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hang the jersey from the rafters - 02.20.06

That's it. I can't do it anymore. I'm done.

*reading from a prepared statement* Due to recent events, I am officially announcing my retirement from Valentine's Day.

I can't get Valentine's Day right. For the past two years, my girlfriend has received her flowers after February 14, though little or no fault of my own. This year, I called FTD to reschedule my order, and they wound up canceling it, yet still giving me a DHL tracking number to track my non-existent shipment.

And the thing is, I'm a really good gift giver. For the most part. To make up for the shipping blunder this year, I bought my girlfriend the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Nothing says love like watching Samwise and Frodo verbally de-flower each other as they make their way to Mount Doom.

Valentine's Day has always been pretty bad for me. Do you remember the episode of The Simpsons where Lisa gives Ralph Wiggum a Valentine's Day card ("I choo-choo-choose you!") and he gets all excited because a girl is actually showing interest in him? Well... let's just say Ralph and I had a lot in common in elementary school. I'd give out 15 or so Valentines to the girls in my class, and I'd get back four. Meanwhile, my best friend was getting them from girls in other classes, some of whom were older than us. I really wasn't hurt by that then (in those days, I still thought girls had cooties), but thinking about it now...

Later in life, I would buy flowers for girls who I wasn't with and for whom I didn't necessarily want to get with. Not that they were bad looking by any stretch (and not that they would even get with me without the aid of a mind-altering substance) - I just did it 'cause I was a nice guy. Nice and stupid.

Little did I know that by doing that, I would violate the cardinal rule in my as-yet-unwritten handbook on how men should interact with women. Rule #1: don't spend money on women unless there is a realistic chance you will get it back one way or another. And before you say anything, this has nothing to do with sex. OK, maybe a little bit. But not much.

For example, it's perfectly fine to treat a female friend (as in non-girlfriend/wife) to dinner. But she either needs to insist on picking up the next tab OR at least make it look like she INTENDS to go Dutch with you (slow movements towards the pocket/wallet/Coach bag do, in fact, count). Or she needs to make it "worth your while", and I think you know what I mean by that... (Skee ball at Dave and Busters...)

Now that I think about, men shouldn't always pick up the tab when they go out with their degenerate male friends. You know who I'm talking about - the one who insists that everyone buys a round, and when it's his turn to pony up, he "suddenly" has to leave. That guy.

But I digress... my point was that I'm done with Valentine's Day. I reject this made-up holiday and all the requirements and pressures that go along with it. Who needs a specific day to show the person that you care about how much you love them? You should be doing that every day. (And I'll end it with that - otherwise, I might write something sarcastic and blow it...)

how i ruined valentine's day - 02.13.06

Made up holiday or not, Valentine's Day is a very important time of the year. Those who are in relationships are pretty much obligated to do something special for their significant other. And those who aren't in relationships get the fact that they aren't in a relationship thrown in their face all day. In my opinion, that's a raw deal.

There's nothing wrong with being single. Nothing. Sure, being in a relationship has its privileges, but the single life has the ultimate privilege: freedom. Freedom to do whatever you want, whenever you want, to whomever you want (provided you don't break any laws). People who are dating/married/etc. don't necessarily have that, or if they do, then they have one of those strange "open relationships" you hear about on Dr. Phil. But if that works for you, then knock yourself out.

I'm an advocate of the single life because, when it's all said and done, I'll probably wind up alone. Try as I might, I don't know if I could find someone who would be willing to deal with all of my quirks 'til death do us part. And even if I did, I don't think I would want to be with them anyway, since they would have to be clinically insane to put up with me. And no one likes a crazy person.

Besides, when you're unattached, you can't mess up Valentine's Day, which is exactly what I've done these past few days.

At some point a few weeks back, due to the fact that Christmas, our anniversary, Valentine's Day and both of our birthdays all fall within a three-month span, the girlfriend and I decided that we didn't have to exchange gifts for Valentine's Day. Of course, this meant that I had to pony up for it anyway, not that I mind at all. For starters, I wouldn't want anyone to ask her what I got her for Valentine's Day, and have her reply "Nothing." But more importantly, just because you get the go-ahead to do something, doesn't mean that you do it. It would be like asking the wife if you could go fishing with your boys on the same weekend you and her had planned to have dinner with her parents three months ago. She might say you can go, but if you value your life, there's no way you put that tackle box in your car.

I had to be on my game because I "messed up" Valentine's Day last year. It wasn't my fault, though - the flowers were delivered on the 14th, but no one was home, so the delivery person left a slip in the mailbox, saying that the flowers could be picked up at the nearest FedEx office. The girlfriend didn't get the slip until the next day, so

This year, I was ready to go. Last Monday, I was about to place an order with ProFlowers or 1-800-Flowers or something until I decided to hold off. Why? The world may never know. But for some reason, I chose to wait. It's not like I wasn't going to buy them. Not sure what I was thinking there.

Anyways, last Wednesday I found a deal for a dozen red and white roses from FTD and I pulled the trigger. Only I was a bit too premature with it (as I am in other aspects of my personal life) and wound up scheduling delivery (to the girlfriend's job) for Friday, February 10. Which isn't Valentine's Day, last I checked.

I sent an e-mail right after I submitted my order to get the delivery date switched, but 24 hours later, I still hadn't heard back. I called on Thursday and got a really helpful customer service rep who called DHL to see where my flowers were. Of course, they had already left the florist and were sitting in a red-and-yellow box waiting to be delivered. She gave me the tracking number so that I could call DHL to have them hold onto it until the 14th, but I decided against that. I figured that it's better to have them delivered early than to have them wilt away in some warehouse for four extra days.

And here we are today, hours before Valentine's Day is upon us and the flowers are nowhere to be found. They have yet to show up at my girlfriend's job and the tracking number shows no activity. Or they could be in the mailroom at her job, but since she's not at work today, there's no way to find out. Or the friendly FTD person told DHL to hold the shipment, at which point I'm SOL if the flowers are DOA.

However this all turns out, I think I need to at least get partial credit for making the effort. Hey - it's the thought that counts, right?

rachael ray is awesome b/w pitfighter - 01.30.06

I have a crush on Rachael Ray.

I know you know who she is, but just in case you don't, she's the host of 30-Minute Meals on the Food Network. And several years from now, she will also be my second wife. You all are invited to the wedding, by the way.

I don't know what it is about her. She's pretty, but she's not Eva Longoria / Angelina Jolie hot. She knows her way around a kitchen, but a lot of women know how to cook. And truth be told, she's kind of corny, in that All-American white girl kind of way. The apple-pie-eating, homecoming crown-winning, Golden Key National Honor Society woman who says "(insert word here) is SO AWESOME!" 75 times a day. You know... perfect. I don't think she's ever even switched lanes on the highway without putting her turn signal on first.

Maybe that's why I like her. We'd all like to be perfect, but since none of us are (not even Rachael, sadly enough), we like to associate people who seem to be, at least on the surface. This is why many people are infatuated with celebrities, despite the fact that they go broke, cheat on their significant others and get busted for doing coke just like your uncle Harold did.

That being said, Rachael embodies a lot of the qualities men look for in a mate. An attractive woman who can not only slice scallions (and look good doing it), but who has a sense of humor and who also brings home a nice piece of change every month. That is like the male American dream right there, even moreso than being the winning QB in the Super Bowl or rocking out Madison Square Garden with your band. And I'm not sure what exactly I'm bringing to the table that would get her to divorce her husband and hook up with me - a kid from West Philly who can't chop an onion to save his life. Those are just minor details, I tell you...

*********************************************

Last Monday, someone left a flyer in my mailbox which read as follows:

LOOKING FOR MISSING DOG SHE IS A CINNAMON COLOR PIT AND ANSWERS TO THE NAME MOCA IF FOUND PLEASE CALL HAKIM AT (number withheld).

After reading the flyer, the postal cop in me wondered whether or not it was legal to stick flyers in mailboxes throughout an entire housing development. The grammar teacher in me wondered how someone could put their name on something with no punctuation whatsoever (not to mention the infatuation with capital letters). And the normal, tax-paying citizen in me thought: "THERE IS A PIT BULL RUNNING LOOSE IN MY NEIGHBORHOOD."

I'm not sure who Hakim is (I only talk to my neighbors when one of my trash cans blows into their yard by accident), but I think he lives in the house directly across the street. He moved in not too long ago, and my mother noticed that he had a young pit bull in his arms as he was unloading the U-Haul (yes, my mother intently watches people as they move in and out of the neighborhood). And if Hakim lives where I think he does, then his house doesn't have a fence. Hence, THERE IS A PIT BULL RUNNING LOOSE IN MY NEIGHBORHOOD.

Shouldn't there be some kind of neighborhood alert system when something like this happens? This isn't like Paris Hilton losing Tinkerbell - there is a four-legged killing machine roaming the mean streets of Sicklerville. I'm a little unnerved by this, despite the fact that I only recently conquered my fear of dogs.

For an entire week last year, I house-sat for my co-worker who owns a cat and a rather large dog. Ernie is a mutt, but he's friendly enough that he doesn't bite. Oddly enough, he tends to run away if he doesn't know you. On several occasions while I was housesitting, when I came back to the house from work, he started barking non-stop, staying at least 20 feet from me at all times. One time, he was so frightened of me that he damn near climbed out of the side window (which would have sucked tremendously, since there was no way I could catch him if he had gotten out). Ernie and I eventually came to the agreement that if I gave him a few pieces of bologna every time I came in the door, then he would chill with the barking and not attempt to jump out of windows any more. I went through two and a half pounds of lunch meat that week.

So after my experience, I understand dogs a little better now. Even still, if I see Moca roaming around in my neighborhood, I will be sprinting in the opposite direction. And while I'm running, I'm going to call Hakim and tell him that I found his missing dog. Maybe I can get a reward out of all this...

your mother is a cosmonaut (Part IV) - 01.24.06

The Bitchiest Girl in Hollywood - The Sequel (page 178): An article containing real-life tales about some unnamed actress who is a real beeyotch, apparently. Hollywood stars with attitudes? Perish the thought! I think it's Julia Louis Dreyfuss, but you didn't hear that from me.

Next up is the style/fashion section. You know, the section where beautiful people frolick and pose in outfits that cost more than what most of us make in a week BEFORE we get FICA and all that other stuff taken out. I've never understood these sections - I seriously doubt that there people out there looking at the spread and saying to themselves: "Wow, I need to run out and buy that $150 Juicy Couture necklace this weekend because it looks so DIVINE around her neck!" It's a waste of newsprint - you could fit at least five more articles about sex into these ten pages...

Figure Out Your Flirt Style (page 198): Depending on whether you're a mysterious flirt, a bold flirt, or a mischevious flirt, Cosmo offers recommendations on what eye shadow, nail polish and rouge to use. I kid you not.

An actual quote: "To beautify your bust, exfoliate your decolletage with a gentle body scrub like Bliss Sweet Orange and Spearmint Sugar Scrub..." Now let me just say to all the women reading this that there's absolutely no need to exfoliate nothing on your decolle-whatever to get a man to look at your breasts. If you want them to look, merely walk in their general vicinity. You don't need to be well-endowed, you don't even have to show any cleavage - men stare at dozens of pairs of fully-clothed breasts every day. Besides, when it's 12:30 in the bar, and guys are already five Jack-and-Cokes deep, none of them will be able to tell that you broke out the loofah and got your Spearmint Sugar Scrub on before you left the house. You don't need to try so hard getting ready - maybe this way, it won't take you so darn long to get ready before you hit the clubs...

Cosmo Weekend (page 206): Basically a mish-mash of stuff that didn't fall into any other section of the magazine. They actually mention a Cosmo online poll which found that 50% of their readers get asked out more often on the weekend than during the week. Which means that the other 50% of their readers get asked out more often during the week than during the weekend. Which means... ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. Oh, they also say that a good pickup line for women is to go over to a dude and ask him what kind of jeans he's wearing. To which any man who is as witty/stupid as myself would respond that they're Bugle Boy Jeans. And if she laughs, she's a keeper. If not, you walk. It's that simple.

Your STD Handbook (page 209): Did you know that nearly half of the population will contract an STD by their 25th birthday? I never thought that they were so prevalent, which makes me lucky, I guess. 'Cause I don't have one. But even if I did, I wouldn't put myself out there on the Internet saying that I did. So maybe I DO have one, and this is nothing more than a miserable attempt to throw any prospective women off my scent. The world may never know...

Get this: there are actual dating websites that people who have STDs can hook-up on and get to know each other better (hmates.com and stdfriends.com, to name a couple). Think eHarmony.com with a little herpes thrown in. Crazy.

A poll (More poll results? Shocking!) in the article states that 53% of surveyed guys said that if a girl has an STD, it's not necessarily a deal breaker. And after 10 seconds of careful deliberation, I would have to put myself into that 53% camp. Granted, I'm not trying to catch Hepatitis B, but if a woman is extraordinarily hot yet just so happens to have syphilis, I'll stick around. People with syphilis need love too. And I'm just the man to give it to them.

The health section is next - the highlights: implants might cause breastfeeding trouble in the future, wash out your water bottle with hot water if you want to re-use it to avoid bacteria, and skip sex if you have a yeast infection. Oh, you think??

Cosmo's Beside Astrologer (page 232): I really wanted to see if my horoscope applied to me but... a) they're written for women; b) this is the december issue and I completely forgot what happened to me in December, and c) they're written for women. I did learn that the celebrity who is a best match for Sagittarius women is Jake Gyllenhaal and the worst is Tobey Maguire. Don't ask how they figured this out, but that's just the way it is.

Pages and pages and pages of ads... faux Botox cream, cubic zirconia jewelry (like any man can actually get away with that), weight loss patches (ala the Nicotine patch), battery-operated... items, psychics, and something called "Bedroom Adventure Gear." Moisture-proof bedding designed especially for bedroom activities. It's one of those ideas that I wish I dreamed of in college so I would be rich right about now. Then again, I didn't engage in many bedroom activities while in college, so I never would have thought about it. It would be like having invented the air bag without having ridden in a car before.

Well... that's all folks. It took three weeks and hours of painful study, but I'm finally done. I think I wrote more words about Cosmopolitan than are actually in the magazine. These past four entries clock in at over a thousand words each. I always beg off of the short story contests that require a 5,000 word submission, because it seems like way too much to write, yet I banged out just as many words going through an issue of a magazine. Up next - the January issue of Road and Track...

your mother is a cosmonaut (Part III) - 01.23.06

Page 112: Woman on Top: Pleasure-Maxing Positions - Well... the title speaks for itself, though they introduce nine unconventional ways to "do the damn thing." The most intriguing position is one named "The Jasmine" (after the reader who sent it in) and although it looks like a good time, I really don't think this would be humanly possible. If I tried to actually do this in bed, either myself or the drunk woman who I convinced to sleep with me would be seriously injured.

Sexy Things to Do Before Sex (page 122): I'm sure there are more important female issues to talk about like GETTING PAID LESS THAN MEN FOR THE SAME JOB and HOW TO COPE WITH POST-PARTUM DEPRESSION, but my favorite magazine delves right between the sheets once again. The tips are rather pedestrian - mentally play out a lusty fantasy, undress each other slowly, exchange naughty text messages, etc. One suggestion is to ask "What's the one part of my body that you would love to put your mouth on right now?" If a woman asked me that question, being the smartass that I am, I would answer "my left ear." At which point, the mood would be broken. This is exactly why I can only convince intoxicated women to sleep with me - sober ones aren't down with my sense of humor. Sober ones wouldn't find me attractive, either.

When He's Not That Into Sex (page 126): Cosmo gives reasons why some guys decline sex when it's offered to them (all 7 of them). The five mood killers are as follows: stress, fatigue, prescription meds, depression, alcohol and drug abuse. And these are all valid reasons. But there's a sixth reason out there for all you women whose men don't give you what you need when you want it. Maybe, just maybe... you need to step up your gym game, baby girl. Perhaps you've put on a few extra pounds recently - it's all good, we all do it. Just put in some work on that Bowflex, and your man might put in some work on you. I'm not saying that's the reason, but I wouldn't rule it out either.

I Lost My Entire Memory (page 138): This is the second of two actual non-sexual related stories - the first being a primer on where not to vacation (Iraq is on the list). Anyways, in this story, a woman takes an antibiotic for a sinus infection and winds up in a coma, with no memory whatsoever. When she woke up, her father handed her a fork and she had no idea what to do with it. She had to re-learn everything, including how to read and write again. Yes - it sucks that it happened to her, but it's an awesome story idea. I think I'll re-work it and submit it for a Writer's Digest contest coming up in May. Is it wrong to try to profit off of someone else's pain?

I'm actually skipping two other articles which might be good: one about how people usually get divorced before their fifth anniversary and another on post-partum depression. Post-partum depression is finally getting its shine on in Cosmo, after the 76 articles about SEX preceding it.

A Feel-Good Trick To Try (from page 155): "Slowly rub your fingers through your hair and gently tug on the roots a few times. The sensation will feel amazing." This isn't "Mother May I", but some of you are doing this right now, just like you did the "lightly trace the skin between you elbow and your wrist because it feels awesome" trick from part one of this Cosmo expose. I'm not doing it because I don't have much hair to pull and/or rub fingers through. But if I could I would.

Throw A Blow-Out Holiday Bash: I'm not even going to discuss the article, but I'd like to take this opportunity to state that I might be the only person in the history of the world who doesn't like throwing parties. I don't even like people over my house, period. Entertaining people takes me out of my element, and not just because I can't walk around the house in boxers.

When people are attending a function at your house, you have to make sure everyone is taken care of all the time. They all have to be fed, they all have to be checked on periodically to see if they're having a good time, and you have to keep an eye on the bathroom to see whether or not anyone earled and/or "had a bad #2". And of course, you have to clean up at the end of the whole affair. Too much work for me, my friend. I prefer to go over other people's houses and mooch.

Wild Office Parties (page 166): Readers sent in tales about how the HR chick got drunk and started dancing with her top off at the annual Christmas party. Where are these people working? How do I transfer? All of the Christmas parties I've been to have been lame. They did actually serve beer back at the one CIGNA holiday party I went to, but everybody was scurred (yes, scurred) to drink more than one beer in front of the boss. And I didn't want to be the one who out-drank his whole department, although that Corona was calling my name something fierce.

We actually had to bring food to our office party at Temple last December, although the higher-ups cowboyed up and bought some good ass meatballs and roast beef. Other people brought in homemade desserts that they slaved over the night before. Being the moocher that I am, I brought 2-liter bottles of soda. It's hard work being a gangsta, I tell you. Hard work.

Help For Football Widows (page 168): The article suggests that women catch their men before the games start if they want to do something fun. While it seems reasonable, I have a four-word response to that: Hell to the no. Unless it's a roll in the hay, anything you ask him to do won't be more entertaining than watching NFL Countdown and listening to Michael Irvin butcher Ben Rothlisberger's name over and over again. I might even pick that OVER a roll in the hay. I love that show...

your mother is a cosmonaut (Part II) - 01.02.06

- Next up is the interview with Eva Longoria. I'm extremely interested in this simply to find out how she met her current boyfriend, Spurs' point guard Tony Parker. Whenever two celebrities who run in wildly divergent circles get together, it always intrigues me. Eva's story is that she took her dad to a Spurs' game, got access to the locker room (the perks of celebrity life...), met up with Tony and it was love at first sight. Exciting, I know. In the piece, she brags about how she's an expert marksman and she also dishes out the tip that getting a Brazilian wax leads to better sex. This is what you would call a "wildly divergent" interview.

- I am seriously on the verge of passing out from all these perfume and cologne ads in this magazine...

- More pictures of guys sans shirts: this time for an article about how women should interpret gifts given to them from guys. Which means there's absolutely no reason for them to be 'without shirt', but they are anyway. Just like how Maxim photographs scantily-clad women holding a digital camera or the Motorola RAZR in their "Ultimate Gift" features. About the article, if a guy gives a woman what she really wants, that shows he's paying attention. A sappy gift (a teddy bear or some other romantic garbage) means he's not creative. Something practical (like an emergency roadside assistance kit - which is actually featured in the piece) means "he really cares"... and he's not creative. An expensive gift means that he's committed. Mental note: women get nothing but flashlights and flares from now on...

- Page 78 is quite possibly the greatest single page in Cosmopolitan history. There are two articles: the first details how men size women up. One of the ways described is paying attention to how kind the woman is. This is 100% accurate. Men inherently know that if we go out with a woman, and she has an attitude with the bartender, waitress, parking garage attendant, coat check girl, et al., she will cop an attitude with us. And if we pony up for the bill, we had better get a thank you of some sort. I'm not talking extra-curricular activities here, just show some appreciation for us picking up the tab. Times are hard - you should be lucky we didn't go "Dutch treat" on you.

The second article is even better - it discusses why men prefer text messaging. I've written about this before and now it's hit the mainstream media. Simply put, guys are not programmed to stay on the phone for extended lengths of time. If you're out there reading this thinking "I don't know what you're talking about - my man stays on the phone with me for hours...", here's a secret: he's doing it because he HAS to. If not, you'd cop an attitude just like you did with the waitress when you went out for dinner the other night. We'd text you 90% of the time if we could get away with it (I would say 100%, but there are those times where we do want to hear your voice. Yes, I said it - I am not completely heartless when it comes to relationships. I'm not. Seriously.)

- Another Guy Without His Shirt section: whoever said women aren't as interested in sex as men are is a liar. And how is a dude showing off his bird chest sexy? At least with women in lingerie/bikinis, you can see what they're working with.

- Perfect Looks To Party: Cosmo offers a half-dozen fashionable outfits that are good to party in. All of these outfits run $200 or more. I don't think I've ever had $200 worth of clothing on my body at one time, with the exception of rented tuxedos. I think this is just a personal problem - I'm mad frugal with mine.

- Beauty and fashion section: I'm seriously not qualified to comment on things called "Armani Hydra Glow Foundation" and "L'Oreal Color Juice Lipgloss in Watermelon Crush."

- Another sex tip section called Love and Lust which promises to "make him race home to you." I'm not going to get into it (although the tips are really good) for the simple fact that it's not necessary. Ladies... you are trying too hard. It really doesn't take much to get a man going sexually. Yes, lingerie and massages work wonders, but if I came home and saw you in my high school volleyball T-shirt and a pair of mesh shorts, I would attack you just the same. It's that simple. Now if you want to get your man to buy you stuff, then that's a different ballgame altogether. You might have to break out the massage oils for that one, but even then, I make no promises.

- The following are the 5 relationship rules women should break, according to Cosmo:
- You can't check out anyone else.
- You have to give each other the play-by-play of your day.
- Sex always has to be spontaneous.
- You have to resolve every conflict.
- You need to deep-six your exes.

My thoughts:

I'm going to be looking at other women, so if you want to look at other dudes, that's cool with me. Because I'm not going to stop looking at other women.

We don't want the play-by-play of your day unless something big happened. You don't want to hear about our day either because 98% of the time, our days are corny. And your days are even more corny than ours because they involve people that we don't even know.

Sex has to be spontaneous, and that's that (unless it's an anniversary, a birthday or Valentine's Day - those are the only exceptions). The only thing I'm scheduling in my non-existent Palm Pilot are doctor's appointments, vacations and oil changes.

Conflicts don't necessarily have to be resolved, but there's no point in holding grudges either. If you have a problem, you either deal with it or learn to live with it. Man... that sounds like something out of the Dr. Phil textbook right there.

- You don't have to drop the ex, just know your role and don't do anything with them that you wouldn't want your man doing with one of his.

I'm only halfway done - this is the longest issue ever...

your mother is a cosmonaut (Part I) - 12.30.05

Lying on the table next to me is the December 2005 issue of Cosmopolitan. I bought this issue for two reasons. One reason is that Eva Longoria is on the cover and I firmly believe that she is the hottest woman on the planet. I'm talking "Death Valley in the summertime" hot. Feel free to disagree all you want, but you would be wrong.

