Monday, May 18, 2015

I consider myself a pretty generous guy.  I’m happy to pick up a tab at the bar.  I enjoy buying friends and family things that they may appreciate.  I’m happy to donate to charity.  I continue to spoil my children rotten. I’ve been blessed and I don’t mind sharing.  I draw the line at giving you the shirt off my back because you don’t want to see a 61-year-old guy with just his pants on under any circumstances.  Most importantly, my kids share the same level of generosity that I have.  I know I did good a job raising them.  However, my parents were the complete polar opposites. Miserly, tightfisted; cheap as the day is long.  Those were my parents.  Didn’t make them bad people, but penny-pinchers nonetheless.  Anyway, where is this leading?

This past weekend I spent a wonderful evening with my favorite cousin and her husband.  We are about the same age and grew up in adjacent towns.  We were close as kids, grew apart and re-connected.  I adore her and her husband. Over dinner we were reminiscing about our Aunt Libby.  Aunt Libby was our great aunt from New York.  She was friendly, smart, funny, and had a wickedly sharp tongue. In short, my kind of person.  My mother adored her.  She always spoke about Libby with a certain reverence.  In short, she was my mothers’ idol. My cousin was reminiscing about a car she bought from my father, a car salesman, with the money she inherited from, you guessed it, Aunt Libby.  WAIT? WHAT? Let me get this straight; you inherited money from Aunt Libby and I didn’t?  You bought a car with that money and I didn’t get a dime, from the now, not so admired Aunt Libby. Aunt Libby died childless so the money went to all of her family.  After she died, my mother continued to deify Aunt Libby so I’m pretty sure our family received a nice chunk of change from old Aunt Libby.  Otherwise it probably would have been, “Don’t ever mention that bitches’ name in my presence ever again.”  My mother had a vindictive streak and could really hold a grudge.  Thankfully I’m not vindictive, but the grudge part, well, lets talk about that at a later time. 

About the time of Libby’s passing, a particular incident sticks out in my mind that, coupled with this new found knowledge of how I got cheated out of my rightful inheritance, now makes perfect sense.  I had just bought a six year old, bright orange Plymouth Duster with black interior, straight six-cylinder engine and the best part, as if something could top the extraordinary bright “Hemi-Orange” paint job, a three-speed manual transmission with a floor mounted shifter.  AM radio, no air conditioning.  It was freakin’ awesome.  That car was so bright it could be seen from space.  It was a beacon.  I was always able to find this car in any parking lot, day, night, fog, sandstorm you name it. 

Anyway, I was commiserating to my parents about the fact that it needed new tires.  Well, out of the blue, my mother told my father to “Take Barry to the tire store and get him new tires.”  I thought for a moment that I had an auditory hallucination or perhaps a mini stroke because that was so unlike her.  Not wanting to break the spell I readily agreed.  When we got to the tire store, still in shock, I thought, well I’m probably going to have to pick some mismatched tires from the bargain bin, hopefully they are going to be round, or maybe have to buy my father’s favorites; slightly used re-treads.   We walk in and he said, “Well, what do you want?”  I was looking at these cool raised white letter tires (which were all the rage back in the seventies) and tentatively squeaked out, knowing that it would never fly, hoping against hope, “Those.”  Well, much to my astonishment he agreed.  I was stunned.  I remember thinking, “Who just abducted my parents and replaced them with these two extremely generous people?” And this was before alien abduction was in vogue.  

The tires were put on the car and I’m driving home marveling at my good fortune.  That car was my pride and joy.  I polished it all of the time and kept those raised white letter tires in pristine condition.  People were forced to put on sunglasses when looking at the car.  I personally think the reason I need glasses today is because of that car’s paint job; it was blinding.  But that’s beside the point.

Fast-forward to the revelation about the Aunt Libby inheritance discussion and it suddenly makes perfect sense.  My parents didn’t suddenly develop a philanthropic streak.  They didn’t just wake up and say “Hey lets treat our wonderful son to some tires so he doesn’t get a blow out, run off the road and end up in a ditch.”  Noooo, my parents magnanimously bought me tires with MY FUCKING MONEY! And, not only that, a trip to Italy as well.  On. My. Dime.  Or I should say my Euro.  Or Lira. Or whatever currency they use in Italy. See, I have no clue never having visited there.

So the forty-year old mystery has now been solved. My cousin got a new car, my brother got a crock-pot or something like that, my parents got a trip to Italy and I got new tires. But at least I learned to be generous from two extremely cheap people.  And that is something money can’t buy.  Even if it’s not your own. 

