Friday, December 31, 2010

On Videogames

I try not to keep rules during a date. I use to keep a certain “playbook” that comprised of 96 traits I wanted in a mate. After much self reflection, and ridicule, I moved my mouse cursor over the Word file and dragged it into the recycle bin. I erased something I held dear with a left click. I entered into the scary world of dating without this extensive crib sheet. But instead of feeling liberated, I still needed to reach for something, some sort of rule. As much as super villains appeal to me, I am more Batman than Joker, I need rules. As a result, my new totem while dating is to fess up that I am a nerd on the first date. If you are willing, if you are able, you have to be open to me drone on about: the psychosis of the Riddler, why The Stand is a better authority on how we should live our lives than the Bible, and my fascination by Richard Burr’s vote on Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. At the first date I will pound into the other participant that books are my body, DC comics are my victuals, and politics are my life blood - did I forget to mention that everything that deals with money is my soul? A good weekend is me sitting at Starbucks reading an enlightening article in Barron’s about palladium and how I can make money by investing in shipping companies that move precious (oh yes, precious, not precious-light) metals from Latin America to China. I am some fucked up CNBC policy wonk that spends too much time playing Magic the Gathering. As I said in the beginning, I let all my dates know at date one. I don’t hide it anymore. Sure, I can do some pretty urbane gay things like talk about the career trajectory of Tom Ford (his best stuff was when he was director at YSL), but give me P/E ratios and Green Lantern t-shirts any day.

Dear Reader, I am going to share my results. I have been on enough bad dates that you can examine them like some homosexual fossil record. I can tell you what are not the deal killers. Telling a guy that you like to read, will not destroy the prospects of getting laid. Everyone puts up the front that they are looking for somebody smart. Of course this depends to a magnitude, there are some rice-queens that are terribly afraid of dating an Asian that completed college. Telling a guy that you like politics makes you look urbane and witty … of course this also depends on degrees. For the fags out there (and I really mean it in this context), make sure you say all the right things about Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, DOMA, and all things marriage. But don’t get too specific, mentioning the invocation of the Commerce Clause, discrimination in the Internal Revenue Code, Intermediate Scrutiny, and the sainthood of J.Kennedy will end the date. AND DON’T for the love of God, do not make the mistake of saying that the federal deficit or marginal tax rates are more important issues than gays in the military; you will be stuck with the check. I am telling you what not to do, but I am going to hold true to myself, if we end up on a date, you will hear me pontificate about Lawrence v. Texas.

I know the rules, maybe not all of them, but enough. Dear Reader, the one thing that kills dates and that laid waste to my sex life, are fucking videogames. It is easier to be a sex fiend, a coke-whore, an alcoholic, a person who failed the GED, than to proverbially come-out and tell the other guy, you play videogames. Every date has ended on the circle button.

What I don’t understand is society’s allergy to videogames. I understand going to a Gamestop is often a harrowing experience; especially for one’s nose. People may not be able to shake off their preconception of sketchy arcades with machines covered in cobwebs a’la Tron. For those who argue videogames are for kids only – and not the cool ones, but the pimply faced virgins who will not score till they are able to tap a credit line, I argue, are movies that much different? Every time I go into a movie theater, sclerosis tightens its fingers around my temples. Parents who should have sought counseling at Planned Parenthood are staring at the marquee as if they are reading an alien language, teenagers are jibber jabbering on their phones (in line and often in the movie now), idiots bring in Panda Express, and there is always that one douche bag who pretends he is some investment banker and needs to check his cell phone a hundred times during the movie. No Dear Reader, I protest! I rather spend my time at home, and live in my squalor opposed to the den of discourtesy at AMC!

But while I make an argument that one’s castle is a better environment to enjoy entertainment than the movie theater, it still does not explain why videogames should be lauded. Why a potential Romeo should undress me immediately when I explain the merits of Fallout 3. Roger Ebert argued that “in principle video games cannot be art,” and I imagine, most people believe this. Ask my parents for a concurrence and they will add “Of course, videogames are for kids.” Hogwash. I challenge anyone, to sit through 30 minutes of Bioshock and tell me that they are not sitting with rapt attention watching the game move from one startling set piece to another. I challenge anyone to find me a better story, (with the exception of Prof. Samuel Park’s novel to be released in 2011 of course) than Bioshock; Hell, I will even throw in the inferior Bioshock 2 to the mix. The reason is simple, you are the movie.

From beginning to end, the Warcraft III campaign took me twelve hours to complete. During this odyssey, I saw a prince prevent a plague, sell his soul, commit regicide, and become a super villain. Meanwhile his lover tragically becomes something she hunted, cosmic powers are bringing down the apocalypse, and demi-gods are stirring in their sleep. A lot is going on, but guess what, the pacing, the story, is better developed than most movies I have watched. I didn’t care if Christina Aguilera made it in LA; I barely cared if Annette Benning and Julianne Moore rekindled the fire in their bed. You know why, the experience was passive, I was sitting in a chair watching people play tragic lives. I was not invested. But I was invested, dare I say, videogames are my IRA when Arthas became the Lich King. Instead of merely watching, I fought as Arthas, I was in his shoes as I pursued Kel’Thuzad to the ends of the world, and then I – yes, I, committed genocide in Stratholme. I have done more as Arthas than I will ever do in my life. That is fact.

You could argue, well videogames are just mere escapism, give me sports any day, for I am a participant – nay a gladiator on the court. Well first, I would argue that the point of entertainment is escapism. But even more important, you are not a character on the tennis courts. I concede there is a component in competition that appeals to people but I have been watching the “leader boards” for Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood and I think it is probably more cutthroat than any bowl game. No Dear Reader, if you want your sports, watch a Starcraft II tournament and turn off ESPN.

I am sure the literati will still scoff at this entry. They would asset that I am shooting fish in a barrel. Of course Eric can make arguments that videogames are better than movies and sports, he doesn’t care for either, but dare he challenge books? Well first I have to say this, I will make a blanket statement that I find videogames a superior form of entertainment than movies and sports. But I cannot make that sweeping generalization with books. First I will argue is the importance of the set piece. The Ayn Rand dystopia of Bioshock’s Rapture is breath taking. It beats Nolan’s Gotham City and whatever nonsense in the Matrix, but is it better than King’s version of Las Vegas in The Stand? Probably not, because in the book you can smell the flesh burning, you can hear the moans from those crucified, you can feel the sex, you know there is no God in that land. Rapture cannot give us the sensory feel. Once again, it is pressing the circle button. But I have already established “I like books” is acceptable on a date; so should “I like video games.”

The character development of a good videogame (like books there are many bad ones), are inherently more nuanced than any that you will find in most books. Do you like John Galt? Well guess what, the machinations and the rise of Andrew Ryan is even better. Does Goethe’s Mephistopheles stir your literary loins? I argue that Portal’s Glados wears an even more wicked mustache under her mechanical exterior and barbed quips. And maybe this goes back to point one, good characters are influencing you. The explosion in the tunnel is forcing you to run, and if you don’t, people will die. Edward Cullen’s pompadour does nothing to the reader, you just turn the page.

So Dear Reader, next time when I say, “I like videogames,” pick up the check, and let's go to Gamestop for a nightcap.

Sunday, October 3, 2010


To wit, I do things because I am a selfish bastard. I think people write blogs for several motives: (1.) The author is completely egotistical and wants to talk about himself, (2.) The author likes a particular subject matter so much, that he thinks the world will be a better place if everyone shared his interest, (3.) the author has a lot of free time and blogging is way of improving one’s writing skills. The blog could be about one’s political views, budgeting, scrapbooking, religion, sexcapades but ultimately, it is about the blogger. Dear Reader, I am 1 … 2 … and 3. I often think my #2 is often ridiculous and doesn’t make for good reading. Who really wants to read about some Gaysian’s love of all things Batman and how JokerFish restrict the “Production Possibilities Frontier.” But in the past two months, I actually received six emails from strangers (one who is actually my brother’s friend and whom I have never met) asked me questions about my blog. It is an unnerving thought really, to see people in Alaska read and send me a message about my blog, when most of my friends have not. So this Dear Reader is for you – and for me.

