Category Archives: Autobiography

Conversations In Bars: The I.R.A.


Today’s Music: Neil Young – Keep On Rockin In The Free World

*Note on today’s post: As with everything that happens to me in a bar, this is as true as I remember it. However, unlike most of my bar stories, I was sober for this one.

Ah yes, here we are again...

Ah yes, here we are again…


It was a Tuesday afternoon when I showed up to hit on the bartender.
I’d seen her a few nights before, working the Sunday night shift. This particular bar, in a working class neighborhood, was an Irish hangout. Saturday night, the place was awash in uilleann pipe music, cameraderie and pints of Guinness.
A friend of mine brought me there. I had a blast. That night ended early the next morning at someone’s apartment, with a rum-soaked dash into the neighbor’s pool for a quick dip before the neighbor came out in his boxers to yell at us.
But that’s another story.
This is how it always starts.

This is how it always starts.


So after a bit of discreet investigation, I found out the bartender also worked the Tuesday day shift. I got there around 1 pm. The place was just about empty. I ordered a pint (mmm…afternoon drinking…) and waited for her to come back over so I could strike up a conversation.
While I was waiting, the guy who was sitting a bit down the bar wandered over and started talking. He’d started his afternoon drinking while it was still morning.

What followed was quite possibly the strangest real-life conversation I’ve ever had.

The Other Guy: Hello. Who are you?
El Guapo: Hey. I’m [name redacted].
TOG: Did they send you?
EG (looking a bit confused): Sorry?
TOG: Did they tell you where to find me?
EG: (Even more confused): Sorry, who?
TOG: Would it be easier for you if I turned around?
EG (Bewildered): Would what be easier?
TOG: To shoot me.
EG: (Lonnnng pause) Sorry man, I’m just here for a beer.
The guy makes one of those “oh, so that’s how it is” expressions. I, still bewildered go back to my beer, trying to figure out what the hell just happened.
But The Other Guy wasn’t done.

TOG: I’ve been here over ten years, but I knew they wouldn’t forget. Now with all these peace talks, I knew they’d send someone over to clean up.
EG: Listen man, I’m just here to hit on the bartender
TOG: Sure you are. I guess it wouldn’t help if I tell you about my life here since I’ve been gone…

So for the next while, we chatted. He told me stories of the old country, of his kids. He told me about the construction business he’d built up.
The drink flowed freely.
I must have opened my mouth and spoke at some point, because eventually, he realized I was too much of an idiot to be anyone’s hit man.

The evening (yeah, we were there for a while) ended when he said he had to head off. I told him I needed food. He offered to give me his construction business.
I heartily agreed.

And that was the last I ever saw of him.

I could have built my very own Assassin HQ!

I could have built my very own Assassin HQ!


And the bartender? Apparently The Other Guy scared here and she didn’t want to mess around with any of his friends.
Meh.

Worst. Theme Park. Ever.


Today’s Music:
Tom Petty – Runnin Down A Dream

Windowless. So the fun can't escape.

Windowless. So the fun can’t escape.


The fun starts in the parking lot! Grab a ticket. Drive up towards the guy who presumably works there. (The “Attendant” jacket is a clue.) Then find out that he either doesn’t, or doesn’t care. Find four spots. See that the other idiots have parked in two spots at three of them.
Wedge your way into the fourth spot.
Success!
Now the real fun begins.
The attendant at the DMV actually does pay attention. Unlike the old days, there is a kiosk. Tell the nice man what you want, and he’ll tap the correct key and a ticket will spit out, with a number.
If you’re really lucky, he’ll even have the form you need!

So I get my ticket and fill out my form. Then I wait. And wait. And wait.
Finally they call my number! I go to the window and tell them why I’m there. They say great! Make sure when we call you back, you stress what you’re here for, even if it’s me. Because I certainly won’t remember. Oh, and your wife can’t wait with you.
(Fortunately, I thought there might be waiting and asked her to bring her book.)
(Which she’d have done anyway.)
(God, I love that woman!)

So I sit.
And wait……..

