Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Food Foibles - pt. 2

When I wrote about things people didn't like to eat and other unusual eating habits way back in February 2007 I got a fairly big reaction. ( Probably because I wrote about some people I work with. Even though I didn't identify anyone. Apparently people don't really like their eccentricities bandied about (You should really stop talking about them, you know)

We happened to have another discussion about food at work recently during one of our "still free for the time being" monthly staff lunches. Turns out there are many people who don't like food with bones in it- no chicken breasts or legs- or even wings. I'm guessing lamb chops are out too. I think maybe their mother's only made them boneless chicken when they were growing up and they haven't ventured away from that. When I was a child we would eat what we were given or else. Mom liked to add extra bones to many dishes- for "flavor" she said. I still think meatballs don't really need bones, but what do I know. I also found out that many people will not eat seafood at all (maybe shrimp). I think some of them broke out in hives when I talked about how great it is to eat raw oysters and clams picked right out of the sea.

I tried to play down my own food and eating "preferences" when I last wrote about this stuff, but now I think it's time to come clean. I still don't like broccoli and zucchini (useless), but here are a few more:
  • I only eat during even numbered hours (ie: 12, 2, 6, 10)
  • I like hoagie rolls with sesame seeds on them but not hamburger buns
  • I only eat sandwiches on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays (or certain holidays)
  • When I have a bagel with seeds on it I will cut it in half and put cream cheese on the bottom half and then sprinkle the seeds that fell off on top. Always eat the bottom half first.
  • If there are more than two items on a plate they should be eaten clockwise- you don't have to eat all of one thing before going on, just take bites in that order.
  • Hard boiled eggs will ruin any meal
  • I won't drink any opaque liquids with a meal- sometimes before or after
  • I will eat pineapple in chunks but not rings
  • I like salads with nuts, cheese and fruit- but not all three at the same time
  • The same goes for desserts
  • I don't like grilled cheese sandwiches cut in half into triangles
  • No orange cheese either
  • I like to eat waffles with my hands and plain- no toppings unless there is sausage.
  • Pancakes can be eaten with a fork unless there is a meat - then they should be rolled up like a sandwich, unless it is Sunday, Thursday or Tuesday.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Who Knew?

  • Dom Deluise
  • Bea Arthur
  • Irving R. Levine
Somehow Still Alive
  • Amy Winehouse
  • The GEICO lizard
  • American Idol
  • Leonard Cohen
Too Soon
  • Danny Gans
  • Marilyn Chambers
  • Harry Kalas
  • Natasha Richardson

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Have it your Way

You may have noticed I stopped posting right before Obama's inauguration. I guess I figured an inspirational blog like mine just wasn't needed anymore. All would now be right with the world - we had done what was necessary to restore our national reputation. Let the healing begin.

Obama has been been very busy in his first, oh I think its been just over 100 days. Most of the stuff he has done has been right on- so much so that it didn't seem necessary to comment. But now there is an issue that is right up my alley and is often referred to in this blog. That's right- we're talking sandwiches.

Obama and the veep -Joe "Amtrak Joe" Biden somehow got out of the White House to have a hamburger. Now of course you know this probably wasn't really a surprise last minute thing. Obama likes to try to escape the "bubble" of the White House sometimes, but I'm sure it takes a lot of planning on the part of the Secret Service and an advance team and the Press office. To go out and mix with the people and have a burger he has to drag along the press corps with TV and still photographers, his whole protection team and various aides. Apparently they stood in line and waited for their burgers just like everyone else- everyone else who arrived in an armoured limo entourage.

I really like that he chose to go out for burgers and what looked like tater tots. I hope he really does like them and this wasn't some kind of calculated "populist" stunt. I do however question the place they chose to go. First of all it was in Arlington, VA. Now Arlington is just over a small bridge from the White House, but wasn't there a neighborhood place he could go to? Did he already go to Ben's Chili Bowl on U Street- is that too cliche? Also, whoever picked the place should have rejected it out of hand because it was called "Ray's Hell Burger" Even though it is a very clever pun, doesn't the President want to stay away from stirring up the religious right crazies by going to a place with the H-E double toothpicks word in its name? Did the napkins have a little Devil on them? Couldn't they have gone to Hamburger Heaven or Hamburger Paradise or Jesus' Hamburgers? Who picked this spot? Wait for the backlash.