It has been an odd and difficult week. There have been much turmoil in my personal life, and it leaked into my professional. I made a terrible mistake on Monday where I sent off an urgent email to a co-worker to inquire about $96,000 in net operating losses that were never utilized. For the uninitiated, Net Operating Losses (NOLs) are losses that a corporation accrues over the tax year. If they have losses, they can apply it to a previous years income to get a nice refund. If there were no profits, you apply it to income in the future. I spent a good 15 mins looking for the NOL worksheet – it was akin to the Ark of the Covenant. Since it was not there, I thought it was not utilized. My boss found it in 30 seconds. I was a wreck, I apologized profusely to my boss and his partner. I told him abut my awful week and asked for forgiveness. He seemed to listen with a certain amount of ennui that only a heterosexual man can, “It was not a big deal." I felt like a chastised Chinese wife telling her husband that the parasitic organism in my womb is a girl.

My life is kind of a wreck right now. I spent the good part of the week in disbelief. By Thursday I was a storm of outrage and contempt. Friday was a bit better, I had a 2,000 calorie dinner with Jason and Ashley. Saturday was fun too, 8 hours of playing Infamous, and a birthday/house warming party with happy couples, but if there were babies I would have euthanized myself. Today, was a bit weird, I went to church, and ate lunch at Joy’s while reading Julie and Julia.

I was at sea amongst floatsam and jetsam all week. With the exception of Thursday, I felt nothing. It was only at lunch when I read the dedication that the tears started running:

“For Julia, without whom I could not have done this, and for Eric, without whom I could not do at all.”

What makes that Eric different than this Eric. How did that one change another's life so much that he eclipsed Julia child. And how did this one whose only claim to fame is having two monster cats. Motivations ... I want to be that Eric.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Review Avatar

Like many people in Arizona, I was beginning to wear my ignorance as a source of pride. As if I was in state of constant innocence and bliss, I knew nothing about Avatar. Oh sure, I knew that a bunch of blue-cat humanoids were involved, and that a scene involving cross-species coitus were to occur, but I tried to navigate the shoals of all things James Cameron with a sense of mental dexterity. After missing the proverbial boat several times (I was ditched on two occasions), I thought: Fuck it, I am not going to watch it. It was a state of blissful ignorance really. I didn’t have to engage in the prattle about 3D effects; nor, did I have to participate in the water cooler talk of a new found environmental evangelism. But one day, I bit the proverbial blue apple. I saw Avatar. Where many have commented about how Cameron was the founder of a new renaissance in movie making, I see something much more apocalyptic. My prediction, we are going to have more movies with cacophonous explosions and scenes that will assault our eyes. Our visceral reaction will be to watch agog as our senses are assaulted with CGI, but unfortunately Dear Reader, our souls will be unfed, because the characters and script are empty. As one of the last lines in Avatar ends with two star-crossed lovers mutter in a nauseating way “I see you.” It is most unfortunate because all we see is a blank fancy canvas.

I will try to reduce the story into three lines. Corporation wants ore on land that indigenous people lives on. People won’t leave, so corporation takes the land with violence. Flawed character becomes a messianic character and rallies the peoples; consequently defeating the venal corporations and ignorant military. If you think you have seen this script, well you have, think: Fern Gully, Pocahontas, Star Wars, Star Trek: Insurrection, Hero, Underworld, and X-Men. Instead of spending all this money in generating every brick and branch, Cameron should have spent some time in not plagiarizing Disney or every other summer blockbuster.

With a generic plot comes the dreaded generic-character. I hate stock characters, and Avatar is filled with them. We have the stern environmentalist who becomes the matron figure of the movie. There is the love interest that initially approaches the hero with open contempt, but ends with open loins. Let us not forget the craven corporate suit (played by Giovanni Ribisi out of all people) willing to kill for all who stands against him in his pursuit of a promotion. Cameron would be remiss to omit the Jesus figure. Oh, and let us not forget the real villain, an ignorant military general who is willing to destroy an entire civilization because he has some masculine desire to engage in cinematic masturbation.

What a villain he is, so evil – oh the horror - that he is drinking coffee when he blows up a tree. It is the villain I take most cause with. Oh sure, Cameron wants us to get mad at Dick Cheney, Rumsfeld et al. and we are suppose to leave the movie with a certain disgust over our involvement in the Middle East. But the problem with the villain, is that I don’t hate him – at all. In fact, I am just really annoyed. He is a loud-mouthed frat boy I would punch in the face, but I don’t hate him like I do other classic villains. Dear Reader, I posit, there are only two good archetypes for villains. One is the purely evil. And what I mean by this is essentially the Biblical sense. We are talking about Satan, or the Antichrist, some character that really exemplifies the destruction of not just what we believe in, but the obliteration of ourselves. Three years ago, Joe Morgenstern of the Wall Street Journal made an interesting point, not since the Exorcist have we had a real villain. He pointed out correctly that even Emperor Palpatine, and Sauron were not really evil, they just wanted to take over the world thinking their form of government was vastly superior. Now, I do take some cause with Morgenstern’s article, I thought Ralph Fiennes in Schindler’s List was evil enough. Regardless, the audience needs an evil character, because it makes the triumph of good all the more satisfying. A similar vein of the absolute evil archetype, is the “Entertaining Evil, the one we like more than the hero, such as Heath Ledger’s “Joker.” I concede that one could make an argument that the Joker is evil personified, but what makes him different than say Satan in the Exorcist is the level of entertainment the Batman villain provides. Nobody roots for Satan, but I know many who wanted to see the Joker kick Batman off the building in the end. The villain in Avatar, was neither, he might not have even been evil. If he entered my parent’s restaurant, I would tell him to leave. If the Joker came in, I would run.

The villain is exactly what is wrong with Avatar. The audience would be bombarded with scene after scene meant to make us awe in wonder. But where is the awe in the story telling? I fear that more movies are going to be like Avatar; just a bevy of fancy empty vessels. “I see you.” God, how I wish I didn’t see.

Grade: C-

Last weeks grade for Sex and The City 2 was a D.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Movie Review - Sex and the City 2

Sex and the City 2

Dear Reader, I rarely show enthusiasm for anything.  I like to blame it on my heritage and upbringing – because being stoic is considered a virtue.  But in all fairness, being stoic does not appeal to me; for example, if I was really a stoic, I would be even tempered.  No, I rarely show enthusiasm because I am afraid that once when the world learns of my excitement, the world – like a cruel lover, takes it away and sends me an invoice for the balance.  But even operating under such a paradigm, I had to admit, I was damn excited for Sex and the City.  So excited, that I even tried to corral legions of fans to a watching with me.  Like a lovesick teenager waiting in homeroom for her crush, I was eagerly anticipating the sexual exploits of Samantha, the Pollyanna chirps from Charlotte, the cosmopolitan insight of Carrie, and the bitchy but familiar vocal ejaculations of Miranda.  Well Dear Reader, none of that occurred.  All that waiting was all for naught: there was no “City,” for most of the movie inexplicably took place in Dubai; and there was no sex – any burning in one’s loins was replaced by a mild stirring in a teapot.  I wish, oh how I wish that this movie was taken away from me. 

I have two rules with movies: make me care, and the characters must be consistent.  The first rule is probably a universal rule between all moviegoers.  If you don’t care about the characters, you don’t care about the movie.  A recent example where I stared at the screen agog with adoration for its characters was Pixar’s “Up.”  The movie had me at its first fifteen minutes.  I was particularly invested in one character that had ten lines for a brief period.  When she exited the stage, I was an emotional wreck.  The dust and cobwebs that clogged my tear ducts were actually washed away.  My body was warm, my chest heaved in anticipation.  Please live.  Please.  "Up" made me love. 

On a more personal rule, and one that I am sure not everyone holds in high regard, is that the characters of a story must be consistent.  Now you think this would be a universal rule, but Dear Reader, please explain the inane popularity of “Will & Grace.”  Karen was usually the greedy harlot with very little redeeming quality, until the writers need a plot foil, and then she was as pious as Christ.  Or Will, the level headed attorney who always placed profession before romance.  Unlike Jack, Will was the stoic homosexual who could never get a date because of his social awkwardness.  Well, that is Will, until he consciously makes a bevy of poor professional decisions and seems to get a date betwixt every episode. 

These are my rules.  Oh sure there are other things, like my disdain for cookie-cutter plots (See anything Michael Bay), or illogical plot devices (See another Michael Bay movie, “Transformers.” Why the Decepticons should choose to engage in a war rather than just buy the glasses through Ebay still gives me conniptions).  But there are often times where I can disregard an inane story and still watch a movie with rapt eyes and captivated attention (See most Stephen Chow movies, especially “Kung Fu Hustle”).   My rules are simple, make me care, and respect my intelligence by being consistent.  Sex and the City 2 violate these two rules.

