Friday, November 21, 2008

This Week in Investing

So my employer's stock went from about 12 to about 3 this week. I think that was around the same trajectory as Lehman went before they went bankrupt, Bear Stearns before they had to get saved by JPM Chase, and AIG before they got owned by the government, literally. It's a great time to go to Peru, hope my job still exists when I get back :o/

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

As Promised...

A few months back, I found out my childhood friend was going to be playing a show under his writer's name Bassnectar. Christmases excluded, I think the last time I saw him was about five years ago when I ran into him while I was in line for a club up in San Fran with Stefan and his friends. He had been playing that night and somehow we recognized each other and I got to pretend I was all awesome and stuff by hanging out in the DJ booth with him overlooking and rocking the crowd. 

This time, it would be in New York City, quite close to the nexus of the universe, in fact. I met up with Susannah, his sister, and her boyfr...Irishman friend Shane. I'd heard about this guy because he is a fan of Everton, the Merseyside arch-rivals of my beloved Liverpool Reds. He had passed on some trash talking text messages via Susannah the weekend before but I knew I had a comeback for any trouble that he wanted to start :o) . But, he was in fact a pretty cool guy - especially for an Everton fan. 

Susannah was so excited to introduce me to him (slight embellishment ;o) that we all got to the club early so we could go have a pint before the show. Well, actually not a pint - a liter! We checkd out the bier-garten at Loreley, a favorite German beer pub of mine around the corner. Of course they serve stellar brews there and Shane and I both ordered up a "mass" (one-liter stein) of Warsteiner, one of my favorite beers ever while we talked about who he was and why Everton sucked so much and why I was a Liverpool fan. 

After the brewsky, we headed back to the club, where a group of under-21s were congregating since this is probably the only other place than Webster Hall that actually allows people from 18-20 years old. I felt like a creepy old man in this place! Well, there were a couple of opening acts that were actually quite good and entertaining, like this scratcher guy Mike Relm who had some very cool mixes and videos (check out his live "O-Face" act) .

After him, Lorin was up and the crowd got all crazy. We finagled our way in front of all of the teenagers right up to the stage and danced along with his music, which was a lot different than the stuff he played the last time I heard him. And, to be honest, I didn't really get into it that much, but I was interested in watching him groove to the crowd and also was visualizing his whole setup. Clearly, the electronica industry has changed a ton since I last saw Paul Oakenfold live because everything Lorin did was on a computer and the mixer. I don't think he had any turntables, which is crazy to me. I'd love to get my hands on some of THAT software to mix up some crazy scheisse. 

Towards the end of the show, we went backstage to this little mini-room where they had all the snacks, free beers, and the guys who had played earlier hanging out. Some interesting folks were back there, like a loud-mouthed band-manager who seemed to know everyone and was a total dirty schmoozer type. After the show, the dude brought three eighteen year-old girls backstage (if that old) and was all trying to work them until they left, probably because their mom was waiting for them out front in the mini-van ;o) . He was kinda funny though and it was entertaining watching him go back and forth with Susannah and him talking about all the gay guys he could set Susannah's friend up with and her friend talking about all the hot 23-year-old Jewish girls he could set up this guy with. This guy clearly liked to be at the center of attention, though :o) 

Lorin came back after the show, all pumped up and sweaty and had to lower his blood pressure for a few minutes with just me and Susannah since his manager kicked everyone else, which was cool. He was super-cool like always and strangely still normal despite all his fame. After the show, he was supposed to play at another club that I'd never heard of, starting at 3:30am. So we headed over there and he got out of the cab down the block and we went in to check out the scene to report back to him if it was worth going to or not. Inside, Mr. Superstar Band Manager plumped his credit card so we could all order drinks, but I was doing fine at the moment and, by 4:00am, I was pretty much beat. Lorin decided to go to the hotel and crash instead of playing the next show (I guess he can do that) but overall it was a pretty sureal experience with this host of characters!

J. Riley, it's kind of hard to explain these kinds of experiences, it's another one of those "New York Moments"!!

Believe It or Not...

First, some administrative information regarding the wedding next year. Erika has gotten ahold of the manager of a very nice, local hotel chain in Lima (Miraflores), Peru (Casa Andina for you Googlers)  and has gotten a verbal agreement for a 15% discount on hotel rooms for guests to our wedding. They have three local locations including a 3-star, a 5-star (for Sean), and one a little outside of central Miraflores that I've stayed at. Erika calls it "normal star", whatever that means :o). In any case, that is one option and if you want to make a reservation there, you should send me an email so I can give you the manager's email address so you can deal directly with him. He speaks English, of course. 

For the stingy crowd (people like me), there is another hotel in Central Miraflores next to the park called La Casa de Sanchez. There's no discount there, but the prices are pretty good already. If I was traveling, I would stay here. But Casa Andina hotels are really nice (and more expensive) and, a crucial dealmaker, has wireless internet :o). 