I can't fault the President for trying to be a regular guy- but please try not to be too much of a regular guy like that last fella. It's great to have a President who really is the smartest guy in the room. And who likes a good burger. No matter where it's from.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Hail Mary

From what I hear on the radio and read in the papers I am not the only one who was very frustrated with the Philadelphia Eagles this season. At times during the season many fans wanted to get rid of the coach and quarterback- or one or the other. I wanted to see Andy Reid gone- I'd had enough of his stubborn arrogance. I wanted the team to lose some more games in the crazy hope that ownership would be forced to make some off-season changes. I'd seen too many stupid play calls and enough poor clock management (for God sakes you've been a head coach for 10 years- learn how to handle your timeouts) The Eagles follies of mid-season can be summed up in two words for those in the know- over time (If you're not in the know you're probably not reading this anyway) But I'm not really here to write about all the bad things this year- I want to talk about the miraculous last month or so.

Now I'm not the same crazy, cursing at the TV superstitious Eagles fan I was for so many years. I'm still very bitter- Philadelphia fans may never lose that no matter how many trophies our teams hoist, but Eagles losses don't ruin my week like they once did. Several factors play in to all of this, but a major one is the litany of disappointments this team has visited upon its fans, well for almost 50 years now. Several of these disasters have happened in the game they are about to play in a few hours- the NFC Championship. They have been to four of them so far in the last ten years and they are 1-3. Two of them are remembered as some of the worst losses in team history. But still, fans are very optimistic this time too. No one is really afraid of the Arizona Cardinals no matter who is on the team. In the past we were a dominant team, winning our division and conference. This time we slipped into the playoffs through a very rapidly closing window. A few months ago the Eagle's didn't have a Santa's chance on a cold day at Franklin Field of making the playoffs. Now everyone is again saying: "Why can't us?"

I've been thinking of the end of this season as one big hail Mary pass. That's when the quarterback is so desperate he rears back and lets the ball fly-praying that it will come out well. A team that had a hail Mary's chance of making the post season is now on the verge of becoming legendary. The pass went up against Dallas in the last game of the seaon and has been flying past the Vikings and Giants. We are all now ready to watch and put ourselves on the line again waiting to see where the ball will land.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Why you might think I'm giving you the Finger

This is the hardest blog entry I've ever had to write-- or maybe I should say the hardest to type. The middle finger on my left hand is in a splint to keep it immobilized after a bizarre injury I suffered on Christmas Eve. In addition to hitting at least two keys at once with my bandaged digit, it also seems to throw off the rest of my typing and its making my spelling even worse. Being that I'm left-handed too it hasn't done much for my handwriting either.

The injury is called "mallet finger" or "mallet deformity" (look away - I'm grotesque)
It happens when the tendon on the top of your finger ruptures and tears away from the bone. The top third of your finger can't support itself so it droops down at an angle- you can't straighten it out. I know what you're thinking, but it doesn't hurt. It didn't even hurt when it initially happened which also seems freaky. Everyone wants to know how it happened, but its kind of boring so I've been trying to come up with a good story. Here are a few ideas- don't be shy, vote for your favorite:
  1. I hurt it in a bar fight when I got hit by a pool cue
  2. Guitar Hero injury
  3. I got hurt reaching into my pocket for my wallet to cover a check
  4. Too much text messaging
None of these is the actual story so don't go trying to figure it out. Now that its all bandaged up I can tell people I had surgery to re-attach it after a workshop injury. I'm sure the story will change weekly.

