wine by the color

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

I love the NY Daily News. I really do. I know I should be reading the Times, but you won't see headlines like this in the Times.

I know the article is using the National Enquirer as the source for its facts, but I don't have a problem believing any of this.

Whitney allegedly loses her $6,000 set of false teeth when she's high and once appeared toothless, scaring the kids at her niece's school.


That being said, I do hope this doesn't affect future seasons of "Being Bobby Brown."
It's hard to believe I got home from England two weeks ago. Time freaking flies, people. Before I disappear again, I thought I'd hit the high notes...

David, a dear friend and co-worker, announced last August that he was leaving to pursue his master's degree at Cambridge University. Originally, I planned to visit a friend who moved to Brazil but that just wasn't working out, so I instead decided to visit David for a few days. The trip came together quickly and I put together what should have been a solid plan. I was flying the night after my late night in the city for the Big East Tourney and was thus sleep deprived. Two glasses of wine later, I was in great shape for a lengthy nap while crossing the Atlantic.

Total number of hours available to slumber on the flight: 7.5
Total number of hours actually slumbered on the flight: 0.0

Not a good start. So instead of spending Saturday wandering around Cambridge, I spent it sleeping. But I rallied in time to attend a proper British dinner party. I only had to pass on one of the food offerings, a tomato-laden soupy stew. But considering my finicky palate, the fact that I ate the other five courses should be considered a record. I was also impressed with the amount of alcohol consumed during the four-hour gathering. I'm no slouch, but I was amazed at how much wine, champagne and port our British friends put away.

On Sunday we made up for Saturday's lost day. I borrowed a bike from one of David's housemates and we spent the day exploring Cambridge. Doing so on bikes gave it a real British feel, but given the 35-degree temperature, I couldn't feel my face by the day's end. Worth it, though. Cambridge is amazing. I remarked to David that it doesn't even look like a real place - it looks a movie set. Everything is 500+ years old. David managed to get me to attend a service in a church built in the 1500s. Going to church when it's not a wedding or funeral. Interesting concept.

Monday morning we took an early train back to London, where we spent two days seeing everything we could. From the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, to Hyde Park, to Westminster Abbey, to Big Ben and Parliament, to Harrod's, to Piccadilly Circus, to the stores on Saville Row, to St. Paul's Cathedral. The Inns of Court, the Royal Courts of Justice, Covent Garden, the Somerset House. David has learned a ton about London since he arrived in the UK and was a terrific tour guide in what is a fantastic and fascinating city.

I again took a ridiculous number of photos but tried to limit how many I put in a photo gallery. The last photo needs a little back story. On our last evening in London, we ate at an Italian bistro and then decided to have some late-night cocktails. We decided to really live it up and hit the Four Seasons, where the drinks cost almost as much as our dinner had.

As we walked to the Four Seasons, we saw a horde of photographers hovering outside another hotel. We paused briefly but there was no activity, so we walked on. But later, as we walked back to our hotel, they were in full pounce mode. Apparently the Royal Television Society Awards were being held. So I amused myself by taking a photo of paparazzi taking a photo of someone, in this case, British television presenter Jeremy Clarkson. I have no idea who that is, but David indicated he's fairly famous. So there you go.

David left early Wednesday and I spent the morning walking around Hyde Park and making a return to Harrod's. On the way to Heathrow, the train made a stop in Hammersmith, home to the Hammersmith Odeon (now the Hammersmith Apollo), site of the 1975 Springsteen concert I've been listening to constantly of late. Good times. And almost enough to make me forget the filthy, foul-smelling man sitting next to me on the train.


Monday, March 27, 2006

"Hi. I used to date Brad Pitt."

It's been a busy few days and I'm getting ready to resume the road show, so I apologize in advance for what has been and will continue to be spotty posting. You're probably better off as I've also been somewhat cranky, which is partially due to a case of cabin fever. I'm not used to being in the office for long stretches. Fortunately that ends soon, with trips to California, Oregon and Washington in the next few weeks.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Dear Jersey Girl,

We need to talk.

