Monday, February 27, 2006

Third Tri-Annual Pisco Sour Fest

Sean and Melissa recently returned from Peru bearing gifts from my friends down in the area and from Melissa herself - two bottles of Pisco, a liquor that apparently is similar to brandy in the sense that it is the result of distilling grapes and also in the fact that it tastes disgusting without some sort of masking ingredient. I am not aware of any masking ingredients that go well with brandy, but lime juice, sugar, and ice cubes do a pretty good job on the pisco - a margarita-like concoction known as a Pisco Sour. With Carnival (the world's largest party) recently wrapping up in Brasil, I invited some people over to celebrate in a night of South American culture - beverages, music, and dancing. Those that are familiar with my apartment's floorplan (and size) know that it might be appropriate for dancing 5 year-olds, but not much more than that. So I planned on heading down to SOB's (Sounds of Brazil) with the guests after whetting our whistles with the pisco sours.

Rewind back two days: I woke up in the morning like any other morning and started getting ready for work. My head was spinning a bit after I woke up (but when does it not in the morning?) and while I was taking a shower I started to feel naseaus and dizzy....not good. I got out of the shower, realized that my head didn't feel right, my stomach didn't feel right, my joints didn't feel right, I couldn't even think straight, it was like I was totally confused, and I had no appetite. I put my pajamas back on, called my boss and told him I was not coming to work that day. I slept until 11:00 in the morning and, despite my best efforts, still couldn't help getting dizzy whenever I got out of bed. It was some kind of wicked head cold I guess and I missed out on a free schmoozing event that I had helped organize for myself and my coworkers (on someone else's dime ;o). I basically stayed in bed all day after trying to go to work in the afternoon, making it halfway to the subway before turning around and heading back.

My head was, for the most part, cleared up on Friday, though I still had little appetite (I pretty much didn't eat anything all day Thursday). More than work, I was worried about my party on Saturday night! By the end of the day Friday (which I barely made it through), I basically just had a bad cold and I knew I'd be in no shape to host 15 people in the current shape I was in. I woke up Saturday morning and debated back and forth on whether to postpone it before deciding to go ahead with it, though there would be no/limited pisco sour's for me!

I had a great turnout and felt better as the night went on and when people started requesting salsa music and attempting to dance in the tight quarters, I knew it was time to head down to SOB's. Much to my surprise, I had a great time down there, my cold be-damned! Part of the reason was because we had a nice sizable group there and plenty of girls for me to twirl and dance with. I'm not much of a Latin dancer, but I gave it a go and had some great dance partners that I could lead with my two left-feet ;o) .

One of the best parts of the night was when the DJ's began playing some of the Axe (ah-shay) music that I grew to love to listen to when I was in Brazil. It was played at the wedding, it was played at the clubs, it was played everywhere down there, so there's a special place in my heart for the cheezy songs and dances (think: Macarena-style) that everyone down there knows. It was great to have some authentic Brasilians around to show us gringos how to get our Axe on again! It brought back many of the most special memories of my trip in November and definitely made it a night to remember...

Speaking of special memories, I took the previously-mentioned Lavalife girl out again for dinner and dessert earlier this week. Although we had lots to talk about initially, similar to our first time out, my well of patience at being the conversation initiator was beginning to run dry and the straw that broke the camels back was after I asked how many times she'd travelled overseas (she said twice per year for the past four or five years) and then asked about specific memories / funny stories / special moments from any of her trips. "I can't really think of anything". Wha-wha-whaaat? I didn't even know how to respond to that because I couldn't believe that. I tried giving examples and still nothing. I tried something else and still nothing. That just made everything awkward and I got bored at that point. I don't forsee any future expenditures on this one...

Justinho, I have no idea how to date girls that don't want to talk, but I am willing to accept (partial) responsibility for this...

Monday, February 20, 2006

Kickstarting The Night

After my much baly-hooed lack of social life for the past month, it looks like things are picking up again. I guess I'm getting more comfortable talking now and am used to the hardware in my mouth, so I can eat a bit more easily and have also gotten used to not tasting too much of what I'm eating, though palate real-estate has increased because of the arch-expander widening from late last month. So when I got a rare phone call on Friday evening inviting me to go to Beyoglu with Alan and Andrea, I put the leftover rice and soup combo back in the fridge and headed out. I met up with them and Alan's childhood friend interesting, attractive friend Ayari, who's a freelance Spanish/English interpreter. She's going by her middle name now, but I had a hard enough time remembering her first name, let alone her middle name.