Eventually, they call me again.
I sit down to take my test.
Twenty questions.
Over half of them are about driving and alcohol. I’ve been driving for over twenty years. I answer those questions easily.
Two of them are on road signs. I guess. Seriously, does anyone actually read the signs, or do we all just check the shape and color? Three of them are motorcycle-specific. I did study, so I answer those carefully and correctly.

Hand in the test, and…wait!
Sigh.
To recap: Enter, get a number ticket, sign in, take the test and hand it in.
Time to do this: 18 minutes.
Time spent at DMV so far (including waiting): 107 minutes.

Annnnnny Daaaaay Nowwwww................

Annnnnny Daaaaay Nowwwww…………….


I’m now waiting for them to grade my test and call me up to sign the form and tell me if I passed.
There is a woman doing this with a trainee. The two of them are having a grand old time, laughing and telling each other stories. In twenty minutes, four applicants are processed.
The trainee gets up to get another chair. He leaves the woman at the counter by herself for 9 minutes. Six more applicants are processed.
My turn!!!
“Did I pass?”
She looks back at the form.
“You did. 100%. First one on the motorcycle exam today. Now, sign here, and wait for your name to be called at the register.”
YIPPE– crap.

And I (sing it with me!) wait…

Finally they call me to pay.
“Can I use cash”
“Mumble mumble”
“Ok…how much do I owe you”
“mumble mumble”
“Sorry, how much?”
“TWENTY TWO FIFTY.”
I drop my money on the counter.
She makes change and hands me my permit.

Three hours after I arrived, I leave the DMV.

Next is the Motorcycle Safety Foundation two day course.
At least that ride has seats.

Hey, if Marcia could learn to not break the egg... (Please tell me you get that reference,)

Hey, if Marcia could learn to not break the egg…
(Please tell me you get that reference,)

An Odder Week Than Usual…


Today’s Music: The Offspring – The Kids Aren’t Alright

So here’s the latest from my corner of the world…
– My boss of the last several years has quit. His last day is this week.
I had a conversation with my new boss. I asked who was my backstop if an issue comes up that I can’t deal with. His response was to kick it along the line to the people taking over. So, great that it isn’t my responsibility, but I’ve spent the last several years with my company before we were bought.
From what I understand, there hasn’t been much of a brain dump from my boss to the new overlords. Which means all the institutional knowledge my boss holds is about to walk out the door.
I don’t mind change, and we have a great product, now under the umbrella of a multinational company, so it can be taken that much farther. And it would be nice to stick around and grow with the new company.
Plus taking a new job is always a pain in the ass. but I’m still waiting to see if we’re all just interchangeable cogs in the machine, or if this is actually an environment I feel like coming to daily.
Jury is still out on that…

Mine is the one that stands out. Obviously.

Mine is the one that stands out.
Obviously.


– After reading stories from CurvyRoads and REDDog, as well as a ton of great pics from Gray Dawster, I’ve decided to actually go and get my motorcycle license. Hopefully, I’ll have my permit soon, then it’s off to the Motorcycle Safety class and a whole bunch of riding lessons. I had an old Suzuki GS 750 decades ago, but never got around to getting a license. I figured this time I’d do it properly.
My wife, (The Most Wonderful Girl In The Universe), is still very against me getting a bike (NYC driving is a full contact sport), but I’d like to be able to rent when we’re in more motorcycle friendly areas.
Plus riding a bike down the Pacific Coast Highway is on my list of things to do.
You know what would look good on this? Me.

You know what would look good on this?
Me.


– I still haven’t heard from Big Brothers/Big Sisters. I can only guess that they are trying to sort through the list of all the kids that want to hang out in my awesomeness. I’ll follow up with them later this week and see where that stands.
My work is halfway done already...

My work is halfway done already…


– The model railroad looks a bit like a cross between Three Mile Island, and the Manhattan High Line railroad before they turned it into a park: a mess.
I’m trying to decide whether to just rip up and re-lay all the track, or strip it down to the wood and start again. Either way, I really need to learn how to solder.
If anyone knows any good tips or instruction sources, I’d really appreciate it.
Clearly, I'm modeling the latest tsunami/earthquake/nuclear explosion.

Clearly, I’m modeling the latest tsunami/earthquake/nuclear explosion.


– I took today off (late night last night), and Friday is a day off too. More time with TMWGITU!
Woohoo!
Rings
And around it goes…

How’s your week looking?

