Sunday, July 31, 2005

To Iron or Not To Iron? There's No Question!

Friday night no one was around, so I wasn't going to do much. I was watching Toy Story (can you believe I hadn't seen it yet?) and at about 10:30, my email/webpage system administrator /friend Vince called me from the West Side because they are in town from LA for a wedding. They had just finished dinner (and a few cocktails from the sound of it) and were ready for their NYC night on the town. So I changed out of my PJs and put on some of my duds and jumped in a cab for the West Side. I picked them up and we headed down to the über-sleek, hidden lounge underneath the Coffee Shop in Union Square. The funny thing is that Vince's girlfriend had actually eaten at the restaurant before but had no idea there was an über-sleek lounge underneath. It really hit the spot for them - and so did the silky-smooth mojitos.

Once we were well lubricated, Vince was ready for a club, so we headed downtown further to my preferred neck of the woods - the Lower East Side. As I continue to explore this hipster paradise, I continue to identify cool places to hang out. We came across one place I've wanted to check out for a while - Libation. It has interesting write-up reviews, so we went inside and thought it was a pretty neat place. Loud, racous, stylish, and good music all created a fun environment, so we did a little carpet-tearing up and hung out for a while until Vince's girlfriend Jonlyn decided that he needed some pizza and some sleep. Demonstrating my lack of experience in pizza locations other than those in my immediate vacinity, we headed up to the Upper East Side to my neighborhood pizza joint and partook in some traditional NY-style pizza before they cabbed it back to the West Side to their hotel.

The next day, Vince called and said he had a lot of fun and was paying the price for it. But he was still a trooper and went with his mom and girlfriend to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which is nearby me and which I am a member of. So I met up with them and we explored some of the world class exhibits inside. (Luckily) I arrived late and the ladies had just finished viewing the Chanel exhibit, so we were on to the Matisse exhibit instead. Vince's mom knows a lot about this stuff, I am pretty much an ignoramus when it comes to it. But I still enjoy it. After the little tour, we had to get some food, so we went to Madison Avenue and came across Zabar's E.A.T. cafe. We had some brunch food there and the French Toast was to DIE for. Their fresh baked bread (that tasted like Angel Food cake) soaked in butter with some raspberries and syrup was amazing. Wow. I might have to go back there and splurge another time.

They headed home for the wedding and I headed home for a three hour napster. At night, I went with Alan and Andrea to a nearby Turkish restaurant called Beyoglu and ate some great organic chicken with rice pilaf and of course sides of yogurt and hummus. We had to eat in a hurry, though, because we were going to see Walk of the Penguins, a National Geographic movie about the emperor penguins in Antarctica and their life's journey every year to mate and reproduce. It really is amazing and they did a good job of adding personification (showing human-like emotions) with the penguins. A very cute, very informative movie. It's a good movie for outdoor type of people interested in some crazy animals.

Today was a nice, warm day outside, somewhere in the 80's, not too humid, a real nice day. I woke up at 7:30 (I don't know what my problem is - it's Sunday!) and after slouching around my apartment for a while actually went rollerblading at about 8:45am - before anyone else in the city was awake. I swear, the streets are empty at that time, no taxis, no traffic, nothing. It was kind of nice, though. So I headed to Central Park and did the BIG loop this time, a whopping three miles with peaks and valleys throughout. A nice way to wake up my stiff lower back. I broke into a nice sweat, even though it was very cool outside, thus accomplishing the morning's mission.

I was supposed to have a blind date for the Chelsea vs. AC Milan soccer game today, but she called me about an hour before our meeting time and flaked on me. Gee, I'm glad I set the day aside for the game. So I decided not to go at all. And I'm glad I didn't pre-purchase the tickets, I woulda really been up the creek if that happened.

Well everyone else was busy for the afternoon. So I cleaned my kitchen and apartment up - usual Sunday activities. But I was done by 2:00 and it was awesome outside. I tried going to the park and reading but got bored and fell asleep on the astro-turf instead. I cruised home and decided that the best activity I could become entralled in would be....ironing. I bought the sizing spray a while back and after my first attempt, I gave up because my shirt turned out so wrinkly still. This time, armed with my sizing spray, encouraging emails and checklist instructions from the two preceding generations of mothers in my family, my $15 iron, and an abundance of time, I went to town on my closet. And I gotta say - I am one badass ironer now. It took me a while to figure out where the creases should and shouldn't exist and how to arrange my two and a half foot ironing board on my kitchen table, but I got the hang of it and I'm stoked about that. I got so enthralled in the activity that I did about four shirts out of my closet. And note to self - even though dig the Zara styles and fashions much more, I gotta hand it to Banana Republic for making shirts that are much better quality and turn out more crisp after the ironing. Not that that's going to stop me from buying another Zara button up for $10 when it's on sale, though!
Cost savings? Around $7. Awesome, gosh.