I just don’t care about characters' problems.  I don’t care if Miranda has a bitch boss.  I don’t care that Samantha is having menopause problems.  I don’t care about Charlotte’s children.  And I don’t care that Carrie is having buyer’s remorse.  But here is the rub, under a more skilled hand, I would have cared.  We have all been placed in those situations (maybe not menopause, but there are universal and parallel similarities that could be used as an example).  But the problem with this movie is that all those universal and weighty issues, are manifested within 2 minutes.  Miranda doesn’t like her new boss, so within the first 15 minutes of the movie – she quits.  Charlotte is having all these problems at home, so she goes to Dubai for a trip.  Nothing in the movie is fleshed out.  One may argue, if we were to engage in a detailed character exposition, the movie would last forever.  That may be the case, but “The Queen” starring Helen Mirren, which was essentially two hours of character exposition, never seemed to linger - and I was more familiar with Miranda than I was with Elizabeth!  More importantly, the argument that the movie would be too long is a specious one at that.  In 15 mins of “Up” I cared, why couldn’t I care about Carrie in two and a half hours?      

Yes, the writers could have fleshed out the lives of the girls we loved so much.  We haven’t heard from them in years.  But instead of catching up with dear friends at a coffee shop, the writers tried to give us sexual rendezvous between two horny homosexuals.  And what a fag’s wet dream this movie was.   Liza Minnelli inexplicably spent a good 5 minutes singing “All the Single Ladies” at a stereotypically gay (there were fucking swans!) wedding.  Five jokes were puzzlingly wasted on Samantha’s servant, an ever increasing effeminate one at that.  And the most gag inducing were the countless times men were enigmatically seen waving at the girls whenever the camera would pan out.  I understand the spirit of “Sex and the City.”  Its qualities naturally appeals to the gay aesthetic: Gucci, abs, bitchiness, and sisterhood.  But when you sacrifice the important things, when bitchy comments are sacrificed in lieu of what an adolescent homosexual would consider entertaining, we no longer have “Sex and the City;” we have “Queer as Folk.”        

And consistency – my God!  Carrie, mysteriously changes.  She doesn’t want to stay at home. She wants to maintain the “sparkle.”  Forget the fact that she selfishly wants Mr. Big to go to a party on a MONDAY night, she doesn’t even want to stay at home with him at all.  Forget Seasons 1-3, 5 and 7, where all she wanted was for him to spend the night.  Or what about Charlotte, who finally gets the children she wants, but then finds out it is kind of tough being a mother.  So what does she do?  She agrees, after 30 seconds of goading from the other girls and goes to ever woman-friendly Dubai.  The mythos was destroyed.  Sure there were nice clothes, and hot men, but the characters were no longer the characters I watched for a decade. This movie was a cancer, an irrevocable and terminal one at that. There was no Sex, there was no City;  just a bunch of teenage fags writing a script. 

Thursday, April 1, 2010

My Thoughts on Being Sick

Dear Reader, I am sick. Not so sick where getting out of bed becomes an Odyssey, but sick enough to wipe out my calendar. Sick enough where all well thought out plans become null and void. Check cashed, funds withdrawn, sorry, you are not going to drop off dry cleaning, you are not going to workout, you will sit on the couch and get rid of this sickness. Like a bystander in the bleaches, you hope for the home team - white blood cells to wage war and defeat the cross team rivals. You can't do much.

I woke up several times in the early morning and I felt like shit. By 7:30, I knew I had to make a decision, do I call in sick, or do I just tough it out and go to work? The cogs were turning, and I thought to myself "I will make a decision while I take a piss."  It came out a dark yellow and smelled like the River Styx. I was going to vomit at that moment. I called in sick and went to bed.

Pets are interesting really. For hours my cats laid with me. Sometimes they would stick their noses in my face. The realistic part of me thinks they want me to get up, but the romantic side - well I like to think they want to know if I am ok. There is nobody else to really check up on me, just Frodo and Sam.

It is 2:30 and I am hungry. Which is ironic because I am also on a diet. I am beginning to rethink this diet. I mean I already have a 100 things on my proverbial plate, do I really need to diet. I get up from my stupor and look in my cabinet. I have a ton of Lipton Prepackaged Rice kits. Yesterday, when I was feeling well, God, it seemed like years ago, I ran a nutrition count on these things, apparently they have tons of sodium. Thinking I probably need more water in my system, I take a pass.  

I go through the shelves. I do this all the time really, the harder I look - maybe there is something I forgot that I purchased, maybe I will discover a little treasure trove of oil packed tuna or a tin of almonds. I come up with nothing, I have a can of tuna (packed in spring water) and a bunch of Lipton packets. I also have four avocados in my fridge, so I take two and decide to make myself some odd guacamole mixing it with the tuna.  Cutting avocados and removing the pit is not a difficult process. But try doing it when you are half awake, and mad at yourself for being sick. You can't do anything, you are just a spectator. Go team. I also remember some capers in the fridge, so I dump a spoonful of it into my mixture. Olive oil is good for you right? Tea spoon of it too. Mash away. It becomes this odd green bolus flecked with tuna.

I start eating. Like some unearthed vampire feasting on some intrepid archeologist, my hunger grew. As I simultaneously watched some History Channel special regarding the Battle of Jericho and spooned my concoction into my maw, my stream of consciousness woke up.

Avocados are good for you, I think that is what Alton Brown said. They also have a lot of fat. 

Tuna is good for you, protein and all that jazz. BTW, there is a lot of mercury.

This meal still cost you $3.00. If you ordered from the McDonald's Dollar Menu it would have been cheaper.

You can't stay sick. Healthcare is expensive.

Why am I sick. Rapists and murderers are not sick. Job was sick. Is this a test?

This is what it feels like to be sick. Strip away all the years of education, remove all the fancy books on your shelf, close the closet with all your suits - you are just a spectator. Sam and Frodo are watching, and you sleep.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Scariest Thing in the World

Pistons and gears.

When applying the proper amount of pressure, a "Click" is heard echoing in the hall. The machine's last victim let out a horrifying wail, "It can't be!"

As I entered the cold and neglected alcove, I saw the dreaded machine.  The last victim was a husk of her former self. I started to lose my vision; it was beginning to be hazy, as if the machine's dark fingers were starting to cover my eyes. I got on.


Its fingers repelled.

169 lbs.

So starts my diet.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Throwdown at Work

I have joined a diet challenge at work. I think the prize is a mani(pedi)cure. The person to lose the most percentage of weight, wins. Now I know this test is over and underinclusive, but I need to lose weight anyway - I have some advantages going into this contest, namely I am competing against three very skinny co-workers; hence, I can lose a lot more.  So when I am done with the postings about 30 bars, this is going to be a posting about my diet and what I consume.  Be warned.  I may sound very angry.

I joined Calorie Count, and since I weigh 165, I needed to think of a reasonable weight within two months that will seal my victory.  I decided that 150 lbs is most ideal: 1. I will be crazy sexy, 2. It will be a 10% loss.  In order to hit 150, I most consume 1,524 calories a day (assuming no exercise).  But since I workout this will cause a distortion in my optimal caloric intake.

If you have any suggestions, please let me know.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A Russian, a Korean, and a China Man Goes into a Restaurant.

San Soo Gab San
5251 N Western Ave
Chicago, IL 60625
(773) 334-1589

Dear Reader, I am sure that through my writings you are able to deduce that I approach disappointment with a certain amount of equanimity; I am perceived as the living embodiment of grace. But sometimes, I know, you need not file a dissent, I can have a temper. Depending on the situation, time, and person, what would be perceived as a mild injury can often be turned into an act of war. I am first to stipulate that this is my major character flaw, I internalize too much, every mistake is perceived as an affront to me. But running parallel to this is my recovery time. I may not forget, but I usually forgive quite easily. San Soo Gab Son injured me, and quickly it made reparations.

