Sunday, February 28, 2010

If These Chips Could Talk

Dunlay's On Clark
2600 North Clark Street

Chicago, IL 60614-1523
(773) 883-6000

If there is anything I have learned about my experience with this 30 Bar Odyssey, it is this – the company you keep, makes the journey.  Could you imagine: Carrie with Samantha, or Frasier without Niles, vampire love stories without goth emo kids, or Japanese cartoons without transsexuals?

Most of my blogs are pretty easy to write because I go with some pretty awesome people.  There is Vladimir who is the Doctor/Foodie/Movie buff – fascinating individual really.  Born in Russia, he could talk your ear off about the most insensible items; ask him about the “prescreen date.”  Vladimir’s boyfriend, Dustin is a firecracker, Midwestern, sensible, whenever he is at the table, he grounds our cosmopolitan, and maniacal tendencies.  And I cannot forget the duo in the suburbs, Candice and Jennifer.  Every time I am with them is like Sex and The City, without the city, and the sex.   Many of my blogs are with these people.  It is always a good time, a journey I always want to share.  But sometimes, there are those meetings where you go with a group of people where the dynamics don’t really click.  You wish for the check to come, and you become contemptuous of your party.  My time at Dunlay’s on Clark (DOC) was this.

“Scott” texted me on a Saturday night asking me if I would join him for a drink at DOC.  I met Scott on two years ago and romance did not really bloom.  I never really understood what really happened, things got hot and heavy one night and at the next moment I got the inexplicable “Let’s be friends discussion.”  Here is the problem with such a discussion, Dear Reader take notes, if you are giving the speech, the other side wants to know. If you think she has small breasts, she wants to know. If you think he is a bad kisser, he wants to know.  The “oh I am not feeling it” – is a pussy way of getting out of it.  Grow a pair and tell the other person why, you two probably shared bodily fluids anyway, so you owe him/her something more. 

My relationship with Scott has always been rather odd.  He would confide in me about his exploits while always trashing mine.  But here is the thing, he is kind of hypocritical, and sanctimonious.  It is never his fault.  He would always develop a relationship, and then something always happens.  Half of his relationships start and end by email, even though a meeting never occurs.  The other half, he ends the relationship, and he NEVER tells the other guy why.  I have often called bullshit whenever he tells me his exploits.  He often responds, “I am just Minnesota nice.”   The bile often rises whenever I hear this – it is not like the location of one’s conception is an affirmative defense for negligent acts.   A year ago, Scott ended a promising relationship with this fellow named “Darren.”  Scott told me that Darren had a lazy eye and he could not handle it.  Unfortunately, Scott did not tell this to Darren.  Scott just got increasingly removed and distant from Darren and finally “Let’s be friends.”  How do you support a friend's actions when the same thing happened to you?

As I said, Scott told me to meet him at DOC.  He was also invited a co-worker/friend of his “Diana” who is new to Chicago.  I was hoping it would be a good time.  It was dreadful. DOC is actually a pretty cool neighborhood restaurant.  It has seating capacity of around 100 people, of which the bar seats around 16 to 20 people.  There is an open kitchen to the north of the main entrance, and a little doorway connects DOC with its winebar known creatively as “DOC Winebar.”

Scott and Diana were already at a table and I introduced myself to the new girl.  Now I am not the first nominee for a Goodwill Ambassador, but I thought I should try to give my most pleasant first impression to Diana.  My god, this woman looked liked a 20 year old Amazon.  I was jealous, not only was this bitch taller than I am, but she was years younger than me.  In fact, to put everything in perspective, Scott is also four years younger than me, and as tall as a sequoia.  I was in a table in the woods.

Scott ordered a white, which Diana inexplicably copied.  DOC actually has a comprehensive wine list; it is after all, connected to winebar.  They were some weird sexless couple that copied each other.  I hate it when people do not have an identity beyond their clique.  If Hell is actually some state of being where there is no happiness, DOC was my infernal basement.  I ordered a Lagunitas IPA from Petulima. 

Scott and Diana started to talk about work.  They are both nurses at Northwestern, and all these senseless medical terms were strewn all over the place.  Now I hate being left out of a conversation primarily because depriving me from sharing my font of wisdom is a crime worthy of Nuremburg.  But worse, I hate it when people discuss shop when another of the party is not in the industry.  If I was having a dinner with all lawyers, discussing depositions is fair game, but if there are five lawyers and one chef – Roe v. Wade is not to be discussed.   So while the two were talking about needles, veins, and scat, I stated to take pictures of the Lagunitas.  The conversation stopped.  I should have took my iPhone out earlier.  They were just staring at me and Diana was giving me the most bitchy look.  I explained that I was writing a blog.  Scott admitted that he didn’t even know about my enterprise, and Diana just scoffed and carried on about saving lives.

Scott and Diana were finished with their wine in a hurry.  Apparently, being a nurse makes one thirsty.  They both ordered a second glass, since I was still drinking the beer in a counterintuitive languid manner, I ordered the “Blue Cheese Chips.” 

Scott tried to shift the discussion and asked me “So what is going on with you.”  I was about to have a stroke.  What should I have said, “I am writing a book,” or “I have a blog,” maybe I should have tried “I have had a plethora of terrible dates.”  I shared all of that, and all I got from Diana was the feeling that I was some harlot that was about to ride the Beast of Babylon.  While discussing dates, we were on the issue of the Twilight Series.  Her interpretation of high school girls and vampires was unusually off the mark. The chips came and I started eating right away.  They were delicious and covered in this rich béchamel.  Even though I am gay I didn’t know anything covered in white sauce would be this delicious.  I was eating away as they both discussed relationships.  Apparently, Diana unsurprisingly has never had a relationship.  I guess heterosexuals are more discerning than I give them credit for.  