The other day I went to a hand specialist that was recommended by my regular doctor. They told me I'd have to wear a splint just about 24-7 for about eight weeks. You can take the splint off to wash your hand, but you must keep it absolutely flat- if your finger bends at all you will re-injure it and have to start your two month process all over again. The splint is made out of something called low temperature plastic that can be molded to your finger. It will also melt if it gets near anything too hot, so I've got to wear a bag over it in the shower and avoid having it near hot stuff on the stove- good thing my soup serving days are far behind me. I guess I'll have even more trouble washing dishes now too. I'll get accustomed to having this thing on my finger after a while, but not before it becomes a big pain in the ass. I'm even developing a drinking problem because its so hard to hold a beer or coffee mug.

So If you see me you'll know what's up with my finger and maybe I'll tell you another story about how it happened. And I apologize in advance: I'm not giving you the finger. Probably.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Mission Accomplished

I think I'll remember turning forty long after I'm old enough to have forgotten almost everything else. The events of the last few weeks will always be linked in my mind, but the one this country and - the world will remember has nothing to do with home runs and parades.

Abby called me Monday night to ask if I would come over to watch the election returns with her. Chip was an official poll watcher on Tuesday and she wasn't sure when he would be coming home. I thought that sounded like fun, first because I could spend some time with my nieces before they went to bed and second, Abby was already extremely confident that Obama would win. I guess she has spent too much time away from Philadelphia to know she shouldn't jinx it by being too optimistic. Of course she spent the 2004 election in Ohio, so she should know not to count her chickens. Here is a hazy timeline of how our night went.

7:00 a.m. Abby wakes up, calls the election for Obama and goes out to canvass her neighborhood.

6:30 p.m. -ish I go to Whole Foods on the way to Abby's to get some deserts and some sparkling cider as a champagne substitute. The Whole foods was packed with eastern liberal Democrats pretending to buy healthy food, but probably just buying cake like I did.

6:45 p.m. - I arrive at Abby's. One year-old niece Hannah is smiling a lot as usual and crawling around like a champ. Four year old Rebecca is practicing writing her letters, hoping she has formed some words. She can definitely write her name and her handwriting is probably already better than mine.

7:00 p.m. ish - Rebecca and I make popcorn in the air popper. We all make sure she doesn't touch anything too hot. Abby goes to take Hannah up to bed. Rebecca and I watch a cartoon about a family of skunks who really seem to like classical music but don't have long tails or French accents. Rebecca likes the popcorn- even with out any butter.

7:15 - Rebecca really likes popcorn. The young girl skunk is learning life lessons.

7:20 - I ask Rebecca if we could save some popcorn for Mommy and Uncle Nernie to eat later. She wants to know what else there is to eat- "Mommy always gives me options" she says. We settle on mini carrots.

7:30 p.m. - Abby comes down stairs, makes sure there have been no major injuries and we switch the TV to the returns. I object to watching MSNBC because I don't like their anchor. I actually went to college with him and I resent the fact that he is so successfull - nothing against his anchor skills which seem just fine.

7:45 ish - I ask Abby if they have a wireless internet connection in their apartment so I could go on line and get even more information than was flowing on the bottom of the TV screen. She looked at me as if I asked if they had indoor plumbing. She goes to get Rebecca ready for bed.

8:00 pm - One of the networks calls Pennsylvania for Obama. I don't remember which one, and I'm sure that would upset them. I am still worried and I still can't believe it yet. I start to look around the web for exit polls and other sites that have called the state. How are they calling everything with Zero percent of the vote in? Abby is not surprised- she calls the race for Obama. I remind her that Kerry looked like a winner too.

8:15 pm - It becomes obvious that everyone is calling Pennsylvania. All I have been hearing over the past month is how important PA is for McCain and how he must win it to survive. None of the commentators brings this up. We now have two laptops going- Abby is filling out her own electoral map- giving Obama just about every battleground state. I find PA exit polls on that show that Obama even got some votes in the "Real America" part of the state (formerly called "Alabama")

8:30 - Chip comes in from his day of poll watching. He has actual official credentials. He has to report some vote totals to the campaign. We now have three laptops going. I think they must have a laptop tree out back. Chip is feeling sick and exhausted, so he takes some Nyquil and collapses on the living room floor. I tell Abby that if it gets closer later she shouldn't tell him- it might be bad for his health.

