wine by the color

Friday, June 29, 2007

Lock him up and throw away the key, I say!!

You just don't go messing with Jersey diners. There are RULES, people.
When your alarm clock goes off at 4:45 a.m., after an ungodly long day yesterday and as a prelude to what promises to be another bitch of a day today, it's nice to have your morning brightened with a few stories from home.

My brother sent an e-mail with the following tale...

Last night after the boys first swim lesson (in the water by themselves for their classes and couldn't have gone better), it was drizzling a bit outside and the boys were wondering why it was raining as it had not been when we went into the Y. Crazy Nephew #1 then says ..."maybe God's crying because we swam so well." I was laughing so hard that I almost drove the car off the road.

He then followed up with this one...

Both boys were asking where you were last night and I told them that you were traveling for work and were in North Carolina. The little one says..."are we going to North Carolina tonight to sleep with Aunt Jersey Girl?" and then he became agitated with me when I told him that we couldn't go to NC tonight because it would take 10 hours to get there and they needed to go to bed. I recovered by telling him that we would go to NC soon. Hopefully he'll forget that by today.

Yep, that'll help make today a better day.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

My parents drove down to visit for a few days while I'm in the south, which has been quite lovely. Things haven't gotten completely out of hand yet (that comes tomorrow, as they're wisely leaving town) so we've been able to spend some time together during the day between various crises. Last night, we dined at a solid local steakhouse.

While good, the outing made me yearn for the sweet goodness of home, at Steve's Sizzling Steaks. I've noticed many people find my site by googling Steve's, and I'm sure they've found their way to me because Steve's is an old-school joint which felt no need to join the technological age.

Not anymore.

In addition to providing the restaurant's simple, yet wondrous menu and some terrific pictures, the web site is also educational. Heretofore, I thought the establishment was called Steve's Sizzin' Steaks. Their big plates o' meat are in fact Sizzling.

"Steaks are seasoned in their house sauce."

Oh yes they are.

Friday, June 22, 2007

As I entered the Gold's Gym in my home-away-from-home early this morning, I noticed a strange sign: "No Picture Cell Phones Allowed." I wondered why such a sign would be necessary.

It didn't take me long to find an answer...

Take this tank top:

Then add these shorts:

Then, tuck the tank top into the shorts, take away all the muscles, add a sizable beer belly and an abundance of back hair, and I can understand why they don't want folks capturing these moments on film. Quite frankly, it just doesn't reflect well on the Gold's Gym franchise.

Of course, had I taken my cell phone inside the gym, I'd certainly have captured this scene. But who could have guessed such entertainment would be available at 5:45 a.m.? Is this normal? I usually go to a women's-only gym, so I don't know if this is what's currently en vogue for the exercising man.

I tried to watch television instead of gaping at the spectacle. But because I'm in the south, three of the big-screen TVs were tuned to evangelists. One was broadcasting Fox News, another station featured an infomercial and the last one was airing the local news. So instead I watched the live show.

As a side note, finding the above photos of the tank top and shorts was no simple task. It required a lot of searching and at least one horrifying series of options. Don't ever do a search for "men's tight short bodysuits." You could wind up coming across something like this. Clicking on that link is not for the faint of heart. Or anyone with eyes.

Who knew such garments were readily available. God BLESS the internets!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Tomorrow I leave for a two-week business trip that will no doubt be a constant test of my patience and fortitude. Given the tenuous situation at work, I expect this will be my most-challenging stretch, professionally speaking, in 14 years in the work force. And I once had a supervisor throw something at me, so that's saying a lot.

While at my parents' house over the weekend, I snapped the following picture while playing on the beach with Crazy Matthew as the sun set Saturday. My plan is to visualize this serene scene whenever the going gets rough.

My hope is that this mental picture, combined with a refrain of "Serenity Now," will help see me through.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Friday night, I had a vivid dream in which my cousin came down with a severe illness that would force the cancellation of sky diving the following morning.

But that was only a dream, so after a quick breakfast Saturday morning it was off to fly through the sky on what turned out to be a beautiful, sunny day.

