Wednesday, February 28, 2007

I'm The Next Stay-Puft Man

Earlier tonight, I made marshmallows. I know what you're thinking - who makes their own marshmallows? I actually never even knew you could make them. If you had told me that marshmallows grew on trees, I would have believed you (turns out as you'll see below, I wasn't so far off.)

I don't even like marshmallows that much, but I was just thinking earlier tonight, "I think I feel like making marshmallows." (I'm the weird type of guy who would actually have such a thought.) I don't know why I was having this urge. It's not like I've ever had strong feelings for them. I think this box of unflavored gelatin was just calling out to me to use it. By the way, as a total sidebar, I have to say that Jell-o is one of my most favorite foods in the world. I could eat it all day.

I went online to do some research. I learned that originally marshmallows were made with the extract of marshmallow plant, which served as a gelling agent. Since I do not grow marshmallow plants in my apartment, I would have to go the non-plant route. After doing some more research, I found a recipe that called for light corn syrup, gelatin, water and sugar, all things that I happened to have in my cabinets. (I had prepared myself for my marshmallow experiment day to come).

The process was weird and messy, but kind of fun. The mixture is clear when you wouldn't expect it to be, and then turns white when you wouldn't expect it to. And the texture just morphs in really unexpected ways until ta-da, you have marshmallows!

But geez, what a pain to get out of the mixing bowl! The mixture gets stiff pretty fast and gives your mixer a work out. And then getting the stuff out of the bowl is next to impossible because the stuff sticks everywhere. One spatula grew into a spatula and a butter knife; then a spatula, butter knife, and tablespoon; and then a spatula, butter knife, tablespoon and my hands. I gave up after a while because I was sick of my hands having long stretchy spider web strands coming off of them. I left a third of the marshmallow goo in the bowl and just went on with the rest.

(Cut to present, 4 hours later)

I checked on my marshmallows, and I just had to try one. It was awesome. Totally different than a store-bought marshmallow. Store-bought ones are chewy and spongy. Homemade ones are thicker, denser and moist, and kind of melt in your mouth as soon you bite into them.

I think I wanna make these again. Plus I still have two packs of gelatin left. But I don't want to turn into my old college roommate. I remember one time I came home and she was just sitting on the couch with a jar of marshmallow fluff eating it by the spoonful. A girl and her fluff. Such a special moment.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Moldy Return (Confessional #4: I'm Scared To Death of Mold)

Today, I arrived in the office to discover that the orange I left on my desk had grown mold! Ewwwwwwwww. I could see the green fuzz and was petrified of moving it and releasing mushroom clouds of spores into the air. If there's anything that gives me the heebie-jeebies, it's mold. It really freaks me out, and I get really paranoid about food going bad. It was only recently that I allowed myself to drink milk more than two days old.

I remember one time on one of my many trips to San Francisco, I nearly had a stroke on the plane, because I realized that I left a kiwi in my fruit bowl! I had about 2 hours left in my flight, and that was ALL I COULD THINK ABOUT for the rest of the flight. As soon as we landed, I got my blackberry out and started frantically clicking out an email to my friend to go into my apartment (he has a key) and dispose of the offending kiwi. Long story short, Operation Kiwi went very smoothly, and there wasn't a hint of mold anyway, and I could breathe easy again.

I think I'll start a personal hazmat team service, because I know first-hand the importance of having one.

Monday, February 26, 2007

There's A Bear In There

I've been growing my beard out every few days over the past few weeks, causing a bit of a stir in my circles, which in my world are very small. A couple weeks ago, for instance, I got my haircut . My stylist rubbed my chin and exclaimed, "I love it!" The other stylists came over too and surrounded me. They started ooohing and awhhhing. I was the center of attention.

I've been quite surprised with my beard experiment. I had gotten a preview when I took a break from shaving after I got home from the hospital from my broken arm incident. I didn't shave for two weeks because with just one functioning arm, shaving was way too much of a pain.

This time, I've actually left my apartment all scruffy and let my friends see my beard, and the reaction has been more and more admiration. One friend said, "It makes you look so distinguished." Another said, "I love the look on you."

It wasn't till lately that i started liking light beards and scruff on guys. I still maintain that upon first meeting someone, a beard would never improve the face value of a person. It will either cause a neutral or negative effect. But I'm beginning to rethink that. And now I'm trying it out for myself.