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Well, I lost man card again.  I know, I know, it took me so long to get it back.  You may recall it was temporarily revoked when I reluctantly admitted that I watched a few episodes of “Say Yes To The Dress.”  But that was only because my wife was watching it, and I sat down on the couch to relax, and I sorta got caught up in the moment because the bride to be and her crew were all jumping up and down celebrating because she picked out the perfect dress and it didn’t make her look like a whale.    Anyway, I tried to make amends to earn it back.  I engaged in manly sports, I drove my manly car, and used manly tools like chainsaws and jackhammers. However, when I admitted to a close friend and confidant that I joined Pinterest, she immediately brought up the man card.  I was stunned.  Pinterest?  I joined it because I’m a foodie and Pinterest has some phenomenal recipes and a great system to keep them organized.  I’m always bookmarking recipes and promptly forgetting about them.  Typical guy activity right? I thought I was making my life easier.  Doesn’t that count?  Clearly it doesn’t.  Clearly I jumped the fence.  Clearly I went to, her words not mine, “the dark side.”  Cue scary music, and I gotta lay down for a few because I’m getting a headache and feel bloated. 

Is Pinterest really for women?  Well I had to find out.  I promptly started my due diligence.  First I Googled Pinterest demographics.  The results were not what I was hoping for.  Only 13% of Pinterest users are men. Uh-oh. That doesn’t bode well for me.  I also discovered that only 10% of older baby boomers use Pinterest.  So now I’m the creepy old man-card-less Pinterest user.  You know that guy.  The weird uncle that only gets trotted out at holidays and everyone is slightly afraid of him.  Yeah, that guy.  Oh yeah, great for my self-esteem.  I’m getting cramps just thinking about that. 

So maybe the statistics don’t tell the whole story.  I went back to Pinterest and searched cars.  Not what I was hoping for.  A black Lamborghini with pink seats.  A BMW with pink trim.  Or how about the car shaped like a high heel?  I’m getting a little panicky here.  I mean who drives a car shaped like a Manolo Blahnik?  Oh my God, did I just use Manolo Blahnik in a sentence?  How do I even know that?  Okay let me compose myself.  Let’s try firearms.  Turquoise, pink and purple guns appear along with my personal favorite, one disguised as a tampon.  A tampon. Really?  I began to cry for no apparent reason. 

In desperation I Googled manly activities.  According to AskMen, some of the best manly activities are, shining my shoes, shaving with a straight razor, and having an afternoon martini.  Whew, who knew it would be that easy.  Clean shoes, clean face, and shit-faced.  Man card approved.  But before I start, I think I’ll tuck into a nice pint of Ben and Jerry’s Blondie Ambition.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Dr. StrangeLAWN or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

Spring is finally here so you know what that means; lawn care.  Out of all of the chores that I have to do, lawn care is my least favorite.  Actually, let me re-phrase that because least favorite implies that it is somehow enjoyable.  I fucking hate it.  All right, I said it, lets move on. Mowing, raking, pruning, feeding, weeding, the list is endless.  There isn’t enough time in the day or money in the bank to do all that is required to keep my lawn healthy. I raised two kids, sent them to college, and they didn’t require half of the attention and money that is necessary to have a nice lawn. 

Mowers revving, weed whackers buzzing, chain saws whining; for the past few weeks it has sounded like the Indy 500 has invaded my street. My neighbors have already started in on mulching, mowing, trimming and such while I haven’t even opened my shed to at least check to see if my trusty John Deere tractor, affectionately referred to as Buttermilk is even there!  Someone could have stolen it and replaced it with, God forbid, a push mower.  That would certainly be my demise.  Ah Buttermilk, my green and yellow stead with not one but two cup holders.  Which co-incidentally was the deciding factor in buying her in the first place.  Two cup holders mean two beers.  And, curiously enough, it takes two beers to finish mowing the lawn. My lack of lawn ambition doesn’t bode well with my Type A or in this case Type Gr neighbors.  I’m sure they are already preparing the annual petition to get me to move. Lucky for me I don’t respond to lawn shaming or peer pressure. 

This year I’ve decided that I will employ what I affectionately refer to as the “nuclear option.”  No, I’m not going to tear my lawn up and cover it with green concrete.  And neither will I let it grow fallow, allowing the grass to grow to knee height giving my house the creepy Addam’s Family look.  I’m going to hire a landscaper.  What?  You, Barry, hiring a landscaper?  Yes, sad but true, I’m going to <choke> pay someone to do all of the scut work that I loathe.  I mean if there is someone out there willing to spend their valuable time cutting, pruning, tilling, raking, weeding and feeding, far be it for me to deny them their pleasure.  My selection process for the landscaper will be very simple; if they don’t run away screaming in terror after they see my house, they’re hired.