Upon arrival, we needed to go through the waiver process. This involved watching a brief video and then filling out 15 pages of forms stating we would not sue anyone in the event of maiming or death. This could have been boring, and certainly the forms were. But oh, the video. (Note: the video has obviously been updated but I think they just did a cut-and-splice job because outside of the "early 1990s" reference, everything else is pretty much the same.)

The ZZ Top beard was enough to get us rolling, but the black humor of the ambulance driving away from the landing zone really set us off. After watching the video, we noticed two sewing machines in the sky dive office, which struck me as oddly funny. My cousin pointed out they were probably to repair torn parachutes. The sewing machines looked like antiques, so that gave me a moment's pause.

Our lives signed away, it was then on to the jump center, where we were outfitted in becoming blue Dickie jumpsuits. Some of the suits featured the helpful warning above on the back, which added to the levity. We were given a three-minute tutorial of what to expect and do both in the plane and once we exited. Then, we waited.

There were several jumpers in front of us. And that was the only time I got nervous during the entire process. As we waited for the first jumpers to come into view, the anticipation was k-i-l-l-i-n-g me. I was quite anxious to see the process, and in particular the landing, and then check out the faces of the jumpers, to get a read on how it went.

Five minutes later, I had my answer. The landings were uneventful and the jumpers seemed fine and completely wound up. About an hour later, it was our turn to head up in a plane that is no doubt on the cusp of several FAA regulation violations. But it accomplished the two things we needed - it took off successfully and delivered us to a height of 10,000 feet.

I expected to be much more nervous in the plane. Once we got in the air, however, I kept myself occupied looking for familiar landmarks, which kept me distracted and surprisingly calm. We flew over the Point Pleasant boardwalk and the ocean, and then started to head back toward the airport and drop zone. Twenty minutes after leaving the landing strip, it was time to return to it in a completely different fashion.

That entire process of me getting attached to my instructor, a final altitude check and opening the door opening took all of a minute. I was the first one out of the plane (along with the man strapped to my back) which was good as it barely gave me time to think about what came next. I put my right foot out of the plane, followed by my instructor's right foot. Then, the force of the wind sucked us right out of the plane.

And then, I was flying.

It's impossible to put into words the feeling of free falling 6,000 feet from the sky in 45 seconds. For the entirety of that 3/4 of a minute, my thought process was the following: "Holy fucking shit." "I cannot believe I'm doing this." "Holy fucking shit." "I cannot believe I'm doing this." "Holy fucking shit." "I cannot believe I'm doing this." This refrain was accompanied by a chorus of screaming. I was so consumed by the adrenaline rush of the free fall that I didn't notice anything except the sound of my happy screams, the feeling of the skin on my face being pulled back due to the force of the wind and fall, and the sight of the ground below me. I wasn't even aware of the instructor behind me. Just me, plummeting to the ground. But in a good way.

And then, in an instant, it went from a screaming free fall to almost complete silence. When the parachute opened, everything was very calm and very quiet except for the rippling of the parachute. And that may go down as one of the most amazing moments of my life. Just floating through the sky. Knowing my heart hadn't exploded due to the free fall. Realizing that the hard part was over and that I could just enjoy the feeling of flying. We did some maneuvers, criss-crossing the sky, before heading to the landing strip for a landing.

My instructor was a military paratrooper for 17 years who just retired two weeks ago. When he told me to do something, I did it. He had indicated that when we were ready to land, I needed to keep my feet up, so we could slide in for a landing. If your feet drag, it's possible you can get caught on your toes and go down face first, which would then lead to being dragged along by your chute. I was determined to avoid this so I kept my feet at a ridiculously high level. But there was no face-first dragging, so I considered the landing to be a complete success.

The crazy nephews, who came to watch with my brother and sister-in-law, were FIRED UP. The younger one immediately started pestering everyone about his desire to jump out of a plane. He wasn't happy to hear he has to wait 14 years. He's already reserved a trip with me when he turns 18.

I'm in.

One final picture - in this one, taken no doubt to capture my disrobing from the sexy blue jumpsuit, you can see the plane in the background.

