Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Visiting an Institution

Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I continued my geographic traversals by flying out to San Diego to meet my new nephew Ryder and visit my brother, sister-in-law, niece, and Faryn, who drove down from Los Angeles. It was a classical San Diego weekend with time spent playing with my niece at the playground and briefly at the beach, sunny, warm weather, lots of eating - including an awesome Peruvian lunch in Encinitas and a Thai dish that we made at home that I take credit for....picking out ;o), plenty of Pike's coffee, breakfast burritos, and fish tacos - and a case of bronchitis for my poor niece, and therefore my poor brother and sister-in-law. The house was a pool of germs by the time I left and it seems as though I contracted something myself that has caught up to me now, hence the reason for me sitting at home blogging when I should be at the gym :o) !! I still had a great time, as it's always fun to sit around and chit chat or watch TV with my siblings. And my nephew? He is very cute and has Graham's perma-scowl :) !

This weekend I woke up with a scratchy throat on Saturday, but endeavored to go bowling with my volunteer group and a bunch of kids regardless. I must say that I am working on my form and I'm making some serious progress on my curve-ball - when it's not in the gutter :o) . Since I was bowling with kids, I went ahead and used bumpers once. I have no doubt that the Upper East Side volunteers thought much less of their leader once they saw me bouncing off those a few times!

Sunday, after brunch at amazingly (geographically and demographically) local Uptown near Paul and Cathy's with their friends Alicia and Erika, I hit the town on a mission: to find new jeans! I'm of the opinion, rightly or wrongly, that bootcut jeans are on their way out but that seems to be the only thing I can find these days in the chain stores that I hit on the way to Macy's, the holy grail of jeans shopping. It's very hard to find slim-cut jeans with regular legs that are not ultra-low rise. That is, until I found them at Macy's, of course the very last pair that I tried on! They fit me like a glove!

On my way home, it was dinner time so I wanted to find a place in the area to eat before heading back to the restaurant-dry neighborhood that I live in. I settled on a place of New York folklore, an institution standing alone amongst the modern buildings in Murray Hill - the Second Avenue Deli, which was recently, and controversially, shuttered in it's original location in the East Village and relocated uptown a bit. This place is a famous deli serving up gynormous pastrami sandwiches and a million other traditional Jewish dishes.

When I sat down to eat at the counter, I found myself in the middle of two worlds - quite literally. To my left were two recently-graduated college kids with their Blackberries and their voracious post-hangover appetities ordering many a thing from the gentleman behind the counter taking our orders. To my right, a cranky old Jewish couple with the man with a serious scowl on his face, thrusting his bowl of soup at the waiter because he didn't like it and the woman complaining about the fact she didn't get her fries immediately after she ordered them. It was a great experience to sit and observe these two pairs while eating my meatloaf (which they both looked at rather jealously).

After they left and I was alone with the waiter behind the counter, who's service was awesome despite the hectic nature of the place. I asked him frankly "Do you just get numb to the number of people that you churn through here?" He told me that sometimes you get customers like the ones to my right who want to be served immediately despite the crowds and aren't happy with anything, but you just have to take it and do your best to smile. It was a great New York moment, but you just had to be there to experience it :o) !

J. Riley, back to my wheezing and sniffling

Monday, January 14, 2008

Nineties Nostalgia

Former geek classmates of mine, do you remember those long evenings
together in the late-nineties, huddled up in the COB Computer Lab
until 10:00pm (closing time) madly writing code together before going
our separate ways to log in remotely to continue writing the code that
would get us a passing grade in that damn CSC 101 class? Yes, I
remember that, I remember those that couldn't make the grade (pun
intended) and fell by the wayside, switching their Business
concentrations to something like Human Resources or Management.