While milling about a bookstore, I received a most fortuitous message from Vladimir (aka Dr. Liarski) inquiring to my evening plans. Originally I was going to go home and eat a jar of peanut butter while read the Omnivore’s Dilemma. Scratch those plans I thought, Vladimir wants to hang out! But like a summer romance, happiness is often fleeting, Vladimir suggested we do Korean bbq. Back to peanut butter. I am not a fan of Korean bbq, mainly because it makes my clothes smell like meat. Every time I take a whiff of the cashmere in my closet, I go into a carnivorous frenzy.

“Are you paying for my dry cleaning?” I asked.

“No. Sam wants to go.”

“What? He just got back from Los Angeles. There is plenty of Korean food and bbqs over there? What, he didn’t get his fill of drive by shootings?”

“Nice. Attorney, he wants Korean.”

“Doctor – fine, we will eat where Sam wants. Where?”

“San Soo Gab San.”

“Where is that?”

“I don’t know, use your iPhone.”

“What, this is ludicrous. You not only named the place, but now you want me to research?”

“This is why you are single.”

“Bitch. Ok, what time?”

“How is 8:00?”

I choked, “Wait, it is 5:30 right now. You want me to wait two and a half hours?”

“Well Sam is coming from downtown. He is teaching a class.”

A Filet-O-Fish, and a BigMac later, I arrive at San Soo Gab San at 7:30. I arrived early for two reasons: I had nothing else to do, and it was Friday, so I assumed there would be a wait. Well there was no line, so I told a waitress that I would have a party of three. She told me to wait near the door. This was most mystical to me considering the number of open tables in the restaurant. So I waited, between 7:30 and 8:00 there was a mad rush of parties. At first other parties asked if I was waiting, but I told them to go ahead because I was still waiting. Well by the eighth party I was getting irritated, and I started to notice one thing, middle aged Korean women (and woe to the ones who date the balding white man for a green card – oh yes, this is one of those restaurants) did not even give me the courtesy of asking why I was loitering near the door. They just clutched their Louis Vuitton and made a beeline for the waitress.

My temper started to rise, I was getting pissed. I immediately called Dr. Liarski and Sam, but neither one of them picked up. I was incensed. TWELVE, a dozen parties have already been sat and I have not. And what was most galling was that I got the perception that tables with White Men were getting better service; the waitresses seemed to have no problem in sitting anyone who came from an imperialist heritage even though their party did not fully arrive. I was eying them jealously. They didn't even order and they were already feating on a bunch of small dishes. I was being discriminated against because I hailed from the same continent as they did! Dr. Liarski and Sam arrived 15-20 mins late, and they saw the look in my face.

Dr. Liarski approached me with one foot near the door “Ummm… hi.”

“Sam go talk to them, they are your people. Koreans hate the Chinese. I have been waiting here for almost an hour. A fucking hour! I should bill them.”

“You don’t have billable hours.”

“Fuck you Sam, go talk to them.”

“I am afraid of them.”

“What? My god, you are a fag.”

At that point I resembled an eggplant, but luckily within another five minutes - they sat us near the bathroom.

Without missing a beat Dr. Liarski suggested we order a Soju. I just looked down at the menu and continued brooding. Beef Short Rib. Marinated Beef Short Rib. Broiled Specially Marinated Beef. Marinated Beef. Broiled Beef. How many meet dishes could they make from same cut of meat? The menu would have been a statistician’s wet dream.

Since Sam is Korean, we made the tactical decision of making Sam order. Big mistake. Sam is a fucking genius. He is an English professor and is going to release his first book this August. And no, this is not some self-published pamphlet on Amazon, this involves a real publisher, Borders and Barnes and Nobles. I feel like a literary troglodyte when I sit next to Sam. But even with Newtonian like ingenuity and Herculean effort, Sam had trouble ordering. Apparently Sam was born in Latin America and his accent is not Korean enough for the waitress. Seeing that Sam is a sellout, the service got even worse!!!

“How is this possible? I waited an hour for this table and all I want is water. Why couldn’t you be conceived in a proper continent? Dr. Liarski, you are White, tell them I need water.”

Dr. Liarski raises his hand.

“Don’t do that. That is rude.”

“These people made you wait.”

“Flag away.”

Well Dear Reader, guess what, it still took minutes to get my water. It was like Sam’s accent was a taint on our table. We were forever marked with his Latin stain. The Soju came, but I couldn’t get any water. Sam told me to drink the alcohol. In fear of criminal and civil litigation I waved it away. I just wanted water.

As I sulked and the others talked about the others talked about life, the universe, science, religion, politics, shopping and men, all I wanted was decent service.


I snapped my head to the table, the waitress brought over some banchan. For the uninitiated, banchan are the cold dishes served in Korean restaurants that accompany your meal. They come in various forms and textures. Most are actually quite disgusting, like marinated mung beans, and weird pickled seaweed, but some banchan are quite resplendent. There were eight dishes, what the hell! Why did the other tables get so much more banchan than we did. People who have not ordered, got more banchan than we did. Sam was in a dark mood, he was getting pissed too. Being the Russian Buddha of the table, Dr. Liarski just ate away, but a cancer was eating at the Asians. You can discriminate against us, but do not give us less food. It was time for me to act. I raised my hand.

Sam scanned the room and he immediately tried to intercept me, “No she is the worst one. Last time I was here, she was so mean to me.”

“Wait, she was mean to you, and you still want to come here?”

“I wanted Korean.”

“You only date white guys, don’t you take them out to Asian food all the time.”

I didn’t care if the woman was a shebeast, she was going to answer to me.  She spoke in almost perfect English, “Ok, ok. You dinner is coming out soon.”

Vladimir was watching this Kabuki theater with amusement. Sam tried to hide under the table.

“Oh that is ok. Don’t worry. I was just wondering if I could have more tofu.”

“Of course, but it will cost you $15.”

I started to flirt, “Oh don’t worry, please put it on his tab (pointing to Dr. Liarksi), the tofu is so good.”  I batted my eyelashes.

“I will be right back.”

Dr. Liarski dug Sam out of a mountain of coats.

“Well, she wasn’t that bad.”

Dr. Liarski responded, “I think she likes you.”

“Well naturally, history of my life.”

Another five minutes later, no kidding,  more than 20 plates hit our table – 2 of which were tofu.

Sam was flummoxed, “I don’t get it, you are Chinese, she should hate you the most.”

“It is my sunny disposition.” But that is the thing Dear Reader, my mood suddenly shifted. It was like a chorus had walked in and tried to sing above the noise of sizzling meat:

Mr. Blue Sky, please tell us why,
You had to hide away
For so long where did we go wrong.

Hey there Mr. Blue
We're so pleased to be with you
Look around see what you do,
Everybody smiles at you.

“Wait, why is there a sexy woman on the Soju bottle?”

Vladimir stared at me is disbelief “You just noticed that?”

“Sorry, I was in a bad mood. Hey, where is Dustin?”

“I told you he was sick. My God, don’t you listen?”

“I would have been listening if you were here on time.”

“This is why you are single.”

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Cupcakes and My Budget

Phoebe’s Cupcakes
3327 North Broadway
Chicago, IL 60657
(773) 868-4000

I would like to thank Clinton Bissett and Jennifer Cameron in the editing of this particular entry. 

Dear Reader, you probably have noticed that I have been most languid in my blog postings as of late.  Initially I wanted to finish all of my “30 Blogs” prior to my 30th birthday; alas, I did not have the time, and I also have other writing/reading engagements on the side.  But I would like to reveal that I am about to finish my last 5 blogs shortly.  On a separate note, I have been trying to think of other subjects to tackle after my final 30th blog.  Some ideas include: grilled cheese sandwiches, cheeseburgers, restaurants noted on the Food Network and Travel Channel, movie reviews and/or commentaries about books.

I have actually gone to Phoebe’s Cupcakes twice for this blog.  The first time I went, I thought it was called Phoebe’s Cupcakes [Cupcake Bar].  Well it is not called that.  Shit.  So I went a second time and actually sat at “the bar” and consumed my cupcake, and guess what Dear Reader, there have been many sacrifices in history and culture.  Melville was entranced with sacrifice and martyrdom.  Lincoln was “sacrificed” to preserve the union.  Syndey Carton engaged in self-sacrifice for his love.  And we are coming close to Easter, so we should not forget about a minor event regarding two planks of wood and a spear.   But Dear Reader, I too have engaged in sacrifice – I spent $5.60 at Phoebe’s to bring you this blog.  Love does spring eternal. 