And that $7 saving, compounded weekly over the lifespan of my shirts, will come in handy over the next few years. Yesterday I visited an orthodonist that I found by googling around New York and trying to find someone decent. I was impressed with his credentials (he speaks Hungarian, as well as three other languages) and his experience (the poor guy was in Operation Iraqi Anarchy with the Marines). Oh, and he's published books (in Hungarian, no less), graduated with a masters from an Ivy League school, does lots of volunteer dental work in natural disaster-affected areas, teaches at Columbia, writes research papers on the subject, etc. etc. So I figured he was worth taking a chance on.

His opinion on my ortho requirements weren't too different than the doctor I had consulted with in the Bay Area before I moved out here, but there were some key differences:

1.) Explanations: He actually explained to me the health ramifications if I did not have the most serious concerns addressed with surgery. He carefully explained the surgery I would need (including the recovery time, down from 6 weeks to a whopping three days!), the options that I had instead of surgery, and correctly identified my (minor / "well hidden") lisp (told you Paul, Cathy, D, and Brie!). Bay Area doc explained to me how my face isn't proportional right now and how much better I would look by having the surgery - thanks for the confidence booster. One point for NYC doctor. 0 points for Bay Area doctor.

2.) Q&A: He had confident answers on all of my concerns, including issues such as the effects of my tongue thrusts, the chances of getting the surgery covered by my medical insurance, etc. etc. Bay Area doctor volunteered to see me again if I had more questions. Two points for NYC doctor. 0 points for Bay Area doctor.

3.) Receptionst: NYC doctor had a tall, thin receptionist from the Czech Republic. She came from Ostrava, CZ and of course I went ahead and mentioned that I know they have a good soccer team there called Banik Ostrava and she was amazed (It is quite random - maybe even concerning - that I know such things) Apparently her husband is a Liverpool fan as well. Bay Area doctor's receptionists didn't have an accent, so were probably locally farmed. Three points for NYC doctor. 0 points for Bay Area doctor.

4.) NYC doctor looked at my shirt that said "Oakenfold" and asked me if it was a Paul Oakenfold shirt. Yes, it is. He's a progressive trance DJ and how does he know that? Because he's a fan as well. I don't think that Bay Area doc listens to progressive trance in his free time. 20 points for NYC doctor. 0 points for Bay Area doctor

5.) His office is on the 12th floor on Central Park South and when you're sitting in the victim's chair, you have a full view of Central Park. Bay Area doc had a windowless consultation room, if I remember correctly. Well, whatever the view was in the Bay Area, I'm sure it wasn't Central Park. 21 points NYC doctor. 0 points for Bay Area doctor.

As you can see, I liked this doctor a lot. I've seen plenty of orthodontists and this guy seemed very sharp and answered all of my concerns with excellent explanations. The cost for the ortho work alone is quite a lot, but not anymore than any of the other orthos I've talked to. So the next time some of you see me, don't be surprised if I'm in braces....

J. Riley, ready to invest in my face after my vacation to Eastern Europe.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

The Daily Sweating Show with Jon Stewart

At the end of last year, Paul had discovered that we could get tickets for one of TV's most informative programs, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. The tickets were free, the only problem was that you had to sign up for them far, far in advance. So back in December, I signed up for some tickets in July, 2005. I picked a random date and we got our tickets. That date ended up being July 26th, yesterday. It was a stroke of genius picking that date because Tuesday is my night off from the gym and things at work are relaxed enough right now that I can take off a little earlier than normal to get in line (as the shows are all overbooked). So I got down to deep Hell's Kitchen yesterday afternoon at around 4:00 to wait in line for an hour and a half so four of us could see the show. Paul and Cathy joined me and since I had an extra ticket, they brough one of their co-workers who I'd met previously. If you've seen the news, you know that the weather here hasn't been ideal for standing outside for a few hours - it was around 95 degrees out yesterday, though the humidity was tolerable. Nonetheless, we finally got in the show at around 6:00, at which point my shirt was soaked with sweat. I felt sorry for the people sitting next to me until I remembered that we had FREE TICKETS to see an awesome show!

It was really neat - they had a comdian guy come out prior to the show to make fun of people in the audience and get our laughter going. After him, the host of the show, Jon Stewart, came out to talk to the audience for a bit and answer questions we had. He is hilarious and I really recommend you check out his show on Comedy Central. The show itself was classic Jon Stewart and one of the better episodes. It featured discussions about the recent space shuttle launch, including two men holding different rockets in their laps talking about "strapping into this thing" and about what a few thousands pounds of thrust could do. Take a picture and visualize the scene and you'll laugh. There was also a special report on the gayification of NASCAR and an interview with an interesting fellow that featured good editing work. You gotta see it to understand what I'm talking about. But it was great to see the show.