Traveling Man: Would You Like Some Snow With Your Snow?


Today’s Music: Lyle Lovett – Here I Am21
Days Til Spring: 21

(After you’ve read this, check out the great thing Zoe is doing for Merbear. If you can help out, even by just spreading the word, that would be fantastic!)

When last we left our intrepid idiot (and his much smarter wife, they had left the cold winter of Montreal for…well…the cold winter of Ottawa.

We took this trip without renting a car. We walked all over, and used public transportation when we needed it. To get from Montreal to Ottowa, we took a Greyhound. Not too expensive, free wifi, and plenty of legroom. I slept through the ride down grey bleary highways.
So how did I know we actually arrived in Ottawa when we disembarked? Because only the big city bus terminals have this in the mens room:

Would a smaller city have such nice accouterments?

Would a smaller city have such nice accouterments?

Having established our location, it was time to get our winter on!
Actually, it was time for that whether we wanted it or not. On the cab ride from the bus depot to the hotel, the driver flew over slush and snow filled roads at normal driving speeds. I was terrified, but he was moving normally in traffic.

Like Montreal, Ottawa also celebrates the snow with its own Winter Festival. In a park across the street from us, there was a snow carving competition. Some of the entries were simply breathtaking.

Ice bowlers are HUGE in Canada!

Ice bowlers are HUGE in Canada!

Wheeee!!!!

Wheeee!!!!

Under The Reef.

Under The Reef.

This is my desktop background now.

This is my desktop background now.

Having gotten our bearings, we wandered over to Byward Market for lunch. The Market is a huge open air mall/flea market. Vendors sell prepared food, produce, trinkets, and there are street performers everywhere. We went into a seafood restaurant.
A couple getting up as we were leaving said they were headed home to Montreal (small world!) and gave us the rest of their gift card.

Because Canadians really are that nice.

The next day bloomed bright and sunny. After a quick breakfast (without Canadian bacon – because seriously, that isn’t bacon), we set out on the day’s adventures.
My wife had one thing on her mind. I had one thing on my mind.
Despite them being two different things, we were lucky that we could do them both in the same place: The Rideau Canal.
The Canal cuts through Ottawa, and is used these days mostly for pleasure boats. Except in winter when it freezes.
And is opened for Ice Skating!!!

Only graceful skaters in this pic. So no, not me.

Only graceful skaters in this pic.
So no, not me.

We’d heard about this on a summer trip up to Ottawa to meet Charles DeLint, and it had been on our list ever since.
Check!
And something my wife discovered that she soon introduced me to – Beaver Tails!
BeaverTweet
These delicious flat, long pastries can only be described as…well…delicious. And sticky.
Grab as many napkins as you can, it still won’t be enough. But the mess will be worth it!

So simple. So delicious. So Canadian.

So simple. So delicious. So Canadian.

With that out of the way, we were off to the highlight of the trip – John Hiatt and Lyle Lovett on stage together!
The two of them have been doing this tour for years. 2 guys, 2 acoustic guitars. On several songs, they backed each other up, both singing and playing. In between songs, they told stories, explained the songs, even played with the audience a bit.

The pale blob on the right is John. The paler blob is Lyle.

The pale blob on the right is John. The paler blob is Lyle.

We’ve seen them both separately and loved them, but together was even better. There were no revelations during the show or transcendental moments, but watching two old pros slip on their songs like comfortable old bathrobes was easily worth the ticket.

This is from a show they did at the end of last year, but it gives the feel of the show.

So after a long weekend of freezing cold, lots of snow, strange food and great music, it was tie to go home. Or so we thought.
Returning to the hotel after breakfast the next day to get to the airport hours early for an international flight, it turns out the flight was cancelled.
Because of snow.
In New York.

Yes, the hotel staff laughed at us.
But they also had room for us to stay the extra night, gave us the numbers we needed to call to find a flight for the next day, and told us where to go for an excellent dinner.
And then laughed at us some more.

So we caught a 6 am flight and landed back in NYC. I was at my desk my ten am, and asleep in my chair by two pm.
My boss let me go home at 4 pm.

And I went promptly to sleep, to dream of gravy, pastry, music and sooo much snow.