Phoebe’s Cupcakes offers several different types of cupcakes.  But for some reason, probably attributed to an early onset of dementia, I ordered the same type of cupcake twice - “Salted Caramel.”  Now when I go back to a restaurant for a second time, I try to order an item I did not previously consume; thus, getting a broader picture of the kitchen.  I failed here.  I ordered the same cupcake twice.   In hindsight, and in defense of my forgetfulness, I tend to order interesting item on the menu, and Phoebe’s as much as it tries to dress up its carbohydrates in couture, provides relatively lackluster fare.  “Red Velvet” – boring!  “Tuxedo” – I can go to Starbucks and get an Americano with it for 10% off.  “Apple Crunch” – if I wanted a muffin, I would get one at Einstein’s.  So “Salted Caramel” it was – Parts One and Two.

(On a side note, Phoebe’s also offers a breakfast cupcake which is soaked in maple syrup and topped with ½ a strip of bacon.  I did not order this because I did not find this to be an adequate play on sweet and savory.  In fact there is no “savory” on the item.  Think about it, a strip of bacon does not make an item savory, it may make it salty and smoky, but that’s it.   A more interesting item would have been actually incorporating the bacon into the cupcake).

Now I want to dispel any insinuation that I loath Phoebe’s.  They make an adequate cupcake.  But that is the point, it is merely adequate.  The most noteworthy item of Phoebe’s is that its cupcakes are moist.  Like two reunited lovers in a Nicholas Sparks novel, the mere press of its flesh elicits so much sugary liquid that it verges on the grotesque.   Moist and sweet, that is all I can say about it, I left unsatisfied.

There was no cigarette afterwards.  But the point of culinary criticism where I must gnash my teeth is the light hand in the salt.  To wit I quote from Phoebe’s website “topped with Himalayan Rose Sea Salt.”  Now I am the first to stipulate, salts do taste differently.  Sea salt does taste differently than table salt, than kosher salt, than Hawaiian black sea salt.  But what is the point of calling it “Salted Caramel” when it is only the caramel you can taste.  In fact, as I look at the pictures, no matter how much I use Adobe and magnify, I can’t find anything red on the cupcake.  THERE IS NO SALT!  And if there is no quantifiable amount of salt, then what is the point of calling it “Salted”?  Now Dear Reader, I am not speaking in hyperbole but in fact, you are clearly a genius for finding me in this vast terrain as we know as blogspot - and you will likely argue “Eric, maybe the problem is that you have an inferior palate.”  I probably do; nay, I stipulate, my tongue is likely not as sharp as yours, - my taste buds are dull and ground to fleshy nubs that can not distinguish between “Mandarin Chicken,” “Orange Chicken,” and “General Tso’s Chicken,” but there was no discernable salt in these cupcakes.  This is not to say that caramel and salt are not interesting plays on food.  Some ice-cream parlors actually do it quite well.  Paciugo, Sapore di Napoli Pizzeria &; Gelateria (which is half a block down the street) does an excellent “Salted and Caramel Gelato.”  It is just that Phoebe’s fails on riding the bandwagon.  It is merely a “Caramel Cupcake.”

Returning to the $5.50 that I spent at Phoebe’s, my blood begins to boil.  Now a cupcake costs $2.50 – yes $2.50 – the price of a Venti Iced Americano – the Holy Grail which gives me life.  $2.50 for a cupcake, or lets face it, a glorified piece of cake molded into the form of something cute that we remember in our childhoods, and then charged a premium.  Is it worth it?  Well from tone and text of this blog you can probably gauge my answer, but let’s look to Microeconomics for the answer.

We all live with “Budget Constraints”.  With my income, I can buy a designated amount.  Since I have very little disposable income, I cannot take a vacation to Rome.  Since I have some disposable income I may be able to buy Final Fantasy.  Since I bought Bank of America stock right after TARP, I may have tons of income and I can buy whatever I like.  We all have a Budget Constraint, and most are modeled with two variables.  Based on my budget I can buy so much of X and so much of Y. 

Now once a month I volunteer for bringing dinner for Bible Study, and last month I actually purchased cupcakes at Jewel.  Now due to Google Analytics I have been able to somewhat customize my blogs to my readers: for those in California think of Ralph’s, for those in Dallas think of Kroger, and for those in Russia think of Pyatyorochka.  Jewel was selling 24 cupcakes for $5.99.  They are not wonderful cupcakes, they are quite dense, and the icing is quite sweet.  I admit Phoebe’s provides a superior product.  But in the most craven terms, one Phoebe Cupcake is equivalent to a dozen Jewel Cupcakes ((Two dozen for $6 vs. $2.75 (with sales tax at Phoebe’s) for each Salted Caramel)).  So assuming my income is $6.00 my Budget Constraint regarding cupcakes would look pretty much like this. 

Is it worth it?

Well we then have to go into the dreaded concept of “Utility.”  Now “Utility” is one of those things in economics that I find to be fascinating, but have very little application in real life because we can’t quantify it.  Utility is defined as the amount of satisfaction one derives from the consumption of a particular item.  That is problematic because I don’t know what it means.  My utility for artichokes is nearly infinite, but my utility for refried beans is next to nil.  In fact I have this obscene and irrational hatred of refried beans.  If they even come close to touching any of my food, I must turn it away.  There was at least one meal where I chose to disenfranchise people I was dining with in order to wean myself of those infernal mashed legumes.  As I sacrificed nearly $6.00 at Phoebe’s I would freely sacrifice relationships to get refried beans off my plate.  But guess what, the world is often appalling.  Some people – including my dearest friend Pauline seems to have an irrational hatred of artichokes rather than refried beans!  She would rather eat frijoles refritos than Gaia’s Holy Thistle.  She derives more utility from a can of Old El Paso then the tender green heart of an artichoke (which is fine for me because I do not want aggregate demand for artichokes to increase).  I wager that most people are not as extreme as either Pauline or myself.  Like moderates who disdain the Tea Partiers, but crosses the street when they see a Transsexual Eskimo, most people probably straddle the middle – “I am ok with refried beans, as I am ok with artichokes.”

Through the use of some calculus you can actually derive a graph of the interrelationship of artichokes and refried beans; or in the case at hand, Jewel Cupcakes and Phoebe’s.  Now Utility is comprised of many things, maybe people like to have a place to sit and chat with friends.  You would think that this would be a component of Utility in Phoebe’s not found in the supermarket’s.  Well guess what, Phoebe is small and cramped.  I guess there is something novel in saying that you purchased an “adult cupcake.”  Maybe the cashier at Jewel is cuter than the one at Phoebe’s.  Let’s hold all these variables aside.  I approach my caloric consumption with a certain clinical detachment.  It is the cupcake I am looking at. 

But alack, before I reveal the graphs regarding the interrelationship between my utility of cupcakes there is something else called indigestion.  Holding price aside, how many Jewel cupcakes must I consume before it equals one of Phoebe’s superior, but unsalty cupcakes?  Well as many as I can before I throw up.  They are not perfect substitutes I may add, 3 Jewel cupcakes may conceivably be equivalent to one at Phoebe's, but the threat of throwing up, infernal bowel movements and diabetes will perniciously require me to consume more Jewel cupcakes to receive the equivalent amount of enjoyment as a second Phoebe’s cupcake.  Hence, the slope in utility curves.

Well with the derivation of my utility I can then transpose it onto my budget constraint, and that will tell me my optimal consumption of Phoebe Cupcake’s to Jewel Cupcakes.  As I told my cousin before, the important point in economics is where lines and curves intersect. 

I guess Phoebe’s wasn’t such a ripoff after all.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Table for One Next Time

L. Woods
7110 N. Lincoln Ave.,
Lincolnwood IL, 60712
(847) 677-3350

Sophie had an easier choice.  Do I stay at home and spend another night spooning my cat, or do I hang out at L.Woods?  As I was preparing dinner “Kristian” sent me a text inviting me to L.Woods.  I was ecstatic, I haven’t seem Kristian in ages – but there was a catch, Maleficar was also going. 

Kristian and Maleficar have a strong platonic gay relationship.  If you find one partner, you find the other.  In the rare situation where you only see one, he will speak of the other as if they were both present in the same room.  It is quite annoying really.  A co-joined identity in which conversations often center on the other person. 

