Thursday, November 29, 2007

New Neighbors

After looking like a bombed-out, abandoned building for the longest time, the Hotel Empire (or actually now known as the "Empire Hotel") finally reopened a couple months ago. For such a prime location right at Lincoln Square, the site had really gone to waste for the couple of years it was closed down.

Now it's a slick, new boutique hotel with a very swank glass entrance and.....the HOTTEST doormen in the history of hotels. I don't know where these guys got their doormen, but it's like a revolving collection of hot guys every time I take a stroll through my neighborhood past this hotel.

One time, I was standing there so long, pretending to look inside the lobby, but peeking glances at the cute doorman, that the guy asked if he could help me. I swooned politely, bouncing around ideas of the "help" he could provide me, and said "Sorry, no" and continued on my way.

Now you guys know why I've been working from home so much lately.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Thanksgiving Feasts

Thanksgiving is now over and coming back to work has been like a giant slap in the face. I actually had two Thanksgiving dinners this year. I cooked my own turkey and fixing on the Friday after Thanksgiving and had a couple of friends. My turkey turned out great, and I was quite impressed with myself, if I can allow myself to say so.

But the first Thanksgiving dinner I had this year was on Thanksgiving day where I went down to Union, New Jersey (well, in my mind escorted by protective services), and enjoyed a dinner where I chowed down on a huge pig. My friend's family had bought an entire roasted pig and served it alongside the turkey. I think I had about two bites of turkey, but at least two servings of the lechon pig. Mmmmm.

I had never seen one of these whole roasted pigs in person. It's very impressive--like Last Supper monumental, I think. It's so good, that it makes me want to wave it around in front of all the vegetarians in the world and eat it slowly, savoring every morsel. Plus the pig is just a noble animal and deserves to be the center of attention. Even Winston Churchill once said, "Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals."

After dinner at my friend's family's house, I was too stuffed for dessert but was able to sample some of the hits and misses of the desserts TABLE that was presented. Of all the pies and cakes layed out on display, my favorite was the sugary, grocery-store sheet cake that someone had bought. I loved the balloons made out of frosting, one of which I thought was grape frosting, but was actually chocolate. And I am now actually slightly mortified that I actually thought that there was such a thing as grape frosting (which, in retrospect, sounds totally gross to me). But I suppose it's kind of cute in a I-thought-there-was-grape-frosting kind of way.

My friend had also cooked some stuff at his apartment in Manhattan. He cooked up a storm and had all sorts of salads, side dishes and two desserts prepared. His first dessert was a pumpkin pie. But my doofus friend forgot to put the sugar in! He opened the microwave, and found a full packet of brown sugar, and asked to me and his girlfiend, "I wonder what this is for?" I replied, "Um, it's probably for your pie." Next thing, we all heard "Ah, shit!" Even after putting sugar all over the top (and unexpectedly seeing it melt into the filling), it tasted like a mouthful of raw pumpkin.

My friend's other dessert was an apple tarte tatin, which I thought was pretty good. I liked the crust. But the tarte tatin did provide a priceless moment, when my friend's mom asked, "What is this? Is this supposed to be apple?"

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

This Past Weekend's Awkward Moment, Sponsored by Alcoholics Anonymous

I saw an old co-worker of mine this past weekend, while waiting for the 4/5 train at Grand Central. He had lost a lot of weight and looked great. I told him so and asked him what was his secret.

He replied, "Oh I just got out of AA."

What the hell am I supposed to say that?!?! The inappropriate part of me kind of wished I had a drinking problem to get rid of because he made it sound so easy. The other part of me wanted to ask him since when was he an alcoholic because it was news to me. Was I supposed to congratulate him? I suppose when I told him that I thought he looked great, that served that purpose.

This doesn't really have anything to do with anything, and there's not much more exposition I can provide. Just thought it was worth mentioning.

Monday, November 26, 2007

My US Tour (Confessional #07: I'm A Points Junkie)

In the past two months, I have been to Indianapolis, Chicago, San Diego, San Francisco, Houston and Boston. The reasons for all these trips vary from work to acting like Roger Federer while playing in tennis tournaments to unexpected layovers to chasing my precious Hyatt status. I'm a total hotel and airline points addict and so my recent trekking across the country has only added to my addiction.

But the best benefit to all my recent travels is a free membership to CLEAR. I became a free member through a Hyatt promotion, and was curious about it. You fill out a questionnaire and then complete an in-person biometrics scan of your retinas, fingerprints and other identification checks. As a total aside, apparently, a life of crime is not in my future (as I've realized before) because I scored extremely high on BOTH the fingerprint and retina scans meaning that I have very distinctive features for both attributes.

I passed all the background checks and am the proud holder of the Clear Fast Pass card. It kind of sucks so far because it's not really available at too many airports yet. But at least it's available at all three of the NYC airports (except it's conspicuously absent at the US Airways terminal at LaGuardia) and San Francisco airport. It saves so much time.

However, what I love most about it is the dirty looks I get when I'm escorted by the cheerful Clear concierges to the front of the line.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Turkey Vignette #5: The Finale

The wedding was for a friend from college--this very glamorous friend of mine who used to be a model and who is just the sort of person to have a destination wedding in Bodrum, aka the St. Tropez of Turkey.

Truth be told, by the time of the wedding, I was ready to go home. I was homesick and ready to leave. Looking back now, it's somewhat amusing to me that there was actually some debate in my head about whether to go. Going all the way to Turkey without going to the actual wedding would have been like going to Las Vegas, without gambling or going to Jersey and not shopping. It ain't right.

