the other hand, my best friend from high school is greatly looking forward to going as he missed the last one. I think it might be better if I go sans wife this time (most of the others didn't have their spouses with them).

I have something quite funny in mind if I do go. On most days in high school, I wore my navy blue Members Only jacket. I didn't just wear it to school; I wore it throughout every class (except PhyEd, of course). There was a pic taken of the entire senior class in front of the school shortly before we graduated and I can be seen wearing said jacket.

I'm sure you know where this is headed. Wouldn't it be grand if I wore one of the newfangled Members jackets I purchased last summer to the reunion? And not just wore it as I entered, but throughout the entire time I was there. Here is the specific jacket I would wear if I decide to go through with it:

Monday, March 09, 2009

Leaving My Hometown

In the fall of '96, I was living in a one room apartment with my wife-to-be. We were in the infancy of our relationship having met in late July. Having graduated that spring with a nursing degree, she was looking for a position as an RN. This would quite possibly lead to her having to move to another town. Would I go along? Would I follow her even though we'd only known each other a short time? It was a difficult decision, one I put off until she actually had an offer put out to her.

In late October, one came; from a nursing home in Rochester. The city, 40 miles from my hometown, Winona, was fairly familiar to me.

It's where my maternal grandmother had lived and the site of a disco club called the Aquarius (not to mention the Mayo Clinic). After a good deal of deliberation, I decided I would go with her (I was working at Radio Shack at the time, but looked forward to getting outta there). We chose a place to live called Homestead Village. It was a nice complex that had a park-like setting. All the townhouses there were two levels. Our place had two bedrooms and cost only $500 a month.

Of my mom's first 5 kids, she was closest to me and later said that she cried the day I left town. My girlfriend got orientated in her job while I commenced looking for one myself. The first few weeks were quite difficult, my homesickness very acute. I had no friends in Rochester, so typically drove to Winona about once a week, visiting my mother and a couple friends. Many times, I told my beloved that I wished to return to the Island City.

My loneliness hit a nadir one winter morning when she was at work and my car wouldn't start. I was literally stuck at home. Thankfully, I had a kitten to drown my sorrows with, but I was losing ground fast. I stuck it out, though. One thing that got me through was going to the movies. Winona only had 4 screens while Rochester had 19 (including a cheap theatre). I went to an incredible amount of films during this time (my wife-to-be worked second shift, so I was totally on my own in the evenings).

It wasn't long before I found a job which helped ground me. Getting a dog in the summer of '97 also helped in this respect. The visits to Winona gradually became less frequent and before I knew it, Rochester truly felt like home.

Further reading:

Sunday, March 08, 2009

I Don't Think, So...

Have you ever wondered what it's like to stop thinking? Ever since a toe reader told me last summer that I should meditate more, I've been slowly, but surely working on it. The bath would be a nice place to do so, but it's just not comfortable enough. The recommendation is that it be done in a sitting position, but I'm so lazy that I'll typically lay down on my back or side.

It really is incredible how many thoughts can intrude when one just wants to shut them off. And they're thoughts I've had many times before, not anything new. What good is it to have that going through one's head all the time? And one's thoughts are so rarely on the here-and-now. The mind looks into the future and ruminates on the past.

After a few minutes of listening to my thoughts, I'll tell myself to shush and concentrate on my breath. After about 10 seconds, a thought may come in and if I'm not disciplined enough, I'll let that thought turn into another and then another. Eventually, I'll come back to the breath, though. And it is so quiet, then. There's no need to think about what I need because in that moment, I have everything I could ever want.

It's not an easy thing to shut off the mind, but very worthwhile. It leads to acceptance of whatever is showing up in life. I feel as if I am floating down a river, just going with the flow.

On most evenings, instead of watching TV, I'll simply lay in bed, turn the fan on, and relax. It's pretty funny because other than my favorite shows, I don't like to watch TV because it's too passive, but chilling in bed is even more so.

Many faiths have too much an emphasis on prayer and not enough on listening (meditating). When one prays, they're just spouting what they already know. To quiet the mind, to hear the silence, that's where the magic is. My favorite author has a saying that speaks to this:

In order to truly know God, you have to be out of your mind.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Eating a $40 Meal at a Fancy Hotel

My wife and I headed to our room and gussied up a tad. We were quite happy that we didn't have to pay a dime for the fancy dinner; some generous soul had agreed to pay for four people who couldn't afford to go (or in my case, didn't believe that any meal could possibly be worth 40 bucks).

We stepped into the banquet hall about 15 minutes after the scheduled start (this was intentional as I knew there was to be some socializing before any food was served). I asked a maitre'd if I could have a soft drink. He responded that the agreement was just that they have coffee and water available. What a rip-off! I told my wife I was going to get something liquidy out of the vending machine.

