Friday, August 29, 2008

Flavor of the Week

This week I had my quad-annual retainer checkup at my orthodontist. In a show of confidence of my teeth, or lack thereof, I found out that He's going to try a new device that sounds like it's a mouthguard-type thing that will slowly move my teeth to the perfect location, since they are already falling out of alignment, as they have since I got the braces off. I am less than thrilled by this idea, although I don't object to getting my teeth in the right spot. I mean, having a retainer with a bridge across it is hard enough to communicate with, I can only imagine what it's going to be like with this new contraption, especially since I'm supposed to continue wearing it all day and night like I do with my retainer. But I'll give it a try since I don't have to pay for it. I'm starting to feel not just like a guinea pig, but like a guinea pig butterflied on a grill in a place like Peru with these teeth of mine!

Some of you know that I like to try out new ingredients in my kitchen sometimes. First there was quinoa, black rice, and other interesting graines that no one else has heard of. Well, lately I've been using a yummy, spicy, pepper-paste laden with various North African spices called harissa, which can be found in stores like Whole Foods, if you look REALLY hard. I had to find someone that fit the "Whole Foods Geek" mold - you know, the guys who know pretty much everything in the store - in order to find it. Here's a couple super-tasty recipes that I've made using this stuff:
The latter, especially, is an awesome meal with a huge variety of flavors and textures!

J. Riley, I added some new blogs that I read to the bar on the right.....

Sunday, August 24, 2008


Last night, Erika and I decided to go downtown to do some perusing at Barnes and Noble, only to find that the East Village as I knew it has completely changed, I couldn't find anything that I knew used to be there, including the B&N! I guess that is how it works in New York, constant change and if you step off the island for a few months, it'll just pass you right by.

After doing some people-watching at our sidewalk-seating at a little cafe, eating some lobster ravioli, and drinking some sangria, Erika was up for a challenge and thought that we should head out to the dark depths of Queens to Jackson Heights, which is where a significant Latin community is and whose disco's I've gone to a few times, with mixed results. Well, we didn't have much else going on for the night, so why not? We figured that tonight could be a night of investigation, we could check out a bunch of different sketchy discos and hopefully find one half-way decent.

The first place that we went looked pretty nice on the outside and had a few big bouncers in front who insisted I talk to the manager before I go in (??). He told us that it was a salsa/merengue place and it had a nice looking dance-floor, certainly nicer than the other chorizo-fest place that I had been. We went in and checked it out and I was cool with it. It was about 9:30 at the time and, amazingly, there were already a bunch of girls there. Those of you who went out to Queens with me last time will realize that this is certainly unusual. The girls were all dressed with high-heels and short-short-short mini skirts and kind of standing around and Erika immediately identified this place as what she called a putaria (you know, like "tacquiera"), which I thought was hilarious (puta=prostitute). I almost laughed out loud, but I thought the place was going to be the best we could find in this part of town because the music was pretty good at the time. We checked out some other spots nearby, saw some hookers on the corner, and got some money at the bank before going back to the place, aptly called Chuptcha, which sounds an aweful lot like "chucha", probably one of the dirtiest words describing female genitalia. And queue one great Curb Your Enthusiam episode and why not the other as well.

Anyway, so we ended hanging out at this place, getting a table and having some cerveza and, mostly, people watching. The place wall really apalling, but we did manage to fit in some bachata dancing, despite being the only white person in the place. People watching was certainly worth the $5 beers, though. Most of the men were quite a few inches shorter than the woman (probably due to the high heels); when reggaeton started playing, the place was just like Santo Domingo, with girls holding onto a stage gyrating their huge asses up against the man of the moment - it reminded me of a men's room where there's a line of guys urinating (since it looked just like that); despite our table being about a foot above the dance floor, we could almost see underneath these girl's skirts; one fantastic male (I think) dancer who was really into the music and dancing, he was just a joy to watch, even if sometimes he would dry-hump a post(??); and special mention to the bleach blonde "girl" of questionable gender. As far as I could tell, we only saw 'benjamins being passed to the girls for these dirty dances, but who knows what happens when the place closes! When we left the place, the manager said "Did you guys have fund tonight" without a hint of irony. Yea, we said, with Erika laughing and saying "it was quite an experience" :o)

We topped the night off with carne asada tacos at a street-vendor which, still, didn't meet my high Mexican-food standards. They just can't seem to get it right out here!

Today, after a late start, we went and checked out the local free community swimming pool. I had visions of one of New York's free beach (Coney Island) and was thinking about how disgusting this pool would be, but I was in the exploring mood anyway. And the pool was actually halfway decent and seemed to be clean for the most part. But the rules - ohhh....the rules. This place was more strict than a concentration camp! We were told we couldn't go in because we didn't bring a lock (which wasn't mentioned on the website). But we could leave our bag outside with an attendant if we wanted to change outside first. No prob, we were already wearing our bathing suit. So Erica but her wrap thing on over her bathing suit. Sorry, they told her, you can't have a multi-colored wrap, solid colors only. We went inside and had to take a mandatory shower (again, the concentration camp illusion :o/ ), which was somewhat comforting so that people wouldn't take their first bath in a week at the pool. Inside, NY Parks people yelled at us for using a cell phone, saying they weren't allowed. And they yelled at people in the observation area above the pool area, saying "you can't stand there", etc. etc. etc. Of course, there was no problem with kids running around the pool at full speed. That was grounds for expulsion where I grew up! But, it was nice to take advantage of the free pool, even for just two hours or so on a Sunday night.