All in all, there was much buzz about this wedding. And it didn't disappoint. The wedding spanned four days on this seaside resort that made you think the wedding was actually an event to promote the hotel. It was pretty impressive, and much more impressive than the last wedding I went to where the main event was a chocolate fountain. I still remember it. Basically it was this cascading stream of chocolate where the idea was to dip bananas, strawberries, or in my case, cake, coffee, cookies, spoons or anything else that would hold chocolate. Then the most priceless moment happened. The bride came over to our table and started talking with us:

Bride: "So does everyone love the chocolate fountain?"

Table: "Oh yeah, it's great!"

Bride: "Isn't it! (to a married couple at our table) Did you guys have one at your wedding?"

Wife at our table: "Uh, no..." (a little confused.)

Bride: "Oh..." (She walks away from our table.)

Wife: "What the hell was that?"

Back to the Turkey wedding. After three days of drinking, dining and dancing (including some belly dancers who put on a show for us, and who I discovered still wear they're masks even when they're not working), it was time for the show. The wedding ceremony was like out of a movie. It was so amazing that I can't even make any jokes about it. The ceremony took place on a pier that jutted out over the clear blue Aegean Sea. The small string quartet started playing Pachelbel's Canon, and the bride walked down a long set of stairs down a dramatic cliff. As she walked down, I caught a glimpse of the groom who was tearing up. You could cut the mushy feelings with a knife, but it was all so sweet.

I know mostly my blog is filled with wise-cracking comments and silly jokes, but I'm going to depart from that for a bit and take this opportunity, without trying to be too sorry for myself, to say that watching all this made me think a lot about my own life and current status. It wasn't anything earth-shattering or new, and I won't go into it too much for the same reasons that I forced myself not to think about it too much, and instead just think about how happy I was for my friend.

So even after I got back to the US, I was in a bit of a daze, and that also partly explains why I haven't been blogging that much. But now enough distance has passed (and I've finished my US and world tour) to get back to my old self again.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

I Love My Hour

Since our Indian Summer finally ended, and the weather turned cold here in New York, Daylight Saving could not come soon enough for me, since there was no longer a compelling reason for me to be outside. Maybe that's all I needed to get me to blog more--more time in my day. Think of all the time I have now. For instance, I'll show up at work only half an hour late, which isn't bad considering that I'm usually an hour and a half late, so really, I'll be an hour early.*

Happy Daylight Saving!

*Before everyone thinks I have either way too cushy of a job or slack off like a total bum, I do stay late at the office.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Turkey Vignette #4: I Like Me Sweets

Scene: Before coming to Turkey, I thought Baklava was an oozing pillow of goodness only from Greece. I had no idea that you could find it in Turkey too. So of course, I had to find a bakery in Istanbul.

Before I go further, let me explain how I feel about my past history with Baklava and desserts in general. Unless you really dislike honey or nuts, there's really not much objectionable in the flavor profile of Baklava. I have to admit, that I never liked Baklava too much before because I always thought it was way too sweet. But as I've gotten older, I've noticed that I've developed a bit of a sweet tooth. Well, I still put enough salt in my food to make a mockery of the words, "high blood pressure." However I also realized lately that I want no part of a home absent of desserts. Desserts are your nightly reward for having survived another day. It's part of life.

I also think the moment you gain the ability to make your own dessert or even more demonstrative, buy your own dessert is nothing short of life-altering. Growing up, most kids, including me, ate whatever your Mom fed you. You could either have that, or a bowl of cereal, or go fuck yourself. When you finally leave the house, you soon learn that you can have cookies and cake whenever you want. And I think second to the first time you buy your own alcohol, buying your own cake must rank as any person's most prideful adult moments. When I realized this, I think it was the closest I've ever had to what religious people call an epiphany. Nothing says independence like buying a cake WHEN YOU WANT ONE (my A&E biography would be riveting, I know.)

While I understand that I really can do this anytime I want to, I also understand that I can't exactly eat a cake everyday without turning into a cow, and also it's a special event to be taken seriously, and having one every weekend would render buying your own cake not so special anymore.

So of course in Istanbul, I had to get some Turkish desserts (but not Turkish Delight, which are these nasty soapish, jelly candies that taste like poison). I dragged my friends to this bakery on the Istekal Caddessi, the main drag of Istanbul, which I read about in my guide book. The place was packed like Pinkberry, but I eventually got someone's attention.

Me: "Can I get a small box?"

Clerk: "What would you like?"

Me: "Oh. Hmmm. I'll have two pieces of that. I'll take some of those over there. Oh and a couple of those. Yeah, three of those..."(I was pointing wildly at everything behind the glass, eventually getting a sample of every Turkish cake they offereded, including all 4 kinds of Baklava.)

Clerk: "Is that all?" (He weighs the box, and I see '2.27 KG' flash on the scale.) "Your total is 30 Turkish Lira."

Me: "Saoul" ("Thank you" in Turkish)

I walk back to my friends who kind of have their mouths agape.

My friend, S: "Geez, how much stuff did you get?"

Me: "Oh I don't know. I just got a sample of each. I thought I was supposed to fill up the whole box."

My friend, S, laughing: No! You just get however much or little you want. You don't have to fill up the whole box!

(I blush, thinking about how stupid I can be.)