9:00 p.m. (I think) - Big states like Ohio and Florida are also called for Obama. Abby calls the race again. She's doing the electoral math and a McCain win looks impossible. I remind her that John Kerry had the thing won in 2004 too. Ohio is a big one because it is Chips' home state and they lived there together for several years. Abby even set up a group or a foundation or a coalition there to do something after the '04 race. If I tried to explain it I'd get it wrong.

9:15 p.m. - I pose one of those hypothetical situations that sports fans talk about all the time- What about McCain of 2000 vs. Obama of 2008? Abby doesn't seem to want to play. I think it would have been much closer myself.

Some time after 10:00 p.m. - We are confident enough to change the channel to Comedy Central where Stewart and Colbert are holding court. We figure it should be over at 11:00 p.m. when the California polls close. They are being so careful this year. We find out later that even McCain thought it was over about a week ago. Chip goes up to bed.

11:00 pm - Things are moving quickly now: the networks call California as expected and call the race for Obama. I still have trouble believing it- remember I was actually at the World Series clincher and it still took a while to sink in for me. We don't cheer too loud - there are children sleeping. When McCain gives his very gracious concession speech I start to feel OK about things.

Laterish- Abby and I discuss the enormity of the event. Even though it's hard to put it into perspective. I think about my nieces and the fact that Barack Obama will be the first President they remember. Having an African-American President will be the norm for them. Their background is much like his: an African-American father and a white mother. They will grow up knowing, not just hoping, that for them anything is possible.

The one enormous reason Obama's victory was possible was the extreme unpopularity of George W. Bush. And the economy. But mostly Bush. Many times in the last eight years we were all left speechless by the constant stream of one-quarter truths and astounding policies coming out of the White House. None of it made any sense at all to many of us- especially the Iraq war which has cost too many lives on both sides.

First it was sold as part of the war on terror and a quest to stop Saddam from using his weapons of mass destruction. When that didn't pan out it became a fight to turn the Middle East towards Democracy. Certainly everyone would see all that stability they were having in Iraq and want it themselves. Many Americans recognized that our standing in the world was crashing and action was necessary. Millions of new voters have been registered. Many people volunteered and gave money. Debates and infomercials are getting great TV ratings. Election turnout was historically high. Yes, George Bush has certainly inspired plenty of people these last few years, but in the end it turns out the only democracy he has strengthened is our own.

11:30 or so: I hug my sister and light up a cigar as I walk home to watch President-Elect Barack Obama give his victory speech.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Greg's Birthday Week

As many of you may know, I turned 40 last Saturday October 25, 2008. But of course that has been overshadowed by the damn Phillies and their winning the World Series and all that. Of course it's great that they won, but why this year? They couldn't have picked a less momentous year for me? How about when I turned 17 or 26 or 38- would that have been so hard? Now all that anyone will remember is the victory over some team from Florida (I am four times as old as they are) and the parade and all. Even at my great birthday party last Saturday night they took the attention away from me with one of their most dramatic wins ever in game 3. Even one of my best birthday presents ever was Phillies related. That's right, Dad was able to get us tickets to game 5- that's right game 5 we were there - game 5 and game 5.2. Dad scored tickets at face value through a friend of a friend- no inflated scalper / stub hub tickets for us.

The last and only time the Phils' won the world series I was turning 12. I spent many nights up late listening on the radio and finding it hard to go to sleep afterwards. So when it turned out that game 5 could be a clincher with the Phillies up 3-1 and their ace Cole Hamels on the mound everything looked great for Monday's game. I've written before about sports fans and their superstitions, and they kick into high gear when the games are important. It's bad luck to be overconfident and predict victory or start planning a parade. Of course it also really matters what clothing you wear and where you sit to watch the games. So we obviously did something to anger the gods of baseball before game 5, because it turned into one of the most excruciating and torturous and finally, joyful games in World Series history.