Admittedly, I have pretty low standards when it comes to my lawn.  My minimum requirement is that it is some shade of green.  And that’s pretty broad.  Grass, crab grass, chickweed, smartweed, quick weed, I could care less.  If it’s green, it’s serene.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Trek Verve 4; My First Impressions

I’ve been an avid bike rider for well over twenty-five years.  My late brother got me into the sport and I’ve been a fan ever since.  I enjoy road biking and absolutely love mountain biking.  But, while bombing down the hill, balls to wall, is a ton of fun, the aftereffects, not so much.   And by aftereffects I mean, backache, headache, neck ache, (insert body part here) ache.  You get the picture.  My Nishiki hybrid, while still a very functional piece of equipment was starting to get a little long in tooth.  I had resigned myself to a few more years of riding it and then burying it with full honors.  After all, I must have put about eight to nine thousand miles on it.

A few months ago we were visiting some friends in Florida and he took me out to his garage to show me his new toy a GIANT hybrid.  Very impressive bike.  Front shock, gel saddle atop a shock absorber seat post, and the best part a handlebar that adjusts so an old duffer like me can ride in a more upright position.  Perfect!  As soon as I got back home I began my research. 

Now I’m the kinda guy that researches everything to death and after an aggressive Internet search on hybrids, I came across the Trek Verve 4.  Obviously they have a Verve 1, 2, and 3, but the 4 had most of the goodies that I wanted.  Mainly a 27-speed gear train, lightweight aluminum frame, trigger shifters rather than twist grips, and an adjustable front fork with lockout.  It also had upgraded Bontrager tires and rims as well.  I went to my local bike shop, took one for a test drive and ordered it. 

One of the things I like about having a hobby, and I have many, is the ability to add tschokes and upgrades.  Biking is no different.  I had the bike guy dump the platform pedals and add a pair of Shimano M540 clipless pedals.  I’ve ridden clipless forever and these are a great lightweight, easy to get in and out of pedal. Of course I had to get new riding shoes as well a riding computer. I really don’t trust my head to some ten dollar bucket so I also ordered a GIRO Air Attack Shield helmet; in red and black of course.  The cool thing about the helmet is, well, the shield.  A smoked grey, detachable eye shield that hooks on the helmet with three magnets.  Since I wear glasses I’m loath to take two pairs with me; my regular and my sunglasses.  This solved the problem, case closed. 

So, how does the bike ride?  Well I went out for a ten-mile cruise today.  In one word; freakin’ awesome.  Yes that is two words but you get the idea.  The ride is extremely plush.  The front shock soaks up the bumps beautifully.  I made one adjustment to the factory setting and I think it is spot on.  The seat post, while not adjustable, helps dampen the smaller bumps, dips and cracks in the road. Together with a more upright riding position and a soft gel seat to boot, I was very comfortable.  It’s pretty lightweight so the acceleration was pretty good.  Not three-thousand dollar composite frame good, but good enough for me and much faster than my old steel frame bike. 

I also like the 27-speed drive train.  It was extremely easy to quickly find the right gear for cruising, climbing and accelerating instead of trying to hunt it down.  Hunting for the right gear is not too much fun especially when you are in the middle of long climb.  I pretty much switched back and forth between the large and middle chain ring.  I think only the most odious of hills will require the granny.  The steering was very responsive and precise.  One cool feature is the Bontrager Satellite Elite handgrips.  They are paddle shaped, perfect for the way I like to ride; loose grip with my fingers lightly resting on the brakes.  The paddle shape helps distribute the weight on my hands resulting in less shock being transmitted up my arms.  Less fatigue equals more riding time. 

After one or two rides I usually start thinking about upgrades.  New this. New that.  My mountain bike has literally every part replaced except for the frame.  I’m not seeing that in this case.  Good new for my wallet, not good new for the bike shop owner. The shifters are precise, the brakes very good, and the derailleurs, while not top of the line by any stretch of the imagination did their job very, very well. Trek really got it right.   I still have to make a few micro adjustments to dial in the saddle position, but a couple more rides oughta get that taken care of tout suite. 

