Thursday, November 22, 2007

This Thanksgiving, “Have tastes of the things you really love, but don't overdo it.” Also, “Bring along a tasty guilt-free dish… like fresh fruit salad!” So says an e-mail my fiancée sent me from Hungry Girl -- Tips and Tricks… For Hungry Chicks.

Thanks, Adelphia but I’m a dude. I need A Guy’s Plan… for a Hungry Man.

Besides, I know how to handle my nutritional needs for Turkey Day. Take last year, for example. I ran a good long distance that morning so my body was burning calories like fiery magma consuming anything that should fall into its volcanic alimentary canal. So gimme some more stuffing and a second helping of my chocolate pecan pie. White meat, dark meat? No match for my manly metabolism.

As it turned out, while the stress of dealing with my crazy out-of-town relatives and maneuvering my mom’s wheelchair through my sister’s crowded apartment demanded plenty of energy, it may have also distracted me from gobbling gluttonously. Or perhaps it was introducing my girlfriend to the family that made Mikey maintain moderation.

So that Friday -- what the hell? -- the day after Thanksgiving and I was actually famished. We stopped off that morning at Norm’s Diner, and I indulged my excessive XY appetite with the Lumberjack’s Breakfast. Yeah, damn right, I told Adelphia, I am gonna eat all this: Three eggs, bacon, sausage, ham, fries, waffles and pancakes. And I knew I’d be let back into the He-Man’s Club when I joined the Clean Plate Club. That’s how we dudes do it.

I made it into the parking lot when it hit me. “Ohh,” I said. “I don’t feel so good.”

“Are you gonna puke?” Adelphia said.

No, I said, grabbing my grease-engorged gut. I was gonna be okay. I could take it. I wouldn’t let her see me wince. But man, you gotta be a maniac to manage a manatee-sized meal.

This year thing will be different. On Thanksgiving morning, I agreed to run Adelphia’s wimpy Turkey Trot 5k with her (pfft, 3.1 miles). And I won’t have to deal with my mom’s wheelchair, and a lot of crazy relatives can’t make it to LA this year. Plus, everyone’s met and loves my fiancée, so there’s nothing to worry about. Also, I only baked one chocolate pecan pie, not two.

Those are the reasons I agreed to take it easy with my eating, both during and after the meal. Not because of Adelphia’s Hungry Girl e-mail, or because I learned any lesson from last year or nuthin’. No way, man.

Monday, November 19, 2007

I sometimes get jealous of all the people going home for the holidays. They get outta Dodge, look forward to a change of scenery, not to mention the excitement of traveling great distances. But after visiting my fiancée’s mom in Florida, I don’t envy ‘em one bit. In fact, I have nothing but sympathy for anyone flying far for a family feast.

It’s not the inevitable interpersonal agita that’s so agonizing. It’s air travel.

And to be specific, what bothers me isn’t standing forever at baggage maim, the crappy airline food or tiny bag of peanuts, or lack of thereof, or being singled out for a security check by some moron with a beeping wand -- although I do have to wonder what causes me to set off the metal detectors every time. Is it my iron-rich blood due to trying to be like Popeye? (I’m strip-searched to the finish, ‘cause I eats me spinach). Or a result of that childhood song?: My name is Michael/ I’ve got a nickel/ I’ve got a nickel shiny and new/ I’m gonna eat it/ and it’ll stay in my system/ security will never let me through.

What I hate about air travel is the sardine seats. I worked my butt off, literally, to make sure it wasn’t me and the age-expansion of my ass that was the problem. No, the airlines have shrunken their chairs, jam-packed everyone in, jettisoning comfort for profit. I’m not sure how those seat cushions can serve as a flotation device -- wouldn’t a granite slab sink to the bottom of the sea?

I dream of G-4s, long for a Lear, or even enough frequent flyer miles for first class, but I’m confined to my coach compartment coccyx bone-crushing reality.

This is why I’ve kept most of my travel the past few years to the west. I can only take an hour or two of this crap. Still, even a short hop to San Francisco or Vegas can trick you with delays, trapping you on the LAX tarmac for additional tush-torturing time.

So that five-hour flight to Florida was awful. I thought perhaps this particular pain was just personal, but limping through the Ft. Lauderdale airport, I heard my fellow passengers griping: “Dude, my ass is killing me.”

You can imagine my hesitation to travel out to Europe again. I’ve flown to Paris direct from LA a couple of times. In the end, the wonderful memories of the City of Lights were nearly drowned out by 14 damn hours of derriere damage on the return home. Making matters worse are the plane's video maps displaying how far you’ve gone so far -- You mean we haven’t even crossed the Atlantic?! Let me out now! I’ll parachute into Iceland!