My personal feeling about beards, is that if you can't grow an even one, i.e., even thickness on all sides of your face, don't bother. Also, you don't really see beards on Asian guys, and the ones I have seen, I've always thought looked pretty bad or just did nothing to improve the guy. Asians just don't really have the genetics for beards and the hair on their faces tends to grow a little straggly and a little random like moss on a tree--splotchy and spotty.

Luckily, for me, my beard, has been largely hands-off. Just a few days of not shaving and before long, I was on my way to burly beardom. Give me a month, and I'll have a beard that would make Grizzly Adams look on in shame and cause two thirds of ZZ Top to blush with envy.

So I've been growing my hair follicle face kudzu mostly out of laziness. I guess it's been a little bit of a contemplative exercise too. And of course it has come in handy in New York when January came and the cold winter winds whip their little knives right into my skin. I don't have a guy friend's face to worry about scratching either, which I can thank single life for.

The nicest thing about having a beard is that my mornings are a heck of a lot faster now. It's shower, brush teeth and get dressed and go.

I also discovered which is where you go when you want to get serious about your beard. The guys there say every guy should grow a full beard at least once in your life. Being a guy myself, I can't argue with that.

My beard after I broke my arm. I'll have to get a more current pic.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

The Divas Came Back Last Night On Idol

We've finally gotten to the real part of the American Idol competition. Tuesday night was the boys, and they sucked ass. I think the worst had to have been Sundance. I don't know what crap song he was singing, and he didn't even sing it in tune. He looked like he was actually trying to sound like screeching roadkill. It was also very amusing last night to see all the guys scowling and crossing their arms after every time the judges reminded them how much they sucked last night.

But last night the girls took their turn and they were leaps and bounds better than the guys. The standouts for me were Stephanie and Melinda. Melinda sang an Aretha Franklin song ("Since You've Been Gone"), one which I had always thought of as kind of an anticlimactic tune because it just kind of builds and builds and crescendos and crescendos without any huge screaming finish. But Melinda came out movin' and groovin' and gave the song a second life. Plus Melinda, who must have lost her neck in a tree cutting accident, really does have a great story, like Simon says--background singer to Gladys Knight and now she comes out on her own, but she's so humble about it that you're naturally rooting for her. If I had to give some advice to Melinda, being the seasoned Idol watcher myself, I'd tell her to go easy on the "singing with my eyes closed" style and look at the camera some more.

But am I the only person who really didn't think Lakisha was all that? She did an admirable, even great, job on "And I Am Telling You." But I didn't think she was anywhere close to Jennifer Hudson's or Jennifer Holliday's delivery (and she lacked Jennifer Holliday's funny faces). Simon said "I think the other 23 should go ahead and book their plane tickets home." Well that's just a prematurely dumb thing to say. Mandisa was the belter last year and had loads of natural talent, but look how far it got her in the show. Of course, Mandisa started hating on gays and preaching about Jesus all the time. If Lakisha can avoid that, she'll probably stay a crowd favorite. But something about Lakisha just bugs me. She always hangs her head and looks like she's about to cry because American Idol is going to give her and her baby so many "opportunities." Well, duh. Winning Idol would change anyone's life. I think she just hit one of my pet peeves--people trying to get the "I've worked so hard and sacrificed so much" vote. Everybody works hard. Everybody makes sacrifices. It's all relative, and it annoys me that I'm getting the sympathy vote vibe from her.

My votes this week (links are provided for the best performances. I didn't bother for the worst):

Best Guy: Chris Richardson. I liked his rendition of Gavin DeGraw's "I Don't Want To Be" even though that song has been Idol-ed to death. Plus he's from Virginia!

Worst Guy: Sundance. Dude, everyone's forgotten about your great audition and we've all moved on. Time to step it up.

Best Girl: Melinda Doolittle. Her lack of divadom is refreshing.

Worst Girl: Antonella Barba. This jersey girl looks like she was born in a mall. She butchered that Aerosmith song that makes me all teary-eyed every time I see Armageddon.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

I Heard on the Ski Lift or How Some People Have No Sense of Geography

One of the most distinctive features of skiing is conversations on the ski lift with complete strangers or overhearing sometimes some very personal discussions on the ski lift. I don't know why some people suffer TMI on the ski lift and share way too much so not only can I hear all their intimate details, but so can the lifts in front of and behind us. At least these people aren't debating the best way to get to wherever or some guy isn't bragging about some secret road that he took to get here five minutes faster than it took all the schmucks who took the highway. Having a conversation like that on a ski lift is like leaving your lift ticket on your jacket all year long. Both scream "SKI TOOL."