Secondly, from time to time, I like to dive into the abyss known as "the mind of a typical woman." I did a similar Cosmo review in a post a couple of years back, but I only made it halfway through the magazine for some unexplained reason. This time, I'm going for the whole enchilada. Most men would be intimidated by buying/reading an issue of Cosmo, but someone had to do it (although I did use the self-checkout line at the supermarket). How else are we going to figure out the proper technique to use in dealing with the fairer sex? Conversely, all of my chauvanistic thoughts will be on display for women to see, and they'll understand better why we act how we act. I'm here to provide a public service, nothing more.

I haven't read the issue at all yet, so the following is coming straight off the top of my head (for better or worse). With that said, here we go...

- Cover: As with most magazine covers, there's a number of call-outs that highlight the articles inside the issue. These include: "The Sexiest Things to Do Before Sex - Discover the Real Meaning of Shower Power", "Guys' Sex Drive - The Dirty Little Bedroom Secret Nobody Wants to Talk About", "5 Relationship Rules You Gotta Break", "Your Sexual Health - STD News Gynos Don't Share", and "Girl On Top - These 9 Pleasure-Making Sex Positions Will Send You Both to the Moon." This is going to be one of those entries that will write itself, I can feel it...

- I'm pleasantly surprised that there's only 14 pages of ads until the table of contents. With a male mag like GQ, you typically need to page through dozens of ads, three scratch-n-sniff cologne cards and two fold-out Mini Cooper posters before you finally get to anything resembling an actual article.

- Guy Without His Shirt: Each month in Maxim (or FHM or Stuff), there's a section called "Hometown Hotties" where two "girls next door" (who never happen to live next door to me) battle for readers' votes with the winner going on to face a new challenger next round. Cosmo's equivalent is "Guy Without His Shirt." This month, Storm Newton beat Forest Elander. By the way, ladies - both of those guys are using fake names. They both know that quirky names make a man seem sexier/more mysterious, so they submitted fake ones for the purpose of the contest. See, we do know something about how you all think...

- You Tell Us: The letters section is kind of weak this month. There's a letter from a woman (Jessica from Millcreek, PA) who thanks Cosmo for their recent article entitled: "101 Hot Sex Tips From Guys." She tried a few tricks on her fiance, and apparently they worked rather well. I wonder how she did that exactly. I mean, every time I see an article like that ("How to Please A Woman", etc.), I always say "Yeah, I'm going to try Number 78! That sounds awesome!!" Invariably, I always forget what #78 was, or I'm too caught up in the moment, and I wind up referring to old stuff. Man, if I had a decent memory, or if I just left the magazine open on the nightstand as a reference, I would be dangerous.

- From The Editor: There's a section on this page where the editor offers up things she didn't learn until this issue. One of them was the fact that "lightly trailing your fingertips along the skin between your inner elbow and wrist can make you feel relaxed almost instantly." I didn't know that either. But it actually works. And what's funny is that half of you reading this are either trying it right now or thought about doing it just because you read it. It's funny how that works. The power of suggestion, baby...

- Guy Confessions: More men read this than I thought - there's actually a whole section where men write in and offer up some of their dirty little secrets. The best of the bunch is a man who "wanted some outside action" and decided to invite over a woman who wasn't his girlfriend for a little shower fun. Of course, the girlfriend stops by for a surprise visit. She jumps into the stall naked thinking it was only her boyfriend in there, catches the boyfriend and the other woman fooling around, and is extremely pissed. Naturally. Three things came to mind after reading this:

1) This shower scene was one pissed off girlfriend away from being every man's fantasy.
2) How did he convince a friend of his to jump into the shower with him? I couldn't convince a woman to jump in the stall with me if I were covered with fifty-dollar bills.
3) If you are cheating on your significant other in a place where they have the keys to, it may be a good idea to throw the deadbolt on, partner. Just a thought.

- There are more than a few ads in here for engagment rings. It all makes sense now...

- Ask Him Anything: Another reader write-in section, but in this case, the women ask questions of a "guy guru", Jonathan Small. One woman writes in and asks: "If a guy gives you his number but doesn't ask for yours, is he not interested?" The Guy Guru says that guys are just taking advantage of the trend (where women are now more aggressive than in the past) by being lazy daters. This is true - if a guy hands out his number and the woman calls them, then he knows she's interested. This is much easier than collecting a dozen numbers from women, calling them all three days later, and seeing if you get a hit.

While we're on the subject, there needs to be a movement to give out e-mail addresses and IM handles instead of telephone numbers. Talking online is much less awkward than by phone, and if you don't want to talk to a person anymore, then you can just take them off your Buddy List or block their e-mail address. It's much better than getting harassing phone calls at all times of the night. Internet Pimping in 2006 - Start the Revolution.

I'm only 50 pages in at this point. This is fun...

tis the season - 12.26.05

I'm not really a holiday guy. Now don't get me wrong: holidays are great because they mean several days off from work and spending quality time with people you don't get to see too often. They also mean "running around to several different houses and exchanging presents and eating six meals in one day and gaining fifteen pounds and racking up enormous amounts of debt." I want just one Thanksgiving where I can sit at home in my boxers, watch football all day, and eat open-faced turkey sandwiches. And drink beer. Is that too much to ask?

Apparently so. Even still, everyone loves the holidays for the simple fact that you get presents, but that can get a little tricky at times. Fortunately enough, I've figured it all out...

- Gift giving and new relationships: Let's say you just started dating someone right around Christmas time. How long is it before that person is deemed to be "present worthy?" Seriously - what is the statute of limitations on that? Two months? Three dates? One session of fooling around on your couch?

I've been pondering this for weeks, but the topic actually came up during the office Christmas party this year. One of my co-workers was wondering what to get for a man whom she had been dating for less than a month. She was thinking about giving him two bottles of cologne - she works part-time in the men's fragrance section of a department store, so she gets dozens of bottles of the good stuff for free. I told her not to give him the cologne for three reasons: 1) Without getting into the intimate details, I didn't think three weeks was enough time together for dude to be cashing in with two bottles of Drakkar Noir. 2) He knows that you got the cologne for free, so if you give him something that costs you nothing (unless it's homemade), that kind of defeats the purpose. 3) If you start off giving expensive presents, it sets a bad precedent. I'm of the opinion that if you're in a relationship, your gifts to your significant other must be as good or better than they were the year before. Which is why those Zales' and Lexus' Christmas commercials bother me. Once you give a woman an engagement ring or a Lexus LS 300 one year, the bar is set impossibly high. You can't follow that up next year with a trip to the spa - it flat-out doesn't work. The most expensive gift I'll ever give my future wife will be right before one of us dies - I just need to figure out how I'm going to work that out exactly.

- Cost vs. MSRP: I don't know about you, but I set a price limit on every single person that I buy a present for. It's not that I don't want to buy them something more expensive, it's just that I can't afford to. I got bills to pay.

These aren't hard caps by any stretch - I'll overspend like Steinbrenner does with the Yankees if I find just the right thing. With that said, sometimes I'll find an incredible deal that messes with my strategy. For example, let's say I set a $50 cap on my mother. Now if I happen to come across some perfume for her that retails for $50, yet only costs me $35 on eBay, am I still good? Do I have to pony up that extra $15 on an additional gift to avoid upsetting the yin and the yang of gift-giving karma? Invariably, I wind up doing that, but I don't think I have to. I don't think you have to penalize yourself just because you're a shrewd shopper.

- Coming up empty-handed: What do you do when someone gives you a gift because they thought you were present-worthy, yet you failed to get them something? Fortunately, this didn't happen to me this year, but it's happened in the past. A few times. At which point, I'm running to the mall on December 26, scouring the "Everything Must Go" sales, trying to find something of equal value.

Solution? Gift cards. Always carry an infinity of them in your pocket. If someone unexpectedly "gifts" you, whip out the requisite amount of gift cards, smile, and say "Merry Christmas!" Like you meant to do all along.

It helps to get cards to places you normally shop - feel free to use the leftover cards on yourself once the holiday season is over. Trust me - this Christmas thing is easy once you get the hang of it...

the next great sportswriter? - 12.14.05

Apologizes for the lack of updates - I'm not being lazy, I'm trying to see if I can be The Next Great Sportswriter

Basically, Foxsports.com is holding a contest where they're looking for a talented sportswriter/blogger and I've decided to throw my hat into the ring. So I may not update this here blog as often as usual during the contest (maybe twice a week or so). Rest assured, I'm getting into as much trouble as always and I'll keep you updated on the details of my so-called life.

If you want to check out my FoxSports blog, feel free: the single blog.

back in my day... - 12.09.05

(This is going to turn out to be one of those entries that sound like the rantings of a bitter old man. And if that's the case... well, so be it. Dagnabit.)

This morning, I was invited to take a tour of the newly built TECH Center at Temple University. In the school's newspaper, they refer to it as "the nation's largest computer lab." But to call it a "computer lab" would be like calling a Lamborghini "a really nice car." This place is phenomenal.

I'm not sure why I was invited in the first place - it's not like I'm high on the list of movers and shakers at the university. I wouldn't even refer to myself as the low man on the totem pole - I'm more like the dirt beneath it. Even still, I was one of the select few to get an behind-the-scenes tour of the building one month before it opens to the students. Of course, the tour takes place on a day where a storm dumps five inches of snow across the Delaware Valley, forcing us to slush across campus and track dirt and sleet all over the carpets in the new building.

When you walk into the TECH Center, you're greeted by a large atrium (with three plasma screens), a Starbucks (which isn't actually built yet, but will be soon) and the university's Welcome Center, where parents and prospective students are bombarded with Powerpoint presentations on why they should assume $50,000 in debt and take the Temple Challenge. It's no coincidence that they just happened to put the new Welcome Center in the heart of the most gorgeous building in North Philadelphia. It's not like we can sell them on the football team.

Previously, the Welcome Center was a side room in one of the oldest buildings on campus, more of a makeshift demonstration room than anything else. The new auditorium boasts seating for 100-plus, dual projection screens that recess into the ceiling, and enhanced multimedia capabilities. And it's in the midst of the most gorgeous building in North Philadelphia.

    "Hello, parents, and welcome to Temple University! Now if you'll just follow me out these doors, you'll see the most incredible computer lab in the history of all mankind! Yes... please make your checks out to Temple University. Thanks."
The rest of the first floor consists of three multimedia "breakout rooms", of which there are thirteen throught the building. Basically, groups of students can reserve these rooms to practice presentations, given that there are built-in computers and plasma TVs on which to view their Powerpoint slides. Some of these rooms have full-fledged surround sound, with sub-woofers and everything. This is just an invitation for some kid to pop in a G-Unit album and watch all hell break loose. I know, because I used to be that kid.

The second floor is comprised mostly of the main computer lab, but there is also a side area dedicated to Internet-only laptops, which they refer to as surf stations. There are also video editing rooms as well as specialized areas for learning impaired and graphic design students. This is not your father's computer lab. Your father didn't have computer labs.

The main area itself is so large (700 computers in all) that it's actually separated into six color-coded zones. So if you're working in one section, you can IM your friends and tell them: "Yo, meet me in the yellow zone." But then, that would be kind of dorky, wouldn't it? Anyway, each zone has its own lounge area with custom designed, cutting-edge furniture that is color coordinated with that particular area of the lab. It's like Bill Gates meets Martha Stewart meets Feng Shui.

I didn't get the specs on the computers themselves, but I do know that each of them has a TV card installed so that the users can watch cable TV and work on their projects simultaneously. Yeah, I'm sure they'll be extremely productive on that English paper while they're watching re-runs of the Chappelle Show. Each machine also has unlimited access to Napster, so students can listen to (but not download) all the Green Day and Dave Matthews that they want.

They were still setting up the computers as we were making our rounds, and during the tour, we saw the storage room which housed the machines that hadn't been set up yet. Hundreds of shiny new Dells and Apple iMacs just lying on the floor. I will admit that the thought of grabbing one, yelling "Break yourself, fool!" to the assembled crowd and running down the steps did cross my mind. Like they say, you can take the kid out of West Philly...

All in all, it was the most impressive building - other than Lincoln Financial Field - I've ever seen. When I was in school (here comes the bitter old man part), our primary computer lab was housed in the library, where you fought to get one of about 80 slow ass Pentium computers. If you wanted to print something, you had to send it to one of the three community printers - which were all dot-matrix - and wait until your job had been placed in the bin that corresponded to your computer. There were smaller labs in some of the individual buildings, but there weren't more than a couple of dozen workstations in any of them. Since I had a computer at home, I rarely needed to use the machines to do actual work - most of the time, all I did was check my fantasy basketball team or clean the junk mail out of my Inbox. Other people used the computers to download nudie pictures - we didn't have cable TV or Napster subscriptions, but we still found ways to be unproductive. It's amazing how times have changed, how the institution that helped shape me into the man that I am today has taken my tuition money, invested it, and turned it into what can be termed as a $17 million technological nirvana. And I may be bitter, but I have to admit that it's a beautiful thing.

confession wednesday - 12.07.05

I have a confession to make: I haven't been faithful in my relationship.

First of all, let me just say that this has nothing to do with my personal life - I've been strictly monogamous with any woman I've ever been with and I've never done anything that could even remotely be considered cheating. No - this is a much deeper bond than I can have with any other human being. I have broken the sacred convenant between a man and his football team.

There's no use in dancing around it any longer, so let me just come clean: For the rest of the 2005 NFL season, I will no longer support the Philadelphia Eagles because I have switched allegiances to the Cincinnati Bengals.

Now I'm not really cheating on the Eagles, per se - it's more like a temporary separation. It's like when your significant other says "I think we should see other people" or when Britney kicks Kevin Federline out of the house - there's always that sliver of a chance that the "irreconcileable differences" can be ironed out and things will be peaches-and-cream once again. Just not anytime soon.

And I'm not going "all the way" with my new team either - this isn't a full-blown "paint the face and take off work so I can go to the victory parade" type of attachment here. I'll wear the jersey during the games and cheer when they score, but that's about it. Kind of like second or third base on the makeout scale, if it were applied to sports. You know, "hand up the shirt" / "down the pants" action - enough to get excited about, but not flat-out adultery.

In my opinion, I'm more than justified in this move. Here's where the Eagles stand at the current time: the quarterback is out for the season after re-aggravating an injury he suffered in the first game of the year. The star wideout has been suspended from the team after (in order): causing a media circus by doing sit-ups on his front lawn, wrestling with the team's ambassador, calling his QB and the organization that he works for "hypocrites", and splitting the locker room into two separate factions. The starting running back was ticked off for the first half of the season because he wasn't getting paid what he thought he deserved, finally gets the long-awaited contract and promptly goes out Monday night and breaks his foot. The offensive line consists of mostly backups and practice squad guys, the defensive line has a constant case of diarreha ('cause they can't stop the runs) and everyone in the defensive backfield has either lost a step or gotten hurt. And this is everything that's happened DURING the season. Let's not forget that the other starting WR tore his Achilles, a starting defensive end was shot in a robbery attempt and the explosive kick returner tore his leg up jumping over fences BEFORE the season even started. You know that expression "when it rains, it pours?" That's not even applicable in this case - this is like Hurricane Katrina.

I won't rehash the familiar refrain about how Philly is suffering through the longest drought in the history of professional sports of cities with four teams. All I need to say is this: a child who was born the day after the Sixers brought the last title to Philadelphia is of the age that they could very well be graduating college this year... unless he/she dropped out midway through to become a stripper.

So all of that comprises my argument that I should be allowed to adopt a new team for the remainder of the season. There are only two rules to this whole "adopt-a-team" business: you can't root for your primary team's archrival(s) and you can't pick the best team in the league. Other than that, everyone else is fair game. Thus, I'm going down to the bus station and buying my ticket for a spot on the Bengals bandwagon.

Until now, the Eagles are the only football team I've ever known, despite a brief flirtation with the Minnesota Vikings at some point during my formative years. I've been a life-long Sixers fan, and have been a Flyers fan ever since I started watching hockey, even though I became obsessed with the Detroit Red Wings after playing NHLPA 93 on the Sega Genesis. That team was incredibly studly on that game.

Since the Phillies have been awful for pretty much their entire 100+ year existence, I became a fan of the Chicago White Sox for the better part of the 1990s. Only recently did my allegiance switch back to my hometown team and, of course, my formerly beloved Chisox go out and with the World Series this past year. Maybe there isn't a curse on the Philadelphia teams - it's just me.

Perhaps I'm the reason why we've gone championship-less since 1983. A lot of people want to blame it on the fact that the city charter was changed after the last title to allow skyscrapers taller than the statue of Billy Penn atop City Hall. And if people are willing to swallow that lame excuse, then it's not much of a stretch to blame a hard-luck 26-year-old in South Jersey, either. Go ahead - blame me all you want. And don't mind if I'm not paying attention - I'll be too busy watching Bengals' highlights to notice.

dear santa - 12.04.05

No, Virginia, there is no Santa Claus. At least not anymore.

Christmas is three weeks away and I'm not looking forward to it like I did when I was younger. For one, the true meaning of the holiday is lost in the commercialization. And on top of that, I don't clean up on gifts like I used to.

When I was younger, there was always something I HAD TO HAVE on Christmas. A Knight Rider bike with training wheels, a Sega Genesis, a 3-disc CD changer - something. Now... not so much. Sure, I'd like an X-Box 360 or an iPod, but if I don't get one, then I'm not going to throw a temper tantrum. Not like I ever did that when I was a kid, I'm just saying.

And most things that I want now, I'll just go out and buy it. But there are a couple of things that I'd like for Christmas that they don't sell at Best Buy:

Invisibility: If you ask people what super power they would like to have, most of them would say the ability to fly, but that's highly overrated. First of all, it's probably really hard to breathe at 10,000 feet in the air. Secondly, it's not like you can just up and fly anywhere you wanted to - as soon as someone saw you flying to work one day, they'd corner you and ask you tons of questions. Soon enough, you'd wind up doing the Today Show/Jimmy Kimmel/Late Night with Dick Dietrick circuit and they would expect you do to Superman things when all you can do is fly. This is why I chose invisibility.

One stipulation: this would have to be the Sue Storm/Invisible Woman type of power where I and everything that I touch is invisible. The Claude Rains/Invisible Man version where only your body is invisible is useless - I don't want to be walking around all bandanged up and in a trench coat. And speaking of things done while wearing trench coats, this is what I would do with the power of invisibility:

    1) Live in Jessica Alba's shower stall.
    2) Rob banks.

I think it's somewhat ironic that I would use my gift to camp out in the bathroom of a sex symbol who played the Invisible Woman in the movie version of the Fantastic Four, but that's exactly what I'd do. And if I somehow got bored with that (or if Jessica was away shooting another Oscar-caliber movie along the lines of "Into the Blue"), I'd get one of those maps of movie star houses and begin making my rounds, starting with Eva Longoria's house.

Once the women leave their houses for the day, it would be time to hit up the banks "Dog Day Afternoon" style. It's my opinion that if you actually had the power of invisibility, you're pretty much required to steal, otherwise you are wasting your talents. It's like being Derek Jeter and not using that status to your advantage. He's a handsome guy who plays in the "city that never sleeps" who banks 10+ million a year - with those qualifications, he is pretty much obligated to sleep with the hottest women on the planet, and that's exactly what he does. I would be upset if he didn't.

And since that's the case, then I feel that it's my duty to steal. Not large amounts, just enough to get by... for years at a time. Don't worry - your bank accounts are FDIC insured, so your money is safe. And for those of you who actually know me and think I have morals, just remember that I'm not above stealing. But I am above stealing and getting caught.

The ability to say what I want and have the intended audience understand me: You don't know how many times I've written something on here that's gotten me into trouble in one way or another. And it's not because I don't have good intentions - I would never write anything mean spirited about anyone I know - but sometimes the true meaning gets lost in the mix. The same thing happens when I talk to people as well, even though mostly everyone I know would tell you that I'm a nice guy. I think I have some sort of communication issues that I need to deal with.

That being said, the real reason I want this ability is to say things to people (read: women) that I'm thinking but don't feel comfortable enough to say. To all of the women out there reading this: when men are talking to you, they are usually thinking of other things they'd like to say/do to you if they find you attractive. I don't know if you all do the same to us, but that's just how it is.

There are many occasions where I'd like to tell women (strangers and friends, alike) that I find them remarkably attractive - in my own special way. And it's not that I want to "get with them" necessarily - I just appreciate beauty in all of its forms. For example, if I'm out at a bar with a couple of my boys and an attractive waitress comes over, I'd like to be able to have the following exchange:

    Waitress: How are you guys doing? Is everything here OK?
    Friend #1: Yes.
    Friend #2: We're good, thanks.
    Me: Absolutely... you sexy bitch.
Now I know that a lot of women are offended by the "B-word", but when you throw "you sexy" in front of it, it should be taken as a term of endearment. You're gorgeous, you're sultry, there's something about you that gets me going and I need to tell you about it - what's the harm in that? I would edit the phrase, but "you sexy chick" or "you sexy girl" doesn't have the same catch to it.

I reserve the "you sexy bitch" addendum for certain women/situations - if you throw it around too much, it loses its effect. But there are times when I'm thinking it about someone in particular, and I'd just like to have the ability to let them know without getting physically assualted. Don't people want to know when others find them sexy? I know I do.

the barber of the 'ville - 12.01.05

For those of you who are relatively new readers of this blog, let me just first take a minute to explain that I get my hair cut at SuperCuts - the following story will be easier to understand if you know that upfront. For those of you who have been reading this for a while, I just want to apologize for all those hours of your time that you've spent reading the ramblings of an (obviously) insane man.

Anyways, I went to Supercuts yesterday to get my bi-weekly haircut. Except that it had been more than two weeks since I had last gone - there was a nice-sized thicket of nappy hair atop my head. I wanted to get my hair cut last week, but that was right before Thanksgiving, so that was out of the question. Barbershops are always packed right before a holiday - everyone wants to look their best before they head off to Grandmom's house for dinner.

Now everyone who goes to the salon or to a barbershop knows that if you can gain a rapport with a particular barber/stylist, it's a beautiful thing. It's like slipping on your favorite pair of underwear before you head out the door - there's no better feeling in the world than being comfortable, even at the barbershop. And, fortunately for me, my favorite stylist was in the house last night. Andrea checked me into the computer as soon as I walked in the door, and she gave me that unspoken acknowledgement that she recognized me and would take care of me when she had the chance. Or, at least I thought she did.

Her compatriot, Linda, was actually the first stylist free when it was my turn to sit in the chair. There was something about her that made me cautious, so when she started cleaning up the store after ringing up her previous customer, I breathed a sigh of relief. It wouldn't last long, however - she called me up just as I started my best "busy yourself with a magazine and ignore the hair stylist for as long as you can" impression. I knew I was in for a treat.

As I sat down, I told her how I wanted her to cut my hair and she began to caress my head. Usually, when a woman starts rubbing on my head, I get a little excited. In this case, I was a bit repulsed. Maybe it's just me, but a strange, unattractive woman fondling my follicles is a bit off-putting.

She momentarily stopped massaging my head and started picking at my hair. At first, I thought she was merely fascinated by the sight of it. I know for a fact that you're required to learn how to cut all different types of hair in order to get your beautician's license, so it shouldn't have been anything new to her. "I can't use scissors on this, can I?" she asked. No, ma'am - my hair is about 2 centimeters long and tightly rolled - you and the scissors have no chance in hell.

Undeterred, she flicked on the electric clippers and started going to work. I have this unnatural fear of getting hair in my eyes, so I usually keep them closed while I'm getting a haircut. I had to watch Linda like a hawk, though - I wasn't too confident in her abilities.

She continued to run her fingers over my head and I continued to not be excited. "Would you like me to do something with the top here?" I shook my head. I honestly think she wanted to give me a bowl cut. You know, those haircuts where it's long on the top and closely shaved on the sides? Where it looks like the barber put a bowl around the kid's head and just shaved around it? Those haircuts weren't even in style when they were "in style" many moons ago. I successfully stopped the flow of my sarcastic gland, or else I would have said something like: "Yes, Linda, I really would like a bowl cut. Please try not to get any hair on my Ocean Pacific T-shirt and my Bugle Boy jeans. And please hurry, I need to go home and watch Max Headroom."

