Tuesday, August 28, 2007

I wanted to go to Target. And I was laughed at. Because I never want to go to Target.

I've mentioned before that I hate Target, mostly 'cause I was stuck going with my mother, sister and grandmother, who bickered away as they browsed. But even a foray into Tarzhay with my girlfriend tested the idea that it's not where you are, it's who you're with. 'Cause I love Adelphia; I hate Target.

But she told me they had a sale on mountain bikes.

Since my last bike got stolen, I had spent some time researching how best to replace it. Wasn't gonna drop big bucks on something I might not ride as often as some fucking thief with heavy-duty bolt cutters. And I wouldn't work a used fixer-upper with rusted rims and broken brakes. I enjoyed the Shimano 21 gears like I had before. And those new front and rear shocks seem pretty cool. And disc brakes... How much was it gonna cost to pimp my pedaled ride?

Not much at Target, Adelphia pointed out, showing me their summer sale advertisement. Okay, I said. Let's go.

That's when she laughed. Mike wanted a new bike and Target had one he liked, so now it was worth the hike.

Psyche! Have I mentioned I hate Target? One of the things that annoys me is that those big corporations are run so coldly and without any personnel training or expertise. The bikes weren't well-labeled, and when Adelphia suggested I ask for help from someone in the department, it was my turn to laugh. Yeah, right. As if the moron in this section is actually knowledgeable about sporting goods? C'mon, he just got switched over from the household items 'cause the kid who works in electronics got sick and none of the punks working the mass-produced slogan T-shirt department could fill in for her.

Still, after much aggravation, I got a brand new Schwinn with all the features, at a reasonable cost. Add another 30% to the price tag for several anti-theft devices, and it's still a bargain.

When we left Target, Adelphia noticed there was a Bed, Bath & Beyond in the same shopping center. I muttered that I had never been to that store. She looked at me, shocked. I'd never been to B,B & B?!

Yeah, I've also never been to Chuck E. Cheese's. Or smoked crack, pierced my nipples, sat through the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy, been to a NASCAR race or watched a single episode of "The View". And yet, I'm sure I haven't missed anything.

"Oh, c'mon," she said. "We need new linens."

We did? I think she just enjoyed the idea of me patronizing these places, morphing Misanthropic Michael into a common consumer. Or maybe it was the fact that I was one of the few non-females frequenting this franchise.

But there were two or three other guys there. I recognized one of them from work. "Hey Adam," I said.

He looked up. "Oh, hey, Mike." Then he realized where he was. Uneasy, Adam pointed to his girlfriend, as if he owed me an explanation. "We're buying sheets," he said.

I nodded, understanding. Then I indicated Adelphia standing nearby, smiled and shrugged.

"Duvet covers."

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

So I don’t like beer or Pinkberry, but there’s plenty of food and drinks I do enjoy… maybe too much. Laura Scudder, I’m looking at you… and your delicious all-natural peanut butter.

Which is one of the reasons why I run regularly. And work out. And yeah, watch what I eat. That’s it. There’s no specific system. No Atkins, no South Beach. No exercise videos or appetite suppressants... although seeing anyone stretching in spandex kinda does two jobs at once.

And though I might lose focus for a while, when I set my mind to it, I can get in shape fairly quickly, like when I dropped forty pounds in six months a few years ago. Sure, I slowly put some of it back -- thank you, TV production craft services -- but I can do it all over again.

Yet I’m always finding that as you get older your metabolism changes, as well as your lifestyle. Like, now, sometimes after scarfing down the free pizza lunch at work, and know I should just have a light dinner, I’m faced with a ravenous live-in girlfriend who reminds me that we had plans to go out to our favorite Italian place. When I ask if we can do that another time, Adelphia’ll say, “But I have lots of points leftover for tonight!”

Weight Watchers points.

That’s her thing. That’s how she stays in shape. I count the miles I run each week; she counts her Weight Watchers points.

They’re calculated based on a food’s fiber, calorie and fat content. People get a certain amount of points per day, depending on their age, weight, height, etc., and if they consume exactly the right amount of points, they should lose weight steadily. How do I know all this? ‘Cause I’ve been doing it for the past couple of weeks.

I know -- it’s completely contrary to my decidedly unstructured health non-plan.

But I figured a) my old ways weren’t as quickly effective as they used to be, so I’d try something new; b) Adelphia could use my support; c) she did follow my lead and exercise more frequently; d) her eating habits are infinitely better than mine and it shows; and e) it’s easier to poke fun at something when you understand it better.

And there’s plenty to gripe about with Weight Watchers. It’s turned me into a number-counting numbskull. Can I eat that? How much fiber’s in it? No thanks, no margaritas for me. Gimme the tequila straight. Same amount of alcohol, half the points. And under this plan, I can never enjoy a good dessert. Or Mexican food. Or Chinese!

“Sure you can,” Adelphia said. “But don't scarf down the kung pao and orange chicken like you always do. Have very small portions. Or you can eat all the steamed broccoli and mushrooms you want!”

