26 October 2013

I have an idea...just in time for Halloween

I fear using the actual logo...so I will sidestep (thanks scavengeinc.com)

So, I have an idea...

I would have done this in an open letter format, but I fear Dan Aykroyd and Bill Murray would have been too self-serving to read it (Harold Ramis is too busy slaving over a MacBook Pro generating some other tax-paying script for Ivan's son).  So I am just going to do it this way.

Granted, I have a couple of belts in me while Comedy Central serves up "Ghostbusters II" after last call, but whatever. Side note: Jenny McCarthy selling e-cigs...how the mighty have fallen(?). But hear me out...or don't, because this format facilitates that option.

So, as we know, the original "Ghostbusters" was the combination of wit, culture, humor and city life that made a movie that was good great. Add signature performances from Aykroyd, Ramis, Rick Moranis and that dick bad guy from "Real Genius"...with clever writing, and you have a classic. As most sequels are, it was a marketing money-grab that anything with that stupid ghost imposed with the "say no to drugs" circle-crossed-out turned into a payday for the principles. But we can't hate the players, we must hate the game.

Sure, you rattle off a sub-par sequel, but at least the writing was better than Jackie Mason's meshugganah lameness of Caddyshack 2. But the one thing they did not consider when creating a part two is trying to connect the dots when creating and executing a part three. Yeah, yeah, the rumors are there. But good luck trying to synthesize a feasible part three when all the principles are at odds.

So, I have an idea...

"Ghostbusters II" was still as serviceable as "The Borne Supremacy" to link the next logical step. Dana's son, Oscar, kinda just showed up as a secondary (if not tertiary) character to add the humanity to Dr. Venkman adding to the comical sexual tension of Peter and Dana. Yeah, yeah, Oscar is generated like a virgin-born son--the movie makes zero attempt to make the newborn-to-toddler an allegory. But I digress.

So, I have an idea...

The second "Ghostbusters" movie was released in 1989. With the suspension of disbelief, we can assume that Oscar is about six months old. I mean, the kiddo was just a nodding baby when it came to any action in the film. Which is fine for my reboot of this once-proud franchise. My simple addition, the kiddo that is Oscar is now out of college (hopefully NYU for the sake of continuity). Tack on 25 years to the release of "Ghostbusters II" and you have a kiddo that is almost 26 at 2014.

Stay with me here, because I have an idea...

Instead of the original writers, creators, producers and creative conglomeration complaining about a certain CHARACTER or ACTOR being available for a certain role...why not do what a bunch of divorced or widowed men do with their female companions...go younger? Oscar is the perfect template of young child dealing with trauma that shapes the rest of his life. Sure, he may have been too young, but the headlines in the New York Post alone would make him a temporary media darling with the "Where Are They Now" story every five or so years. But then again, with the local government and the communication control of their administration, they may want to hush the fact that a small child was about to be possessed by a painting.

So, instead of focusing on what the hell Stantz and Spengler have been doing for a quarter of a century while Manhattan has changed and suffered and changed and strived, why not focus on a young, cunning, hungry and passionate youth tracking down the one thing that scarred him at a very early age...ghosts? Ivan Reitman and the whole "Ghostbuster" creative collective already minted a perfect origin story in part II without event trying (as it was a story arc that didn't collect itself until the final act).

So, here's how I see the start of "Ghostbusters III"...


Oscar slowly paces through the vacant railway as night vision goggles line the way. His slow steps crush ages-old rubble and gravel under his deliberate progress. He hears faint howls in the distance.

C'mon you shiny, green bastard. I know you're here.

Granted this is a huge reduction of the writing that will make this movie an automatic success. But you get my point. Make the kid the primary focus. Uncle Ray, Uncle Egon, Uncle Winston, Mama and the very silent Uncle Pete not only shaped this kids motivations, but the men in his life could help busting ghosts his passion.

And think about it, doing a "Ghostbusters" in modern-day New York City...c'mon...how cool would that be? Fighting the sons of the Scoleri Brothers in Park Slope? Another Level 5 Phantasm in the Lower East Side? The newest population of ghosts that populate that city? C'mon, steal a page from Breaking Bad and use the city as a dynamic character. The possible story lines are more than bountiful...aside from being bitterly macabre.

Anyway, appropriate to the "season", I just think it's smarter to extend trilogies on a generational level. Why create a haphazard second trilogy when you already created the next extension of the saga? Oscar is your new Venkman, even though he takes the name of Barrett.

Just an idea...

Lessons Learned, my three things:
1) I should write these posts more often at 3AM.
2) Grass is grass, why worry about the shade of green?
3) I am (apparently) very passionate about Halloween.

Here's to more posts. Need to be better than I was yesterday. Talk later.

29 December 2011

Holiday Runaround OR The State of Texas isn't THAT big

During this white elephant season, I made a killing. And yes, that is a NCAA-licensed Snuggie.

For everyone disappointed in the usual anniversary post or the "this is what I did on my birthday" post (which is usually one in the same), I was slightly preoccupied this go-round. Since I am what you call a lame son/sibling/family member, I wanted to prove my metal this holiday season. With last year lost to holiday work coverage and this Thanksgiving lost to scheduling SNAFUs, I wanted to make it up to the ones I love. Therefore, we loaded up Andi, packed as many gifts as we thought we needed, gassed her up and launched to four different stops. Yeah, who's the deadbeat now?

Checkpoint 1: In between the rural communities of Stockdale and Floresville off of State Highway 97 lies a very familiar waypoint. Uncle Gary, Aunt Tami and Grandpa hosted yet another white elephant/Chinese Christmas/Pepsi blind taste test party. This was a definite go-to because I wanted to see my grandfather in a non-wedding setting. Plus, the party is always packed with surprise gifts and discussion topics I know very little about (i.e. Whitetail hunting season in Texas). It's classic good times generated primarily by old family friends and loved ones but kicked up a notch by absolutely absurd white elephant gifts.
     Painful part of the trip: watching Grandpa get his selected gift stolen from him FIVE times. He was by far the most popular target with the gift traders. I winced every time someone jacked him.
     Lessons learned on Checkpoint 1: I have a little bit more to discuss with Grandpa than I thought. From natural gas drilling issues in South Texas to the family stronghold in Glenrose, The Lovely and I had a lot of talking points we went back and forth with my sole surviving elder patriarch.
     Addendum: thoughts and prayers are with our friend Chesley and his family as he will be going into surgery next month for cancer. With a personality and tenacity such as his, he will whip this fight no problem.

Checkpoint 2: Barreling through more of State Highway 97 and dodging heavy trucks through State Highway 85, we would connect to the southern tip of Interstate 35 headed down Laredo-way. The trip to the parents is always interesting. As some folks would love to discover the aura and the mystery that is Laredo proper (at least the Chamber of Commerce version of Laredo), The Lovely and I practice quite a solid policy of isolationism. Once we are at the homestead, that's it. We are there, along with my sister that spent Christmas with the four of us. And everything we would ever need is in the spot where we landed. And to me, that's perfect. It's like showing up to an all-inclusive resort where there is absolutely no desire to venture outside the premises. You know, like all over Mexico? Well, this is tantamount to our trip to my parents. The food and drink are always available, the conversation is great and the relaxation level is at 11.
     Painful part of the trip: my first shower in two days and I have icicles forming on my fingertips. I guess with their house, the water heater isn't used to supporting three other humans. Boo.
     Lessons Learned from Checkpoint 2: Ham is delicious BY ITSELF. You don't need a stupid glaze and bag of brown sugar to cover or coat the fine, tasty meat product. It is fine. Leave it be.

You want proof? Here. Here's your proof (via Google Maps).

Checkpoint 3: One would think with a latitudinal difference of  13' 6", it would be a straight shot. But as we I have written about Corpus Christi, nothing comes easy (even though they can't help their geographical location). It took three hours mostly across US Highway 59 connecting to State Highway 44. But we hit it. Once we landed, I felt like we were on the clock...the total opposite of the Laredo trip. Drop gear, do a load of laundry, drop off some more gifts, check in with Cutaway, come back, get dressed, do Hanukkah, enjoy latkes, open gifts, go back home, watch the Spurs, watch Drew Brees break a record, think about running in the morning, think about running in the morning, think about running in the morning...you get the point. It was such a short trip, The Lovely and I always have about two to three days to stretch out the family and friends connections. It kinda sucked being rushed as this one stop felt like we were under the gun the whole time. The total time we spent was 23 hours and it did not feel like enough.
     Painful part of the trip: aside from feeling rushed, realizing that we brought the wrong vehicle for transporting all of The Lovely's historical artifacts. I was kicking myself the whole time realizing that the Urban Assault Vehicle should always be the default vehicle (terrible gas economy notwithstanding) because we have no idea what will will be hauling to and fro.
     Lessons Learned from Checkpoint 3: Corpus roads absolutely suck. That is probably why there is not any MINIs rolling through that pothole haven. Yet another job for the UAV.

Checkpoint 4: This is probably about the easiest leg of the trip. A cigarette-smoking monkey falling asleep can navigate Interstate 37 with no problem. Once we hit San Antonio proper, it's only a matter of navigating some patches of traffic, but nothing infuriating. Once we landed on the northside, we were golden. Granted, we beat little brother to his own house, but only by two minutes. I think this stop was a hybrid of the relaxation of my parent's house with the constant activity of the white elephant party. When there is a nine-month old and a nearly three year-old, Uncle Bam Bam and Aunt Mel have to be on point. After making Gav want more laughter and attention, we had to eat at some point. Finally, a lean protein! Brother's culinary artistry extends to the open-flame grill. Awesome. More reading of books, opening of games and watching RC tracks in action, we were far more worn out than his parental counterparts. Conversation was light and informative, but really, it was about being there. Apparently, young Gavin debriefed his mother on how much fun he had with Uncle and Auntie. Right there, that was worth the 153 mile extension.
     Painful part of the trip: hearing something made of hard plastic crash then the sequential baby screaming. Fortunately, the baby gate resting against the back of the couch just missed Baby GIG. That loud noise would upset any mammal.
     Lessons Learned from Checkpoint 4: Baby GIG is one tough son of a...one tough kid. The day we landed he was rolling with dual ear infections. But he was just moving about like a pseudo-normal nine-month old. He is dealing with an overgrowth development malady where his is the size of an 18-month old. GIG will have to deal with this for the rest of his life, but the glance of strength I saw in him, he should be perfectly fine...especially with a supportive, loving brother like Gav.

Missed opportunity: Our trip would have had an interesting hook route pointing to Wimberley, but our timing pattern was off. Young August and his daddy (my brother) were unable to launch until early afternoon, where we were chasing a 5:30pm sundown back to Dallas. Two out of three nephews isn't bad, especially when it comes to all of our competing schedules. So, we will have to make is down to (ugh) Houston to check on Nephew Prime (he was the first of the bunch by about two months). Better luck next time.

So, four checkpoints, 1,030 miles, 18.5 hours of road time. That's like driving from Dallas to Tampa, FL one way. That's like Dallas to Grand Forks, ND. That's like an hour short of driving from Dallas to Vegas. That's how you start your third year in your 30s.

Lessons Learned, my three things:
1) The toll roads around Austin are ABSOLUTELY USELESS. Yeah, let me pay eight bucks to get to the city limits of Austin, drive 10 miles east, then 20 miles north to realize I probably could have saved time taking surface roads...even while I am average 90 MPH down said tollways. The 45 and 130 toll is poorly planned, poorly executed and saves zero time. What an absolute waste. I blame Rick Perry.
2) Satellite radio is also a poorly executed product. Remember when it used to be commercial-free? Remember when it played non-commercial deep cuts of albums? I do, too. At least they still have Stern.
3) It's good to be reminded that family is important.

Happy anniversary to P30P. I have had just as much fun composing this blog as the seven people that read this drivel continue to read post after post. I still have some back-logged blogs to hit while I have the time. Let's see if the muses and my selectivity provide some write-time. Until then, talk later.

13 December 2011

Dallas: Year Two -- Can I Start Complaining Now?

I guess it's my town now since it hasn't been returned to it's rightful owner?

I am noticing an alarming trend when it comes to the choice of where I call home. Maybe this has been the case the whole time of my existence, but my ears seem to be listening better to the chatter of passive-aggressive rumblings. The grass always has to be greener, doesn't it?

The two year anniversary of the came with very limited fanfare. It was just another day for The Lovely and me. This is a good thing, because I want to be comfortable where I lay my head. But along with this complacency and predictability comes an added dose of responsibility for tracking and absorbing what goes on here. From the micro (my apartment building has been purchased yet again, now to a soulless megalith of a corporation that wants to be the next Merc Building) to the macro (more parks are being built downtown while no one wants to reside in the largest office buildings downtown) to the regional (worst drought in years has destroyed water sources while Dallas is selling water?) to the global (AMR has filed for bankruptcy because they don't know how to run an airline while AT&T has no concept of anti-trust laws). I almost feel just as responsible to follow how Dallas is coming along as I do with Information Security. Working in parallel, both subjects can change in a blink.

This brings to mind the same situational awareness of my prior inhabited township. The town they call Corpus Christi...that has a familiar crisp to my tongue when saying the name, but not the same familiarity of memory. It's as if I disavowed any knowledge of that town as soon as I moved from there. But it's amazing how the exact same issue that plagued the City By The Sea (I will not add "Sparkling" because that town has a huge litter problem, starting with every Wal-Mart parking lot) is dragging down the continued development of Dallas. I know, right?

At least with downtown Dallas, they had a jump start on development that was not leveled by a hurricane in 1919. But the same pains exists. There was an slow but deliberate exit of big companies from the largest buildings. The loss of HEB in Corpus was just as huge as the lights going out in the First National Bank building on 1401 Elm. Corpus losing Whataburger corporate headquarters is just as huge as residential developments at the Bulter building falling through. There's more graffiti and human waste across the street from Dallas City Hall than there is at the old white six-story building off of Staples Street.

Continue that with the frustration of a thought-to-be popular city council and a "pro-business" mayor, and that is where you can achieve parallel construction in two different townships simultaneously. Ironic that moving from one Texas town to a big Texas city would essentially have the same internal conflict.

Adding fuel to this grass fire is a healthy dose of logic not being utilized. Enter Patrick Kennedy. When I first read about him, The Lovely and I were three months into our living arrangements at the same lofts that he lived. Only difference was the Dallas Morning News wrote an article about him. When you talk the talk and really know what you are talking about, it's impressive. But, when you can walk the walk and prove it on a global scale...that puts you in line for "a cabinet post!".

An explanation: Mr. Kennedy decided to forgo his car for the sake of designing a better city. Thankfully, his focus was on downtown Dallas. Dreadfully, he seems to be running into the same bureaucratic resistance we would run into if we wanted to speed up the line for a driver's license renewal at the DPS office. It is jaw-dropping as to how some of the simple (and cheap) solutions are right there for the taking, yet the mindset is just too locked into the status quo.

So, I will continue to dodge speeding cars through crappily-marked crosswalks while attempts at "improvement" go self-served or silent. But every city has their idiosyncrasies. Portland has birds painted all over the city for some odd reason. Seattle's weather still sucks. San Francisco has a 50-50 chance of being dropped from the continental shelf. NYC is way, way, WAY too expensive for a married couple to live above the poverty line. Chicago has Cubs/Bears fans. See, the pitfalls are everywhere.

But, I wouldn't want to be anywhere else in the world...right now.

Lessons Learned, my three things.
1) I will admit it. I do have a love affair with my FJ Cruiser. I even have a stupid nickname for it. And I love my road trips with the UAV (Urban Assault Vehicle). But I do love clean(ish) air and using my fully-functional legs and feet. That's a primary reason why I live downtown.
2) You know what other love affair needs to end? Home ownership. Way too overrated. If I am not having kids and adding 19,000 more hours in a car per year, then I will start looking in interest rates and pretentious neighborhoods. Plus, I hated mowing the lawn when I was a kid. You can't take it with you when you die, people.
3) I voted for Kunkle. Just saying.

I have to say this was the quickest two year period I have ever spent in one place...other than college. I am still on back order some some blog post, so enjoy the continued tardiness. Talk later.

08 December 2011

Just when you think you are doing nothing...

So, first it was my hat...

...now it's his.

It was a simple gesture. The summer day was about as random as it could be hanging out at the Marks household. The kid (my second-eldest nephew Ryan) snags my University of Texas National Championship alternate orange hat with white trim (web image not found) and slips it over his floppy straight hair. So, he wears the hat. It looks good on him. Since it looks better on him, I just thought he could get more use out of it. Besides, I have a dozen or so hats all in the closet to remove from the rotation. No big whoop. He wears the hat all summer.

As he was set to depart back from the calm seas of Corpus Christi Bay to the constant chop of Parkland (even though that town is somewhat landlocked), he unconditionally handed it back not giving it another thought. Reflecting the thoughtful thoughtlessness, I said, "Keep it. Bring it back next year and I will take it back." It was a confusing thing to say to a 7 or 8 year-old. But it was essentially a "ah, hang on to it. I have plenty more hats where that came from" thought. He continues to wear the hat.

I didn't think it would result in a parable like this...

And now-now, it's a part of his coming-of-age story.

Here now is Ryan's speech (for lack of a better word) explaining his selection process for his reading of the Torah during his Bar Mitzvah. My apologies for the grammar and lack of punctuation as this is a copy of the actual transcript Ryan recited that day.

The name of the Torah portion is Chayei Sarah. My torah portion deals with two major subjects: death and Marriage. The story begins by announcing that Abraham's wife Sarah died at age 127. Then Abraham goes to the land of the Hittites, to find land to bury Sarah. I will talk more about this later, but I am going to tell you right now the most important message is that Abraham bought the first piece of Jewish land. After he buried Sarah, Abraham went onto his next task, to find a wife for his son Isaac. Abraham told his servant to go to the land of his birth to find a wife for Isaac and may only return if the woman he asks refuses to go. So his servant takes ten camels and goes on his journey. When he arrived in the city of Nahor, he needed water for himself and his camels. Then he prayed to God that if the girl he asked for water insisted on watering the camels, then she would be the one to marry Isaac. On his first first try a women named Rebekah offered to water all then camels. The servant then went to her house and told the story of his master telling him to go on this journey to find a wife for Isaac and how Rebekah watered his camels just like God said she would. Before the servant took Rebekah if she agreed to go on and marry Isaac. Rebekah obliged and returned with the servant to marry Isaac. After Isaac and Rebakah married, Abraham died at age 175 and was buried next to Sarah.

The part of this Torah portion that interests me the most is when Abraham insists on buying the piece of land for his wife, instead of Ephron, the landowner, giving the land to him as a gift. When Abraham first wen to the land of the Hittites and asked for land to bury his dead, all of them said to bury his dead without any payments. Abraham wasn't intending to bury his dead for free so, he replied to the people that he wanted to bury his dead at a fair market price. Ephron then told Abraham to bury his dead for just a little bit of money, but Abraham insists that he buy the land for a fair market price. Abraham took note of Ephron and heard him say the land was 400 shekels. So Abraham then measured and weighed his money, and publicly handed the money to Ephron. Once Abraham handed Ephrom the coins and Ephon accepted them, the deal was finished and Abraham now owned the very firest piced of Jewish land.

My Torah portion teaches us the importance of land to Jews and to stay loyal to your word. The first one I am going to talk about is the importance of staying loyal to your word. For example when Abraham bought a piece of land from Ephron he portrayed Chesed V'emet, which means to take are of the dead and to be loyal to your word. This is one of the most important promises because it is one promise that the person can't check, and is based on honor. Some ways to be loyal to your word is to do what you say and keep promises. By staying loyal to your word you build integrity and respect with your friends and family. Abraham kept his promise to his wife Sarah by buying the land from Ephron in her memory. Which brings me to my second point, the importance of land to Jews. Jews care about land very strongly because at one point we couldn't buy land for ourselves, and then when we escaped Egypt we were brought to the Promised Land brought to us by God. This is important because it shows we have a historical connection with the land of Israel. When Abraham bought the piece of land from Ephron it showed that Jews had overcome so much and had earned their freedom once and for all.

My Torah portion teaches me of keeping my word. For example my uncle gave me his hat from the University of Texas that he bought [from] the Rose Bowl, and he said I could keep it for a year and to keep good care of it. When I was going back home from Texas I made sure that I was wearing it and not to get it dirty. When I cam e back in about a year I remembered the hat and I brought it with me making sure it was in the best shape it could be in. When I got to my uncle I showed him the hat, and he was amazed that I kept my word. He was so impressed with me that he even let me keep the hat. Just like Israel created a bond with the Jews my hat created a bond between my uncle [and me]. As I become a Bar Mitzvah, I learn that I am accepting the responsibilities of a Jewish adult. Some examples of this are studying for my Bar Mitzvah, doing the dishes and cleaning my room.

I would like to thank my parents for helping me through the process of being a Bar Mitzvah and for all the things they do for me. Also, I would like to thank Fred Berkowitz for helpin gme learn all my Hebrew and making it fun. Lastly, I would like to thank Cantor Arnold and Rabbi Boxman for helping me find meaning and understand my Torah and haftorah. I would like to thank you all for coming here and remember to keep your word.

Just when you think a hat is a hat or a gesture is something simple or a whale is just a whale, someone--especially someone young--completely changes your perspective. By the by, he still wears the hat. It's in the same relative condition that I gave it to him almost six years ago.

Lessons Learned, my three things (for this particular event):
1) Never forget that kids are sponges...with the good and the bad.
2) If you have over a dozen of any one single item, that is plenty. May want to share the wealth.
3) There is nothing wrong with being surprised once in a while. Even for a guy that hates surprises, it's not a bad thing...in very limited moderation.

I am on the backlog chronicling all the series of events that has given Hell Month a run for it's money. Next time, it's been two years...TWO YEARS...of this DFW life. I wonder what has remained the same? Talk later.

25 October 2011

Wedding Blog, Pt. IV - One more round, Velvet Tiger

I don't always drink beer. But when I do, I do it with Michael Bittner.

So, it comes down to this. In my final adventure to completely make the best night in a couple's lives all about me, I culminate my four-part series on weddings with it's final narrative, concluding that maybe all weddings are not that bad. As explained to the three previously-wedded couples, I have successfully unfairly compared their festivities and ceremony and minimized them to a mere shindig or hoe-down status. I was invited even though the super-nuptials I partook in nearly four years ago was the best. And if they didn't like my critique, I was going to take my ball, and a slice of cake, and go home. In an exhausting seven-month run, I have tasted eight cakes, witnessed four awkward kisses ordered by officiants and blew off the World Series Game 3 (which was a pretty good game to blow off) to chronicle this institution. As I am finally done with all of this celebratory celebration, my hypothesis has been altered due to all of the experimental variables that have screwed up my control group. We jump all of these crazy hurdles for love. Not only for the love of a man or woman, but a love of family and extended family and extended family that will help life out any and every step of the way. Thanks Michael and Sarah for screwing up my original thesis that everyone's wedding other than mine is a massive time killer. Great. Just great.

If you can't tell, I am yelling at the happy couple while The Lovely smiles proudly
(Thanks to
Michael & Fairy Tale Photography for the leak).

I think for the rest of the year, I am just going to fly by the seat of my pants as far as planning for what I am going to do day by day and hour by hour. Sure, I will go to work and eat breakfast and all those necessities, but in regards to the last two weddings I was invited to, the level of planning, forethought and time-brokering for mundane activities was a bit much for me. I thought Jeff's wedding was overdoing it...Michael scheduled the day of hour by hour. Who schedules their mid-afternoon cocktail? And whatever wasn't scheduled over email or Google Calendar, I felt like it was an episode of "24". Because, "we don't have time" or "we're running out of time".

As the expanding scope of the wedding continued to capture volunteers to perform side jobs before the event, I became technical support for the visual presentation at the reception hosted at the parents for the bride. Yeah, I'm complaining because I was mildly hung over from the rehearsal dinner, but it really wasn't that big of a deal. Just bring your laptop, plug it in to the big TV in the living room and run a slide show. Not bad. But as we all know with technology, the devil is in the details.

I apparently own the saddest Dell laptop ever because it only has three USB 2.0 ports and only a VGA out. I skipped past the HPs and Lenvonos that actually have supportable video capabilities. Damn my cheapness. Fortunately, there was a SD card reader on the set. Easy peasy: just move the JPEG files from the jump drive to the SD, prep the set for "infinite loop" and the video slide show of super-embarrassing pictures of the couple before they met is complete for the presentation. One problem: the universal remote does not play nice with the embedded Panasonic functions. With only about 30 minutes to spare and the father of the bride shrugging at me, I did the only thing I could think of to remedy this issue...I asked the mother of the bride for help.

Turns out wives hide things from husbands. But I didn't think it would be the TV set remote. Jill (mom of bride) procured the only device that could solve my issue in under 10 seconds. John (pop of bride) was not only impressed with the audible I called, but happy that his partner for life had his back. Crisis averted. The bride gets what she wants without a clumsy laptop teetering problematically on top of a Blu-ray player. And the small victory makes the occasion that much more special.

The Lovely and I in full wedding mode. Thanks again to Michael for the bow tie execution.

I guess this was where I turned the corner on the whole wedding thing. Maybe I should have been more involved in the three previous weddings (building an arbor that looked suspiciously like a chuppah notwithstanding). Maybe putting my heart before my head would have been the way to go with the other celebrations. Not that I didn't love all of the other participants--I do. But there was something about this wedding that holds a very special place in my heart.

It was a rough time for Michael and I a handful of years back. I was getting my ass whipped trying to pay back some of my debts in Corpus while Michael was getting his ass whipped in law school. I made my semi-annual visit to Austin (when Austin actually felt like home instead of an extension of Northpark Mall). We shot a couple games of billiards at the old home of Gingerman. We were both in the dumps, but Michael was in a far darker corner of the dumpster than I was. I expressly remember him giving up on love. He was going to be content, once with his law degree, bar exam clearance and firm job, that he was just going to have some "trophies" laying around. Sure, he would like them and all, but he knew that where he was headed, not only did he not have time for love, he wasn't in the mood to try to discover it. It was one of those statements that you rock back on your heels and say, "whoa". Not only on the fact that Michael scratched on the eight ball again, but just the shear resigning of effort. He might as well mail it in. And no matter how much shit I was in, this made me feel even sadder, especially for someone that I have known since 1999.

Fast-forward 12 years later, the tendered letter of resignation was revoked. And it made me happy. It has been a long, strange trip for Michael, likewise for Sarah (though I don't know all of her narratives in between). But when you have known someone and have grown up with someone and you see all the sections of growth and maturity, it gets to you on a different emotional plane. And it made perfect sense that this was the most anticipated event of the season. And you want to be a part of it. Hell, you need to be a part of it because it parallels life (at least mine) so much that it almost makes the universe balanced.

The one thing about an actual bow-tie is the hammered look is quite respectable.

Before everyone gets ahead of themselves, this wedding did not--I repeat--NOT top the wedding where The Lovely said, "I do". But Sarah and Michael made one hell of a run at it to overtake the ranking. And I wouldn't have missed it for 20 Texas Ranger World Series.

To the happy couple, I had no idea East McKinney resembled Stockdale, TX. That was an added bonus. I am pretty sure I can speak for The Lovely when I say that we were absolutely honored by the invite, participation and exclusivity you gave both of us during this very special affair. I apologize for secretly being a punk. I hope none of my negativity reached you (I really, really hope it didn't) but this will be my last wedding in attendance for at least four years. No disrespect, but my wedding was better. But only better in the sense that I met the perfect woman and you two are perfect for each other. I don't think I could last one week married to Michael--not that there is anything wrong with that. Sarah, welcome to the Bittner-Bolton-Gonzalez-Chapman-Garner branch of the family. Anytime you both need any thing, just ring The Lovely or me. I would say good luck to both of you but I don't think you need it since you have already dodged a severe thunderstorm by stagecoach. I love you both.

Wedding Blog disclaimer -- I am done. Done, I tell you. You wanna start something, meet me outside.

Lessons Learned, my three things.
1) Go Rangers! Nap Nap Wiener.
2) Hey #OccupyDallas, I support you, but come on. Walk three more blocks down and two blocks up and you get to fuck with the real suits, not the poor bastard personal banker that gets paid less than a teacher.
3) T-minus 39 days...and boy are my legs used to this.

Finally, I can start studying. Thank God. Oh, wait...I have another mitzvah is South Florida? Where are my flash cards? Talk later.

23 August 2011

Only requesting one type of segregation

Wow, look at that Greek God! Oh wait, that's me bearded and 15 pounds lighter. Those were the days.

In a quarterly effort of beating my body to a pulp a trying to create a new record for reciting the only memorable quote from Lethal Weapon, I decided to sign up for a half-marathon training at a local running store (redacted). I won the training during a silent auction, so I might as well use it. Besides, my whole "one-man wolfpack" routine wasn't working out other than looking for strippers and cocaine (calm down, it's a movie quote). So, it was a common-sense move for someone that wanted another crack at the White Rock track...but only half.

Picture yourself, waking up at four-fifteen in the morning every other day (Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday). In the waking moments, you stumble around in the darkness looking for all of your new and updated running accoutrement. The Garmin watch is clear across the way from the specially-designed running socks which is opposite room of the quick breakfast pellets to snack on pre-run. While the sleep is trying to escape your eyes, YOU HAVE TO DRIVE to the running store where the group meets (quick aside: I hate the fact I have to drive to run. I should just run...but it is a bit far for a warmup jog from the house...still hate that, though).

The car is in park. The inventory continues: watch, visor, car key separation, water bottle belt, Sports Beans, heart monitor, forgetting to powder your thighs and tape your nipples but you will tough it out. There is now a constant pile of a change of clothes and towels for the aftermath. As the truck doors are locked, there is a deep inhalation of a warm, almost radioactive, air rising from the roads that are about to be run. Get ready for 05:15...that's when it starts.

Sounds fun, right?

With record temperatures for the past--oh--sixty days (!), oh-dark-thirty is about the only safe time to attempt a run more than four miles. But it's not the waking or the anticipation of tearing my body down that ruins the group runs for me.

Maybe it's my background of adolescent locker rooms and two hulking brothers also into sports or just my general comfort level with my company during athletic endeavors...but there is an element to my group run that makes me dread Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday (other than the avoidance of alcohol on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday--boo!).

"You know, this is almost as hard as child birth."

"Oh my gosh, it is so hot out here. And I'm tired."

"You can tell that race doesn't cater to women. There race shirts were awful."

"My assistant is such a moron. She can't do one thing right."

"Are you on travel because I'm not on travel if you are on travel."

"Have you read 'The Help' or are you going to see the movie first?"

You guessed it. It's not the time or day or the strain of effort, it's the fact that I am running with a dozen women that just won't stop talking. Jeezie Chreezie, it is five-fucking-fifteen in the morning! What the hell is so important at 5:15 that you have to prattle on about it for four miles? I don't care about your job. I don't care about your kids. I don't care that you had to invite a person you didn't want to invite to happy hour. It is 5:15! Why are you talking? Stop talking and run!

Now, I don't mean to be misogynistic. And damnit if I'm not the first one in line to say I love women. To boot, all of these women in my running group are beautiful and athletic. Plus, I don't want to degrade a system that has been around a lot longer than my lone-wolf ass. The unnamed running store has fantastic coaches and a great system that keeps runners alive. For those facts, the store has nothing to do with my consternation of the group. I guess I just need to run faster.

The aimless chatter issue came to a head when we had to consolidate running groups due to a shortage of coaches. The addition of the dozen or so ladies that have nothing to do but to talk and run consumed the full-marathon group we latched onto. Ladies talking to new people...silence didn't stand a chance. The overwhelmed coach asked everyone to keep the volume down to no avail. Poor homeowners in affluent neighborhoods were subjected to my every-other-day hell.

In this case, I think a bit of segregation wouldn't hurt. Granted, the groups would be super small. My current group of 15 would be whittled to three (including me). And the limited conversations (you know, because we are running six friggin' miles at five in the morning) would be a bit more soluble.

"I sold my S2000 for a Mercedes Benz. I do miss that little Honda, though."

"Ah, that hill wasn't that bad, was it?"

"I just farted. Watch your 12 o'clock." (I made that one up because no one has had the balls to say that yet.)

I know this is merely an extension of what these ladies do while we are running. I complain. I gripe. I moan. But at least I'm fully awake when I do it. Don't get me wrong, the ladies in the group are very nice and I have had a couple of conversations, including football, with a couple of the runners. But man, sometimes it's nice to lose yourself in the run with the safety and protection of the group. Realizing I will only get that at the final mile when everyone is gassed is a saving grace. Let's just say group runs and solo runs have their respective pluses and minuses.

Lessons Learned, my three things.
1) It's hard not to over-think the obvious when the analysis begs for re-examination. However, sometimes the easiest answer is the best answer.
2) Don't you hate it when your state-sponsored cyber attack tools and strategy is leaked? Yeah, me too.
3) "Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."
BONUS (while writing this post): Boy, that escalated quickly... I mean it got out of hand really fast.

So, I am going to continue to take my medicine for the next 12-13 weeks, silence or lack thereof. If you see me not finish a beer or cocktail, it's because all this running is souring my taste for getting drunk (which is really messing with the image). Need to start locking down study time and fantasy football time. How about that collision of priorities. Talk later.

27 July 2011

No Sleep 'Til...The East Village? OR Please do not try this trip without proper supervision

Washington Square Park...fortunately pre-apocalypse (the yellow really makes me stand out).

Eight days in Washington for training...I didn't snap a single picture of the beauty of our nation's capital. Sixteen hours in New York City--Manhattan specifically--and I am a shutterbug.

Allow me to reset the story for those I have yet to bother to tell (because I am terrible with phone calls). I was enrolled with the SEC504 class in Washington, DC as a part of SANSFIRE. Six days of hard-core exploit training and tactics. It was good. I always appreciate the fact that I can get out of town and immerse myself in training and networking. As I have mentioned before, I work in a neat field of employment that never lacks in excitement and novelty. So, my last week was cool.

But sometimes, it's not about the sundae. It's about the whipped cream with the cherry on top. This dessert topping was one evil cherry and the whipped cream was produced by the devil himself.

Because DC was just not enough, we decided to venture to The City. When I mentioned 16 hours in New York City, I am being specific. It's not like The Lovely and I were awake for 16 hours that day and slept it off at a buddy's apartment in the Lower East Side. No-no! I mean, we were out of the DC area for 24 hours so we can hang out in NYC for 16 hours. Where's the other eight hours, you ask? It's called a train. And for a Texas kid like me we might as well have been traveling by unicorn because this was all foreign to me.

The arrival wasn't bad. Three and a half hours of legroom and townships buzzing by so fast your eyes had a difficult time refreshing the images (or maybe I was just sleepy and cranky due to the 0730 train on Saturday morning). I can now claim I have "seen" New Jersey. Not really sure how I can insert that into normal conversation. But technically, with help from a train, I saw Eastern Maryland, extreme Northern Delaware and Eastern New Jersey before parking it at Penn Station.

McSorley's Old Ale House--where they have both kinds of beer, light and dark ale.

We go topside. I have never seen The Lovely so percolated and geeked-out. It was like it was her Christmas morning, you know, if she believed in that kind of stuff. The smile got bigger when we were on 7th Ave and W 31st St. The hustle and exhaust of Gotham was finally a tangible description in my brain and my senses. I get why The Lovely missed this place the moment we took the correct turn away from Madison Square Garden. Sometimes you really, really, REALLY have to be there.

So, we set out. Go underground again to get to 14th Street via subway and we are back topside at Union Square Park. We were in search for Acme Bar and Grill, but alas it was "closed for renovations", which is code for "yeah, we didn't have the heart to tell you, so we are going to pussy-foot this one and sneak out in the dark of night". This would be one of three strikeouts The Lovely experienced while were were jogging through her old haunts (Mars Bar being the second, pictured below).

But not to worry, apparently this city doesn't have the three places. Reversing our trajectory, we hit McSorley's Old Ale House for a couple of half-pints and a sandwich. This place is so old (how old is it!) that Rutherford B. Hayes is still persona non grata for stiffing one of the bartenders (insert laughter here). Pretty cool for a reconstruction era joint to be still around and accepting credit cards.

Onward for more walking to Tompkins Square Park bordering on Alphabet City. We shifted once again back to 2nd Ave for some shade and a beverage at Demsey's. This is where my awareness of walking long distances and the similarities of long-distance running should (mind you, should) have kicked in. At that point, we may have logged 3-5 miles of walking, which is no big deal for native and acclimated New Yorkers. However, it still was nearly 100 degrees in The City. The formula should read:
Heat(Distance + Sweat(friction coefficient))Fatigue = Deterioration of Shorts.
Yeah, I should have "prepared" better than I did. More on that later.

Mars Bar--now closed, mainly because of general poor hygiene. Apparently slackers and goths are pissed.

Refreshed, we crossed Houston (HAUW-ston) Street to check out why Julian Casablancas sang a song about Ludlow Street. Confused, we double-backed to Houston now working our way through Bowery to the Puck Building. The Puck Building used to house Pratt Manhattan campus and was true stomping ground of The Lovely. We could not go without having a pint at her after-class/before-class bar. Pretty damn cool.

We whip in back up Lafayette Street and W 3rd Street to walk through the amoeba-like campus of NYU. It's like every other building has a purple flag on it. C'mon guys, Imperialism is over. Then through Washington Square Park we traveled. Remember that formula I just made up a couple of paragraphs ago? Yeah, my inner legs were burning through my boxers. If milk was a bad choice on a hot day, my lack of preparation for miles of walking on the same hot day was a worse choice. There's no way you can fake discomfort when you have to walk everywhere. So, I did what any other man in my position would do...I walked to the closest familiar bar with The Lovely and tried to gently "medicate" the pain.

The fun part was that we had a 6pm reservation for dinner and drinks with Goose and Emily...seven blocks away. I guess you could describe my gait as injured thoroughbred meets guy who looks like he needs to find a toilet as soon as possible. What can you do? We finished our beers at Reservoir and hiked it once again.

So, when you Google the phrase "Please Don't Tell NYC", you land on certain related entries pointing to the same thing. I don't feel comfortable talking about a speakeasy that we may or may not have had reservations for a booth. But if it's on Google, isn't the cat already out of the bag? That's like talking about Fight Club. Anyway, if you want to ask me about it offline, you may have to waterboard me because they said "please".

A badger wearing a bowtie. I'm not supposed to say where I'm at.

As the twosome became a foursome with Goose, Emily and The Lovely, then the tour was really on. The ladies, obviously New York veterans, we playing "Is This Bar Open?" while Goose and I were creating our own conspiracies. The evening run was on after the speakeasy as we hit Veselka Restaurant, Decibel, Big Bar and Tile Bar. The final six-hour blitz was damn-near epic. Sure, my wounded horse walk-step was damaging, but no one cares how you look or walk in large metropolitan areas, especially if you are not in their way.

Two AM came way too soon. And off we were catching a cab back to Penn Station. Limping, sweat encrusted and maybe a little drunk, we push forward back to DC. I can state that I know how a zombie feels and I would never want to be one. But three huge objectives were established: I got to see (a portion) of New York, I know what a train looks like and The Lovely got what she has been wanting for the last five years. As all married men know, when she's happy... No, that's silly. This blitz was for the both of us. We needed to experience The City. So we did. I wouldn't change a single minute. But we should sleep over next time.

Lessons Learned, my three things (DC to NY to DC edition).
1) Don't assume that the 0300 train from NYC to DC will be empty. It isn't. With all the sprawled bodies that have been passengers since Vermont at 9PM, a couple would be lucky to find two seats together.
2) I understand lots of famous people call New York home, but how is it that I could only cross paths with Todd Barry? Eh, I will take what I can get, even if The Lovely finds him "random".
3) I was fearing the smell of the hot old city but it was really not that bad. It can't be any worse than a hot younger city where people still don't pick up after their pets. I'm talking to you, Dallas!

As I try to get my head on straight from time zone changes, training and re-acclimation of 100-plus temperatures, I will try to focus for the new cert attempt before falling prey to yet another football season. I need a small victory before other smaller soul-crushing defeats. Talk later.