Tuesday, December 30, 2014

It's A Dog's Life

Now that we're top of the food chain, what's next?
The top of the food chain ain't what she used to be ladies and gentlemen. The other day my wife and I went to a restaurant. Being a SoCal sunny day we opted for the patio as opposed to indoors. The patio housed a dozen tables, six of which were occupied with owners and their dogs. My wife and I found an empty table and bee lined toward it. The establishment packed the tables in tight as is their right to maximize real-estate vs. $$$. As we approached the table a couple with a boxer dog was attempting to leave their table. Our table slightly pinned their table. Being decent folk my wife and I gave sufficient berth.

However, trouble erupted when the boxer attempted passage by table #3 which had a feisty chihuahua staking its territory. Feisty chihuahua wasn't about to let the uppity boxer (in his eyes) safe travel. He growled and barked and pulled at his tiny restraints. The boxer backed off…which disappointed me, I must admit. At this point the 'pinned down' couple asked to pass around my side of the table which would mean I'd have to back out to the entrance. No problem for me but the wife of the boxer owning couple was what some would call plus size. She'd not make it through the tables. The husband seeing this tells me 'never mind', with a huff and tug of his dog's leash.

Meanwhile couple number two see the boxer coming and manage to scoop up the deadly chihuahua  and place it on 'mommy's lap'. Crisis avoided, yes? That was until the boxer got to the last table where a beagle in a service vest barked, 'hell no' at the boxer. The boxer went into a cowardly panic and tugged every which way upsetting two other tables. The boxer owning dad asked (not politely) for the vested beagle to be handled. The beagle looked on in shock as he had a service vest where the boxer was practically naked-a mere citizen! The owner of the beagle glared at boxer dad, who returned his glare. Onlookers looked on as onlookers will. At this time with an ironic grin I put volume to my voice I piped up.

"Say honey," to my wife, "remember the days when restaurants were for people?"

Believe me when I tell you blogasphere I had NO supporters in that SoCal dog friendly crowd. I was given the stink-eye by 92% of the patrons on that patio. Luckily, being that I'm a card carrying member of the 'old school' I welcomed their scorn the way a party-animal embraces a bar's Happy Hour. Finally, dog owners negotiated the boxer's exit and my wife and I were permitted to sit.

As I stated earlier perching atop the food chain mountain aint what she used to be. And now thanks to Governor Jerry Brown of the great state of California, dog owners are dancing on rooftops. Brown has signed a bill into law allowing dogs to dine on restaurant patios. According to the San Jose Mercury News "…law provides some relief to dog owners statewide…"

Oh que relief in deed, for what were dog owners to do prior to this law; leave the dog at home while dining out? Oh the humanity! Que injustice! Now before y'all toss your doggie poop bags at me know this: I like dogs. I've owned two in my lifetime. I think they rock. But did I suffer separation anxiety while I dined at a restaurant and Poopsy was at home? Hell to the No! Grow up people, you don't have to take your dog with you everywhere.

And don't get me started on service dogs. Ok, since we're onto service dogs…When I was coming up back in the day a typical service dog was a seeing-eye dog and usually a german shepherd breed. Now there are more breeds and I'm cool with that. But, today we have a new category in this great state and that is the 'emotional support dog'. This is a dog that is deemed to give it's owner emotional support often used when flying. Isn't it fair to say that if you love, or even like your dog that she gives you emotional support by definition? Well, it is fair to say that and it's that darn easy to get the papers and the vest for your k-9.
Need support? I got your back!

For a mere $49-$125 and a doctor's note claiming that one has a fear of flying just about anybody can acquire a 'support dog' certificate…and nifty vest to match. Just take a gander around you the next time you fly, it's becoming ridiculous. Under the ADA ( American Disability Act) sexy Stews (sorry I mean flight attendants) cannot question the validity of the dog's 'status'. This is cool as far as the disabled but as far as the 'emotional support dog' group…come on man. Not long ago I did a little survey while waiting in the baggage check line at LAX. Of the 11 people around my wife and I, 8 had dogs and 7 of those were blond women under age 35. This can only mean that although blonds have more fun they truly do…need support. The ADA further states that as long as the dog behaves any and all breeds are welcome. And the patron with the emotional support dog cannot be asked to leave if someone has an allergy to or fear of dogs. In other words, if little Timmy Timmington is scared of dogs not only out of a past traumatic dog bite but because he may go into a pet dander induced coma due to a severe dog allergy…oh well, sorry Timmy you'll have to catch another flight because hot Bianca the next up-and-coming twiggy Super-Model from Raykjavik needs her dog Sheena the Shih-Tzu on her lap at all times!
Sheena the Shih-Tzu

Once again I'm a dog guy. I'm just not a 'people-who-feel-their-doggie-needs-trump-everybody-else's kinda guy. I have a probable solution/ possible declaration. And that is: the day I fly and dogs on the plane equal the number of people I'm going to exercise my right to my emotional support. I'm going to head down to the animal shelter and rescue a three year old 130 lbs. male rottweiler. Then I'm going to book a round trip flight goin' anywhere but here (with frequent stops). Then I'm going to knit the dog an 'emotional support vest' (as I will have taken knitting in night school). I'll board my flight with my Rottweiler, Terminator with a thin fraying leash. Last, I'll work a slightly terrified look on my face. If anybody gives me doubting or nervous looks I'll simply state, "hey, this is a rescue thus making me hero. And he is my rock, my absolute emotional four legged support puppy. Come along Terminator try not to eat the other service dogs this time!"

I'm just playing folks, I wouldn't play my hand like that. But we are in a time where some people are taking their entitlement too far as they bask in their self-absorbed baths of narcissism. If you can't be away from your dog for more than 3 minutes it's not doggie support that you need, it's therapy. Why can't you be away from the little guy for that amount of time and why is it cool to disregard others that may have allergies, fears or just plain want to hang with other bipeds? And as far as my food chain; I need to accept that well…I'm no longer sipping mai tais at the top of it. That era has passed. There's just dogs on planes, restaurants, stores and every-damn-where else. It's going to be 2015 any minute now and as such, if the wife and I want to go for a burger and a beer we're going to have avoid stepping on doggie tails; accept battles for supremacy between competing dog breeds and work a pleasant smile onto our mugs when useless (not all) dog owners are uncertain as to how to exit a SoCal restaurant patio when Billy the boxer becomes afraid at the site of a single marauding attack-chihuahua. Be that as it may, I caution you K9 owners not to abuse this new found privilege in these new found ridiculous times. For, if you do, me, the wife and Terminator the Rottweiler (a.k.a. Termy the Rotty) might be visiting a patio or airplane near you!
I'm an emotional support dog, is there a problem here?

