Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Maybe Not Free as a B(ird) Afterall

Last week, I mentioned that one of my recent "Free-B's" was going to
our wonderful neighborhood gym (note sarcasm) Synergy (Astoria, for
the Google searches) for one month, because we were going to quit this
place like a bad habit as soon as we made our mandatory 12th
appearance. Well, just like I have not been able to successfully quit
my bad habit of biting my finger nails, I was not able to successfully
make the 12th appearance within one month in order to quit the gym,
thanks to my lack of ability to count from one to four on my calendar.
Looks like I either have to get used to the terrible spin instructor
or, shocker, have to actually motivate MYSELF to expend energy in the
form of body heat and sweat. Yawn...

Another possible by-product of not being able to get my money back
from the gym is that I certainly cannot now enroll in the capoeira
classes that my heart yearns for. I've been taking the "Free-B"
classes for this Brazilian martial art/dance every Saturday that I am
able to and this weekend completed my third class and have noticed
amazing results in that time. I can almost do a full cartwheel now,
compared to when I started when I made it a quarter of the way before
crashing shoulder-first into the ground. Hand-stands are going to take
some more work, but suffice to say that I am satisfied that I pulled
off a cartwheel and a spontaneous round-house kick while "playing"
capoeira after my class on Saturday. My progress is slow, but we'll
see where I'm at at the end of September when the free classes finish.

A few weeks back, Erika and I completed our requirements for getting
married in a Catholic church by attending our mandated Pre-Cana course
way down in Brooklyn on Friday night and all day Saturday. What I
thought was going to be a forced-feeding of Catholicism actually
turned out to be an interesting class more about our marital
relationship. Poor Erika had to trudge through a workbook that used
highly-complex adjectives to describe various aspects of our
relationship - certainly not things that she's learning in her classes

Speaking of her classes, she is completing intensive-training English
4 (out of 8) this week and what a difference a class makes! She also
started working part-time yesterday in a data-entry/software testing
type of job, which will be good for her so that she can practice her
English with people other than me. Hopefully they can keep her busy
since she's out of school for a month starting next week!

J. Riley, my hamstrings and muscles in my lower back are still sore
after capoeira on Saturday. The twists, turns, and kicks are doing
their job!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

A Memory Worth Preserving

As the tune started playing in iTunes, I was presented with a flashback:
  • Location: In my two-tone, manly, muffler-less, '65 Buick Special, somewhere in my stomping grounds of high school and/or possible college.
  • Scene: Listening to a tape of Euro hits that I'd recorded during one of three recent trips to Germany.
  • Memory: Listening to a power love-ballad from Bon Jovi that I'd heard and recorded in Europe. Just as the song climaxes, the tape hits the end of the side and I'm left wondering if he's wrong, if he's wrong, this ain't a love song :o)
J. Riley, thanks D for rekindling that classic!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Evolution of a Blog

Today, I sat at work pondering important questions about life, i.e. if my undoubtedly disgruntled blog readers have indeed upgraded their Firefox to Version 3.0. I decided to do a quick check on my blog statistics, the hits of which were obviously depressing because of the lack of new content these days. But I did see that many people visiting my blog now are finding my site as a result of a Google search for a variety of subjects. I clicked on an old story that was the result of one person's search and read the blog of yore from 2005 and found myself pretty amused at the story and amazed that I had actually written something so witty and comprehensive. And it got me thinking on the elevator ride down and the bus ride home, what has changed? Is it the result of Tivo/DVR's proliferation into my household? The limited social life as a result of things like jaw surgery and leaving the center of the universe to move to a neighborhood that was uninspiring and where I didn't belong? Finally having a meaningful relationship with a girl? Or is it simply the evolution of a blog, the transition from something to record life's stories in into something to read and remember life's stories? Maybe it's a combination of all of the above. Clearly I can't blog as much about jet setting across the country for a weekend, a full weekend of debauchery, or about the nuances of being married, but there are plenty of new things I can talk about.

Last night we went down to see our free movie of the week, My Big, Fat, Greek Wedding. I thought back to when I saw it a few years back to see if I could somehow relate this to my experience in Peru but my memory of the movie was pretty bleak, like it is with most movies. But as we sat there watching it, I realized that there were many subtle things that Erika and I could relate to and we both cracked up about them. I asked her if she thought my parents would be like the "Miller" family in the movie - dry, boring gringos with little interest or knowledge about foreign cultures or customs. She said yes - and was very happy to learn back when she met them that my parents are nothing like them! After recently requesting RSVPs from my friends and family who initially planned to come to my wedding in Peru and realizing that very few are going to come afterall, I laugh when I think about the wedding scene in that movie where the bride's side of the church is packed with hundreds of people and the groom's side has about 10 people - that's totally going to be my wedding! (Side note-if you didn't get the RSVP request email and you want to come, you better email me because apparently I don't have your email address!) Anyway, we enjoyed the movie and had a nice little picnic on a beautiful night again.