Did you ever read Stephen King’s story, “The Jaunt”? In the near future, teletransportation has allowed people to be “beamed” from one place to another, instantaneously… if they’re unconscious. If they’re awake, the trip takes seemingly forever, so that by the time they come out the other side, they’ve gone completely insane. Like the poor child victim who’s aged prematurely in that story, I find myself wide awake, wild-eyed in my window seat saying, “Long jaunt! Long jaunt!”

And there’s only so much one can do to occupy one’s mind during such a lengthy voyage. Sure, I could order several tiny bottles of booze at five bucks a pop, get drunk and fall asleep, but who wants to wake up with a hangover 35,000 feet in the air?

To paraphrase Lewis Black talking about his 24-hour flight to Australia: Twenty-four hours. So you can watch two movies, get a full night’s sleep… and you still have another twelve fucking hours to go!

I’m not flying anywhere this season. With all the holiday travelers out of town, it should take me no more than 20 minutes to drive to my sister’s place for Thanksgiving. Wherever you’re going, good luck getting there. To you and your ass.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Welcome to Giraffic Park a.k.a. Adelphia's mom's place. If you want to see what may be the biggest collection of the tallest land animal, forget going on safari in Africa; you only need to visit her condo near Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.
girhall girlvrevrw gircoftbl girbthr2 girkitch girlvrm4 girlvrm3 girhall2 girhallstd girmajar
At great risk to my own personal safety, I documented this grouping of Giraffa camelopardalis, fearful of an imminent giraffe jihad. As a non-partisan observer, I offer no commentary on this collection compulsion. The same could not be said for Adelphia, who posed the greatest threat to the population, telling her mother enough with the giraffes already. Such creatures are generally cute and friendly, but overexposure to them together in their environment can be dangerous. Yes, I'm talking about giraffes, but the same goes for my future wife & mother-in-law.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

In New York, I once met this guy briefly, and months later, ran into him again. He was a friendly, upbeat type who remembered my name and a lot of things from our previous conversation, so I wanted to do the same.

Michael: Your name's... Josh, right?
Josh: That's right. Good memory.
Michael: And you're from... wait, don't tell me... California?
Josh: No, but that was close...
Michael: Nevada.
Josh: Uh-uh.
Michael: Oregon?
Josh: No, I don't mean close geographically. Close in style, but still very different...
Michael: Huh? I don't understand.
Josh: Okay, take California and mix it with New Jersey.
Michael: Oh, of course: Florida.
Josh: Bingo.

I never forgot that comparison. I've been to "America's Wang" on a few layovers en route to the Caribbean, and on one extended visit a long time ago. When I was 5 years old we went to Disneyworld. Sounds magical, but aside from Mikey meeting Mickey Mouse, all I remember is that it rained the entire time and then I cracked my head open on the hotel windowsill and spent the rest of the trip in some hospital in Miami getting stitches.

A lot of authors I like write about South Beach's new look and paint colorful pictures of Dade County criminal hangouts. But who knows how much of that I'll get to see -- I'll be spending most of this upcoming weekend in Florida with my future mother-in-law. We'll see if I have some of my own sordid stories about the so-called Sunshine State.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Now that we're engaged, my girlfriend fiancée has been obsessing over the wedding. Adelphia's been reading bride magazines, checking out venues, watching those awful shows on the Style Network all day...

When people ask me about our future nuptials, I say, "Hey, I picked out the ring and proposed. My work is done."

I'm kidding, of course. But I wish I wasn't.

Finding the right engagement ring took enough time and energy. Not just research, legwork and making a decision on what to buy that Adelphia would like, but being wise enough to do it alone.

I started with the diamond district downtown -- fascinating neighborhood. In the midst of LA's Santa Ana winds and palm trees is this area that looks like 47th Street in NY. Tall bldgs filled with multi-ethnic businesspeople shouting at each other in the common language of gemology. These shiny jewel-encrusted high-security Towers of Babel can be overwhelming, but I got a good hook up with a guy.

Still, I had to do some comparison-shopping so I took the advice of a recently-married couple who actually recommended Robbins Bros. Reluctantly, I went down to the nearest branch of this superstore franchise in Torrance. And the moment I walked in the door, three different salespeople chirped: "Hi, welcome to Robbins Brothers, the world's biggest engagement store! Can I help you?! Isn't today a great day to buy a ring?!" Their grins sparkled more than the diamonds.