But, I digress. The point is, I got a phone call at 9:00pm on Thursday
night with an interesting proposition from Paul, who's company was in
desperate times and in desperation called me to see if I would be
interested in doing some MS Access coding work for them. I told them I
would consider it after I could see what was going to be involved.
Confident in my skills after reviewing their database, I set off
coding away at night, confident that it shouldn't take toooo long to
finish this project. Unfortunately Erika had just come home after
spending a loooong day with her grandfather (who has terminal cancer)
and deserved my attention at the same time. Being the wonderful girl
that she is however, she was fine with me just talking for a few
minutes before letting me continue on.

Fast forward 14 hours later, and it was 12:30pm and it felt like the
day was over. I hadn't even finished but I had called in sick because
I just couldn't give up at that point, and I couldn't go to work after
pulling an all nighter, the first in years – Risk-game-playing-night
aside. I quickly passed out on my bed and didn't wake up for many
hours, and when I did, I wanted to go back to sleep again.

After a deflating draw for Liverpool Saturday morning, I headed to
Sean's apartment to continue with the project where I left off on my
coding project. First we had a nice "business lunch" over in
Williamsburg at Dumont, where I enjoyed a fine, thick burger with a
slice of Danish blue cheese. It was one of the better burgers I'd had
in a while. Considering that I had eaten two pieces of wheat toast in
a 14 hour coding session, it was no surprise that I had a famish-like

After continuing my work for a few more hours, Paul and I headed out
to Manhattan to meet up with a group for dinner at Samba Le, a dining
establishment long the object of my dining obsession for its cuisine
genre: Italian-Brazilian. Fascinating combination! I had tried to take
a girl there years back for a first date to take their complimentary
Samba lessons and eat dinner, only to arrive and find the place
shackled up and closed. The story of my former dating life!

This time, however, it was open and our reservations were well
respected. For some reason, I can never resist the Feijoda dish when I
eat Brazilian food. Every place I go, they always note that, hey,
Feijoda is the national dish of Brazil. How many countries do you know
have a "National Dish"? Not to mention their "National Drink"
(caiparinha). So, of course, that's what I ordered and I was
definitely satisfied by this meal, as were the others (note to self:
grilled skirt steak was awesomely garlicky!).

Not satisfied with having a wrecked sleeping schedule from just one
night, after having a drink at our newly-found favorite watering-hole
The Bourgeois Pig, I got a ride from my Dominican Republic / Hungarian
group of friends (a wonderful combination of friends for me, don't you
think?) to check out this new Latin night-spot downtown. Well, after
mediocre music and having my package touched "accidentally" by a
gentleman in line at the bar, we decided to go somewhere else and we
(they) chose Gonzales Gonzales in Noho.

I've heard about this place having the best Mexican food around from a
Chinese/Cuban mix guy that actually lives with his family in the East
Village, so it wasn't totally unknown to me. But I didn't know they
had Latin dancing there and when we arrived, there were police showing
up because of some conflict that had happened inside and later a guy
came out with his face bleeding from another conflict at the bar, I
knew that I was at a REAL Latin establishment. Excellent! They had
great music (live Salsa band followed by DJ) to boot!

We capped the late-night off in Washington Heights at a roach coach
serving fine Latin cuisine to all the locals leaving the clubs up
there. We ordered up a couple of Patacones, which are essentially meat
sandwiches with the bread replaced by a fried plaintain "bread" that
was absolutely amazing! A good end to a late night – I wasn't really
planning on being up until 5:00am :-# !!

J. Riley, not much for the public consumption happened on Sunday, but
I did research a new mobile phone, which I purchased this morning! The
new Motorola Z6C Global Phone from Verizon! Looking forward to getting
that in two days :-D

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Reverse Commute

This weekend I did the unthinkable. No, I'm not talking about the poker game that I actually was the first one eliminated from. I fought, I twisted arms, I slyly coerced my friends from Manhattan into coming to the Bronx - three of them!