Her fingers danced along my head. "You have some nice, natural waves in your hair - can I do something with them?" I politely told her no yet again. I just wanted to get the wig that was growing on my head cut off and walk away without any bald patches. She still wouldn't let up.

"I want to find someone who will let me give them some color," she said, working over my scalp. "But you already have color in your hair. You don't have any gray." At that point, my girl Andrea - who had overheard the entire conversation - chimed in. "You're not going to get him. He gets the same haircut every time he comes in!"

(Note to Andrea if she's reading this: Yes, Andrea - I do get the same exact haircut every single time I come in. And you probably only remember that fact because I am the only black man who comes into your [or any other] Supercuts store. Even still, you obviously know me, so why didn't you look out for me last night? That's cool, though. I see how it is. Judas.)

Linda was extremely disappointed that I wouldn't be her guinea pig. And just like that, she stopped rubbing my hair incessantly. For the next 10 minutes, she was very businesslike and cut the rest of my hair without incident, except for when she clipped my ear with the comb. As she was finishing up, she actually asked if I wanted her to cut the Supercuts logo in my hair. I was pretty sure she was kidding, so I played along and asked "How much will I get paid for it?" But I was serious. I'll let somebody jack up my hair for the right price - I have bills to pay. Let's not be foolish, now. It's Christmas time.

parking lot pimpin' - 11.29.05

Friday night was supposed to start like this: I was going to meet up with a bunch of friends at St. Jack's - a bar right off 3rd and Chestnut in Center City that we frequent whenever the out-of-town crew comes home for the holidays. Good music, good drinks, good times - we'd chill there all night and grab some food afterwards. Simple, right? Well... no. Me and simple don't get along very well.

After I parked my car, I walked to 3rd and Chestnut and, lo and behold, the bar isn't there anymore. Now I knew it was on that block - there was a huge picture of a Jack of Diamonds adorning the side of the building - it was kind of hard to miss. A new bar named Jager's was now where I thought St. Jack's was. I looked in the windows and I didn't see my friends, so I assumed that it was the wrong bar.

So for the next 20 minutes, I begin to wander around Old City, looking for St. Jack's, just to be certain I wasn't going crazy. I called my friends who were already at the bar, but they weren't answering. On my journey, I passed the same homeless man three separate times - the third time I passed, he didn't even bother asking me for change. I probably should have asked him for directions.

At this point, I'm a tad bit irate (and cold), but the second homeless man I passed cheered me up a bit. After he asked for money - to which I gave my usual "sorry, I don't have any change" response - he actually shot back: "That's OK. I take bills, checks, traveler's checks... and all major credit cards are accepted!" I couldn't help but laugh at that.

While I'm making my rounds, my friend Jaz calls and asks where I am. The original plan was for me to meet her in front of the bar, but since I couldn't find the bar, that wasn't an option. So I told her that I'd come to the Ritz garage and we'd figure out what to do from there. On my way to the garage, I called my friend Derek (who was already at the bar) and he told me that they were indeed at Jager's.

After standing outside in the cold for 10 more minutes, I quickly realized that there are (at least) two separate Ritz parking areas, so Jaz and I wound up outside different garages, waiting for the other person to show up. A quick call fixed the problem (cell phones are awesome...) and we made plans to meet at Jager's.

So we go inside and the place was awful. Beyond awful. (Insert a word that means "worse than awful" here.) There was a hip-hop room upstairs, but there were only about 10 people in there. The room was filled with "minimalist" furniture, and by minimalist, I mean "chairs so small, they were originally meant for preschoolers." Downstairs had adequate seating room, but the vibe of St. Jack's was completely gone. So the group decided that we'd only stay there until the last of the stragglers arrived (one of my boys from work met up with us as well) and we'd head out to a bar that was at least slightly "hip".

We wound up at Dolce - the same place we went last time when the out-of-towners were in Philly - and we congregated in the front section of the bar. We migrated over to Paradigm - a spot directly connected to Dolce - which happened to be spinning hip-hop that night. Hip-hop + my friends + alcohol = good times. We were rolling at least 12 deep, so we basically took over the entire back of the place. The drinks are pricey, but it's a quality spot.

Whenever I go out with that particular crew, Jaz ends up being my de facto dance partner, which is perfectly fine with me because she is invariably the prettiest girl on the floor. And anytime you go out to the bar and wind up dancing with the hottest girl in the place, you've had a good night. Even if you were wandering the streets like a lost puppy only a few hours earlier.

About 10 minutes before last call, my friend Derek and his wife started to get up and leave. He went around to everyone and made the following statement: "Chinatown. One hour." He wanted to get something to eat, so it made sense that we'd all get together and grub on some Chinese food. The thing is that Derek lives in San Francisco. 1:35 am Eastern time is only 10:35 pm San Fran time, and I'm usually in bed by 10:35 pm San Fran time. But since everyone else was going, I decided to man up and tag along.

After we all left the bar, we (myself, Jaz, and my friends Chet and Kim) make our way to Jaz's car at the other Ritz garage. We get to the lobby and... there's about 200 people in there. It was a madhouse - I had flashbacks to earlier that morning when I saw swarms of people descend on the 9.99 DVD bin at the Best Buy Black Friday sale. Everyone in the garage was either waiting to use the elevators and/or validating their tickets. How that garage works is that you take your ticket with you after you park and you pay/validate it when you return.

There was a security guard standing outside the chaos, and Jaz walks over and asks him where the steps are. He begins whispering in her ear like he was telling her the hidden truth about the Kennedy Assassination or where Area 51 really is. We eventually find out that the steps were around the corner of the building. Now, before I continue, there are three important facts that you should know:


    1) The car is parked on the roof of the garage.
    2) We don't have a ticket to leave.
    3) The car is parked on the roof of the garage. (This needs to be mentioned twice.)

An ungodly amount of steps, one gorgeous rooftop view of the city, and several minutes frantically searching the car for the ticket later, we figure that we might as well just drive down and tell the attendant on the ground floor that we didn't have our ticket to leave. It's not like they were going to keep us trapped in there. Chet - still feeling the effects of the alcohol - actually told me: "You drive, so you can play the race card!" I didn't understand it then, and... I still don't understand it now. For one, all of us in the car were/are minorities and secondly, what "race card" can you play in a crowded parking garage at 2 in the morning? For some reason, I wound up driving anyway.

Of course, all 200 people we saw in the lobby were trying to leave at the same time, so it took quite a long time for us to get out. 20 minutes later, we're finally on the ground floor, and I told the attendant that I lost my ticket, so I just wanted to pay the full cost of parking in the garage. He gives me a slip to fill out, takes the credit card, and goes over to the booth to run the transaction.

It takes a while to run the card, so the driver of the car behind us begins laying on his horn. Note to all: do not blow your horn at a car full of Asian girls at 2:30 am after they just sat through a parking garage traffic jam. Let's just say that there were profanities exchanged.

In the midst of all this, the driver of the car behind us (who happened to be Puerto Rican) actually told someone in our car: "Shut up... with your white ass." Again, we're all minorities. I don't know - maybe you can play the race card in a parking garage. The attendant came over at that point, gave us the card back and let us through. Chet said to the attendant: "Make sure you take a long time with them!" as we sped off.

We drove to the parking garage where my car was without incident. I go up, get my car and find myself in yet another parking garage traffic jam. Some genius pulled the fire alarm in my garage, sirens were flashing everywhere. This one took about 20 minutes to get through as well, and by the time I got out of the garage, it was after 3 am. 12 am San Fran time.

I was exhausted and frustrated and the bridge over to Jersey was staring me in the face... so I made my way home. Quickly. 30 minutes after I left the garage, I was in my bed. I love hanging out with my friends, but at 3 in the morning, I love my bed even more.

no one likes a snitch - 11.28.05

A lot happened to me this Thanksgiving weekend, including getting stuck in two parking garage traffic jams on Friday night, failing my car inspection test and braving the Black Friday crowds at 5 am, but this might have been the best story of the weekend...

Thanksgiving dinner was at my mother's house as usual. We had an unusually large crowd, however - myself, my mother, my sister, her four kids, my brother, his girlfriend, and a strange woman named "Dolores." Now, she could be referred to as strange for the simple fact that she invited herself over our house without being asked, but it gets better than that.

At some point in the day, when she called my mother and invited herself to dinner, "Dolores" said that she would bring alcohol of some sort. Now, my mother isn't a drinker, so she told the woman to bring whatever she wanted. After the rest of us learned that we were getting free alcohol out of the deal, my sister - being the lush that she is - wanted to make a request for Hypnotiq (I voted Coronas, but who am I?). So she hit redial on the phone to ask the woman to bring Hypnotiq, but the woman said she was already on her way and had already purchased some moonshine-type liquor named Zombie (which I actually found out later was made by Bacardi). Only my brother's girlfriend knew what it was at the time - she said it was basically a cross between Boone's and a cheap version of the 'notiq. As long as it had alcohol content, I was good. "Dolores" was extremely excited at the thought of drinking it - she told us to "put some glasses on ice!"

About 20 minutes later, right before we're about to sit down at the table, the phone rings. It was "Dolores." The conversation was as follows:

    Her: Did you call me?
    Me: What?
    Her: Did you call me?
    Me: Yeah... we called like 20 minutes ago...
    Her: I'm on [Route] 55...
    Me: Uhhh, okay. Here's my mother...
At which point I handed the phone to my mother. Here's where it gets good: My mother quickly found out that "Dolores" had no recollection of my sister calling her back. She didn't recall saying "put some glasses on ice." She didn't remember telling us about the Zombie, either. All she knew is that she had a dinner date at my house. No one forgets free food.

As a family, we decided that we weren't going to wait around for a crazy woman, so we (with the exception of my mother) started to eat without "Dolores." So we finish up, and "Dolores" strolls in with the Bacardi Zombie in her hand (in a brown paper bag, no less), ready to attack our leftovers. The entire time she's fixing her plate, my brother is making comments under his breath such as: "You brought the liquor, so now you can go..."

Of course, there's more - my mother and "Dolores" start eating at a table off to the side of the kitchen while the rest of us adults are putting the food away. For some reason, the two of them start talking about my sister, and the Zombie Lady goes off in between bites of macaroni-and-cheese.

"You know what's wrong with her?" said "Dolores". "She's spoiled! She's Daddy's Little Girl!" Mind you, she only met my sister 10 minutes earlier, and still hadn't exchanged a direct word with her, yet she already started in on her. Now I'm quick to get on my sister's case, but no dementia-having, corn liquor-bringing woman is just gonna roll up in my house, eat my food, and talk about her like that. In my mind, that solidified her craziness to me.

A few minutes later, while my brother's girlfriend was drying dishes, she accidentally knocked a glass off of the countertop and it fell to the floor, shattering in hundreds of pieces. My mother was eating with her back to us, so she didn't see what happened. She merely asked a single question: "Who broke the glass?"

Now I wasn't taking an L for anyone, especially someone I just met, so I quickly let everyone know that "I didn't break it." My brother's girlfriend was silent because she wasn't sure how my mother would react to the news. My sister told everyone who wanted to listen that she was the one who broke the glass. Of course, it was time for "Dolores" to chime in. "She didn't break that glass."

Excuse me, "Dolores"? Are you snitching? How are you going to come into my house and rat somebody out like that? You know what they say: "Snitches get stitches." I don't care how old you are.

At that point, everyone knew who broke the glass, but no one said anything. Thankfully, the rest of the night passed without incident. Or perhaps not - I purposely avoided "Dolores" because I can't stand people who dry snitch. And bringing cheap liquor to someone's house doesn't give you license to put your two cents into everything.

As a matter of fact, I'm finishing up the rest of that Zombie as I'm typing this. This stuff is awful - it's like a nasty version of those blue rum drinks they serve at Friday's or Chili's. According to the bottle, the drink is: "An exotic Zombie cocktail topped with Bacardi 151 Rum." Oh. That makes it clear now. Whatever it is, the last of this bottle is the final remnant of "Dolores" and her Thanksgiving charade. I could just pour it out, but I'm not one to waste liquor like that. Even if it's nasty.

2005 gift buying guide - 11.22.05

Black Friday is less than three days away - the time of the year where we scratch, claw and climb over each other at 6:00 am for $30 DVD players will soon be upon us. Not that I won't be among the masses - for the third straight year, I will be forced to drive my sister around to the various Black Friday sales, largely due to the fact that... I don't know why, actually. It's just my cross to bear, I guess.

Nevertheless, before the hysteria begins once again, I would just like to introduce a concept that may very well revolutionize the way that you shop this Christmas season. Ladies and gentlemen, I present... the multi-gift.

Now, the multi-gift is a very simple concept, yet I don't think many people take advantage of it. Here it is, plain and simple: we all have someone (or a few someones) on whom we spend an exorbitant amount of money on this time of the year, usually splurging on the diamond necklace or the leather jacket that they've been dropping hints about for the past six months. Well, consider this - instead of spending all of that money on one item, why not spread it around to three or four items that they would enjoy just as much, if not more?

I don't know anyone who doesn't enjoy getting a gift at Christmas time. And the only thing better than getting one gift, is getting multiple gifts. For example, I'd love a 60 GB video iPod for Christmas. Absolutely love it. But what I'd enjoy even more is getting a slightly less expensive MP3 player, a couple of long-sleeved rugby shirts, and Seasons 3 and 4 of the TV show "24" (man, I am hint dropping like crazy today...). Multiple gifts = more things to enjoy, show off to friends, etc.

The most important aspect of the multi-gift is that you're almost guaranteed to hit on at least one thing in the package. There's nothing worse than spending hundreds of dollars on something that your intended recipient won't wear, already has, or flat-out doesn't like. If you shower them with presents, you are bound to get something that they'll truly enjoy. Or else you are a bad gift buyer, and I can't help you with that.

I was introduced to the multi-gift theory by my friend Susan who I met in college. She lives in New York, so we rarely get to see each other at all. Even still, she is as reliable as the rain when it comes to gifts. Every year, without fail, a box will arrive on my doorstep just before my birthday and/or Christmas, with a few gifts inside. Usually, I'll get a sweater, a hat and a journal or a book of some sort. And that makes me happier than a fat kid eating cake. And, although she perfected it, my friend didn't even invent the concept - it's been around for thousands of years. Did the Three Wise Men show up on that first Christmas with one really good gift? No... they came with the hook-up: gold, frankincense AND myrrh. Because, even back then, they knew that three gifts are better than one.

There are a couple of rules to multi-gifting, but both are related. The first is that you really shouldn't break it up too much. Sure, a lot of gifts are fun, but there comes a point - in my experience, I'd say 4 or 5 - where the multi-gift loses its luster because the value of the gifts lessens (there's some kind of "law of diminishing returns" thing going on there...). Getting 27 little gifts instead of an iPod just doesn't cut it.

Secondly, you can only multi-gift over a certain price range. For example, if you only want to spend 25 dollars on a person for their gifts this year, you shouldn't break that up into three 8.33 gifts. 8.33 gifts are stocking stuffers, and you can't really get a lot of mileage out of those. Multi-gifts should really only be used if the total value of the gift package is $50 or more.

Strangely enough, this isn't just a theory - I've utilized this strategy for quite some time now, and it has a 100% success rate. I've been told on several occasions that I am a very good gift buyer... for a guy. And I attribute that, in large part, to the multi-gift. Feel free to incorporate it into your gift-giving this holiday season.

the truth about cats and dogs (and men) - 11.20.05

Invariably, whenever I write about women, or how men really think when it comes to relationships with women, I'll catch some heat from at least one of my female friends. That being said, it's time to get in trouble again.

The following comes from years of discussion with my male compatriots, and by no means represents my true thoughts and feelings on these issues. If I actually wrote how I really felt, I would probably die a lonely man...

"I need some time, to ease my mind": Ladies - us men occasionally need some time to ourselves, which we like to refer to as "man time" (clever, I know). It's not that we don't like you or want to be with you, but there's something in us that requires a certain amount of time away from you when we can drink beer, play with the dog, or do whatever it is we enjoy doing. Granted, we can do all of these things if you're around, but it's just not the same. We need that time to get our mind right, for lack of a better phrase. And I would think women would need this time apart as well, but I've come across a few who don't. So, in short, if you stay around your man 24/7, he will go crazy and leave you. And if you don't want that, then feel free to hang out with the girls for as long as you'd like. We'll be here, drinking beer and playing with the dog.

"Pop-up Video": The vast majority of men have certain videos that they like to watch, and I don't mean our old high school football highlight tapes (although we do enjoy those as well). It's something that you'll have to learn how to deal with, if you're not fine with it already (and if you are... I think I love you).

Again, it's not that we don't like you, it's just that you aren't around (and/or in the mood) all of the time. And it these times of desperation, we dig into our stash. So, if you look hard enough, you should expect to find these videos. And if we get careless, you may just find them inside the DVD player. If we looked in your drawers, we'd probably find things you wouldn't want us to see, either. Tell me I'm wrong.

"You've got mail": If a man text messages you, that is not an invitation to call. From a male perspective, the very act of messaging means: "Hey, I care about you enough to check and see how you are doing, but I don't want to spend an hour on the phone trying to do so. Please text me back." Many women get a text message and think: "Hey, he wants to talk to me and he's not busy - let me call him and burn through some of his whenever minutes." This is a false assumption. If we wanted to call, we'd call. We don't, so we do the next best thing. Speaking of the phone...

"Mr. Telephone Man": If you talk to us on the phone often enough, there are going to be times where we don't have much to say. Most days adhere to the following pattern: going to work, coming home, eating unhealthy food for dinner, drinking beer, watching the game, sleep. Not terribly exciting. So don't get the impression that we're keeping you out of the loop or trying to hide something from you. If something big happens (a car accident, our favorite team winning a playoff game), we'll call you and talk about it for hours. But most of the time, we're just flat-out boring. Or maybe it's just me.

Another thing about the phone: In my opinion, unless you just met, or unless you're in a long distance relationship, phone conversations should never last longer than an hour. I have the same theory about meetings at work - after an hour, you're either repeating something you said earlier, or you're just making up stuff to talk about. It shouldn't take an hour to discuss what happened to the two of you that day. Like I said, most of my days are uneventful - it's not like I'm Jack Bauer in "24."

hugh hefner of the philippines - 11.16.05

In college, career advisors would always tell us to "do what you love, and the money will follow." It was a hard sell to most of us business majors, who had 40 years of battling through corporate America (unless we were fortunate enough to strike out on our own) staring us dead in the face. I, on the other hand, was only a business major because the classes were easy. My thinking back then - and even now - was that I'll work in a situation that I find interesting, and as long as I have enough money to do what I need to do, then that's cool. No stepping over people in fits of corporate greed, and no wondering what "the other guy" makes - if you don't help me pay my bills, then I really don't care what you get paid. I just want to be fulfilled with whatever it is that I do. In essence: if it feels good, do it. But sometimes, that could get you into trouble.

Here's the story: One of my co-workers is leaving Temple to work as an accountant at Toll Brothers, a company that specializes in building custom-made homes for rich people. He could have stayed at Temple and kept moving up the ranks, but he's already been here for 3 years, so it was about time to move on if the right situation presented itself. Besides, there is/was a lot of turnover in our department and he was constantly the one picking up the slack since he had been there the longest. There's only so long you can deal with that before you start to look elsewhere. (By the way - if there are any accountants out there reading this, feel free to send me your resume - we're always hiring.)

Here's where it gets tricky: His parents recently built a house in the Philippines. And by "house", I mean "pimped out mansion." There's a man-made fishing lake on the property where you can breed salmon (or whatever it is you put into man-made lakes), fish it out and eat it. Acres and acres of land, chauffers, maids, butlers, the whole nine. He said that if you want a ham sandwich, the cook will make it for you and then deliver it to your room. It's a lot like how I would envision Heaven to be, sans harp players. Then again, if you gave a local enough Filipino pesos, you could probably get them to play the harp for you if you wanted.

In my mind, there really isn't a decision to be made. I've never been to the Philippines in my life, but if I were in that situation, I'd be on the first plane to Manila, civil unrest or not. To him, it's an obvious choice as well, except for the fact that he would prefer to stay in the good ol' U.S. of A. This is what he said when I - incredulously - asked him why he didn't want to live the life of luxury on the other side of the world: "I like Conshohocken. I like Chick-Fil-A."

Chick-Fil-A? Excuse me? I would think that if you have a mansion and a ton of cash in the Philippines, you could get "chicks all day" which, to me, is much better than eating chicken sandwiches. One of the student workers in the office put it best when he said that a man in that situation would be "the Hugh Hefner of the Philippines." And at today's exchange rate, 100 American dollars converts into 5,463 Philippines pesos - you could literally swim in money like Scrooge McDuck used to do on Duck Tales.

And therein lies the problem: It wouldn't take Emeril Lagasse or Rachel Ray to figure out that this is a recipe for disaster. I know that if I had a mansion in the Philippines with a lake and butlers and ham sandwiches and all that, and a ton of money, and hot Filipino women throwing themselves at me because I had all of that... I would probably contract a venereal disease. And proceed to contract several more. And no one's a fan of those - the only VD I enjoy is Valentine's Day.

And that, my friends, is why you don't always do something just because it feels right. Even still, my co-worker offered to organize a trip to the Philippines in the spring, where we'd have full run of the house for a week. And although it's not my house, all of the other variables in the equation (ham sandwiches, hot Filipino women) will still be in place. As they say - what happens in Manila, stays in Manila.

nappy 101 (2 of 2) - 11.15.05

52) On the night of the first Temple game in the Liacouras Center (then the Apollo) I drank 2 40 oz. Budweisers in the span of 45 minutes. And I ate a cold Sausage McMuffin with Egg Sandwich. I promptly threw it all back up about an hour later.

53) Speaking of getting sick, I used to "lose it" quite often during my college years - there wasn't much drinking in my high school years, so my tolerance was low.

54) The last time I threw up because of drinking was when we went out for my 21st birthday. After a few beers and 11 shots, a shot of tequila prompted me to earl all over the top of the bar. And in the bathroom.

55) Funny thing is, even when I get drunk, I remember everything vividly. I've been blessed with a pretty good memory.

56) My father passed away exactly two weeks after my 21st birthday - 3:22 pm on March 22, 2000 (3/22/00).

57) I still remember the last thing he told me to do. And I've been trying to do it every day since. I've been pretty good so far.

58) Sadly enough, I personally knew someone who was murdered. I also know someone whose father was murdered.

59) I was one of the best men for my friend Jay's wedding back in August - the 2nd time I was asked to be a best man.

60) The first was for my brother, quite a few years back. I declined the offer. Regardless, the wedding never happened.

61) Do I Know You?, Part I: Two of Jay's cousins and I were at Masterman at the same time - I was a senior, they were in the 6th grade.

62) Do I Know You?, Part II: One of my friends/current co-workers worked in the same photo studio that took my school's prom and graduation pictures.

63) One of the few regrets I have is that I should have been a better date to the girl I took to the senior prom. No excuses - I just should have handled that better.

64) A couple of years ago, I was the assistant coach of a middle school boys basketball team in a neighboring township. It was a good time.

65) Rum and Coke is my drink du jour at weddings. I can put down quite a few before I even get the slightest bit tipsy.

66) Shortly after I bought my current car, I scraped it up something fierce while I tried to fit into a parking spot. I park like a 7-year-old, partially blind, epileptic girl. I just can't do it well.

67) I've been in a handful of car accidents, but I've never been the person driving.

68) I've only had one other car besides the '02 Elantra I have now - a 1990 Honda Civic. My sister still drives it to this day.

69) I only had one traffic ticket in my life - an illegal left hand turn on red (in the fog, no less) at 12:22 am in October of 2001.

70) I remember it well because I was coming home after standing outside for hours, trying to get a Playstation 2 on the first day of its release (I didn't get one).

71) The first CDs I ever bought were Shaq Fu - Da Return. And B-Ball's Best Kept Secret - a hideous compilation of rap songs written/performed by NBA players.

72) I used to co-host a sports talk radio show on a local radio station for two months.

73) DVDs and books are my thing, but I haven't watched/read half of the ones I own.

74) As I write this, I think there are about two dozen books that I've started and have still yet to finish.

75) I don't know what I would do if the Internet didn't exist.