Scott started to talk about Lazy-Eye Darren.  I was eating intently.  There were some chips layered with hot sauce, OMG, if I could have had a conversation with them instead.  Scott told us that he sent Darren an email trying to rekindle things.  I wanted to throw up, but to purge those delicious chips would be such a waste.  I actually slapped Scott.  Not just a faye-gay slap, I mean a Class II Battery slap, “WHAT THE FUCK! WHY, WOULD YOU DO THIS TO HIM!” Diana was appalled that I had this violent reaction, “Well who knows, he should give it a try.”  This cretin, this tween who could not understand the nuances of vampire relationship was trying to lecture me about relationships.  Now, I stipulate, I am: pretty picky, unusually Type A, very opinionated, and sometimes a whirlwind of a character.  I am not sure if anyone in Chicago, let alone this world could ever tame me, but I think I have more knowledge in this area then some transplant wearing some fucking promise ring plucked out of a Cracker Jack box!  I was brooding, where the hell was Vladimir and Dustin?  They were probably having a ball as the cutest gay couple in the world.  Jennifer and Candice?  They were probably throwing beer cans at drunk frat boys.  It all sounded so fun, and this cunt was trying to lecture me. 

To make things worse, the check came, and without looking at it, Diana laid down $20.  Her wine was $9 each; therefore, I subsidized this twat’s drinks.  I liked DOC, but next time I am going with real women, and guys who know what they want.    

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Worst Date #3. Part Deux

3215 N Sheffield Ave
Chicago, IL 60657
(773) 327-8861


Brew & View At The Vic
3145 North Sheffield Avenue
Chicago, IL 60657-4434
(773) 929-6713

Dear Reader, I am a poseur. Not to the scale of one of those Lincoln Park bitches who take four hours ordering at Starbucks, but at the level where I must blush at my hypocrisy. I am not always as efficient as a machine. Sometimes things, like feelings get in the way. Sometimes when I get lonely and stupid, yes, very stupid, ridiculous actions on my part are made.

So 2010 rang in with a bang. I literally had six dates (7 if you count one where there was a ridiculous exchange of hatemail between me and another) in the first week of the New Year. Keeping my proverbial powder dry, I didn’t let anything physical happen in any rendezvous, plus I wasn’t really into any of the suitors. But I wasn’t concerned. Shit, if I could get six dates in one week, think of the next 51! Then something happened – a drought. My phone was silent. Every fifteen minutes I would tap my phone to see if I somehow turned deaf and had a miss call. Helen Keller’s AT&T bill was probably larger than mine. My love life was a bear market, and the Chicago gays were shorting my stock.

I was getting desperate. Every time I went to Argo, my ego was insulted. There were couples all over the place. People were on dates, they were in relationships, they had kids. Even the neighborhood dogs were dating. What did I have - a bunch of Harry Potter books and my two cats. I was going to bite the bullet. I was going to call my “Option”.

In financial terms, “options” are used to hedge against dramatic changes in the market; for example if you own stock in GE, you could purchase an option to lock in the price of GE in case the stock goes down. Well, options are also found in your rolodex. Dear Reader, there is probably one person that you dated, whom if you called, he/she would give you fallatio over the phone at the mere tenor of your voice.

But let’s face it. My “Option” is not my “Boyfriend” because he is inherently defective. Now I want to be clear, this is not a fuck-buddy. You don’t go out with your fuck-buddy. You fuck your fuck-buddy. With the Option - you go out - on a date - with dinner – because you are lonely. And maybe, just maybe, that defect can be overlooked. Maybe the defect is no longer there, maybe he changed, maybe I changed. Perhaps the Option can be exercised.

Option and I were walking from my apartment to Leona’s. For those who do not have to suffer through the winter of discontent that is Chicago, just realize this, it is cold here. I am talking apocalyptic cold here. And my date was complaining like a little bitch about the obvious. It was cold. Dear Reader, I have very little patience for taxis in Chicago. I often find the drivers to be inept, and they tend to forget English at the most inconvenient times. But Option was complaining so much, “I asked him, do you want to get a taxi?”

“No it is ok, how far away is Leona’s?”

“A little bit past the El.”

“Are you sure it is open, it is kind of late.”

“It is 9:00 on a Saturday.”

“It is a shame if it is closed, I mean it is so cold.”

I almost gay bashed him right there.

After almost ten minutes of listening to Option’s incessant whining we get to Leona’s. We are immediately seated in a booth and I noticed a placard advertising Miller Lite Bottles for $2. I instantly order two for myself. Option orders a Diet Coke.

“Diet really? I thought you drank gin and tonic.”

“Oh my god, you remembered, it has been like a year. Yea but I don’t really want to drink tonight.”


“Last time we went out drinking you broke my heart.”

It was true. Dear Reader, if you follow my blogs, you may remember “My 10 Dates of 2009.” Option is actually #3. Oh yes, I was desperate and lonely.

In the middle of repeating “I broke your …” two massive land animals come to our tables and clap Option on the back. They exchange gay pleasantries, which for some reason involve kissing. I don’t mean the French variant where there is an innocent peck on the cheek. No, this is lip locking, and to make things even more ridiculous, there are arms a’flailing. I don’t mean locked in ecstasy but rather, arms flailing in the air as they greet. I am so disgusted I begin to contemplate the logistics of heterosexual intercourse. Option moves over to the other side of the booth for the two water buffalo. I was staring in disbelief. Not so much that Option was so uncouth about the situation, rather I was concentrating on how the booth did not collapse. The Titanic had more structural integrity than that booth, but with some feat of magic, it was holding those three.

Option and the juggernauts were talking about their Lutheran church and the waitress drops off the drinks. I immediately start for the beer. The waitress asks if we are ready to order, but the Lutherans are carrying away about church politics, so I tell her to come back. As I nurse the Miller Lite, Juggernaut One gives me a disapproving look.

“Aren’t we starting early.”

“It is $2 a bottle, I was afraid the offer would expire.”

He looks at Option, “Boys, nowadays.”

I am pissed now. You can call me an asshole, a cretin, a pissant, but do not refer to me as a ‘boy.’ “Hey asshole, wasn’t Luther a drunk.”