This weekend AC Milan is coming to play Chelsea FC at a stadium in New Jersey. Every summer we get the opportunity to see some good teams come to town for friendly soccer matches, so it's not something I want to miss. I think I've got someone lined up to go with me, though I'll have to wait for this weekend to make sure she's going.

In other social news, I've scheduled another festivus on a Friday this summer to attend the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Center's Summer Sessions, which is similar to the event at the Guggenheim where I celebrated my Name Day back in June. You get to go into the museum and check out their stuff and then sit out back in the fenced in gigantic lawn with seats and umbrellas and sip on cocktails. Should be a fun little get-together, I'm looking forward to it.

Finally, I've made some last-minute preparations for my trip to Poland at the end of August. I'm going there for Ewa's (from SF) wedding to her finance Brendan. After much discussion with Ewa today, I finally realized that I'm not in college anymore and that I can probably stay at the four-star, $90 Sheraton that is located in Central Warsaw for a night rather than staying 15 minutes away from everyone else at the local youth hostel. I LOVE youth hostels, and if/when I go back to Warsaw, I will definitely stay there. But I'm gonna splurge for a night since we will be staying in Warsaw the night following the wedding, which means I'm probably going to want a comfortable bed ;o) . Plus, Ewa says it's (and I quote) "down on Nowy Swiat which is a hella nice street with lots of shops and hot chicks". Oh yea, she said something about it being right near the tourist attractions, too.

Tomorrow I will be going to the NewYork DMV to get a new driver's license, as mine expires. I have mixed emotions about this because I've been looking forward to being an official New Yorker (at least, according to the state) and having proof of my residency for the future. But, at the same time, it is going to be sad to lose my California license and the picture of me when I was 16 and had a full head of hair. I mean, I look like I'm 10 in that picture! 5'8", 110 lbs (1.73 meters, 49.9 kg for my foreign friends). This license dates back to the pre-John-Hancock-inspired-signature days. We're talking like 12 years ago! I think I'll get a photocopy of it before the DMV workers force it from my Kung-Fu grip....

J. Riley, back to sweating in my room

Monday, July 25, 2005


Forgive me Father Fast-Food-Nation, for I have sinned. For the first time in nearly two years, I succumbed to temptation during the lunchtime hour. It is not unusual for me to fall victum to the eating practices of questionable Chinese food or greasy, tasty pizza from Bella Italia, as the lunch choices in this region of the Bronx are limited and I, undoubtedly, am too lazy to make my own lunch. So when my boss passed his credit card to my co-worker and he ordered pizza, I knew that it would not be a healthy lunch, but little did I know it was much more than that. It was Dominos. It was free. And it was painful. But I ate it, knowing I was saving myself $4 today....

Today on my walk home, the white trash group was at it again on my block, as they frequently are. Barbeque set up, table with loads of junk food, kiddy pool being filled with a hose running from the local bar, and 30 kids running around in bare feet. I bet that pool feels good on a nasty hot day like today. I know it did on Saturday when Paul and I took a train up to D's mom's house and enjoyed the "country club" ("country" referring to the fact it's in Westchester County, "club" referring to the fact that it's a community) pool. The weather was much more fair then, not nearly as steamy and a few degrees cooler. It was nice and relaxing...

As a public service reminder, Firefox has released version 1.06. Click on the little arrow in the top-right corner of your browser window to upgrade. Thank you.

J. Riley, I wonder if Domino's Pizza is better for me than bone marrow?

Sunday, July 24, 2005

The Last Week - Abriged Edition

Last week was the second annual birthday extravaganza for Cathy, which as I said previously, was held at Gramercy Tavern. We had one of the most fabulous meals I've ever eaten (excluding those home cooked meals, Mom ;o) and the service was just impeccable. Simple intangible qualities like having the hostess come over to our group and tell us that we have a great table that is being prepared and having the waiter come over and personally wish Cathy a happy birthday are certainly a rare thing here in New York, especially in a high-class place like this. I was most impressed by the fact that someone actually walked me to the bathroom rather than just pointing in the general vicinity. It's easy to see why this place is so damn expensive, I sure hope I can still pay my rent this month....