I found a dispenser on the 3rd floor (it was just outside). This was actually the 2nd time I'd been serviced by the machine; we'd been there the night before to find some chocolate to munch on before going to sleep. It was there that we petted a cat, a cat that we found out was the hotel's (shades of the shop cats we'd seen over the past few days). The cat was there yet again as I put money in for a 20 ounce container of Gatorade (I also got some juice for my beloved).

Upon my return, I found a seat and asked for a cup of ice in which to put my tasty beverage. Ah, that's much better now. I feel almost human. A few minutes later, we got in the buffet line. I'm a relatively small portion guy, so just took some chicken, a bit of mashed potatoes and something else that escapes my mind at the moment (I knew I shoulda took more detailed notes). My wife piled it on as she was aiming to get her money's worth.

We sat down and began eating. The chicken wasn't bad, but it was several degrees inferior to what was served at our wedding 10 years prior. The other stuff was mostly rubbish. I wondered if any of the others felt the same. No one was letting on at this point.

I tried two desserts hoping for better luck, but again, both were shit. My wife actually liked one of the items I didn't have the heart to finish. OMG. I can't believe how many sentences I'm using just talking about this meal. My wife didn't even drink the juice I'd bought her (perhaps peer pressure led her to drink the water others were having). There was decent conversation as we got to know a few of the people at our table better. One lady was wondering what Neale thought about 2012. I just shook my head.

- Recent update to "My Experience in Ashland, Oregon at the End of 08"

Friday, March 06, 2009

Part-Time Lover

Over the past few months, I've been working part-time (as opposed to full) and must admit to liking it. While others rush downtown at 7 in the morning, I'm usually sleeping in. While most work 5 days a week, I consistently have a 3-day weekend. Now, this kind of structure isn't for everyone. It takes discipline, making sure that one isn't living beyond their means. It really only took a few relatively minor adjustments to turn me from being happy with a full-time job to a part-time lover. I feel fortunate to have money coming in at all during times such as these.

A friend of mine lost his $13 an hour job last week and is frantically looking for something to replace it. When I asked him yesterday if I could take him out to Burger King for a bite, he said he was too busy at the local college looking for a job and that I should be doing the same. I chuckled at this because my soul doesn't care how much money I'm bringing in or if I get something full-time again. I was reminded of Deepak Chopra's Law of Least Effort.

Addendum: the title of this post alludes to a number one Stevie Wonder song from the fall of 1985. It was during this time that I moved in with my mom who was no longer a practicing Jehovah's Witness. This meant that after 10 years, I would no longer have to abide by the religion's precepts. At the age of 14, I hadn't received any birthday or Christmas presents since I was 4. You can imagine how happy I was that I'd be getting some presents for my 15th. So great was my excitement that when my mom was at work, I looked intently for what she had bought me. I found one present and carefully opened it to see what was inside. After doing so, I taped it back up again so I could act surprised when I opened it for real a few days later. I found a smaller present next to it. From the shape, I correctly surmised that it was a cassette: Stevie Wonder's album "In Square Circle".

I wasn't gonna tape this one back up (I wanted to listen to it too badly). For the next couple days, I had it next to my boom box and listened to it frequently. A day or so before my bday, I told my mother I'd already opened the tape, but not the other present (such a fibber). I can't recall her reaction, but my wife must've been privy to this story since many times when she's bought me birthday or Christmas presents, she'll tell me not to snoop around in the study (the place where she typically hides them before the big day).

Thursday, March 05, 2009

My 7 Favorite TV Shows

7. Real Time with Bill Maher - HBO - Bill states truths that most others are afraid to (and in a very amusing way).

6. Survivor - CBS - after watching the first dozen seasons, I grew tired of the formula, but am glad I gave this new season a try. The Amazing Race is still worlds better in my mind.

5. Ghost Hunters - SciFi - I've mentioned this program a couple times in the past few months, most notably here.

4. Lost - ABC - It's not the easiest show to follow (I frequently go to ew.com the day after a new ep airs to gain clarity on how what transpired fits into the grand scheme), but with next year being its last season, it won't be long before all my answers are revealed.

3. The Office - NBC - the only sitcom I watch (other than 30 Rock, from time to time).

2. Big Love - HBO - it's incredible how sympathetic one becomes to Bill Paxton's character, a man who has three wives (living under three roofs on the same block).

1. The Amazing Race - CBS - the 5-time Emmy winner for Best Reality Show deserves every kudo it receives. Watch this season's first three eps here. Here's a cheesy sample.