Now this is not really an attack on Kristian and Maleficar.  I hate eating with most couples.  My blood boils when personal identity becomes obliterated and replaced by the dreaded “we”.  I presume there are two things going on with me really: 1. I am a jealous bitch, and 2. Everything I have learned in school has been about the individual; the community is merely a footnote, an extra in my psyche and education.

Think about it, even in MACROeconomics, the curves are known as “Aggregates” i.e. Aggregate Demand.  All the little people out there and their combined demand for something like say Final Fantasy XIII drives the economy.  Sure, you can’t study MACRO without an analysis of the community and the interrelationships between individuals, but ultimately, the curves are driven by one – the personal.  

Lets look at law school, individuals are restrained, not communities.  In fact, every law is merely a restraint on one’s liberty.  The central player is the individual.  In order to defend the community, you must restrain me.  I cannot price gouge, because it is an inefficient use of resources.   I cannot speed, because it is dangerous for all the drivers out there.  The person is important, community is secondary.

Which comes back to Kristian and Maleficar, well, I really don’t care for Maleficar.  He is a D’bag.  Maleficar is one of those sanctimonious, pretentious gay bitches who likes to think of himself as the hottest and smartest person in the room.  Dear Reader, if there is something you care about, Maleficar will find fault in it.  If you have a girlfriend, Maleficar will assume she has a hybrid venereal disease.  If you have a Toyota, he will claim it will explode when its trunk opens.  If you like videogames, he will call you a loser.  If you like cats, he will assert that dogs are better and that felines are the agents of the Devil.  If you like dogs, he will claim they are stupid and that you are a mental lightweight for not choosing cats.  If you are allergic to cats, Maleficar will bitch-slap you and propound that you come from defective stock.  In totality, Maleficar is a very shitty person. 

Kristian on the other hand is quite different.  He is jovial and tranquil.  He is quite a pleasure to be around really.  Dear Reader, you may be surprised to know that I went hiking (for the first time) last year.  I went with Edward and Kristian and had a wonderful time.  Alas, I haven’t seen much of Kristian for several reasons, most of them are logistical, he lives in a suburb.  But there was some weird drama between Kristian, Maleficar, and Edward.  It is summarized below:

  1. Maleficar and Edward met up on
  2. Maleficar and Edward went out a few times (whether or not these were defined as dates requires an attorney to define “Date”)
  3. Edward told Maleficar the “Let’s be friends” and “I am not ready” line.
  4. Maleficar flipped out and asserted that Edward did not want to date him because Edward (a doctor) did not respect Maleficar’s profession (psychiatrist).
  5. Edward started to hang out with Kristian (which also included Maleficar).
  6. Edward and Kristian was caught In flagrante delicto -  in a bar.
  7. Maleficar and his band decided to brand Edward with a scarlet letter.
  8. Kristian wanted to pursue a relationship.
  9. Edward did not want the drama and extricated himself from the situation.

Now I stipulate, I did not know any of the parties when all this was going around.  (I live in a bubble where the largest amount of drama is a debate between purchasing FF XIII or a pair of new shoes.  This is not to say that I do not cause myself a tremendous amount of angst or inner turmoil.  But with time, I am usually mad at myself and not another party).   But I was privy to all this information because three different people recited the same facts over and over again.  Even though Maleficar and Edward each have a respective boyfriend, I suspect that the wounds are still raw.  Maleficar particularly picks at the scab of Edward with pernicious fingernails. 

So what does this have to do with me?  As I said before, Sophie had an easier choice.  I can choose to spend another night with the cats, or I can go to L.Woods and hang out with super awesome Kristian; alas, that would also mean hanging out with Maleficar.  It is quite obvious what my choice was, since there would be no blog if I made good decisions. 

Now to put things in context, L.Woods is a 15 minute drive from where I live.  It is technically in Chicago but nobody who lives in “city proper” would actually go there.  Now there is nothing really offputting about the décor of L.Woods, think of a less manicured Claim Jumper.  Dear Reader, if you have never been to Claim Jumper, think of a log cabin.  L. Woods is actually a pretty large restaurant segmented into three areas: a bar, a middle dining room, and an end room that acts as another dining room.  I presume the end room was an addition to the original structure because the look and color of the room is different compared to the middle room and the bar (the end room is much brighter).     

The clientele of L.Woods is actually quite interesting.  There are two main groups that seem to dine there, people of Jewish or Arab descent.  Forget the Oslo Accords, a three state solution could be drafted in Lincolnwood!

As I waded through what appeared to be a graveyard of bones, I finally found Maleficar and Kristian sitting in talking. 

“Gentleman, it has been a long time.”

Kristian smiles, “Dude it has been months.”

Maleficar waves. 

The waiter immediately approaches and asks me what I would like to order.  Kristian tells me that they already ordered the “Brontosaurus Ribs.”  I was puzzled by that comment, but I noticed that Kristian seemed to be concentrating on the waiter with a disproportionate amount of time.  After I ordered a Sierra Pale Ale, and the “Onion Strings,”  the inquisition immediately starts.

In a nasally voice Maleficar asks, “So how is Edward and his new boyfriend,” without missing a beat, “Has Edward gained weight?”

I was bit taken aback.  Was this the reason why they asked me to hangout -  to talk about Edward? 

“I don’t know, why don’t you call him.”

“Well ….”

“Look, I like Emmett [Edward’s boyfriend].  I am not going to talk about him.  I would also like to highlight, on the record, and on blog, that he has been a better friend to me than you have.”

Kristian jumped in “Oh yea, your blog entry about your dates was hilarious.” 

“Dude, that was so long ago, I have written 20 since then.”

“Oh, well you need to tag me on Facebook.  Maleficar, did you know about Eric’s blog.”

“You write a blog?  It would actually be a blog I would actually read.”

“Yea, I post the updates on Facebook all the time.” 

“Well, you need to tag me.”

The waiter brings the “Brontosaurus Ribs,” my “onion strings” and my beer all at the same time.  At this moment I am at a dark mood.  I understand that the ribs were entered before my onion strings, in fact I don’t mind if the rings comes to the table after the ribs, but since less than 5 minutes passed before me entering an order, the fact that an appetizer could be brought to my table meant that it was already prepared ahead of time.  This is a restaurant sin!  In order to satiate my unholy demands of all things gluttonous, do not bring me food sitting under a heat lamp; this is especially true for fried foods.   As if I was some culinary neophyte, Kristian was explaining to me that since beef ribs are so large (compared to pork I guess), he and Maleficar called them “brontosaurus.”  I picked at the onion rings.  They were cold. 

Bad ideas often have a certain powerful inertia that propels them, and I really wanted to project my disgust with my rings onto Maleficar.  “So how is your new bf.”  Not since the Battle of Moscow has there been such a miscalculation.  Maleficar discussed for 15 minutes about the metal and social defects of his boyfriend.  Kristian intimated that he and other third parties thought that there is an odd struggle in the relationship.     

Twisting the knife in order to unsettle my ennui, “So why are you with him?” 

“Well I like the concept of someone there.  Plus I miss him when he is not around.” 

“Interesting, besides all these general laments about your boyfriend what is his real problem.”

“Well, he is focused on status way too much.”

I almost choked on the batter of the cold onion rings sticking to my esophagus. 

“I am interested, please discuss more.”       

“Well, he works at the AMA, so he  knows the Surgeon General and we had this discussion about the Surgeon General …. I didn’t know who the Surgeon General was, so he kind of flipped out. ‘You are a doctor, how can you not know who the Surgeon General is.’”

Even with a peace treaty being hashed out on the table next to me, a Faustian scene was occurring in my head, Correct him, he is not a doctor.  Just a psychiatrist

Maleficar, continues “So I tell him that stuff like this doesn’t matter to me.  I am in medicine to help people…. I don’t care about status.”

In the middle of this lament, Kristian asks for more bbq sauce.  I noted, good idea, I need something hot for these onion rings from Cocytus.  As I was about to join in the request for additional sauce the waiter sprinted off.   Maleficar just continued “You know Eric, a lot of this was on my Facebook wall.”

I was about to commit felony homicide.  The same guy who told me that he does not read blogs unless he is tagged, told me to follow his Facebook feed.  Who the fuck does he think he is?  As I engaged in this dolorous excogitation, I saw quite possibly the most disgusting sight ever recorded.  Apparently, Maleficar did not like one of his ribs, so after taking a bite he threw the rib back onto the plate and took another one.  Thump.

“What the hell just happened?”