The meal was a three-course prix fixe deal with appetizers, an entree, and dessert. My Maine crab salad appetizer thing was just fabulous and I appreciated the fact that the bowls had a heavy, low center of gravity, similar to the glasses that I have in my apartment :o) . My sliced steak entree had some incredible onions and other vegetables that I wish I could cook. I have no idea how they made them, maybe it was the....secret ingredient. And by secret ingredient, I mean the soft, whitish, round things on the corner of my plate. With such exquisite dining, you expect secret ingredients that you can't find in your local grocery store. I sniffed it and it didn't have much smell, but it looked quite a lot like garlic. Ahh, roasted garlic! I love it! I went ahead and loaded up two of the slices on my fork and then stabbed a petite piece of steak and an onion for the full effect of having several allium species in one savory bite. Waiting for the taste of my previous bite to complete its journey down to my stomach, I then opened the hatch and loaded the assortment into my salivating mouth. I closed my mouth and was waiting for the full garlic effect to hit me when the small whitish thing quickly dissolved and I almost spit out the mouthful of food. What the hell? That's not garlic! What is it?? Chaos ensued as I panicked and asked everyone what this thing was that made my mouth feel like I just drank a gallon of tasteless, liquified butter - and that's not a good thing. Several guesses were made and Paul tried a small piece and correctly guessed what it was - bone marrow! Disgusting! The waitress said that the steak was very lean so the marrow should be spread on the steak to make sure that your arteries are clogged by the time you finish your meal. Well, something like that, anyway. All I know is that I wasn't about to try out the "roasted garlic" again....

For dessert, I got the tapioca pudding with some sort of basil sauce and some other stuff in it that was fabulous. Part of the benefit of ordering this is that for some reason nobody else seems to like the tapioca....balls/pearls/whatever they are called. I suppose they are a weird texture, but I've always loved those chewy things.

Now that I'm back to being a swinging single (girls think they are so smart playing games and apparently they don't comprehend things that guys tell them straight up - keep that in mind next time you complain about our immaturity Summer ;o), I planned a little soiree with my friend Sean, his girlfriend-like-companion, and his girlfriend-like-companion's (single) friend. Then Sean decided that he wanted to "break up" with his girlfriend-like-companion a few hours before we were set to go out. Uhh, thanks Sean. Luckily, over our fierce rollerblading trip after work, I talked him into holding off the breakup until after the main event for the evening. We ended up having seven people go out rather than just the four of us, but it was all good. We had reservations at a tapas table at one of my favorite restaurants, Suba. This is the restaurant that I took my mom and dad to last year where we had a fabulous nueva-Spanish dinner. We just did drinks and tapas this time around before we went club-hunting down in the LES. We wound up dancing to 80's rock and 50-Cent mixed with Nine-Inch-Nails over at The Delancey before Sean performed his vanishing act and went home and caused chaos with his girlfriend-like-companion and her friends. So we headed home soon after that, but I think everyone had a good time - up until that point, in any case...

J. Riley, that's all I've got for tonight, maybe I'll write about the weekend this week at some point

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Little Italy in the Bronx

Today during my borough wandering in the Bronx (I was visiting offsite clinics), I finally found Little Italy in the Bronx. This has been a location that I've been yearning to visit ever since I found out about it last year. I knew it was up here, somewhat near the hospital, and I ask my coworkers about it all the time, but I hadn't seen it until today. I asked my cab driver where it was and he took me right by it. He was a Puerto Rican guy and he grew up in the area. Apparently, when he was young, nobody walked through that part of town because if you were Mexican or Puerto Rican or African-American, you'd get beat to a pulp walking in that area. Italians only. For those of you who are up-to-date on your mafia knowledge, this was John Gotti's (think Tony Soprano) part of town. He ruled it and would come to that part of town with a car full of toys for the kids. Sure sounds like a nice guy....

Anyway, on my way back to the hospital, I had to stop there and have lunch. So I walked around a bit and realized how much more authentic this is than Manhattan's Little Italy. There were lots of bakeries and pasta shops selling fresh, homemade pasta, which piqued my interest. I've read about there being butcher shops, sausage makers, cheese makers, seafood markets, bakeries with 19th century ovens, pasta stores, restaurants and produce markets, and much much more in this part of town. Sounds like a good candidate for a little weekend road trip - three mass transit connections and about two hours to get there.

J. Riley, full of cheese raviolis - and not the Chef Boyardee (sp.?) kind.

Monday, July 18, 2005

The Wedding(s)

Geez, you people are impatient!

So this year I am attending three weddings. It's kind of exciting because each of them is quite unique compared to most of the weddings I have attended in my lifetime. In November, I am attending Daniel's wedding in Brazil. 14 siblings, Italian family, Brazilian wedding - yea, that should be a fun one. Next month, I am attending Ewa's wedding in Poland. Uhh....X siblings, Polish family, Polish wedding, vodka - yea, that should be a fun one too ;o) . This past weekend, I attended a Jewish wedding. Chuppah (say: Ho-pa [yes, you know this from Meet the Parents]), yarmulke (say: Ya-mu-ka), the breaking of glass, and countless other customs - yea, it was a fun one!