It's often said that at any baseball game you go to you may see something you've never seen before- like a triple play or a perfect game. I had never seen a World Series clinching game before, so that's what I was hoping for. What happened was also unique, but nothing that anyone had anticipated. I went over to the ball park on Monday night with my brother and his brother-in-law, Nigel. We met Dad up at our seats- section 430 third tier in left field. Now I listened to the radio and checked the internet all day to see about the weather, and I didn't hear any big warnings. Maybe it was all false hope, because as soon as we got to the park (maybe about 7:oo pm for an 8:30 start) it started to drizzle and the wind picked up. Semi-miraculously, the rain stopped right at game time, which was good because I wasn't prepared for it and our seats were not under cover. Everything started out great: in the first inning Hamels shut down the Rays and the Phils scored two in the bottom of the inning. The score held for a while, but the rains did not.

It got increasingly wetter and windier as the game went on. The ground crew came out between innings to put down sand or miracle dry dirt or something. We all sat out in that rain for maybe three innings or more- why? because they kept playing. My greatest mistake was having some faith in major league baseball and the powers that be- I kept thinking that they must be checking the weather and that the rain would end any minute. Little did I know that the radar showed a different story. Alex and Nigel and I sat through the rain for what seemed like forever. Nigel is from England, so this was actually not such a bad night to him. Dad was smarter than all of us and went to find a spot undercover. They some how made it through six and a half innings of puddles and wind blown pop-ups before they pulled the tarp over the field.
The Rays tied the game up in the 6th and then they shut it down.

There are all kinds of rules in baseball about what happens when a game gets shortened due to weather, but none of those rules were going to be applied tonight it seemed. Really no one wanted to see the Phillies win the series on a rain soaked technicality, but over the next two days everyone talked about how MLB and commissioner Bud Selig really screwed us on this one.
They had effectively knocked our ace out of the game and gave the Rays an extra at bat in the rain to tie the thing up. Of course over the next two days of what must have been the longest rain delay in major league history Phillies fans worried about what a bad omen this was for us. This time we saw the black clouds forming literally and figuratively.

The wait for Wednesday nights "re-start" was excruciating. Who would pitch? Who would have the momentum now? Does momentum carry over through a 46 hour rain delay? In the end, game 5.2 was everything you could have wanted. We were all back again in our appointed seats seeing the same people filter back in like deja vu all over again. Of course this being a wacky 3 inning game, the home team came up first. The Phils did exactly what they had to do in that first inning, uncharacteristically scoring the go ahead run playing small ball. Unfortunately the Rays came back in the next inning tying the game up on a home run. Still, you could feel the confidence in the crowd that this was our time. We have all been through so much as Philadelphia fans the last 25 years, but this team seemed different- they were never out of it.
The ending of the game is well known, the Phillies scored a run in the bottom of the seventh and held on to take the title. But even though things looked so good for us heading into the ninth inning I'm sure Phillies fans everywhere we worried when Brad Lidge took the mound for that last three outs. Why so worried? Because he was having a perfect season. What, you say that doesn't add up? Lidge had not blown a save all year, the perfect season does not happen in Philadelphia. Lidge made us all nervous by giving up a hit to the first batter. Here we go again.
But it was not to be this time, the gods of baseball were finally smiling upon us. Lidge made it scary, but he closed the deal just like he did every single time this year.

In the moment and still a bit now, its hard for all of this to sink in. World Champions. The greatest birthday present I've ever received. I try to stay away from sentimental cliches as much as possible, but this was truly a week a I will never forget and sharing it with Alex and Dad made it even more special. They are the biggest sports fans I know. We have been through so much together as loyal Philadelphia fans over the years- mostly disappointment. I hope in the future when we are down on our teams we will remember game 5 and smile.