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Uber Tales

I picked up two riders about two months ago not far from the USC campus. I'd put them both early 20's let's say 21. The caucasian guy was 5'9'' and thickly built with a buzz cut. His buddy was a black guy with a slender build that topped out at 6'1'' and had light brown dreadlocks to the shoulder.

The exact moment they slid into my car I was engulfed in a fog of heavy marijuana fumes. My mind turned to the nostalgic as I remembered my days when I occasionally bumped up against those who partook in…ahem, weed…ahem.

"What's up fellas?" I ask.

"Not much how are you sir?" Dreadlocks asks.

"I'm good. Where're you guys headed?'

Buzz Cut pipes in, "We're only going like three fuckin' blocks." This was followed by his stoner's laugh.

"That's not true dude," Drealock adds. "It's more like three miles so there's like no way we could walk that shit," he giggles.

"Cool," I say and ease into traffic. They'd entered their destination through the Uber app and as it turned out they were going closer to three miles than three blocks. The lads exchanged low voiced anecdotes about 'this chick and that one' and 'this weed and that bud'. Giggling was in abundance as was plenty of back and forth insults which they found hilarious.

I joined in after one of Dreadlock's ridiculous ribs to his buddy. This caused them to relax and engage me in their conversation. Obviously my laughter appeased any thoughts they may have had about me being a narc or worse…a square.

We're only going like 3 blocks...
"…see dude even the fuckin' Uber dude thinks its funny."

At that point the three of us were close to belly laughing. I don't know if I was basking in memories of old or I was stoned due to proximity…a contact high if you will. Gradually the conversation moved from chicks and weed to booze. Things really got rolling when Buzz Cut offered Dreadlocks and I a powerful and heartfelt political theorem.

"Dude, straight up, if I was in Washington at the White House or whatever--"

"What do you mean 'or whatever' you're either in the White House or your not dumbass. How did you get into college anyway?" (more laughter)

"Shut up dude, let me finish. Ok so if I was in power I'd change the drinking age to like fuckin' 18."

"Why?" Dreadlocks asks.

I continuously checked Buzz Cut in my rearview mirror as it was hilarious to watch his face contort in an effort to focus on defending his thesis.

"Why? Because the drinking age of 21 is unsafe."

"Unsafe?" Dreadlocks and I say in unison…which brought more laughs.

"Yeah its totally unsafe. Look imagine like you're a kid and you're like 18 so ya pretty much have to get drunk because you're a kid who's 18, right?"

"Right," we agree in laughter.

"Right so you're 18 and drunk in public because ya can't stay home all the time--so you're drunk and funkin' 18--"

"We know dumbass-get to the unsafe part," Dreadlock pleads.

"I'm trying but you fuckin' guys keep interrupting me!"

I hadn't realized that I was a 'fuckin guy' that interrupts. By this time I had tears running down my cheeks; and I was happy that traffic was at a near standstill because I didn't want this 'high' to end. Plus I had to know about California's unsafe drinking age of 21 and over.

"Ok," he continues. "So, you're drunk and 18 and then a cop shows up and this kid is drunk so the cop is like 'dude, I'm not trying to be a dick but I've totally go to fuckin' arrest you…cause you're like 18 and fuckin' drunk and shit."
I'm not tyring to be a dick..

Dreadlocks and I lose it. Buzz Cut joins in the laughter but every now and again asks us 'what's so fuckin' funny?' until finally he says, "fuck you guys."

After the laughter subsides Dreadlocks asks, "Seriously dude, that is why the drinking age is unsafe? You're hilarious dude!"

"What? Driver, sorry, Mr. Driver you agree with me right? right?"

(**Mr. Driver)

"Yes, I agree, " I said. "The drinking age should be 18 otherwise a cop's totally going to fuckin' arrest you." I wasn't able to say the whole sentence without laughing. Nevertheless Buzz Cut jumped up and down in his seat shouting, "See! See!" Thesis defended!

Two minutes later I pulled to the curb. The two buddies remained in their seats. Finally, I let them know that we'd arrived at their destination.

"Oh, shit I forgot we were even going anywhere," says Buzz Cut. "I thought we were just fuckin' driving around with you--fuck."

With another huge round of laughs the two lads tumbled out of my car. I was still laughing as I eased back into traffic. For the previous 15 minutes I felt as though I was 21 years old and stoned with my two best friends. In that time I went from Uber Dude, to Fuckin' Guy, to finally, Mr. Driver. I slid into a Chevron station bought a bag of chips, leaned against my car and tore the bag open. I chcuckled from time to time at the memory of the ride. Half way through the chip bag I laughed a little heartier thinking that maybe I did have a contact high; for what does one do when one is stoned and gets the munchies?…he buys himself a bag of chips!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

RUSH…Yesterday and Today

"Rush is Canada's greatest rock band ever!" I remember believing that to be the gospel truth when I was in high school. Today is Frontman and bassist Geddy Lee's birthday. He's 61 years young. The power trio were forged from the slate of progressive rock in 1968. The beginning was a struggle for these guys. In fact they nearly hung up their prog-rock axes and sticks in 1974 until thunderous drummer and amazing lyricist Neil Peart replaced drummer John Rutsey. The band have never looked back…almost. More on the 'almost' shortly but first…

I was in the 10th grade in 1982 and September of that year was the first time that I had the awesome privilege of seeing Rush live. I can't exactly remember how I was able to go by myself but 'go it alone, I did'. More than likely I told my parents that a buddy's parents were taking us. We did what we had to do in those days to get our asses to concerts. There was not a huge Rush following in my circle of friends and certainly none of which were girls. I'd taken the bus to the Pacific Coliseum hundreds of times so transportation was locked. Next I needed the gear, I needed; the look. Rush was considered hard rock (and later progressive rock). This meant my look had to be tough. There were going to be a lot of tough guys at the show and most of them older than me. The right look was not only meant to help me blend in but was also meant to ward off bullies or 'pricks' if you will. It's simple anthropology people.