76) I've never moved out of my house. I do plan on doing it as soon as it makes sense.

77) I think I might have attention deficit disorder. Or "can't pay attention for long periods of time" disorder.

78) Over the course of a day, I drink tons of water. That may be why I sweat so much.

79) I used to be a hardcore procrastinator while I was in school. Now that there are fewer deadlines, I simply do less things. I need deadlines.

80) I also need quite a bit of alone time during the week. I can't be around people all of the time.

81) For various reasons, I don't talk to any of my friends that I met before college. This is primarily because...

82) ... I am horrible in keeping touch with people. I don't call anyone "out of the blue" and I don't like talking on the phone for long periods of time - I'd rather talk face to face.

83) I'm also horrible at giving directions. I am pretty good at following them, however.

84) I love writing (especially short stories), but this is the longest thing I've written in at least six months.

85) This is partly because I've still never been published or won a contest of any sort. Once that happens, I'll have the motivation to write more.

86) I'm not the greatest basketball player, either. My best sport is volleyball, but I was always the QB whenever we played pick-up football in the street growing up.

87) At times, I can be religious. But I'm also very skeptical of churches.

88) I can be extremely moody.

89) I'm the type of person who usually sits back and observes the scene, but I'll speak up if necessary. It all depends on who I'm with.

90) I like a woman who isn't afraid to speak her mind. And who likes Coronas.

91) I have far more Asian friends than I have friends of any other race.

92) I'm afraid of spiders and snakes and any other animal that can kill me.

93) I can deal with failure. I don't like it, but I understand that everything happens for a reason.

94) I try to learn something from everyone. There's at least one thing that each person I know can do better than I can.

95) My favorite color is black and my favorite numbers are 21 and 27.

96) I hate it when I like things that everyone else likes. I take pride in being different.

97) If the music's right, I like to dance. A lot. And if a pretty woman happens to be my dance partner, I like to dance even more. As long as she can keep up.

98) My favorite athletes of all time are Randall Cunningham and Allen Iverson.

99) I've only had one serious relationship.

100) I only expect from someone the same amout of energy I'm willing to give myself.

101) Loyalty is very important to me. Be real with me, and you have a friend for life.

nappy 101 (1 of 2) - 11.13.05

I saw this on a few other blogs, so I thought I'd try it. So here it goes - 101 things about me that you probably don't know (well, the first 51, anyway - the next batch is soon to come). It took forever to write, but it was fun to do.

1) I was born on Thursday, March 8, 1979 at 4:55 pm at Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia, PA...

2) ... which would make me a Pisces and although I'm not big on astrology, I do exhibit a lot of the traits of a typical Pisces.

3) I have a brother who is 18 years older than me and a sister who is eight years older.

4) Three of my four grandparents passed away before I was born.

5) When I was a toddler, I had viral meningitis and was in the hospital for weeks.

6) Around the same time, I also broke my arm when I was laughing and I fell off the edge of the bed.

7) I never had a pet and never really wanted one. Too much maintenance.

8) I skipped kindergarten. I was supposed to skip first grade as well, but my mother didn't want me to be two years younger than my classmates.

9) I was in the mentally gifted program in elementary school. All that really meant was that we got bused to a different school one day a week so we could do puzzles and play Oregon Trail on the computer.

10) One time, my best friend and I thought we saw our MG teacher kiss the bus driver. We proceeded to tell the whole class. She was actually setting up a trip for the entire group. My friend and I didn't get to go on the trip.

11) Around that time, I was on choir as well. I used to be able to sing alto and soprano parts (there was no bass - this is pre-puberty)

12) One of my most vivid childhood memories involves me stumbling on the auditorium steps right before our choir performed at a neighboring middle school. I didn't fall, and no one really noticed, but the incident bothered me for years.

13) I consistently got Ds in handwriting back then - my mother used to make me practice at the dining room table for an hour each night.

14) In August of '87, my parents bought our current house in Jersey. I stayed at my grandmother's (and subsequently had several other addresses) so I could go to school in Philly.

15) On the day my parents officially moved in, my sister and I were in Canada on a trip with my Cub Scout troop. On the last stop of the trip, I got lost in Canada's Wonderland, the largest theme park in the country.

16) In 1992, I also went to Atlanta with the Cub Scouts, even though I wasn't a member anymore. That was the first time I've ever been south of Virginia.

17) More Cub Scouts: I went on a weekend-long camping retreat with my cousin and the Scouts. I wasn't doing the outhouse thing, so I didn't go to bathroom the entire weekend.

18) I was baptized a month before my 9th birthday. I didn't understand the significance until months later when...

19) ... I joined Awana, which is basically the Christian version of the Cub Scouts.

20) In 4th grade, I was told that I would be going to a magnet school called J.R. Masterman for middle school. It was (and still is) the best school in Philadelphia. I didn't know it at the time.

21) Only two other people from my elementary school were picked to go to Masterman that year: my best friend Kahaun and my grade school crush Tanesha.

22) Shortly after we got to Masterman, Tanesha made fun of me in the school cafeteria. I was so upset, I went home that night and wrote about it in my journal. Yes, I had a journal back then.

23) I only remember getting kicked out of class once - for talking during a Latin lesson in 6th grade.

24) I only had detention once, too - for hitting one of my friends in the face with a badminton racket. I told him not to mess with me, he did, so I hit him.

25) In 6th grade, my teacher used to call me the Diarrhea Kid because I used to ask for the bathroom pass right before I was called on to turn in my projects (which were never completed...)

26) I got into several fights with this kid named Ronald quite often in middle school. No one ever really won.

27) Our fights usually went like this: he would try to kick me, I would catch his leg, throw him to the ground, grab my books and walk away.

28) In the summer before 7th grade, I took the SAT as part of some special program through Johns Hopkins. I scored 920.

29) I may have been the worst art student in the history of the school. I couldn't draw, and when we got take-home assignments, I used to trace pictures. Poorly.

30) I played the flute and the trombone in my early years at Masterman. One day, I just got tired of playing an instrument, so I stopped.

31) I had two bikes stolen from me in my pre-teen years.

32) My father only really yelled at me twice: once when I was out at a friend's house and didn't check in for hours, another time when I threatened not to go to church with my parents on their anniversary (still not sure why I flipped out like that)

33) In high school, I was a very good chess player. I probably could have been on the school's team, but... I wasn't. They used to go on trips around the world, beating college teams and grand masters - they were that good.

34) A lunch table actually fell on my head once. I was trying to be a Good Samaritan and straighten the lunchroom one day, and just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. I wasn't hurt badly.

35) My first job was doing data entry in an ob/gyn office at Albert Einstein Medical Center before my senior year. I only lasted a week - my mother quit and I followed her out the door.

36) That same summer, I was invited to a week-long program at Bloomsburg University. It was a ploy by the school to attract minority students.

37) There were only 30 of us there but, strangely enough, I had gone to middle school with two of the girls. I blew off half of the planned events, instead choosing to walk around the city. I can personally say that Bloomsburg, PA is extremely boring.

38) Although I was friendly enough with everyone, I pretty much hung out with the outcasts in high school. The outcasts didn't talk about you behind your back.

39) I didn't know what the Internet was until my senior year. By the time I got to college, I still didn't know what HTML meant.

40) Three of my teachers passed away in the span of six years: my 7th grade teacher, my 7th/11th/12th grade math teacher, and my 11th grade computer science teacher.

41) I played volleyball during my last two years of high school. We won the city title my junior year, but I didn't play much. I played more the next year, but we lost in the first round of the playoffs.

42) I carried a Super NES in my bookbag for the majority of my senior year. Every time we had a free moment, we'd hook it up and play NBA Live '95.

43) I made up a group called the "Community Fellowship Alliance" so I could have something extra to put on my college applications.

44) I got accepted everywhere I applied (Temple, Michigan, Pitt, Penn State), but picked Temple because it was the cheapest.

45) I made the Dean's List in my first semester at Temple. I promptly "slacked off" the next semester (if you call a 3.0 slacking off - I did get a C, though).

46) I started out as an accounting major, then I switched to computer science. After that, it was computer science and marketing, then for a while, it was just marketing. I finally graduated with a degree in marketing with a journalism minor.

47) I hated group projects. One of the reasons I don't want to do the grad school thing is because I don't want to work in groups.

48) At Homecoming during sophomore year, I was one of five students picked to kick a 20-yard field goal to win a year-long scholarship.

49) My first attempt bounced along the ground. My second attempt also bounced... right off the upright. A guy who was a walk-on to the soccer team eventually hit the FG.

50) I used to tutor players on the Temple football and basketball teams.

51) I also had a job advising undecided students on their choice of a major. I met a lot of girls that way.

52 cards, 34 players, 1 dream - 11.09.05

This was supposed to be about poker.

This was supposed to be about catching a "full boat" on the "river", about how one man overcame long odds and was victorious in fighting off all comers, about the irony of playing Texas Hold 'Em in a training facility for the federal prison system. But I'll get to all that.

The most amazing thing about last Friday was that I had the day off from work. That in and of itself isn't a special occasion, but I was amazed at all the things that I was able to accomplish in the same hours I'm usually at (or on my way to) work:

Slept for an additional hour, messed around on the Web, watched TV, organized clothes, scrubbed down the siding on the front of my house, ironed two pairs of pants, played a practice Texas Hold 'Em tournament on my computer (I lost badly), slept for another 45 minutes (when I don't have to work, I get mad narcoleptic...), took a shower, got all dressed and pretty-like, drove to Lindenwold, went to the liquor store and picked up 3 cases of beer, ate Vietnamese food (Pho - it was good as hell, too) for lunch, drove to Cherry Hill, went to the supermarket to get sodas, drove elsewhere in Cherry Hill to pick up the poker tables and chips, went to Philadelphia, unloaded the beer/soda/etc. onto a hand truck and brought it all into the training center.

All of this happened between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. In my opinion, I was far more productive away from the job than I am when I'm there. This whole work thing is overrated.

The tournament itself was pretty uneventful. There were 34 players in all, with varying degrees of skill. I never entertained the notion of winning - I figured I would bide my time, be aggressive when I could, let people eliminate themselves, and hang around for as long as possible. I did everything but the "be aggressive" part. I couldn't because I didn't catch good cards all night. I had pocket 8s twice, other than that - nothing. I could have stood outside that night for three hours, naked except for my boxers, soaking wet, and I wouldn't have caught a cold - it was that bad.

I didn't even win a hand all to myself - I split one when me and this other guy both had A-8 offsuit, and we paired up our Aces on the flop.

I finished right in the middle of the pack - there were at least 15 or 16 people already eliminated when I got up from the table, shook the requisite hands, and cracked open my third beer of the night. I was out early enough that I was able to drive someone home who lived about 65 blocks away, and come back in time to watch the final table. I wasn't disappointed, though - going in, I assumed that I had more skill than the players who didn't really know how to play and less skill than the people who play religiously. So I'll take 17th place for my first ever poker tournament.

One final thought: Some of those correctional officers are built like brickhouses. At the start of the game, I sat next to a guy named John who was about my height, except that he was mad diesel (read: in shape), he had tattoos of... strange designs running up and down the length of his arms and he wore a gray T-shirt that read: Witness Protection Program. He was friendly enough, but there was still something about him that if I ever did happen upon a good hand, I probably would have folded if the pot came down to me and him. In case you were wondering: playing federal officers in poker is mad intimidating.

gender inequity is awesome - 11.07.05

There was a moment this weekend where a female acquaintance of mine playfully smacked me in the ass.

And I liked it. A lot.

But it got me to thinking about, of all things, gender inequity. Strange, I know, but work with me here. Of course, we know the obvious examples where women and men are on unequal playing fields: Women, on average, get paid 24% less than men who perform similar jobs. And for years, there was rampant sexism in higher education, which led to the passage of Title IX in 1972. But there are other aspects of life where women can get away with a lot more stuff than men can. And that's fine by me.

Take the previous incident, for example. I know that without a doubt, if I smacked the very same woman right in the back of her Lucky brand jeans, she would have turned towards me, raised her eyebrow like the Rock, and said the following: "What in the hell is wrong with you?" Is that fair? I don't think so, but who's complaining?

I get smacked in the ass quite often. Back in college, there was a girl where I used to work who used to "goose" all of us male co-workers whenever the urge hit her. In return, I used to give her a bear hug everytime I came into the office, lifting her 4-foot-9, 90-pound frame into the air and squeezing it tight. Neither of us wanted to "get busy" with the other (although, I would have if the opportunity presented itself - let's not be foolish here, kids) - we were just having some harmless, flirtatious fun in the office. A little workplace lovin' never hurt anybody. Unless you start dating someone you work with and things don't work out and you have to deal with that person every day for months, with half of the office knowing your business, which makes for a very uncomfortable situation. Not like that's ever happened to me before, I'm just saying. Hypothetically.

Back to my original point, though - I know quite a few women, but I honestly don't think that among them, there are three who would allow me to smack them in the ass without consequences. I am more than willing to field test my theory, but I'm concerned with the possible reprecussions that would result. Most would look at me and ask me what's wrong. Some would merely stare, shake their head and wonder to themselves what would possess me to do such a thing. And some would use profanity.

On the flip side of the argument, if every woman (well, at least those who I find moderately attractive) I know smacked me in the backside, I would find some enjoyment in it. It's cool to be found attractive enough to drive a woman to do something like that to you. And I think the majority of the male population would agree with me. Every man likes a little goose in his diet now and then. The point is that women can be far more physically flirtatious than men can, and if some woman gets the urge to do it with me, I got no problems with it.

It's funny because doing similar things to a female aren't even listed in my brain as "things that I would really like to do and could possibly get away with." I'm not even sure what I would do if I were to - hypothetically - smack some woman on her backside and she was OK with it. Being one to jump to conclusions regarding women (as most men do), I would probably think that she wanted to sleep with me. Just like I think that about any woman who ever asks me what time it is, any female co-worker who asks to borrow my stapler, and any girl who asks me whether or not the train we're about to board is going northbound or southbound. That's how I think - that's how I roll.

corolla motorola holder (2 of 2) - 11.05.05

Tuesday night, I took both phones to the local Verizon store to switch the service over to the new phone. I assumed going in that it wasn't going to take long and I was right. I went over to the technician's area and there was a Verizon rep who wasn't busy, but she didn't make any move to help me for about a minute. Now, if you've ever had a job where you had to serve the public, you know there were quite a few times where you weren't busy but you deliberately ignored a customer standing right in front of you, just because you didn't feel like doing anything at the time. Well... it wasn't like that. It was as if she knew she couldn't help me out. It was like ESP or something. She eventually had to break the news to me:

    Me: This phone (holds up the busted phone) doesn't work anymore, so I want to switch my service to this phone (holds up phone without the battery door).

    Verizon Rep: You can't do that. That phone (pointing to the new phone) has push-to-talk. If you want to use that, you have to talk to them to switch your plan (points to salespeople).

    Me: OK, but I don't WANT to use push-to-talk.

    Verizon Rep: It doesn't matter - you still have to upgrade your plan.

    Me: ... Aight.

At this point, I had no one to be mad at but myself. I bought the phone I couldn't use and I'm usually pretty good at doing enough research beforehand to know what I should buy. And I could still re-sell the phone on eBay without the door and make my money back. But the fact remained that I still needed a phone. So then I embarked on my next venture.

eBay Canada.

eBay Canada is the best thing to come from our neighbor to the north since Pamela Anderson. And Molson Ice. It's just like regular eBay, except there's less traffic and less items to bid on. Most of the sellers even live in the US, strangely enough. Only thing you have to figure out is the exchange rate, and if you click on the auction, they'll even convert it into American dollars for you. Just remember that if you see something that is selling for 150 Canadian dollars, that translates into about $9.47 American. Roughly.

After three days of searching eBay Canada, I was still without a phone, however. Even those Canadians were skilled at outbidding me at the last minute, no doubt about it. So yesterday, I sucked it up, went to eBay Regular and clicked Buy It Now on an Audiovox 8910. Not exactly the phone I wanted, but it was practically new and the description explicitly stated that it came with the battery door. I think I hit gold on this one - about 20 minutes after I bought the phone, I got an e-mail from the seller saying that they were sending it out on the same day. So a few days from now, I will have three cell phones - one with a bad speaker, another without a battery door, and another which I hope I can use. Who said America is the land of excess?

corolla motorola holder (1 of 2) - 11.02.05

From the "This is funny since it's not happening to me... oh wait, it IS happening to me..." Department:

About a couple of weeks ago, my cell phone started acting up. The speaker in the earpiece began working sporadically, and when it did work, it was difficult to hear the person on the other end, even with the volume cranked all the way up to the maximum. Now, it's pretty much on life support, and I have to put everyone on speakerphone just so I can hear them.

    Annoying Verizon guy from the commercials: "Can you hear me now?"

    Me: "Only if I put you on speakerphone - you guys sold me a crappy phone just so you can get me to sign up for two more years when I want a new one."

    Annoying Verizon guy from the commercials: "Good."

I have to admit though, it's always fun to give the pre-conversation disclaimer to people who call me while I'm at home: "By the way, you're on speakerphone, so don't start cussing because my mama might hear you..."

This isn't the first time I've had problems with this particular cell phone model. When I initially signed up for Verizon, I had the same type of phone (Motorola V265 - yes Motorola, I am putting you out there), and less than two months in, the speaker on that phone acted up as well - there was constant static whenever I was on a call. It was like I was using a CB radio talking to my trucker buddies. (Breaker-breaker one-nine, there's a Smokey hiding under the overpass near the rest stop, do you copy?) So I took that phone back to the store, swapped it with a new one and I was good to go. That was about five months ago.

So I'm on my second (and soon to be third) cell phone in less than a year, through no fault of my own. I used to drop cell phones like Tara Reid drops professional athlete boyfriends, but I've been pretty good over the past year or so. These last two are the only phones I've ever owned that didn't consistently eat pavement, and these are the only two phones that I've had a problem with. Go figure.

And since I'm not even a year into my contract, the only way I can get a new phone through Verizon is to pay full retail price and re-up for two additional years. And since I refuse to pay full retail price on anything, I could only think of one other option: eBay.

I bought a cell phone as a gift off of eBay back in March, and it was a relatively painless process. But things are never easy, are they? I spent days trolling the site for the kind of phone I wanted. The problem was that I recently acquired this strange aversion to spending large amounts of money on myself, so I had a self-imposed $100 spending limit. Note to all: don't do this to yourself.

Once, I found a phone that I wanted only to be outbid at the very last second. Another time, I clicked to bid on a phone, but I forgot to log into the site first. By the time I went through all of the rigamarole, the auction was over. A third time, I found a phone a day before the auction was over and saved it to my eBay Watch List. Of course, I didn't think about the phone again until I was playing Texas Hold 'Em on my computer the next night, and by the time I checked eBay, the auction had ended 20 minutes earlier.

The fourth time was the charm, however. I found an LG VX4700 that was at $41.05 near the end of the auction. It was practically brand new, but the seller wanted to charge a ridiculous $25.00 shipping and handling fee and an additional $3.00 insurance, so there weren't a lot of bids. Normally, I wait until about 20 seconds left before bidding so I won't be bid-jacked at the last second, but I got excited with 90 seconds left and prematurely made a move (that happens in other aspects of my life, but I won't get into that here).

I was locked in at $43.27 with less than a minute to go. Someone bid me up to $44.27, then $48.27 and finally to $53.05 before bowing out. I had a new cell phone. Game... blouses (copyright - Dave Chappelle). I sent the seller the money a minute later.

That was last Tuesday. Saturday comes and I am still sans phone - naturally, I'm stressing out. I figure if I pay 25 bucks for shipping and handling, the guy drives from wherever he lives and gives me the phone in my hand the next day, even if he has to track me down at my job. Anyways, Monday rolls around and a Verizon box greets me in the mail. The first thing I do of course is check the postage - $5.65. They got me for $19.35. Bastards.

I rip the box open, check out the phone and notice one glaring omission - the battery door is missing. I assume that the seller merely forgot to put it in the box when they mailed it. I immediately jumped on the computer and fired off an e-mail to the seller telling them that I either need a door or a refund, pronto. But initially, it turned out not to be a terrible thing since they included a protective leather case for the phone, so I could still carry it around and use it without the back cover. Or so I thought...

tell em why you madd (2 of 2) - 10.30.05

According to the site's About page, Myspace "is an online community that lets you meet your friends' friends." With that being said, there really isn't anything that prevents anyone from viewing anyone else's Myspace page. Which is what I do. Myspace Tom even encourages it by telling me who the "Cool New People" are and, even though I disagree with his assessment most of the time, I still look at these pages and find something entertaining. And by entertaining, I mean "something I can write about." The following is just some of what's out there:

Random things before I get started: It's cool to have a survey on your page - it lets people know a lot about you in a short period of time. It's not cool, however, to have 17 surveys on your page. On some pages, I have to scroll down so far that I feel carpal tunnel syndrome coming on... This is the only site I've seen where there are college students who, according to their profile, make over $250,000 a year. Don't lie about your salary just to get some play. But if you do, don't jump 10 tax brackets - keep it real... On some pages, I've seen where some 16-year-old had over 2600 friends. A special note to that person: No, you don't. I don't know 2600 people and I'm 10 years older than you. I don't think I've even talked to that many people in my lifetime. I don't want to break your heart, but they're not all your friends...

This is the Internet: Quite often, I'll see comments like this:

"Where you at, ma? Hit me up on my celly."

"I'm on my way over - you'd better have that $20 you borrowed from me last night."

This is the Internet. The way this Internet thing works is that people post updates and comments to Web pages. The only people who see these updates are those who choose to visit it. To put it in context, the only way anyone can read any comments you leave them is for them to actually go to their page and see them. So if you want instant gratification, then you probably won't get it. Dummy.

Now I know that Myspace sends out an e-mail notification when people receive comments, but who's to say that the person who you're writing is checking that either? If you really want to get in touch with me immediately, pick up the phone and call. This ain't IM.

This is the Internet, Part II: This seems like a simple thing, but people get this wrong all the time, so I'll spell it out. If you have a dark background on your page, don't use a dark color font. If you have a light-colored background, don't use a light font. I swear Maria, Gordon and Oscar the Grouch went over colors several times on Sesame Street, but some people still don't understand the concept.

What is the purpose of having a Web page if NO ONE CAN READ IT? All the time, I see people who have a white or practically white background only to have all of the text in the lightest gray font possible. Are you actually sitting there in front of your computer saying to yourself: "Wow, this looks really good!" If you are, then... let's just say that you're really special. Special in the "ride the short yellow bus to school" way.

Picture Selection: A lot of people are on Myspace with the intent of meeting other single people, and there's nothing wrong with that. But if you're seriously interested in doing so, it would probably be in your best interests to take better care in selecting which pictures you post on your webspace. If you're a woman in decent shape, a picture of you in a swimsuit or in some lingerie = sexy. For guys (who are in decent shape as well), a carefully-selected picture of you without a shirt AFTER you shave off that taco meat chest hair would probably attract some women. On the other hand, it's probably not a good idea to post a picture of you and your friend sitting in your smoke-filled car in the midst of a marijuana-induced stupor with the following caption: "Me and Jeff getting BLAZED before the Phish concert..."

Look, if you want to smoke the cheeba, then do you. Shoot, I think marijuana should be legalized, and I don't even smoke. The only point I'm trying to make is that if "you're looking for love in all the Myspaces" (lame, I know), then pictures of you smoking weed are not sexy. It's the same thing with alcohol - replace the weed with beer in the previous example and the effect is the same: "Me and Jeff getting TORE up off yards of Natty Light before the Phish concert..." Still not sexy.

Hey, I ain't mad at you - I'm just opinionated.

tell em why you madd (1 of 2) - 10.29.05

Your blog sucks.

Let me clarify: if your blog is like 99% of the blogs that I come across, then I'm talking about you. If you don't have a blog, or if your weblog contains more than five grammatically correct sentences, then the following doesn't apply.