So Saturday I met up with Joclyn down in Hell's Kitchen for some grubbing before we headed over to Jersey for the wedding. Paul and I have been talking about taking a trip to Nook for a long time, since it caught our eye while perusing the dining guide that we both own. The guide made mention of various interesting cuisine types, such as Eastern European and Asian, which always makes things interesting. He and a friend checked it out one Sunday for Brunch and raved about it, so I decided that I had to experience this place as well. And what an appropriate name! There was space for about 20 people in this dinky place but the food was fabulous! The waiter (/ owner?) had a thick accent that we think was French but how many French restauranters do you know who make a goulash and Russian burgundy tenderloin? So that's suspicious.

After dinner, we headed down to Penn Station to catch our 11:00pm train to Jersey. Those Jersey people sure are predictable - sure enough we got the drunkest guy on the train sitting next to us. He asked me what school I went to (about three times) and then said he thought I went to University of Pennslyvania. I took it as a compliment but apparently it wasn't offered as one ;o) . He talked to Joclyn about her alma mater Columbia and all the bars near there and frequently repeated himself. Thanks allah that we were getting off on the first stop in Jersey and could let that guy go ahead and pass out on the bench seat!

Arriving at the hotel (in Jersey) at a late hour, we shouldn't have been surprised by our check-in experience. After talking to the chatty receptionists, we got our keys and headed upstairs. Just before I put my key in the door, I heard people talking - from my room. I knocked on the door and didn't get a response. I turned around to make sure I had my bearings right and knocked on the door again. I heard a lady inside say to the other person inside "who the is at the door?" and knew this could get interesting. A guy opened up the door and I punched him in the face before he had a chance to hit me. Well, not exactly. It was more like "Can I help you?" and I was like "Umm, they gave us this room" and he was all like "They gave us this room too" and I was like "Okay, sorry to bother you". And so we headed downstairs. Back to the chatty receptionists. They quickly blamed each other for the fiasco and apologized and gave us the correct room - on a different floor. Not sure how that happened in the first place, but whatever. So we got our keys and went back upstairs. We get to our room and listen closely to make sure there's no one in this one. We got the mental green light and so we went ahead and put the key in. Sure enough, it didn't work. Figures. So after five minutes of utilizing various pressure points on the card-key (a skill I became accustomed to frequently at my old job), I got annoyed and we headed back downstairs. You should have seen how big Tatiana's eyes were when she saw us (again) from behind the registration desk. Again, they apologized profusely and gave us our new keys. At least they put us on the "special people" floor, which means that they give us free mouthwash. I am a total pack-rat when it comes to the free mouthwash, so I was stoked enough by that....

The next morning, bright and early, we were heading off to West Orange, NJ for the wedding. Neither of us knew anyone at the wedding except for the bride and the bride's brother and sister-in-law, who are Joclyn's good friends. Being a Sunday morning wedding, there was no cocktail hour prior to the event, but rather a coffee and pastry hour. Which was fine, because I was starving! The ceremony itself was short and succinct, which was fine with me. I was stoked that this was a Jewish wedding though because I got to wear a
yarmulke. Stefan always said he was going to buy me one of those because I'm cheap. Sorry dude, I've got my own now (not that he reads my blog anyway)! And I'm frugal, not cheap!

There were subtle differences in the wedding and the couple were well-prepared for us Gentiles by publishing cliff-notes on Jewish wedding terminology and customs on the inside of the wedding program. It explained the historical reasons behind stepping on and crushing a glass, the shawl that is put over the husband and wife's shoulders, etc. It was very cool, though not terribly different from a "normal" WASP wedding ;o).

I was slightly disappointed that the appetizers following the event were not kosher (I mean comon, they had cheese in the room across from the meat!), but I soon got over that as I dug in and warmed up my morning with a few Bloody Marys. I wasn't sure if that was going to be the main meal or not, but we correctly calculated that there would probably be some more eating later on, so I didn't fill up on the cheese, sushi, and corned beef....

And the eating was good. We were set up at table right next to the dance floor so we got the full view of the various wedding customs, such as the carrying of the husband and wife around in chairs and, my favorite, honoring the father and mother of the bride, who was the last child in the family to be married off. I think that's something that should be incorporated in all weddings where appropriate, regardless of culture.

The rest of the event pretty much involved more eating and drinking and every now and then a little dancing. I don't fancy myself as much of a dancer, especially during daylight hours. But I did do a little jig when the swing songs and the cha-cha came on. I gotta teach these girls at least how to swing - that's crucial! Right Summer?

I got a ride back to the city after the wedding from Joclyn's friends, which was a much better alternative than riding the Jersey train back to Penn Station. I had enough of that from Saturday's experience :o) !

