Stuff I'm Enthusiastic About

Friday, April 26, 2013

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For a brief period of time, I wrote a little series of posts called "Gamechangers," all about stuff I just, like, like. Lately, I've been liking a lot of stuff that I want to tell you about, so I'm bring that ish back, but I'm just going to call it "Stuff I'm Enthusiastic About," because I think that sums up the gist of it. Readyyyy? Go!

Goin' to London: I took a week off at the end of June because I essentially forgot to take vacation time this year, & if I don't use my paid vacation days by the end of the fiscal year (June), I lose them. It's sort of like being forced to take time off! I'd originally planned to do a staycation - sleep in, run errands, watch a lot of Ellen - but so many of my friends are globe-trotting right now, & I've got a titch of the green monster, so I started thinking I should try to get some travel in myself. My little cousin is living in London for 18 months, so I just booked a flight to visit her! More on this to come, obviously.

Drinkin' wine: While I was in Austin for SXSW in early March, a fellow attendee gave me a $60 voucher for I was skeptical - because ain't no such thing as a free liquid lunch - but I was pleased to find that A) it was totally legit, & B) is awesome. That voucher (plus $13 from my own wallet) got me six bottles of wine, delivered to my doorstep within the week. Now, my wine rack is full for the first time in my life, & I'm looking forward to trying to become a wine-lover. (In case you're interested, I bought F. Stephen Millier Angels Reserve Viognier 2011, William Henry Riesling 2012, Rachis by Randy Hester Sauvignon Blanc 2012, & Da Da Da... Lodi Chardonnay 2011.) 

Gettin' trim: I started Weight Watchers in January, & while I'm not always perfect at sticking to it (um, there are Stella D'Oro Fudge Cookies in my car right now...), I've found it to be a really easy-to-understand, mostly-easy-to-follow program. I'm not losing as much or as quickly as I'd like because, um, cookies, but I am seeing a difference & feeling better overall - & also my jeans fit again & are even a little bit too big, which definitely falls into the category of "stuff that's awesome." And if I do lose copious amounts of weight, I promise not to become a Jennifer Hudson (which is to say that I won't abandon the traits & talents you know & love me for in favor of talking about being skinny all the time).

Makin' sandwiches: Nathan & I went to a street fair in downtown Red Bank two weekends ago, where I picked up some Raspberry Hot Pepper Jelly from Jacky's Jams and Jellies, made locally in Pine Beach, N.J. Fruit & heat? Gross. Except no. This jelly is the stuff culinary dreams are made of, & I created the World's Most Perfect Grilled Cheese™ (patent pending in my imagination) with it: three Babybel Light cheeses, sliced in half, with 2 tbsp. of jelly & a sprinkling of mozzarella cheese, pressed on multigrain panini bread in my George Foreman grill. I would eat this every day if I could do that & still end up looking like Jennifer Hudson. Instead, it'll be my new favorite-but-infrequent comfort food.

Eatin' cheese: I recently won a giveaway on my friend Suki's blog Super Duper Fantastic, & my haul arrived in the mail today: five blocks of fancy Sartori cheese! Basically, I have never been happier or more excited in my whole life, which is saying a lot, because it arrived on a less-than-stellar day. For lunch this afternoon, I had one serving of their Rosemary & Olive Oil Asiago cheese on Saltines with a side of carrots & yogurt, & then I pretty much died & went to Wisconsin (in which Wisconsin is heaven because, you know, that's where this cheese comes from). Seriously, I may never buy another kind of cheese ever again for as long as I live. Wonder what kinds of gourmet grilled cheese I can invent next?

So tell me: What are you enthusiastic about right now?
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Bad Jokes, Good Man: A Tribute to My Grandfather

Thursday, April 25, 2013

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Two things occur to me: The first is that there's been a lot of eulogizing & emotion-sharing on this here blog lately. What with my tribute to my dear friend Elissa, & my piece on the one-year anniversary of my grandmother's passing, & my reflections after the Boston Marathon bombings, I've talked a lot about death lately in this space.