Where to start? Jeans and boots, preferably steel toed was a given. A jean jacket would be cool and totally acceptable but I wanted to add size to my grade 10 frame. Luckily I owned what we used to call a mack jacket; commonly known as the lumber jack jacket. At the time there were 3 distinct ways of donning the 'kick ass' apparel.

1. Wear jacket as is…with boots and well-weathered jeans
newer version of the 'mack', original had tough-guy buttons
2. Cut the sleeves of said jacket
3. Cut sleeves off jacket and wear over a denim jean jacket

I opted to go with the 'mack' as is and blended in just fine with the 12,000 other die hard Rush fans. Where I did not blend was ethnicity. In short I was the only black cat in a mack jacket in the joint. Alas, we were all fans of Canada's greatest band ever and it never became an issue. At one point as I was making my way to the stage (you never stayed in your assigned seat in those days unless you were a loser) I bumped into a girl about my age with a rockin' body that wouldn't quit. I can safely say that if I was the only 'brother' at that show, she was definitely the only girl at that show. We stopped and stared at each other briefly before smiling.

She gave me a hug and said, "what are you doing here?"

"I love Rush what are you doing here?" I laughed enjoying the hug and the smell of her hair.

"I love Rush too!" We both laughed and told each other to enjoy the show. She moved away from the stage and I toward. I heard the guy she was with ask who I was. She responded that I was a black guy into Rush and wasn't that the coolest. Although our time was brief I shall never forget my Rush girlfriend. We were kindred minorities who shared a tender moment as passing ships in a tempestuous yet magnificent sea of hard rock, pot and fleecy plaid.

Eventually I made it to the front row. As a group or perhaps gang it was somehow decided that we'd stand on the backs of the metal folding chairs. We were slightly in luck as the chairs were locked together at the legs so all we had to do was balance. We did this by linking arms standing shoulder to shoulder. But, like any dominoes wall when one portion of the human wall began to teeter so went the entire human chain. When this happened we usually fell backward into the row behind us. We'd scramble to get up and quickly rebuild the wall. Believe me when I tell you if you haven't been part of a human rock n' roll wall at a Rush concert…you have not yet lived. I'm happy to report that during the two hour plus, show our rock line tumbled a mere 49 times. It was outstanding and for the record there is
nary a deeper bond that strangers can share.

Returning to my 'Rush almost never looked back' comment from paragraph one. The band is still on fire to this day but where forced to take a couple-year hiatus when tragic news befell Neil Peart. In the course of a year Neil lost his college aged daughter to a car accident and later his wife who died of a broken heart at the loss. Understandably Neil called it quits and not just from the band but from drumming…music altogether. He locked up his home, hopped on his motorcycle and rode from Toronto to Alaska, down to Mexico and then some. Bandmates Geddy and Alex also devastated by the events were also done with Rush. They would not replace Neil. In fact, Alex barely touched his guitar for a year. Neil wrote an amazing book of his tragic journey/ road to recovery entitled: Ghost Rider...Travels On The Healing Road. I highly recommend it.

The pieces now firmly back together Rush is rocking harder than ever. As a kid Neil was one of my top 3 drumming influences and reading his book helps push me to keep pen to paper. The trio bring nothing but the pure rock; no auto tuning, no ghost studio players, no B.S. just the raw rock that has changed the lives of millions of people for over 45 years. I've seen them close to 20 times since that rip roarin'-bone crushing-body tumbling-minority bonding-coming of rock age-explosive concert in 1982. Thanks for the music and memories Rush--happy birthday Geddy Lee! You guys are still the best!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Man Scorned: Halle Berry Must Pay

I love Tasty Blogs!
Actress Halle Berry has been ordered by Superior Court Judge Scott Gordon to pay fashion model ex-husband Gabriel Aubry 16K a month in child support. Ah, to be a celebrity child. But wait a minute, I thought it took a village to raise a child. Who knew it actually takes a disgruntled, bitter ex-hubby to go after a financially loaded ex-wife.

Upon hearing of the payout my immediate question, which was no doubt similar to yours was this: what does this child do that warrants 16K every 30 days, give or take? I sincerely hope that the lawyer for the pose-y model didn't utter the words, "…the child must be allowed to maintain the lifestyle that she's accustomed." Dude, she's 6 years old! Are her Sippy cups made from platinum? Are her 'Hello Kitty' lunch bags hand made by Louis Vuitton? Are her jump ropes made from Italian cashmere and hand crafted by Donatella Versace?

To compare salaries between the divorcees; Halle Berry allegedly made 4.7 million dollars in 2013 while Fashion model or 'Print-Poser' Gabriel Aubry allegedly brought in 192K in the same year. Disparity? Sure, but this is not alimony this is child support. Halle must also pay Aubry 300K in legal fees and continue to pay the full amount of the child's private school tuition. Add to this Halle must pay 115K retroactively seeing as they battled it out for so long. (They were married in 2005 and called it quits in 2010). Last, I dare not forget that Halle must pay the 16K/ month until the child graduates from high school or reaches age 19 which ever comes first. (By the way the custody is 'joint custody')

Quick Math:

16K x 12 months= 192K (1 year)
192K x 13 years= 2,496,000 (13 years until the child hits 19)

You might be saying 'what's 2.5 million over 13 years when she made 4.7 million in one year?'. You might be saying that but I'm still asking what the kid needs the dough for especially when she'll be in mommy's care half the time.

The Back Story:

F.Y.I. there's always a back story. This legal battle is actually about a man-scorned. In 2012 Halle's current hubby actor Olivier Martinez mixed it up with model Gabriel Aubry. (Sounds like a bad movie doesn't it?) Anyway, the ex and the current engaged in a 'dust up' where Olivier beat the crap out of Aubry and sent him to the E.R.