Since you left for the cruise six week ago, your dedication to exercising has been a touch, shall we say, lacking. There's been no running, no biking, no weightlifting, no yoga. You never even looked for the gym on the ship, which we understood. You were vacationing, where food, libations and fun were the priorities, and we were okay with that. We figured you'd ease us back into shape gradually. Maybe start with some light jogging or a little time on the exercise bike and work back up to full speed.

So what the hell were you thinking last night? A high-intensity step class? Were you trying to kill us? We’ve been relatively patient with you and your antics over the years. This is how you repay us? We know it was horrifying to see a photo of your derriere in a bathing suit. That's what you get for letting people take your picture when you're wearing a bathing suit. That's not our fault.

We heard rumblings of a spin class this morning. We were relieved to see cooler heads prevail. Pull any more stunts like last night and there will be hell to pay.

Hugs & kisses,
Your body

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Spending the past few days on the couch has given me plenty of time to catch up on the sporting news.

Let's start with this. I sincerely apologize for linking to Terrell Owens' web site. It's irresponsible on my part and I hope you can forgive me. But as I listened to his god-awful rap (which is surprisingly profanity-free), I could picture Parcells sitting at his desk, listening to this, hanging his head dejectedly and shaking his fist at the large portrait of Jerry Jones that no doubt hangs above his desk.

This time i'm a Cowboy
and i got 'em saying 'wow boy'

and to the hater who said i wouldn't get my money,
i'm laughin' in your face, ha ha, that's funny

I'm going out on a limb here, but I think he might have actually written this ditty himself.

Moving on to college basketball...

I've learned a few valuable lessons about NCAA Tourney pools:
1. Do not count on Big 10 teams, particularly your alma mater, to do well.
2. Do not enter NCAA Tournament pools while jet-lagged after an international flight.
3. If you choose to ignore #2, use a fake name, so that if you stand 163rd out of 163 after the first two rounds in your office pool, people do not know who it is.

The Evil Empire has been in a tither about the female college basketball player who dunked twice in a game Sunday. Total crap. First, she barely dunked - her fingers just made it over the rim. Take off from the foul line and slam it home if you want me to be impressed. Second, it's been done before (perhaps not twice in the same game nor in an NCAA tourney game, but women have dunked before). Georgeann Wells is no doubt sitting home thinking, bitch, I did that 22 years ago.

Speaking of women's basketball, last night my uncle alerted me to the existence of the women's NIT (which has apparently been around since 1998, just to show you how much I've been paying attention). People barely watch the women's NCAAs; do we really need an NIT as well? No one really watches the men's NIT, but at least there is a historical reason for it - it's the oldest college basketball tournament, started in 1938, a year before the NCAA tourney. But a women's NIT ... I'll have to check out ESPN The Ocho to see if they're airing games.

Finally, I sent off a check for my Jets season ticket the other day. There are certainly no guarantees Gang Green will be any better this year, but I'm confident the tailgates will maintain their high level of merriment and general shenanigans. The season opener is five months away.

EDITED TO ADD: I knew I was forgetting something important. See, I was clearly in no shape to go to work today.

One of my favorite Mets, Al Leiter, retired. My favorite Leiter performance at Shea came not during a Mets game but on October 3, 2003. That night, the penultimate show of The Rising tour, Leiter played tambourine during "Rosalita" for Bruce and the band during the encore. Very good times.

Monday, March 20, 2006

If anyone is looking to drop seven pounds in less than 24 hours, might I recommend a robust bout of what was either food poisoning or a stomach virus? Extremely effective.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

And I'm back...

My adventures in England were fantastic and lots will be written about the trip in the coming days. But for now, I have a very busy day ahead.

Friday, March 10, 2006

I'm not bringing my computer to England so this will be my last post for a while, and it pleases me greatly to leave you with this.