It's been hot and nasty here, really nasty. It's taken it's toll on me and my muscular bod, so I'm off to bed early. Tomorrow is Cathy's birthday, which means, according to the customs of my people, we've got a fancy dinner to go to. Paul has chosen the Gramercy Tavern for this year's inaugural event, so expect a full sometime in the near future!

J. Riley, dreaming of Smoked paprika-rubbed quail atop buttery polenta

Friday, July 15, 2005

Special Projects

With my significant lack of blogging lately, you'd think I haven't been up to much. Oh contrare, monfrare (phoenetical spelling). Last Sunday morning I had a conference call setup with my friend Roland in Slovakia to discuss "special projects" for his hotel that he runs. So, since then, my nights have been spent refreshing my Microsoft Access skills and creating a baby database for him to track who's drinking Johnny Walker and who's drinking Coke from the mini-bars...

Last weekend I had nothing planned, but it turned out to be quite busy. Friday night I was verbally dragged from my bed by Paul and the gang to go hang out at Brandy's, the piano bar down the street. They had a visitor in town and had just finished watching Hairspray and were all ready to get the night started. I had gone to happy hour with Alan a few hours earlier at Calle Ocho and had a few tasty mojitos before heading over to Kitchen 82 for one of the best reasonably-priced ($25) prix fixe dinners around. So by 10:45pm I was done for the evening - until Paul called. He even put his guest on the line to beg me to clothe myself and head over. I finally bowed to the pressure and met up with them at 11:30 and headed down to Brandy's, where we had a great time until about 3:00am. There were a couple girls celebrating a birthday that Cathy and I both recognized but we couldn't for the life of us figure how we knew them. Hopefully it will dawn on one of us oneday, cuz it was driving us nuts that night....

Five hours later, I had my volunteer project with the kids down at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens. That place is beautiful! Right across the street from Prospect Park, they had rose gardens, a cherry tree promenade, fountains, etc. etc. It was quite large and was a beautiful day, so it was a worthwhile trip. Add that to the list of places my visitors should visit.

Sunday I had my conference call in the morning, going fully interactive with Microsoft's application sharing and Skype for audio. Pretty neat how these tools are all available now. Anyone need remote technical support from Justin? Just let me know! Afterwards, Paul and the gang won some standing room tickets for the show The Putnam County's 25th Annual Spelling Bee, so he called me and I had to rush down to get there in time for the afternoon's matinee. The show was all about a spelling bee (go figure!) and was very very funny. Just imagine an elementary school spelling bee and the kinds of kids that would be in it and you have the show's cast. You've got the fat science nerd who thinks he knows everything, you've got the Eagle Scout who wins at everything he does and is the runner up, you have the Chinese girl who acts robotic, you have the liberal, politically driven girl who's fathers (yes, plural ;o) will only accept winning, you have the social outkast who makes his own clothes and frequentlly embarrases himself, and you have the good poor girl who's parents couldn't make it to the show. It was very well done and very very funny. I highly recommend the $25 standing room only tickets!

This week has been busy with the special project and all, but I found time on Wednesday to go to Central Park for one of their Summer Concert events - free performances on the Great Lawn. This week they had the New York Philanthropic orchestra, which was amazing. Thousands and thousands of people were camped out on the ground with their wine and blankets, listening to classical music. Now, I'm not a huge classical music buff, I don't really know that much about it. But this is the second live performance I've attended in recent history and I am very much inspired and put into a sort of trance by it when it's live. It really is fabulous stuff, I just wish I knew a thing or two about....

Anyway, the weekend is starting. I've got to do stuff around the apartmento tonight and then Sunday I'm going to a wedding in Jersey with Joclyn. Ahhh....Jersey. I hope it doesn't rain on us :-/ !

J. Riley.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Oooh That Smell. Can't You Smell That Smell?

I'm a fan of manure. Cruising around Central Park on my rollerblades often brings the fresh smell of fresh manure to my nostrels and I can cope with that fine, it reminds me of being at Cal Poly again and also of my youth at my grandparents' house, cleaning out the stables and what not. But today it's 95 degrees outside. And humid. Was today really the best day to decide to spread fresh mulch and manure all over the park a half block from my house? Good lord, I thought I was at the Guadalupe Landfill or something. Come on people, use your judgement and postpone your project plans by a day so I don't have to hold my breath until I'm black and blue while walking within one cubic mile of the park.... :o)

J. Riley, off to yoga to clear my head.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Throwback to the 90's

I'm listening to some really really old school euro-dance music right now. I recently found a CD that I had burned for me when I was a freshman in college full of MP3 music. This was back in the www (wild wild west) days when I had to get my music from FTP and web sites in Europe. A lot of these are annoying remixed songs from the 80's, something that my substitute cardio teacher would play in class. In fact, it is all annoying, but it's totally random and reminds me of days of old. Special thanks goes out to Peter Racz, a university student in Budapest who hooked me up with most of this back in 1997 through his website and FTP server. I wonder where he is these days...