Juggernaut 2 intercedes, “That is a misconception, he argued that people should talk about religion while drinking, so it makes for a freer conversation.”

“Ok, well fat-ass we are on a date, I don’t know you. In fact you two elephants didn’t even introduce yourselves to me as you intruded. [I take a long drink]. I think God, would disapprove of you interrupting a night of amore.”

Juggernaut 2 turns to Option and does the gayest lisp I have ever heard, “Wheeee will seeee you tomooorrrow at CHurCH Byyyye.”

I start on my second bottle. Now I don’t really drink that much, but for some reason I was going through a total shame spiral. It has been five weeks and my hand was hot, now I am reduced to Option. I need to drink.

The waitress comes back and I insist on the pizza with pesto. Option stated he hated pesto but he would “settle” with the 1950 Traditional, which was essentially a sausage pizza with some vegetables. I told him I really liked pesto. He told me he really liked “meat pizzas” and the 1950 was his way of compromise. Fine he wins, I don’t care.

The waitress looks at my two empty bottles, “Can I get you anything else to drink.”

“Yes, anything but Miller Lite. It is disgusting.”

“What about the Stone Mill Organic. It is umm… organic.”

“Thank you for caring about what I put in my body, organic beer it is dear lady.”

Leona’s is actually a relatively large pizzaria in the neighborhood. It is essentially two store fronts. Their motif is essentially, neighborhood pizza place, a’la Pizza Hut. But the one thing I have noticed about Leona’s is that the pizza has degraded in quality over the past 5 years. When I first arrived in Chicago, Leona’s was the only pizza I really craved. Then it became really good, which transitioned to pretty good, transforming to ok, and then becoming “what the fuck is this shingle I am placing in my mouth.” But it was my fault, I chose Leona’s because Option does not like Asian food, or Mexican, or Middle Eastern, or Italian. Option was essentially the culinary Bubble Boy.

Here is the thing, I thought Option might have been the real deal. I “broke his heart” because a year ago he told me that he would never eat Asian food because he did not like it (even though he never tried it). Ever the optimist, I thought surely – after a year, he must have had fried rice at a food court. Nope. Option’s time value fully decayed, and I wanted out of this date.

We were talking about mundane stuff until he brought up the subject I really did not want to talk about.

“I can’t believe you ditched me over food.”

“Jesus, Joseph and Mary, looking at the company you keep, I figure food would be really important to you.”

“Fuck you, Eric that was really rude of you. You could have been nicer to [Juggernaut 1 & 2].”

“They sat down without introducing themselves, an act which you could have done too. And – and they were judging me because I am drinking. I don’t even drink much.”

Without missing a beat, the waitress drops off the Stone Mill Organic. Instinctively I reach out for it and take a sip. My God, I could make better moonshine by having my cats take a piss in a bottle and setting it out for two weeks under the sun. I gagged and reached for water.

“Would you stop being so dramatic, it can’t be that bad.”

“Well Option since you are the epicurean here. Please try and elucidate me.”

He takes a sip, and he purses his lips. “Yea it is pretty bad.”

The pizza arrives and I tell the waitress the beer is undrinkable. She takes it away as if it was a common occurrence. The pizza was just as bad. Now, we ordered a traditional crust, rather than Chicago style (which is essentially a cornmeal casserole covered in cheese) and it was insipid. The cook actually forgot to use SALT! Seriously, there was no NACL on the pizza. Sure, sausage is inherently salty, but sans the pork, the pizza was absolutely tasteless.

Option looks at me “Please don’t send this back.”

“You know me so well. We can’t eat this.”

“I think it is ok.”

“You are paying.”
“Ok. What are we going to do after this.”

I stare at him. Oh my God, we are doing something afterwards? I was just hoping that we would go our separate ways after dinner. This was not planned.

“What do you want to do,” I asked meekly.

“We could go to your place.”

I almost had a stroke. “What if we catch a movie at the Brew & View?”

“What is that?”

“It is a movie theater, where we can drink.”

I SWEAR TO GOD THIS IS WHAT HE SAYS: “Sure anything you want as long as we are together.”

I vomit some tasteless pizza. A side note: the waitress still charged Option for the Stone Mill.

We enter the lobby of Brew & View. The place looks like a movie theater back in the 70s. Note, there is only one theater, but it has balconies and alcoves; thus making the place pretty awesome. I find out that “Wayne’s World” is playing.

Option gives me a look of disdain “Uggg… I don’t want to watch a stupid movie.”

The guy at the ticket counter looks like he is about to punch Option. I was wondering if I could date the guy at the counter. “Wayne’s World is a classic. Stop being a d’bag.”

“Why don’t we just go back to your place.”

The guy at the ticket counter looks at me as if he was witnessing a pack of lions about to tear up a gazelle. He sighs, “Look, what if I sell you guys one ticket and both of you get in.” I immediately fall in love.

The theater is not arranged like a normal theater. There are a bunch of banquettes and tables strewn about. Option goes to the bar to pick up drinks. I look at my phone to see if a potential paramour called. No Miss Calls. Shit. Option offered me some beer in a plastic cup.

“Thanks. But what is this?”

“I don’t know, I just ordered two beers.”

I don’t particularly like Wayne’s World, but I feigned laughter and enjoyment - anything to divert attention from Option. But then he did the reach around, and I immediately excused myself. The bathrooms were in some basement, and it required an exorcist. There was green slime hanging off the handles of the urinals. WHY – is there slime on the HANDLE? The mirrors were cracked as if it was the result of some demon leaping into our world. And the pipes, they made this weird bellowing noise as if I was in Hell’s waiting room. I quickly scurried upstairs.

The movie ended and I told Option that I had to get back home because I had to watch Iron Chef. He gave me a puzzled look, and I literally sprinted out. All I could hear was the guy behind the counter laughing.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Working At Home

So the elevator next to my apartment has been making this god-awful sound, and I have placed a work order two weeks ago. Since I am working at home, each grind of the wheels acts as a proverbial gnash of my patience. I haul myself out of the apartment and find the maintenance guy.