It's hard to say what's going on at the Evil Empire, but their technical department apparently has its hands full. Just a warning (mainly for my mother) - if you don't care for the F word, you might not find it quite so humorous.

On a final note, the first half of the Rutgers-Villanova game last night was fantastic. Quincy Douby was absolutely on fire, and the Knights trailed by just one at the half. Unfortunately, they had to play a second half.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Finally, I’ve created a photo gallery from the 300 or so pictures I took while on vacation. That’s the beauty of the digital camera – complete lack of discretion as to how many photos you take, and of what. That one sucks? Gone. Got the back of someone's head again? Gone. I can't believe I waited so long to get one. (Simeon, shut it.)

Anyway, to accompany the photo gallery, I thought I'd recap the trip. Our entire family went, to celebrate my parents' upcoming 40th anniversary. We had a rough start at EWR. My older crazy nephew hates airport security and was disgruntled with the entire process, which resulted in some inhuman shrieking and the eventual assault of a male security officer. But it was smooth sailing from there. We arrived in Miami and had two days before setting sail Saturday afternoon. Most of that time was spent on the beach. Saturday afternoon, we got on our ship, Royal Caribbean's Voyager of the Seas, and set sail at 5 p.m., as the sun started to set.

I'd taken a cruise to Canada a few years ago and really enjoyed it, but this one was even better. The ship was amazing, as was the food and the options of activities. You could do a ton of things, or you could do nothing. I, on the whole, opted to do a whole lot of nothing - never visited the ship's gym, or did any of the structured activities like the basketball tournament or the mini golf tournament. We did a few things. One night we went to an ice show. Every night, we went to the casino. Several times each day, we went to the bar.

We awoke in Nassau, Bahamas, Sunday morning and spent a few hours there. On Monday we enjoyed a full day at sea and arrived in St. Thomas on Tuesday morning. We visited an aquatic sea park on the northern part of St. Thomas, which included a ride in a glass-bottom boat. Wednesday we arrived in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where we spent the morning shopping and wandering through the town. On Thursday, we made what was my favorite stop, in Labadee. Each cruise line apparently has its own private island, and Royal Caribbean’s is Labadee, just off the coast of Haiti. I thought it would be cheesy and overrun with cruise-goers, but I was mistaken. The island was gorgeous and the whole day was extremely relaxing.

Friday was another full day at sea, sailing back up to Miami, where we arrived Saturday morning. We then spent another day in Miami before heading north, where we spent a day at the Kennedy Space Center. We also visited family friends in the Daytona area before flying back, sans airport assault thanks to some masterful child management, to Jersey.

For once, it was an injury-free vacation, but there were two near misses. My right elbow started to ache near week's end, but I truly think that was just from resting it on the tables in the ship's casino for hours each night. Then, there was what we've come to call the "Bathing Suit Episode." My brother and I were standing on the balcony and I was wearing my new bathing suit with a fancy halter top. Apparently, there is a design flaw where the clasp on the top is concerned, which led to the suit springing open while we were facing each other. Fortunately, he slammed his eyes shut quickly enough to not cause blindness or passing out.

Because I'm subscribing to the theory that you can't take enough vacation, tomorrow I'm heading to England to visit my friend David, who is studying at Cambridge for a year. We're going to spend a few days in Cambridge and then head to London. I'll try to check in if I'm not too busy eating fine British cuisine.

Before that, however, KJ and I are heading into the city this afternoon to watch a little Big East hoops. Seton Hall forgot it had a basketball game yesterday and therefore Rutgers is playing Villanova tonight. On paper, the State University of New Jersey should lose by 40, but the last time the two played, Rutgers lost by six in overtime, so who knows what will happen.
Jersey represent. I obviously love living here, but I'm a little surprised to hear we're the fifth most livable state in the nation. Apparently they take things like diners and not having to pump gas into account.

Moran also noted that if auto insurance and property tax rates had been considered, New Jersey's ranking would have sunk like a stone.

Ya think?

