Sunday, December 31, 2006

Feliz Años!

Well, another year done, another year to look forward to in the center of the universe!

Although I make a point of not making New Year's resolutions, I am making a more committed effort to going to the gym more frequently, starting last week when Summer took me to her school's wonderful gym and put me through a few painful runs on some weights. I came home on Tuesday night and attended a fitness class on Thursday like I used to do back in the past. I also hit the gym on Saturday (!!) and gasped at the lack of proper equipment for my body sculpting, but hopefully that won't hold me back too much. I guess some of the equipment is working because I'm having intense pain in a new area of my lats and in the front of the elbow joint :o/ ....

Friday night I finally caught up with an old co-worker friend of mine who has been in the city for his masters since August but has neglected my phone calls or has generally not been able to meet up with me because of his course requirements. So I met up with him and his girlfriend for a drink and catching up downtown. With my yet unscheduled impending relocation down to 10th Street, we headed down in that direction and ended up at my favorite bar, the 11th Street Bar. It happens to be where the Liverpool Support Club meets up whenever a game is played and I actually haven't been there at night to check it out, but I've now found my local joint of choice. This place was totally local, playing some jazzy music in the hazy, wooden back room and being a very neighborhood-y place in the center of the Village, which is typically overrun by NYU kids.

Sean had friends in town who stopped by as well and Sean was tossing the idea of taking some other visitors who were in town to SOB's for dinner, and that got my brain in motion for a night of Latin dancing on what was a three-day weekend (i.e. I could go out late on Saturday, sleep in Sunday, and still get back on schedule in time for work to resume on Tuesday). So I gathered the masses and we decided to meet up there at around 10:00-11:00 Saturday night. As usual, I got there way too early and arrived at almost exactly 10:00, when it was still pretty much dead with people finishing their dinner and listening to the salsa music over the dance floor. I pretty much hung out alone (in the corner) near some Latin ladies that had come in at the same time as me and admired their ability to dance with some form of rhythm. Eventually, I broke out of my shell and struck up a conversation with one and then the others, finding out that one of the three was fresh off the boat from the Dominican Republic and the other two were her friends from the same. By the time my friends had arrived, I was enjoying my new dance partners and suffice to say that it was the most awesome night dancing ever. I had three legitimate dance partners the whole night for the axe, samba, salsa, and electronic latin music. I think epic would be a good word to describe it!

About my new "friend" that people seem to want to know about, let's just leave it as that. Friends. I have nothing new to report on that front, but the idea of a lovely Dominican Spanish/English language partner who lives ten blocks away from me sounds interesting. We'll see what happens after this weekend!

J. Riley, I am so ready for the Peruvian discotheques!

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Monster Mouth - WARNING

I got new pictures of my mouth:

J. Riley, the last one is a little out of focus, but you get the idea.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Back to the Liquid Diet?

Yesterday, I got the annoying wire with the hooks taken out of my mouth, which makes eating and talking much more comfortable. Unfortunately, this feeling of freedom and comfort only lasted for a few minutes as I was told that I'd be getting rubber bands that I need to wear for the next five weeks :o|. Besides making my mouth immobile, by dinner time last night I realized that my mouth was in more pain than I was after my surgery! My teeth are killing me, I hope that they settle down in the next few days because eating is just not something I look forward to at the moment.

Last week was the annual holiday party at work, which I was looking forward to (free food and drinks? Sign me up!) . Since I've been in consulting the last few years, I typically don't attend holiday parties and I know that there are always lots of good "day-after" stories filled with juicy gossip and bloodshot eyes, so I was definitely going to attend this one. It was held at the Grand Hyatt in Grand Central station and there were probably about 1500-2000 people in attendance. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately), none of my work buddies were going to be attending, so I figured I'd just show up, get the free dinner, and then take off. Then I found out that one of the guys I went out to Little Columbia with was going, which meant that the night could end up being pretty fun after all. And it was - and the next morning I had a quite a reputation as being the salsa dancer in my department ;o). I don't know if I would have gone that far, but I'll take what I can get!

This weekend some of Paul and Cathy's friends were in town and I was part of the entertainment package, so we took them out for Portuguese (one of them has family there) food
at Alfama on Friday and capped the night with the nearby Magnolia Bakery, savoring some of their amazing banana pudding and plethora of seasonal cupcakes. I couldn't stay out late because of an early Liverpool game on Saturday morning, not to mention the fact that I had my volunteer activity for the month all lined up - ice skating in Central Park. The game turned out to be good (since they won) and ice skating was awesome, one of the best events I've had with this group yet.

I was basically exhausted after expending so much energy on the ice in the early afternoon so I crashed at home, watched "Seven" on DVD, and took a nap before the evening began. I met up with Cathy and her friends and we headed downtown to The Back Room, a hidden speak-easy that isn't so hidden by the masses anymore, but is still worth a trip. After downing a couple there, we headed up the block to meet up with Alan and Andrea and friends who were out celebrating their friend Liz's engagement. We coerced them to meet up with us at China 1, which I had heard was one of the new East Village hot-spots for dancing and lounging. We even got Sean to meet up with us, since he lives across the street from the place. I can't wait to move down to the East Village....