"Hi, I am Eric of 507. I was the one who placed the order on the elevator."
"Um... when are we going to fix the elevator."
"The elevator guy came out today to measure the gears and they should be fixed next week."
"Ok this sucks, this means I cannot bring anyone back to my apartment."
"I don't understand."
"Dude, why would you cock-block me?"

Elevator being fixed right now.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Two Companies I Should Work For: Yuplet and California Fish Grill

California Fish Grill
3988 Barranca Parkway #B
Irvine, California 92606
Phone: 949-654-3838
Fax: 949-654-3858

Think of Chipotle, only a little bit nicer, and instead of barbacoa (which I learned is traditionally made with beef cheeks) in our tacos, we have fish – not the nasty kind that you would find at Baja Fresh, but the kind that would make a 29-year-old jaded attorney reduce to tears. This is California Fish Grill, and poetically, it is my last meal in California.

After the traumatic events of coming out to my mother, I decided I wanted to spend the next day with Jon. This of course meant going to work with him, and actually I was quite excited because I wanted to see the magic. Jon is currently part of an internet startup called Yuplet. It is actually a rather simple but brilliant website – free real estate listings. I know Jon and his cohort would disagree, but I kind of think of it as a sexier Craigslist. Anyway, I find business to be fascinating, and what better way than to see the people that he works with.

I never have been part of a startup. My career path has always been marked as “safe”. Even during my “rainmaker” period, I could have chosen to intern at an organization that represented people held at Gitmo, instead I chose to intern at Lambda fighting the rather pedestrian right of making sure Iowan couples could marry. I mean think about it, a gay lawyer, fighting for the right to marry – it is quite cliché (in fact one could argue that my current occupation, not to mention its environs are much more contrapositive to my orientation). Regardless, a start up is actually quite foreign to me, and boy it was quite a shocker. There was no espresso machine, no muffins, no bottle water in a fridge – hell – there was no fridge. It was just five people working damn hard to get their website up. Since Poi, Shaw, Traci, David and Jon are all around the same age, I thought there would be foozeball and nerf guns all over the place. I was shocked to find that Yuplet is an unusually quiet working atmosphere. My god, these people are more professional than the ones I work with. As I said, it was the day their revised website was going up and it looked stressful. Sometimes there would be a break in the tension: “Fuck” was used more times than in this blog, voices were raised, people were moving at a frenzy pace, there was the occasional slamming of keyboards – but it was mainly quiet. They were like part of the 300 at Thermopylae, these five were working in a harmonious nature with one goal. It was exciting, God I wish I was part of it.

It was 6:30, and a monsoon cleared out of Irvine; in fact, there were tornado warnings in the area. Surely God is not mad at California for the gays, the state did pass Prop. 8 after all. The skies were clear, the air smelled like rain, leaves and branches were strewn all about the streets. Dreading the potential commute from Irvine back to California (and it gives me an excuse to avoid my parents) I practically insisted that we eat dinner in Orange County. Jon immediately punted the suggestion with the Yuplet executives. Their deliberation over dinner was like Conclave. Mapquest, Yelp, and a host of other websites were being browsed simultaneously. Windows within Windows were being opened at a mere tap of an index finger. Habemus Papam! California Fish Grill was announced, and directions were given. If Homeland Security hires Yuplet, we would never have to take our shoes off at an airport ever again.

The location of the restaurant is actually awkwardly situated in this mammoth shopping center. It is located at the very southwest corner, but the back of the restaurant is actually facing towards Barranca; hence, if you were trying to find the restaurant from the street your eyes would naturally scan past it and be directed towards Target, Office Depot, Homegoods, Red Mango, Subway, Home Depot, McDonalds, Express, Toys R’ Us, Kohls, TJ Max, Jamba Juice ….

California Fish Grill is not a particularly attractive restaurant, but I really have no problem with it. Like I said in the intro, think of it as Chipotle. It looks like a hollowed out warehouse that is the vogue nowadays. Within 6 steps of walking in, you hit the ordering counter, and I have two minor quibbles about the arrangement. First there is no natural queue, so one does get rather claustrophobic if there are several other groups who are waiting for/to order. With two groups behind us, and a group of four in front of us, I was already getting the sensation that the walls were closing down upon me.

The second problem I have with the arrangement is the lack of a large menu above the counter. The customer is to rely on laminated menus to make their menu selection. This is not an initial problem if done correctly, but Dear Reader, if you want to mess up operations, do it the California Fish Grill style. The menus are located next to the cash register, not at a location when you walk in. Hence, we can only select our order when it is our turn to order. This leads to a rushed and most uncomfortable situation especially if you have no idea what is going on; moreover, it just creates angst in the customer who is regularly acquainted with the menu and just waiting for me to decide. While I understand that placing the menus closer to the entrance may not be an adequate solution for the following: 1. I regularly waste ample amount of time at Starbucks waiting for the twat in front of me to make the distinction of a latte vs. cappuccino, 2. There isn’t that much room in California Fish Grill between register and entrance, and 3. Intrepid groups could send out a scout to procure menus while the rest wait in line; there is a lot of ample space to the right of entering the restaurant. So a simple solution is to make a queue to the right and place a little slot at the beginning containing the menus; thus, we can read at our leisure as the group in front determines if they want Fried Fish Tacos vs. Grilled Fish Burrito.

The menu is not particularly complex, but it is a bit cumbersome. The restaurant serves entrées, like Red Lobster, and they also serve seafood tacos. I am a sucker for fish tacos, so I tell Jon to order me a mahi taco, a large clam chowder, and a Cajun shrimp taco and I run to the bathroom.

As I return, I already find Shaw et al. nestled into a booth. The restaurant has two types of seating arrangements: tables and booths that can comfortably sit four. Since there were five of us (David peaced out and was nursing an injured foot caused by a domestic squabble), Poi acting as CEO decided to sit at the end.

