Thursday, May 31, 2007

What The....??

So I was eating dinner with an out-of-town former college mate on Tuesday down
in SoHo when a man walked by. It's common to see people out walking their pets
after work (sometimes I see them at 3:00am, too). But this guy was walking his
pet monkey. I think that's a first for me!

J. Riley, isn't that like illegal or something?

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Finally I Have a Social Life!

I've been madly irresponsible with this blog lately, and it's about time I start carving 15 minutes out of my week to update people before I lose my fan base! Of course, if you're using Google Reader, I'm probably just another person on your list and any of my posts are just a bonus to you. But I digress....

So, a couple things. First of all, the weather here has been just amazing lately, except for a few thunderstorms and some rain. Today was probably the hottest day of the year, the second time I've felt my back wet while walking home from the office - ahhh, summertime is almost here! Time to ditch the backpack and leave the laptop at work. Rather than putting my bathing suit on and heading to Central Park to sunbathe afterwork like most people ( most people I am checking out on my way home from work ;o), I've taken a liking to running sans shirt. I am actually surprised that more people don't do it, it's quite liberating. I'm sure most people who happen to see me flash by them shirk in horror when they see me (or at least are temporarily blinded), but I figure that if I can't get tan this way (or at least skin cancer), I can't get tan anyway (and will probably still get skin cancer).

Last weekend was pretty busy, I went mini-golfing with my volunteer group and barely escaped the impending rain, but still had a lot of fun. As is typical lately, I had a flurry of cancellations a day or two before the event. I am fine-tuning my organizational skills and procedures to prevent this, but I guess sometimes there are things you just can't prevent. Last summer it was kids not showing up, but I'd rather have few volunteers and more kids, as has been the case lately.

After golfing, I ate a ginormous hamburger from a greasy diner that I've never tried before by my house. One of the kids had eaten a burger at the mini-golf course and I was salivating all over the ground watching him eat it, so I stuffed myself silly with one before I met up with Alan and Andrea for the rest of the day. We rode down to the Brooklyn Bridge and (gasp) actually enjoyed doing something people all over the world come here to do, walk across it. We hit up a chocolate place for Andrea and then got some awesome ice cream at the Brooklyn Ice Cream factory, sitting next to the stormy water and getting fat. Awesome.

Being in Brooklyn, we could have gone anywhere in the city afterwards but decided to hit up the old stand-by neighborhood downtown, the East Village. We stopped at a very nice place (which we need to try brunch at) called the NoLita House for happy hour (2-for-1, 7 days a week!), waiting for our appetites to pick up. Well, really Alan and I since Andrea is "practicing" being pregnant and not drinking anymore :o/ . I wasn't convinced.

With our whistles whetted and our appetites lubricated, we headed to a noodle place that we'd all read about called Momofuku Noodle House for a simple noodle dinner at a tiny place with a single bar-style table right down the middle of the room with people lined on either side eating their noodles. It was alright, but I think I wanted Alan's spicy kimchi bowl rather than my "mystery pork" dish (I suspect there was pork throat in there, since I saw it on other dishes), but it was a cool place nonetheless.

On the verge of throwing up from gluttonous feasting that day, we went to another chocolate place so Andrea could get a melted-bar of hot-chocolate (que richo!) while I contemplated the best place to vomit within a proximity limit of six feet. I had "that taste" in my mouth before deciding that it probably wasn't the best thing to do in public and distracted myself with people watching instead.

With the English Premier League finished, I was stuck watching Spanish La Liga soccer on Sunday morning before taking a jog and then entertaining Melissa while I was doing chores around the house like laundry and waiting to meet up with my family's good friends Frank and Sally. They came to town to see their daughter and generously offered to take me out to dinner anywhere I wanted. I guess they didn't know what they were getting themselves into with an offer like that, so I whipped open my plethora of guides before remembering that I'd always wanted to go to WD-50 but it was a little too trendy and creative for an average night in the LES, my neighborhood away from neighborhood. It is well known for it's inventive tastes and I thought they would enjoy something a bit different than the norm. Somehow I managed to get reservations the day of and it was good eats-on! Wow, this place was like a palette amusement park between the quinoa with...some...taste, shredded brussel sproats with apples, tagine-spiced lamb broth, scallops, apricot cous-cous, etc. etc. etc. It wasn't a lot of food, but it was very interesting. The desserts left something to be desired with more style than substance, but they were good conversation pieces, if nothing else.

Being in the neighborhood, we capped the night at Teany's tea shop of course and tried out the latest teanychino (candied apple teanychino!) and now Teany has a few more massive fans to go along with my parents!