The second thing that occurs to me, though, is that I've never really told you about my grandfather. He passed away in 2008, & even though this blog existed then (five & a half years now!) I never wrote about his death here because I didn't think my readers would respond positively to, like, me. Stuff with emotion. I kept it strictly funny in those days, almost nothing person, & sharing my eulogy for my grandpa didn't seem to fit into that structure.

These days, though, I share of myself more freely (see first paragraph), & you guys seem to be supportive (thank you!) That's why today, on the five-year anniversary of my grandpa's death, I want to share with you the eulogy I gave at his funeral half a decade ago. He was one of my favorite people in the whole wide world, & suspect that I will always miss him dearly.


If you knew my Grandpa Sandy at all, you know that what defined him most was his undying sense of humor. Granted, I only knew him for 23 of his 83 years, but I think it's a safe bet to say that his orneriness didn't come about with age. The way his two sisters tell it, it was a lifelong thing.

If you didn't hear one of Grandpa's jokes or stories the first time around, there was about a 99.8% chance you'd hear it again– he was notorious for telling and retelling the same ones over and over again. Perhaps most well-known and groan-worthy within our family was The Rutabaga Joke. At every Thanksgiving dinner, without fail, my Uncle Jim has insisted we serve rutabagas, even though he has consistently proven to be the only family member interested in eating them. And every year, as my cousins and I rattled off our same old list of complaints about rutabagas, my grandpa would stop the conversation and chime in: "Rutabagas, eh? I don't like that name. It sounds mean. They ought to be called polite-abagas."

That was grandpa's humor. He was the king of puns and had the kind of comedic timing that could save even the dullest of conversations. No matter how serious – or argumentative – the rest of our family got, Grandpa was always waiting in the wings with a pun or a punchline to divert our attention and lighten the mood. As the rabbi just said, he was a trained expert in "keeping up the troops' morale," a skill that he applied not just to his time in the military but in his everyday life, as well.

And the best part about my grandpa was that even when he wasn't telling jokes, he simply had the sort of personality that lent itself to good story-telling – the kind that, even in his absence, I'm sure will continue to make for good story-telling.

He loved the Ohio State Buckeyes with a passion, so much that after my grandparents' house caught on fire, my mom salvaged his smoky, burnt Buckeyes banner, even though my Grandma tried to sneak it into the trash can. He loved the Buckeyes so much that he once taught his pet bird, Barney, to whistle the Ohio State fight song. He loved food. On a trip to Hilton Head, he once dared to try alligator, and he was notorious for making midnight snacks of other people's leftovers. To my grandma's chargin, he kept bags of popcorn in his car and trail mix in his bedroom, and he loved nothing more than a good free sample from Sam's Club. He made jewelry for his daughters and me out of dental gold, the kind meant for filling teeth, and held a special place in his heart for my mother's mutt, Missy, whom he lovingly referred to as his "granddog." And in his later years, he became famous among friends and family for his refusal to use a cane and his insistence, instead, upon using his giant walking sticks.

My grandfather was a good man. He was the sort of man who saved the tie he wore on his wedding day and wore it again to his anniversary party 50 years later. He was kind and loving and hard-working and friendly, and overall, he was simply a good man. He will be sorely missed as the silent but mighty patriarch of our little family. And so today, in honor of my grandpa, I'm about to say something I never thought I'd say, something I hope my cousins will forgive me for. Today, despite years of complaints and dinner-table mutiny, I am submitting a formal request for this year's Thanksgiving dinner. We probably won't eat them, and we will probably still whine about them, but this November, in honor of Grandpa's memory, I ask my Uncle Jim — please make sure to bring the polite-abagas.

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On Falling Into Lakes

Thursday, April 18, 2013

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Today was a work day full of calls & meetings, & before I knew it, it was 2:15 & I'd yet to eat lunch. Oh, is that my stomach? Of course, I had to be in another meeting at 2:30, but I decided that gave me just enough time for me to run to a nearby coffeeshop, settle in, order a sandwich, & hop on the call. I knew I'd be a few minutes late, so as I walked, I sent a quick email to my boss from my iPhone.