A third option is to check Craigslist for Peru and rent an apartment in Miraflores for like $35 a night. That is what I am doing and typically have done in the past. It's hard to beat that price and you can have your own oceanfront view from your bedroom, overlooking Lima, and a full kitchen, internet, cable TV, etc. 

Contrary to popular opinion, I AM actually capable of surviving three weeks without my wife. For crying out loud, I've only lived alone for the past 12-odd years and did perfectly fine, if you consider living in a messy, cob-webbed apartment with death-like stenched towels, annually washed sheets and blankets, and a weekly pile of dirty dishes "fine". Somehow the wife has rubbed me the right way because today I did laundry and actually voluntarily grabbed my towelto wash and the dishes have been done all week. I guess learning is still a long process since I only washed my pillow-cases because they are most likely drool-drenched thanks to this massive mouthguard that I am reluctantly wearing and suffocating with every night. Plus, I chose a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad pineapple to make juice with yesterday... 

J. Riley, check out my new "Reactions" below - I totally copy-catted Summer

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Dueling Yukeleles

Paul is a Renaissance man when it comes to tunes. Last year, he introduced me to the wonders of boot-stompin', PBR-drinkin', ass-kickin' redneck-hipster bluegrass music in the Hackensaw Boys. Yesterday, he introduced me to yet another off-the-wall, who-woulda-thunk-it's-so-awesome genre of music, the Ukelele Wah Wah event at the Blender Theater. Yes, the ukelele.

But before I get into that, let's break down yesterday a little bit. My first day sans-wife and yes I did, in fact, make the bed :-O !! My apartment is slowly, but surely, disintegrating into disrepair but I gotta get some credit for making the bed! I think the only time I made the bed prior to Erika's arrival was after I washed the sheets and blankets (which was an annual event).

Anyway, after work I had an orthodontist appointment. Ohhh...the orthodontist. As some may know, my talented tongue has been wreaking havoc on my buckteeth and basically reverting my bite to something like it was prior to two years, two surgeries, and thousands of bucks, i.e. "tearing, not biting a sandwich" as one orthodontist in my past described it. Last time I was at the ortho, he decided that I should try a new torture device called a "Positioner", which would make small changes to my bite. My mouth was modeled, diagnostics were performed, and out popped my appliance, which I received last night.

I was in suspicious mood, so I queried my ortho about this device. As in, why am I using it. The skies opened, a ray of light shown down, angels were singing, and he told me, and I'm paraphrasing, that he did research into finding a better solution than a retainer to deal with the massive changes that my jaw has been through and the fact that I have an "aggressive tongue" (watch out Erika). He busted out a model of my jaws (created with the molds) both before and after using this Positioner. Basically, they take my current bite, they make changes to the model to create the "Paul Newman" bite, and then they build this Positioner to ease your teeth into position.

Now the Positioner is no cakewalk. It is, essentially, like a tooth-molded mouthguard. In fact, the pamphlet even says that you can use this for contact sports. I have to "chew" in this thing four hours a day for a few weeks/months and wear it at night in order to move my teeth to the new position. It's extremely drooly, but the good news is that it has a wintermint (borrowing that from Tom's of Maine) flavor too it, so it's not nasty like my old retainer.

But it totally makes sense when you see it. A lot of my work involves writing emails, so I can sit here all day and workout my jaw muscles on this thing. And it is already working after just one day, so I have high hopes for this device and don't be surprised if Paul Newman arrives the next time you see me.

So last night, Paul and I went to go see the Yukelele music festival, headlined by a Japanese/Hawaiian guy named Jake Shimabukuro. Before he was on stage, we got to listen to a pretty cool, suave, Hawaiian sounding band with the slide guitar and yukele and a hip-hop band featuring the yukelele, a beat-boxer, a bass guitar, and an awkward fourth-guy whose role in the band did not seem critical. He wasn't sure what to do with his hands, so he stuck them in his pockets and sang a few chords (looking at the words on his sheet) occassionaly. I figured he must be the trust-fund kid who's dad sponsored the band, since he was so useless.

But Jake Shimabukuro? I can't describe him, so just watch.

We also heard from Michael Jackson ("Thriller"), The Beatles, and even Johan Sebastian Bach! Amazing!

J. Riley, my teeth have already moved and are SORE. That's good news, though....

Airport Tales

I've had some good stories in the past about flight mishaps and
problems. Plenty, in fact. And Tuesday, I added a jewel to my crown of
airport issues. Erika was flying to Peru on Tuesday, election night,
where she would stay for the next month, visiting her friends and
family, preparing for a certain wedding, etc. etc.

Erika spent the last two days getting gifts for the myriad of cousins
and third cousins and uncles, and great aunts, etc. etc. and had three
bags of luggage, two for check in and one for carry on. I was not
looking forward to going to the airport because a.) it was election
night, history in the making, and b.) these bags were so big and heavy
there was no way I was going to be able to take them on the subway to
take the Air-train. I relented, and taxi it was.