Like all good things, the night had to come to an end however and I had to head home to make my nightly phone call before getting ready for the busy week. I had a root canal to wrap up on Thursday but, more importantly, had the Champions League Final on Wednesday. I wasn't sure how to leave work early two days in a row, so I made up a story how they had to create a mold of the hole in my tooth on Wednesday and then Thursday they would put the custom porcelain crown in and though I doubt my boss bought it, he didn't care. He probably wouldn't have cared if I said I was leaving to go to a bar to watch my team, but I didn't want him to think I'm not dedicated to my job (I'm not, really ;o).

I got lucky though when my dentist said they had an opening an hour and a half before the game started, so I got my filling (no crown necesito!), jumped in a cab and hauled but down to the Liverpool bar, only to find out that it was already at capacity!! Arggghhh...I could hear them singing inside and everything. With my Liverpool scarf wrapped around my neck, I hopped back in the cab to go to a bigger place, the "overflow" bar. It was also packed and I saw so many people wearing red running towards bars around town, it was great. Liverpool has the best fans in the world, there's little doubt about that. So I joined the throngs of people at Slainte, a big Irish bar with lots of flat-screen TVs and hundreds of fans. There was singing, drinking, cheering, jeering, and lots of Scouse accents in the bar, it was an awesome atmosphere. Too bad we didn't win, I'd probably still be there singing You'll Never Walk Alone, their theme song and famous Kop classic. Next year, boys, we'll be back....

J. Riley, BTW, I'm growing a beard just for the hell of it. I like the nasty beards that the stylish Brits have at my work and you don't see many shaggy people here in the UES. Once you can see it (stupid blonde/red hair cross-pollenations), maybe I'll take a picture.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Drilling For Oil

Or so it seemed my endontist was doing today when I went in to get my $1600 root canal :o|. Thank god for insurance, it's still going to take a nice chunk out of my savings, but at least it won't be the whole thing. And in return for said chunk of change? A nice, hollow bicuspid that they filled with some chemicals and that will probably start killing me in the next hour once all the ibuprofen that I took earlier wear off. On top of that, I can't eat on that side (my prefered side, by the way) of my mouth for over a week, when I get to go back to my dentist to get a crown on top of the hole.

The root canal was surprisingly not a big deal, other than the fact that it's so freaking expensive (I'd consider flossing if I were you) and that I still have to go in for more pain when they put the massive filling (crown) in. He did inject my gums with several shots of novocaine, which is probably why there was no pain. As an added benefit, the little microscope thing that he looked through to drill out my tooth had just enough of a reflection for me to get an idea of all the stuff (like chlorine/bleach, cotton, and some medicine stuff) that he was pouring into the hollow, nerveless tooth. Exciting, I know! I need to focus on no more cavaties, especially deep ones that kill nerves and require root canals :o| .

J. Riley, I somehow need to get this crown done on the same day as the Liverpool game so that I can get the crown and then head to the pub to watch the Champion's League final right afterwards! Boss might get suspicious if I disappear two days in a row after lunch for "fillings"....

Monday, May 14, 2007

To B(ike) or Not to B(ike)

So Sean decided this weekend that he needs to buy a bike. He's fascinated with
the fact that our water-locked island is incredibly small and a bike would
definitely be useful for things like running errands, grocery shopping at Whole
Foods, and commuting uptown since he lives so far away from the subway. And
likewise for me! Sean and I have different spending habits, however, so while
he drools over $1000+ bikes that he obviously needs (frown), I am trying to
find the cheapest bike available because I know that either a.) it will get
stolen, b.) It won't be stolen, but will have a wheel stolen, c.) I rode a tank
of a bike all through college up a massive hill, so I can handle anything on
these newer bikes. I found one for <$300 that I am having a serious thought
about, but I need to do some mental cost analysis to figure out the value of
such an investment.

Did I mention how nice it is to be done with all my orthodontics and mouth work?
Yes, it is wonderful to be able to bite an apple, eat ribs, get corn-on-the-cob
stuck in my teeth, bite a burrito that will make me feel sick to my stomach
later in the day (because NY doesn't know how to make them), etc. Oh, wait,
except that apparently all of this mouth work has hurt the feelings (literally)
of one of my teeth and now I need to get a root canal. Sigh....

J. Riley, does the oral trauma drama ever end?

Monday, May 07, 2007

Surprise! I'm Abnormal - for an Upper East Sider

One of the things many people struggle for in New York (methinks) is an identity. Something that makes them unique. Obviously everyone is unique in their own way, but you wouldn't know it by looking around in the neighborhood that I currently camp in, the Upper East Side (UES). The demographics of this part of town are as follows:

1.) Inhabitated by a.) recently graduated frat boys and sorority girls, b.) young professionals who most likely went to Ivy League schools and work in finance or another high paying job, c.) young families, d.) old money aristocrats.
2.) Most common ethnicities: WASP or Jewish.
3.) Income: Middle Class (for New York, ha!) -> Extremely Wealthy with Trust Fund
4.) Common social events: fine-dining, wine tasting, binge drinking, exercising in Central Park, black-tie house parties (depending on where you fit in #1)
5.) Dress code: Business Casual to Professional, Abercrombie & Fitch, Banana Republic, Bloomingdales

Hello, identity crises! Where do I not fit into this narrow guide of the UES? I'm a young professional making a good income, WASP as WASP can be, securely Middle Class, enjoy fine dining and rollerblading in Central Park, and have a closet stocked with Banana Republic and other business casual clothing (for work). Well, the other half of my closet is soccer clothing, but still.