Yecch. I’d sooner have Pinkberry.

I’ve resisted ranting to my girlfriend about the ridiculous regimen. We have been losing weight. For me, I chalk it up to hitting the gym every other day and running 20-something miles a week, not the 20-something points I’ve consumed regularly each day.

And Adelphia’s so happy I’m working with her at the Weight Watchers. I wanna tell her if I do it my way, I’d still continue to get thinner, and I might get to enjoy grilled beef burritos and Cold Stone Creamery once in a while.

But if I do quit and gain back the weight, I’d have to eat my words. And I don’t know how many points that is.

Next: Retail Franchises

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Look out, America. There’s a new vile infection in this country that’s gained a stronghold in LA, but it’ll hit your town, too. It attacks the mind and makes one believe that its dreadful, disgusting nature is actually palatable.

I’m talking about Pinkberry, of course.

So many people I know can’t get enough of that frozen yogurt. It seems to be a bigger food craze than In ‘N’ Out Burgers and Krispy Kreme Donuts combined. And yet, this stuff’s supposedly fat-free. So is that why everyone’s clamoring for it? I’ve heard they have some secret ingredient that makes it delicious and nutritious and its consumers so vicious.

I figured I’d try it. Well, Pinkberries are popping up all over, yet parking is impossible, and the line of people patiently waiting is peculiarly inversely proportional to the petite size of the place. Cramped in queue, you can stare at the display of overpriced cutesy plastic spinning salt-and-pepper shakers and other impractical kitchen utensils. Pinkberry should peddle pet rocks, too.

Finally at the front of the line, your choices are green tea or plain. That’s it. Now it’s clear why people pile on fruit, candy, Fruity Pebbles, etc. But all the add-ons can’t be the reason everyone’s here. The yogurt itself has got to be good, right? Gimme a sample of the plain.

Holy shit, that stuff was nasty. N-A-S-T-Y with a capital nyecch. Are people crazy? Is it possible the whole world came down with taste-bud dementia?

Or maybe it’s me. What do I know. I hate beer, remember?

Still, everyone -- including my girlfriend -- told me that at first, they thought Pinkberry was just okay. But they found themselves craving it more and more. Hmm, isn’t that what happens with smoking cigarettes or freebasing heroin or playing Tetris?

Could that secret ingredient be some kind of addictive substance? Surely the FDA wouldn’t allow such a thing. Neither would Adelphia.

But my girlfriend keeps begging me to take her back there. I’ll offer her other things to do for the evening -- see a movie? Go out for a fancy dinner? Fly to Paris?

“Pinkberry,” she’ll say. “Pinkberry. Pinkberry! Pinkberry!

Okay, okay. So I gotta drive around, look for parking and then squeeze into that claustrophobic cluster of pod people waiting for their foul flavorless fix. Adelphia is always so appreciative and gives me a big kiss, but I don’t feel right about it all.

I think I’m an enabler.

Next: Weight Watchers

Thursday, August 16, 2007

There are some things in this world whose vast popularity baffles me. But no matter how much I find these things boring or a waste of time or utterly gross, I’ve learned not to fight ‘em. ‘Cause going with the flow has its rewards. And also, who knows -- if everyone else likes it, maybe I’m just weird.

Beer: Never liked it. I tried ‘em all throughout my college years, and the “acquired taste” eluded me. So when my girlfriend and I hosted a 4th of July shindig (long overdue props to party-goers Mike, Hilary, Nanette & Brett and Amy), I knew we should get lots of suds for our guests… but what kind? I didn’t know; it all tastes like urine to me. Adelphia suggested Pabst Blue Ribbon.

‘Cause it was cheap? "No," she said, "‘cause it’s patriotic." ‘Cause the can’s red, white and blue? "That, and because real Americans drink PBR," she said.

I assumed she was right, that Billy Carter was a real American, but I couldn’t help but suspect that people in LA aren’t like the rest of the country. Just as they barely touched the carb-heavy potato salad (though they did devour Hilary's cupcakes), they preferred Pale Ale to Pabst. Pretentious, perhaps? No idea. Piss is piss, I say.

Point is, I practically had a case of it leftover, and couldn’t unload it on any of my friends. Some of my coworkers who are originally from Texas or the Midwest insisted they love that stuff, but when I brought in a few cans for their end-of-the-week episode screening enjoyment, the booze went untouched. Show biz ruins you, man. If that shit was mojitos they’d be gone faster than you can say “tapas”.

I was gonna throw out the beer, but hated to waste something that could get someone wasted. I was about to drop it off by a dumpster near my mother’s assisted living facility, when I saw the maintenance guy walk by. “Hey,” I said. “Do you like beer?” He looked at me like it was the dumbest question anyone could ask. So I offered him the case, but still made excuses for it not being microbrewery. The maintenance man thanked me a million times and snatched the case out of my hands.