Thank you Canada. I had a blast. Can’t wait to see you again!

Canada always makes me feel right at home.

Canada always makes me feel right at home.

Travelin’ Man – Stupid Is More Than Just A Word


Today’s Music: Christopher Cross – Ride Like The Wind
Days Til Spring: 30

It started with an innocent conversation between me and my wife (The Most Wonderful Girl In The Universe).
Me: Hey honey, want to go to Canada in February?
TMWGITU: *thinks* Who’s playing?
(She knows me so well! And we’ve had this conversation before. A lot.)
Me: John Hiatt and Lyle Lovett. Acoustic! On stage at the same time!
TMWGITU: *sighing* Ok.

So my wife (who rarely thinks just a concert is reason enough for crossing an international border) planned a long weekend for us in Canada – two days in Montreal, two in Ottawa. Fortunately, when it was time for the trip, NYC was on the verge of a heat wave – 40 Fahrenheit! – so, in fine stupid fashion, off we went to Canada!

Montreal in winter was stunning! After checking into our room, we walked over to Old Montreal to get our very first (so we thought) Poutine.
Poutine is a local delicacy of french fries smothered in gravy and cheese curd. One of the options at the place we went was to get it with smoked meat.

The French on the soda bottle is how you know I'm in Montreal.

The French on the soda bottle is how you know I’m in Montreal.


We were in time for their FĂȘte des Neiges, an annual celebration of snow, held on a small island in the Saint Lawrence river. We took the subway to get there, and I added yet another rail pass to the collection (which sadly consists of only New York, London and Montreal).

The festival was a massive party – Ferris wheel, zip line from the museum, live child foozball.
Yes, you read that right.

At last! A use for kids I approve of!

At last! A use for kids I approve of!

After that (and a great night’s sleep), we headed out the next morning to the top of Montreal to get bagels.
Back near the beginning of the twentieth century, Old World Jews migrated to Canada. Among the traditions, rituals and foods they brought with them were bagels.
I’m from NYC, born and bred. So after my wife told me how famous Montreal bagels were, and people around the hotel raved about them, I had to check them out. The big difference between Montreal bagels and real bagels (yeah, I said it) is that Montreal bagels are boiled in water with honey added. If I hadn’t known it was honey, I wouldn’t quite have been able to identify what was wrong with them. Lucky me.

It kinda looks like a bagel.  But the resemblance ends there.

It kinda looks like a bagel.
But the resemblance ends there.


To be fair, we did go to the two oldest, most famous bakeries to try the bagels.
I’ll stick with an NYC. Preferably with a schmear.

Part two will cover Ottawa, because otherwise, this post would be very long.
So until then, enjoy this view of a ferris wheel rising from the snow.
Ferris Wheel
And some random guys playing hockey on a rink in the projects. Because Canada.
20140131_200908

On A Dime…


Today’s Music: Soulive – Soul Serenade

I’m sitting back at home right now. I’m pretty relaxed. The errands and chores for the day are pretty much done.
I’ve had some time to poke around the web, read some blogs, laugh at twitter.
I’m listening to some good music.

Yes. That grumpy.

Yes. That grumpy.


My week didn’t start off that good. NYC was ridiculously hot and humid for about a week, and everyone was just miserable. I had Trombone Shorty tickets Monday night, with Soulive opening, promising to be a good show.
Soulive was great. Trombone Shorty was on fire. The crowd (as it did most of the times I’ve been to Central Park Summerstage) sucked.
It’s a personal thing, but my friends and I go to concerts to see the music, not to try and talk loudly over the music and pretend the venue is our living room.
Then it started to rain hard. So we left about twenty minutes into Trombone’s set.
Tuesday was a pain in the ass – email problems, computer problems, Big Red having issues with his computer stemming from the fact that he doesn’t know how to read what’s on the screen, other people having problems because obviously the instructions to do this and not that don’t apply to them because they’re special.
I kept thinking that the best solution would be to just throw their computer in the river, with them right behind it.
Wednesday was the same. New coworker thinks his job is 8 to 5. So any testing or maintenance or other work on weekends isn’t his problem.
I don’t mind doing the work because it has to be done, but it would be nice if there was someone to split the load with.