My clam chowder came out first, and the runner actually brought out a second bowl. I was actually amused that the service at California Fish Grill already exceeded 80% of the restaurants in Illinois. I split the chowder with Jon. I thought it was orgasmic, he thought it was pedestrian. I was impressed that the chowder was creamy but not so heavy that I felt like I was eating clumps of flour. There were a good amount of clams in there, they were not particularly fantastic, but serviceable. But what I was particularly partial to the onions and bacon. The chowder was really smoky and rich; hence, the kitchen (or some offsite location), cooked bacon first and sweated down onions in the fat. My brother waived the soup away with a Rabbinic disdain of all things porcine.

Within another 5 minutes the meals arrived. Poi, Shaw and Tracy all ordered the ahi. If memory serves, I believe Jon ordered the mahi. But my tacos – yes those tacos – I would sacrifice distant family members for an endless supply of those tacos. The generous portion of mahi was grilled to a medium (which I normally disdain), but it was juicy. I was impressed with the fact that it was sliced on a bias and that the strips were not particularly long; hence, preventing awkward situations of constant taco chewing and its absolute destruction. The taco had perfect amounts of cilantro, tomato, cabbage (anathema in Chicago), and this amazing cream sauce. Yes, cream does make everything better.

The shrimp tacos were even better. I personally believe the shrimp were frozen because they did not give off the taste of fresh shrimp, but I often think an even more important quality of good shrimp tasting is how it is marinated, and if it maintains that snap between bites. It is hard to describe, but I thought the shrimp were amazing. Now I rapidly concede, many people will be turned off with the shrimp because it was blanketed – nay carpet bombed with Cajun seasoning, but I am particularly partial to bold flavors. Underneath the seasoning, you can still taste shrimp, not out-of-the-sea shrimp, but good shrimp. But this cream sauce, this reddish (I presume paprika), was a revelation. I could take facials in it. If women regularly bathed in it, I would become heterosexual. I rapidly devoured my taco in less than 2 minutes. The Yuplet gang looked at me with a mixture of disgust and wonder. My Bar results were taken into question. Nom nom nom.

Probably from trying to direct attention from my gluttonous ways, Shaw wanted to get some beer and started to look around the restaurant to get a runners’ attention. A rather sharp expediter noticed and directed three runners to come to our table. Shaw asked one if they served beer by the pitcher. She said no. Shrimp was hanging out of my maw. How is that possible. They serve tacos. They serve beer. How could they not serve beer in pitchers? Within a minute the same runner came back and corrected her comment “Yes we do have pitchers.” At that comment I believe Shaw (or Jon) shot up and bought a pitcher. I immediately went for seconds and ordered a fried fish taco. Jon also purchased some sort of fried combo platter.

The beer, which I believe was a Hefenweiser was pretty good. Tracy was already throwing lemon into her beer like a pro. I found out a lot while drinking with this motley gang. Tracy is a faghag. In fact I was trying to get her to hook me up with half of her rolodex. Shaw thought Tracy was Pocohontas during the first three years of their middle school years. Poi knew I had a thing for Matt Damon a decade ago.

Jon’s fried combo came and it was just ordinary. Nothing terribly poor about it, but nothing of real note, except that the items were scorching hot when they came out. My fried fish taco – was just as good as my previous two. It was cod fried in this most delicious batter covered in the same white sauce as my mahi taco. I was seriously contemplating being Yuplet’s janitor if they could buy me lunch and dinner in lieu of any compensation.

Things turned mildly personal, Shaw mentioned to Tracy that bf #1 was “a good guy” and “thumbs down” for #2. Poi and Shaw then listed a laundry list about why #2 was bad. Tracy mentioned why #1 wouldn’t work – primarily him being gay. Who are these people? Why don’t I have these characters at work? I have made some amazing relationships at work, but my coworkers are never as emotionally invested in my dating as I was of Tracy’s.

Discussions about dating continued. Since beer and fried food was purchased, I thought I should do my part and order a slice of each dessert. There was key lime pie, chocolate brownie cake, and carrot cake. When the runner came with the desserts he also brought five plates and forks. What training – or commonsense! Does this place offer a deferred comp plan? Is there health insurance? Why are the runners more intelligent than the managers at restaurants on Michigan Avenue? Unfortunately, I became quite deflated with the dessert. The key lime pie, was more pie and less lime. In fact we did not get a taste of lime until you get near the crust. The carrot cake was rather ordinary, but I liked the chocolate cake. I noticed that the guys favored the other two items, but that Tracy and I preferred the chocolate cake. Quite fitting actually.

One thing I need to note, two days after, Jon told me that Tracy, Poi and Shaw felt quite terrible after the meal. I presume it was the ahi, or some sort of Midwestern disease I brought over.

In a scale of 1 to 4 with 4 being the best.
Quality: A solid 3, I really liked my food, but Jon’s fried combo and the desserts were meh. Of course if I got sick we would have a different score.
Service: 3.5. It would be higher, but not knowing if you have pitchers is ridiculous.
Atmosphere: 2 Warehouse redux.
Hotness of clientale: 2 Orange County families – no hot Housewives – or maybe there was.

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Best 5 Books I Read This Year

5. Supreme Courtship by Christopher Buckley, what if the president chooses a "Judge Judy" to be a justice on the Supreme Court. The first 100 pages are a tour de force. Buckley is a wordsmith and he doesn't disappoint. Unfortunately, the book collapses in the end, and you get the feeling that he tries to muscle through the end with sentences littered with phrases like "dolorous excogitation."

4. Don't Sweat the Small Stuff by Richard Carlson: I avoided this book for a decade. Who really needs to read 100 bromides telling you to calm down? Then I read this, "The next time you find yourself at the lack of love in your life or at the lack of love in the world ... Forget about the world. Instead, look into your heart. Can you become a greater source of love." Things don't bother me as much now; and I couldn't say this a year ago.