Ya win some...
Olivier's father Robert Olivier Martinez was a professional boxer. Guess what pugilistic art dear old dad passed on to junior? Sorry Aubry but part of picking one's battles should always include knowing who one is about to do battle with. Ok, so Gabriel Aubry got his butt kicked. He should have gone home (after the hospital stay) and done one of two things: either rest up and challenge Martinez to a rematch or dusted himself off and moved on.  That's how a man would have done things in my day but a boy or perhaps Zoolander-esque male model would have felt wronged. He'd cry, 'no fair!' or 'the injustice!' and 'Oweeeee!' But Aubry sought out a lawyer and alas a third option materialized: go for the monetary jugular.

No doubt the hand wringing Hollywood lawyer was more than happy to take the battered print model's case. I'm sure as  the lawyer sat behind the big desk listening to the sweet sound of his money-counter he exclaimed, "...Never mind the assault charge Aubry we'll go for the high buck child support. You'll be sittin' pretty in no time. Stick with me kid and you'll never have to pout for those testy shutterbugs ever again!"

At the end of the day this could be referred to as a 'win-win'. Halle claims that she's fine with the result and just happy to move on and live her life with a tough guy. (I'm paraphrasing a tad on the last bit). And Aubry the 'I-shall-not-be-wronged modeling pretty-man' has a few extra ducats in his pocket…all of which will naturally go to the raising of his lovely daughter. So, no harm--other than the total beat down of ass kicking pugilistic shit kickery; no foul.
the money's in child support Bub

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Customer Service…Well Waddayaknow?

If any of you read my blog post entitled: Customer Service…Call Me--( Friday June 28th 2013) wait a
minute, of course you read it. But if by chance it slipped past you fear not, I'll bring you up to speed in this post. At the close of a call with AT&T I was asked, "…is there anything I can help you with now that might arise in the next 30 days?"(or words to that effect). I thought the question odd.

Just the other day I was on the blower with Time Warner Cable and at the conclusion of the conversation I was asked, "Is there anything I can help you with now that may arise in the next 3 days?"

Ah ha! Two different businesses with nearly identical scripts. Methinks theft of trade secrets are afoot. Clearly there's a mole over at AT&T feeding customer service high-quality dialog to Time Warner Cable. Maybe it goes both ways. If that's the case it's got to be expensive to defend against this sort of cyber theft--which would explain the rising cost of these services, Si? or No?"

When the familiar question met my ears I was ready for it with my over-sized-customer-service-phone-call-catcher's mitt.

"That question confuses me," I said.

"Well sir at the moment I'm able to facilitate certain things depending on what issues you might have in the next 3 days."

"If everything is cool now but say my cable goes out tomorrow how do I ask you to 'facilitate' me now?"

Clearly she'd see that without the capability of time travel we were…well…here in the now.

"It is my hope that you're cable won't go out tomorrow," she said.

"Well thanks for hoping doll. But let's try this: if neither one of us is psychic we can't really know what the next 3 days has in store right? It just seems like an odd question," I say displaying above average intellect.

"I'm sorry my question strikes you as odd, sir."

"No, no need to apologize but I'm guessing the guys or gals upstairs want you to ask the question. Does it in any way strike you as odd?"

"Again, I apologize if my question seems odd, sir."

Why I insisted on staying on this merry-go-round of question d' oddity confused even me.

"Again, don't apologize your'e doing a great job. And if this call is being recorded for quality assurance: 'fellas, Jen's doing a great job over here'."

She chuckled for the first time, "Thank you sir. So is there anything that I can help you with now that may arise in the next 3 days?"

ol' school customer service baby!
Here we go again. "No I think I'm good. And I guess you probably need to get back to work. Oh wait I do have a question."

"Yes sir."

"Ok, are there any discounts or promos going on right now that I should know about?" I asked.

"Well sir it says here that you've been a good customer so I can take $30 of your next month's bill."


"Yes sir."

"No bullshit?"

"Sir please."

"Sorry about that. But really? You can blast out $30 just because I'm a swell guy?"

"Uh-huh," she chirped.

"Dang! And thank you!"

"You're welcome sir. Is there anything else I can help you with that might arise within the next 3 days?"

"Well yes there is."

"Go ahead sir."

"Can you blast out another $30 from my bill? Or perhaps $40?" I asked putting as much cute in my
Time to lay the 'cute' on!
voice as I could muster.

She laughed, "Not at this time sir."

"Well ya can't blame a guy for asking, right?"

"No sir I cannot. You have a pleasant day."

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Michelin Rated Mandolin Rock!

When my wife and I visited Italy in 2012 we had lunch at a restaurant called L' Antica Trattoria in Sorrento. We loved it. My wife remembered her meal and I, well, the beer and wine. Upon revisiting Sorrento in 2014 we attempted to recapture the magic. But let me back up…

During the day we were commenting on how we'd met so many great people; both travelers as well as locals during our trip and that for both of us meeting new people is probably what we love most about traveling. My wife said, "I'd love to meet a fun couple this afternoon then go to dinner with them tonight at 'our' restaurant." I agreed and told her that I had a good feeling about that possibility becoming a reality.

As it turned out my psychic meter was a tad off; we didn't meet anyone as we strolled, browsed and ate gelato. C'est la vie, we were in Italy. We booked our reservation for Antica thus, all was good. We chose to dine inside the restaurant as the rain had been coming and going throughout the day. Ain't no way was I about to enjoy a fine Italian red only to have it watered down by Sorrento's sweet showers.

The interior reminded me of a British tea house but with Italian trimmings. The table cloths were white linen while the stemware, flatware, and cutlery appeared to be high end. The waiters all wore matching black suits differentiated only by chosen tie color. This place was swank if not posh…or swanky-posh as I call it. It's the kind of place that when I walk in I'm always ready for that gentle tap on the shoulder which will be followed by, "Ah, excuse me sir but how did you get in here?"

Happily, the shoulder tap never came. We sat not far from another couple and two tables over was a third couple. Each could not have whispered any more quietly if they tried. We selected our food, chose the wine and settled in for a nice QUIET evening. I'm not opposed to quiet dinners and believe me I'm not looking for a sports bar but this joint didn't even have Chopin or Bach sneaking through their speakers. A church mouse would have said, "Ha! call me a church mouse, are your hearts even beating?"
Vivere con passione

"Well this is slightly different from the night you described honey--the one where we meet the rocking couple and have a raucous time loaded with merriment," I said. She agreed. And then I heard it. Music. Distant music. Floating. A mandolin if I wasn't mistaken.