Friday, June 15, 2007

A quick note to the balding middle-aged man driving his Porsche Carrera with the top down this morning … if you’re going to drive around in a car like that, seemingly to attract attention, perhaps it would be wise to keep your fingers out of your nose. Because that’s what I noticed, instead of your shiny vehicle (and matching shiny head).

Work has been kicking my lily-white ass this week. The current score for the week is roughly Work 17, Jersey Girl 0. I can't remember ever being happier to see a Friday arrive.

I wouldn’t mind so much except that it’s kept me from discussing the exciting news that tomorrow morning I will be accomplishing #3 on my life’s to-do-list. That’s right – tomorrow morning, my cousin and I are jumping out of a plane.

He's the savvy veteran, having done so once before, but it's all new to me. I'm very excited, but also a little nervous. Not about hurting myself. I hurt myself all the time - playing sports, walking down the stairs, hitting my head on car doors (all of which have happened this week) - so I expect to come out of this with a bruise or two. I’m nervous about that moment when I sit on the edge of the plane and then have to actually hurl myself out of it. I’m sure it will be fine.

I believe we will have a gallery of spectators so I hope to have photos of this event available.

In case something goes wrong (which I doubt) and you never hear from me again, thanks for reading.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

If I ever decide to run for public office, I'd base my campaign around just two issues:

-Mandatory road testing for elderly before driver’s license renewal. This speaks for itself.

-A perfume-regulation law. At 6:45 this morning, while running on the path in the park, I passed a woman who was wearing more perfume than I’ll wear in 2007. Is this necessary?

This regulation would be especially stringent for air travel, where I’m always amazed by how much fragrance people will slather on themselves before spending several hours locked in an enclosed tube with hundreds of other people.

Of course, given my history of shenanigans, and my intent to continue said tomfoolery, I won’t be running for office any time soon. But if I did, I think I’d win in a romp with the above platform.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Not that I’m planning to switch jobs anytime soon, but if I do, I have a plan...

I need to find something that would allow me to work from around 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. That was the plan today as I headed into work late, knowing I’d be there well past the usual departure time thanks to a press release I had to distribute following some large national events.

The going in at 11 worked out great. I awoke at 7, went for a run, stained my deck, put away all my clean laundry, had breakfast, read the paper, watched Kelly Ripa spin her magic, stopped at the grocery store for a salad, and headed to the office.

Unfortunately, part B was an abject failure. I knew an 8 p.m. departure was optimistic, but was rather disheartened when I walked out of the office at 12:16 a.m.

But this 11-8 idea has serious potential. It would allow me to get lots of things done in the morning (including sleeping past 5:15 a.m., the current alarm time thanks to this running in the morning system) but still get out of work early enough to enjoy social activities in the evening. Perhaps I’ll draft a proposal for my boss. And perhaps I’ll wake up tomorrow and be able to fly. Oh, wait, that’s Saturday.

As a side note, there have been two job postings in Green Bay on my sports jobs web site in the past week. Unfortunately, neither has been for Personal Assistant To His Holiness.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Although I hold very strong beliefs and would fight to the death for many of them, I have never been moved to take to the streets in support of a cause.

And you can rest damn assured that if I ever am so motivated, it won't be to show support for Paris Hilton.

horoscope (n) – 1. a diagram of the heavens, showing the relative position of planets and the signs of the zodiac, for use in calculating births, foretelling events in a person's life, etc.; 2. a prediction of future events or advice for future behavior based on such a diagram.

Given that clarification, this was the prediction for me yesterday...

All right, fishes! Leave your work unfinished and go find your water - whether it's a lake, pool, the cleansing release of tears or a long, cool drink. Also, periodic dips into the bubble bath aren't optional; they're mandatory.

Someone is actually getting paid to write this drivel. And that makes me sad.

I drive down a country road every day en route to work. And every day, there is a young girl waiting for the bus at the end of her driveway. She is frighteningly overweight for what I estimate to be a 10-year-old child. I'm sympathetic to her plight and understand there could be a variety of factors contributing to her situation.

But what I can't understand is that her parents seem to be contributing to the problem. Every day, either her mother or father escorts her to the end of their driveway, which I estimate to be about 75 yards. How do they do this? By driving her in a tractor.