3. God & Empire by John Dominic Crossan, he starts with a promising thesis, man is naturally nonviolent; therefore, empire is unnatural. Unfortunately, he doesn't thread the needle. Crossan discusses some interesting topics - for example how Cain (farmer) murders Abel (shepherd), then builds enoch, and is essentially unpunished by God. But that is the point, Crossan seems to reinforce that man is more like a farmer, rather than a shepherd.

2. New Moon by Stephenie Meyer: I am Jacob, sans rippling stomach muscles. As Jacob realizes he is going to lose the annoying high school girl he says "I swore I wasn’t going to get mad, no matter what you said to me. But… I just got so upset that I was going to lose you… that you couldn’t deal with what I am…." Dear Reader, we have all been there. I am also particularly partial to this book because it is all about property rights between vampires and werewolves.

1. Harry Potter and The Sorcerer's Stone, by J.K. Rowling: Ok, so I am 11 years late. This book is part of my project, and I am so happy because of it. A entire mythos, nay, cosmos has been created. The book is essentially an exercise of the 14th Amendment. What if a muggle wanted to go to Hogwarts? Why is the law different for half bloods?

Most Disappointing book: Superfreakonomics by Levitt and Dubner. All the good subjects were in Freakonomics, the sequel is about the authors' politics. Ok we get it, global warming is bad, so find a solution through economics.

Worst Book: The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown: Forget about how omnipotent characters make stupid decisions, such as, walking into a creepy house - alone! Here is an example of the prose found within this tome: "You know, I still haven't learned how to send a twitter." You know, I still never learned how to write.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

This is Me

Home Brew Coffee Co.
601 W. Arrow Highway
San Dimas, CA, 91741
(909) 394-1964

Ok, I am cheating. It is not Home Brew Coffee [Bar]. I even tried to look up the corporate entity on Westlaw and the Secretary of State. But I am going to count Home Brew in my 30 for several reasons. First, this project is getting really expensive, so reducing the amount of necessary visits by one is a plus. Second, I am rapidly approaching March 7th, so time is of the essence. Third, I was going to sit at the bar, but my brother was already sitting at a table. Fourth, there has been a lot of interest in what happened on that day. So I am going to treat it as one of my 30, I promise I won’t cheat again.

After Buca de Bepo (see, Helene kindly volunteered to drop me off at Home Brew where Jon was doing some intense studying on food sciences. I wanted to go back to parents’ house with my brother in tow. It was going to be an Asian Ragnarock.

Dear Reader, I need to back up a bit. In order to explain the material events of that night, I have to discuss several personal issues. First, in case if you happened to stumble onto this blog, I need to state that I am gay. Not Jack McFarland gay, but Sex and The City watching gay. I like shoes, I like clothes, and I really like chick-flicks. But being gay is not the defining element of my life. I was born to a Chinese family – and that fact has often shaped all the important variables of my life.


In the 40s there was a minor spat between the world superpowers. China was under siege and my family was definitely hit hard. My maternal grandfather came from a family of business owners and land holders. I don’t really believe that they were part of the landed gentry of Gone with the Wind, but one’s place in China was determined by real estate. If you had land, you were privileged. My maternal grandparents didn’t meet at a Starbucks or through Their relationship was the product of an arranged marriage.

I don’t know what the early years of my grandparents’ relationship resembled, but for the 21 years that I saw them together, I thought they were terribly in love. But “love” in the Asian context (especially old world Asian) is an unwieldy word. It is not like Nicholas Sparks, Notebook love, where the protagonists are always running towards each other in rain. It is much more quiet, harder to explain. I would always remember how the two of them would cook in their small kitchen. They could cook seven courses without speaking a word to each other. But it wasn’t because they spent half a century hating each other, it was because they knew each other so well. Without a sign, my grandmother would hand my grandfather a cleaver. He would chop cabbage in half and then return it back to her. It was an efficiency Sony hopes to achieve. Two people, could know each other so well that they could feed their family, without saying a word – not because they didn’t want to – but because they didn’t have to.

Now being a grandchild, one naturally casts his grandparents in the greatest light. They are good people, highly moral people. But they did one thing that might appear repugnant to western eyes, but perfectly reasonable for the times. Holding property is a dangerous class in times of war. They had to flee China, and it was a journey that I can’t fully comprehend. According to my mother, my grandfather saw his own father and siblings executed by decapitation. But it wasn’t WWII that forced them out, it was the communist revolution, and they had to make a difficult choice, “what if you can’t take all your children with you to another country?” They made the difficult choice of leaving their eldest son, and fled to Hong Kong.

I cannot make that choice – but I know my grandparents tried to atone. In the late 80s they did everything they could to bring their eldest and his rather large family to the states. But even after the arduous journey through immigration law, and having full citizenship bestowed to them, you get the feeling that wounds were never healed. My uncle looked at his younger siblings (born in Hong Kong) with contempt. On the other hand, the siblings – including my mother, first looked at him and his family with curiosity, then with Westernized superiority, and then finally with disdain. I know it was difficult for my grandmother to see this civil war between siblings – war after all separated them from the beginning. Admittedly, I even viewed the “others” as exactly that. They were foreign to me, they spoke in a dialect and cadence that I did not understand. It is only until writing this that I can get a glimpse of how they must have felt.

People who are familiar with Asian stereotypes or characteristics, will be able to easily identify my mother. She is the Crazy Type A mother who would look at my report card and ask why my A was not an A+. When she use to take a more involved approach to the restaurant it was quite terrible to work with her. Everything has to be perfect, place mats must be perfectly aligned to her desires, or she will go into a horrendous tear. In my description of my mother so far, I can admit, I am exactly like her.

My great grandfather was the last Nationalist Governor of Canton. When the communist were about to take over, he and his giant family fled to Taiwan. During World War II, my grandfather was studying at Stanford, and after the war he also moved to the fledgling colony. My father was born in Taiwan, and after a few years my Grandfather moved his family to Hong Kong.