Then from another section of the restaurant popped a friendly little gent pluckin' and-a-strummin' on a mandolin. I smiled like a kid on christmas morning. Music! He caught my dumb grin and meandered over. After he finished out his tune my wife and I applauded at a volume that the British couple at table one and Spanish couple at table three no doubt thought 'Ah, Americans'. I also cheered and said bravo a half dozen times. Clearly I was brining the posh level down a notch...or two. Right away Vincenzo the mandolin player introduced himself and thanked us. He then said,  "So you are a musician what do you play?"

I guess we muzos just recognize each other that way. We chatted briefly before he launched into a Beatles song; name escapes me. He encouraged me to sing along (with the few lyrics I could remember) and at the close came over and chatted some more. With song 3 done he moved back into the depths of the restaurant. A few waiters came by with smiles and nods. One even complemented me on my singing…however he laughed as he said it. Fifteen minutes later Vincenzo returned and bee- lined for my wife and I. We sang, laughed, tipped Vincenzo heavily and somewhere in there the johnny-on-the-spot waiters managed to stealthily top up our wine glasses.

One part mandolin; one part percussion X parts wine=Good times!
By this time the other tables chuckled along and even applauded…sort of. The waiters loved it. No doubt this was a night far from the norm for the friendly camerieri (waiters). At one point the manager walked by and gave Vincenzo the thumbs down. Oh, oh! Party's over.  I felt like the high school student busted by the Principal for skipping class (to sing along with a mandolin player). Vincenzo laughed and assured us that his boss always gave him a hard time. Lucky for us this was true. The manager continued to walk by and yawn, toss the thumbs down, roll his eyes and throw out insults at Vincenzo. (And nothing sounds more musical than an Italian insult, baby). Different couples came and went. Vincenzo rocked the classics like: Ave Maria and The Godfather theme but also shredded through many western songs. An hour into the evening two twenty-something spanish lasses got out their phones and videotaped us. I say us because by this time the staff who discovered that I play drums brought me two pens for sticks and turned over our metal water chiller and instructed me to play.

Vincenzo stumbled into 'Something' by the Beatles which is a tune I love. He made me sing. Miraculously the majority of the lyrics came to mind. We took turns botching parts but forged ahead and made it through to the finish line. The big applause from the staff and patrons was a total shock. Perhaps the wine was flowing for everybody that night. I should mention that the food was absolutely out of this world. (I'd hate for you to think I was only there for the wine and mandolin melodies)

We carried on throughout the night in much the same way. It turned out that Vincenzo was from the same region as my wife's parents. He was truly one of the nicest guys you'd ever want to meet. And he's definitely the coolest mandolin player we've ever met. As we strolled back to our hotel we laughed at the memory. As Sorrento's crisp night air caressed our faces I said, "Well we didn't meet that rockin' couple but I'd say we kinda rocked the place."
My wife and I with the manager. We're dressed differently because we went back to the restaurant two days later

"What!?" My wife blasted. "Are you kidding me? Sweetie, that is a Michelin Star rated restaurant. You found a little mandolin player and completely rocked that place! I guarantee that place has never rocked like that!"

"Honey, when you put it in those terms I believe you have a point."I paused. "Say maybe we should get a mandolin for the house!"

Note: If ever you're in Sorrento go check this place. You'll be glad you did. See link below...


Monday, May 12, 2014

Good Morning Sorrento!

Corso Italia
My wife and I were 2/3 of the way through our Italian adventure and discovered without a doubt we
needed to do laundry. The day prior we found a laundromat, sussed it out and formed a plan. Our fast broken we hefted our two load laundry bag and hit the ground walking down Sorrento's Corso Italia. If not for our pathetic plastic bag from some unknown clothing store we'd have looked like locals. Alas, we looked like tourists that stay in a half decent hotel and are too cheap to use the hotel's laundry service.

Before leaving the hotel I attempted to break my 100 euro piece of paper at the front desk. The concierge broke it in half saying that was the best he could do being that it was so early in the morning. Fine, I thought, who can't break a 50…right?

When my wife and I arrived at the laundromat's front door we were near ecstatic to find we'd have the place to ourselves--no waiting. A second later we found the door was locked. Suddenly the laundry bag felt twenty pounds heavier. We did the dummy-toruist's stare for about thirty seconds before I found a button to the right of the door.

"What does this do?" I asked without waiting for my wife to answer and pushed. Voila! the door unlocked. After putting our heads together we decided that my wife would hang with the clothes and read while I hiked the streets in search of change. (Good times ahead as not even half of the businesses were open). I found a cafe and ordered an espresso and said a polite buon giorno to my espresso mates on either side of me. My plan was brilliant…until it came time to pay. I sheepishly slide my 50 euro piece across the bar. Not only did the Coffee-Keep refrain from touching the bill he practically recoiled as if it were a lethal snake.

"Non!," he said. "Espresso is only one euro!"

"Ok," I said and pretended to search my pockets for change (which I knew did not exist). After ten seconds I worked a distressed expression on my face.

"Mi dispiace (I'm sorry) solo (only) 50 euro," I said. (Yes, my Italian kicks ass).

"Ok, come back later when you have change," he said and dismissed me. He then spoke to my espresso mates in rapid Italian and they nodded in agreement. Geez, I wonder who they were talking about? I made my exit with all of the pride I could muster. Back on the street I found a souvenir shop. The store owner nearly talked me into a 30 euro kangol style hat. But I thought it too expensive a way to gain the 8 euros I needed to wash our clothes. The proprietor seemed genuinely sad to see me leave.

I was on a mission and so far had produced diddley. I needed a plan B. On the opposite side of the street an Irish bar's bright 'open' sign jumped out at me. I sighed heavily as it was only 10 am but I was running out of time.

The manager greeted me with a big smile. I considered my espresso trick but remembered my recent experience. Ah ha! I had it.

10 am baby!
"Could I have an espresso con (with) Sambuca per favore? (please). His english was excellent which is why I used limited Italian..that and my Italian was limited.