Of course, these carat clerks came to see they were conferring with Captain Curmudgeon. When I had mentioned that their website didn't offer examples of their inventory, the woman behind the counter smiled and said that was good to know, that they really needed consumer feedback. "Oh, well, in that case," I said, "your radio ads suck. Tell Skip and Steve they're really annoying and to stay the hell off the airwaves." I nearly didn't come down there because of those two schmucks hawking their wedding wares like a couple of local mattress salesmen. They may not sell me a rock, but they just might convince me to switch to satellite radio. The saleswoman beamed. "You're funny. I like you. Where you from, New York?"

I guess their friendly service is what's made Robbins Bros. so successful. They couldn't beat or even match my deal downtown (unless I wanted a diamond in the yellowish color range), but people probably come there for their whole wedding package. The saleswoman tried to sell me on their proposal assistance services. I couldn't help but think that was for doofus dudes who couldn't construct a coherent conversation, let alone a romantic request. Or for grandiose guys going for gargantuan overblown overtures -- sky writer or jumbotron?

Maybe I was being too cynical as I politely declined. I mentioned that I planned to propose when Adelphia and I went pumpkin picking, and the saleswoman cooed. "What a great idea! And then, when she carves the jack-o-lantern, the ring will be inside the pumpkin?!" I rolled my eyes, left McDiamond's and went straight to a pawn shop.

Of course, I ended up getting the ring from my guy downtown. As intricate as my decision-making process was, it would've been ten times more complicated had I gotten my family involved.

Well, it's hard to say what my mom would've done. She did know the engagement was coming -- I told her when she was in the rehab hospital that I was going to price rings, so she should try to get better, that she'd have a wedding and maybe grandkids to look fwd to. When my girlfriend joined me to visit my mother the following week, Mom was already referring to Adelphia as her daughter-in-law.

And my sister? Well, when we cleaned out my mom’s apartment, I was done taking what I wanted in two hours; the rest could be donated to charity. My super-thorough sister spent two weeks, vacillating on what to do with each book and knick-knack. So while Julie was surprised and perhaps disappointed I didn’t ask for her help with picking out the ring, I guarantee that if she were in on the decision, I’d still be deliberating on diamonds instead of deflecting discussions about honeymoon destinations.

My fiancée, on the other hand, has been bombarded by her sister and mother about wedding plans. She couldn’t avoid their involvement, so it became Adelphia’s obsession that I couldn’t avert either.

To make her happy, I at least put together a rudimentary list of people to invite. Real bare bones, just for starters.

And just in case, I asked my sister if I was missing anyone from our family. Julie started including all these distant relatives. Now, after Mom’s funeral, I understand the need to want to reconnect with family. I’d like to invite Great Uncle Saul, but if we’re keeping things small… there shouldn’t be any obligation at all.

“Don’t forget Morgan,” my sister said.

Really? Was she serious?

“Yeah! You gotta invite Morgan!”

I don’t have to invite cousin Morgan. It’s not that I have a problem with Morgan West aka Mordecai Wasserstein, who decided that he was so good-lookin’, he’d move to LA, go goyisha, change his name and try to be the next Bernie Schwartz aka Tony Curtis.

Our would-be Spartacus actor is my dad's cousin who knew my parents when they were first dating back in their bohemian beatnik days. He gave a great, funny speech at my mom’s funeral about how much he admired them. He did the same thing five years ago, at my father's funeral. Morgan/Morty was a masterful memorializer.

But in the past 5 years, he never contacted us, or Mom. I reminded my sister how Morty brought his new wife to the funeral -- he got married 3 years ago and were any of us invited to the wedding? I don’t hold any grudges, and I’d love to invite him if I could… but I don’t gotta do nothing

Suddenly, I flashed back to similar arguments my parents had about the invitation list to my bar mitzvah. Bringing up events from eons ago to enforce exclusions. I hated those dumb discussions, and at age 13 decided that when the time came for me to get married, I wouldn’t listen to anyone in the family about what to do.

I think Adelphia’s slowly coming to the same conclusion. As the engagement evolves into impending wedding insanity, I’m hoping she arrives at what I’ve advocated from the onset:


Thursday, November 01, 2007

"Hey, hope I'm not too late for the pumpkin party! Adelphia invited/carved me."

brainltmed braindarkoh
"Yeah, & I woulda been here sooner, too, but I've had this splitting headache..."

"Happy Halloween!"........"Unnghhh..."

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