Erika had asked me if she needed to confirm her flight or needed to
print anything out for the flight, and of course, being well-versed in
the ways of traveling to Peru on LAN, I told her she didn't need
anything. This is my specialty. Just let me take over and I'll get you
on the plane. So we arrive at the airport and the first thing the
chick at the counter asks for is her flight confirmation. Huh?
Apparently they couldn't find her name on the flight. Ummm, why? She
did some typing, made some phone calls, did some more typing and told
us that her reservation was for MONDAY night, not Tuesday. Oh
scheisse. Oops. Really?

She brought the greasy supervisor over and he told us that Erika could
standby for the flight, even though it was overbooked by ten people
already. Being the rock in our relationship, I immediately comforted
Erika with my negativity, assuring her that there was no way I made a
mistake, that she wasn't going to get on the flight, that we'd have to
try to find a cheap flight for the next week, etc. etc. I'm smooth
like that. No wonder she loves me so much!

Somehow, amazingly, she actually made it on the list and just had to
pay the $130 change-ticket fee. A hell of a lot cheaper than a new
ticket. Anything else? The biotch at the counter said that her
carry-on was too big. Are you kidding me? I've traveled for years with
that thing, always carrying it on, including on LAN for the past two
years. Well, it was $50 to add it and I was done with the stress, so I
told her to check it. Wait, it's not $50? It's $150? To check an extra
bag that shouldn't have to be checked? I was pretty pissed off, but
the fact that she was getting on the flight was not worth me losing my
patience at the counter and getting Erika kicked off of the list.

Erika made it on the flight, she'll be able to celebrate her mom's
birthday after-all, and Obama won the election, so not such a bad
night after all. But I think next time, I'll print the damn
confirmation sheet.

J. Riley, I never did find the email confirmation...


I'm not much of a Halloween person. I don't think I've dressed up for
the pagan holiday since probably high school (when we raided and
pillaged the rich neighborhood way up Shannon Road), but this year
Erika was excited about it being her first one, so she wanted to go
out in style. Sean had some "inside" scoop on some "underground"
warehouse parties deep in Brooklyn, so we settled on that as our
agenda for the evening.

Well, Erika and Roberta didn't get to Astoria until around 9:00
because they were out trying out wedding dresses that day. Erika found
her dream dress apparently and I gave her the stamp of approval to
purchase. Believe it or not, it is actually cheaper to buy dresses
here than in Peru (supposedly). The dress shop sales rep talked to me
and told me that they would do the alterations after the dress came in
in January, not mentioning the price. Assuming that the dress shop is
a complete rip-off of magnificent proportions, I asked how much the
alterations cost. Up to $350! Are you KIDDING me? Eff that, we'll take
it to a neighborhood tailor instead.

Anyway, rather than spending hundreds on a kick-ass costume, Erika and
I decided to go with the face makeup as our prop. Looking to remake
my face as the object of evil and scaring little children and adults
alike like I did at the Bronx zoo last weekend, I went with the dark
green Wicked Witch of the West look, complete with glue-on moles and
some crazy clothes, including home-made ass-less chaps...errr, jeans.
Erika got done up with some face-art and a cute little outfit with a
loose-tie while Roberta stayed true to her colors and dressed up as
the flag of Italy. Not bad for $20's worth of face paint.

So we headed out to Bushwick, Brooklyn for the party. It was like a
good hour's trip, with two train connections, just to get there. Then,
we had to walk for probably 20 minutes down towards the water to get
to the warehouse. Oh, the things we do to keep it real and go
underground! Finally we get there, and what do we see? Cops outside
the joint and like 50 people trying to get in, with more and more
arriving in taxis every minute. What a joke! The place was too full
for anyone to even get in and the cops were going to shut it down for
fire code violations, I suppose.

Soon thereafter, we met up with Sean and tried to check out another
party nearby that was also closed for fire code violations. At this
point, it was approaching 2:00am and it had been a waste of an
evening. It dawned on me that it may feel like you're going out to
some small spot in the middle of the countryside when you go to these
places but, really, you're still in NYC and the city is not lawless.

The most exciting part of the evening happened when we were waiting
for the subway to take us home. We some some cops tear off down the
platform to arrest some guy for some reason (probably drunk, probably
fighting). At that point, someone opened the gate to let a bunch of
freeloaders onto the platform without paying and a plainclothes cop
came running back and tried to pull someone out of the subway car we
were in, even grabbing his gun as if to threaten the guy. Really? For
not paying his $2 subway entrance? Eventually the cop left the subway
car, probably because he couldn't get the uniformed police down to
cover his 6 :o/ . Other than that, the best part of the evening is
that we paid $0 for the night, an extremely rare event on a Friday

Saturday was a nice autumn day, so we made plans to meet up with
Melissa and Jonathon in Central Park to enjoy the weather and the
wonderful changing colors of fall. It was great, we parked it on a
nice little patch of unoccupied grass overlooking the castle and the
turtle pond, made sandwiches, ate cheese and junk food, and played
some frisbee. Who knew that frisbee can make you actually break a

J. Riley, there's more where that came from! Check back later for
pictures and more tales.