So bottom line.  It is a great bike for my purposes.  Upright riding position, comfortable cockpit and a super plush ride. I think this is going to be the start of a beautiful friendship. 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Some Things Are Better Off Left Unseen, Like Naked Reality Shows

A pretty weird article popped on my Facebook feed a few days ago. Jesse Nizewitz, a New York model, is suing Viacom for $10 million because they “accidentally” showed her, shall we say, lady parts on television. Oh, by the way, the television show she was on is called, get this, “Naked Dating.” That’s right, she is suing them because she was shown naked on a show where you are supposed to be naked. Apparently the editor of that show failed to blur out her private parts during a segment where she is wrestling naked with an equally naked guy on a beach. Call me old fashioned, but when I was dating, wrestling on a beach with my date wasn’t really a consideration. Bowling, a movie, maybe a nice dinner; naked wrestling, uh-uh.

 Anyway, she is claiming that having her lady bits broadcasted to the entire world has caused her, “extreme emotional distress, mental anguish, humiliation and embarrassment.” And to add insult to injury her boyfriend dumped her. Boyfriend, “Hey Jess, wanna grab a pizza?” Jesse, “Gee no I can’t. I’m going to wrestle a perfect stranger without my clothes on. Maybe next week.” I could see where the boyfriend might want to move on.

 Well, in the interest of good investigative journalism I tracked down the offending photograph to see for myself how embarrassing it really is. After viewing it for, oh about a second, I think I will also sue Viacom for emotional distress. I’m sure the three people that actually watch the show will sue Viacom as well.

 When I was telling this story to my wife, she said that she was watching a news show about “naked” reality shows. Apparently, this is a brand new genre in television. Sure enough we have “Naked and Afraid,” where two people are trying to survive in the wilderness for a few weeks and they are, drum roll please, naked. Why anyone would want to be in the woods for a few weeks with no clothes on is beyond me. I’ve gotten mosquito bites fully clothed AND after applying bucket loads of repellent. Going naked in the Louisiana Bayou? Not for all the tea in China, my man.

 “Naked Vegas” and “Skin Wars” are two more shows that feature body paint artists using people as canvases. Great Britain had a show called “Naked Office.” Apparently casual Friday was too mundane. Let’s start the weekend off with a bang by coming to work with no clothes on. I thought my wife was joking when she said that there is even a real estate show called “Buying Naked” where couples search for their dream home in the buff. Can you imagine having an open house and prospective buyers show up naked? Don’t sit on the couch, and spray some Lysol when you leave, please.

 Reality shows are very cheap to produce, more so because now you don’t need a clothing budget, but really, a whole bunch of shows about naked people? “Naked Nascar?” “Naked Home Remodeling?” “NCIS Naked Edition?” I certainly hope not.

 I’m not a prude but I’ve been in enough gym locker rooms to tell you that naked isn’t all that it cracks up to be. I mean, most people are better off left very clothed. There are certain things that you just can’t un-see. Can you imagine if they had a “Biggest Loser Naked Edition?” We would all be permanently traumatized.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

The Gazebo Inn; The Best Part of My Summer Vacation

My wife and I were fortunate enough to get a gift certificate from our two wonderful sons to the Gazebo Inn in Ogunquit, Maine.  Nothing could prepare us for what lay in store.  We drove up from Connecticut in a horrendous rainstorm. I thought I saw an ark plying the passing lane on the highway.  Well, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but it was hours of relentless, torrential rain.   I was also recovering from food poisoning and was in a pretty foul mood.  We finally get to Ogunquit in the middle of the afternoon, and according to our GPS, it was no more than a few minutes drive to the inn.  Wrong!  There is a peculiar shaped intersection with no stop lights smack dab in the center of  Ogunquit that turned a ten minute cruise into forty-five minutes of rain soaked bumper to bumper torture.  

Finally we see the Gazebo Inn in the distant mist.  We park the car and haul our travel weary selves into the inn.  We are greeted by Scott, the owner and operator of this gem of a bed and breakfast.  Immediately his warm, enthusiastic, and engaging manner makes us forget the hell we just went through.  He begins to take us on a mini-tour of the inn.  To say that this place is gorgeous is to do a dis-service to the word gorgeous.  Stunning, amazing, dazzling, enchanting—take your pick.  Scott’s obvious pride comes through as he describes the renovations, use of recycled materials and workmanship involved in the building. The exercise room with sauna, media room with an extensive DVD collection, bar, laundry room, common room, kitchen, salt water pool and spa, all add up to a perfect stay. The decorations, level of artistry and attention to detail is incredible.  I mention to Scott that I used to build furniture and he launches into a fascinating story of how the floors and bannisters were made.  Wood geeks will be thrilled with this.  Others will simply stare in awe. 