Call me crazy, but it seems to me they're missing a golden opportunity for a little exercise.

After shaking my head about that for a while yesterday, I stopped in the grocery store to pick up a salad. The cashier's nails were 2 inches long. How do people function with nails that long?

It took a lot of self-control to not question her about how she cleans up after a bathroom trip. I'd think the risk of injuring yourself back there would be pretty high with claws that long.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

All you need to know about my ongoing lack of interest in the National Basketball Association is that while game 1 of the NBA Finals plays on network television, I am watching an NFL playoff game from 2002 between New England and the Raiders on the NFL Network. It is snowing like mad in this game. I hope it doesn't come down to a field goal...

Perhaps this young lady should have attended the getting-to-know-bears symposium offered in this area recently?

Several years ago, a group of us went camping in upstate New York. As was always the case when tents, coolers of beer and card games that lasted for days were involved, we had a blast, with one notable exception...

We were always careful to properly dispose of our garbage, making sure there was no smell of food anywhere near our campsite. Attracting wild animals was low on our to-do list.

One night, after a lengthy evening of beer and cards, we retired to our respective tents. Several hours into the evening, my cousin and I were awakened by the sound of twigs and leaves crackling outside our tent.

Instantly, we knew there were animals outside our abode. We could hear them walking around the tent, pausing every few steps, then continuing to circle our defenseless, panicked (and not entirely sober) selves.

We wondered if the smell of the burgers we had eaten hours earlier was still on our hands. Had we unknowingly spilled beer on ourselves in a drunken moment? Certain we were about to be attacked by who knows which and how many animals, we were sweating in fear and clinging to each other. I remember a hushed conversation about whether it would be best to yell out to the others for help or to keep quiet to avoid attracting attention from our furry prowlers.

Making matters worse was that my brother was snoring loudly throughout this entire event in his tent on the other side of our campsite. Initially, I was concerned he would be easy prey for the vicious predators. Then I was irritated that he didn't awaken for the excitement, and that my cousin and I were about to be eaten and he was going to sleep through it.

But the animals eventually tired of pacing around our tent and departed. Looking back, our fright was no doubt unnecessary and ridiculous. But it didn't feel like it at that moment.

I really want to address the recent discovery that I know an actual carny. But due to how I know this person, it's probably best to avoid that topic.

And that is a shame.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

I think I have a fairly broad vocabulary. So I was rather surprised, while reading two articles today, to come across four completely unfamiliar words:

canard (n) - a false, unfounded, and misleading story

fungible (adj) - (esp. of goods) being of such nature or kind as to be freely exchangeable or replaceable, in whole or in part, for another of like nature or kind

stultifying (adj) - (1) to make, or cause to appear, foolish or ridiculous; (2) to render absurdly or wholly futile or ineffectual, esp. by degrading or frustrating means

vituperative (adj) - using, containing, or marked by harshly abusive censure

Unfortunately, each of these new words were used to describe either the current state of affairs in my office or a situation in my field that could impact me in a few weeks.

So for anyone who's recently asked, "How's work?" please allow the above quartet to stand as your answer.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Well I was born in a small town
And I live in a small town
Prob’ly die in a small town

This morning, I decided that rather than drive to the gym, I’d run in the local park. It was a nice, crisp morning and the pollen count was blissfully low, so out I went.

Usually, while I’m on the treadmill at the gym, I amuse myself by criticizing the god-awful closed-captioning skills of the National Broadcasting Company’s early morning staffers. Outside, however, that option isn’t available, and while avoiding the trifecta of dog, deer and goose crap on the running path did give my eyes something to do, it didn’t occupy my thoughts.

Fortunately, running around the park’s paved path in the town where I have lived most of my 35 years provided plenty of memories … parking in the lot where my high-school boyfriend and I were once scurried away by law enforcement late at night (really, we were just talking) … running around the baseball fields where KJ and I were the only two girls to play Little League (the third girl, Nancy, does not count because she used to jump rope behind the bench and had to be dragged onto the field to actually play) ... around the soccer fields where KJ and I were probably also the only girls to suit up every fall … by my middle school across the street from the park, where my basketball team once beat our cross-town rival 56-0 and where I played an Indian in a theatrical production of Tumbleweeds … through the park where everyone would operate the spinning wheel of death in the hopes of making a rider hurl … past the pond where we ice skated as kids … past the tennis courts where I took lessons some 25 years ago.