Have you ever learned a foreign language on your own? I really need to get to work on my Spanish ASAP and am really getting bored with my Pimsleur speak and repeat lessons. Anyone ever used Rosetta Stone? I tried out their demo for Turkish and actually learned a few things in the five minutes I used it. I might have to give them a try, let me know if you've ever used it! I am using some of the Spanish I know at home and am learning new words from Erika, but they are mostly words that she says to me or about me, things like "susio" (dirty), "que asco" (disgusting), "tacaƱo" (stingy), etc. While these are valuable, I could use some expansion on my vocabulary and grammar ;o) .

J. Riley, doesn't anyone want to come visit us in New York other than some obscure Germans from the past?

Monday, July 14, 2008

Free B's

It's summer-time in the city, which is a great time of the year for us - other than the weather. While I'm not technically in the city as much as I used to be, Erika and I have been taking advantage of all the free B's that are at our disposal both in our wonderful new community of Astoria as well as some in Manhattan.

- Big Muscles - As in things that I aspire to. We signed up for a local gym near our apartment a few weeks back, getting an amazing deal and paying less than $30 a month for a gym with a decent amount of spin classes and weight lifting equipment, as well as a four-week money-back guarantee that we would be satisfied calling this gym home for the next year. A day after signing up, Erika and I both found out why this gym was so cheap and had already decided to make all the required visits within four weeks to call it quits at this gym.

First of all, from the first time we entered the place, I had already decided that I didn't like the sleezy manager there. He kept butting in on our membership salesman and repeating things that we had just been told. I just had a real bad feeling about the guy.

Second of all, we each had a free session with a physical trainer. You would think a gym with various physical trainers would have a revolutionary time-management tool called a "schedule" so that a new member could figure out what time slots are available for both themselves and the trainer. Not at Synergy! Their trainers just assume that you are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and tell you what time to come in, and then change the time during the same conversation because they don't know if they have someone already coming in at the same time. Terrible. And the free physical training session was really a 20 minute evaluation to see if I'm in shape (duh, I could have told him I'm not in shape) and then 40 minutes of trying to get you to sign up for unreasonably expensive sessions, claiming that he was so good that he didn't need new people to sign up and that paying for a wedding is not as important as looking good in the wedding. And bringing in sleezy manager to try to talk me into it.

Third, the classes. I pretty much only go to the gym for classes, especially the very motivational spin classes. The spin equipment at our new gym is from like the 80's and are horrible. To top that off, we had a huge, buff Eastern Euro spin teacher who was cussing and swearing from the minute he walked in about how he's too old to be teaching this class and not even willing to help new people adjust their bike. He was more impressed with checking himself out in the mirror than he was with making audible instructions during the class. Erika tried the belly dance class but said that it was worthless and she couldn't even break a sweat and didn't learn anything. I tried the Jui Jitsu class with all these experienced fighters and ended up with bruises all over my body - though the class itself was alright (if you know what you're doing, and I don't).

Fourth, this is a place for meat-heads. You may think this would be the perfect place for someone like me and my physique, but I actually don't really like going to gyms where everyone is huge and making me look weaker than I am.

Suffice to say that the four weeks will be free, because we're quittin' this gym big time as soon as possible.

- Big, Fat, Greek Wedding - As in the movie. We have free movies in various Astoria parks along the river during the week - weather permitting. Last week we got down to Astoria park and made a picnic and watched Happy Feet. This week is My Big, Fat, Greek Wedding, though last night's downpour may have been a bit too much to enjoy the grassy knoll that we sit on to watch the free movie.

- Bon Jovi - As in New Jersey and camel toes. Yes, we totally rocked a FREE Bon Jovi concert - in Central Park! D totally hooked Erika and me up with hard-to-get tickets to the free concert that was being put on as part of the baseball All-Star game festivities. And it was awesome!
It was great way to spend a Saturday night and I am totally going to download some Bon Jovi hits this week to relive the experience.

- Brazilian Martial Arts - As in Capoeira. We have free beginner Capoeira classes every Saturday afternoon at a park around the corner from our apartment. These are true beginner classes that are a great workout and are actually pretty fun. I hoping to someday have the strength and grace to perform some of the kicks we learn. But at least everyone is as bad as me! It's pretty fun though, and there's enough experienced fighters there to help me refine my technique.

- Burgers and Beer - As in totally free! One of my favorite restaurants in my new neighborhood celebrated their one-year birthday with a free burger and beer event. The place got rated the best new restaurant in Queens and they have great Asian/French food that we have sampled quite a bit - especially on their 2-for-$10 nights! Anyway, Erika and I got down there nice and early to get a seat and gorged away on our free dinner and beverages until about 8:30. While the place and the corner sidewalk outside were pretty packed, I can only imagine the mayhem and chaos that would exist if someone in Manhattan tried to pull the same stunt. It had a comfortable and friendly ambiance, just like most of the rest of our new neighborhood.

J. Riley, finally got a summer update in!