Here's where I'd like to clarify that the route from my place to my favorite coffeeshop is through a residential neighborhood, with a sidewalk the whole way & approximately zero through traffic. I pay special attention to crossing the major street that runs through town, but after that, it's a walk in the park - almost literally. I pass two senior living establishments, two townie restaurants, & a whole lot of trees, & then boom, favorite coffeeshop.

So as I emailed my boss, I was walking on a sidewalk, toward almost nothing, when a yippy, unleashed little dog took a sharp corner from behind a building & ran right into my shins. I looked down at it & laughed, cooing something in my stupid voice reserved for animals (don't pretend like you don't have one). I smiled at it owner, a very done-up woman who could best be described as a Jersey grandma, 70-something in a purple tracksuit with heavy makeup & big hair & penciled-in eyebrows. She didn't smile back, but still, I gave her an "Excuse me" as I stepped around her dog & carried on down the sidewalk. When my back was to them, she yelled after me:

"That's how people fall into lakes."

I stopped & turned, said it again, this time as a question: "Excuse me?"

"That's how people fall into lakes," she repeated. "Walking & texting."

I tried to stay friendly, keep it light - "Luckily, I'm not walking near any lakes." - but she wasn't having it.

"I don't know," she said meanly. "There sure is a lot of water in this area."

I stayed stoic, but I was fed up. "There's no need to be so rude to a stranger," I told her.

"There's no need to text while you walk," she retorted. "It would serve you right if you fell into a lake!"

Look, I get it. Texting while walking is "more dangerous than crystal meth," & I'd certainly never do crystal meth. I like to think I'm a smart person. I don't text & walk in cities, or near train tracks, or in areas I'm not familiar with. Could I be hit by a car while walking & texting? Sure, but I could also be hit by one while walking & not texting. Anyway, it was pretty clear that this woman didn't care about my safety nearly as much as she cared about being a sanctimonious "get off my lawn" type.

What I wanted to tell her was that it would serve her right if her adorable little unleashed dog got run over by a car, but that seemed too mean to the adorable little unleashed dog. I wanted to tell her it would serve her right if she died alone in her apartment & that adorable little dog gnawed her arm off before anyone found her, but that seemed too mean, period (yes, sometimes my mental filter works). I wanted to tell her that if I fell in a lake - which would be literally almost impossible, given that there are no lakes nearby - it'd be my own damn fault & she would never even know about it. I wanted to tell her that I work my butt off, all day, every day, sitting alone in my living room, such that I sometimes can't even get a bite to eat or a cup of coffee without missing the first 10 minutes of a meeting, without feeling harried & panicked, without checking my email while I walk. I wanted to tell her that in a world full of bombs & shootings & all kinds of terrible things, she should be ashamed of being so mean to a total stranger - or to anyone at all.

I stared her down for a few seconds, trying to decide what to say. And then I swallowed hard, & I turned around. And I took a deep breath & put my phone in my pocket & walked away. And I remembered to "be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle."* And also because I'm terrified of lakes.

*I have no idea who said this, but it's one of my favorite quotes. I'd always thought it was Mother Theresa, who is apparently not even in the running.

*Apparently people fall into lakes while texting. I'm lookin' at you, Bonnie Miller & Tiffany Hess.
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I Like My Friends More Than I Like My Cat. And Yet...

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

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It has come to my attention that a great many of my dear friends are unable to visit my home because they're horribly allergic to cats, & I have a cat. Remember this dude?

As testing recently revealed, I, too, am allergic to cats, though not deathly so. My doctor confirmed that my allergy is likely lessened by my owning a cat, & it's possible I'm no longer so allergic - to mine, at least, though maybe still to others.

I'm just bummed. Like, bummed to the point of anger. Because what are Claritin & Zyrtec & Allegra & inhalers for if not to fix this crap? Why doesn't any of that stuff actually work? Get your act together, pharmaceuticals!