That opening statement is harsh, I know. Writing is a very therapeutic exercise, and people who enjoy writing should do it as much as possible, even if it's just keeping an online journal of your thoughts. But that doesn't mean you have to put your hard-to-comprehend ramblings somewhere for all to read. You're just asking for people like me come along and rip into you. And that's exactly what I'm going to do. Not that I'm an English teacher by any stretch of the imagination, but I do have an opinion. So, without further ado, the following are some of my pet peeves about blogs:

  • This ain't IM: A lot of blogs remind me of an article I read about how kids use IM acronyms in their papers at school - kids don't know how to write anymore. Now, it's cool to use BTW and TTYL if you're on instant messenger or sending an e-mail, but not in your term paper about Ben Franklin. And I know a blog is less formal than that, but it still seems out of place. For example: LOL - are you really laughing out loud as you're writing your blog? Call me a skeptic, but I don't think that you are. So is it just a cue to get me to "laugh out loud" as I'm reading it? Don't do that - it's like having a laugh track on a sitcom - unnecessary. If something is funny, I'll laugh. If not, I won't. You can't make me.
  • I don't know you: I'll read sentences like this all the time: "Me and Colleen went to the mall today... LOL." I don't know Colleen. I probably don't even know you. I know someone named Colleen, but it's highly unlikely that the girl I know is the same girl you know. So a simple descriptive phrase in front of the name Colleen like "my sister" or "my best friend" or "my life partner" would help immensely. Thanks.
  • We don't care: I'll be the first to tell you that my life isn't terribly exciting, so when I write about it, I have to make it somewhat entertaining for people to take the time to read about it. Granted, they'll still read because people are inherently nosy and voyeuristic - it's embedded in our DNA. But they're only reading to see if I got into some shadyness - boring doesn't sell. And boring + bad grammar definitely doesn't sell. If I wrote my blog about all the boring stuff I did every day and wrote it like all of you do, it would be absolutely horrible. For example, here is a recap of yesterday:

      OMG... i went 2 work 2day... LOL... they had a holloween party in accounts payable - 1 of the women was dressed up as a gypsy and she was hawt!!! anyways, the project i'm working on FINALLY went into production (yay!) and another is coming along REALLY well (double yay!!) went to the caf for lunch and i had a fish sandwich and quesadillas and pizza... LOL... my tray was full by the time i got to the pasta line and i missed out on the CLAM SAUCE (sux, i know, right??). they sed we mite have a holloween party in accounting on monday, but iono what 2 wear? Help!!!!

Now, is that something you're going to make a point to read everyday? Are you going to add that blog to your bookmarks? I don't think so. Don't get me wrong - I'm not coming at you on some "my online journal is better than yours" tip - all I'm saying is that if you made your blog easier to read, the world would be a better place.

a treatise on social dynamics. and a story. - 10.22.05

I went to a bar in Philly last night to watch one of my favorite hip-hop cover bands. The night went relatively without incident until I stepped on a guy's foot. Twice.

But before I get into all that, I noticed something last night regarding social dynamics. After intense study, I've determined that most people who go out to bars fall into one of the following five categories:

The Good-Timers: The majority of people fall into this category. They drink, they dance, they mingle, they have a good time - hence the name.

The WallBangers: These are the people who presumably go out to the bar to have a good time, but who wind up standing in the corner all night, barely nodding to the music. And maybe that's their definition of a good time, I don't know. I used to fall into this category, but not by choice. At lot of times, I used to be dragged to the bar for the sole purpose of drinking, which makes no sense to me. Now, I only go to the bar if I have a purpose - to meet up at happy hour, to see a band, etc. If I just want to drink, I can do that at home. It's much cheaper AND I get to pick out the music.

(A subset of the Wallbangers are the Too Coolers - just like Wallbangers, except that during their inactivity, they take the opportunity to clown anyone in sight on the dance floor. When I become President of the World, there will be a rule that you can't talk about people who do certain things unless you subject yourself to the same ridicule, but I'm not sure how to enforce that just yet.)

The Old Heads: These are members of the over-40 set who rarely get out of the house, usually because of obligations on the homefront. But little Johnny is over Mom-Mom's house for the weekend - it's time to par-tay! So the women put on their "good" perfume (usually Elizabeth Taylor's Diamonds) and the guys break out the one Sean John or Ralph Lauren shirt that they own and head on out to the bar. And, regardless of the song, they do the same side shuffle that they used to do while they were listening to their Ashford and Simpson 45s in their parent's basement in the 70s. And any pseudo-smooth move on the dance floor is followed by the phrase "Watch out there, now!", which has no real meaning and is also grammatically incorrect.

The Poseurs: Right before heading out the bar, the poseurs (who are always guys) gather at someone's apartment and start psyching each other up, bragging about how many numbers they're going to get that night. Invariably, they wind up dancing with themselves because they are either to shy to approach a woman or, when they do, crash and burn like the Hindenburg. You know who I'm talking about - the ones with the linen shirts, collars up, unbuttoned slightly so you can get a peek of the chest hair. I'd continue with the description, but you get the picture.

The Off-Beatniks: Some people, for whatever reason, simply cannot catch the beat of a song. I refer to them as the off-beatniks. It's like these people are cats and rhythm is a dangling piece of string. They jump, scratch and claw the air, trying their hardest to get the string, but they just can't do it. And the thing is, they expend tons of energy flailing and gyrating for naught. You don't need energy to be a decent dancer, you just need to be able to count. Unless you're listening to 300 beat-per-minute techno music, the beat is usually on two and four. Work with me here: one, *clap*, three, *clap*. Repeat until end of song. Simple.

Back to the "stepping on the foot" thing: I'm only taking credit for one of them. The first time, I was dancing with one of my female friends right next to the bar, I get a bit out of control with my one-two step, and I catch his foot. I turn around and apologize, he gives me the head nod - crisis averted.

The second time, I accidently bump into him as he's several feet out into the dance floor, straddling his girlfriend who is three sheets to the wind at this point - completely wasted out of her mind (screwdrivers did her in). I apologize again and he says something to me. I have no idea what he said, however - if you talk to someone in a bar while a live band is playing, you really should limit your sentences to no more than twelve words - it's loud, they are going to miss about half of what you say and you will have wasted all that time for nothing. So I'm not sure if he said "It's all good, partner" or "Watch out, homey - my girlfriend is drunk and you need to check yourself before she earls all over your shirt." I'll go with the latter.

For the rest of the night, anytime I came remotely near him, he started eyeing me down like he found me sexy. Once - call it paranoia - I swear I saw him point his lighted cigarette in my direction. I'm usually not an aggresive person, but if he had burned me with that thing, I probably would have thrown him over the bar (after the band finished their set - I'm not missing the music for anyone. Forget that.)

Speaking of things that were lit, that's exactly what his girlfriend was. During the band's second set, she scurried into the bathroom with a pained look on her face. It's safe to assume that she didn't go in just to do #1. At the end of the night, she was so trashed that her boyfriend had to basically carry her out of the club, where they got stopped by the bouncers on the way out. My group left just after they did, and we happened to see him escorting her to the side of the building next door so she could "get it out of her system." Ironically enough, she was the same person who started laughing when she walked in and saw my friends and I wilding out on the dance floor. Hey, laugh all you want at me - I'm a funny dude. At least I didn't wind up losing my lunch on the side of a pizza shop at 1:30 in the morning. Not like I haven't done that before, though.

a dollar and a dream - 10.19.05

I have lottery fever, and the only prescription is 340 million dollars...

In case you haven't left the house or turned on a television in a few days, there's a Powerball drawing at 10:59 ET tonight, and the grand prize is 340 million. Of course that's with the annuity option and before the federal government gets their share. Even still, the lump sum comes out to about 125 million after taxes and I think that I just might be able to pay off all my bills with a little piece of that.

All together, there are 94 tickets with my name on them in tonight's drawing. Our office bought 72 tickets with everyone contributing 2 bucks a head. Being the (pick one: greedy/selfish) man that I am, I wasn't too keen on splitting my $125 mil 36 ways, so me and a couple of co-workers got another 22 tickets on the side, and I have a 45.5% share in whatever we win from those. (Sorry about all the numbers - I used to be an accountant and numbers are all I really know.)

So in less than an hour, me and hundreds of thousands of other people, will find out if we are soon to join the millionaires club. Actually, I probably won't find out until tomorrow - there's no way I'm going to be sitting up here until midnight looking at all 94 tickets to see if I won anything. I can wait until I go to work to find out the outcome - I'll give "the man" one more day.

Winning the lottery definitely changes you. And I don't mean changes in the "mystery second cousins coming out of the woodwork" sense - I simply mean that with all the newfound wealth, you finally have the freedom to do what you want. Personally though, I think I'd be far less productive if I won any sorts of a big jackpot. I'd probably sit in my mansion on the hill, get fat(ter) and write even worse entries that I do now...

    11.17.05 - greetings from the countryside

    Salutations to my Internet friends!

    I've just awoken from my third nap of the day. I'm quite famished at this point in the day - I believe it is time to ask Benson to prepare me a meal of chicken fingers and corn on the cob for supper tonight.

    Alas, this has been a very unproductive day for me. Much to my dismay, I must not that I have not even showered as of yet. I had the intention to do so at daybreak, but the closest bathroom is about 70 meters away and that is an excruciatingly long trip. During the next round of renovations, I will require that an additional bathroom be constructed here in the master bedroom.

    That is all for now, my compatriots. I must now devise plans for my upcoming Australian walkabout in December. God Bless...

    Excelsior!

I figure if we win, the best day to go to Powerball headquarters would be late on Friday or even Saturday morning. No one really watches the news on Saturday, so you could kind of slip under the radar. As much as someone who just won the largest jackpot in the history of legalized gambling can slip under the radar. I wouldn't want people to know that I won, because then they'd expect you to give them money. Pay off their house, put them through school, start up their business. Forget all that. I will, however, go to my 10 year high school reunion next year. Shoot, I might even pay for the whole thing on some anonymous donation tip. But at the reunion, I will put my business out there one way or another:

(The scene: I'm leaning against the wall of the ballroom, cold chillin'. Fruit punch in one hand, cell phone in the other. Dark, button-down shirt - untucked, of course - falls gracefully over the slacks. I'm actually looking stylish for once. One of the girls I graduated with notices me and walks over...)

    Her: Roy? Is that you?

    Me: Hey... you! How are you doing? I can't believe it's been ten years! What have you been up to all this time?

    Her: (insert stock response about her boring job, boring life and unresponsive husband here)

    Me: That's what's up. Yeah, I'm just working down at Temple right now. By the way... I just won that huge Powerball jackpot last year. $340 million. (Long pause.) Well, I'm going to go over and get some more fruit punch right now - it was nice to see you again! (Walks away.)

Not that I have any unresolved issues from my high school days. Not at all.

happy anniversary - 10.18.05

Today is the 20th anniversary of the Nintendo Entertainment System in the U.S. It's hard to believe that it's been twenty years since the debut of the system that took video games mainstream. What's funny (or strange) is that the NES has affected my life dramtically, and I never even owned one.

When I was a kid, I constantly invited myself over my friends' houses so I could play their Nintendo, and a variety of things happened as a result. I had my bike stolen twice - one of those times was when I left my bike in front of my friend's house to play video games one summer day. Pictionary, no less.

One of my friends who I used to mooch off of was a Korean kid named Tommy who lived four houses down from me. He rarely ever left the house to play football or baseball with us - and he wasn't that talented when he did - but he was always down for a NES marathon session if he didn't have to work in his parents' restaurant. After we played Nintendo for hours, the two of us used to jump on his computer and dial-in to BBSes. First of all, if you even know what a BBS is, you are a straight-up nerd and you probably should shut your computer down right now and go out and meet some members of the opposite sex. Go ahead - I'll wait until you get back...

(Taking my own advice, I shut down the computer and go out to the Wawa and try to meet some girls. I am unsuccessful. I do get a turkey hoagie, however. It is tasty.)

Anyway, a BBS (bulletin board system, if memory serves me correctly) is the super, uber forerunner to the Internet. Basically, you took your 2400 baud modem and dialed into a computer so you could chat with strangers and download shareware applications. Not only is this years before Web pages existed, it took ten times FOREVER to download anything, and we would get disconnected every time his sister used to pick up the phone to call her boyfriend. It would take hours for us to get one game, which we'd play for 15 minutes, come to the conclusion that it sucked HARD, and fire up the NES again.

Tommy used to give me games and software all the time, even though I didn't ask for them. The story was that he got picked on in school, so he would give the bullies free stuff so they wouldn't mess with him. I wasn't going to mess with him, though - not only did he let me play his Nintendo, he pretty much taught me everything I knew about computers until I got to college. He's probably one of the ten people most responsible for where I am today. Last I heard, he was doing some work with computers in the Navy, but that was years ago. He's probably out in the public sector making more money than me and the bullies who picked on him combined. Funny how things work.

My father rarely got upset with me, but I distinctly remember one case in particular which was a direct result of my love for the NES. My best friend and I were over our boy Chad's house playing the newly-released Tecmo Super Bowl one Saturday afternoon. The first Tecmo Bowl was probably the best sports game in Nintendo history to that point, so when we found out that Chad had the sequel, we darn near lost it. If we knew what "skeeting" was at that age, we would probably have been doing it, we were so excited. Skeet, skeet, skeet.

We weren't even supposed to be in the house because his aunt (who was his guardian) wasn't there. Of course, while we're playing the game, she comes home and we sprint out the side door just in time. We walk around to the front of the house, knock on the door, he asks his aunt if he could have company, and we go back in and play for another few hours. Afterwards, I got home relatively early that day, but the fact that I was gone for hours and my parents didn't know where I was caused some drama. My father gives me the business for a good five minutes while I'm sitting in front of the computer - surprise! - playing another video game. That was the first time I can remember him ever yelling at me.

Now while I didn't have a Nintendo, but I did have a Sega Master System. I won't even lie to you, the Sega Master System was awful - it was like the Yugo of video game systems. No one ever wanted to come over my house to play because all the games I had were garbage. I was a social outcast at nine years old. If your parents cursed you with one, you never really told anyone unless asked, kind of like that uncle that no one in your family likes to talk about. You know who I mean.

My parents realized their mistake quickly enough - in their hearts, they didn't want their son to be shunned by society because he didn't have what the popular kids had. The courduroy pants that they dressed me in were off-putting enough. And once I got the Super Nintendo a few years later, life was good again. I didn't have to mooch off of my friends anymore - now I could play video games as much as I wanted in the comfort of my own room. So then I became a hermit, which is pretty much what I still am today. Go figure.

gas face - 10.17.05

I had planned on writing this about how I thought the gas crisis was over. And then, I filled up my tank tonight.

I topped off at the corner gas station about 20 minutes ago and it cost me 34.50. I guess it's not "topping off" when you get 14+ gallons of gas. And I guess 34.50 isn't bad considering that my gas gauge was on E. E as in "Enough with this driving on fumes stuff, homey - you need to fill me up." There's an orange light that comes on when the tank is almost empty - it had been on for about the last day and a half.

So I guess I did pretty well, all things considering. But gas has gone down about a dollar a gallon in the past 6 weeks, so I was under the false assumption that we were back to the time when I could fill up my tank with a $20 and get change back. It's been so long since gas was under $2/gallon, I can barely remember the good ol' days. When I first started driving, gas was about $1 a gallon, and only a few weeks ago, it was three times that.

I think I was the only person in America who didn't get gas during all that post-Katrina madness. For one, I absolutely REFUSE to pay $3 for a gallon of gasoline. About three days after the hurricane hit, I bought $25 worth of gas and made it stretch for two weeks. I cut out all the side trips I usually make. I briefly thought about taking the bus to work just so I wouldn't have to use gas driving to the train station. A couple of times, I put the car in neutral at a stop light because I read somewhere that it would save on gas. True story.

And during all that gas gouging at the pumps, I was extremely... frugal. Not cheap - frugal. Every time I spent money, I would think about it in terms of gas. The 60 cents I spent on a newspaper every day (which I could read online) instantly turned into 0.2 gallons of gas. The half-price pint of beer at the post-work happy hour became 0.67 gallons of gas. A friend of mine has a weekly Texas Hold 'Em game at his house every Friday night. A couple of times, I'd think about putting my $20 into the pot, but then I started to think "20 bucks? That's 6.3 gallons of gas! I can't risk that!" So I wouldn't play.

I don't know what it is about gas that intrigues me, but it does. I love the smell of it. And whenever I get a chance to go to a self-serve station and fill the tank myself (which is against the law here in Jersey), I get all giddy like a 13-year-old boy finding his dad's stash of "men's magazines." Some men dream about women, I dream about gas. Back when gas was about a dollar a gallon, I used to envision building a huge underground gas tank in my backyard and just filling up there instead of going to the service station. Of course, I never even thought about how much that would cost, much less how I would fill it up with the 5,000 gallons I wanted. But even still, I'd do it today if prices ever go back down to reasonable levels. Well, I would have done it if a friend of mine didn't tell me that gas goes bad. I'm not sure how that happens - gas has been underground for like a billion years and, all of a sudden, after you pull it out of the ground and refine it, it goes bad in a few weeks? That's garbage. But if that is the case, then it means no underground gas tank for me. I guess I just need to cut out the weekly poker games...

toy story - 10.04.05
When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
-- I Corinthians 13, verse 11

Nix that - I need an Xbox 360 in my life.

I can't remember the last time that I bought myself something that cost more than $150, so I'm seriously considering this Xbox 360 as a "happy birthday to me" present, even though my birthday isn't for five months. It's a poor justification, I know, but these are extenuating circumstances. Simply put, the Xbox 360 is the most advanced video game system on the planet. It pretty much does what every other system ever made has done (play games), but the games are real pretty-like. And for that reason alone, I want one.

I haven't wanted something this bad in five years and, ironically enough, it was another video game system. The Playstation 2 came out on October 26, 2000 - the reason I remember the date is because that was the same day I got my first and only moving violation (that story will come another day).

I'm not even that big of a video game fan anymore. My Playstation 2 is currently lying upside down - unplugged - on my bedroom floor right next to my television. It's been in that same position for the past six weeks - I brought it with me to the hotel we were staying in for my friend's wedding in late August, but the TVs there had plastic guards on them that prevented us from hooking it up. (bastids...) So I brought it home, took it out the duffel bag, and on the floor it lies like a chaste woman, untouched by human hands for weeks on end.

As I do every year, I bought the newest Madden game this past August. I've played it twice since I've had it - no interest. I thought about trading in the games I have in order to get store credit, but then I'd use that to buy what? Now I have my answer.

There is a problem, however. The XBox 360 costs $399. Of course I could get the basic version for $100 less, but the more expensive version comes with better AV cables, a hard drive (for saving games), a wireless controller, a remote control, and a wireless headset (for talking trash to 11-year-olds from northwest Iowa after scoring a touchdown in an online game). So expensive version it is. Of course, you have to buy games and an extra controller, and there's a pesky lil' thing called sales tax, so it's going to cost $550+ easily.

My co-worker and I were trying to figure out ways to scrounge up the necessary cash in a short period of time without selling illegal drugs and/or bodily fluids. I would consider working at Best Buy or Target part-time, but I wouldn't be able to hit the number (unless I work some crazy hours) by the time the system came out, and if I just happened to be unloading the truck the night the XBox 360 comes in, I might be motivated to take one... and another one... and another one... and put them in the back of my car. And quit that same night.

So right now, I'm all out of answers. Don't get me wrong - this isn't a cry for sympathy or anything. I'm not asking for an Xbox 360, but if you'd like to contribute to the fund, feel free to Paypal me whatever you can afford. Thanks.

white noise - 09.26.05

When my nieces and nephews come over to visit, it's typically my job to take them back home. Invariably, at some time during the trip, a rock song comes on the radio that is completely unfamilar to the kids, and they'll sport puzzled looks while I'm sitting in the driver's seat rocking out. At that point, one of my nieces will turn towards me, make a face and say the following: "Uncle Chip, you listen to that white music."

At first, I used to get offended when people told me that, but after thinking about it... I guess I do like "white music." For example:

I think Kelly Clarkson's Breakaway album is easily one of the best 10 albums in the past five years. I've listened to "Semi-Charmed Life" by Third Eye Blind at least twice a day for the past week. I bought the European version of Dido's No Angel CD just so I could get the bonus songs. I still pull out Nelly Furtado's debut album every now and then so I can listen to it in the car. I would pay money to see Linkin Park live. I have paid money to see Maroon 5. And I'm anticipating the next Justin Timberlake album more than the next Wu-Tang album.

I can't let these kids get to me - they really don't know music that well. Here's a sampling of the songs I put on a mix CD that my oldest niece begged me for last month:

  • Will Smith - Switch
  • Fat Joe/Nelly - Get It Poppin
  • Young Gunz - Set It Off
  • Missy Elliot - Lose Control
  • R. Kelly - Trapped in the Closet, Parts 1 through 5

Please. If you're going to make a CD of the best songs out now, you can't leave out my boy Gavin Degraw. "You and Me" or "Hanging By A Moment" by Lifehouse are good picks. And you have to throw in the angst-filled "Scars" by Papa Roach or "Let Me Go" by 3 Doors Down for good measure. I love me some 3 Doors Down.

My friend Jay is primarily responsible for my electic tastes in music. I told a modified version of the following story at his wedding last month, and every word of it is true:

The two of us both went to Temple, and after class we would sit in his car and listen to music before he made his way home. It started with hip-hop - I clearly remember one time when he played Eminem's "Brain Damage" way before he was famous and told me "he [Eminem] is going to be big one day, you watch." Usually, it was Mobb Deep or Wu-Tang - the two of us nodding our heads at the sparse beat, the haunting bass line, the semi-metallic clap of the drums. Sitting in that gray Nissan Maxima in the middle of North Philadelphia, we were immersed in our own world. Two college students vibing out to good music - all that was missing were the 40s and blunts.

It wasn't just rap, though. He was a huge Dave Matthews fan, so he'd play that. The two of us used to freestyle to Fatboy Slim beats with a flow that we called "12 Monkey Style" (I can't explain, so don't ask). When he learned how to play guitar back in '99, the only song he knew was "Semi-Charmed Life", and even then, he could only play the first bar. We STILL had to listen to that one bar incessantly during our spring break vacation that year.

And after a while, I began to appreciate "white music." Before college, all I listened to was Biggie, Wu-Tang, Mobb Deep, Jay-Z and Tribe Called Quest. The only rock song I knew was "You Give Love a Bad Name" by Bon Jovi, and that was because I heard it while watching an NFL "Greatest Bone-Crushing Hits" montage one Sunday morning on CBS. The first two CDs I ever bought were Shaq-Fu Da Return and B-Ball's Best Kept Secret - an awful compliation of hip-hop tracks by NBA players. Those happened to be the only two hip-hop CDs I could find in Sam Goody that didn't have the parental advisory sticker on them. My parents had just bought me a 3-disc CD changer for Christmas two days earlier, so I needed something to play that they wouldn't find offensive (with my father being a deacon and all). Basketball rap it was.

Ten years later, there isn't much that I won't listen to. I don't listen to white music, I listen to good music. People - friends and strangers alike - find it odd that I can sing along to a Matchbox 20 song, or that I own a Shania Twain CD. But it's true - even a kid who grew up in West Philadelphia can have an appreciation for different music.

But check this: the biggest hip-hop song of last year, "Lean Back", was produced by a white guy - Scott Storch. Rick Rubin is not only responsible for tons of Run-DMC and Public Enemy (probably the most pro-black group ever) material, but he was also behind one of the best songs on Jay-Z's Black Album ("99 Problems"). So if that's the case, then I guess we all like white music to some extent. Everyone likes the Star-Spangled Banner, right? If you don't, then you're a traitor and you need to leave the country. Immediately.

tres cuentitos simpaticos - 09.21.05

One day last week, I'm sitting on the subway after work when a man with bloodshot eyes sits across the aisle from me. For the next two stops, he's extremely fidgety, looking out the windows, eyeing everyone on the train. I knew he was going to talk to me, especially since I didn't have my headphones on. I was a target, an easy mark.

"Does this train go to Pattison?" he asked.

Pattison Avenue is the last stop on the Broad Street subway. It's right in the heart of the Philadelphia sports complex - thousands of fans ride the Orange Line to South Philly on game days. There are maps all over the train, but he asks me anyway. I tell him yes, that it's the last stop.

