Monday, November 29, 2010

Another Thanksgiving at Old Country Buffet: Part II

We thanked our friends for coming before heading up to the buffet. I first chose to get a couple glasses of pop. I was a tad disappointed with the choices they had before going to the other side of the fountain to see that they had Cherry Coke, my new favorite soft drink (for the last few years, it's been Mello Yello).

I then got in line at the meat station. The mashed potatoes weren't labeled, but I recognized them as such and took a good portion. Just like two years ago, there was a young guy behind the counter asking if we wanted him to cut a slice of turkey, ham, or steak. I opted for turkey. As he cut it, I said, "You know, your arm's gonna be pretty sore tomorrow". He smiled and nodded his head.

I finished filling up my plate with a slice of pizza and some baked fish (had to be healthier than the fried version). I was a tad discouraged not to see any cinammon rolls. I asked one of the workers who said that they no longer had them available. My love said that she didn't see any stuffing up there, either.

The dynamics of dinner conversation change remarkably with the addition of another couple. I pelted both of them with various questions on work, movies, and most pleasurable sexual positions. Our friend's wife said that she was enjoying watching Sarah Palin's new nature show. She said that even if you didn't like her politics, it was worth checking out. I disagreed to myself while outwardly nodding a bit.

A few minutes later, I was able to give the waiter a buck. He was happy to get it, but not like two years ago. I decided that I would give him one more dollar the next time he came around.

I asked if they still went to church (they are Latter-Day Saints). The husband said that he had his testimony (I didn't ask him to elaborate) and though the church recommended fellowship with other Mormons, he didn't feel that he needed to be at church on Sunday morning.

As an aside, a co-worker, after reading my book, invited me to his church, a Hindu temple, this past Sunday. Would you believe they have services in the afternoon? Quite a break for me as one of the reasons I don't regularly go anywhere is not wanting to get up early. I'll be sure to issue a report on what I experienced in the near future.

My friend's wife asked if we'd seen "The Man With Two Brains". I responded, "From 1983?" She said, "Yes". A bit later, they were talking about "The Shining".

I said, "1980" knowing with absolute certainty that that was the year of its release. The friends' husband said that I must be a big movie fan. I said I was and this name-the-year thing is something I've been doing a lot lately.

A couple weeks ago, I was buying some movie books at Salvation Army and the cashier mentioned that she went to "The Exorcist" and didn't go to the movies for two years after because she was so disturbed by it. I commented that it came out in 1973.

Many times when my wife is watching a movie, I'll say the year I believe it came out, and in four out of five cases, I'll be right. You might say that this is useless information to have, but it helps from time to time when playing along to Jeopardy! movie categories.

As our meal neared its completion (I finished up with a small slice of pumpkin pie), I was able to give our server another dollar. He nodded his head and smiled a bit. Our companion couple didn't tip a dime, saying that they paid enough for the buffet. I offered that the servers didn't get a cut of what we paid to get in. They're a tad miserly considering that they both work full-time and have plenty of money. Being Republicans probably doesn't help matters.

They invited us to join them at their place afterward, but I was eager to get home and watch a football game that I'd been taping. We headed home and watched a good deal of telly before engaging in my favorite sexual position. As the temperature dipped, I looked forward to having the next three days off and being able to sleep in to my heart's content.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Another Thanksgiving at Old Country Buffet

For the second time in three years, my Thanksgiving was spent at Old Country Buffet (for all the details on my experience there in 2008, click here). Instead of my high-school friend, this time I went with my life partner. We'd invited another couple to join us, but they weren't too hot on coming. A pleasant surprise was had, however, when they called while I was in the shower asking what time they could meet us there.

I hadn't been back to OCB in the two years since my last visit. Just like last time, the line was (almost) out the door. Our friends hadn't come yet, so we opted to queue and then get a table once we paid for our order. Waiting in line for 20 minutes can be quite taxing, especially when one is hungry (and your money is being wasted if you don't go to OCB almost starving).

Of course, I could talk to my beloved, but really, what is there to say that we haven't already talked about at some point?

The couple in front of us had a four-year old child and were trying to make out how much it would be for him to eat. Not being able to make out the prices displayed up front, I told them that it would be $3.49. They asked if I could actually see that far or if I just knew it. I said that I could see it. Both commented that they should get their eyes checked. I told them not to worry, that I've been known to have good eyes. This was reassuring to me as, having recently turned 40, I was wondering if I still had the eyes of a hawk.