I sure have grown up a lot lately. Remember the dryer sheet incident a few months back? Well my most recent clothing-comfort-related purchase proved to be quite elusive - sizing spray stuff for ironing. Mom and grandma taught me all about this stuff during my most recent ironing lesson a few weeks back (I keep getting an F+ on my ironing aptitude tests) and I've been keen about keeping my eyes peeled to find a bottle of this magical mystery spray. I have no idea what it does, but if it will save me $1 on my monthly laundry bill, then it's gotta be important stuff. And thus the search began. I went to three reputable drugstores looking for this stuff - including one that was a cavernous underground cave full of every kind of environmentally unfriendly chemical used for laundry known to man. No love. CVS? No love. Corner drugstore-that-I-support-because-it's-locally-owned? No love. Organic health food store that might normally contain biodegradable versions of such products made out of eucalyptus and chamomille herbal extracts? No love. In an act of desperation, I stepped into Food Emporium, a rather large grocery store that I typically don't support and, sure enough, Niagra Sizing Spray - on sale for $2.09 . I'll be sure to show off my new self-ironed shirts at the next convenient social outing and see if Paul will give finally give me a passing grade....

J. Riley, hello crisp shirts and Euro jeans!

Thursday, July 07, 2005

The Daily Bump and Grind

Not to sound like an impatient New Yorker, but what's wrong with some people's manners? So I work in various outer-borough areas, which means that I have a reverse commute from Manhattan to the outer-boroughs. It's great, I get to sit down (and sleep) and my train runs local, so it takes me twice as long to get to work :o| . But everyday on the way home, I face a wall of rude people who are trying to get onto the train at 86th Street (the first Manhattan stop from the outer-boroughs). Common subway courtesy is to let the people off before you force your way in. And since I am on a reverse commute and heading downtown, there's lots of people trying to get on and only a few people getting off at 86th Street. But that's a lousy excuse for people to think it's okay to form a wall with their bodies before the doors open, preventing me from getting off the subway in a timely manner. I've gotten so annoyed with this every day that I've decided to use my bulky, muscular frame and barge through this wall of rude people without even trying to prevent hitting them with my bags laden with digital gear.

Thou shalt step aside, or thou shalt witness the wrath of my boney shoulders and my new Pentium M Centrino laptop knocking ye the hell out of my way....

Last night I went out for dinner with Paul and his friend's sister Krystal, who is in town for a beach volleyball tournament this weekend in Jersey. I thought we were just going to grab something local, but it turned out to be quite a late-night excursion, hitting up Waikiki Wally's down in the East Village, followed by vegan dessert and tea at Teany in the Lower East Side. It's been a while since I've been downtown (like a whole two weeks) and we've always wanted to check out Waikiki Wally's because it's all Hawaiian inside, kind of unusual for a city like this. But the seafood and plates were surprisingly well presented and tasty. I was thinking it would be a burgers and fries kind of joint, this place was thinking mako shark medallions and hearts of palm. No complaints from me!

By the way, if you're losing sleep thinking about how my herbs are doing on my window sill, you might want to see a doctor. For the rest of you, sleep well knowing that the oregano and the thyme have found death to be a better option than trying to survive in such a barren environment. And the basil's not too far behind, though I'm giving it my all to keep it around for a bit...

J. Riley, no green thumb here.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Sleeping with Crackheads....almost

I knew as soon as I closed the door that my keys weren't in my pocket. It didn't help that the superintendant of the building was out of town on vacation for a few weeks and didn't leave the keys to anyone. So here I am with my friend and her two-year-old and one of her friends who came up to visit for the day from Jersey. We were on our way to the astro-turf park down the street from me to try to drain the kid so that we could get him to bed at a reasonable hour for once this week. He had just slept for two solid hours from 4-6:00 and we knew that he needed to blow off some of that energy in order to sleep at night.

But I didn't have my keys!!! I ran back upstairs and stole one of my out-of-town neighbor's pamphlets that was under the door that explained that the super was out of town and call these numbers if you need something. I called the lease company's hotline and as soon as they asked me what city I live in I realized that there was no way that I was going to get in anytime soon. Saturday night (everything's closed on Sunday), 4th of July weekend (technicians and locksmiths are at barbeques drinking beer and nothing is open on Monday), and I have out of town guests. Ay dios mio. Well, no point in ruining a perfectly nice weekend evening, so we headed to the park anyway and played some soccer and baseball.