J. Riley, needless to say, Erika isn't really interested in going back to Jackson Heights for dancing, but I thought it was a great cultural event for a Saturday night :o).

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Public Launch

Q: J. Riley, you're quite geaky, where's the website for your Peruvian wedding?
A: With an official launch date of right now, check out

J. Riley, I'll notify you of any updates. If you're not on my list for the wedding, speak now or forever hold your peace.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

End of the Season

Fall has come early this year to New York, which isn't a bad thing.
August has felt more like September with cool, comfortable nights and
mildly warm days. I've said before and will repeat again: September is
the best time of year to live in or visit New York!

At the same time, many of the summertime activities that I've enjoyed
are also coming to an end. Tonight is the last foreign-film at the
hipster- and artist-filled Sculpture Park near my apartment. Luckily,
my Saturdays will continue to be occupied well into September by my
mid-day capoeira lessons, followed by preparing a protein-heavy lunch
(my responsibility on most weekends) and, as of last weekend, watching
Liverpool games!

A few weeks back, I had my final meeting at the Muscular Dystrophy
Clinic to get my bloodwork results back and find out just how
genetically mutated I am. Naturally, they decided to schedule me at
EXACTLY mid-day 12:30, since the clinic is located about an hour
subway away on the upper-upper-upper West-side in Washington Heights.
This, of course, means that I have to use a sick day for work because
it is almost a guarantee that they will be behind schedule and I'll be
lucky if it takes only three hours for travel and meeting times.

So Erika and I go uptown nice and early and arrive about five minutes
late and are flirting with the thought of eating lunch after the
appointment because the clinic is completely devoid of patients
waiting to be seen. After a 15 minute wait, we get sent to the exam
room. Another 30 minutes goes by before the resident doctors come in
to examine the curious genetic specimen that I am, tapping me with
little hammers to see my muscles cramp up and seeing if my body
functions the same way that it has the past fifty times they have
tested me. And, of course, it did. Same muscle strength, same issue
with my hands, and the new resident doctors sitting behind the more
experienced doctors ooohing and ahhing with every kick of my feet.
Yea, yea, yea, get on with it already, get the real doctor in here,
I'm thinking. I want my damn blood results!

They leave and we wait another 30 minutes for the real doctor and his
resident entourage to come back and perform the same tests AGAIN. And
then, let's talk about your blood results. Or LACK OF. I got blood
taken from me back in early May in my stairwell at my apartment before
going to work, hoping that some neighbor of mine didn't come down the
stairs thinking I was a junkie getting a little morning buzz before
going to the bus station. Despite taking about a gallon of blood,
apparently the testing company performed the WRONG TEST on my blood,
so they had no results.

Ex-squeeze me? Baking Powder? How do you make a small mistake on a
$5000 DNA blood test? Naturally, the doctor pointed the finger at the
company who did the blood test, something about them changing codes
and not telling the clinic, blah blah blah. I didn't care whose fault
it was, the doctor was in front of me and he would feel my fury! I
couldn't believe that they would have me take a whole day off work in
August when the WRONG results came in back in late June and they
didn't notice until now. He apologized (for the blood company, of
course) and said the blood company would do the right test with the
other gallon-minus-one-drop of blood they had left and they could call
me with the results. Gee, that would have been a good option in the
first place!

Five hours later, and we finally got back home. What a waste of day.
The next week, the admin called me and said "yea, the blood company
wants to go ahead and take another blood sample." Of course, I told
them what the doctor said so she was going to call me back after
talking to them. She calls back and says yep, they need more blood! I
was not amused and asked who was going to pay for it this time. "Don't
worry, we'll just bill your insurance". The hell you will, I told her!
Insurance doesn't pay for everything and I am not paying a dime for a
second test or another appointment. They agreed to take care of it (of
course I got it in writing) and now I get to wait for the mosquito to
come back to my apartment and take more blood, followed by another
month of delays and waiting. It'll be great if they come back with the
results and have determined that I was mis-diagnosed the whole time,
like on that show "Mystery Diagnosis". I don't think I'll be so lucky!

J. Riley, time to go prepare for tonight's feature presentation!

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Bux Town Wedding

So Erika and I are going to my friend Jeff's wedding down in Charleston, SC in October. Last I checked, it's now August and somehow I hadn't arranged all of my travel plans yet - what's happening to me!!! Last week, I checked the flights down there and they were a whopping $274 each for a direct flight. Doing the math for flight and hotel, I was looking at a grand. Geez, and I'm having a hard enough time paying for my own wedding!

Anyway, I checked flights later in the week only to almost gouge my eyes out when I saw how much flights were now going for. Is this possible? I considered a 12-hour road trip in a rental car but for a weekend trip that's quite a haul and with gas and rental car prices, I'd probably come out even.

So last night, I started the great search for reasonable flights and ended up booking them to Charlotte for $200 a pop. Pretty reasonable price, but that's still a four hour drive to Charleston. So, I decided to use something I've never tried before: . I actually bid $14 for a rental car and got it accepted! With all their scam fees and taxes, it's going to be $100 for the weekend, but that's not bad. Plus, I'm taking a day off on Friday for the flight and drive and it'll be October so the drive should be beautiful. Monday is Colombus Day and is a holiday for me, so that'll be a four-day weekend for us in what is supposedly lovely, historic Charleston, SC.

J. Riley, finally I'll be getting my long-desired road-trip, long weekend. Too bad it's not until October!