I was just happy to be rid of it, but the beer bestowal came with a bonus. The next time I visited my mom, all the overdue repairs on her apartment were done. Amazing how much was accomplished and such a short time had elapsed. Thanks to the Pabst, perhaps? Sure as hell wasn’t schnapps.

Next: Pinkberry

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

We had a work bowling party last night. Our show versus another show by the same production company. This was the third match-up -- a tie-breaker from the previous two. I didn't care who won. I’m not competitive. I try to just have fun, but I wanna get a good score, dammit.

The first step is finding a good bowling ball. Last time, I wound up using a cracked cumbersome 15-pounder with tiny grips. I’m convinced that was the problem. After all, when you finger something, sticking your fingers in its holes and then toss it in the gutter, you don’t wanna end up feeling bad about it.

Okay, I won’t make a blue-balls joke here, but the heavy ones I hated were colored aquamarine, whereas the ball I found that was perfect was bright red. Just the right size and weight. Knowing how the the other guys would probably steal it, just like last time, I kept my eye on the ball as it sat in the ball-return. No one was touching my highly-coveted rock to roll. I was psyched as I prepared to bowl.

The first game I just did okay, but I consider that a warm-up. Both for bowling and for the fun. By the end of the game, I stopped worrying about my score -- and making sure no one took my ball -- and joined in on the betting pool going on at a different lane: Five bucks says he won't get another gutterball, double or nothing on picking up that spare...

But in the second game, I got three strikes in the first three frames. I was trying to make light of it to keep the pressure off. I went around to brag, while I could, that I was working on a perfect game.

Thankfully, no one dared to wager money on my chances at a 300, and I felt relaxed as the joint turned its alley into a party zone -- cranking up the tunes, lowering screens showing music videos, and dimming the house lights while turning up the blue light to make the white pins glow.

It was my turn to bowl, so as I bopped my way back to my lane, I suddenly realized my ball was missing. I saw several spheres sitting in the ball return, but no red ones. Okay, normally it would be no big deal, it was just a friendly game and I shouldn't be possessive toward something I was borrowing like the sweaty shoes on my feet.

But I found it hard to be easy-going -- I was working on a perfect game. And I didn't want to blow it because of equipment failure.

I was ready to hunt down the culprit, scanning the tinted alley to catch the yellow-bellied red-ball thief red-handed, when it dawned on me -- the blue light turned my red ball a dark shade of purple. It was there the whole time. Brilliant.

Back in business, I picked up my indigo orb and paced to the line, using that proper weight and grip to swing into a flawless delivery for my fourth strike...

Seven-ten split. Son of a bitch.

Well at least I got no one to blame but myself. I wound up with a 156 -- not my personal best, but better than I usually do. And better than anyone on our team (hey, we're TV producers, not quasi-athletes), which helped our show beat the other one. But I didn't care. I'm not competitive.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

I’m back.

Not only on the blog, but with the bragging rights, too, baby.

I blew it before because of Rocky Balboa. After renting it and ruining it for my girlfriend (“It ends with a big fight.”), for some reason I thought that the original Rocky not only won an Oscar for Best Picture and Director, but Screenplay, too. Adelphia knew Stallone’s ego would be more pumped than his steroided biceps if he could’ve called himself “Acacemy Award Winner”, as she jumped to her bragging rights dance and I schlumped away, dejected.

And unlike Rocky's saga, it looked like there'd never be a sequel. Months went by before Adelphia would challenge me on anything.

Unless you count fighting the crowd of kids gathered at the Hollywood Bowl to see John Williams. He was conducting his orchestra to play all the music he composed for blockbusters: Raiders of the Lost Ark, Superman, Harry Potter, and of course, Star Wars, when the light sabers come out and LA turns into a junior Jedi training camp with its own soundtrack.

Adelphia and I were having a good time, too. Drinking wine, enjoying a nice picnic she prepared, and between performances discussing the pertinent movies. John Williams also did some other composers' work, including music from a few David Lean films. I mentioned that I had never seen Dr. Zhivago.

"Oh, that's a good movie," Adelphia said. "I think it got the Oscar for Best Picture."

"No, David Lean's other movies, Bridge on the River Kwai and Lawrence of Arabia won, but not Dr. Zhivago."

But Adelphia was positive. She started arguing with me as the next song began.

I whispered: "Bragging rights?" And she nodded in agreement. Then I waited silently while the orchestra performed several encores.

As we headed out in a mass exodus down from the top of the Bowl, Adelphia asked what year Dr. Zhivago came out.

"1965," I said. "Y'know what else came out that year? Another movie I still haven't seen, though it's hard not to know all the songs in that musical..."

She thought for a second, then lowered her head in defeat.

High in the Hollywood Hills, I sang and twirled with my outstretched arms. "The hills are aliiiive... with the sound of... bragging rights!"

I nearly banged into the crowd and almost got pummeled by a forest of raised plastic light sabers. Adelphia laughed at me, but I didn't care.

It's good to be back.

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