Of course, one of my resolutions for the year happened to be that I would not even try to find a significant-other because of all the work going on in my mouth and the fact that I have gotten reall really cheap since the beginning of the year ;o) . So naturally it would make sense that I meet this Ayari girl on Friday night and over the weekend got an email from a girl on Lavalife who found it interesting that I also had a mild obsession with Eastern Europe. She also learns languages (including German) in her free time, has considered pulling up the stakes and moving to Germany, has travelled extensively in Europe, etc. etc. Interesting stuff!

After dinner on Friday, Alan, Andrea, and I headed down to the East Village to meet up with Sean, even though it was pretty late already and Alan was tired. We ended up at the wine bar next to an Italian restaurant that I've wanted to check out for a while and had a glass wine. I don't know anything about wine, so I couldn't really tell you what kind of wine it was. Maybe it was a Chianti. I think that was the first thing that came to mind - and it was an easy wine to pronounce semi-legibly. We hung out there for our wine and then trekked a block over to High Chai, an interesting Russian/French fusion restaurant that has been dead ever since we first tried it out a few months back, but that has pretty interesting cocktails.

That night, I had deja-vu: I suddenly remembered how expensive it is to go out at night here! $20 here, $20 there and pretty soon I'd spent the money I allocated for the weekend - a paltry sum compared to what I used to spend on a good night :) . But this was just Friday night, and there was lots left to do in the weekend!

In anticipation of a massive football match at 7:30am on Saturday morning, I crashed on Sean's couch since he lives a few blocks from the Liverpool FC Supporter's Club bar. At 7:00am, I got up and headed up to the bar, figuring that even with such an epic match the place would be dead. Wrong! I got there about five minutes before the match started and it was packed! And the game? A massive result for my team. In fact, when Liverpool scored the only goal in the 30th minute, I guess the cops showed up because there was so much noise and the neighbors were complaining so the bartenders told everyone to keep it down :o)

After the game, I hightailed it back to my apartment to shower and get ready for the children's rec event that I will soon be taking over. This was going to be the first time I met the current project leader and figure out if this was something I wanted to do. Working on a few hours of solid sleep and lots of energy after the game, I got ready and picked up some organic boxed drinks at the local health food store as directed by the team leader. Later in the day, he awkwardly confronted me about my organic boxed drinks because they were not cold enough for his liking. He said "who likes drinks that aren't cold?" . I bit my tongue - since he is the (current) team leader - but I'm going to insist that my volunteers bring drinks that are either room temperature (as I like them) or cold (as masochistic people who like drinks to damage their sensitive esophoguses prefer). In any event, I had a good time bowling with the kids, who were very well behaved and who had high-school / college-aged workers that the kids respected and enjoyed tagging along. I look forward to my assignment when I take it over in a few months.

After the event up at a bowling alley in the Bronx next to Yankee Stadium and after dropping them off at the community center in Harlem, I headed back downtown to the East Village again to see Chronicles of Narnia (check out the SNL rap) because Sean had free tickets. I definitely got my money's worth out of my Metrocard for the day! Of course I knew the story of the movie and the effects were actually pretty clean and well done. As I child, I remember the characters (like the fawn) freaking me out but I was able to handle it this time around. I assumed that everyone knew the whole premise of the story, but apparently I was wrong. Sean, in fact, had no idea about the religious aspects of the story until I pointed everything out to him afterwards while we ate some Japanese food at a local place called Lan. They had a plate called the Shabu Shabu that was thin slices of prime rib along with a bunch of vegetables, all of which you cook in a boiling pot of water on the table. Excellent choice, although various vegetables don't get along too well with certain wires in certain orifices....

Sunday was quite unproductive because of the fact that I had Monday off (President's Day), though I did wake up bright and early and do laundry. Since it's a pretty rare occassion to have a Monday off, I knew of a couple of events that I've wanted to check out that only happen on that night - the world famous Baraonda (an Italian restaurant) Euro-Trash parties that start at about midnight or Samba Le's (a Brasilian/Italian restaurant) free Samba lessons! Since I'm having another South American party that includes going to a club that plays a lot of Samba music, I thought that would be the perfect way to hopefully get some kind of understanding of the dance moves. My usual suspect friends were either out of town or were not interested in going, so I contemplated flying solo that night until I started chatting with the Lavalife girl, who was free that night. We arranged a meetup down there and when I arrived, it turns out that the place was totally closed up! I'd left a message on the restaurant's message machine asking them to call me and tell me what time the classes started at and the next day they called and let me know that they aren't open on Sundays yet. Gee, thanks! Good thing it was located in the East Village and I know my way around that neighborhood!