I'd been trying so hard lately to like it here, & I've even begun to. Victory! I really hoped that when spring & summer rolled around, the local festivals & our proximity to the beach would lure visitors, & I could share my newfound love - OK, like - of the Jersey Shore with the people I love. And now? Now at least six - no exaggeration, six - of my closest friends have told me they can never set foot in my apartment because it will hinder their ability to, like, live.

Look, don't get me wrong. I'm absolutely not mad at any my friends. I understand allergies; if my friends lived inside oak trees, I would never visit them, either! It's not like anyone chooses to have respiratory problems. I'm not mad at them - but I'm just kind of mad, period. I really thought I'd found a great, beachy loophole that I could use to entice folks to visit... & now I can't. Because breathing & shit.

Guess I shouldn't waste my money on buying a bed for that guest room, huh? Womp.

PS: Sorry for this angry rant. Sometimes you've just gotta yell it out.
PPS: Any of you allergy-free folks want to come to the beach this summer?
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Think I'll Go to Boston, Think I'll Start a New Life

Monday, April 15, 2013

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During those 16 months that I lived in the far-away foreign land of New England, my frequent overnight trips to the great city of Boston were an emotional lifesaver. In fact, I came to love the city so much that I hoped with all my heart Nathan would be stationed there next.

Today, from 263 miles away, I'd almost forgotten about that love - until this afternoon, when it all came flooding back.

I'm relieved that all of my friends in Boston are safe, but I'm devastated that so many other people's friends & family are not. My heart is heavy for them, for their city, for our country. And beyond that? For once in my life, I'm truly without words. Only feelings - & there are just so, so many of those.

Tell someone you love them. Do something kind. Make the world a better place. And don't just do it today, on the bad days - do it every day. Please, please. Do it every day. Because that's the only way we're ever going to combat the hatred that drives people to do things like this. That's all we can do - love people, no matter what, & press on, regardless.

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Remembering My Grandmother: The Great Olive Garden Debacle of 1990-Something

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

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My grandma loved Olive Garden, & even though I love to poke fun at (usually Midwestern) folk who believe that Olive Garden represents the epitome of classy Italian dining, I was always willing to give my grandmother a pass. The lady was 82, you know? She can like whatever spaghetti she damn well pleases. And she was more cultured than anyone I knew, despite living in a town with very little of it; she went out of her way to experience the arts & film & music (are those "the arts"?), so she deserved a pass on processed pasta.

Nathan & I had dinner at Basil T's last weekend for Jersey Shore Restaurant Week, which is patently not Olive Garden but rather an upscale Italian establishment that is, as it happens, approximately 30 steps from the front door of our apartment (-so it cannot be said that we were going out of our way to experience classy Italian dining, but I can't help it if we live someplace awesome). As we were being seated, I caught a glimpse of the dessert tray: mini cannolis & tiramisu & a chocolate torte & some apple thing & God know what other confectionery delights that would absolutely crush my Weight Watchers daily points allowance.

As I caught a glimpse of this decadent dessert tray, I remembered this time when I was a kid, & I was at Olive Garden with my family because grandma loved it (& probably I did, too, so I shouldn't be all high & mighty on this one). As we were being seated, we walked right past the dessert tray, & do you know what my grandmother did? She wasn't even that old at the time, maybe in her late 60s or something, so there's really no excuse for this: She stuck her index finger into a piece of fancy-looking mint chocolate cake, just plop! right into the middle of it. And the icing sort of squelched out with out around her finger as it went in, just like that, because cake is obviously a really soft matter, & apparently my grandma used some force with that dessert poke.

Staring at that piece of cake, I was mortified: "Why would you do that?!" I asked her, & when I looked up to face her, I found her looking back at me, mouth open, eyes wide, just as mortified - & maybe even a little bit more.

"I thought it was fake!" she exclaimed. "I thought it was fake! I just... oh, why would I think it was fake?!"