"Good, 'cause I HAVE to go to this Phillies game tonight."

First of all, no one ever HAS to go to a Phillies game unless they work at the park. The team is in the middle of a pennant race and they can barely get 20,000 people down there for a game against the division leaders. On one hand it's sad that there's not much fan support, but on the other, after so many years of disappointment, who can blame them?

Secondly, despite the fact that I told him that Pattison was the last stop, he's still a bundle of nervous anticipation, looking out the windows each time the subway car opens its doors. I'm not sure why he was so afraid that he'd miss his stop - even if you can't read, all you have to do is just sit on that train until you notice that everyone else is getting off. Voila - you're at Pattison Avenue!

My stop comes up shortly afterwards and as I get up to leave the train, he gets even more antsy - his eyes are darting everywhere, he switches seats - for a few moments, I thought he was going to follow me. But he settles down, the doors close and he continued on to South Philadelphia. Alone.

The Phillies won that night. I hope my man made it back home safely.

**************

I went to the supermarket last Thursday because I was jonesing for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Jonesing. We had peanut butter in the house, but it was the low-sodium kind. The not-really-that-creamy kind, the tear-up-your-bread-like-government-peanut-butter kind. So I had to go get some more.

Anyway, I'm walking down the aisle looking at the peanut butter selection when all of a sudd...

"Guess what?"

I turn around and see a 10-year-old girl grinning at me with her bottle cap glasses. There was no one else in the aisle - she was clearly talking to me.

Me: "Uhh... what?"
Her: "I just got my braces yesterday!"

She grins even wider - a mouth full of sliver wire and red bolts reflecting the flourescent lights of the supermarket. I didn't even know braces came in designer colors - they actually looked pretty sharp.

Me: "They... uhh... they look nice."
Her: "Thanks. They hurt really bad."

And just like that, she was gone. Hopefully, she went back to her parents and told them that she just spoke to a random stranger so that they could chew her out. The girl probably didn't know me from R. Kelly - who knows what could have happened? That's why I'm not having kids. Or if I do, they'll be physically attached to me at all times. Seriously.

**************

Last week, I was on my way to get my haircut, driving along with the windows down, rocking out to 3 Doors Down (yes, I rock out to 3 Doors Down - what?). At a red light, a guy pulls up in a car next to me and motions for me to turn the radio down.

Him: Can you tell me how to get to the Atlantic City Expressway?
Me: Yeah, go straight here and... no, make a left here and then... you know what? Just follow me.

Now the Atlantic City Expressway wasn't that far from where I was going to get my haircut, and I am HORRIBLE at giving directions, so I did what I thought was the most sensible thing and told a complete stranger to follow me in his car.

Let me explain: I can't give direction. Period. No need to sugarcoat it - I suck. I can do a lot of different things, but telling people what to do or how to do it is not one of them. In college, my Calculus professor used to put problems on the board and ask us to solve them. Now that was back in freshman year, and I was still smart then (before the alcohol robbed me of my brain cells) - I don't mean to brag, but I could figure out derivatives in my head in seconds. So as soon as she was done writing, I had the answer. She would then ask me to explain to the class how I figured it out, and that... would take... about... three minutes. It was just far easier for me to do it than to explain how to do it. Still is.

So fast-forward to last week - if I attempted to explain to the guy how to get to the expressway, I would have caused a severe traffic jam. Him following me in my Elantra was much easier. And that's what I did.

As we're approaching the on-ramp for the AC Expressway, I'm frantically blowing my horn and pointing towards it. There's actually two on-ramps - one on the right-hand side going northbound to Philly, the other on the opposite side of the road towards Atlantic City. Most people I talk to who are in New Jersey want to leave as soon as possible, so I assumed that he going to Philly. Of course, he drives right by the northbound exit, and for the next seven seconds, I curse him out for being an idiot... until he goes off the exit headed towards Atlantic City. And my good deed for the day was done. All because I can't give directions.

destiny can't be denied - 09.18.05

Picture the following scene.

It's Saturday night and you're out at the club with your crew. The music is good, the drinks are flowing, thoughts of the past work week have been checked at the door. It's been a good time so far.

And just like that, a member of the opposite sex catches your eye from across the room. You know you've seen them before, but you can't place them. And for some reason, there's something about them that you find attractive, alluring. You admit to yourself that they aren't the hottest person you've ever seen, but they are pretty decent-looking. And besides, everyone looks better in a darkened room after four or five martinis.

Your eyes lock, the next song comes on, and it begins. They make their way over and - much to your surprise - they don't even bother with small talk. Nary a word has been uttered, but you both know the drill. They begin to grind on you, you respond by grinding on them, bodies intermingling as the scent of alcohol and pheromones and perspiration dances in the smoke-filled air.

This goes on for... no one is really keeping track of time at this point. But you know you should be - the night is coming to an end. The evening has been incredible so far, but you want more, you need more. It's been too long. But you don't want to make the first move, so you wait. And hope. You check your watch - twenty minutes until last call.

Your dance partner? The Philadelphia Phillies. The scene so far is a merely a tease, a set-up for the eventual fall, or as I like to refer to it: "What the Phillies Do to Their Fans Every Year."

Once again, the Phillies are fighting for a playoff spot in September and this year, they've hung around longer than usual. In recent years, they've usually given up the ghost by now. This season however, they're still playing with our emotions on September 19. As I type this, they were one game out of the wild card with a relatively favorable schedule for the rest of the way. Maybe they can do it - maybe this is the year. Or maybe not.

We all know how it ends: The Phillies will be mathematically eliminated on a warm September evening a few days from now, your dance partner will jump in a cab and be whisked away before you can close the deal, Lucy will pull the ball away from Charlie Brown right before he kicks it. The story won't go any other way because it CAN'T go any other way - destiny can't be denied. The Phillies have won one World Series in 140 years of professional baseball. They haven't even made the playoffs in twelve years. Even still, you wait. And hope. Last call is coming soon.

it's a boy - 09.18.05

I'm pregnant. At least that's what my e-mail tells me.

About a year or so ago, I signed up for a Gmail account. For my user name, I used the first letter of my first name and my last name - keep it simple, you know? That way, I figured I could use the address as a contact for potential employers or whomever - it's a much better alternative than templeu4lifesuckas@gmail.com

Apparently my user name (or some variation of it) is very popular in the Gmail community as I frequently get messages that have no business coming to me. In most cases, people who share my last name mistakenly enter my email address (and not their own) into a registration form for some random Web site.

On September 1st, I learned that I was signed up for PregnancyWeekly which "is a weekly, smart, opt-in e-newsletter for pregnant women. It is one of the most helpful and comprehensive newsletters for expecting moms." Now I don't remember opting into anything, but whatever the case may be, I get weekly updates on my impending child. And since my e-mail says that I'm pregnant, then it must be true. Everything on the Internet is true.

Week 8: Hi [user name], your uterus is about the size of a grapefruit and you can probably tell your waistline is expanding. If this is a first pregnancy, you are probably not "showing" yet.

What's happening to my body? I thought I was losing weight - I've been going to the gym and dropped about 20 pounds over the summer. Now this pregnancy is messing all that up. I feel like Arnold Schwarzenegger in "Junior." I didn't know I even had a uterus.

Week 9: Your baby now has elbows and is somewhere between .51 and .66 inches in length. And your baby probably weighs only 1 gram. Your baby will now move if touched through the wall of your uterus, and can also move on its own. In terms of physical development, sex organs (Gonads in males, and Ovaries in females) are becoming evident.

More than two months in and my baby is less than an inch long and weighs a gram? Yet he/she has elbows and either gonads or ovaries. These e-mails are scaring me more than anything - if I was a woman, I would never ever never have a baby after reading this. There's no way I could have something that small with gonads swimming around in my stomach. Crazy.

Strangely enough, these aren't the only baby-related e-mails I get. A few months back, I opened my Inbox one day and saw these pictures of this naked, white baby boy. Some woman whom I've never met accidently sent pictures of her newborn child to my account. So for the next several weeks, I would receive photo essays detailing the important events in this kid's life - "Thaddeus Comes Home!" or "Thaddeus's 1st Mets Game!!"

(Brief aside: I'm sorry, but Thaddeus is a HORRIBLE name to give your kid. I hope for his sake that his dad's name is Thaddeus, so at least he could go by Junior or T.J. I actually knew a Thaddeus when I was in high school - let's just say he wasn't a well-adjusted kid. And that was probably because he was saddled with such a bad name.)

When I first started getting these messages that didn't belong to me, I would send out these "Yo homey, you got the wrong address" responses, but now I don't just to see how long I'll keep getting these e-mails. Among other things, I get happy hour updates for a bar in Florida, electronic brochures for a resort in southeast Spain, practice schedules for youth basketball, real estate business plans and information on how to qualify sales leads. So just be careful when you send out e-mails - you'll never know where they may end up.

burying the lede - 12.07.04

A week ago tonight, on the way to a New Jersey Nets - Charlotte Bobcats game, one of my best friends asked me if I would do him the honor of being one of the best men at his wedding.

Before I get into the whole wedding thing (which I'll do in my next post), I just have to take this opportunity to explain the middle part of that sentence, the part that reads: "on the way to a New Jersey Nets - Charlotte Bobcats game." Now no one in their right minds should drive an hour and a half (actually longer, because I have them bad directions en route) to watch two teams with a combined record of 5-20 play basketball, especially if you have no rooting interest whatsoever. But that's exactly what me and a couple of my friends did because... well, because sometimes, you just have to get in your car and go. Ten years from now, we'll all have diapers to change or dinner parties to attend or Texas Hold 'Em tournaments at the local Moose lodge or whatever it is that middle-aged men do during the week, so you might as well do the spontaneous things now when you have the chance. So that's exactly what we did.

The game itself was pretty awful, but the halftime show was perhaps the greatest mid-game entertainment I've ever seen at a sporting event. After the 2nd quarter, they trotted out this woman named Miri Ben-Ari who they touted as a "hip-hop violinist." Now I'm an open minded person when it comes to music, but I usually draw the line when it comes to violins. Before she came on however, the marketing side of me kicked in - she obviously had found her niche and become successful - why couldn't I have done the same? If I hadn't abandoned the trombone in the spring of my seventh grade year, perhaps I could have been the first "hip-hop trombonist" or tromboner or whatever it is you call someone who plays that instrument.

Of course, after my tromboner obsession petered out, Ms. Ben-Ari busts out with some note-perfect renditions of some of my favorite songs by Kanye West, Alicia Keys, Twista, Jay-Z and Biggie Smalls and I basically lost... my... damn... mind. I think that's when the surrealness of it all hit me: there I was with two of my best friends, in the middle of the North Jersey swamplands, sitting in the nosebleed seats of a game between two borderline expansion teams, telling anyone who would listen: "Yo, this violinist chick is CRAZY, son!"

And that's what it's all about - having fun, taking trips, treating yourself once in a while, doing things just because. Otherwise, life gets monotonous - kind of like watching NASCAR for six hours straight (shout-out to my people in the red states). Not many people would drive 3 hours roundtrip to watch a bad basketball game, but strangely enough, it turned out to be a night that I'll remember for quite some time. Now I'm not saying you should hop in the ol' AMC Gremlin and head to an NBA arena near you, but if you do... don't sit too close to the court. Somebody might come into the stands and punch you in the mouth.

the monroe doctrine - 08.01.04

Two weeks ago, for only the second time in my adult life, I had to go to a laundromat to wash clothes. Both occasions were due to the fact that the washing machine at home decided to go on strike for about a week. Nevertheless, instead of running out to Best Buy to purchase a new washing machine (which I was prepared to do - I have a habit at throwing money at situations to make them go away), I gathered up some courage and took a trip to the nearest laundromat. Here is my story:

10:11 - I arrive at the Monroe Speedwash and, to anyone paying attention, I immediately appear to be out of place. Looking like a laundromat newbie, I'm lugging a plastic trash bag full of my dirty jeans and unmentionables into the place. All of the Speedwash "regulars" have these elaborate laundry hampers with wheels on them. Suckers... a plastic bag works almost as well AND you get a workout in the process.

10:13 - The washing machines only take quarters and sitting next to the change machine, is this older woman who seems normal except for the fact that her arms are disproportionately shrunken and shriveled up. It's kind of hard to explain, but the fact was that she had the arms of an 80-year-old on a 55-year-old body. Trust me - it was strange. And who would have guessed it, as the quarters are falling into the change slot, she blurts out "They never give you extra, do they?" So of course, I have to nod at her - looking at her crazy arms yet again - and give her the "I'm only laughing to be polite since that wasn't even remotely amusing" laugh. I don't get it. If I had crazy arms, I'd never talk to anyone. That way, there's less of a chance of them looking at you and noticing your crazy arms. I'd also wear a lot of sweatshirts.

10:18 - The clothes are loaded, the detergent is in the machines, the quarters have been paid and the machines are humming. Now I kind of understand why people come to the laundromat - clothes look so hypnotic in these washers. I never thought that it would actually be cool to look at a soapy pair of boxers, but it is. And don't get me started onthe springtime fresh smell. I could sit here for hours and gaze into these little windows at khakis and t-shirts and socks just spinning and spinning and spinning and...

10:24 - Looking around the place, I notice a "No Loitering" sign. No loitering? Who in their right minds would hang around a laundromat? Do you just wait until someone leaves and start fishing into the washers and dryers that they used, hoping to score some loose change? I mean, really... Then again, they kids in my neighborhood stand around the Wawa all times of the day, but that's mostly to get someone to buy them a pack of cigarettes. What's even more amazing is that in my girlfriend's town, the kids there loiter in front of the Applebee's restaraunt. Don't ask me to explain - it's one of the mystery questions of life that doesn't really have an answer. That's like asking "Why is water wet?"

10:28 - Not much reading material at the Monroe Speedwash as the choices are Motor Trend, Auto Trader and Awake, the Jehovah Witness periodical. We had been discussing the Jehovah's Witnesses the previous day at work since they're having a meeting/revival of some sort right down the street from our building on campus. So out of curiosity, I started reading the Awake and settled a debate that we had at work - Jehovah's Witnesses do believe in Jesus. I thought about taking the Awake with me to use as proof, but it hit me that God (or I guess in this case, Jehovah) might consider that stealing. But I figured that it wouldn't be stealing if it was taken for a good cause, so I stuffed it into my bag.

10:31 - We're at the end of the spin cycle now. Clothes are so enchanting, just spinning and drying. Just spinning and drying... Faster Pussycat Kill! Kill!

10:33 - "Fix Your Mommy!" That's what one of the flyers on the bulletin board of the laundromat read - an advertisement for spaying your female pets. Another flyer read that the Monroe Speedwash sponsored a Little League team... three years ago. Yet another offered an apartment for rent that could house three people for $775/month with most utilities included. There was no mention of the apartment's pest problem, however.

10:37 - All done, and now I'm putting the wet clothes back into the bag to take back home to the dryer. Although the dryers spin and are enchanting as well, they are $.25 for every 8 minutes - and getting that additional change would have entailed passing by Crazy Arms again.

In a rare showing of intelligence, I brought an extra plastic bag with me to the laundromat since I knew that wet clothes weigh more than dry ones. So I put the dark clothes in one bag and the light clothes in the other. As you can see, that Temple University bachelor's degree is not going to complete waste.

A laundry hamper would have been the smarter move, however - as I was loading the clothes into the car, one of the plastic bags got caught on a sharp edge and the white clothes started spilling all over my (dirty, and not conducive to keeping light-colored clothes clean) trunk. The situation would have been avoided if I had just gone to Best Buy and bought a new washer. Then again, I wouldn't have had the opportunity to become entranced by the spin cycle. Things that rotate are cool to look at. Washers, Ferris wheels, spinning rims. It's true.

cutty buddy - 07.19.04

Until this afternooon, I hadn't been to the barbershop for the past five weeks or so - my resembalance to Our Gang's Buckwheat growing with each passing day. That is no longer the case, dear reader... Today, I got my first SuperCut.

The story leading up to my latest haircut is a long and detailed one, which I'll summarize here. About 2 months ago, the barbershop that I had been frequenting for years suddenly closed. Closed as in "we're moving to a different location without telling anyone - not even our regular clientele." One day as I was attempting to get my locks shorn, I parked in front of the shop as usual and noticed a flyer taped to the door. The flyer read that the shop had moved and for some strange reason, it only had the telephone number of their new location and not the address. And since I'm not one for using the phone, I decided then that my best (and only) course of action at that point was to continue driving by the barbershop every day until, by chance, they happened to put up a flyer with the ACTUAL ADDRESS like any sane business owner who would like people to know where they are would do. Two weeks of driving by each day after work hoping for flyer #2 ultimately proved to be fruitless, so I had to begin the search for another barber.

Fortunately (or so I thought), there is another barbershop less than a mile away from my house named Jordan's. Originally, the building it's housed in served as a doctor's office of some sort, but it was renovated several years ago and turned into a barbershop. Actually, I used to frequent the place when it first opened, but at that time there was exactly ONE barber on staff and waiting for a haircut would take hours. A few months ago, the entire building was purchased by a different owner, renovated again, and is now a fully functioning barbershop with six barbers. That is, whenever they decide to show up.

Mon.-Tues.: 8 a.m.-8 p.m. That was the first thing that caught my eye when I drove past Jordan's and looked at the hours of operation sign next to the front door. For a barbershop, at least a black-owned one, it is unprecedented for it to be open on a Monday at all and especially that late at night. And, according to the sign, it was open until midnight on the weekends. I now basically had no excuse for not being able to find the time to get a haircut. As luck would have it, I had the following day (Monday) off from work, so I figured I would give it a shot.

I showed up at Jordan's at 9 (I like to give people time to settle in and do whatever before I run up on them with my problems. I don't like it when people call me 5 minutes after I show up at work, so I try to extend that courtesy whenever I can). Of course, there were no signs of life when I arrived. I came back around 10:30 - still nothing. I drove past the place yet again around 12 - nada. At 10 minutes to 3, I decided to give them one last chance and lo and behold... they were open! Not only were they open, but there was a grand total of ONE barber actually working! Fortunately, he had no customers when I arrived, so I was able to get in and out rather quickly. And I must admit, that was one of the better haircuts that I've gotten in a while (it should have been since it was $15 plus tip), but the whole "What Time Will the Barbershop Open?" game left a bad taste in my mouth.

So fast-forward to today - I'd gone more than a month without a haircut and I was due to visit my girlfriend (who isn't a big fan of the grizzly look) in less than a week. So, I decided to give Jordan's a shot. And who would have guessed it, at quarter after 6 tonight (a Monday) the shop was locked up tighter than Martha Stewart's cell after lights out. No go.

So I did the only thing I could do. I drove to the nearest strip mall - one that boasts an Acme (a local supermarket chain), a Blockbuster Video store, Spanky's Liquors and my new favorite barbershop: Supercuts.

I guess Supercuts actually isn't a barbershop, per se, but rather a "salon." Salons are much like barbershops, except that in salons, they "style" hair with gels and creams that come in bottles with labels that say Paul Mitchell and Nexxus.

After much consternation and staring through the window at the Paul Mitchell bottles, I walk into the "salon" and a cheery woman asks "How may I help you?" Come on, woman - look at me. You are working in a "salon", there is a Persian rug growing on the top of my head and you are asking what I need you to help me with. The witty answer would have been my asking for a pedicure, but my clever response was the following: "Uhhh... I need a haircut."

After hearing this, she disappears into the back and another woman comes out - my stylist Andrea, who has me sign in (Sign in? For a haircut?) before I sit in the chair. As she starts to cut my hair, she asks me some general "How are you doing?"-type questions and I'm noticeably short with my answers. I make it a point not to converse too much with barbers - I don't want them to lose focus and shave off a chunk of hair and/or ear by accident. Regardless, I learned a little bit about my girl Andrea from our one-sided conversation (English teachers call them monologues) - she lives in Philadelphia, yet works at a Supercuts in a strip mall over in South Jersey. Not only that, she requested to be transferred to said strip mall. Thinking about it now, I guess it makes sense to do the interstate commute that way since you'll never get caught in traffic.

But I digress. About eight minutes after I sat in the chair, I was done. And I must say, Andrea did a solid job on chopping the ol' wig off. And while it also cost $15 like Jordan's, there was no "voluntary" tip. Should there have been? Since I'd never been to a Supercuts before, I wasn't sure of the proper protocol, so I didn't give one. I have plenty of time to learn the salon etiquette, however - I took one of their frequent visitor cards and if I go there enough, my 10th haircut is free.

planet dumb - 07.09.04

A couple of days ago, I watched this documentary on HBO Family called Planet Twelve. Basically, the filmmaker followed around group of sixth-graders for a week to see what kind of things they get into in and out of the classroom.

What I found amazing was that this group of kids acted almost exactly the same as my friends and I did way back in the early 90s. There was the requisite fat kid who hung around his parents mostly since he wasn't one of the popular kids in school. There were the skaters, who pretty much kept to themselves. And there was the prettiest and most "developed" girl in the class who was basically hated on by the rest of the girls in school, most of whom couldn't even spell puberty at that point.

Watching that show brought back a lot of memories. I wasn't one of the nerds and/or outcasts back in the sixth and seventh grades, but I wasn't one of the more popular kids in school, either. I was kind of in the middle, not really gravitating toward any particular group. If anything, I hung out with the outcasts more than anyone else. I learned at a young age that at least with the outcasts, they'll shoot you straight. Even if you're one of the popular kids, when you aren't around, the other ones will talk about you regardless. And I know they had a field day with me, especially since my mother just thought I looked absolutely darling in tight corduroy pants and rust-colored sweaters. Not that I ever wore those to school. Often.

But I'll tell anybody who asks that I was a straight out moron back then. If it were possible, I'd create a mental block on the years between 1989 and 1992 due to all of the legendarily (yeah, that's a word) stupid things I got myself into. Like the time I had my gym shorts on backwards and, instead of doing the logical thing and fixing them in the bathroom, I tried to put my shorts on correctly in the middle of the hallway (which was empty at the time). Of course, one of my classmates - good ol' Maggie Flynn, I'll never forget her - comes strolling around the corner and catches me stripped down to my tighty whities. And even though she was the only one who actually saw me, that still took a while to recover from. These days, women would pay to see me in my underwear. Actually, they wouldn't really, but at least they wouldn't run back into the gym and tell half of the middle school that I exposed myself to them in the hallway. (Kids have a tendency to get facts wrong, don't they?)

There was also a time when my friends and I thought we were Navy SEALs and took up the practice of hiding in the boys' locker room for a half an hour each day before homeroom. The thing was, we didn't hide in there to scare anyone or to do anything secretive - we just got our jollies hiding in the shadows of the shower stall, whispering to ourselves. Our clandestine activity only lasted for about three weeks when we were caught by one of the gym teachers after we mistakenly stayed in there way past the homeroom bell. I expected that he'd give us detention on general principle just for being that stupid - he just told us never to do it again and made sure to check the locker room door when he came in each morning.

And those are just a couple stories from my time spent on Planet Twelve (and Planet Thirteen, Fourteen, etc.). There are more, but I'll save those for another time. I don't want anyone to get the wrong impression. I don't do stupid things like that anymore. Often.

'which way is up' or 'westward ho!' - 07.07.04

I doubt that there is an award for it, but I am almost positive that I am one of the most directionally-challenged people in the history of the world. I would argue that it is a viable impairment and that I should qualify for the usage of handicap parking. I'm serious.

I'm not sure how I became this way. Maybe it's due to the fact that I've only been driving for about five years now. Before I had a car of my own, I didn't need to know how to get where I was going. So most times, I would just climb into the passenger seat, doze off and wake up somewhere new, having no clue as to how I got there. Now I have to be the one responsible for getting from point A to point B. So unless it's somewhere I go all the time, I jump on Yahoo! Maps and print out directions.

Just last week, I actually looked up directions to a store I'd driven to before. The thing was, I'd never driven there before directly from my house - the one time I went there, I had to pick up a friend first. My mother may have something to do with that. Dozens of times while she's been out shopping, she's come all the way home just to go back out to another store. That's because most places she goes, she only knows how to get there starting from our house. Strange, but true.