Now I don’t know much about the early years of my paternal grandmother. I know she was from a Northern Chinese province. But I don’t know how they met. My great grandfather is not portrayed positively in the history books. My grandfather was often portrayed as a lackadaisical man whom dreamed too much. My grandmother was often viewed as a drunkard whom constantly said the wrong things at the most awkward moments. My father rarely talked about his family, and I used to think that he bore some sort of odd shame for them. But in later reflection, I don’t think that is the case. To me, I think he doesn’t talk about them, because he has no real involvement in the development of their lives. They were adults when he was born, their paths shaped before he was a gleam in their eyes. To him, I think he says to himself “I had no real involvement in what they became, so it is moot.” It is quite a clinical view, and often one that I adopt.

My father also has a sister whom he hates. He tells me that it is because she cheated him from a lot of money. I don’t dispute that - she also stole my grandparents’ Social Security checks. But I think his hatred is something more. My aunt always received my grandparents approval and attention, and I think there is a line of jealousy. But it is merely conjecture.

What I do know is that my father’s family disapproved of his marriage to my mother. They thought he was marrying below his class. My paternal grandfather went to Stanford after all; on the other hand, my maternal grandmother never learned how to read. But as bitter and mean as my father’s family could be, he stuck it out, he married my mother.


When I think of what really constitutes as my family, I of course have to include all the relevant parties above. But also of material importance are my cousins and my brother. I really have no paternal cousins per se (my aunt did have one daughter, and I think she is in Hong Kong), my paternal grandfather had a second wife in Canada and I do not know of their status, so all the cousins I will be talking about are from my mother’s side.

Bryant is my youngest cousin. He is also the one that I know the least about. I know he goes to Mt. San Antonio. He works at Panda Express. He is pretty good at videogames (but not Halo). Between all of us, Bryant is definitely the quietest one, but he is also pretty damn observant (a trait I think all five of us share). I know he was a member of a very Evangelical sect – but he doesn’t seem to hew to any religious ideology at all. He just strikes me as a guy who will be able to look back in his 20s and say that he had a more well-rounded time than I ever did.

Darren is next in age. Not going to lie, he was my favorite cousin. The first bar he went to was a gay one. His first drink, Pauline bought. He went into Gucci and YSL more times with me than a GQ Editor does in his career. He was my protégé, my chum, my pal. He went to UCLA and in his first year I remembered having a discussion with him about gay marriage. He seemed rather left of the middle on the issue. He rattled off the talking points; I was happy. But then something happened, it might have been an epiphany on his part, or just a gut feeling – regardless he voted for Prop. 8. All that has been said on the issue has already been noted. But the vote still stings, the wound is still raw.

Jason is Darren’s older brother. He was the black sheep of the child. Jason is not dumb, or lazy, or born lame. He was disfavored because he resembles his father, who in turn, was not viewed favorably by my mother’s family. College wasn’t for Jason, he worked at Panda Express instead. I just found out that he now trains managers, a feat that I find astounding. He also comes across as the most gay-positive of my cousins; even admitting that he and his friends often go to gay bars because they are the only ones who play Lady Gaga in the desert. I will say this about Darren and Jason, I think that they are more socially approachable than my brother or myself. Jon is really good in social settings too, but Darren and Jason often appears to have a populist approachability that we will never have.

Then there is Jon my brother. I often write about him, but the one thing that I learned recently about him is that he is much more emotionally nuanced than I am. One time we were talking about “Fat-Kid Syndrome” and how he believes that all people who were fat kids had it; for example, himself. I was a bit amused and I rapidly proclaimed I don’t have it. This incident coupled with several other situations (one fight in particular) made me realize that I am often the clinical one between the two of us. But that being said, I also have a much shorter fuse. I have very little patience for the ignorant. I am more like Mom, and I think he is more like Dad.

Dear Reader, I have essentially reduced my lineage into three pages. Everyone has a subjectively torrid history. I don’t really. I was raised in a white, middleclass suburb of Los Angeles. But that is not to say I had a normal childhood. I didn’t swim or play sports. Videogames was my football, the shuffling of Magic cards was my activity. Needless to say, this sedentary lifestyle made me a fat kid; I was fine with it. I took it with aplomb, a confidence that I knew who I was – even if I did finish twelve cans of coke a day.

You may argue that being a fat kid is relatively normal – Michael Pollan did not start writing after all. But my curious nature was how I carried myself – I was a stoic, elitist because I was bred to be. I was also subjected to history and politics early in my life. When he stayed with my parents for the summer, my grandfather would teach me about the atrocities of the Kuomintang (ironically), and the politics of triangulation (4 years before Clinton’s win in 92). My parents never taught me how to swim, or ride a bike, but my Dad would always be willing to take me to Barnes and Nobles to spend a king’s ransom on books like The History of Hell, Barbarians at the Gate, Ulysses, and Atlas Shrugged. Sure, I had no idea what those books were talking about. What is this rapture in Thessalonians? Why does John Galt keep speaking? Ulysses – what the fuck? I often wonder if my parents thought if I was some Yuppie-Satanist, or maybe they didn’t even know what I was reading.

Regardless, I was the golden child – I was the Straight-A-kid (with the exception of math – an Asian chromosome that must have hybridized during ESL), who made them look good. I hewed to the typical Asian conservative taglines. “Why increase minimum wage when it will lead to a distortion in the markets?” or “Universal healthcare, my grandparents fled from genocide and they didn’t complain when they heard a cough on their boat.” Everyone else could be children – not me. I was the mature one, the one privy to all the family politics and secrets. As confidante of the forbidden truths, I learned at an early age to leverage information to get what I wanted. People allowed me to do whatever I wanted. I could do no wrong. Sure my cousins and my brother had the social skills and lived the relatively normal childhoods, but I also knew that I could pick on them and win any argument. I was the unholy result of two very political families.


Helene and I entered a very simple order: large non-fat cappuccino, and a large green tea; two simple drinks. We sat down with Jon and talked about the company that he is working at. After some general discussion about the state of the economy and the difficulty in the housing market, the issue at hand was on the table. What should I say to my mother who just found out I am gay.