The strategy was three fold: First, Melissa and I offered an evening of poker on her new set. Obviously everyone was angling to get their money back that I easily swept from them a fortnight ago, so it wasn't much of a stretch. Then, we offered to make them dinner. Dinner and poker? Who could resist? Finally, we pulled a bait and switch and offered an olive branch in the form of olive oil - we would take them to the irreverable (sp.? thesaurus?), infamous Little Italy - in the Bronx! It worked like a charm, they were sold! To add a cherry on top, they even coerced D into driving us up from midtown so that we didn't have to take the subway on a chilly evening!

And the night was splendid. Well, the meal was anyway - poker was a disaster for me. After a plethora of research, we decided to hit up Roberto's on Crescent Avenue. We went for an early dinner because the last time I went, the area was packed and the waits were long. Roberto's didn't let us down - it was packed with an "older" crowd - most likely from further uptown in the suburbs - while most other restaurants were empty. But, my oh my was it worth the wait. Fabulous food, a greeting from Roberto himself (the chef), and comments from the Manhattanites like "wow, this is probably one of the best Italian meals, best surprises that I've had in a long long time". That's right, that's how we role in the Bronx - legit fo' sho'!

Today as I was waiting at the back of the train platform for a subway to arrive - forever - I remembered the first time that Paul and left our safety zone soon after I arrived in New York and - shocker - rode in the VERY LAST CAR of the train all the way to Brooklyn. Talk about being sheltered! Now, it's the ONLY place I go ;o).

J. Riley, I have restarted my Spanish lessons in preparation for February!

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Special Report - Happy Holidays!

When home for the holidays, I got plenty of comments from the myriad of relatives that I saw that my blog has become lame because I never update it - my bad! This is a somewhat true statement and I have no excuse really. Sure, the Bronx isn't exactly the kind of environment that influences my creativity or makes me the envy of my loyal readers, but there is plenty of time for me to sit and think up here, especially since there is nothing to do except ride a half-hour to the city or go to the gym. But, I made the choice to live up here for a reason, I just gotta do what I can to continue motivating myself I guess!!

But the new year has come. Maybe it's time for me to turn the proverbial leaf and try to write more. We'll see what happens!

After today, the holidays are officially over. My holidays were a good way to end a year that has touched both highs and lows, from my introduction to a special person in my life to the introduction of difficult health circumstances that I will have to deal with in the coming year. But I suppose that this is life and it is what everyone has to appreciate or deal with.

I spent the Christmas season in California getting a chance to visit many of my relatives, some for the first time. We had a good four days of Christmas this year, with fantastic food on Saturday at my grandparent's house, a Christmas tradition at my grandma's house next door with all of the relatives from my dad's side of the family, a Christmas-eve traditional crab feast at my house, and then a Christmas traditional leg o' lamb meal at my house. It was fairly quiet around my house this year since it was just my family who was around, but that's not a bad thing. My dad and I got to do a grueling two-hour hike up in the hills around my house, my mom and sister and I got to do some "shopping", and my remaining Los Gatos friend and I got to do some nerdy server and web photo album setup (stay tuned for details on that!).

Unfortunately, I had to miss out on my sister's 21st birthday bash because of my work schedule, but the lack of anyone around the office gave me time to finish up paperwork and also to prepare for the upcoming trip to Peru at the end of February for myself and my parents, with whom Erika and I will travel to the wonderfully historic and cultural capital city of the Inca's, Cusco. With this paperwork completed, hopefully Erika can be with me next year at this time and get to meet everyone!

For New Year's, I joined in on the annual traditional pub crawl, this year starting in Little Italy and wondering up into the East Village. We started at the Australian establishment Eight Mile Creek before stops at the dive Tom & Jerry's, DBA, Three of Cups (where we celebrated the New Year) , and the pinnacle of the evening, The Bourgeois Pig. This is a place that I had always wanted to visit but never actually made it to, so the fact that we happened to come across it on our pub crawl made it especially nice. We sat at the aristocrat location of the place and drank our drinks in awesome little metal goblets and ordered a Bailey's chocolate fondue that came with an assortment of fruits to dip. It was definitely the high spot of the evening and capped a wonderful holiday season!

J. Riley, Good Luck to all in the new year!