One thing that strikes me as unusual is during the tour is that Scott  continually says that if you want something, take it and settle up with him later.  Want a nice bottle of wine from the bar?  Un-cork it and pay for it when you see him. Like a hat from the gift shop?  Put it on your head and settle up when you see him.  Interested in the most comfortable robe you have ever worn?  Put it on and settle up with him later.  Amazing in this day and age the level of trust he has in his guests. 

Finally we go to our room.  It was one of the smaller ones at the inn, but incredibly lovely.  Handmade cherry bed frame, leather club chairs, fridge, and even a Keurig coffee maker.  A pocket door leads to the bathroom with a two person tiled shower, rain shower faucet, pedestal sink, and on and on and on.  I can only imagine what the larger rooms and suites must look like. 

I’m still tied in knots from the trip so I head off to the sauna for a nice schvitz, as my wife makes dinner reservations.  They have a book with menus of area restaurants available to peruse.  Also, Scott has made some delightful dining deals with several of the restaurants; we chose the seventy-nine dollar deal that includes two apps, two entrees and a dessert.  Immediately, the night manager books us a reservation.  And, you guessed it, settle up tomorrow when you see Scott. 

The meal was divine and we head back to the inn.  The sheets on the bed are this amazing microfiber material that feels like the most expensive, high thread count cotton.  I had one of the best nights sleep in ages.  Guess what?  The sheets are available for purchase in the gift store.  Guess what again; we buy a few sets! 

The bed part of the bed and breakfast was great, now for the breakfast. Our sons kept on telling us about the blueberry juice and scones.  What?  Blueberry juice?  Oh yeah, delicious.  The scones?  To die for.  My diet goes out the window as I tuck into sausages, cinnamon French toast, home fries and cranberry scones.  The second day we had scrambled eggs, hash loaded with chunks of corned beef, spinach with cheese and a red pepper pesto sauce and blueberry scones. 

The weather for the second day was warm and clear so we decided to drive into town.  Big mistake!  There is NO, let me repeat, NO parking in Ogunquit.  We drive back to the inn and bump into Scott.  We explain our dilemma and he tells us that he is driving into town and would be glad to give us a ride.  Nice!  We kick around town and take the trolley back to the inn.  We settle in beside the spa.  The gurgling waterfall is so soothing as we soak up the sun.  We chat, read, decide where to go for dinner, and just relax.  I take another schvitz in the sauna and get ready for dinner.  We go to a place for lobster, because we are in Maine and, well, how do you go to Maine and NOT have lobster? 

Morning comes and it is time to leave. NOOOOO!!!  I’ve been to many hotels and motels and they all have one thing in common, you can’t wait to get the hell out of there and head home.  Not the Gazebo Inn.  I begin to plot out how I can actually move into it.  It’s your most comfortable shirt, your chilling sweats, and your favorite pair of shoes all rolled up into one experience.  It is so welcoming, so comforting so absolutely awesome.  Scott, Bruce and Peter have made customer service an art form.  I cannot wait to go back. 

Friday, July 18, 2014

The Hurricane; A Classic Summer Cocktail

There is nothing like a refreshing cocktail after a long day of... well I'm on summer vacation so it's a long day of play.  I washed and waxed the Mustang, ran four miles at the gym so I think I deserve a little bit of relaxation.  The Hurricane cocktail has its origins in New Orleans.  It is generally accepted that it was first created at Pat O'Brien's.   The name of the drink comes from the hurricane glass it was served in.   Here is the recipe that I used.

Hurricane Cocktail 

2 ounces of dark rum
2 ounces of light rum 
2 ounces of passion fruit juice
1 ounce of orange juice
1/2 ounce lime juice
1 tablespoon of simple syrup
1 tablespoon of grenadine
garnish with orange slice and cherry

For my dark rum I chose one of my favorite rums; Ron Botran.   Ron Botran is distilled in Guatemala.  It is a blend of rums that are aged anywhere from five to fourteen years.  Also, it is not made from molasses as most rums are, but from from sugar cane juice.   The light rum is Rhum Neisson from Martinique.  I had to special order this rum from Amity Wine and Spirits in New Haven because it is not readily found in in my area package stores.  The Niesson distillery has been producing rums since 1931.  Rhum Niesson is another rum that is not distilled from molasses.  It is a rhum agricole in that it is produced from sugar cane juice.  Also, this rum weighs in at one hundred proof; not for the faint of heart.  The rest of the ingredients are obviously available at any grocery store.  Pour all of the ingredients into a steel shaker filled with ice, pop the glass on, shake until blended and strain into a hurricane glass filled with ice.  Garnish with an orange slice and a cherry, sit back, sip, have another sip, have another sip, enjoy and blog.