My mother found out in the most ridiculous way. Seven years ago when I came out to my father, he made me swear that I could not tell my mother because he was afraid she would get a stroke. We all thought she knew, that she was just in denial. This was entirely consistent with her actions too. Whenever one of her friends would bring up the obligatory Asian issue of marriage, she would change the discussion to mahjong or purses (a very gay issue that I know too much about). “Mother’s know,” … so we thought.

So I told Helene the story, about how my mother and I got into a fight because I did not want to have dinner with one of her friends. It was after all my vacation, and I did not take time off to each with all her friends individually. I was loquacious and heated. I just kept talking and became very thirsty. Where the hell is my cappuccino? We already talked about the Fed-Funds rate, internet start ups, and I was in the middle of briefing Helene on this very important day. It must have been 15 minutes. Why can’t I get caffeine! Jon noticed too and inquired about it. Helene looked over and said “Well she is cleaning dishes.” I stopped mid-sentence and approached the barista.

“Pardon me, but where is my order?”

She gasped in horror and dropped the plate into a sink. “I am so sorry, that was a nonfat cappuccino and ….”

“A large green tea. Thanks.”

I walked back to the table. Was this the girl that was hitting on Jon? If so, society should be more concerned with the heterosexuals than the queers. Without missing a beat, I continued with how after my fight with my mother, she called my father and asked “Is Eric gay.” He confirmed that I was and she responded with “If any of my friends ask me, I am moving to another state.”

The barista dropped a wax bag on our table. Oh dear god, she probably thought I ordered an oatmeal cookie instead of coffee. I was about to correct her, but as I looked up I noticed she was holding two drinks! Halleluiah! THERE IS CAFFEINE! I let out a shriek reminiscent of the ringwraiths. In less than 30 seconds I finished half of the cappuccino – and you know what – it was pretty damn good. It was served scalding, like eighth layer of hell hot. Screw the Defense of Marriage Act, the greatest legal injustice occurred when some plaintiff successfully sued some coffee store for serving scalding hot ambrosia. Coffee has never been the same ever since. Home Brew obviously doesn’t have legal counsel because I burnt my tongue – and what a joy it was. But temperature is not the only important variable in a delicious drink, the foam was done pretty damn well too. Often non-fat foam comes out in a chalky, insipid mess that resembles balsa wood. This foam was airy, and LO, it tasted like dairy. My hometown is doing something rather ridiculous, they are posting banners all around this stretch of highway called “Heroes of San Dimas.” Under each banner is a name of a person who is serving in the military. Now heroes are subjective, and I personally find the barista who served that damn cup of espresso to be a hero. Sure she is a retard who can’t handle one/only order in the restaurant, but I would gladly wait for that cappuccino again.

Alas, the cookie was a nightmare. Thank god I did not pay for it. In hindsight, Home Brew should have given me money to take it away. The cookie dough was still chewy but it tasted stale. What were suppose to be chocolate chips (but resembled something much worse) were absolutely terrible! The chocolate comprised of overly sweet little nuggets of brown. I was reaching for an insulin pump after taking a nibble. The restaurant was closing up, so maybe – just maybe the cookies might have been better when they were freshly baked and not sitting at a counter waiting to be given away. I personally don’t think any act of Chronos could have revived those little landmines.

As I lapsed in-and-out of hypoglycemia, I asked Jon and Helene for consultation, “What should I do with my mother?” “Nothing,” was the consensus. Jon pointed out that my parents don’t even speak to him about his romantic dalliances, so why would they even bring my lack of Craigslist connections. As we discussed the politics and implications of “Do Nothing,” I noticed a skeezy fellow around my age, silently eyeing the barista as he nursed his ice tea. As we walked to our cars, ready to implement the plan of apathy, my brother pointed out the skeezy fellow driving off in his beaten up station wagon. Jon pointed out how that would be suitor was trying to impress the barista with his “I am starting a business” shtick. Perhaps “Do Nothing” would have worked better for him than me.

Later that night, my father had a really long talk with us (I insisted that Jon sit in). Apparently my mother drove to San Diego and decided to stay there overnight. The issue of his friends, the thorn that has expensed all my vacation time, was brought up. How dare they be concerned about what their friends thought. I have a pretty advanced degree, I am upward mobile, I can outwrite any of their children, I helped out at the restaurant, I am a much better son to them than any of their friend’s spawn … I … I … I ...... I. All the arguments of the past came out, I am the Golden Child, I will not lose this one. But that is the point, I was the Golden Child, and I am gay. At my conception, those two points were headed into collision. I was the first son of the family, so I was bestowed with certain gifts – taught certain things – made privy to certain facts that Jon, Jason, Darren or Bryant were not aware of. But I like men, and that appeared to discount everything in my life. My life was fully expensed under the guise of “What if my friends ….” Jon brought up the fact that how does my orientation actually affect my personal characteristics. My father rapidly conceded that it did not, but he still defended his friends arguing that “Eric is in Chicago, and you will be elsewhere in the near future, all we have are our friends.” Jon and I argued that it was a backwards argument, that if they cared, they are not your friends.

“Dad, all I want from this is your defense. To say in the grand scheme of things I am a good son.”

His answer was ridiculous, “You know how I feel about you, I can’t go around defending you if they don’t bring the issue up.”

I didn’t need my father to join PFLAG, all I wanted from him was to say “I love you.” But he wouldn’t. Of course he wouldn’t, I come from two families where emotion is a lonely stepchild, where practicality runs the household.

My mother came back the next day. We did not discuss the issue. As I flew back into Chicago I called my dad to let him know I arrived safely. On the phone he said the one thing I never thought he would say, “I am always on your side. I love you son.” Maybe history does turn – I might be the first openly gay person in my family – but I am also the first one to graduate from college, first to be a Presbyterian, first to register as a Democrat, first to go to law school, and first to live in Chicago. I won’t leave my children in times of war. I won’t steal from my parents. I will always love my brother. I will stand up for myself. This is my journey. This is Me.