Anyhow, I struck up some conversations during my day at Heavenly a couple weekends ago. I don't really remember any individual people who I spoke to, but I do remember the biggest theme was "How about that snow you guys had?" They were referring to the 100 or so inches of snow that New York got, that's New York State. I tried not to be too condescending, and I think I was pretty nice about it, since I'm an all-around nice guy, when I said to them, "Um, dude, that was up by Canada."

I guess I shouldn't be too surprised. No one cares about upstate New York. It might as well be our version of Deliverance and most people just think they're Canadian up there anyway.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The Greatest Story Ever Told

Since I was without my bags on my first full day in Tahoe, I had plenty of free time. Although I took a shower that day, wearing the same clothes as the day before made me feel like a greasy whore leaving the motel in the morning. So I decided my first task of the day would be to find some new clothes. I also had ripped my pants which told me that I must have some serious huge thigh action going on in my lower limbs to rip through my pants.

I headed to the outlet stores in South Lake Tahoe, and pretty soon found some new socks, underwear, a sweatshirt and some new cargo pants at the Izod, Pearl Izumi and North Face outlets. At my last stop at North Face, I changed in the dressing room and felt a million times better and more importantly cleaner. I also got a free pair of socks at Pearl Izumi, because the girl there took sympathy when I milked my lost baggage story to her. Free stuff is always good.

At the outlet mall, I stopped by a little activity/information booth that advertised two Heavenly ski lift tickets for $32. I asked the guy how to get them and he laid out the whole deal about seeing a great vacation deal, and getting a great gift for only 90 minutes of my time.

I was interested, and I really didn't have anything better to do that day, other than gamble, but I just didn't feel like brushing up on my blackjack strategies. So I signed myself up and drove on over to the Sunterra Lake Tahoe resort.

After waiting about 20 minutes, my personal salesperson came out to greet me. She led me into a bigger room where literally 20 or so other salespeople were trying to indoctrinate the life-saving virtues of timeshares. My saleswoman sat me down and began to ask me some "data collection" statistics and I appear to be a top-notch client. Example: I have spent money on vacations to Australia, Switzerland, plenty of exotic stateside destinations, and plan on going to Turkey and Italy later this year. I am close to their top income bracket AND I have no kids. I'm young too, which means I have many years of vacationing in front of me.

In other words, I could NOT have had a bigger target on my back if I tried.

Before I even found out about any financing or saw an example room, my saleswoman started her obviously prepared spiel. This woman had come up with the story of the ages. I guess it was all true, and if it really was, boy has she had a life, and clearly timeshares came to her rescue like Calgon does to women everyday. First off this women was kind of Texas looking. You know, big hair, excessively tanned and wearing way too much jewelry and makeup. She was probably about 50 and seemed like a typical snarky over-perfumed real estate agent.

She started her sob story by telling me that she loved to travel and that vacations were very important to her. She told me she liked to go to nice places and travel in style like go to Fiji on Singapore Airlines in First Class. I was totally digging that, and for a second, I was falling under her spell, but I kept reminding myself, "She's just trying to get you." Then she told me she got a divorce from her husband. Then, with a tear in her eye, she told me that after the divorce both her parents died and that her parents left her a timeshare, which was the best gift she ever received. And she told me that since she has no children, she planned to give her timeshare to her goddaughter. It was all so Sophie's Choice, and I was secretly beginning to roll my eyes at the desperate attempt to make me believe that this timeshare could actually save lives instead of make her a nice commission.

I went up to the rooms, and saw a pretty nice room--not Four Seasons nice, but reasonable Hilton/Marriott nice. Then I came back downstairs, and we began to talk numbers. Nearby, another couple had apparently just changed their lives, because a tiny bottle of champagne had just been opened and a group of salespeople were around their table clapping.

To better explain the numbers, my saleswoman brought over this RUDE financial "advisor." She was one of those types who simply refuse to take no for an answer. In fact, before I could even say "no", she asked me "How would you like to handle your down payment?" When I declined, she said, "What if we reduced your down payment ($10,000)?" I said "NO." She said, "But why?" I replied, "I'm just not ready to make a decision about this today." Well, she was practically rendered speechless with fury. She left in a huff, "You know how many people come back and let go of this one time only offer? NONE!" With that, she left in a big huff. I apparently ruined her whole day.