And we laughed & we laughed, & I remember thinking that this was such an absurd thing to do & my grandmother was not at all an absurd person. But she was like that sometimes, a little bit unexpected, this classy, artsy woman who painted watercolors & loved the orchestra & drove 45 minutes away to Dayton to see movies that didn't make it to the one theater in her small town, but sometimes she'd just do something a little bit wacky like that, like sticking her finger in a piece of cake because she assumed it was made of plastic - which is an absurd assumption in itself, & even if it were plastic, why poke it? But it still makes me laugh, even as I write this, & I can hear her voice, her laugh, her horror at realizing her mistake.

Dessert trays have always reminded me of her, ever since then, which feels like my whole life. I cannot remember a time I looked at a restaurant's dessert tray & didn't recall my grandmother plopping her finger into a piece of mint chocolate cake.

It has been 365 days since my grandmother died, & I miss her every day. I still think, "I should call Grandma. It's been awhile," before I catch myself & realize that it will always have been awhile, from here on out. Sometimes I miss her so much I can feel it, like my body is closing in around my heart & I can't breathe, can't imagine that she's really gone for good & that this is just what life looks like now, without her, forever. And I know she'd hate to see us crying about her, crying at all, because as far as I can recall throughout my whole life, my grandmother almost never cried. But she did laugh, & she made me laugh, even when she didn't mean to, so I'm telling you this dessert tray story & hoping you'll laugh, too. Because it hurts so badly some days that I just don't know what else to do.

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Indoor-Kid Status: Confirmed

Sunday, April 7, 2013

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I get sinus infections approximately all the damn time, so when I felt the last one coming on, I decided it was time to take action. I made an appointment with an asthma & allergy specialist here in Red Bank, & when the time came to meet with Dr. H, I was actually enthusiastic about it. Because finding out what's actually wrong with my body is a hypochondriac's wet dream.

But as it turns out, I'm not a hypochondriac at all (about this). I am actually just allergic to everything.

If you've never had allergy testing done, it goes something like this: A very kind nurse jams 24 tiny needles in your forearms, six at a time. WebMD tells me these are called "skin pricks" & not "shots" because they don't draw blood, but I'll just go ahead & confirm for you that they feel exactly like shots. Six of them at a time. Each prick injects a drop of extract of a potential allergen into your skin - & then you sit & wait for your arms to swell up. Wherever the pricks get puffy, the doctor can confirm that you're allergic to the allergen injected there.

Or something. Look, guys, I don't have a medical degree. I just know that it made my arms look like this:

Also, because you're allergic to these things they inject into your scratches? Your arms start to itch like hell, & you can't do a thing about it because that's how it's supposed to work. As it turns out, I am allergic to: ragweed (a.k.a. "the entire season of spring"); grasses (except the kind that grows in the south, where I of course do not live); tree pollens (especially from oak trees but not from pine trees); mold/fungus (which explains the mushroom allergy); dust mites (oh, God, do not do a Google image search for these); cockroaches (I already knew these were disgusting, so don't Google them, either); & "select weeds." Know what else I'm allergic to? Cats. Don't tell this guy:

After the shots - errr, pricks - I took a breath test, which confirmed that I essentially cannot breath, which felt mildly surprising to me but maybe not at all, considering that I've thrice been to the ER for respiratory distress. My very patient new doctor prescribed me a new inhaler, which he "suggested" I use more frequently than I currently do (which is almost never), plus a nasal aerosol, eye drops, & a recommendation that I start taking two allergy pills a day instead of just one, which I had always thought was a sure recipe for death. Apparently not. Again, I don't have a medical degree.

As the doctor led me out of his office, he asked, "Did you take pictures of your arms?"

Am I that transparent?

"Of course!" I responded enthusiastically. "I work for a Jewish organization; everyone I know is terribly allergic to something. I have to tell them I've got that indoor-kid street cred, too!"

He laughed. "My son's in BBYO," he told me.

"So you know what I mean."

"I do. I'm an allergist!"