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

I read my horoscope daily and I do so with a sense of humor, completely aware that it doesn't mean a thing. But today's is simply horseshit, even by usual horoscope standards.

When you are "on purpose," as you are now, the world appears to you as a magical place once again. Blades of grass rustle in the wind for the sole reason of whispering their wonders to you.

Someone got paid to write that. That makes me weep.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Every time I try to focus on writing about the cruise, something distracts me. Today, it's a whopper of a cover story from this week's Sports Illustrated, an excerpt of an upcoming book that apparently provides all sorts of solid evidence to prove that Barry Bonds did use steroids. This is by no means a shocker, but I am looking forward to reading the details. I've never been one of the six members of the Barry Bonds Fan Club, but he really lost me last year when he tried to play the martyr card.

"You wanted to bring me down," he said. "You've finally brought me and my family down. Finally done it. So now go pick a different person. I'm done. I'm tired of my kids crying. You wanted me to jump off a bridge, I finally jumped."

I particularly enjoyed the columnist's response to that...

Bonds brought this all on himself. Because of his arrogance and the way he's frequently treated people, the media notwithstanding, there's little chance he'll receive leniency from authorities.

I wonder how the Evil Empire will play this. It's a huge story and it would be ridiculous for them to ignore it, even though Bonds is ESPN's new reality star. I also wonder how they'll manage to spin it to make it look like they broke the story, since they're incapable of ever giving anyone else credit.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Anyone who knows me knows the general disdain I have for cheerleaders, but I found this to be impressive.
I borrowed my sister-in-law's wok and made the orange peel chicken on Saturday night and I'll be damned if it didn't taste exactly like P.F. Chang's. No one was more surprised than me.

Yesterday, I exposed the Good Doctor to a hard-core Jersey day - the St. Patrick's Day parade in Belmar. Usually it's bitterly cold and snowing but we were graced with a lovely, sunny day. We spent the afternoon with KJ and her family and a wagon full of beer, and ran into various friends throughout the day, including the recently engaged Local Shill and his future Mrs. After the afternoon of drinking, we hit the diner, where the Good Doctor enjoyed his first pork roll, egg and cheese. I highly doubt his life will ever be the same.

We watched the Oscars when we got home last night (ok, he watched them and I slept on the couch). While flipping through red-carpet photos this morning, there were two that really got my attention. I don't know who Zandra Rhodes is, but I'm pretty sure she does not have a mirror in her house.

Then I came across this picture of Lee Majors and I thought it was sweet that he brought his daughter to the Oscars. He didn't; that's his wife. Then I wondered, what the hell is Lee Majors doing at the Oscars?

Friday, March 03, 2006

While trying to find a recipe for orange peel chicken, I came across this web site, which provides recipes from popular restaurants. They have the P.F. Chang's orange peel chicken recipe, which is perhaps my favorite meal when dining out. However, I do not have a wok, which is going to make it difficult to cook it for dinner tonight.

On a semi-related note, here's a restaurant-etiquette question. One night during our vacation, we were all a little beat so we just did take-out. My brother and I ordered and hung out in the lobby of the restaurant while they prepared our food. When we got the bill, we were torn as to whether or not we should tip the guy who helped us. Technically, he did not perform the traditional waiter function, but he did wait on us. We tipped him a few bucks. Was this the proper way to go?

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Let's skip ahead to The McDonald's That Time Forgot, and I'll talk about the cruise when I get the pictures organized.

After arriving back in Miami post-cruise, we headed to Daytona Beach to visit old family friends. En route, we needed to make a lunch stop. We spotted a Cracker Barrel along 95 which would have been great except for the 45-minute wait. So we moved on to the neighboring McDonald's. My family will be forever grateful for this change of venue, because it has provided enough material to keep us laughing for a while.

We knew something was amiss as soon as we entered the home of the golden arches. The line wound through a good portion of the seating area. But there seemed to be a strange trend where people would finally get up to the counter, order and walk away sans food.