J. Riley, my desired apartment on 10th Street became available while I was in CA for Christmas and was already snapped up :o(

Monday, December 11, 2006

A Taste of Finland

A couple of years back, while working in Germany, I visited a friend of mine who lives in Finland with some college friends of mine. There are many memories from this short trip north - spending the night in the most "dangerous" part of the Helsinki - which is not saying much since I think it was rated the most safe big city in the world or something like that - the train station, watching the sun set (which lasted +1 hour) at 11:00pm or midnight, and of course the sauna sessions, which lasted a few hours in a small, wood-fired sauna on the shore of a lake at my friend's "summer" cottage - as opposed to their winter cottage. Ahhh the good life of living in a small socialist country that has "quality of life" at the top of their list :o) . We spent a couple long nights in that sauna and ever since, I've been addicted to them and utilize the one at my gym whenever possible, especially during the cold winter months.

Well, this weekend it was freezing here (literally) and I'd heard of this place called the Russian and Turkish Bath, of course located in the eccentric East Village on 10th Street where all good things exist (such as the Liverpool Support Club bar). Being a metro of Scandinavian heritage, Sean was up for checking this place out as well to escape from the misery of the outdoors. It was a flat-rate entry fee and the place has a plethora of soaking options:
  • The Turkish bath is a hot, steamy room with heat rising from underneath the wooden benches that has a cold shower that cools you down when you need it.
  • The Swedish sauna is the traditional hot, dry room with wood paneling.
  • The Russian radiation room was like a furnace inside with traditional Russian sauna massages (for a small fee, I'm sure), stone walls, and pails of ice cold water to douse yourself with (it was so hot that I have a welt on my back from leaning against the wall for a split second).
  • A steam room, showers, and a pool of ice water to jump into to cool off (and close all of your open pores between sessions.
  • Russian beer and food (like borscht!) at an upstairs cafeteria.
J. Riley, If it wasn't for the 5000 NYU students inside the place (mostly male, unfortunately), it was like heaven for sauna connoisseurs! I can't wait to move to 10th Street...

Monday, December 04, 2006

The Great American Cop-Out

Today was an interesting day for me. If you read yesterday's booooring blog (despite a very un-boring week), you could probably tell that I was worn out or not in a very literary mood. This opinion will only be exacerbated once you learn that I fell asleep at around 7:30, woke up at around 8:30 with just enough time to brush my teeth, get into my PJs, and crash again.

So why the boring blog? I have a theory. My story begins tonight, a cold, dark winter evening at my chiropractor's office. He gave me some stretches to do on my exercise ball at work that were totally awesome and I felt very good going in there. He cracked me up and I thought back to last week's discussion about how when he doesn't go to the gym for a while, he starts going there for 15 minutes, then slowly increases his time to build up. Since I've been pretty set on starting to go to the gym for once, I decided tonight was the night - and picked my favorite gym cop-out: yoga. Yoga is great for my mind and I figured it would feel great after a nice spinal alignment. And I do tend to break a sweat when doing yoga, but let's be real. It's not REALLY working out. My upper body mass probably isn't going to change with yoga.

But, alas, I had my times all mixed up and I arrived 15 minutes after it actually started, and I'm NOT about to walk in while everyone else is doing their Ujai breathing, duh. Damn, I was stuck. My mind immediately thought of the cop-out number two: sauna. I was planning on a session after yoga since it was ass cold outside, so maybe I should just go chill in there for a few hours. I thought back to my sauna days at the West Virginia YMCA (pretty much your only option for wasting time in that desolate state) and talking to a young guy who had just signed up to go the Air Force (pretty much your only option for work in that desolate state) and had just started going to the gym to get ready for boot camp. His preferred method of working out? Going to the sauna.

So I stared at the dreaded exercise machinery in front of me and wondered if I actually had the courage to step onto a treadmill after a long, long hiatus. I cursed myself and then went to the locker room and stripped off the first layer of Adidas outerwear and headed upstairs to do something on the treadmill. I was wearing socks from work (hot!) since you take off shoes and socks in yoga, so the idea of running wasn't too appealing. Plus I didn't have headphones and I didn't want to DIE. So I started being that lame guy on the treadmill who isn't manly enough to sprint for an hour and just walked at a leisurely pace. Feeling pretty much worthless, I decided to give myself a workout and massively increased the incline and increased the speed, determined to carry on for a half hour work out. Baby steps.

My mind started running as I stared at the sweet LCD screen in front of me, reading the headlines from America's worthless mass media stations. As the treadmills around me became occupied, I found it entertaining that the girl next to me was running so hard and fast that she couldn't help but hold onto the front of the machine. Dude, if you can't keep up with the speed, you do know that these things do have adjustable speeds, right? Whatever, who was I to judge since I was walking up a hill while she was at least running.