The husband mentioned that his wife would probably only eat half a plate of food (she was ridiculously thin). I said that they really should just charge each person based on what they weighed instead of a set $10.49. My girl, who recently had weight-loss surgery, could've told the cashier that her shrunken stomach would only allow her to eat one plate of food, but didn't want to mess with it.

The teen son behind us was talking to his parents about how good a movie "The Expendables" was. He said it had Schwarzenegger, Stallone, Bruce Willis. When he wasn't able to name some of the others, I jumped in saying, "Jet Li, Jason Statham, a wrestler".

As we moved closer to the front, I saw our friends has made it and both had smiles on their faces; the wife was passing the time playing on her iPhone. From time to time, I took a peek inside the restaurant to see if anyone I knew was there. No dice, thus far.

One good thing about going out to eat with my wife these days is that she is no longer allowed to drink soda; the fizz messes with her stomach. So we save $2+ every time we go out as the only thing she'll drink is water (and the water she can't drink until 30 minutes after she's finished eating).

We finally made it to the front where we paid for our dinners before my girl headed to the bathroom. She told me when she got out that she didn't actually have to go, but that her pants were about to fall down (one of the downsides of losing 40 pounds in three months).

The hostess directed us to our seats where we waited for our friends. I smiled as I saw the Chinese-Japanese waiter that I'd given a $1 tip to two Thanksgivings before. A minute later, I took a dollar bill out of my wallet which I sought to slip to him the moment he got close to our table.

(To Be Continued...)

Monday, November 22, 2010


In stark contrast to what I experience these days, I caught a number of colds every year while attending college. I had to be really under the weather, however, to skip classes. There wasn't much of a difference between laying in bed and sitting upright in the back row of a classroom. Both were passive and there was something to be said about keeping things business as usual even when one wasn't feeling 100%.

I was greatly aided on those kinds of days by a number of oral medicines that I'd take. For sore throats, Chloraseptic was a life-saver. Even the worst pain in that area was soothed by the stuff.

I made sure to bring plenty of cough lozenges with me to class when that was one of the symptoms I was experiencing. Few things are more trying than coughing uncontrollably while others are trying to learn. I also made sure to be relatively quiet while blowing my nose so as not to bother others.

When my condition dragged out or was more severe, I would be seen at the college health office. Upon being admitted, the first thing they'd give a student was a page with tips on how to best deal with a cold or flu. I'd peruse the paper for a moment or two making sure I was doing what was asked before browsing a magazine while I waited to be called.

There was a fifty-something nurse who was especially kind to me. Like most health care workers, she didn't like to see a person suffering needlessly (though if no one was suffering, she would be out of a job). She'd take my temperature, ask a number of questions, and if necessary, give me heavy-duty anti-flu meds.

On one occasion, she asked if I was seeing anyone. I hesitated a bit before saying that I was. I gather that she had a daughter, perhaps, who was looking for a good man and thought I might do the trick. I wondered for a time after who the woman in question was, wondering if I'd missed out on the chance to go steady with a dreamboat.

One of the best things about being sick is the feeling one gets as the sickness goes away. After trudging a number of days feeling 40% or less, to see that percentage steadily increase is cause enough to believe that there's a God. Of course, if belief in God is how one gets better, than who was it that instigated the sickness? And to what end? (I've always wanted to use that phrase in a blog posting)

These days, in which I rarely get sick, I sometimes look longingly at the cough drops and sore throat sprays on the grocery store shelves. You see, ingesting them always takes me back to my college days where I utilized them the most and though I'm quite happy that the Good Lord has blessed me by rarely needing them, I sometimes wish I'd catch a 48-hour bug, if only to take me back to those long-ago days.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Snow Day

After the light dusting of snow we got last week, I'm reminded of those long-ago days when it snowed so hard that school had to be canceled for the day. One of the last opportunities I had to experience such a day was just over 20 years ago. Thankfully, I have video documentation of said event. As you'll see, all seven of my mom's kids did as they wished (the twins were too young to attend school). For those hoping to catch a glimpse of yours truly, well, somebody had to hold that monstrous camera to their face.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Christmas In The Dells

In December of 1984, my father, wanting to avoid the holidays and also in the mood to get out of town, asked if we'd like to stay a few nights in the Wisconsin Dells. Though I was now a teenager, one of my favorite vacation memories is going to Storybook Gardens there; pictures exist of this trip to prove that the memory is not faux. Not only would the five of us kids go, so, too, would the first two children of a family friend. Named Heath and Heather, they were sure to make a Christmas spent in another state a bit more compelling than it would otherwise have been.