Perhaps it is a product of the environment - no one around here seems to know directions either. When summertime rolls around here in the Delaware Valley, the most popular weekend destination is "down the shore." Down the shore? What exactly does that mean despite the fact that it is grammatically incorrect? Do you plan to travel the entire length of the New Jersey shoreline in one weekend? The shore isn't even really down - you can actually reach the shoreline by just traveling east. (Note: "Down the shore" NEVER refers to the Delaware shore line, despite the fact that Cape Henlopen is always mentioned in the beach report on the news.)

Regardless, I can't give and/or follow directions to save my life. If someone were to ask me what route I take from my house to the train station each morning, this is what I'd tell them:

"OK, so you drive down my street until you can't go straight anymore and then you take a left. Then at the next light, you make a right. Then you drive on that road until you go over a set of railroad tracks and you make a left at the next light. Take that road until you can't go straight anymore and then you make a left. At the next light you make a right and then you're on Route 30. Take that until you pass a 7-11 that has a gas station and make a right at that very next light. And right there in front of you is the train station."

Notice that there are no street names in the above description whatsoever. That's because I don't know any. Sure - they exist, but names like "New Brooklyn-New Freedom Road" and "Gibbsboro-Haddonfield Road" are meaningless to me. I should probably learn them, however. I know one day, my car is going to break down on one of those roads in the middle of the night and I'll have no clue how to tell AAA or Roadside Assistance how to find me. "Yeah, I'm on that road that has that liquor store right next to the railroad tracks. The one that's down the street from that garden store. Yeah... can you help me out?"

My impairment extend far beyond the Delaware Valley, however. When people ask me about my girlfriend, I tell them that she lives in Connecticut and invariably I point to the sky. Granted, by pointing in the air I obviously mean "North", but why am I pointing in the sky? Connecticut isn't in the sky. Heaven is in the sky and New Haven, CT is about as far away from Heaven as you can get -trust me. Then again, signifying North by sticking an index finger up in the air is far easier than using a compass to plot my axis in relation to the sun and giving directions that way. I'm not Magellan.

good times - 09.25.03

"Don't you lick me... I mean, like me.... LOL"

That was the full text of a Yahoo! greeting e-mail I received at work about two months ago. While I don't have the most common last name, I do occasionally get messages intended for someone else. But this was the first time I ever got something as provocative as this.

I wasn't sure what to do with it at first. I considered writing the sender back and politely inform her that she had me mixed up with someone else. The tone of her e-mail, however, told me that this woman is more than likely a "Good Time Girl" (GTG), and that dirrrty pictures could be forthcoming. So that was not an option.

Of course, one possibility was that I could write her back and pretend that I'm this other guy who licks and/or likes her. But if I slipped up, then the whole ruse would be blown, and she could even track me down if she's computer savvy. So I decided to do nothing and see what would happen.

A month ago, I (mistakenly) received this from the GTG:

"I just got a little too excited in that brief moment - you can't come into my office."

You can't make this stuff up, man. The thing is, after receiving this message, I was able to figure out exactly who she is. What's even more weird is that I've actually met her before, but that was before I knew she was the "Good Time Girl" and down for whatever. I haven't seen her since, but the next time I catch her on campus, I can't help but have unclean thoughts running around in my head. It's like when a friend of yours tells you about someone that they slept with - you can never look at that person the same way again.

cuentito simpatico - 09.24.03

"Buenos Dias!"

That's how the housekeeping lady greeted me earlier today as she came into my office to empty the trash can. Not "hello" or "good morning", but "buenos dias!"

Apparently, the normal woman who comes around to our office is out today, and Isabella or whatever her name tag read, was filling in for her. After the unconventional (to me, at least) greeting, all I could offer her was a simple "Hey." That's when the lesson began:

    Isabella: No, buenos dias. That's how you say "good morning." Buenos? (waits for me to repeat after her) Buenos?

    Me: Uhhhh, buenos.

    Her: Dias.

    Me: Dias.

    Her: Si.

    (She pauses for a moment to empty the trash.)

    Her: Buenos dias, OK? Good morning. Buenos?

    Me (getting irritated at this point): Buenos.

    Her: Dias.

    Me: Dias.

    Her: Buenos dias! Right! Have a good day!

Come on now - I don't come to work and expect a Spanish class to break out. That's like having the guy who comes to fix your washing machine give you a hair cut on the side. If you are assigned to do job X, then you do job X and move on. That's why they're called "occupations" - something to keep you occupied so you won't go spouting off about non-important things like basic Spanish greetings.

Besides, I know what "buenos dias" means. Any kid who has watched more than 3 episodes of Sesame Street has enough knowledge of the Spanish language to order food, ask for directions and make plane reservations at the "aeropuerto." So I think Isabella underestimated me. Si, yes I do.

sunday night... sulking - 09.14.03

Somewhere near the intersection of Broad and Pattison Streets in South Philadelphia, there is an abandoned green and silver vehicle adorned with Eagles stickers. A few weeks ago, it was known as the Philadelphia Eagles' bandwagon, but it's apparently been left for scrap.

As I'm writing this, the Eagles are getting pounded on for the second consecutive week, this time by the New England Patriots. I actually turned the game off about 10 minutes ago after Donovan McNabb threw an ugly interception as he tried to lead a comeback with the Eagles down 24-10. It was the first time I actually turned off an Eagles game in recent memory, and I felt a bit bad about "giving up" on my team until I read the following as I followed the play-by-play online:

"Donovan McNabb (PHI) pass right side intercepted by Tedy Bruschi (NWE). Returned for a 17 yard touchdown. Extra point by Adam Vinatieri (NWE) is good."

This is ridiculous, man. A team picked by many to go to the Super Bowl this year has been utterly embarassed twice in the past seven days on their home field. Can't run, can't pass, can't score and can't stop anybody else from scoring. But other than that, they're a stellar football team. This entry has no point, I just need to rant about my hometown team for a...

Hold up, something else just happened:

"Philly fumble by Donovan McNabb (PHI), recovered by Anthony Pleasant (NWE), 13 yard return."

Well, at least the Patriots didn't score again. Yet. Sorry for the lack of optimism, but when your city hasn't won a championship in any major sport (lacrosse doesn't count) in over 20 years, you kind of expect the worst at all times.

The thing is, my alma mater isn't any better. Temple lost to Villanova in football last week. Villanova happens to be a Division I-AA program, which basically means their talent level is supposed to be inferior to most I-A programs. Didn't stop them from beating us, though.

So the thought of moving to a major city whose sports teams actually win titles is rekindling. Now, I'm also thinking of renouncing my ties to Temple (which I will now refer to as X University until the time is right) and claiming a new alma mater - a school that actually wins something. Any school not named Penn State should work just fine.

m.i.a. - 08.26.03

As you can tell, I haven't updated this page for a while. Most of that while was spent taking a creative writing class, the goal of which was to make me a better writer (or at least a more creative one). If nothing else, it at least got me into the habit of writing more frequently, so hopefully that will transfer over to the weblog (yeah, right).

Not much has changed in the past six weeks or so - I'm still an accountant, Quizno's still hasn't brought back the Chicken Carbonara sub and O.J. still hasn't found the real killers.

I must confess: one of the things that prevented me from updating this thing is something called the 2003 World Series of Poker. ESPN periodically puts on these eight one-hour episodes showing hundreds of people competing for $2.5 million in a poker tournament and for some reason, it's the most compelling television since the second season of The Real World. I barely even know how to play poker - especially not the fancy "No Limit Texas Hold 'Em" derivative that they played - yet I'm rooting for these guys like their friends of mine. After you spend a good amount of time with someone (even through the TV), you feel like you know them. It's like when you rooted for Richard Hatch to keep his pants on during Survivor.

(I have to admit though, I've been watching a WHOLE LOT of Making the Band II on MTV, hitting the bars quite frequently, and playing more than my fair share of Madden 2004 as well. My slacking crosses many boundaries.)

But all that's in the past. It's time to get back to work.

taking a page out of mj's book - 08.26.2003
I'm back.

independence day - 07.07.03

In honor of Independence Day, I propose that we all should take this opportunity to start thinking independently.

(Please note: the following rant was purely conceived via my inability to buy a box of hamburgers yesterday. Trust me, it'll make sense after you read the whole thing.)

At least a few times every winter, the weatherpeople on all the local stations collectively point to their SuperStormDopppler 10,000s and forecast "The Blizzard of the Century." Despite the fact that these weather folks are quite often wrong, there is an immediate rush on the local hardware stores (shovels, rock salt) and supermarkets (bread, milk and eggs) for the "essential" goods.

Why is this? Does no one have any extra rock salt around from the last "Blizzard of the Century?" You probably do 'cause chances are, the aforementioned blizzard was nothing more than a dusting on grassy surfaces. And the last time I checked, shovels don't disintergrate. So why is it that everyone seems to need a new shovel every time it snows more than three inches?

The mob scenes at the supermarket get me the most, however. It gets so hectic that they show in LIVE on the 6:00 news. And there's always a run on the same three items, as if no one has any excess bread, milk or eggs aside from what they have on hand today. I can picture the scene playing out in houses all across the area:

    Mother: "Now kids, since we're going to be stuck in the house for the next, oh... three days, how about we have a French toast party!!" (the Baker children erupt in squeals of delight.)

Well, I'll tell you why this happens. It's because we're all lemmings. Yep, at times we are nothing but mindless automations like the Stepford Wives, only reacting the way we're expected to react (I just saw the Matrix: Reloaded yesterday - isn't it obvious?). We HAVE to have French toast parties in a snowstorm because EVERYBODY has French (actually, freedom) toast parties. We HAVE to go to the beach on Memorial Day, the Fourth of July and Labor Day 'cause everyone else does. And we HAVE to duct tape our houses with big sheets of plastic to protect ourselves from gas attacks because that's what the people inside our TVs told us to do. We're too lazy to think for ourselves.

So now, I propose to buck the trend. Let's buy our shovels and rock salt in the summer when they're cheaper. Let's stock up on Ramen noodles in the winter so that if and when the storm hits, you'll have plenty of low-cost, high-sodium meals already on hand. And instead of eating hamburgers and hot dogs on the Fourth of July, let's enjoy fish and poultry so that those of us who just happen to go to the store two days after Independence Day aren't disappointed to find that all the hamburgers are gone from the shelves. Speaking hypothetically, of course.

immaculate reception - 06.27.03

I went to a Catholic wedding the weekend before last. Well... I didn't actually go to the wedding, but just to the reception. Apparently, attending the actual wedding is passe these days.

About last Wednesday, I was all set to go to the ceremony when my friend Matt (whom I was giving a ride to) told me that he would prefer to just attend the reception. I had never heard such blasphemy in my life, and told him that we were going to both the ceremony and the reception, and that was that. A couple of days later, my friend Lisa (who was also invited) said that she planned to just go to the reception as well. So, due to popular opinion, I decided not to go to the ceremony.

I thought that the wedding was mandatory and the reception was the part that's optional. I guess not. All I know is that if you don't come to my wedding, then don't come to the reception - unless you have a lot of money in the card. If I'm going to pledge my life away, I want you to be there to see it all go down.

I really wanted to go to this wedding, too. Not because two of my friends from college were tying the knot, but it was a chance for me to attend a Catholic church service. I've attended Baptist churches my entire life, so it's interesting to see how other denominations do it up.

I can only remember one other time I've been in a Catholic church and that was when my friend Derek got married last April. Other than the fact that you have to get up, sit down and/or kneel every five minutes, Catholic services aren't bad. But the following Monday, I sent out an e-mail to some of my Catholic friends 'cause I was slightly confused at times:

    I went to a wedding this weekend in a Catholic church (Our Lady of Mt. Carmel) - it was a beautiful thing. Now I understand why women cry at weddings. I didn't cry though. I have allergies. It was the first time I can remember being in a Catholic church, so I felt a bit out of place. And quite naturally, I have questions... I apologize if the questions seem overly simplistc, but you have to understand that I am completely ignorant of the Catholic church. I was raised a Baptist: singing, dancing and three-hour services that last well into the second quarter of Eagles' games. Anyway, on to the questions:

    1) What is a homily? Is that like the sermon part of the Mass?

    2) Where are the Bibles? There were blue books in the pews, but all I saw were songs in them. Are Bibles more of a Protestant custom?

    3) Communion: The priest only gave out the bread part and drank the wine himself. Is this normal? And do you have to go to confession if you take communion? I thought I overheard somebody say this.

    4) The Virgin Mary: At one point in the service, the bride and groom put flowers next to her statue - I assume this is for good luck. Is she (Mary) on the same level as the saints are? Catholics do pray to Mary, right?

    5) How does one become a Catholic? For example, if I wanted to become a Catholic today, what (if anything) would I have to do?

    I have more questions, but I don't want to seem like a pest. I'm just curious about things I don't know about.

So as you can tell, I know nothing about nothing about the Catholic church. That's why I wanted to go to the wedding a couple of weeks back. But I guess I'll have to go to a Mass on my own, since the ones associated with weddings are darn near off-limits. That's cool, though - Masses are so short, I could probably fit two of them in before an Eagles game.

dr. fad - 06.27.03

I've gone to a couple of Super Bowl parties in my day, and I've gotten together with the guys a few times to drink and watch a big fight, but if I EVER knowingly go to a "Sex and the City" party, then I deserve the Funny Cide gelding treatment because I am no longer a man.

In the local paper yesterday, they described a recent trend of people having Sex and the City parties, a show that I never really got into. From what I gather, it centers around four middle-aged white women in New York City who have a lot a money and are "free with their love." I can't exactly relate.

But even if I really liked Sex and the City, the fact that people actually hold parties for it would turn me off. Parties should be held for actual EVENTS, like graduations and birthdays and bat mitzvahs and things like that. A weekly TV show isn't an event. I don't like parties, anyway (but that's another entry for another time.)

I think it all boils down to this - I don't like things that other people like. My buddy Jay told me this a while ago, and I tend to agree. If I like something and all of a sudden, everyone else starts to like it, then I stop dealing with it. For example, I started watching the Sopranos and Oz from the very first episode, but once those two shows got real popular, I completely stopped watching them. Same thing with The Shield and Homicide.

I don't know what it is. I like to have my hidden gems that no one knows about. And when they do know about it, it's all of a sudden "corny" to me. The funny thing is, I tell people about these shows, and yet I get mad when people start watching them. Maybe I can chalk it up to the fact that no one listens to me 90% of the time, and when they do listen, it pisses me off. I don't know. I have that backwards logic working most of the time anyways.

(I got the title for this entry from this old Saturday morning show on CBS entitled - strangely enough - Dr. Fad. It was this science game show for kids and it was hosted by this Asian guy ("Dr. Fad" himself) who invented a toy called the "Wacky Wall Walker" - a spidery-looking thing that you threw against the wall and it would "walk" down to the floor. And since no one other than me actually remembers the show or the toy, I'll stop with the explanation now...)

random thoughts on a thursday afternoon - 06.19.03

Those Orbitz Flash animation pop-up ads are the coolest things in the world. I can't explain why, but they are. I can play them all day, and they aren't even real games.

Speaking of games: Bookworm on Yahoo! Games is the online version of crack. Play it - you'll see.

What is the big deal with this Harry Potter nonsense? I mean, come on now. It's a BOOK, people. I could understand if it was like The Bible or the Koran or something, but it's a story about a boy witch who rides brooms and plays Qudditch (or whatever it's called).

When someone starts a sentence with: "I am the least prejudiced person in the world..." that's when you can tune them out.

Are we still looking for weapons of mass destruction? Is Saddam still out there? Is Al Qaeda still out there? And what level of terror alert are we on today? They play these things up for about a week, and then they never seem to mention them again unless something big happens.

I thought the first Matrix was just OK, and I haven't seen the Matrix : Reloaded yet, but I watched the Animatrix and I was blown away. Now it all starts to make sense. I'm not the smartest man in the world - put things in cartoon form and I'll get it.

The NJ Big Game Lottery jackpot is $175 million. I have to get some tickets now, or as my friend Rob would say, "I think it's time to go pay the idiot tax."

tv land II - 06.13.03

My friend Paige sent this to me the other night:

"By the way, did you ever get the tv, or did you cave to the voice of reason (aka the little woman)?"

No one, and The Rock means NO ONE, can make me "cave" in to nothin'. So as I started writing this entry, I was watching Game 4 of the NBA Finals on my new HDTV. Dammit.

But of course, there's a story behind it. There's always a story with me.

As you probably know, I wanted this TV real bad for a while now. And of course I couldn't wait for them to deliver it to me. So I ordered it online and passed up on the free shipping option so I could pick it up at the local Best Buy. Stupid.

So the day after I bought it (last Monday), I drive to the store and go over to the pickup window to claim my booty. I registered for a Best Buy credit card online when I bought it (interest-free payments until January 2004!), so the only thing I had with me where the printouts of the bill. I showed them the receipt, and as they wheeled out the TV, the woman at the counter called up the credit department at the Best Buy national headquarters or something and told me I needed to talk to them before I could take my TV home. So she handed me the phone...

    Credit Lady: "We have to verify your identity, sir. What is your middle initial?"

    Me: "L."

    Credit Lady: "And are you the second?" (asking if I was a junior)

    Me: "Yup."

    Credit Lady: "OK... do you have a car loan?"

    Me: "Yup."

    Credit Lady: "And who does your financing?"

    Me: "Uhhhh.... Chase Automotive."

    Credit Lady: "Great.... now I see you have a credit card. With what bank is that card?"

She stumped me there. I had no clue what bank I paid whenever I send in the Mastercard bill. I don't even send in the bill, I do it all online (which reminds me - I still have to pay this month's bill) and the name of the Web site has nothing to do with Mastercard. So I'm sitting at the pickup counter in Best Buy, stuttering and stammering into the phone for a good ninety seconds ("uhhh... no, that's not it... errr") until it occurred to me to actually look at the card itself. MBNA America.

And that was that. I handed the phone back to the woman at the counter and I was verified. By this time, the guy who brought my TV from the back had already put it onto a flatbed cart. You know, as many times as I read and re-read and re-re-read all the specs, I skipped over the most important number:

Weight: 100.3 lbs.

The sumbitch is huge. As I'm wheeling the cart out into the parking lot, I'm swerving into traffic as the weight of the TV is throwing me completely off. I get over to my car and try to put it into the back of my trunk, but it doesn't fit. So I had to take it out of the box and try again. There was a guy who pulled in a couple of spots away from my car who I COULD have asked to help me, but pride got in the way of that.

So on the second attempt to put the TV in the trunk, I feel it slipping out of my hands. "Don't you break on me you... big... piece... *gasp* of... *pant*... don't fall... no..."

Thump. I get it into the trunk just as it was about to fall. I try to close the trunk (a bit too violently, I guess) and lightly graze the top of the TV. It now had a battle scar, but at least the trunk was shut.

But then, we had a problem. I had to put the box in the trunk as well. For the mail-in rebate, I needed the UPC code from the box, and instead of it being on one of the ends where I could just rip it off, they put it on two separate panels right in the middle of the box. And I left my survival kit at home, so there was no way to cut it out of the cardboard. So I had to bust out the origami skills and fold the box up so I could stick it into the trunk.

Click. That was the sound I didn't hear. No matter how I folded the box, the trunk wouldn't latch. It would shut, but the open trunk light was still on. And I had no choice but to leave it like that. The whole ride home (about 20 minutes), I'm driving well below the speed limit, looking back into the truck every time I hit the slightest little bump.

I could of avoided most of this if I had just called up one of my cousins ahead of time and asked them to help me get the TV, but noooooo.... I had to be impatient.

But it's all good. The TV is hooked up, I got an upgraded cable box from Comcast (another minor story itself), and the picture is lovely. The thing is... there's nothing on. Besides HBO and PBS, the only time high-definition shows come on are specials like the NBA Finals. I feel like I'm all dressed up and there's nowhere to go. But at least the video games look all pretty like now.

r.i.p. chicken carbonara - 06.10.03

Up until yesterday, Quizno's was the greatest sandwich store in the history of all time. But that was before they got rid of my baby.

Chicken Carbonara (b. 2002 - d. 2003)
All white meat chicken strips, melted mozzarella cheese, bacon, mushrooms, spices, creamy bacon alfredo sauce

When I get to the train station after work each day, there's a Quizno's about 10 minutes down the road in the opposite direction from my house. Since it's a bit out of my way, I usually only go there when I'm not in a rush to get home. But yesterday, I was jonesing for some Quizno's something fierce, so I took a trip there to grab a couple of sandwiches.

So I get there and order a Chicken Carbonara and I'm told the following: "This is the last day we're offering the Chicken Carbonara. They're not making the sauce anymore."

WTF? I felt like I just took a kick to the groin. Well... maybe not that bad, but I still felt sick. Why would you take the best sandwich off the menu? That's like McDonald's getting rid of the Big Mac or Honda no longer selling the Accord. It makes no sense.

The thing is, they pulled it from the menu before and caught heat for it. Here's an excerpt from a Quizno's press release (I did my research on this - I'm pissed):

"The Chicken Carbonara was introduced in 2002 for a limited time only. Once the sub was removed from the menu, customers called and emailed Quiznos asking that the restaurant chain bring it back to the menu. "We got numerous requests from customers that the Chicken Carbonara be re-introduced to the menu on a full-time basis," said Quiznos spokesperson Stacie Lange. "People told us this was the best sub they've ever tasted and that they craved for more."

So they brought it back for a short while and took it from us again. And the supposed reason ("They're not making the sauce anymore") is the lamest thing I've ever heard. If whoever makes the "special sauce" (which is really nothing but Thousand Island dressing) for the Big Mac suddenly went out of business, please believe that Ronald and Grimace wouldn't STOP making the Big Mac. Come on now.

But sure enough, if you go on the Quizno's Web site today (I would link you, but they don't even deserve the traffic), the sandwich is no longer listed. I'm almost tempted to start another write-in campaign RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW on my Web log, but since no one actually reads this, then it would probably be a waste of time.

Goodbye Carbonara... for now, at least.

tv land - 06.03.03

This is my new TV.

I told my girlfriend that I was thinking about buying it and she said that it was impractical. Of course it's impractical, it's a $700 television. But I want this TV. I need this TV.

Well, I don't actually NEED the TV, since I just bought one about two and a half years ago. The one I have now also happens to be a 27" Samsung and it's holding up pretty well. But this is a high-definition TV.

I'm not sure what high-definition means other than "the picture is really, really clear." Supposedly, the TV I want has a "3-line digital comb filter" and "Pro Chip Plus de-interlacing progressive-scan", but as long as it looks really cool when I'm playing my video games, I could care less.

On Saturday, I made a trip to Best Buy specifically so that I could look/stare/gape at the TV in person. At the Best Buy near me, the TV section is in the back right corner of the store, and they have 2 sales associates standing sentinel at the edge of the section, waiting to bombard you with sales pitches as soon as you violate their personal space. So, instead of meeting them head on, I did an end-around and somehow got behind them without being seen. Which was a good thing because I needed to look at the TV in peace.

After glancing at the plasma and LCDs TVs for a few minutes (those are at least a few years away...), I finally found what I came for. It was silver. It was beautiful. It was showing the Discovery Channel.

This was a slight problem - I wanted to see the TV showing something that I would actually watch. And since I have little interest in the polar ice caps of Antarctica, I couldn't get a good sense of the set.

I've been told by friends of mine that you could bring your CDs and DVDs into the store and that they'd play them for you so you could see how they look/sound, but I'm sure that if I'd actually did that, they'd laugh at me. And every time I came in after that, they'd point and whisper: "There's the guy who wanted to test out that Jenna Jameson DVD on the Sony Wega last week!!"

Nevertheless, I still plan to get the TV. Especially since there's a $100 mail-in rebate (actually a Best Buy gift card, but still...) I've been impractical for the past 24 years, so there's no reason to stop now.

redemption song - 05.28.03

On Saturday, during a rare room cleaning session, I came across a bunch of loose change. Since I was broke and didn't have anything better to do, I started to count up all the quarters I could find so that I could take them to the coin redemption machine at my bank. Pretty soon, my dresser was covered with stacks of quarters - my sock drawer was literally a treasure trove of good fortune. So the next day, I go to my bank with my sack of two-bit pieces and walk over to the coin redemption machine.