After my financial advisor left, my saleswoman came back, and she didn't seem that upset, which was good. But I was ready to leave. I had been there for three fucking hours already. My saleswoman ushered me to the "didn't buy" guy who tried to give me some more incentives and also asked me some of the same questions about my income and vacation habits as my saleswoman. I was getting royally pissed off and told him so. I really wasn't that mad before, but he was making me mad.

I finally left with my lift tickets. It was worth it, I say. A one day lift ticket at Heavenly is a ridiculous $74, and I got two for $16 each. But I also learned how to punish my worst enemy--send them to a timeshare presentation.

I could have been one of these guys:

Monday, February 19, 2007

You Too Can Be Ponce De Leon

The weekend before last, on my way to San Francisco, I did a stopover in Tahoe to get some skiing in. On my way there, I was a little nervous, because our plane from New York was delayed about an hour and a half, and I was worried my bags wouldn't make my connection in Denver. In Denver, I asked the gate agent, "Are my bags gonna make it?" He assured me, "Don't worry. They'll make it."

Lo and behold, when I got to Reno/Tahoe Airport, my poor bags did not come out on the carousel. I didn't take it too hard. I just filled out my report with United, got my rental car and proceeded to get my rental car. There, I encountered what must have been the sloooowest desk agent, I have ever met. I waited for 30 minutes to get to the head of the line. Finally, I got my car - a cute silver Jeep Liberty - and drove off to Tahoe across the Nevada desert. On my way to Tahoe, I passed through Carson City. I've never had a more impressive first sight of a city before. It was like coming to Shangri-La. All of a sudden, sunken in a valley, Carson City just appears out of nowhere. The stretch of Highway 395 from Reno to Tahoe is pretty flat and desolate, with stretches of 70 mph zones. And driving down it at 10 o'clock at night doesn't make you feel any less lonely.

Anyhow, I was driving along, and I guess I had reached a fairly high altitude, because the bright lights of Carson City (yes, "bright lights" of Carson City, of all places) poked through the mountains and were a welcome sight to me from my automobile perch high above. I was actually looking for an In-N-Out Burger, but I didn't see the reassuring yellow arrow anywhere.

Well, this post is kind of lame and well, kind of boring, and so I'll end it here. But I really did feel like I had discovered a new place--Carson City of all places. I didn't stop in Carson City at all, and so I didn't meet anyone, but I wonder how many explorers like me they get every year.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

And I Thought I Hated My Name

I'm at Gate 81, waiting for my flight back to New York. I'm honestly a little surprised that I'm even coming back today because I kept hearing about people still stranded eons later due to the freezing rainstorm, but I guess that was all JetBlue. Good old United seems to have recovered well, and I'm looking forward to coming home.

Right now, I'm sitting peacefully in the Gate waiting area, doing a crossword puzzle. It's getting close to boarding time, and I see the agents scurrying about doing whatever they do to prepare for a flight. One of them just picked up the phone to make an announcment. She calls out, "Passenger Mordechai [I had to look up the spelling of that] Sailor, please come to the Gate 81 podium." Now I'm giggling. Why do they always announce people with the funniest names? Reminds me of hurricane names or the names you see on the SAT verbal section.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Valentine's In San Francisco

Time for another week in San Francisco. It's Valentine's Day and I'm here in San Francisco on another work trip. Nothing romantic though is happening on my end. It would have been nice to have had a day off. It's a nice sunny day here. Alas, I had to work today. I remember at my old job, I commented one time to a partner, "You know, it's Valentine's Day tomorrow." And he was like "Oh really? Do we get the day off?"

San Franciscans also have nicer street marketing battalions. In New York, all we get are menus to some random Indian restaurant on every street corner. But today in San Francisco, I got a fake blue carnation from Nivea, a free red frisbee from Virgin Atlantic, and a flyer about what a horrible employer Blue Diamond Nuts is. Also, I found out that San Franciscans like to whack the crap out of each other by hosting the biggest pillow fight that I have ever seen.

Happy Valentine's Day everyone.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Finally! Lost is Back!

This is the just thing I needed to perk me up. I've been kind of blah lately, which I'm attributing to pre-Valentine's depression. But now I am totally pumped up for the return of Lost! I'll finally find out if Juliet calls Jack on his bluff, and what's up with Desmond's clairvoyance. Bai Ling has joined the cast, and I think she's in one of Jack's flashbacks as a Thai prostitute. And will we finally find out what the deal is with Ben, leader of The Others, and his crazy, gun-toting gang of Hawaiian mafia?

I am just so happy. The balance has been returned back to the force. Life is good again.