28 August 2011

On the edge

As this Sunday draws to a close, it is more than apparent that we are on the edge here in the Den.  We are not on the edge of glory, no matter what that fourth or fifth sign of the Apocalypse, Lady Gaga, has to say about it.  Nor are we on the edge of a cliff pondering our next move, like the unicyclist in the picture.

Instead, we find ourselves on the edge of significant change.  I've been alive long enough and have survived more than a few "change management" seminars at work to know that change is essentially one of the few constants that we have in life.  And we are getting a large serving of change this upcoming week. 

First, Our Lady of BYU, my first-born, marries Awesome on Thursday.  They will begin a new life as a family of two, with us, and all sorts of other folks, cheering for them from the sidelines.  This is an exciting time for them.  It's a very, well, interesting time for us.  I'm still processing this change in our lives.  The stunningly patient and mighty fine SML is in a much better state than I am, but then, when isn't she?  It's going to be a great week, seeing family and friends, and watching these two kick off their new life.  It really is going to be good.

And then, after bidding farewell to Our Lady, I then have to say good-bye to CAL.  She won't be coming back for several months as she embarks on her freshman year of college.  She's all kinds of ready and she's going to do great.  I'm really excited for her.  But it's going to be tough to say good-bye, even if it's only for a few months.

And then there's the Boy.  He'll be the King of the Castle.  He'll also be turning 16.  That's a whole new fun dynamic.  And my insurance company couldn't be more excited about this birthday.  I think they are building a new lounge at their HQ with our premium increase.  I think that increase is the real reason to be on the edge.

27 August 2011

The Food Truck Social

The pasty that started off the Social.
With CAL leaving for university next week, she's been asking for one last gulp of life in the big, vibrant city before she moves to the little town (pop. 26,000) that she'll be calling home.  She's heading to a place where the big excitement is heading to Idaho Falls for all-you-can-eat salad, soup, and bread sticks at the Olive Garbage Garden.  It was easy to say yes to her request because the Food Truck Social was going on today downtown.

Food trucks are making a name for themselves, in spite of the totally inane Food Network show about them, across the country.  Chefs on these trucks are doing some amazing things.  I follow a slew of them on Twitter and have been able to sample a few of them in New York and Portland.  However, in my own backyard, the food trucks have a bit of a rough go.  Why?  Because in Chicago, the ROM (Restaurant Owners Mafia) have decided that food trucks are a serious threat to their business.  They have worked over our politicians, who are genetically programmed to be difficult and/or corrupt (Exhibit 1 - Blago and his hair), so that they've passed ordinances that state food trucks can't make food on the trucks.  The food has to be prepared in off-site kitchens.  WHAT?  Now I'm no lawyer (remember, I chose NOT to go to law school 21 years ago) but that's the jist of the situation here and I believe the legal term for it is: CRAZY.

Anyway, knowing that the Social was supporting Share Our Strength and would give us the chance to sample as many of the trucks that were there as wanted, we headed in to the city for an awesome lunch.  It was a beautiful day to sample the five trucks we hit:
  • Bridgeport Pasty - the Boy and I started here, with chicken pot pie pasties.  As soon as I get off the Heathrow Express in London, I grab a pasty from a vendor in Paddington.  I love them and the one I had this afternoon was a delight.  The pasty was infused with curry and that seasoning made even the peas taste better.
  • Isla de Cafe - CAL got a sandwich here that she described as a "delicious Puerto Ricany seasoned ham sandwich.
  • Tamale Spaceship - SML more than made up for last night's restaurant selection debacle when she got in line here.  Once we saw the menu, the Boy and I decided that the pasties we'd eaten earlier were nothing more than mere palate cleansers and we joined SML in the long line.  SML had the rajas tamal, the Boy had the pork, and I had the Complicate Tamal de Carne.  Flank steak.  Oaxacan Black Mole.  This mole was essentially the best mole I have ever tasted.  Amazing.
  • Starfruit Cafe - this was one of several dessert trucks.  The Boy stopped here for kefir-infused mango yogurt, topped with milk-and-honey granola.  Apparently he was channeling a Lilith Fair attendee but that being said, it was good.
  • Flirty Cupcakes - the name may be a lot little lame, but their cupcakes are anything but lame.  They were terrific.  The "No Plain Jane" that I had was nowhere near plain.  The Italian Vanilla Buttercream Icing was fantastic.  Five stars here.
Suffice to say, we had a good day in the city.  It was great for the four of us to join a couple thousand other folks for a food truck-apolooza.  If you've got food trucks in your city, support them.  They are doing some great things, things that make people happy.  See below:
Yeah, that's the tamal.  Bliss, people, bliss.