After the park and some ice cream, we still hadn't heard from anyone, so I gave the emergency hotline a second call and we decided to go visit Paul and Cathy, since they live close by and can provide a place to sleep if it came down to that. After a few of us ordered some sushi for dinner, it dawned on me that I live on the second floor. Drawing deep on my experience with Paul and his landlord and all the tools they have (like hand-carts), I asked if they had a ladder. Paul ran downstairs and sure enough, there was a ladder. Since it was 11:00pm by this point and Nina and Marcus were exhausted, I powered down my last few pieces of raw fish and Paul and I went downstairs to grab the ladder.

He lives about three blocks away from me, so it gave me time to map out my entry and exit strategy for my apartment. To add some fun to the adventure, NYPD has been scouting the area lately for someone known as the spider-man rapist who raped a few woman about two blocks away from my apartment by rapelling down from the roof into open windows. We each had some extra change in our pockets in case we got arrested and plowed forward with our plan. When we got to my apartment, there were lots of people on my street walking around (figures - normally my street is dead). I thought I'd let the folks loitering across the street that I was going into my apartment and they were cool and said that they wouldn't call the cops. Paul hoisted the ladder and I ran up, opened my window, grabbed my latest rent payment receipt (for proof of residence), and ran downstairs. Oh yea, and I grabbed my keys :o). The plan worked perfectly and we were golden. Ironic enough, there was a fender bender on my street corner and there were a few cops there writing up a report. Whew, that was a close one.

So, we got to come home and sleep that night, although it was a late one. I think every night this past weekend Nina and I said that we were going to get Marcus in bed early because he hadn't been getting as much as normal. But of course that never happened. The only day when that was a problem was Tuesday when they had to go to the airport and Marcus wouldn't wake up until Nina picked him up and put his clothes on. He was a great kid, though, and I miss him already.

Tuesday night after work I came home and felt the loneliness I always feel when my guests first leave. The only evidence that they left that they were here was the futon that was folded out still. Nina didn't sign my visitors log, so I made her take it with her, fill it out, and send it back to me so that I can have a memento. As I thought about it, I realized some things about this experience. A few months back, Alan's girlfriend (who wants to have kids and settle down asap) asked me when I thought I would want to settle down. Her and I have lots of discussions about families and kids and stuff like that for whatever reason, probably because we differ in amusing ways. After journaling through my catalogue of places I want to live and things that I want to accomplish, I threw out the age 32 or 33. She took a mental note of that and commented about that. But now I sort of wonder. I've come to realize that I definitely enjoyed the "family life" atmosphere at my apartment for the past week and I think that if the right opportunity presented itself, I could settle down at this age.

A guy at my work made an interesting point when he said that your attitude can change when you're put into unexpected situations. He said that he never thought about having pets before and one day he tripped on a kitten in his front yard. When he showed the kitten to his girlfriend, the kitten immediately went into their house and settled in and as the kitten grew up and became a part of the family he realized how a pet like that can add a lot to your life and how much he enjoyed having one. There are definitely parallels with my case since I didn't know what to expect with having a kid in my life for a week and I always thought that I wouldn't want kids around, at least for a few more years. I always got along with kids when I was in high school and younger, but then college life came around and I enjoyed my single, quiet lifestyle and was always annoyed when Mom would have kids around when I came home to visit.

So that's that. There are some pictures on my website. In other news, I got a new laptop for work and that's been keeping me occuppied getting it up to snuff and configured. Other than that, just trying to get settled back in after a busy week and weekend! By the way, the "emergency technician" still hasn't called about me being locked out :o| .

J. Riley, aspiring author, father, and geek :o)

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Sights & Sounds of the City

Well this week has certainly been an interesting one with my new guests in town. After the first night's drama, things have been "normal" and there's been no more accidents, for which I and my furniture are thankful. I gotta say, it's been real fun having Nina and son around, even if I'm exhausted at the end of the day and not sleeping until midnight every night. This guy's got some serious energy going on!

Wednesday night we decided to go down to Time Square and visit the Toys R Us. It has a huge ferris wheel inside of the 4-5 story toy store, which I never knew about before. Marcus was definitely overwhelmed by the sights and sounds on the way down there. Imagine being a two year old from a relatively quiet country and experiencing your first trip underground to ride your first train, full of hundreds of people and loud noises, etc. And Time Square is just mayhem for anyone, let alone this poor kid! But what's been interesting is that he has definitely gotten used to it and looks forward to riding the subway now. And many of the little things that I never notice on the street are definitely picked up on by him, such as newspaper stands (he has to open each one multiple times), dry stand-pipes on apartment buildings (for the fire department), and anything else that he can get his Home Depot tool set (form Toys R Us) on. Suffice to say that unless he's being carried, the trip times to the subway grow exponentially every day :o) . But that's ok, we're in no rush here....

Here's a shot of Nina and Marcus at Toys R Us: