Thursday, April 24, 2008

Bad Day

They say God doesn't give you more than you can handle. I really hope that's true.

I really wish I could just want things. Things are simple. You work for them, save, plan and you get them. I really wish I could be happy having things. My life would be simple with things.

But my happiness depends on other people. I need relationships and experiences. And other people always seem to have other plans.

I really just want to go home, to my mother's house, go to sleep and wake up and be five years old. 1974. I really really wish I could. I'm not feeling very well. I don't want to play anymore.

Barkeep...I'm just gonna sit here for a while.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

A Quick Restaurant Review - Thrive

Last evening Sporty and I got together for a bite in the city. In the car we couldn't decide what to eat: she'd already been to the place I had picked out and her diet is no bread no fried foods for now. So sitting at a redlight downtown I said there is a place on this corner and place on that corner (Thrive and Maxim Prime). We'll park and if we don't like spot A we'll go to spot B. After a glance over the menu at Thrive, she said she could figure something out, so we settled in.

Service was... how can I say this.... a little slow.

We talked about Emerils closing the Atlanta restaurant, our memories of the place and how the discussion in the AJC got regional then racial, where we still planned to go out, and some other stuff. After a while the waiter rolls by. Instead of the crab cake, which is pan seared but close enough to fried to matter, we got salads. Her the Cesear, me a Cobb. Which apparently takes a while to prepare.

So we talked about working out and cell phones and whatnot. After a while the waiter gets our food order. We search the menu for the grilled items intently and interrogate the waiter before selection. Then we wait for a while. Then a bit more. We discussed the decor of the restaurant which Sporty described as semi-cheap looking, she has some of the same light fixtures in her garage, and I thought they could use a better designer. It's another one of those places bulit into a closet that would be really hot up North. We also wondered if this sound we kept hearing was techo music or the AC unit having problems. We're not really into techno, so it just may have actually been that hot new sound from Prague.

Then after a little more of a while, the food came. Flank steak for her, sirloin for me. After that long wait in which the manager stopped by the table to check on us twice and we just chatted and laughed I was almost of the idea the food would be lackluster. Quite the contrary. The steak was a great piece of meat and Sporty liked her flank steak after it was dipped in the A1 sauce the waiter thoughtfully dropped off. The baked potato I found out was less than stellar, however.

I really needed this outing with her. All week I had been on edge, jittery and irritable, to the degree my co-workers are asking if I'm okay and offering to take me to strip clubs. Somehow being with her calms me, and it's moments like this where I realize I really do need her. I don't know what I'm going to do when she leaves. It was the first time in a week I walked into my house at the end of a day and didn't feel depressed. The idea of her leaving has taken my appetite, so it was also the first real meal I had eaten in about a week.

On the upside, all my clothes fit better.

Thrive has a downtown location (which means it's a tourist spot) and menu that's nice (but slightly overpriced), and the waitstaff needs a tip or two on good customer service. As we chilled out afterwards, just enjoying the evening, the waiter came by and took the signed credit card slip off my table while I sat there, which has never happened before. Awkward.

Barkeep...water. Keep it coming.

Monday, April 21, 2008

My Problem

I have trouble communicating.

This seems odd, since I feel I'm a fairly good writer, listener, talker, debater and have been called one of the better speakers at the firm which employs me, but my inability to adequately communicate still a reality. And it's usually - really only - in one area.

I'm uniquely aware of what this stems from.

There is an episode from youth from which I am not proud. It was my first love, the first emotional stretch and flex if you will, and it ended badly. No, badly is the wrong word, "catastrophe" might be a better term. Yes, we'll go with that. So in my emotional infancy I was scarred. Wait, scarred might be too easy a term as well, let's use a more precise "burned beyond all recognition." Yeah, that's better. So there I was a thirteen, which is a horrible age to be in any situation and things weren't working in...and this is key...what I considered the most important part of my life.

Looking back, I wish I could say I over reacted, or gave something trivial an undeserved monumental significance, but since the vast majority of man's purpose is the propagation of the species and trappings thereof (relationships)... considering the long term effects I might not have been that wrong.

I'm single at 38. How wrong could I have been?

It's affected me in ways I couldn't have imagined. I can approach women. I can charm women. I am funny and witty and have been called sexy and all that. Seriously, somebody called me sexy. I didn't believe it either, but who am I to say. I can be the life of the party, the guy who approaches from the south, the old bull who says "let's walk down the hill and get them all", the dude at the bar acting like a jackass. I can and have been all that... and more. That persona has been a conscious decision based on the repercussions of the events at thirteen. Nobody likes sad people. So I made myself something else, something fun. All the time.

And although my social efforts continue to expand my circle, every now and then...IT happens. It being that I am unable to communicate my emotions about how I actually feel about someone. Someone who becomes important to me. And when it happens, I may as well be thirteen again, because my mind can't make it past that bad experience, those flawed concepts.

It's a psychosis of sorts, since I can to some degree demonstrate my affections, just not voice them. But the phrase "actions speak louder than words" loses it's value when applied to the second half of the basic tenet of communication - it's not what you did, it's what they saw. Interpretation is the purview of the viewer, you'd be surprised how often my actions are mistaken. I'm not aggressive enough. I'm a nice guy who does nice things. Apparently women can't stand that in a suitor.

They probably also aren't to crazy about guys who use the term "suitor" either.

But as a hopeless romantic with uniquely contained self esteem issue you believe what you believe because you believe it and hang on to it because hanging on is what you do. No matter what. Because the feeling of love is pure and good and enough that if the world stopped tomorrow, you'd be okay with that.

Only that's not reality.

Which brings us back to the catastrophe and FUBAR allusions. And since the key back then was communication, or the lack thereof, really all the situations I've considered my "real" relationships have just been slow moving reconstructions of that first experience. Reconstructions on a grander scale with different supporting players and new and exciting locales, all with apparently no benefit of having learned from previous situations thus leading to the same conclusions.

Gee, that sounds dismal. I wrote it and it sounds dismal.

And each year it gets worse. If family asks one more time about a wife or providing people with babies to coo at, you just don't know.

They say that knowing you have a problem is 50% of the battle. So I guess I'm up to 65% or 70% because I even know what mine is. But knowing the issue and acting on the issue are two different things.

I really thought with Sporty I had finally gotten it right. I like her as well as love her. You'd be surprised how hard that is to find.

But I was wrong. I did not get it right. Again.

So for now...I'm just holding it in the road.

Barkeep. Glenfiddich. In a broken glass.

Friday, April 18, 2008

When I grow up....

As you may or may not have guessed, among other things I'm an aspiring writer. Well, technically everyone you know is an aspiring writer (including you) because everyone has a story to tell. One they think is exciting, other people want to know and think Tom Cruise would be a great lead in the movie version. Or in my case Denzel Washington, in a pinch Sam Jackson.

But as a active writer, you tend to read a lot. Well, most of us do, Stephen King I understand writes a book every forty five minutes or so, so maybe he can only squeeze in a read during bathroom breaks, but most writers I know are avid readers. A good book and a snack and you might not hear from me for hours. I have read a some novels in a single sitting.

When you think about it, writing is the hardest possible medium to work in. True you have blank page, no actors to corral or studio to placate, but for your intended audience to get it...they will have to do everything. They have to envision the it all with only your guidance, filling in the voices, the looks and vibe all from imagination. To build an following of readers takes skill and a good story. So it makes me wonder why despite the success of sticking to the story as written (see Harry Potter), Hollywood persists in rewriting established works to fit the screen and not the other way around. (Writing that makes me realize that's going to be a whole other post.)

I'm going to take a moment, for the readers out there, to introduce a few of my favorite authors. Guys I read, how I feel about them and why I think picking up a book by them might not be your worst option. So here goes...

Carl Hiaasen
I just like him. He's a Florida writer, which means he writes about things that can only happen in Florida. As a one time resident of the state, I realize that there is something inherently wrong with the whole place, it just seems to breed a mindset that is three degrees off kilter. But then that's what makes for interesting reading, and Hiaasen has way of showcasing those odd characters.

Clive Cussler
I once described Cussler as the greatest hack ever to put word to printed page. His characters are cut whole cloth either hero or villain, cardboard in construction and design, melodramatic and easily predictable. That said I must own ten or twelve novels by him. You don't read a Cussler novel to see if the hero wins, you read it to see how he wins. A few of the books read like he works from a template...but it sure is fun reading.

Dan Jenkins
The vast majority of the works of Dan Jenkins in novel form swirl around the goings on of the people of Fort Worth, Texas. That would be because he's from there, so it's understandable, and that's what gives the work it's charm. His books read like either soap operas for men or little stories of stupidity that happen involve people he knows. He's an old white man writer, so occasionally the work is ...insensitive...but it's still a good read.

Donald Westlake
There is something about a Westlake book. I mostly only read the Dortmunder series from Westlake, in my opinion his best character, a criminal planner whose exploits more often than not leave them only the greater experience rather than the loot. I've heard some say Elmore Leonard is a great criminal fiction writer, but then I don't think those folks have ever read Donald Westlake.

Phil Foligo
I started reading Phil through comic books, but that isn't the right medium for him. His latest offering, the online graphic novel Girl Genius, is a magnum opus of a work, well into what must be it's 25th chapter and I swear nothing has happened yet. Yet still worth a read. Amazing. When he does put pen to paper it's almost like he's created a whole other world, and is rushing to get it all out before the next bit of thought strikes him.

Ross Thomas
A good Ross Thomas novel is two things, well written and eerily hewn to the truth of how things happen. There are few explosions, nothing world shattering, and usually not a whole lot of money at stake. But the stories are the kind you can believe actually happened somewhere, and that you weren't supposed to know. Mr. Thomas died quite a few years back, but I ever find a book of his that I don't have, I'd put down food in order to get it.

Terry Pratchett
Think Harry Potter, only good. And funny. Pratchett's best series, Discworld, is at 30 books and counting. His characters memorable, his stories satiric and full of bits of language you'll read more than once they're so oddly funny. I wait for a new Pratchett book like a kid waiting for Christmas.

So pick one up...

Barkeep....a nice tall glass of koolaid. You gotta lunch meat sandwich back there?

Thursday, April 10, 2008

A Quick Restaurant Review - Trader Vics

I've long heard of Trader Vics. It's legendary. They invented the Mai-Tai. And I've often meant to end up at the one here in Atlanta and see what all the hubbub is about. Yeah. So when Sporty suggested we try it out I was with it. It's supposed to Tiki island decor and all that, so was ready to put on my Hawaiian shirt and get jiggy with it.

I'm sorry I just wrote that.

First, Trader Vic's is in the basement - yeah, funny thing - the basement of the Hilton. No idea why. None. And there are no real signs, just a little thing over the elevator door that says Trader Vics and the writing on the button. And the Hilton has this really funny elevator bank, with elevators on all sides...but only on two opposite sides do they go down. Which they don't tell you, so I'm standing there for like three minutes wondering why the light keeps going off but the doors on the side I'm looking at aren't opening. Genius!

So I get downstairs and it's...a bar. Um...a bar?

Okay...let me tell you what I expected. Some place ill lit, with a long bar worked by with guys in formal Hawaiian shirts. A series of dark and darker rooms, flame pits (or at least charcoal), odd but delicious smells wafting around corners and drinks that looked semi lethal being carted about by Polynesian style Hooters girls. What I got was a stiff Applebees with a Tiki motif. Hey I enjoy a tourist spot as much as the next guy...but this was tourist circa 1950. The music was okay but the rest? Er...

No matter, I came for the company. Sporty and I settle in and get the appetizers for two instead of the usual crab cakes and couple of Mai Tais. These drinks were big AND strong. And then I found out something else. Trader Vic's is a Chinese restaurant! Okay, not strictly Chinese, more Polynesian Asian flair, but still, our entrees were in the "from our Wok" part of the menu. Rice in a bowl with chicken and shrimp for her, beef in bowl with veggies and rice for me. We got fortune cookies to finish.

We talked about the mundane: house stuff, work stuff, why she only had on one earring. Or at least we did till we got to the second round of Mai Tais. Then we talked about more philosophical things. And stress. Her leaving has me extremely stressed - eating wise, sleep wise, energy wise. She told me I need to just let go of my stress - but then doesn't appear to realize she is the cause of it. We got in a conversation where we danced around the issue, and if she wasn't occasionally the most wonderfully oblivious person I know I would have thought she was toying with me. I have a tendency to hang onto things in my soul. I want so much to tell her this...but it won't change anything and will only cause grief. She told me to pray on it, and I have been. Only when I pray I'm not praying for my happiness...I'm praying for success for her.

A third round of these and we'd have had to get a room to sleep it off. And it would have gotten ugly because I was already breaking a drinking rule, so we stopped. The service was swift, a bit of the beef undercooked, the "stuffed" puffer fish looked dusty and the bill for two plates of rice and couple of drinks was steep. On the upside they do validate.

Barkeep...water with umbrella. Man them Mai Tai's was strong.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Bracketology 103 - The Final Four

Using one sport term to explain another, I believe I shanked that one. March Madness is over and thanks to a last second Sportcenter worthy moment shot to get to OT, I won my office pool. Yay me! I also said prior to going in that the whole thing would be a waste (the first two games were), with all the games decided well before halftime in this heavyweight bout that would resemble a Rocky movie.

Only I apparently haven't seen a Rocky movie in ages.

There is a reason there are six of them. The first one, from thirty years ago (Damn, how old is Stallone?) ended with Rocky getting his ass beat. It wasn't until the second that he started the long series of improbable victories that became the signature of the series. That and Cousin Paulie. And last night in the Alamo dome, they shot a Rocky movie. Complete with comeback and everything.

When was the last time a Championship game went to overtime? (I'm certain somebody on ESPN has already said) With two minutes left and leading by nine, the rims shrank by six inches at free throw time on the Memphis end of the court. Is Shaq their free throw coach? True the scrappy freshman Rose, whose three that became a two is the story of the game (when did basketball get instant replay?) balled out of control, but in the clinch you got to knock down the gimmes. And Memphis couldn't. Seriously, is Shaq their free throw coach?

So Kansas, with seconds ticking in regulation hits a three to send it to OT (Rocky makes it to the last round on a prayer) then pulls away after getting soundly played the whole rest of the game (Rocky finds the strength/Mick cuts him/he finds the eye of the Tiger/Paulie gets his head rubbed/something) and wins it all.

Sounds like somebody should make a movie about something like this. Oh wait, somebody already did.

Barkeep...water, splash of lime.

Friday, April 4, 2008

A Quick Restaurant Review - Soho

I wasn't going to review this restaurant. Don't get me wrong, it was a lovely experience and the food was great, but sometimes things don't go according to plan.

Soho is a neighborhood spot, if you live in Vinings, right there off the railroad tracks in what I like to think of as the heart of the area. Vinings is America like most of us dream of it, with clean bright townhouses across from bright airy mini malls across from trendy hot restaurants with office buildings just around the corner. Kinda of a Norman Rockwell twenty first century fantasy. And yeah, I want to live there too.

Soho is in one of those mini-malls, just off the main drag but somehow tucked back in a corner. Don't ask me how but it pulls it off. The main room has a clubby vibe, with wood and glass and a dark motif, but when I checked in they seated me on in the "outside room", something more restaurants may want to invest in. It's basically a room with really big windows. Really big. Like twenty feet across windows with no obstructions. Open them up and you get the feeling you actually are sitting outside, it's a great effect. Okay, you look out onto a swath of green, the parking lot and the street, but there is just something about it.

So Sporty shows up (we're still hanging out) and we settle in. It's flight night Wednesdays, in which the restaurant rolls out three glasses of the grape so that patrons can broaden their horizons on good vino. And not tastes either, but three half glasses. Oh, did I mention my three month drink sabbatical ended like the day before? So we got the wine.

The fare is strictly American, though broad, and we settled into our old routine. We started with a crab cakes, she got the pork chops and I had the filet with horseradish potatoes. It's good hearty basic fare. Only the wine came with a cheese/crackers/grape plate...and we got the double crab cakes (because somebody had just come from the gym), and the wine was strong as hell. So guess who didn't finish her pork chops.

I didn't really want to write about this because as we talked about it, I'm pretty much confirming that dreamtime is over. She's started a side hustle (who hasn't) and will have to move to Texas to make it work. I'm not stupid. I know where she got the idea and where she'll be living when she goes and I'm not really sure she needs to go. But this is life. Things happen. And as little a few months ago I considered asking her that question. Yeah, that question. She seems cavalier about the whole thing...but when your young and beautiful the world is your oyster.

So despite the good setup, the good food and fact that I had my first real drink in three months...I basically sat there and listened to someone I wanted to have kids with share her plan of her life without me. Over good cheese. But that's not the restaurant's fault. It is a great spot.

Funny story, on the way out the hostess, who wasn't on duty when I came in, thanks me for coming and tells me to hurry on back. By name. Like she said "Thanks Mr. B_ for coming. Come back soon." Which posed the question since she didn't serve me, or seat me or even meet me, how did she know who I was? Sporty and I figured it out about two steps out of the eatery. We had been the only black patrons there... so they kinda knew who we were. We laughed about that all the way to the car.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Bracketology 102 - the second weekend

It's all come down to this. There is no Cinderella story out of nowhere. There is no Giant killer. There is no sleeper. There is no tourney surprise. For the first time in like ever it's all going according to plan. Sure in the downstream there were a few tweaks here and there, a sliver of hope to make the games interesting, a couple of 12 seeds doing nobody any good, but in the end...all the #1 seeds made it to the Final Four. Which means other than the Georgetown fiasco, I'm doing pretty damn good in my brackets.

Nobody will be playing above their game, and all the crazy scenarios that breeds. What we'll be getting is evenly matched basketball. All of these are conference champs, on hot win streaks, and have been leading the way since they laced'em up in that first practice with Midnight Madness.

So who else thinks none of the games is gonna be any good?

Yeah, I said it. None of the games will be good after 15 minutes. Whoever is leading at halftime can go on and start chanting "We want (fill in the blank here)!" because it won't be a game after that. These aren't scrappy fighters here - flyweights or lightweights trying for any advantage...this the super heavyweight decision, every move calculated. And once we figure out which one Rocky is you can go ahead and write the other guy off. I don't expect lay downs, but I'm not looking for a run in the last five minutes to bring a team back for a last second "oh my god did you see that" Sportscenter moment. Won't happen. Not a chance.

The rest of the pool still in contention has Mr. Hansbrough and the rest of the Tarheels cutting down nets on Monday. I went with Kansas. In one of them pools I went with Kansas. Whatever. Memphis and UCLA have their backs against the wall, as most of their teams will be NBA bound as soon as the agents can race down onto the court after the final whistle. So they'll be ready to play for certain. But in the end, everybody will swinging and as I said, I feel a dominance showing up with 5 mins or so left to play in the first half. In all three games. Call it a hunch.

Somewhere that NCAA exec who runs the basketball wing is calling up the the exec at CBS and reminding him how lucky he his. Look at what we gave you. Come Tuesday I'm betting that CBS exec will be calling back to see if that schmuck can explain what happened.

So that's the call from down in here. No details, no stats and analysis, just a feeling. And that's all I got.

Barkeep - an Hawaiian a shot glass.