"Oh, you want to get drunk,ok!" he boomed in his Anthony Quinn like voice luckily nobody heard it but me as I was the sole patron. I should also point out that most of the chairs were still up on the tables. All I could do was smile and say 'heh heh' because I couldn't reveal my evil plot to rid him of 8 euros of laundry change. He flashed a big smile before turning around to fix my drink(s). The espresso smelled magnificent and the sambuca was 3 ounces. I repeat, the Barkeep fed me 3 massive ounces of the licorice liquor…at 10 am.

"Here you go my friend, now you can get drunk," he boomed, again.

"Grazie," I thanked him.

As he opened up the place he wanted to chat. Who was I to disappoint, the kind gentleman graciously over-served me after all. It was too early to work through the thick syrupy drink quickly plus I didn't want to appear rude. We talked about his business and my vacation for the next little while until the moment of truth arrived. I paid my bill.

"Oh buddy I don't know about this I've just opened."

No way could I take another hit of the sambuca, but if need be I was prepared to force a beer down. I seriously hoped it wouldn't come to that. The longer I stayed in the bar the longer my wife sat with our (still) dirty clothes and who wants to explain to one's wife that the reason they're running late is that they stopped by a bar for change...at 10 am.

Luckily for me the friendly Barkeep made change. I tipped handsomely then high-tailed it to the laundromat.

"Hi honey I'm wired from espresso and  buzzed from sambuca, but…I'm home. Would you mind starting the laundry? I've got an errand to run."

"Where are you going?"

"To pay my debt. It's 10:14 am and I owe money in this town."

"Wow, it's not even noon yet."

I wasn't sure if my wife was referring to the fact that I owed money in town so early or that I was already buzzed before noon--perhaps it was both. Either way I returned to espresso number 1 and paid for my espresso. My former mates were still there. Everybody smiled once I laid down the appropriate euros plus tip. Somehow I think someone among them lost a bet. Regardless, the debt was paid and this tourist could still show his face in beautiful Sorrento.

As you read this you may be thinking that I'm a rummy or a wino but I disagree. I'm merely a guy that when given a task gets the job done. Even if it means tackling the job one painful yet delicious ounce at a time!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Rockin' The Classics Baby!

The other night it was one of my nights to cook. I decided to keep it simple with snapper, broccoli and brown rice. The only remotely creative part would come in the form of homemade salsa. But I'd keep that simple as well; diced fuji apple, blueberries muddled, touch of lemon juice, a splash of balsamic and pepper. Not bad for 'off the top of a guy's head' Oui?

Being that prep and cook time would be minimal I scheduled a quick 20 minutes to finish reading The Picture Of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. For me it usually plays out like this: I'll read 3 or 4 mysteries, then I'll toss in a current affair or biography and then I'll blast a classic in there. I love going back to the classics and gasping, "dang, they sure don't write 'em like this anymore!" (A guy can gasp can't he?) I'd never read Dorian before. Somehow I missed it in high school and wasn't asked to read it at music school. Regardless, I was familiar with the story: vanity, insanity, cautionary tale of 'careful what one wishes for', man's pursuit of everlasting youth and so on. It's amazing the lengths Dorian goes to to maintain his youth all those years ago. Yet, we can turn on the television today and find that every third commercial is about age defying eyeliner, age spot removers, botox, teeth bleaching, hair revitalizer--really? Hair revitalizer? Bras that lift, separate or both, diet pills, diet drinks, night creams, day creams, mid afternoon coffee break creams and on and on and then some. Have we grown at all as a society since Wilde's day? With advances is science we're able to concoct far more lotions de youth and elixirs de longevity, surely that's progress right? Or are we insanely vainly riding on the 'look at me train' to inanity?

But let's journey back to my dinner night. I had a hankering if not a yearning for Chopin. I realize this does not completely jibe with my rocker persona or my country-rocker persona for that matter. But as I get older I realize that 'rock' is a broad term and just as there are more ways than one to skin a cat; so too are there many ways to rock. (And yes, I'm going to keep telling myself that).

After a time my hot wife came through the door. (Yes she's hot for I feel that there should always be at least one 'hot one' in a marriage). I had Chopin drifting out of the speakers, feet up on the couch and Dorian in my hands. At my elbow was a glass of Coppola's chardonnay. (I was tempted to do my Hannibal Lecter al a Anthony Hopkins impersonation but resisted. I didn't want my wife fleeing from the house like a startled fawn). After a sweet 'hello' and gentle kiss I fell back to Dorian's story. Not two pages later Lord Henry asked Dorian Gray to sit at the piano and play Chopin. (Dude! que uncanny!) Dorian did as asked and apparently played beautifully. Incidentally, groovin' on Chopin is where similarities between Dorian and I start and end.

Although a good read The Picture Of Dorian Gray doesn't quite make it into my top 5 fave classics. I did however, like Lord Henry's character, he's hilarious. In reading the afterword I discovered that Wilde enjoyed Lord Henry's character so much that he re-used many of his quotes in other stories like The Importance of Being Earnest and An Ideal Husband. This little tidbit had me doing cartwheels and back hand-springs (sort of) for if Oscar Wilde can re-hash, re-use and regurgitate then it's game on for this writer baby! And by that I mean game on for this writer baby!

Blogger's side note: Some would say this author's been know to throttle a joke into submission--revive it--and throttle it again. I repeat, some…would say.

tomorrow's classic available today on Amazon.com
Thank you again for stopping by Tasty Blogs. Remember, one does not have to listen to constant rock and roll to be a bonfide rocker. As for tomorrow when my wife floats through the door her ears might be met with Van Halen pounding out of the speakers, a Conan The Barbarian (classic) in my hands and a 22 ounce beer (nothing lite/light mind you) at my elbow. And no doubt some sort of beef dish wrapped in bacon will be on the menu. And if she's lucky I'll launch into my Conan the Barbarian la Arnold Schwarzeneggar impersonation!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Just Play The Game!