Touché, doc.
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In Which I'm Too Anxious to Function, & (Spoiler Alert!) a Corndog is Eventually Involved

Friday, April 5, 2013

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I had Monday off, & after writing a slew of thank-you notes, cleaning my office a little bit, & just generally being more productive than usual on work-free days (what is it about weekdays off versus plain old weekends?), I decided I'd try to get to a spinning class. As it turns out, my gym didn't have any classes until 6pm, & I didn't want to wait that long, so I decided to try out a 4pm class at another gym location just down the road. Enthusiasm aplenty, I suited up in yoga pants & a tank top & let Google Maps lead the way.

I made it to the gym with 15 minutes to spare before class &, enthusiasm faltering but still mostly intact, I asked the front desk staffers where the cycle room was. "I've never been to this location," I explained. "Can you point me in the right direction?" The dude staffer, who was a guido extraordinaire (because remember, I go to this chain of gyms), literally just pointed for me, & grunted something like, "That way, can't miss it."

Except I could miss it, & I did miss it, because that gym, unlike my usual gym, is a big circle of mirrors. I already have terrible vision & intense anxiety, so, you know, it was pretty ideal.

I wandered awkwardly for a bit, feeling sure that the fitter-than-I folks on treadmills & ellipticals were wondering what the hell I was doing looking lost & toting a big, patent leather purse throughout the gym like a dope - but I couldn't find the locker room, either! When I finally located the cycle room, I decided to keep my dopey bag with me, against the wall or something, because I didn't want to venture back out into the Hall of Mirrors, except as it turns out, the cycle room was a mini Hall of Mirrors itself, at least three times bigger than the cycle room at my usual gym... plus, you know, covered in mirrors.

Still, I was (mostly) undeterred. I chose a bike & tried to adjust it to fit me - but the seat got stuck, so I moved to another bike & tried again... & the seat fell off. There were two other cyclists already in the room, & both of them were looking at me like I had three arms.

So obviously, I bailed.

"I'll just run on a treadmill!" I thought to myself. Except I couldn't even find the treadmills, & I was still carrying the damn purse. And I still couldn't see because I need an optometrist, stat. And panic was setting in because ohmyGodwhatswrongwithme?! Who gets overwhelmed by a new gym?! So I did what any sane person with an anxiety disorder would do: I left. Quickly. I slithered past the guido front desk staffer, my head down & my enthusiasm fully destroyed, & took refuge in my car.

As I pulled out of the parking lot, I spotted a glowing Mecca next door, a comfortable & familiar friend: a Sonic. So naturally, I went through the drive-through, still dressed in workout clothes, & bought a corndog, which is essentially the opposite of working out. But that, at least, didn't induce my anxiety. Just my guilt.

Annnnnd all was right with the world again.
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There's a Travel App for That

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

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I, uh, travel a lot. Maybe you noticed. In 2013 alone, I've already been to Israel, Texas, Los Angeles, Ohio, D.C., Chicago, & Pennsylvania, plus four trips to NYC. Whew. No wonder I'm exhausted; I'm exhausted just reading about all the places I've been lately. Fortunately, I have a low-key April before heading to Vegas in May & Florida in June. Did I say "whew"?

Anyway. I'm by no means worldly, & in fact, I always sort of feel like I'm just playing the part of well-traveled twentysomething. To help myself get it right, I've picked up some tips & tricks for navigating successful & not-as-stressful-as-it-could-be travel - & many of them are, unsurprisingly, tech-dependent. I realized just how travel-savvy I'm become last month, while Nathan & I were in Brooklyn with his brother & future sister-in-law, & some of these tips-slash-tricks came in handy in getting us through a neighborhood we'd never visited before.

I guided the group from our hotel to Peaches Hothouse, a restaurant that looks amazing but which I didn't realize is teeny-tiny. Like, so teeny-tiny that the wait was approximately two hours long. Unfortunately, we'd just walked more than a mile through an unpopulated area in the dark, & we weren't eager to keep walking - but it wasn't exactly an area frequented by cabs, either. Enter Uber, an on-demand request tool for a private driver. I asked Uber to pick us up at the Hothouse, & a driver arrived within seven minutes, dropping us off a mile & a half away at a Doctor Who-themed bar. I paid with my credit card through the app, & tip was included - no cash or calculations needed! 