I told all my teachers the days I would be gone and they prepared me accordingly. My computer teacher had me take a test before leaving town; the rest of the class would take it while I was gone. He was exactly what you'd expect from a computer instructor in the mid-80's. Bald, except for around the ears, with glasses and a pocket protector, he made the primitive instruments he'd mastered look cool.

One afternoon, while teaching the language BASIC, he showed us how to write a short program which would allow us to write any sentence we wanted and then see it stream endlessly across the monitor. There was a somewhat nerdy girl that liked to talk to me during class's downtime. Though it made me feel a bit embarassed, it was cool to have the attention of one of the fairer sex.

As I took the test, Mr. Kolter, along with a good-looking student aid, watched to make sure there were no bugs. It all went extremely smoothly as I finished up and looked forward to some time off from 8th grade.

A couple days later, we were firmly ensconced at the Dells staying at a nice hotel and enjoying being together. Heather had had a bit of a crush on me for a number of years and it was during this time that we got closer than we ever had before. With minimal parental supervision, we embraced quite a number of times that week. Happily, my dad encouraged it, saying that perhaps we'd be together one day.

The rooms had a built-in radio placed just over the bed. As the two of us were about to leave the room to go to the swimming pool, I told Heather to hold her horses as one of my favorite new songs was on, "Jack Wagner's "All I Need" (he was also a actor on General Hospital). We smiled at each other as the words spoke to what we were both feeling. Another song that reminds me of that week is Cyndi Lauper's "All Through the Night".

This would be one of the last times that I would go swimming. Feeling self-conscious about my body (puberty will do that to you) and moving in with my mother seven months later, in which the opportunity to spend time at hotels would be much less frequent, all but put an end to my time in the pool.

One of my happiest memories, though, is sitting in the whirlpool with the others and looking outside through the two-story window. Just fifty feet away, there were pine trees and snow on the ground.

But inside, we were toasty warm and Stevie Wonder's "Love Light in Flight" was playing.

As inevitably happens with young love, me and Heather were at each other's throats a couple days later. We were able to make up by the time we made it back to Minnesota. I would be in the faith that we both shared for just a few more months. After that, she all but disappeared from my life. I heard sometime later that she would, most likely, marry me if I came back to "The Truth" (the Jehovah's Witnesses). Though she was a wonderful girl, that was just too high a price for me to pay.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Mall Walker

Yesterday morning, having the day off and knowing my friend, Shanon, did as well, I sent him a text asking if he'd like to go to the Mall of America. Little did I know that the texting function on his phone wasn't working due to lack of payment. All was not lost as he wound up calling me, anyway, asking if it'd be OK for him to come up next weekend to celebrate my fortieth birthday; his girlfriend's birthday happens to be the day after mine.

They said they'd be more than willing to go to America's Mall. I'm not generally too big on malls, but felt that the trip might almost be worth it if after shopping, we went to IHOP, a restaurant that isn't located in our 100,000-strong city.

We made it up to the mall at around 3pm. One pleasant surprise is that the halls and stores weren't too crowded, something which probably wouldn't be the case today and certainly wouldn't be so three weeks from now.

We first stopped to have a bite to eat at one of the mall's two food courts. They went to Taco Bell while I opted for a Whopper Jr. meal at Burger King. I hadn't had BK in a while and it was much better than I remembered it. Shanon had to make a deposit in the bathroom afterward, but was a bit flustered when all three stalls were occupied. A few minutes later, he was able to get in.

We toyed with the idea of mini-golfing, but decided to place more of a priority on checking the stores out. There is also an amusement park located at the center of the mall which we chose to avoid.

I kept an eye out for mall security officers throughout the day as there is a TV program that recently aired on A&E about MOA's mall cops. I saw a number of them, but none that struck me as familiar from the series.

We started on the second floor where Shanon and his gal found plenty of opportunities in which to spend their hard-earned (they work in a factory) moolah. Shanon stopped at a place called Lids (they sell hats) and bought a couple winter caps. I sat and waited outside the store as he checked out and grew impatient as this went on for more than ten minutes; he was the only one in line. I finally went up and asked what was happening. He said he was getting his check approved. A check? Can you imagine? It was eventually approved, but for the rest of the day, he wisely elected to use his debit card.