J. Riley, the gap is shrinking!

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Snow White & The Seven Drawers

As most people have heard, we had a massive, record-breaking snow storm last Sunday with over two-feet of snow. Besides the fact that the city is beautiful when it's white all over, it's extremely quiet since most of the taxis are off the road and the ones that aren't don't dare stop or else they'll be stuck. I was looking out my window at one taxi and realized that it would suck to take a taxi with all that snow outside. Since they are all metered and usually have bald tires, their wheels are spinning like twice as fast as the car is actually going, running up the meter-fare twice as fast. Not that it would affect me, since I didn't dare step outside during the whole day, choosing to sit back and watch the Olympics instead. I guess I shoulda gone to Central Park and walked around or something...

Anyways, Saturday I did my volunteer gig and released my inner-child by playing lazer tag with kids 1/4 my age. I was all stoked to play until I saw that the little punks kept nailing my sensors and knocked my score down. I love lazer tag though, I was totally sweating like a pig afterwards from running around and picking everyone off. That goes to show what good shape I'm in ;o) . I've actually been going to the gym a few nights a week for the past few weeks and trying to get back in sh...I mean get in shape. I need to step it up a few more notches though, and I do have aspirations of four nights a week. We'll see if I get to that point.

My teeth and jaw are mostly fine as far as pain goes. I went to a new dentist yesterday who used a high-tech torture device to clean all the plaque off my teeth. It was like an electronic needle thing that blasts the plaque and calcium from my teeth with streams of water. The first indication that it was going to suck was when they numbed up my mouth with some topical anesthesia, and even then it sucked. But when is going to the dentist ever fun? To top it off, they found a small cavity that I'm going to have to get filled soon. Maybe I can get them to order some of that anesthesia they used on me for my surgery and they can do whatever they want in there. Regardless, suffice to say that I had lots of pent-up anger that I was able to channel for my spin class last night!

As is typical, I had no Valentine's Day plans last night so I figured I'd cook (soup, of course!) for some of my friends. A couple of people bailed out on my last-minute invitations because they were lazy (ahem...Alan!) or sick, but my friends Melissa came by since her calendar freed up at the last minute and her Valentine lives in Baltimore. We had some awesome lentil soup along with bread, dessert from Eli's, and of course some vino and talked about her recent trip to Peru and what not. She inspired me to have another South America party in a few weeks and utilize my gift-bottles of pisco that Vanessa sent back with her. If it's as epic as the last one, it will be a fun event for sure!

I got my bill from the hospital today and, as expected, it was mostly covered by insurance. It's kinda funny to see the itemized list of things that they charged for. Fun stuff like saw blades ($168! I guess they didn't use their Home Depot club card for that one), venodyne sleeves, and "burr". I have no idea what "burr" is, but hopefully it's not related to my convulsions when I woke up freezing cold....

J. Riley, as much as I liked my title-pun, I couldn't do anything with it. My apartment doesn't even have seven drawers!

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Full Metal Jacket: Oral Edition

On Friday night I reached a new oral milestone when the rest of my teeth got
braces put on. If you thought I talked bad before, you should hear me now! If
you thought I drooled a lot before, you should see me now! I look like a rabid
dog, frothing at the mouth and all :) . To go along with that, my teeth were
pretty sore the first few days, though they seem to be better now. I'm getting
bored with the nagging intermittent pretty quick, so I don't think I'll be
writing much more about it!

The following need to download Firefox Version 1.5 from
- Paul
- Ryan (you should know better!)
- Manteca (Terry, is that you?)

Once you have version 1.5, the updates are downloaded automatically to keep you
safe from the exploits online.

J. Riley, Keeping the internet safe!

Saturday, February 04, 2006

What's Cookin' at J. Riley's

Thanks to a wonderful idea from Paul, I have added a new feature to my blog. Introducing....(drum-roll please!).... J. Riley's Digital Recipe Box! Hosted on sixpak, I am going to be posting recipes that I can access from anywhere that I like to make and that people suggest I make. Email me if you have anything that you think should be up there!

J. Riley, Chef-boy-R-Digital.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Hit Number 10,000!

My blog experienced hit number 10,000 (since I started counting about a year and a half ago) yesterday from my dad! Dad, don't you have better things to do at work than read my blog ;o) !

J. Riley, my blog is almost as popular as my collection of Porsche pictures was in college!

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Clean Bill of Health

If you're wondering why you don't hear from me, it's for several reasons:

1.) I have no social life at the moment, due to:
a.) Surgery costs => lack of flow (as stated in my previous blog, more on this later)
b.) Everyone is out of town
c.) Lack of taste-buds => lack of dining out

2.) I made the mistake of stopping by the soccer store on Saturday to talk to my new African buddy who works there, causing:
a.) Me to subscribe to the magazine 4-4-2, which is imported from the UK (I have finnacial priorities!)
b.) Me to purchase (and not subscribe - yet - to) the magazine Champion, another UK import.
c.) 1 + 2A + 2B => Sitting on my futon all weekend reading about soccer and anticipating the Liverpool game on TV on Sunday afternoon.