While standing in the lengthy line, I decided to visit the restroom. I knew the handwritten "please knock before entering" was a bad sign but forged ahead. The bathroom-door lock was no longer functioning. Nor was the toilet paper dispenser, so large rolls of TP were simply piled up on the floor for use.

Upon returning to the line, my mother noticed a large bucket on the floor and said, "I wonder what that's doing there." A quick survey of the ceiling provided that answer - one of the drop tiles was completely soaked, and there were huge holes in it. It wasn't raining so one would imagine that had been there a while.

The next highlight was not necessarily McDonald's fault but still must be mentioned. The man in front of us, who I am certain my five-year-old crazy nephew could beat up, ordered a Happy Meal for his little boy. Well, the child did not like the toy that came in his Happy Meal, so the father asked the cashier to see the other toy options. The child didn't like any of those toys, so the father asked if they still had any toys from the last promotion, several weeks prior. At this point, my brother started openly laughing.

While watching this, I also had an eye on a young lass behind the counter who was wearing her McDonald's-issued "I'm Fast, I'm Friendly, I'm Lovin' It" t-shirt. Let me assure you, she was 0-for-3. Not fast, not friendly, certainly not lovin' it. It would be hard to imagine how a person could move any slower. Whenever she used the cash register, she would lean her elbows on the counter, as if pushing register keys required a massive amount of energy. There was a lot of deep sighing from her.

Finally it was our turn to order, and we learned why people kept walking away. That we know of, they were out of grilled chicken, shakes, ice cream and chocolate milk. They kept referring to these items being on "the truck out back." So it took a while, but we finally placed our order. Food in hands, we returned to our vehicles, where my father was waiting with the nephews. We gave him his chicken select sandwich, which he promptly opened and started to look at quizzically. The sandwich featured the top of the bun, lettuce and chicken. No bottom of the bun.
Back in I went, straight to the front of the line, where the cashier who waited on us noticed me standing. She said to someone, "See what's wrong with her sandwich." That woman came over and asked if I needed help, so I opened the box and said: "We've never ordered this sandwich before. Does it always come with half a bun?" She got a good laugh out of that, and I returned outside with a complete chicken select sandwich.

Next up ... my brother. He ate his McChicken and then realized he didn't get his cheeseburger. Back in he went, and out he came with a cheeseburger. During his trip, someone spilled a full coffee in the entryway. As he said, "that's probably going to be there for a while."

And that was pretty much the end of the show at the Vero Beach McDonald's, save for a quick survey of the back of the establishment for the "truck out back." Yep, no truck.

By the way, they're hiring.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

A few random things before I review the trip...

Registration has opened for Bike NY, which will be held May 7. If anyone is interested, let me know. It is a great time, even if it's raining, windy and cold, as Freakgirl and I discovered last year.

While watching CSI on Spike last night, I saw a commercial for a new show called Pros vs. Joes, which is described as "regular guys taking on the world's best athletes in a variety of sports challenges and competitions." One of the Pros is Jerry Rice. First the dancing, now this. Did that cat not save ANY of the money he earned during his 20 years in the NFL?

I want to discuss Vince Young's rumored 6 on the Wonderlic test, but it seems too easy. So I'll only point out that the story I linked to quotes someone named Jeep Chryst. Perhaps my brother and sister-in-law can add Jeep to their list of names for their unborn child. The crazy nephews have already offered Dash as their choice, so why not Jeep?

Today marks the start of Lent and although I'm neither Catholic nor overly religious, I usually observe the Lenten season practice of abstaining from something I enjoy. This year, I entertained thoughts of giving up alcohol, but there are too many events on the social calendar in the next 40 days (St. Patty's Day parade in Belmar, me and KJ's Big East Tourney Day, five days in England, Kathy's annual NCAA Extravaganza, my birthday and Mets opening day) to make that a reality. Maybe I could give just give up red wine and drink beer instead.

Hmm. I'll have to get back to you on that.