Shortly after we hit the 3rd floor, they stopped at Frederick's of Hollywood, a world-famous store that sells sexy lingerie. As they shopped, I stepped to the guardrail and looked at the floors below. A few minutes later, I looked back into the store where his girl had gone in back to try some sexy piece on. It was then that I noticed a woman working the register. She had some type of black boustier on that really lifted her bosoms up. I don't typically like to stare, but have to admit to gawking for a number of minutes.

As time went by, I wondered when my feet would get sore. As a teenager, whenever I went to LaCrosse's Valley View Mall, my feet would get achy near the end of my day there. My favorite stores to shop at back then were Waldenbooks, Musicland, and Kay-Bee (a toy store). So far, they were fine. Perhaps the running stores I'd recently bought would delay its onset.

At one point, we walked past a restaurant called Bubba Gump's Shrimp (it's based on an idea Forrest Gump's friend had about opening a place that sold all kinds of shrimp). At the entrance, in a glass enclosure, was one of the suits Tom Hanks wore for the movie as well as his suitcase and a box of chocolates.

I marveled that I had actually seen the movie at that very mall in the summer of 1994; my mother had taken me and my brothers to the Twin Cities for a mini-vacation.

One of the last stores we hit was on the first floor, Bath & Body Works. Shanon's girlfriend grew excited when she realized there was a store-wide sale going on in which if you bought three of their products, you could get three for free. As she browsed, I noted that the overhead speakers were playing Ray Charles' version of "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer". I wasn't surprised to hear a Christmas song playing in early November at the U.S.'s largest mall, but wasn't about to let the moment pass without saying something. After Shanon and his girl checked out, I said, "Merry Christmas" to the cashier.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Cheap Seats

In the late 90's, one of my favorite places to spend a few hours was at the "Cheap theatre". Some called it the "Dollar fifty theatre" as that's what they charged for admission. If I happened to miss a film while it was in first run, the cheap theatre gave me an avenue in which to still see it on the big screen. The formal name of the movie house was Cinema 1-2-3.

The Mrs. and I had seen Chris Tucker's breakthrough in "Money Talks" a number of weeks before, but were so amused by him that we decided to catch the film once again at the cheap theatre.

We were one of the only ones there. Partway through the movie, it started getting quite cold. My girl said that her nose was cold. I wasn't about to put up with it, so went up to the only employee who appeared to be there: a teenager named Zach.

I told him that my lady was freezing her touchis off, but it was to no avail. He said that there wasn't any way that he could adjust the thermostat. I didn't believe him. I told him that I'd keep a mental note of his name, which is obviously still the case thirteen years later. We watched a couple more minutes before electing to leave, sneaking out the back door so I wouldn't be tempted to give Zach any more disapproving looks.

One evening, while waiting for the movie to start, I sat on the aisle when a bunch of black kids found seats near the front. Over the next few minutes, they ran back and forth from their seats to the lobby. To encourage them to slow down, I stuck my foot out into the aisle a number of times. They still ran, but avoided my side of the aisle. Before I knew what hit me, a black lady was all up in my face wondering why I was trying to trip her brood.

Some nights when my lady was working, I'd go to the movies by myself. "Boogie Nights" was one of the best movies I saw back then. It was my first brush with Julianne Moore and Philip Seymour Hoffman and that last shot was a doozy! The most notable thing about seeing "Dangerous Beauty" is that the audience was virtually all male. This, mixed with the mature subject matter, made it feel like I was attending a porno screening.

One night in 1999, we were out with my mom. They wanted to see Anthony Hopkins in "Instinct" while I opted to see Catherine Zeta in "Entrapment". I knew I made the right choice when partway through my movie, I went to see how they were doing. It felt like Vegas in July; there were a great deal of people in there which could have been the source. I sat for a moment with them remarking on how warm it was. They didn't seem to mind. A moment later, I returned to the coolness (pun intended) of "Entrapment".

Later in '99, I went to see the "South Park" movie for the 4th time at the Cinema (the first three were seen first-run). While waiting for the show to start, a teenager with crutches came in with his father and a friend. The father sat a row or two behind his son and friend in order to give them some space. I'm not sure the father knew just how hard-R this film was, so looked forward to seeing his reaction to various scenes. Indeed, he appeared quite offended by a couple of sequences, but there was no way he was going to infringe on the fun his injured son was having.