I remember walking into a bar some months ago, (as can happen), and looking at the t.v. above the
bartender's head. An NBA player dunked the ball, landed and then celebrated. It was a celebratory dance popular these days with just about every athlete male and female in all sports. The choreographed move entails clenching the fist(s) holding the head still or rocking it back and yelling as loud as possible with mouth as wide as possible. I'm extremely tired of this move as should you be. It is not only overdone it is often used when the achievement has been standard--par for the course. When a 7' basketball player dunks the ball in the first quarter  and engages in this celebration it's childish not to mention commonplace. When an NFL middle line backer does the move 3 games into the season and four minutes into the game the move is premature and superfluous. It is a line backer's job to stuff the run, it's what they're meant to do. We're also seeing it in tennis after every other point…in a 3 hour match! The over the top roar has got to go or at least subside.

When I voiced my near disdain for the exhausted dance the bartender placed a beer in front of me and said, "Don't be a hater dude, I've done it myself a few times."

"When you pour the perfect pint?" I asked with a laugh realizing I'd more or less insulted the man who poured my beer. I smiled to ease the potential build-up of testosterone. Briefly the bartender looked pissed but then backed off and said, "I play a little pick-up b-ball at times and I've been known to get a little emotional. Don't hate dude."

Pick up b-ball? Are you serious? Should I celebrate getting across the street before the walk signal changes? Or should I rock my head back and roar when I find that missing sock in the bottom of the laundry hamper? Of better yet, maybe I should shout from the roof top when the new phone book arrives (a la Steve Martin's The Jerk). At this point I considered teaching this little upstart a lesson. A lesson where the old school--me, teaches the new school--him, what it is to have style, to be chill, to be…cool. But then I remembered that I'm no longer in the business of teaching lessons…with the exception of drum lessons of course. Exactly where does this jazz come from? Why is it that today's athlete pro to novice feel the need to roar-triumphant after feats commonplace and at times average at best?  I suppose confidence is a factor. We're all aware of the latest stats that revealed America's youth is more confident than ever before and not necessarily due to tangible achievements or accolades. Part of the problem--and in defense of today's over celebrator is that we live in a time where we are photographed, video taped and surveilled more than in any other time in history. In other words; over-celebrators know 'the cameras are rolling and I'm going to be a star, build my brand or go viral…by opening my mouth as wide as I can'.

celebration justified!
Let's blast a little further down this trail. Many (not all) parents today are ramming figurative esteem pills way too far down their children's throats. Encouragement is good. Healthy self esteem is also good but the confidence pendulum has swung too far into the overus confidencius. (That's my poetic license-latin there folks) As a result athletes celebrate WAY too often for precious little accomplishment. For example, if a basketball player scores 10 of his team's 109 points should he celebrate every single basket with a gladiator roar? Hell no! The bartender on that day called me a 'hater' but he and dang near everyone else are imitators. They see Lebron James do the celebration dance and then they copy the exact move…on the pick-up b-ball court. It's insanity! You've done nothing of merit dummies. Just play the game.

The rules are as follows: If you win the championship of your sport,  heavyweight title or Olympic gold; go for it, go nuts. If your'e on the pick-up b-ball court or comparable facsimile thereof; knock it off. You're simply a misguided embarrassment of obnoxious slow witted braggadocio. And now that I've successfully use braggadocio in a sentence I must roll my head back, open my mouth wide and roar! AH!!!!!!!!!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Life Change: from the gridiron game to the yoga mat

 One day you're a kid on the playground and your buddies (or teachers) tell you to act your age, and the next minute 50 is around the corner and you're feeling your age. With karate classes and increased time at the drum set muscles occasionally nag, tweak and spasm without so much as a 'by your leave'. Back in the day a good old fashioned deep tissue massage did the trick but now--not entirely.

Thus, I sat down at my kitchen table and embarked on a one man think tank. After 6 seconds I uttered a curse, but that didn't help. Then I remembered that 'ah ha' it had been quite some time since I rolled out the old yoga mat. Thankfully there's no judging in yoga for if I were to practice it in front of a yogi tribunal they'd say:

"Hmm, well first of all not bad for your first day."

"Actually I've been doing it off and on for years my esteemed yogis," I'd respond.

"Oh dear, have you considered other activities? And remember we ask from a place of peace and love."

And so it would go. Luckily I've not been summoned by the yogi tribunal. In the past yoga always made me feel good (when done with any regularity). And there it was, I immediately put myself on a 1 hour per day 30 day yoga challenge. Although there is no 'challenge' in yoga with the exception of challenging frigging poses. Done: one man think tank meeting adjourned.
I've always done my yoga at home. Pop in the DVD and rock n roll. I knocked out 17 days straight without a hitch other than one stubborn hamstring that is not a fan of the activity. On the 18th day I was to head to Vancouver. My trips to Vancouver tend to be the low key hang with family and friends coupled with very little exercise--we're talking vay-cay which is hipster for; vacation folks.

Part of the trip would be spent in Surrey, B.C. so I hopped online and found a studio near my lodgings. (yes I said lodgings, so what). The amazing studio (Vayusha www.vayushayoga.com)
 replied to my inquiry by email and text. Ha! They had me at customer service which is a luxury rapidly heading into extinction.

I arrived at the studio early knowing there'd be a waiver to sign plus a guy needs to find just the right corner, locker or cubbyhole to stash his shoes and socks. What is a cubby anyway?

The place was jammed with happy yoga-clad ladies…and me, the 200 lbs. nervous brother who's crappy at yoga. Again, thank god there's no judging in yoga. 'I can do this,' I tell myself. I used to play football. I used to come up so hard and fast on a guy that when I hit him he'd cough up the ball. Although, win or lose something always hurt by the final whistle. But this was yoga with a lot of women in Lulu Lemon gear. What could hurt other than foolish pride. And why is it that pride is always foolish? Why can't it be genius pride? That's it, I decided right then and there to take back the genius pride streets. My pride was going to be genius, moving forward. Unless, of course I fell ass over tea kettle during the class in an attempt at an unnecessary balance pose.

After the quick introduction to Candi who I believe is the owner I was thrown an unexpected yet happy curve ball. It went like this.

"Do you know what Jonathan there's no charge for you today. Just enjoy the class."

Well how do you like them yogi apples? I thought. Clearly my pathetic lost puppy dog look (which would later meld into several downward dogs) moved Candi to waive the usual drop in fee. No wonder everybody smiles so much around this joint. They're flexible, they breathe better than the average bear and sometimes stuff is..free. I like this world, sign me up!