It's been a good day.  Life is good.  No, life is excellent.

26 August 2011

You won't be picking the restaurant again.

A couple of lessons were learned tonight here in the Den.  After an epic struggle that lasted nearly two hours to mow the lawn, lesson #1 was learned.  Don't put off mowing the lawn one more day.  It's amazing how much it can grow in 24 hours.  I swear I mowed down more than one 'Audrey' from "Little Shop of Horrors" this afternoon cutting through the over-grown grass.  Part two of the first lesson - consider a lawn service.

Lesson #2 came courtesy of my reason for being - the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML.  After the Great Lawn Mowing Smackdown of 2011, we decided to go out to dinner.  Faced with the usual quandry of where to go, SML suggested we go to a restaurant one of her patients recommended.  Without thinking, I concurred.  This was the wrong, wrong, wrong thing to do.  Why?  Consider this - SML's average patient is 900 years old.  Methusaleh would feel right at home at her practice, assuming of course he still had his teeth.  Sad experience has taught me that people of that age like to A) eat at 4:30pm and B) like places like this:
No good can come from this, except for a powerful, yet unwelcome, intestinal cleansing.
Throwing caution to the wind, we headed to the place her patient had recommended.  Caution should not have been tossed aside so carelessly.  The exterior of the place suggested "cafeteria."  The interior did not.  The interior, an homage to late 60's/early 70's interpretation of an English pub, suggested, no, screamed, Mike Brady and Sons Architecture.  An abundance of wood paneling.  Lots and lots of English family crests on the wall.  Chain mail dividing the bar from the restaurant.  Naugahyde-covered booths.  And can I just tell you, these booths had seen better days.  I sat down and plunged into a crevasse created by more than forty years of overweight hind ends and let me tell you, there would be no getting out. 

The place was packed with locals, many of whom were going wild as it was a bit past the usual 4:30pm dining hour.  Maybe because it was all you can eat Friday Fish Fry.  I opted for the loin burger.  Yes, loin.  I think it was prepped with loving care with these ingredients:
Based on CAL's reaction to her meal and SML's to hers, I actually did OK with mine.  Suffice to say, we laughed a lot.  It was a lot of fun.  We bounced our way out of the booth, paid dearly, for our meal and off we went.  We did determine the following:  SML is taking a time-out from restaurant selection for the time-being.

So I think that tomorrow we'll head into the city to hit the Food Truck Social.  One last hurrah in the city before CAL heads to university.  It's supposed to be beautiful tomorrow too.  At least we're not putting up with this Irene nag.  If you're anywhere near her path, get out the way!

21 August 2011

A year ago...two years ago...and eleven days from now.

A year ago at this time, I was in Houston for a work-related conference.  This year, I'm home.  It's the first time in 12 years that I am not attending that conference.  It's a little weird to not be there, to be honest.

Two years ago at this time, I'd just arrived at that same annual conference, this time in the Nirvana that is San Diego, after making a stop in Salt Lake City to buy the "college" car for our children.  Our Lady of BYU was the first recipient of that car.  Two years ago, she was a mere sophomore at BYU, with hardly a care in the world.  Two years ago, CAL was entering her junior year of high school and was trying to decide what schools to apply to, following the same rite of passage as her other classmates.  Two years ago, the Boy was just entering the 8th grade and working on having the same-day detention room named in his honor (he liked to "chat" in middle school).  Two years ago, our home was a little different than what we have today.

In eleven days, the Boy will be through his third week of his sophomore year and he will be set to assume his position of "King of the Castle" as his sisters will have moved out.  In eleven days, CAL will be one state away from her new home at her university on the precipice of her freshman year.  In eleven days, Our Lady of BYU will be marrying Awesome.  Her life will be changing completely and we couldn't be happier for her.  Really.  The more she talks about Awesome and seeing the decisions that they've made, it reaffirms what we've known - that these two are going to be wonderful together.  With her permission, I'm giving you a sneak peek of the bride:
In eleven days, I'm going to be an emotional train wreck.  Right now, I'd say I'm more of an emotional hazard, but epic shall be the wreck on 9/1/11.  In eleven days, I've got to come up with a new blog name for Our Lady.  Maybe I'll focus on that for the next few days...

Yep, things are changing here in the Den.

18 August 2011

The Institute Dance Debacle

This blogging thing has "introduced" me to a lot of talented, insightful, and funny bloggers/people.  One of them can be found at The Craig Report.  One of his recent posts, a musing on his daughter's first Church dance, which can be read here, made me laugh and it got me thinking about an experience I had at a Church dance twenty-four years ago.

I'd been off my two-year mission for about two weeks and I was going to make my way back into the real world, ready or not.  I foolishly determined I was ready to go to a dance.  A dance at the local Institute of Religion at ASU

To say that I was nervous as I drove to this dance would be an epic understatement.  The only physical contact I'd had with a female, any female in the last two years was a handshake.  The counsel that my mission president had given me in my final interview with him about girls was rattling, no, careening about in my head. 'Elder, be careful with the ladies.  Just be careful.  They are a lot more aggressive now.'  Something to that effect.  Making matters worse was the fact that my best friend was still on his mission and I'd be going to this dance solo.  No good was going to come from this.

So I get to the dance.  It was a typical early September night in the desert wasteland that is Arizona- murderously hot.  The dance was outside.  I make my way in and through the crowd, eagerly searching out a spot to observe the shenanigans.  Now remember, I've not danced in two years, and I was never much of a dancer to begin with.  Watching the crowd move to the latest from Madonna, or whoever it was, was overwhelming and terrifying at the same time.  I was certain everyone could tell I was a freshly returned dope off his mission.  And they probably could.  Anyway, as I scanned the crowd, I saw a girl I recognized from the dorms (long live Deseret Towers!) my freshman year.  Hallelujah!  I made my way over to her and we got reacquainted.  Figuring I knew her, she'd be the ideal way to ease my awkward entry back onto the dance floor, so I asked if her if she'd like to dance.  Here was her response, "Ooh, well, I'm here with my husband.  He's the DJ.  So I guess I shouldn't."  Yeah, I guess not.

Strike one.  Insert awkward silence here.  "Well, congratulations," I said and I decided I needed to get a drink.  Of water.  I needed none of the Hi-C/Tang/Fresca punch creation that was being served.  I tell myself that I can do this, that I can have a good time at the dance.  After my internal pep talk, I head back out to the crowd and out of nowhere, a girl asks me to dance.  It was a fast song and while a slow song would have been an easier first dance, I went for it.  It wasn't horrible.  We talked and it was completely awkward.  The next song was a slow song.  She asked me to dance that one too.  So I said yes.  And that's where things went horribly, awfully wrong.  As we were dancing, she says, 'Oh wait, do you have a brother named Rich?'  'Yes, yes I do.  How do you know him?'  "Oh from school.'  Now, my brother is four years younger than me.  He was just starting his senior year of high school at the time.  The first alarm bell started to go off in my head.  I say to her, assuming she's a freshman at ASU, 'Did you graduate last year?'  She hesitated before answering.  The alarm bell in my head has now elevated to a Def-Con Three situation.  'Um, no,' she says, half laughing, 'um, I'm a sophomore.'  Welcome, Def-Con Five!  A sophomore. In high school.  I'm twenty-one and she may not even be 16 yet.  The words of my mission president were screaming at me at this point.

Strike two and three simultaneously.  The dance for me was over at that moment.  DONE.  I told her it was nice to meet her.  And with that, I was out.  Do not pass go.  Go straight to my car.  It was time to rethink this whole Church dance thing.  Believe me, it was months before I went back to one.  Scarred me for life.

14 August 2011

On chick flicks

Chick flicks.  Words that inspire a cavalcade of reactions in most men.  Most of these reactions are not, well, positive.  I am certainly one of them.  In my experience, most movies tagged as "chick flicks" are contrived, hackneyed, and treacle.  They are, by and large, awful.

Suffice to say, the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML and I have not reached a consensus on the movies we see on "date night."  Many times, I'd wind up seeing the chick flick she'd wanted to see on the plane and it would confirm my suspicions that it was awful.  I'd get off the trip and let SML know that we'd been wise not to see said movie.  Once our daughters were old enough, they started going with their mom to the latest chick flick, usually drivel inspired by author (and I use that term so, so loosely) Nicholas Sparks, and all was good.

I wrote my senior thesis on the role of grace in Southern fiction (God bless you, Flannery O'Connor! and shame on you, Mr. Sparks) and have always enjoyed Southern fiction.  Knowing my affinity for that genre, SML insisted that I read The Help after she'd read it.  It was one of those reads that I considered thought-provoking and figured if the book were made into a movie, I'd probably go see it. 

Last night was date night and we decided to see "The Help."  It was, in a word, moving.  It was really, really good.  Peter Travers of Rolling Stone called it "a deeply touching human story filled with humor and heartbreak...makes The Help an exhilarating gift."  You can read his review here.  There were moments of soaring, laugh out loud humor juxtaposed with scenes of racism that made you terribly uncomfortable, as they should have.  I asked myself several times during the movie, 'Did people really treat other people this way?  Simply because of the color of their skin?'  It wasn't easy to watch.  But I'm glad I did.  The author of the book, Kathryn Stockett, has said she could never truly understand what it was like to be black at the dawn of the civil rights movement, "but trying to understand is vital to our humanity."

She's right.  Trying to understand is vital to our humanity.  I liked what I felt, yes felt, in absorbing the message of this movie.  I'm not too proud to admit I really liked this chick flick.  You know what, it wasn't a chick flick.  It's a movie about humanity.  I'm glad I saw it.  And sit through the credits so you can hear Mary J. Blige crush the movie's theme song.  It's an incredible performance.

13 August 2011

Running for cover

If you're a Facebook friend of mine of follow me on Twitter, you'll know that what was supposed to be a simple one night turn to Boston earlier this week turned into a quixotic adventure of cancellations and gambling for gates and I see no need to rehash it here.  Suffice to say, it's been good to be home, safely ensconced in my home office.

It's funny what you get to observe when you work from home.  I like my basement office.  I've got a comfortable set up.  I start the day with my office mates, the Morning Joe team, and after their three hours of awesome opining and interrupting is over, it's on to NPR.  They make for good office mates, except when they interview Senator Harry Reid.  He is, without doubt, the most boring speaker on the face of the earth.  He's a member of our Church and I would hate, I mean hate, to be in his ward the day he speaks.  He'd make the most boring High Councilor speaker sound like an over-amped Tony Robbins.  I don't recommend listening to Senator Reid.  Ever.  For a host of reasons, but I digress.

Yesterday, I had a chance to see our dog "demonstrate" her bravery.  By demonstrate, I mean see her run for cover like there was no tomorrow.  Our dog, a borderline insane nine-pound Shih Tzu, considers herself something of an epic guard dog.  She fears no rabbit or squirrel and she will bark them down with the best of them.  Of course, I should point out that this bravado is always shown from her perch on the couch.  Anyway, I'd run upstairs to get the mail and told Beijing to go outside so she could do her "thing."  As she stood on the patio pondering her next move, she saw another dog coming, a much larger dog.  Beijing began her bark defense and this other dog let fly with another louder bark and in a flash that no high-speed camera could ever catch, our little guard dog turned tail and fled back into the house so she could cower.  Valiant effort, Beijing, valiant effort.  You big chicken.

I laughed at her little run for cover but it got me thinking.  Thinking about the "big dogs" in my life that I run from.  I'd like to think that most of the time I don't turn tail and run like Beijing did when I'm faced with those bigger dogs.  Ironically, I think it's the littler ones that I run from.  I'm thinking I can take those little ones on.  Huh, I think our cowardly little dog taught me a lesson yesterday.  Good for her.

08 August 2011

Riding the Comet, the vomit comet

I found myself in PHX this weekend for my sister's graduation.  She got her Master's and will soon take her Boards so she can officially be called a Physician's Assistant.  It was an honor to be there, watching her take the stage.  As she joked through the entire two-year program, she was the oldest student in her class.  When she took the stage to accept her diploma, you would never have known it.  She looked great among the "younger" graduates and was positively beaming.  So glad I was able to be there. 

Being in PHX in August reminded me how miserably hot it is there.  Say what you will about the heat and humidity here, but I'll take it any day over that barren inferno.  While in the inferno, I was able to have an ostrich burger.  Yep, ostrich.  Not bad at all.  Not gamey and no, it doesn't taste like chicken.  Tasted a lot like meat.  I'd have another one.

Anyway, I flew back yesterday.  Can I just say how disturbing it is flying in the summer.  Particularly in/out of hot weather destinations.  Why?  Tank tops, Crocs, and back tattoos (the last two are a veritable plague - a lethal black plague) as far as the eye can see.  Horrible!  But I digress.  The flight was, wait for it, delayed.  Is there any other kind?  No, no there is not.  So that 45 minute delay made it impossible for Our Lady of BYU and I to meet in ORD as we had planned.  I was supposed to land 45 minutes before her flight back to SLC and Awesome was to depart and we had planned to meet.  Not so much.  Anyway, because we were delayed, the boarding procedure took on the typical "last flight out of Saigon" element.  That's always fun.  Also fun - the mother and five year old boy sitting behind me.  The mother was tanned a la "Jersey Shore Skank," entirely too blonde, and working far too much silicon.  The boy, who had a name like Ryder or Jett or the Situation, apparently could only respond if the mother spoke to him in a loud, a really loud voice.  You know, the voice that older people tend to use when speaking to someone who they think doesn't speak English - as if the super-amped voice will make them easier to understand.  Excellent.  Said child also mirrored every neurosis his mother had, including a fear of flying.  This would manifest itself later.  I threw on my earphones, dialed up the volume on my iPod and hoped for the best.  It didn't drown out everything, particularly the drama between mother and son and the mushroom soup that was served with lunch.

About 30 minutes out of ORD, the Captain told us that ORD had been enveloped in unpredicted thunderstorms and that we were the last flight inbounding from the west that was going to be allowed to land - assuming the storms didn't intensify.  He also noted that if they did we were heading for Grand Rapids as a diversion.  The alarm bells then went off with mother and child behind me.  This news did not sit well with either.  Then the flight attendants announced that because of the anticipated turbulence they'd been ordered to sit down for the duration of the flight.  Five minutes later, things got super fun.  Our flight began to mimic and mechanical bull and the gasping and weeping began.  The mother began to loudly complain about the situation and then grabbed the sick bag and the kid began to wail, "Stop talking Mommy because you're making me stomach hurt."  Truer words for the rest of us could not have been spoken.  Poor kid.  I felt sorry for him.  As the mother wailed so did he.  She would upchuck, so would he.  About ten minutes out, we were still riding the vomit comet and she decides she's heading for the lav.  Not a good move.  The flight attendant unstrapped herself and helped Pukey to the lav and ordered her to stay there til we landed.  This direction would go unheeded.  When we were about 500 feet above the runway, Pukey emerges from the lav, fresh as a daisy.  She nearly got kicked into her seat, but she made it before we landed.  Good for her.

Suffice to say, I was mighty relieved to get off that plane.  I'll say it again, flying is the best, isn't it?

06 August 2011

It's that much closer

This past Thursday night, Our Lady of BYU returned home for the last time as a single woman.  She came home for yet another bridal shower.  This one is being hosted by, I have to say, a group of really pretty wonderful women in our ward.  They are friends of the might fine and stunningly patient SML and they've made Our Lady a part of their lives. 

I believe this is the second of three bridal showers for her.  With less than four weeks to go now until the wedding, I can say in all honesty that this whole bridal/wedding thing is simply unbelievable.  I see completely how one could go completely over the top and burn through a life saving's on an event like this.  I know I've made some jokes, and that's what they are (for the most part), about the cost of my first-born's wedding, but I will say we are most fortunate.  Our Lady and Awesome have done a great job in making this a great wedding without sending either set of parents into a forced liquidation. 

I'm not home today to see the shower shenanigans, which is probably for the best.  As I said good-bye to Our Lady yesterday afternoon, I was a bit emotional internally.  As I hugged her, I realized that the next time I see her, we'll be in Utah with only two days to go before she marries.  I'm still trying to take it all in.  Whew....

And why was I saying good-bye to her last night?  I flew to PHX last night to see my mom and to attend my sister's graduation from her Physican's Assistant (P.A.) program today.  Very proud of my sister.  This is a big day for her.  It's good to have a medical professional in the family too.  Her counsel during some of my medical bruhaha earlier this year made a huge difference (Valium, you sweet thing, I'm talking to you!).  If she keeps making suggestions like that, I'm all kinds of happy.

It was the usual ridiculousness getting out of ORD last night.  It started with the very angry pre-op tranny/shim TSA agent who's years in Customer Service at the DMV prepared he/she well for the TSA job.  Boarding the flight was essentially a melee.  There were three wheelchair pax, a tour group of 30 Korean middle-schoolers, a guy with a cat who was in full melt-down mode (the cat not the man), and a guy who hadn't showered in at least a month.  As soon as he walked by, eyes started watering and everyone grabbed for the air nozzles in the PSU's (Passenger Service Units) above their seats.  Flying's the best,  isn't it?

01 August 2011


25,000.  That's the number of jobs that my employer is going to eliminate.  They made that announcement this morning.  That's what I woke up to this morning.  It's going to be a fun week at work.