“Well I don’t like that one, so he (pointing to Kristian will eat it.” 

This disgusting journey continued.  I am going to leave off other highlights such as: surprisingly good cheesecake, Kristian’s additional ogling of the waiter, more complaints by Maleficar, an obscene tip left by my party because they thought the waiter was “good,” and Maleficar’s obvious lust of a teenage boy sitting two tables away.  I am just going to fast forward to the parking lot.

“So attorney, what do you drive?”

“A Camry.”

“Good luck staying alive.” 

“I keep forgetting I do not live the privilged life of a Saab owner. (Maleficar once waxed poetic about a BMW).”   

I could only hope that the accelerator sticks and I run him over.  “Does not care about status,” my ass. I hate couples.


Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Something I Would Like to Share

My name is Keli and I am the manager of Frank's. I was very sorry to hear about your recent experience at the bar. Please believe that we demand better attitudes from all of our staff. I am sure you can understand why I would not want to question each waitress about the incident, since the description you wrote on her appearance is quite unflattering. That being said I would like the opportunity to reprimand my server. If you could remember the date of your visit I would really appreciate it.

Again I am sorry that you did not have a more positive experience since we do work very hard to please our guests!
Keli Amato"

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Presbyterians can party.

2503 North Clark St.
Chicago, IL 60614-1711
773 - 549-2700

3359 N. Halsted St.
Chicago, IL 60657

When I think of Christians, I often conjure two different and stark images.  One is the overly pious type who really enjoy wearing Dockers and attempt to convert everyone at the checkout counter.  The other type of Christian is the granola-eating, homebody whose mantra is “Jesus was the OG hippie.”  There is no middle ground.  There are only two types of Christians.  I think this is why my recent adventures at Lakeview Presbyterian has been so shocking to many of my family and friends.  I don’t wear Dockers; I think pleats make me look like a communist.  And I am definitely not a hippie, my thesis in finance was about Philip Morris and the glories of its average cost of capital.  If Christians only fall into two schema, the Evangelist and the one who practices “Civil Disobedience,” why would I join Lakeview?  Well Dear Reader, you have never partied with Lakeview Presbyterians, I almost died doing so.

NOTE:  There are several types of Presbyterians.  The two main lines are Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA) and Presbyterian Church America (PCA).   I am a member of the more progressive PCUSA and I am not referencing PCA, which probably thinks I should be held as property.

It was Saturday, and I received a text message from Tara inviting me to Julius Meinl for dinner.  I hung out with Tara once, we did brunch at Finley Mahoney’s.  I was sandwiched between her and Ashley, I felt welcomed; nay, even more, I was the cool kid hanging out with hot girls in church.  I was part of the A Group!  Within five minutes of Tara’s text, I received an email from Ashley inviting me to the same event.  Looking at the addressees I noticed that I was the only male invited.  OMG, in just three months of Bible Study I have cemented myself as the “Girls’ Best Accessory,” I was essentially the “Gay Clutch.” 

Ashley and Tara were at Julius Meinl before me.  Even though 9 people were invited, it was just the three of us that night.  We talked about clothes and boys; nothing religious.  I ordered an amazing grilled cheese sandwich, and sexually harassed the hot waiter.  Tara noticed that he was wearing a wedding band, “It is the first thing I look for,” she instructed.  "Technicalities" I thought.  We were done with dinner, and I thought I was done for the night.  I was behind on my book project, but then out of the blue Ashley inquired as to where we were going afterwards.

“Afterwards,” I asked?

“Yea. We have to go drinking.  WE ARE DRINKING.”

OMG, she looked demented.  “Ok” I acquiesced.  I thought she was going to decapitate me.  We started to walk south along Southport, but we really didn’t find anything promising.  Ashley suggested DOC Winebar.  Dear Reader, if this sounds familiar it is the winebar adjacent from Dunlay’s on Clark (see “If These Chips Could Talk.”) but I really had no fear though, I liked these two femme fatales.

When we got to DOC Winebar, a really hot guy approached us – so hot I fell in love.  Yes, Cupid stuck me at the corner of Clark and Wrightwood.  Eric’s Husband (bitch holding his arm be damned) told us that DOC Winebar was closed for a private event.  Tara and Ashley gasped in horror.  I gasped for other reasons.  He then walked south with the Whore of Babylon.  Ashley was suggesting places in the area.  Tara wanted to avoid any place where college students would be at.  I was suggesting we stalk Eric’s Husband and was looking in my pockets for chloroform.  I then suggested “Basil Leaf,”  which is an Italian restaurant that actually serves an excellent Riesling.    

As we were walking to Basil Leaf, I was looking under every alcove for the super hot guy.  Instead of finding him, we spied a rather divey looking bar called Frank’s.  Now the bar is not a dive in the sense that I would get crabs from looking at the sign, rather it is a dive compared to its surroundings.  Now the inhabitants of Lincoln Park often think to much of themselves.  The bitches do not live in Orange County or Beverly Hills, but they often think they do.  The DePaul students make themselves seem like that they are going to Harvard, when in fact they are going to … DePaul.  Needless to say, Lincoln Park is a community of inflated egos.  Hence, a dive is not really a dive in Lincoln Park, it is merely an ordinary bar.  Since Ashley really wanted to drink, Tara didn’t really seem to want to walk, and I prefer dives over nice bars anyway, Frank’s it was. 

As we walked in, we immediately sat down at one of the two booths facing the street.  Along the perimeter of Frank’s are high-tops for two, then there is the usual bar arrangement.  I studied the clientele, it wasn’t particularly pretentious, just a normal bar.  As I yammered continuously about the Eric’s Husband, Ashley pointed to “Sparkling Wine (bottle).”  Tara and I were intrigued by the $3 drinks.  The server came by and I was aghast, she was an ogress wearing a tube top.  How the hell did this "Shebeast" get a job in Lincoln Park?  Tara inquired to the $3 drinks and Shebeast immediately dismissed it as swill.  I actually respect it when a server tells me not to order something on a menu.  It shows honesty, a certain amount of care that is no longer found in service.  Ashley followed up with “What is the Sparkling Wine.”  Shebeast had no idea, and she said she would need to ask the manager because nobody has ever ordered it.  On principle alone, I really wanted it. 
Shebeast returned, “We have a bottle chilled.  It is Cooks.  But I have never seen anyone order it, and I have been here for two years.”

Tara looked in horror.  Ashley looked at me.  I consented, “Dear barkeep please bring us a bottle and three glasses.” 

In less then five minutes it came out in a bucket.  “Fancy huh,” as Shebeast served us, I was aghast, Cooks, oh my god, they serve this at prison functions.  We continued our talk about boys, and Tara said something profound, “Bad Sparkling wine is at least drinkable, bad wine is not.”  I was puzzled by that comment, until the sixth sip hit me, my god, this was as bad as I remembered.  I had two glasses and I was sick.  Like watching a Wayon Brothers' movie sick.  I had to eat something or throw up.  I was calling it a night until I heard Ashley’s objections.

“We need to go somewhere else.”

“What? I am tired.”

“It is only 10:30 continued.  You can pick the place.  It needs hot guys.”

“We saw a hot guy, there is a hole in my heart, I will never love again.”

“Well we need to go to a bar to find you a hot guy.”

She was very persuasive.  Tara just kept on drinking and asked for the check.

“Well, we could go to Cocktail, it has strippers.”

I thought I was an extra in some Star Trek episode, we were transported to Cocktail in less than ten minutes after my suggestion.  I don’t even remember paying.  As we walked in, Ashley asked the bouncer “Are there strippers?” 

The bouncer who was three times Ashley’s size actually took three steps back, I think he was afraid of the ravenous look in her eyes, “Yes ma’am.”           

“Good,” she made a beeline to the bar.

Tara went to scope out some real estate for us to stand, and I felt like throwing up.  BOOOM BOOOM BOOOOM.  The music blared, and with each soundwave my intestines were assaulted.  It dawned on me, I just can’t drink cheap alcohol.  As I stood hunched over to the side, Ashley came back with some humungous goblet of alcohol.  I  thought it was the coveted Sangre Real. 

“I opened a tab.  They required a minimum of $20 for a tab.”

“Is that supersize?”

As we were talking about this, Tara also came back with a rather large alcoholic drink.  I was trying to get my mind off my lack of equilibrium and focused on how she could carry 20 lbs of alcohol. 