So after my baby steps workout, which built up quite a sweat, I might add, I headed downstairs and hit the sauna. And my mind started racing down there. It suddenly brought back memories of pretty much every sauna session. I sit in there and pretty much all I can think about are things to blog about. So, I am now declaring that saunas are damn good for the mind and if I ever write boring again, it's probably because I haven't been to the gym for a while. Or maybe I'm just tired.

So, what did I think about? Well, for one, my family is drawing names for Christmas this year since nobody really needs or wants much. Or we're poor. Or cheap. Whatever. I found out later that Summer got stuck with me, so here's what I want from Summer. A subscription to Men's Health (to support my new gym rat lifestyle), a new iPod battery, and/or dryer sheets.

After asking me if I could read (he later apologized, saying he meant if I could physically read without my glasses, which we had earlier discussed), this old guy gave me his NY Times in the sauna and it was the Business section. I realized, as I have noticed lately, that I am more interested in business topics again after rebelling against "The Man" (aka my employers) pretty much since I graduated. This has strangely coincided with me beginning to invest in stocks again for the first time since, again, I graduated. It also coincides with a reduction in the interest of drinking copious amounts of liquor on weekends for the first time since I graduated. And it also coincides with the realization that people my age are starting to send me Christmas cards. Crap, I'm growing up!

Just for the hell of it, I stepped on the scale on the way into the sauna and it measured a tidy 147 pounds. Some of that was probably water weight that I lost while, ahem, "working out", but some of it also probably has to do with the liquid diet earlier last month. Maybe my sister knows if weights tend to lag behind changes in diets. Because I certainly don't know.

J. Riley, Summer, pencil me in for December 21st or 22nd at your gym. You need to teach. And I need to learn.

And the rest of you need to learn how to download Firefox Version 2.0! Susyash will be especially pleased with it because it spell checks while you blog. And we all know she needs help with that.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Be Careful What You Ask For...

Because you might just receive it. Last weekend the post-op hibernation in my apartment ended when Sean came back from Aruba and the fact that I had started eating solid food again. We didn't do much, but I was determined that by this weekend I was going to start doing things again. We had phenomenal weather for a few days, almost reaching 70 degrees two days in a row, followed by the precipitous drop in temperature and potential first snowfall of the year on Monday :o/.

Anyway, I planned on doing something this weekend but it turned out that my plate was pretty full during the week! Aside from the typical surgeon post-op appointment, chiropractor visits, and onsite technical support visits, I caught a concert that I'd been looking forward to, a birthday dinner, a night out at Brandy's, and another dinner out with friends.

Citizen Cope is a band that I credit my brother with introducing to me via an mp3 exchange and I totally dig their music. Everyone asks me how to describe their music and I'm not really sure how to answer that. I guess a southern-rock version of Jack Johnson plus a pinch of reggae/hip-hop would confuse most people, but that's as good as I can do! I saw some posters a few months back mentioning that he was playing a show at the Nokia Theater in Time Square, which is a small 2,000 capacity place that I hadn't been to so I bought two tickets in the hopes of coercing someone into going to a concert with me. An old work friend who moved to the city a few months back canceled on me at the last minute so I invited a new "friend" (not sure how to define her yet) to go and I had an amazing time. The concert was great, though not the type of music to jump up and down with. But good music to enjoy in the presence of someone with whom there appears to be a mutual attraction.

The following night I had an appointment at the surgeon's office, where he gave me the retroactive "cleared for solid food" synopsis and a farewell & good luck wish. I enjoyed my experience with Dr. Gary Ruth (any googlers??) but I am also looking forward to never having to see him or talk to him again ;o). After that, it was off to the chiropractor to get an adjustment, then a few blocks over to birthday-girl D's apartment to try to fix her under-performing computer (modem exchange pending). We then met up with a bunch of friends to go over to Dos Caminos for a high-class Mexican food dinner. It was quite exquisite, but to be honest I'm as happy with a $5 burrito as I am with a fancy helping of enchiladas.

Friday finally arrived and it was my day for relaxation at home after work with a movie before being coerced into visiting Cathy and D at her apartment to greet her out of town friend. And then heading over to Brandy's for some entertaining music performances and before I knew it, it was past my bedtime. Waaaay past it. And this with a Liverpool game the next morning! I recently found a great underground site that has illegal streaming broadcasts of soccer games from just about anywhere in the world. Of course I didn't use it ;o), but I did install the software written by Chinese that undoubtedly installed Trojan Horses on my Windows PC. Good thing I'm a Mac guy now :-D.

After sacrificing my mid-afternoon for Alan's benefit in making sure that his newest X-Box game worked in two-player mode, I met up with Cathy and her out of town guest to go ice skating on some extremely dull and painful skates at Lasker Rink in Central Park. I'll be going there in a few weeks with the volunteer group, so I was perfectly happy to test my skillz and demonstrate the same lack of grace that I display every time I go rollerblading :o).

Last night I went with Alan and Andrea to Park Avenue Cafe, which is a swanky, extremely ridiculous-priced UES place that has a great deal - pay your age! This is a place I'll go to while I'm young(ish) because the food definitely was average and I don't think I'd go if I was more than 35 or so!

J. Riley, now I'm going to enjoy a fine Trader Joe's meal!