Having not eaten yet, we weren't quite ready for the bar scene, so we started looking for restaurants in the area. Everyone knows about Yelp, but did you know that the Yelp app includes a monocle feature that you can use to see what's nearby? Aim your iPhone toward a busy street, & it'll show you your restaurant/bar/whatever options within range, including price & user-ranked star average. If something strikes your fancy, you can click through to learn more about any particular place, where you can read reviews just like you would on regular Yelp. We quickly ended up at a three-&-a-half-star Thai place that, while no great shakes, tasted just fine & suited our needs (in which our needs were "eat, immediately").

The next day, Nathan & I wandered various parts of the city, checking out a movie in Williamsburg & Newsies on Broadway at Times Square. Because the Apple Maps app is awful, & the Google Maps isn't as reliable as I want it to be, we turned to iTrans NYC, my preferred subway app. It's $3.99, but if you spend any significant amount of time in NYC & have the sense of direction I do (which is to say, none at all), it's worth every penny. iTrans NYC provides live train info, MTA maps, directions, schedules, service alerts, etc., etc., etc., & it's never let me down.

These three apps - & others like Kayak, TripIt, & SitOrSquat - take some of the horribleness out of being constantly on the go. I use them all the time, but my fellow travelers' reactions to my techie travel tricks clued me in to the fact that not everyone uses or even knows about all of these - & I'm all about sharing!

If you travel a lot, tell me: What apps keep you sane on the road?
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Tell Me Jokes, Funny Man

Monday, April 1, 2013

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Like basically everyone else on Planet Earth, I like funny stuff, which is why Nathan & I bought tickets to see Aziz Ansari do standup last week at Count Basie Theatre in downtown Red Bank. I don't watch Parks & Recreation, & Nathan asked me not to watch any of his stuff on YouTube ahead of time lest I end up watching a live repeat of it, so I wasn't really sure what to expect of Aziz's sense of humor. Here are my thoughts:
  1. I've never understood why performers start shows with insults about the town or city they're visiting. Aziz's entrance sounded like so many I've heard before, growing up attending shows at Blossom Music Center, Cleveland's outdoor venue located in... beautiful Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. The gist is always essentially, "Hey, podunk-dwellers! I've never been here before & I confess that I stepped directly from my bus into this amphitheater without actually experiencing any of the things your town may have to offer, but I'm famous & used to big-time cities, so I assume everything else sucks! Rather than endearing myself to you, my adoring fans, I'll begin the evening by talking shit about this place where I'm fortunate enough to be playing a sold-out show." But, you know, never in quite so many direct words.

    Aziz started like that - right down to admitting that he'd stepped directly from his bus into the amphitheater without actually experiencing any of the things our town has to offer. Aside from that...
  1. Aziz Ansari is funny. Really, really funny. I truly appreciate jokes about how bizarre marriage is, how undesirable children are, how great President Obama is, & how hysterical online dating can be.
  1. I do not, however, appreciate or find humor in jokes about child molestation. I understand that dark humor exists, & I often go that comedy route myself - but jokes about raping little kids just aren't the kind that get me laughing. I was honestly shocked by how many people in the audience guffawed through Aziz's bit about sexual abuse of anyone, much less minors. Needless to say, I was really relieved when that particular shtick came to an end & things could go back to being actually funny.
  1. Mid-show, a girl ran down the mezzanine stairs so quickly that Nathan & I turned to one another to look astounded and/or concerned. As soon as I looked away from her... WOOMP, THERE IT WAS. Girlfriend bit it down the last few stairs, just out of our line of sight. The whole section reacted with such shock that Aziz stopped performing to ask if everything was OK, but the girl slunk away such that no one could be sure whether she actually was.
  1. The middle-aged woman next to me, who was there alone, watched the entire show through binoculars, as though a brown comedian is a rare bird.
  1. This was our first time at Count Basie, despite the fact that it's a mere nine-minute walk, at max, from our apartment.
So, yeah, this was fun. And reminded me that I need to get out more often.
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