(Note: this was on a Sunday and my bank - Commerce Bank - actually has lobby hours from 11:00 to 4:00 on Sundays. How amazing is that? Most banks *cough* First Union *cough* close at 3:00 DURING the week. If I didn't live in the Delaware Valley, I would move here just so I could use Commerce Bank. To any representatives of Commerce Bank that happen to be reading this - for an additional fee, I will use my Web log to pimp your bank as much as you'd like)

I had never used this machine before, but all I knew was that they didn't take out 8.5 percent (or more) like those thieving Coinstar machines. How are you going to charge me almost 10% just to count my money? But I digress...

The machine itself is called the Penny Arcade, and to help you navigate the on-screen menus, there's a character named... Penny Arcade. Cute. But cute didn't get the job done - I still got confused. At no point in the process did the screen flash and say "LOAD THE MACHINE NOW!!" like I was expecting. So I had to run through all the menus three times before I got it right.

And what made it even worse was that Penny told me that if I could guess approximately how much money I put into the machine (within a dollar), I would get an extra $1.99. I wanted that $1.99. I needed that $1.99. And I knew exactly how much money I had in the bag since I counted it myself. But since I misunderstood the directions the first time, it wouldn't let me take a guess. I looked for an Escape key so I could start all over, but it was no use. Damn you, Penny.

So anyway, I finished up, took the receipt to the counter, and got back a grand total of.... $54.25! And that was just in quarters - if I knew I had that much money lying around I would clean up more often. I think I'll wait until I'm broke again (a month from now) before I ask Penny to count my pennies, nickels and dimes. Coin redemption machines are great.

coming out party - 05.23.03

Hello everyone.... *clears throat*

I would like to take this opportunity to forego the remainder of my amateur career and enter my name into the professional writers' draft.

After much consideration, I feel that I am ready, both personally and professionally, to take my skills to the next level. I am tired of merely writing humorous anecdotes to friends and colleagues. No longer will a Pitas-branded Web site be the main source of my thoughts, beliefs and opinions. Therefore, I would like to make my services available to the plethora of writing houses, periodicals and any other publications willing to compensate me for my talents. I have been a starving artist for far too long.

Other than receiving minor recognition for writing projects in high school, I will admit that my list of achievements is really not all that impressive. But look at it this way - in most cases, professional sports teams draft players based on potential. And since that is the case, I feel that because I have the potential to be a popular, best-selling scribe, I should be rewarded as such. If Jayson Blair can get paid (and promoted!) by the New York Times for fabricating stories from the comfort of his own bed, then I should be given a chance to create works full of SUBSTANCE, HUMOR and, most importantly, TRUTH.

I would be remiss if I didn't take the opportunity to thank those who have helped me along the way. These people include family, friends and acquaintances - far too many to name individually, but take solace in the fact that you all are near and dear to my heart. It was your criticism and your inspiration that helped mold the man you see before you today.

As a newly christened professional writer, I am also now soliciting deals for pen and/or pencil sponsorships. Again, if an individual can get a $90 million contrat to wear a certain brand of sneakers before he ever stepped foot on a professional court, then I should be able to earn something for using a particular brand of writing implements that help to put my thoughts into written form. A computer sponsorship deal is also available - if anyone is interested in either of these opportunities, please feel free to contact my agent (which, at this point, would be myself).

Once again, I would like to thank everyone for supporting me in this endeavor, and I look forward to the challenges which await me in the future. Thank you.

moving day - 05.22.03

Over the past few days here in the office, we've been moving furniture and computers and file cabinets around every which way since we just had new carpet installed. I can't tell you how many Ethernet cords I've hooked up, how many surge protectors I've tripped over or how many USB mice have gotten lost in the shuffle.

Why is it that when you take stuff apart and put it back together, there are always extra pieces that don't seem to go anywhere? I swear, there are three extra surge protectors lying around in our office with no home. Now I know they go somewhere because they went somewhere BEFORE everything was unplugged. Now they are homeless.

Things also inevitably break when you put them back together. I was installing a computer tower underneath the desk when this metal bolt suddenly snapped of the metal swivel thing where the computer was supposed to go. I tool quick glance at the swivel, but I didn't see where to put the bolt back in, so I just put it in my pocket and took it home with me. If the computer hasn't fallen out yet, so I think I'm good.

They even let us dress down yesterday, but I was so used to the whole "business casual" dress code, I didn't know what to wear. I had to ask half a dozen times what I could get away with. I was told "no jerseys, no pinwheel hats, and no half-shirts" which pretty much eliminated most of my wardrobe, so I wore a basic T-shirt and a pair of jeans, and I was cool.

All this lifting and moving things around reminded me of all the times when I helped friends move out of various apartments/houses/dorm rooms. Thinking back, most of the times I've helped someone move, it's either been a woman (whom I tried to get with) or somebody who offered to pay me/take me out to eat afterwards. I honestly can't think of a time when I moved somebody "just to be nice." I guess that makes me a bad guy, doesn't it?

vengas conmigo b/w lazy bones - 05.15.03

US Airways and Orbitz and Hotwire and Priceline... I can't stand none of 'em.

Every week, they send me some "Super Saver Getaway" e-mail with specials on travel deals. Usually, it's some stupid flight I'd never need (Philly to Poughkeepsie, Hartford to Albany) but sometimes, they get you with some unbelievable deals.

On Monday, I got an e-mail from US Airways that offered roundtrip fares from Philadelphia to the Bahamas for $188. Now I've never been to the Bahamas, but I'm pretty sure that's a mighty fine deal. And to go along with that, they have hotel specials starting at $49/night, and if you stay at least two nights, you get a night free.

Now on the surface, that sounds like a good offer, right? But then they hit you with this: "Tickets must be purchased... by Thursday May 15, 2003." Excuse me? No one I know has enough money to decide to take a trip like this on the spur of the moment. Three days is not nearly enough time to decide whether or not you want to go to the Bahamas (Vegas is a different story, however). These people must think we have a thousand dollars just laying around, waiting until the next E-Savers message comes to our Inbox. Do they want me to be in debt? That's like playing with my emotions right there.

------------------------------------------------

I probably shouldn't say this aloud, but I think I'm finally getting out of the extreme laziness that has been plaguing me for the past... 24 years.

Check it out: this week alone, I submitted an entry to my first official short story contest (as opposed to the unofficial ones I've been busy entering). All my bills have been paid (a couple of weeks early in most cases), I've actually had thoughts (brief as they may have been) about cleaning up the house and not only that, but I cut the front AND the back yard in less than an hour and a half (it usually takes two hours or so). As my friend Paige would say, I rock.

It's odd, because it goes against my theory relating the weather to a person's productivity since it's been gray and drizzling outside for four days straight (weather theory in a nutshell: if it's really nice or really crappy outside, then a normal person's motivation to do work will decrease dramatically). Nevertheless, I keep on plugging. Now all I have to do is start updating this thing more often and then I'll be unstoppable.

(Note: as I type this, there's an 56 minutes before the end of the workday and I'm thisclose to packing it in. I guess the productivity run is done...)

hungry man - 05.12.03

I'm just now realizing that I've been going out to restaraunts a lot more than I used to. I find it somewhat odd because A) I have less money than I used to have and B) I hate eating in restaraunts in general.

Usually when I get hungry, I'm hungry AT THAT PARTICULAR MOMENT. That's probably why I'm such a fast food junkie. I don't feel like figuring out where to go, then driving there, then waiting to be seated, then waiting for your order to be taken, and THEN finally eating. A restaraunt is a place to go when you figure you'll be hungry an hour from whenever you make your plans.

But even more than that, it always seems like I get stuck with someone who falls into one of the following categories. So I don't think it's the establishment itself, but the whole experience that leaves a bad taste in my mouth...

Children
For some reason, childrens' bladders get amazingly weak once they step into a restaraunt. The last time I went out to eat with my four nieces and nephews, they went to the bathroom 13 times (I actually counted). That's 3.25 times per kid. No one needs to go to the bathroom that often, not even incontinent people who depend on Depends.

Not only that, but they (kids, not incontinent people) always seem to order the same things, regardless of the restaraunt. The kid could be 12 years old and still not take the time to read the menu. And you know they can read because you taught them how to. Regardless, you could be at Morimoto's or Emeril (BAM!) Lagasse's spot and the following conversation will inevitably take place:

    You: What do you want, sweetheart?
    Kid: Ummm.... spaghetti!!
    You: They don't serve spaghetti here. Here... *pushes menu closer to kid* ...they have flounder. I know you like fish.
    Kid: *stares at menu for two minutes, but reads nothing* Chicken fingers!! And french fries!!

Someone you are trying to impress
This might be the one I hate the most. When you go out to a nice establishment with someone you are trying to make a good impression on, that ruins the whole experience. The entire time, you're wondering whether or not you look stupid eating rather than just enjoying the meal. "Am I using the right fork? What's the right wine to go with this? Should I order dessert?" Nonsense. I say throw decorum out the window and conduct all dates/business transactions at a local cheesesteak joint. This isn't a "Miss Manners" competition, so eat, drink and be merry.

Former waitresses
I would add "former waiters" into the mix, but I don't think I know any personally, so I would just be speculating about how they act. But I know enough former waitresses to know that going out with them is usually bad news. For some reason, your tip has to right the sins of all the other bad tippers your waitress has had for the past week. I was actually told to tip 30% one time for what I considered "average" service. And even if the service is horrible, you still have to give over and above the industry standard 15%. I've heard everything from "maybe the chef is giving her a hard time" to "She's probably been working for the past 10 hours without a break" to "It's not her fault that the restaraunt is so busy tonight." I'm just waiting for the time when I go into a Friday's or someplace like that, get bad service and hear "Well, at least she has 37 pieces of flair!"

And the thing is, you have to up the tip regardless or else your former waitress friend will do it herself (and think of you as a cheapskate for the rest of the evening/week/relationship). So I dig a little deeper into the pocket. But I don't like it.

The Frugal Gourmet
Rule #1 when going out to restaraunts in groups: split the bill evenly. Even though you all might not have had the same thing to eat or drink, there is no need to be petty about it. It's the simplest edict in the world, yet there still are people out there who will snatch the bill up and begin to itemize what they ate. You know who they are - they always order the cheapest thing on the menu and only have water to drink. Heck, I used to BE that person until I realized that when among friends, everything evens out in the end. So there's no need to keep score. Cheap bastards.

justified - 05.09.03

For the longest time, I've been saying that anything you do before you turn 25 doesn't really count because you're young and stupid. Now, it seems that other people agree with me.

According to this study right here, most Americans "believe that becoming an official grown-up is a process that takes five years from about the age of 20."

See?? And some of you people think I just pull this stuff out of the air. There is logic behind it, I tell you. Flawed logic, but logic nonetheless.

The way I figure it, by the time you've spent two and a half decades on the planet, you either have personally gone through or know somebody who's dealt with just about every situation that life throws at you. So by that point, you should know the right course of action in most cases. Granted, you still can do the right thing and get burned, but if you choose to do the wrong thing, more often than not it should be because you're willing to take the risk rather than you not knowing any better.

So there you have it. So I figure I have a year left to "sow my wild oats" or do whatever until it starts to count. Pretty soon, I guess I'll be "all growns up" like Mikey in Swingers.

handy man - 05.01.03

I'm not what you would call a "tough guy", but there aren't too many times in my life when I felt completely intimidated. This weekend, however, was one of those times. On Saturday afternoon, I took a trip to the local Home Depot.

Full disclosure time: first off, let me state that I don't like Home Depot. Near the end of my senior year at Temple, I interviewed with them to be a part of their "management in training" or whatever they call it program. Now I was under the impression that the program was a corporate-type deal, but noooo... they start you out with a full rotation in the stores, working the floor. Now that didn't sound bad until they said that I could be putting in a good 55 hours/week, including weekends. At that point, I immediately lost interest, which is probably why I didn't get the job. I was doing good in the interview until that point, too. I had even done some Internet research on Home Depot before showing up. Tony Stewart drives their sponsored car on the NASCAR circuit, and I must have thrown his name out there like a dozen times in the 20-minute interview. I figured they'd be impressed that a young, black city kid like me could rattle off the names of NASCAR drivers (the good ol' boys!!!) at the drop of a hat.

But the thing that pissed me off the most was that they didn't even bother to call and tell me that I didn't get the job. I didn't want it, but I didn't want to sit around waiting for the no, either. So from that point on, Home Depot was on my bad list. Problem is, there's no good substitute for Home Depot. I mean there's Lowe's, but Lowe's is lame. That's like going to a minor league hockey game instead of going to see an NHL team. But I digress...

So anyway, back to Saturday. Every time I walk into Home Depot, it reminds me of the first time I went to New York City as an adult. Sure, I grew up in a large city (Philly), but New York is just so MASSIVE. Same thing with Home Depot: 100-foot high ceilings, bags of grass seed, sand, and rock salt, and aisles and aisles of tools I have no idea how to use. On this trip, all I had to get was a lock for my screen door.

My buddy Jay and I were talking about this the other day - every time we walk into one of these home improvement stores, we're always buying some little thing while there are guys in line behind us buying these huge things of wood. 2x4s, 2x6s, big sheets of plywood, you name it. And the wood isn't even painted. I would have no clue what to do with a piece of wood if someone gave it to me. I would probably just lean it up against my house to give people the impression that I INTENDED to do something with it. And if someone asked me why I left a 2x4 leaning against my house for the past two years, I'd stick my hand in my pants Al Bundy-style and just say something like: "Well, I'm probably going to build a deck or something one of these days.... hey, how about a beer?"

I wish I knew how to do handy stuff around the house, but I don't. I figure that's why God made carpenters. Jesus himself was a carpenter, so I'm pretty sure know He knew what He was doing when He didn't bless us all with the innate ability to hammer nails into a piece of wood. Unpainted wood, at that.

did you know? - 04.26.03

Partly because I'm lazy and partly because I'm in the mood to do something different, this entry is going to be a bit different than the other ones. Today, I'm taking a pa(i)ge out of someone else's book and going the questionnaire route. It seems like this questionnaire was geared toward women (what kind of shampoo do you use?), but I tried my best...

Name = Roy

Birthday = March 8, 1979

Piercings = None

Tattoos = None.... yet

Height = The driver's license says 6'0", but I'm probably closer to 5'11".

Shoe size = 14

Hair color = black (and nappy, hence the name)

Eye color = Hazel

Length = I guess this means hair length and not eye length (which would be stupid). In that case, it's really, really small. Like 2 centimers.

Last...

... movie you rented = I don't rent movies, but the last movie I bought was... *looks at stack of unopened DVDs* Red Dragon.

... song you listened to = Some 50 Cent/Eminem diss of Ja Rule I heard on the radio last night. Whatever the name of it was, it's hot.

... song that was stuck in your head = Pump it Up - Joe Buddens.

... song you downloaded = Jay-Z/Punjabi MC "Beware of the Boys"

... CD you bought = Thicke - Cherry Blue Skies

... CD you listened to = The Source Presents Hip-Hop - Volume 1

... person you've called = my buddy Rob from WV

... person who's called you = my boy John

Do ...

... you have a bf or gf = Yep

... you wish you could live somewhere else = Sometimes. Where, I'm not sure. Just away from here...

... you think about suicide = Nah

... others find you attractive = With the aid of alcohol, yes

... you want more piercings = More? Don't have any.

... you want more tattoos = See above.

... you drink = sure

... you do drugs = nope

... you like cleaning = *looks around at junky room* that would be a negative, Captain

... you like roller coasters = who doesn't?

... you write in cursive or print = usually print

For or against...

... long distance relationships = well, I'm in one now, so I would have to say yes.

... using someone = Definitely for it. I'm always looking for the "hook-up."

... suicide = nope

... killing people = I'm all about the death penalty. They need to use it more. But other than that, no.

... teenage smoking = no, but I'm not going to tell people how to live their lives.

... doing drugs = see teenage smoking answer

... premarital sex = well... people probably shouldn't do it, but I've done it before and I'll do it again. So I can't really say that I'm against it, can I?

... driving drunk = hell no, unless my boy Rob is doing the driving, in which case I want him to have had a couple of drinks (he tends to concentrate more that way)

... gay/lesbian relationships = It's not my cup of tea, but if you want to do it, then it's your call.

... soap operas = I used to watch Passions (long story) and Y&R, but I don't watch either one now.

Favorite...

... food = Mom's spaghetti

... song = It really depends on the mood

... thing to do = mess around on the Internet

... thing to talk about = sports

... sports = football and basketball

... drinks = Deer Park

... clothes = T-shirts and mesh shorts

... movies = Shawshank Redemption, Memento, Juice, Office Space, Do the Right Thing

... band[s] = The Roots

... holiday = Thanksgiving, only because it means multiple days off from work

... people = besides the family, probably my girlfriend

Have you...

... ever cried over a girl or guy = nope

... ever lied to someone = yep

... ever been in a fist fight = yeah, but it's been years since my last one

... ever been arrested = no

What...

... shampoo do you use = Head and Shoulders

... cologne do you use = Phat Farm

... shoes do you wear = black Lugz to work, Nike Air Max/Reebok Questions/Nike Prestos when not on the J.O.B.

... are you scared of = spiders, snakes and other animals that can kill you

... is your boss like = I plead the Fifth on that one

Number...

... of times I have been in love = one

... of girls I have kissed = A lot

... of guys I have kissed = none. Well... actually, I kissed my buddy on the forehead once, but that was on a dare

... of continents I have lived in = one

must be that time of the month - 04.24.03

About every 28 (or so) days, it happens. It's a natural fact of life and there's really not much you can do about it. You start to get these funny feelings in the pit of your stomach and you know full well that the next week is going to be a struggle.

Yes sir, everyone who gets paid once a month knows exactly what I'm talking about... *cue scary music here* the week before payday.

April 30th will mark the end of my first full month at my new job and, thus, the first 30 day period in years where I haven't cashed a check of some sort. My bank account is not looking pretty right now. This is all new to me (I must be going through "paycheck puberty" or something like that) and I have no idea how to react. Before, when I was getting paid bi-weekly, I would just blow most of my paycheck because hey, the next one was right around the corner. Now, I have to BUDGET my money because it has to last 4+ weeks. What kind of nonsense is that?

The thing is, they don't even give you the option to get paid every two weeks. You get paid on the last business day of every month and that's final. And when you do get paid, your money goes right back out the door to pay those bills that have been sitting on your dresser for weeks. So once you send in your money to pay the rent, the car note, the student loans, the phone bill(s), the credit card bill(s), the cable, the child support and the Playboy subscription, you're broke once again. For four weeks.

But what hurts the most is that I can't even really shop on eBay anymore. I want to buy the throwback jerseys and pinwheel hats that the cool kids are wearing nowadays (and I refuse to pay full price unless I have to), but I always think "Well, I have to wait until the first of the month if I want to bid on anything since I'm BROKE!!" This is ridiculous, man. I seriously need a little something on the side to supplement my income. I'm thinking about either panhandling on the weekends or donating plasma for money. If you have any suggestions, let me know. Thanks.

what easter means to me - 04.21.03

I don't know about anyone else, but the Easter holiday confuses me to no end, especially the fact that it's not even in the same month every year. I understand now that it's supposed to be about the resurrection of Christ, but when I was little, I had no idea what was going on. All I knew was that on Easter morning, there would be two baskets of candy on the dining room table - one for me and one for my sister - left for us by "the Easter Bunny" (I'll get back to him in a minute). And although the baskets were very presentable with their ribbons and fake strands of grass that looked like artificial turf, the candy inside my basket usually sucked. Aside from the industry-standard jellybeans, I always got stuck with a couple of those Cadbury creme eggs (which were nasty) and those pink and yellow bird-shaped marshmallow things (which were extremely nasty). My sister - being the oldest - always got the good candy like Reese's Cups and Sweet Tarts, so eventually I would just wind up raiding her basket for the good stuff.

Now back to the Easter Bunny. What in the world does a rabbit have to do with the resurrection of Christ? And why does he/she go house to house and leave things like Santa Claus and the Great Pumpkin do? And what is the significance of the eggs? Do rabbits lay eggs? I didn't think so until I saw a rabbit in my yard yesterday (true story):


    Mom: Did you see that rabbit sitting right next to our walkway?
    Me: Yeah, he didn't even move when I walked past. He's just sitting there.
    Mom: Go chase him away. He looks like he's going to lay eggs.
    Me: *thinks for a moment whether or not rabbits can actually lay eggs* I'm not going to scare him away. It's Easter!!
    Mom: Now he's going to lay eggs all over our yard...

Growing up, Easter always meant new clothes. Every year, my parents had to get me a new suit for Easter Sunday church services. Why they did this, I'm not exactly sure as I spent the majority of the 11:00 a.m. service snoozing away in the fetal position in one of the pews in the balcony of our church, wrinkling my new suit in the process.

The day also involved Easter egg hunts in the park after church, when I would look under rocks and benches and clumps of grass for hard-boiled eggs dyed with food coloring. After the hunt, I would always wind up eating whatever I found (I was a sucker for hard-boiled eggs) despite the fact that in most cases the dye had somehow seeped through the shell and made the egg white discolored.

These days, aside from the religious aspect, Easter is all about basketball and family gatherings, in that order. As a matter of fact, I skipped Easter dinner with the family yesterday so that I could watch the NBA playoffs. I figure that if basketball wasn't meant to be watched on Easter Sunday, they wouldn't have put it on TV. So I said my prayers and watched AI drop 55 on the Hornets last night. It was the best Easter I've had in quite some time.

just some thoughts - 04.17.03

Two weeks ago today, it was snowing here in the city of Brotherly Love. Yesterday, it was sunny and 85 degrees with nary a cloud in the sky. And I didn't want to go outside.

Some of you may not understand my "backwards logic", so let me explain. When you're at work and it's a nice day outside, the motivation to do any sort of work decreases dramatically. And if you choose to throw caution into the wind and take a trip outside to soak in some of the rays, that just makes it worse when you eventually have to go back inside (which you do because you want to get paid). You're sitting at your desk and the whole time you're wishing you were back outside checking out the beautiful babies. It's true and you know it.

So that's why I didn't want to leave my desk yesterday. Especially since as soon as I step outside the building, I run into a vast array of "attractive female college students." And what makes it worse is that in our office, we have this huge bay window that we can swing open and look down at all the students walking past our building. So I don't even have to go outside to see what's going on. It was like "Temptation Campus" out there.

So of course, I went outside anyway. And I went out looking for beautiful babies. And do you know how many I found? None. Now don't get me wrong, I saw plenty of women whom I found attractive, but keep in mind that I don't have the highest standards in the world - basically if you're under 50, weigh less than 400 pounds and have at least 75% of your original teeth, you make the cut. But that's another issue entirely.

In conclusion, the moral of the story is that if the weather is nice and you're at work, stay inside. Going outside is nothing more than a tease.

--------------------

I actually got some fan mail about this site. I have no idea how it happened, or how she even found the darn thing in the first place, but this was in my Inbox the other day (unedited):

hey there...I'm not sure why but I ended up reading your blog today...and I actually loved it...that "my fault" thing is prefect...I should do the same, at least your conscious must be feeling great now since you were a nice guy and apologized for all your mistakes to the world...wonderful idea...

well that's it...just wanted to tell I liked your blog...

xxoo from a brazilian "fan" of your ideas...

Bye =)

To be honest, I got this about six weeks ago, but I held off on writing about it until now. I thought that I'd be deluged with mail...

"Hey Nappy, you're the effin' man! I want to ("sleep with"/bone/sex) my female friends too!"

or

"Dear Nappy. You are the dumbest, most insensitive man in the world, but your blog is very entertaining."

But all I got was the one message. That and frequent reminders from my cousin to update my site. Other than that, the well is dry. Maybe I need to tick some more people off.

By the way, I wrote that Brazilian chick back, but I didn't get a response. I think she thought I was trying to hook up with her or something. Now I don't have a problem with long-distance relationships, but Brazil is totally out of the question.