To occupy my time on Saturday, I considered going to a museum that I get free access too, or going to Long Island City in Queens (where I happen to work) to the Harley Davidson dealer to check out a not-too-distant-in-the-future purchase. It's funny how I talk about being so cheap in one paragraph and then talk about major purchases like this in the next sentence. My Uncle Mike, an avid Harley rider and travelling salesman, turned me onto the idea of the practicality of the purchase, especially since he knows people and can get me a good deal. For better or worse, he's always one to offer his opinion on these matters and, like the salesman he is, can pretty much get you thinking like him pretty quick. And, to be honest, I've been thinking about making a purchase like this anyway, though I probably would have waited for the summer, since that's when it would be most practical. After Mike mentioned it to me though, I was pretty stoked on the idea. It would definitely be cheaper than some of my other options, so why not? Anyway, Saturyday was a research mission. I was hoping they would have the model that I wanted, since Manhattan's HD dealer didn't. No surprise there, they didn't have a lot of inventory because their store was small. But, I found out pretty quick that the Long Island City dealer had a much more diverse and larger inventory and I found what I was looking for. I gave them a test drive and definitely liked what I was seeing. But there was still an elusive model that they didn't have. Mike set me up with someone he knew that had that model - in Manhattan, of course - so I could take it for a spin. Sure enough, he had what I was looking for - Panoptx Vector sunglasses with the polarized gray lense! Tonight, in fact, I placed my order through Mike for a pair of subscription sunglasses since he works for the company! Thanks Mikey!

After checking out the Harley dealer, I decided to try to find the elusive, hip neighborhood in Queens called Astoria. It is notoriously Greek and Brazillian and has a large Central-European contingent as well (including a large Czech beer garden that I plan to check out one summer). After walking a few miles through warehouse and delivery districts (sketchy!), I stumbled onto Broadway, which was chock-full of Greek and Cypriot restaurants, bakeries, meat shops, etc. etc. It was very authentic because Queens has no tourists for the most part. I sat down and attempted to eat a salad (which got stuck in my braces and arch expander and made me miserable) and spinach canelloni - except it was in a crepe rather than a pasta shell, which was awesome. And of course a Cypriot beer (Keo, the Budweiser of Greece and Cyprus) in Paul and Cathy's honor! The rest of the day was involved with reading about soccer until about midnight.

Sunday I read about soccer somemore and watched the Liverpool game. After wasting most of the day doing the former, I decided to cook on Sunday night, so I made a monster-vat full of butternut squash soup which was fantastic. Next time, I'll do a double-dosage of that stuff, it was great.

Monday was a good health day for me. My surgeon said that my mouth was healing perfectly and went ahead and removed the sutures from the three cuts above my gums. These are little plastic staple things that I guess held stuff together up there. They would have eventually dissolved, but he'd rather remove them so that nothing happens. He proceeded to use these scissor things and cut these damn things out of my gums. Snip-snip-snip, ouch-ouch-ouch, I guess my gums are still pretty sensitive up there. I was watching his hands like a hawk and thinking about how this was the same guy that was using a chisle in my upper maxilla to open up my bone sutures a few weeks back. So I was looking for any un-precise movements on his part and probably was a little more critical (in my head) than I should have been about his hand stability :o). In any case, he had good things to say about my teeth and my progress, which felt good.

Doctor number two of the evening was my opthamologist, who I've been going to for months because of my eyelid issues. I was expecting the usual comments from her (this is the worst case I've ever seen, I can't believe it's so bad, your eyelids are infected, have you been having facials with subway-track-pond sewage water, etc.). But, sure enough, she said that my eyes looked normal! Like a normal homo sapien! I never thought that would happen. So hopefully those things stabilize for the next few months until my next appointment.

Finally, Monday morning I checked my medical insurance account to see if my insurance claim had posted yet. Although my original out-of-pocket estimate was $4200, I had reduced it to $2000 because that was the maximum out-of-pockey for my insurance. And then dad was over-generous and gave me some dough to cut that down. Then, I saw that my insurance claim had posted and 1.) it turns out that for some reason the surgery was in-network, not out-of-network, and 2.) the total owed by the patient was $215! Damn!!! So of course I went and bought some upgraded components for my Mac :o)...

J. Riley, positive health news is a rarity for me these days!