The Colonel and I were discussing the longevity of my locality the other day. We went to the local minor-league baseball park Sunday to watch Crazy Nephew #1 walk on the field in a season-ending parade for our town’s Little Leaguers. When you live in the same place for 35 years, you don’t go far without running into a variety of familiar faces. On Sunday, those faces included my high-school softball coach; an old friend with whom I attended both school and church for 13 years and his parents, who still live around the corner from my brother; and a high-school friend who is now a cop in town.

On the other hand, the Colonel grew up just outside this country’s largest city, briefly moved to a very small town, later moved to the second-largest U.S. city, and eventually returned east to reside firmly in the heart of NYC. So he was questioning what it’s like to live in the same small town for essentially one’s entire life. Well, so far. (Although, the townhouse I considered buying a few months ago was all of 0.4 miles from my current abode, so it doesn’t seem like I have any aspirations to spread my wings too far.)

Anyway, if you told me 19 years ago (holy crap – I graduated 19 years ago? How is that possible?) that I would not only be living in my hometown but quite happy being there, I’d have told you to get bent. But here I am. And I am not alone.

Back in the day, our plan was “to leave this boring town as soon as we can and never come back.” Until you get a driver’s license around here, there aren’t a lot of options for a teenager. The movie theater, the bowling alley, the mall, even the grocery store back in those days, were all out of town and thus required driving. Oh, we did have a drive-in theater. Other than that, we were resigned to gathering in basements and hanging out in fields around town. And while we had a lot of good times, this uneventful existence led to a lot of big-city dreams and vows to leave after graduation and never return.

When I graduated from college five years later, that master plan lasted three months for me. I got a job in Columbus and planned to make that my home. Then, I came home for Memorial Day weekend, realized how much I missed Jersey and moved home a month later. And have been here ever since.

Over the years, I’ve realized how many of us are either back in town or still around. A few weeks ago, we attended the older nephew’s Little League opening-day ceremony, and I was amazed at how many familiar faces I saw. Almost every time I visit the grocery store or the local dive bar, I see someone I know. I went to kindergarten with my pharmacist.

As I said to the Colonel, still living in my small town might make me insane except for three things: 1) because I travel so much for my job, I get to see other places and meet new people, which provides new experiences and at the same time makes me happy to have somewhere familiar to call home; 2) I did leave for a few years (for college) and then returned. So I know what it’s like to live somewhere else, even if I didn’t stay there for long; and 3) I just really like it here. The lack of activity that drove me nuts as a teenager now offers a nice change of pace after long days at work and even longer days on the road. I’m close to the city and the beach, my family and friends, and it’s safe enough that I can leave my front door wide open overnight, as I learned a few months ago.

As I ran this morning, Mellencamp’s “Small Town” randomly hit the iPod airwaves.

Yeah, I can be myself here in this small town
And people let me be just what I want to be

Yep. I’m okay with that.

The Swear Jar

The fine folks at The Big Lead linked to this today, but I felt the need to do so as well.

Real genius, indeed.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Is it too much to ask that an establishment with the word “Quick” in its name has employees who actually move with some level of haste?

Maybe I was a bit tired after a lengthy evening of mixing it up and cutting the rug at a wedding Saturday evening, but it seemed ridiculous that the cashier at the local QuickChek needed eight minutes to ring up the person in front of me and another three minutes to send me on my way with my two Sunday papers.

The next time I go in, perhaps I’ll bring a lawn chair with me, so I can rest in comfort while I wait for Lady Lollygagger to work her magic.

As for the wedding, an excellent time. And it was a learning opportunity as well. For anyone unfamiliar with Black Time, allow me to send you to see the delightful Lozo for an explanation. (I will warn my more sensitive readers that while I find Mr. Lozo a delight, some of his shtick is R-rated and not for everyone. Mom, this means you.)