Ahhhh, but there is one attribute where I deviate from this classification. And I demonstrated this at Alan's SURPRISE 30th birthday party on Saturday night! I like to expand the horizons of us sheltered UESers by venturing to new parts of town. There was Astoria (Little Greece, Queens) and Greenpoint (Little Poland, Brooklyn) for my birthday last year, there was Jackson Heights (Little Columbia, Queens) for my end-of-my-social-life-for-the-year party in late October last year. Not to mention trips up to Melissa's in the Bronx (Little....well, Melting-Pot-minus-WASPs?). So when Alan's wife was planning the party and was considering a bowling party downtown, a light went off in my head: Harlem Lanes! I had been there during the day with my volunteer group and it was supposed to be a hopping place at night. We ended up standing in line in the middle of Harlem at 10:45 at night on Saturday to get into this place, it was so popular. And we were the ONLY non-African-Americans in the place. A couple white kids, some Asians, some Indians and a WHOLE BUNCH of bruthas and sistahs. Awesome, I was in my element. Alan was surprised to see all of his friends inside and they all asked us "how in the world did you get Alan to come up to Harlem to go bowling?" It was easy, he 's never surprised when I show my true colors below that standard UES outer shell :o).

J. Riley, disco bowling to hip-hop and watching "The Fight" (boxing match between Mayweather and De La Hoya) while bowling and drinking beers for two hours was awesome.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

We're Going To Athens!

I use the word "we" pretty liberally, as in "we" - Liverpool FC. For the second time in three years, they have beaten an arch-rival in the semi-finals of the premiere football tournament in Europe: The Champion's League. In their 100+ year history, this is the seventh time they have reached the final, so two times in three years is pretty significant! The finals are in Athens on May 23rd and, cough cough, I can already feel food poisoning from a terrible lunch coming on the day of the final. I wish I was going to Athens instead, but I'll have to put that on hold this year.

So where in the world have I been? In New York, actually. Since recovering from my standard Tupac Amaru's Revenge from South America, I have reignited my running passion and my nights now consist primarily of a good +1 hour of exercise three to four times a week (yoga included) as well as 1/2 hour Spanish lessons four-five times a week from my illega...I mean downloaded "trial" lessons ;o). If I manage to make it through all sixty lessons, I'll probably be fluent. But there's no way I'm that smart! We'll see how far I get however. Add nightly phone calls down to South America as well as the typical errands like shopping and EATING and it's a wrap for the night.

On the social front (i.e. the weekends) I once again embraced Nana's genes and established my dominance in Texas Hold'm poker a few weeks back, wiping the table clean of chips up until it was me and my former roommate. He managed to prevail in the end but it was quite a comeback for me since I was down to just a few chips at one point and I at least got the money that I put in back in my pocket for coming in second place (a whopping $10). I think they're going to stop inviting me to these poker events ;o).

This past weekend I headed down to Brooklyn to experience the Cherry Blossom Festival at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens. This is a massive event to celebrate Japanese culture and checkout the 50+ varieties of Cherry Blossom trees in full Spring bloom spread all through the gardens. Since we were so far into Brooklyn, we decided to head down to the classic old-school Coney Island amusement park afterwards. I had never actually been there and a portion of it will be torn down later this year probably so that they can build some expensive high-rise eyesore apartment building in this historical place. It was quite a run down place, probably not somewhere you want your teenager to work at but we thoroughly enjoyed hearing the game hawkers yelling out their deals, palm readers attempting to lure us in, signs for things like "Shoot The Freak" and burlesque shows, the wide assortment of fried food available, and of course the classic "Cyclone" rollercoaster which reminds me of the Big Dipper in Santa Cruz. Next time I'm in Cali, I gotta go back to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, that's a place I never really spent enough time at (probably for the best ;o). Anyway, if you want to see pictures of all this, check out Alan's pictures here.

Last week my Shakerika was terribly sick with a bacterial infection which caused her to stay home every day from work and get daily injections - yikes. This couldn't have come at a worse time because her mother is also going to the doctors daily for a more significant reason - she found a lump in her breast :o| . It has been removed and biopsy results come back tomorrow, but prognosis is not good at this point. I'm sending positive thoughts and energy down to her and her family right now in this time of need....

J. Riley, blame my employer for my lack of posts, they're blocking blogger again!!