I grabbed a yoga mat and hefted it to a position as far back and away from the instructor as possible. As I said earlier I'd never done a class before; just videos. Don't forget I had genius pride to protect. I posted up beside an emergency exit. Clearly that door was meant for me. The first thing the instructor did was thank us for coming. "Especially while Canada is playing in the hockey semi final. 'Sh**' I mumbled to myself. I'd forgotten about the game. My eyes flash to the emergency exit. In fact it called to me like a devil on my shoulder.

"Come on pal, push this tiny lever and in ten minutes your feet will be up on a couch watching Canada's favorite sport."

"No," I tell the devil-door.

"Technically you're on vay-cay so you could have a beer while watching the game," the door mocked. If not for the fact that my shoes and socks were in a cubbyhole I may have done a shoulder roll out the door. (Incidentally shouldn't a cubbyhole be called a 'shoe and socky-hole?' Wait a minute socky rhymes with hockey. NOOOOOO!)

But I fought temptation and stayed for the class. We began with breathing and light stretches. No sweat, I got this. I'm in the zone. We slowly got deeper into the poses and deeper into ah, er, yoga I suppose. I was heating up whilst keeping up. Pride: still genius. There were even times when light laughter broke out. Good heavens these women were getting fit and laughing. No wonder all of the smiling. Being the only dude (and brother) I felt like a fly on the wall…or perhaps fly on the yoga mat. This was like infiltrating a hen party or a bachelorette party or even more accurately a book club. I was on the inside. I was the inside man in all of my 200 lbs shoeless glory.

60 minutes later we were done. I'd managed every pose although my crow pose was extremely brief. And there were even a few ladies that managed the side crow. Allow me to paint a picture for those not familiar with the side crow. Basically your face is 10 inches from the matt and you're balancing on your hands. Your legs jut out to the side. One of your thighs/knees rests on one of your elbows. Looking at you head-on you'd look like a big rig truck that is in the middle of jack knifing. In fact, if I ever teach a yoga class for dudes; both tough guys and former tough guys it would go as follows:

"Okay dummies move into jack knife big rig. Breathe dummies. Your breathing is your air brakes. Hold the pose! If you don't that 18 wheeler is going through the guard rail and you won't make your delivery! Come on guys we're rigs! We're big rigs with heavy duty super charged engines dammit! Hold the pose!"

side crow baby!
Bottom line is Vayusha Yoga is a great facility with an excellent class. The studio is clean and warm with big windows that allow plenty of natural light. I'll definitely be going back next time I'm up that way. I managed to make 27 out of 30 days of my yoga challenge which was hatched by my one man think tank at my kitchen table. I don't believe I failed in achieving my goal as there is no judging in yoga. And where I once donned the football helmet I now roll out the yoga mat. Because it's all about body awareness and ahem, acting one's age.

**Getting back to the issue of cubbyholes. Wikipedia claims that a cubbyhole is a small safe place for children to play. Wikipedia also claims that the origin possibly stems from the old english word 'cub' meaning; pen, stall, coop etc. 

I thank wikipedia for their effort however they have it wrong. Cubbyhole comes from a little den in the ground where animals such as foxes keep their cubs. Today we have cubbyholes which are small or 'cubby like.' Hence; cubbyhole. My theory which is ironclad arose from my one man think tank at my kitchen table and cannot…be disputed. Now get out there and yogafy people!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Ah, The People We Meet

As a basic rule I'm generally not a Starbucks guy. However, there are times that by hook or crook--Starbucks is where I can be found. One Thursday morning I stopped in for a chocolate chip cookie; a delicacy I allow myself one to two times per annum. I brought out my notebook and started writing--yes I know a novelist taking up real estate in a Starbucks, how…vomitus. I sat at the communal table across from a nice looking woman in her late 60's. She had long straight black, gray streaked hair. Each of us went about their business: she upon laptop and me upon old school papyrus.

Fifteen minutes into our 'work' we slid into some small talk as she stood to leave. She claimed that she rarely frequented Starbucks but needed the WIFI. She asked what I was writing and in under 500 words I told her of my first book Crescendo and how I was writing book II; Drumroll Please. When I told her my main character was a drummer she asked if I too was a drummer. I answered in the affirmative and she added, "me too." Her British accent possessed a sprinkling of the cockney.

"Cool," I said, "and good for you we need more female drummers."

"Yes, I dated a drummer for awhile and when he wasn't home I'd play his drums. After awhile Mitch started teaching me a few things."

"Mitch?" I said working on a long, long, long shot of a theory.

"Yes, a bloke named Mitch Mitchell."

My heart nearly busted out of my chest. I sat up straighter and attempted to shrink the size of my smile but failed.

"Do you mean Jimi Hendrix's drummer Mitch Mitchell?"

"Yeah, do you know him?" she asked smiling as if we had a bloke in common.

"Well, yeah. I mean I don't know him or didn't know him but…Jimi is my all- time favorite artist. So you…you and Mitch…wow!" I say brilliantly. At this point in the conversation 'Tracy' put her lap top back on the table and sat back down. We hit it off like long lost friends. We had commonalities after all. We both dug Jimi and Mitch; we both liked to talk and were both non-Starbuckians on passing rafts on the Starbuckian sea of over priced drinks, cheesy writers (like me) and high priced dumb-dumb CD compilations.

 Apparently 'Tracy' hung out back in the day near Abbey Road. She and her close girlfriend would frequent the pubs. She claimed that she 'looked pretty good' in those days and thus had most of her drinks bought for her by the likes of Mitch Mitchell (obviously), Paul McCartney, Brian May (guitar player of Queen) and a host of others. I grinned like a kid does on his first roller coaster ride but without the screaming…barely without the screaming. Even if she was fabricating I didn't care I was all ears. But I believed her, I could see it in her eyes. She was the real McCoy. We ended up talking for over 90 minutes.

I'm a people guy not a Starbucks guy yet I have Starbucks to thank for if Starbucks didn't occupy every damn corner in North America I would not have met 'Tracy' the sweet 60-something British dame with the straight gray-black hair who used to run with the heavyweight british rockers from back in the day. Ah, the people we meet. Ain't life grand!