And then I heard screaming, strippers. Lots and lots of strippers.  The first brought little attention, so Ashley decided to make friends.  Within 5 minutes she developed a coterie of homosexuals and were talking about jackets, underwear, and jobs.  Tara was focused on the stripper. I was frantically looking for a bathroom. 

Ashley was trying to introduce me to her gays, but I was not in the mood.  I am … in lovve…. BOOM BOOOOOM BOOOOOOOM, oh god I have to throw up ….. BOOOM BOOOM BOOOM ….  what if I never see my lov…. BOOOOOM.

Ok we need to leave.  What the fuck, Ashley was starting a second crate’s worth of alcohol. 

“Do you want something to drink hon?”

“Umm can I get some water?”

“Sure, hold this.”

I almost dropped her stein, it felt like it weighed ten pounds. 

I heard Tara meekly, “Oh my god.”

The crowd erupted in noise, the second stripper was up.  BOOOM BOOOOOM.  If Stephanie Meyer were to describe him, she would use the words “Godlike,” or “Apolloesque” or “Sculpted out of marble.”  Everyone but me went ecstatic, my love is hard to earn.   

Ashley returned with my bottle water.  I thought it was going to squirt out of her hands.  “Eric, I am coming here tomorrow.”

When the stripper was done, he made his way around the bar to talk with the customers.  As he was making his way to us, one of Ashley’s new gays took her arm and placed it on his chest.

He smiled the way only a straight guy could smile, “You want to touch my abs?”

BOOOOOM BBBBOOOOOM BOOOM.  Presbyterians can party.


I Am A Fraud.

TGI Friday's1500 West Lake Cook Road,Wheeling, IL 60090-2249(847) 459-1273

When you cultivate a certain reputation, it is hard to admit enjoying something that is violate of all your efforts.  If people view you as an intellectual, it is difficult to reveal one’s love of videogames.  If you are a conservative congressman, it is probably hard to come out of the closet and reveal you like shirtless Abercrombie models.   If you are a literary bookworm, how does one reveal one’s love of all things Twilight?  You fear – nay, you dread the reprobation of your peers.  You become a fraud if you enjoy laser tag, while you discuss Socrates and Mill; a drag queen wearing the cloak of large wordy books.  But what is worse, is looking in the mirror. You want to be an adult, you need to be a member of the ivory tower, you see yourself achieving something that only status can bring.  And dejection comes, as if examining your sides looking for that extra layer of fat, you are not as smart as you think, not as good looking as your profile indicates.  Dear Reader, I am not an academic, nor am I terribly good looking.  I do not suffer illusions of grandeur.  But I always thought - I really believed I was a foodie.  Then I looked in the mirror, then I realized I liked TGI Fridays!

It was a dreadful week at work and I was ambling towards either Gomorrah or the weekend.  Salvation would come at 4:30!  Only. EIGHT more hours to go.  SHIT!  It was only 8:30!  WHATTHEFUCKAMIGOINGTODO? It is still the morning.  I went to Jennifer’s desk, clutching onto a mug of caffeine as if it was the Holy Grail. 

“It is only 8:30.”

Jennifer lifted her head, “How many projects are going out today,:

“Hell if I know, Happy Hour?”

“Absolutely.”   She grunted as if speaking the language of Mordor.

1:16 – What the fuck one minute.  Is the clock broken? 

4:00 comes around and I am as giddy as a little school girl sitting in line for an autograph from Zac Efron.  I call Jennifer – well, first I have to be transferred to her (I have no idea how to use these Cisco phones). 

“Where are we going.”

“Let’s go somewhere cheap.”

I think apprehensively, whenever we have tried cheap it normally turns into some cataclysmic event with me sulking at a table. 

“Well, I saw TGI Fridays running a three course special for $10.99.  What do you think?”    
Before Jennifer answered, I added that “I wouldn’t expect much though – I mean $10.99.” 

She said she would ask Candice.  Within 10 minutes I was at TGI Friday’s opening a door that Dante and Virgil would have been loath to open.  Jennifer and I got to the restaurant first.  I demanded that we sit at the bar (always thinking about you Dear Reader). 

The greeter an unbelievably faye male talked about the $10.99 specials; “Well there are liiiiiiike 275 different combinations you could create.”

288 I thought to myself.  He sashayed away. 

Our waitress came over to ask us for drinks.  Jennifer ordered a large Sam Adams, I asked for water.  Yes, I am a pussy.  But after awhile I noticed I was beginning to become really hungry, and when I enter starvation mode, any little social grace I may have disappears.  Deprive me of carbs when I become famished, and I become a craven bitch.  Seeing that I was beginning to bite my lips, Jennifer inquired if we should order first.  I flag the waitress before Jennifer could complete her suggestion. 

It took me 30 seconds to order.  “I would like the Fried Green Beans, “The Cheesy Chicken” and the cheesecake.  Jennifer ordered the pot stickers. 

I hear YAY” ejaculated at the table next to me.  WTF! Is it New Years?  I glare at the table.  Middle aged women doing some sort of martini that involved cotton candy.  I don’t know if I was in either suburb hell, or jealous that I was not menstruating.

The waitress brings the Fried Green Beans, and Jennifer’s pot stickers over.  She also brings a bevy of wet-naps, napkins, plates, and refills our drinks all in one trip.  I was impressed.  She should open a restaurant in my neighborhood. 

The Fried Green Beans - they look like the fingers of a leper.  But what was even more off putting was actually handling them, aside from the oil slick that they left on the plate, which could power an entire fleet of SUVs, the green beans were coated in this rough fried coating.  I was going to regret this - $10.99 wasted.  I could have used it to download Castlevania!  With a sense of foreboding I dropped one into my mouth and started chewing.   Bernini, sculpted the Ecstasy of St. Theresa, depicting the saint having an orgasm after being pierced with the love of God.  Dear Reader, I still can’t get a dry cleaner to get the DNA out of my pants.  The green beans were unequivocally one of the best things I had this year! No joke, get thee to a TGI Fridays and order the Fried Green Beans.  The coating was sweet and crispy, the beans had a crisp fresh taste to them.  Sure they were probably frozen (green beans and peas freeze quite well, unlike say broccoli), but I would have ordered a second helping if our group was larger.  Each bean provided me a scintillating pleasure that I have long forgotten.  To think frozen appetizers could be so good. 

As I was in the middle of ravenous frenzy, Candice came in and gave me a look as if she discovered a zombie feasting on the dead.  She stared. 

“Get your own woman. $10.99. 275 combinations.”

The waitress comes by and Candice orders one of the cotton candy martinis.  The waitress swings on by constantly with napkins – apparently I was a greasy mess.  Beans were probably in my hair and fingernails. 

The one hiccup in service involved Candice after receiving her drink, she wanted to order, but the waitress just dropped off the drink.  Unfortunately, it took Candice a good 7-10 minutes to order her meal.  Satiated and in a green bean coma, I wasn’t even appalled by the waitress' negligence.

“The Cheesy Chicken” was next.  Now I have been trying to reduce my consumption of meat, especially chicken.  I just have a problem of killing animals for a meal, and I especially think chickens are treated poorly, but I really wanted cheese so “Cheesy Chicken” it was.  The entrée was served on one of those cast iron dishes that was placed into a salamander before service, so it not only serves the purpose of becoming a rather dated spectacle (the sizzle and pop was amusing in the 80s), but it creates this burnt cheese on the sides.  The entire entrée was a salty gooey mess.  If you have a “loved one” who has hyper-tension, serve him this meal, I want half of your inheritance for the referral.  I should have avoided for health reasons (but I was already here), it was glorious.  I peeled the cheese as if there were chips in a Super Bowl party.  The chicken wasn’t bad either, screw morality and the new world order with the coming of our Lord, if violence to birds could create this dish, cull away!

The service with the cheesecake was kind of odd.  When it was presented, the waitress said “This has to be the saddest strawberry I have ever seen.”  This was quite a turn off, if you know I am being served some berry that is essentially the offspring of some hybrid VD, don’t give it to me.  But as with the other items above, I was actually quite surprised with the cheesecake.  Now, classical adherents to cheesecake would hate this bastardized concoction.  I couldn’t taste much cream cheese, but there was a lot of heavy cream.  It was rich, sweet, and smooth - I surprisingly liked it.  

I may have to turn in my foodie card, you can find me at TGI Fridays to claim it.