I was grumpy.
Office
Then I got to Thursday.
I had a doctor’s appointment at 0930, and since I’d be out all morning, I figured I’d take the rest of the day as a mental health day.
My wife (The Most Wonderful Girl In The Universe asked if she should take the day off too.
Sure! I said, with one condition – it couldn’t be a chore day, and we had to go out and play.
She agreed (there’s a reason she’s TMWGITU!).

So we made a reservation to go stand up paddleboarding in lower Manhattan (Pier 40) in the early afternoon. Because it was late when my appointment ended, we drove in. On the way, it started raining. then it started raining harder.
We found a spot as the rain dwindled away and made it to the place (N.Y. Kayak).
25 minutes later, we were changed, on the dock, and ready to slide the boards into the water and shove off.
In we went. Kneeling as we paddled out, I felt the beginnings of a smile on my face.
10 minutes later, I stood up, took two strokes and with a shout of “GOING ON!!!” completely lost my balance and flopped backwards into the Hudson River off West Street.
I surfaced with a big grin on my face, no trace of grumpiness, and pleasantly untensed shoulders.
And my mood turned on a dime.

That's fun right there!

That’s fun right there!


The rest of the day was a blur of fun – two hours in the water, finishing with a fantastic foray into the river itself, with a current fast enough that it was all I could do to paddle and keep my place…a trip to Chelsea Market for one of the best burgers I’ve had in a while (it was a lamb burger, but still, delicious!) and a delicious bottle of ice cold American Ale (this wasn’t gluten free, but apparently that’s available these days too), followed by some incredible freshly made mini donuts and then a stroll along the Highline park, built on an old elevated freight line along 10th avenue.
My mood couldn’t be broken, not even when the guy from NY Kayak called and told me I’d left our bag of wet clothes behind. We laughed as we flew back down to get it.
Grumpy? Yeah, I can fix that...

Grumpy? Yeah, I can fix that…


Friday was a quiet day. Dealt with whatever came up (which wasn’t much), mostly sat at my desk and caught up on blogs. Then for the evening, we went out for a nice dinner and saw a great set by Paula Poundstone, along with a few bottles of the ever satisfying Rogue Dead Guy Ale, a beer that will always have a special place in my heart.

Now I’m sitting at my computer writing this, and in a few minutes, I’ll pick up my guitar and a beer (Blue Moon, I think) and spend a quiet evening with my girl.
I don’t know when the next time I’ll get to go out for an adventure, but I’ll start planning another mental health day as soon as I feel the grumps coming on.

Makes me wonder, how do you deal with them?

Wave Hello. Now Wave Goodbye. Now Wave Hello Again


Today’s Music: John Mellencamp – Just Another Day

So around this time last year, my mother was getting ready for a heart procedure that would end, ultimately, in her passing.
It was a difficult stretch of time, as readers that were here at the time might recall. I put up a few posts about her condition, and a few about mine at the time.
Before that, my father-in-law went through open heart surgery. It took him a while to get through that, and then through rehab, and finally back on his feet.
During both incidents, I and my wife (The Most Wonderful Girl In The Universe) visited both parents constantly. In the months this was going on, we missed maybe 12 days. (7 of those were spent in Portland, a trip which my family said we should take since it had been booked before hand. And we needed the break.)

When December 31 2012 rolled around, I couldn’t have been happier to see the rear end of that year.

So here we are in 2013. TMWGITU and I go just about daily to visit my father-in-law in rehab, this time due to a clot that lodged in his leg, cutting off all circulation to his lower leg for a few hours.
The hospital responded well, and within hours of his admittance, they were performing surgery and successfully cleared the clot.
One of the side effects of the procedure is an incision that was made in his leg to drain any swelling. That incision cut muscle which is what needs to be rehabbed.

So as I said, our summer so far is once again trips to visit in rehab. And cleaning. but that’s a different rant.
(We have to clean his apartment so that he’ll be able to navigate with a cane/walker/whatever.)

It’s funny how everything old is new again…

So, another week goes, another week comes. This part of the story will have a happy ending soon enough.

But if this keeps up, I’m just going to disconnect the phone and have them hold my mail next summer.

I'll have nine please.

I’ll have nine please.