Dog Hollering

“Who’s A Good Boy?”

I have a problem.No matter the situation, level of propriety, or expected decorum, if I see a friendly looking dog, I will try to talk to it.

It’s not so bad that I will cross the street in hopes of petting a good boy. Instead, I’ll just keep mental tabs on it, and use my own personal version of “The Secret” and hope that we cross paths.

As someone who grew up with dogs, all dogs are nice in my mind until they’re not. If the existential question toward humanity is “Is man inherently good or evil?” my own personal philosophy toward dogs is “Are Dogs inherently great, or the greatest?”

Even after being bitten by a street dog in Thailand, I still trust all dogs to have my love as their best interest.

Dogs have to work for me to not like them. Most small dogs I judge instantly. A dog under 20 pounds has to earn my affection. It’s not hard, but it’s an uphill battle for their weirdly tiny legs.

Up until recently, I realized that I was doing something almost without noticing it. If I was driving, and I saw a great looking dog, there was a 50/50 chance that I would shout out something complimentary to the dog. Something like “Good Boy!” “What a Great Doggo!” or even just “Floof!”

It was brought to my attention that while the dog may enjoy the drive-by praising, the dog owner might misinterpret my dog enthusiasm for nefarious mutterings.

Kate and I were driving somewhere early in our relationship, and I saw a good boy. Instantly my window was down and I gave the dog a shouted phrase of praise. Turning back to Kate with a satisfied grin on my face, I saw a look mixed with horror and disgust.

Turns out, the dog walker was an attractive woman, and Kate interpreted my dog hollering as actual hollering. Looking back, I see the error in my ways.

Tail between my legs, I toned down my dog hollering. For a while, I would just yell praise to the dog, but with my window up. I felt confident that the doggo’s superior sense of hearing would pick up my words of encouragement, without me branding myself as a street harasser.

Now, I wait for a dog to pass me by, then I politely ask the owner if I can pet their dog.

But, to all the doggos out in the world. Know this. You are all good boys and good girls.

Dog Hollering – 3 out of 5 Stars

Shun Chef’s Knife

“Oh That’s Nice”

For my birthday, I was awarded a smattering of great gifts from friends and family. They’re all equal in value, thoughtfulness, and loving gestures.

Then there’s my new Shun 8″ Chef’s Knife.

Probably forged by the last great Samurai Swordmaker, Hattori Hanzo, my Shun knife is the greatest thing to ever happen to my novice culinary career.

Lovingly named “Shun Li”, after the Street Fighter character, Chun Li, Shun and Chun have similar capabilities. They’re both delicate, sharp, and can take down objects double and triple their size.

We have great knives in our kitchen, but Shun Li has taken it up to the next level. Kate and I jockey for who gets to do the cooking prep work. Dicing an onion is like trying on silk pajamas. Smooth and sexy.

I feel a tinge of guilt everytime I take Shun Li down off of the wall because the rest of our knives are left to hang up on their magnetic prison, gloomily staring down as Shun Li chops and carves.

This must be how Woody felt in Toy Story 3 when he realized Andy was getting too old to play with toys.

Not to say that my other knives aren’t useful. We have a bread knife that is incredible. But the rest of them…just don’t cut it.

Is this the beginning of their sad, slow march to the back of the kitchen drawer? Perhaps they’ll be handed down to younger family members or friends.

Maybe they’ll eventually be donated.

Or, they will end up going to the great whetstone in the sky, where all the steaks are marbled, the knives never go dull, and chefs never replace you with Japanese steel.

Shun Chef’s Knife – 4 out of 5 Stars 

Cats

“The Musical”

At a lovely dinner party last night, somehow I became involved in a conversation about Broadway. The story revolved around how a group of young 20 somethings from Iowa had trekked out to NYC, and got back row seats to see a new musical called “Cats.”

Now, I had heard of Cats. My knowledge (up until last night) was that it was Broadway play about cats. I also feel like it has been a pop culture punching bag for decades.

Last night, after we came home from the dinner party, Kate insisted we watch YouTube videos of Cats. Now I understand why this play gets made fun of.

I think I was able to sit through three or four songs from the play before I begged Kate to turn it off.

Cats, as I saw it, is what happens when a high school drama class is given a massive makeup department and stage budget, and that’s it. The Cat makeup was…good? However, the songs that I heard weren’t sung well, if sung at all.

I understand that this was the first Broadway show to do something like Cats did (dress up like Cats?), but maybe they should have built the show around some good singing.

To me, plays are just small moments of talking between anthemic or funny songs that propel the story along.

Growing up, our house was regularly blasting soundtracks from plays like Les Miserables, Wicked, and The Music Man. Plays are supposed to have good music and singing. Cat makeup is great, but let me hear some pipes.

In an attempt to clear our palette, we began searching for Les Mis videos, but in a classic YouTube misstep, we clicked on a video called “Boss Cats” and lost the next 9 minutes to footage of cats being assholes.

But hey, the video had cats singing, so it was definitely the better of the two Cats.

Cats – 1 out of 5 Stars 

Latkes

“Hashbrowns With Guilt”

Happy Hannukah everyone!

We’re not a religious household, but we do like to celebrate the holidays, and what better way to celebrate Hannukah with latkes – the traditional Jewish pancakes.

So, on Tuesday night, Kate and I spent an hour peeling potatoes and chopping onions, and then I managed to not burn myself with oil frying these delicious potato cakes on my cast iron.

I do have certain basic questions though. Of all the foods that Jews could have claimed, why the potato pancake? It’s not bad, but realistically it’s just a fancy way of doing hashbrowns.

Matzoh I understand – with the Egyptians and Moses and all that. But latkes? If we’re going to take a basic breakfast staple and adopt it as dinner, why not something like a breakfast burrito? Or French Toast? Or a quiche?

Are latkes supposed to be the side dish? Or the main course? Has anyone ever made a sandwich out of brisket with two latkes being the bread? Because if not, I might just open up that food truck.

Long story short, we made a lot of latkes, and now my lunch today is leftover latkes. I might have hit my latke limit.

Latkes – 2 out of 5 Stars

Red Dead Redemption 2

“An Instant Classic”

Unless you’ve been actively avoiding ads, everywhere, you’ve probably seen an ad for Red Dead Redemption 2 in the last two months.

RDR2 is a video game centered around the end of the wild west, and it was released last month. Think of it as Grand Theft Auto with horses. Or a much more violent version of the Oregon Trail.

Hundreds of articles have been written praising this game, and I agree with almost all of them. As a veteran of the gaming industry, it’s nice to see a project that took 8 years to complete be released to such worldwide success and acclaim.

My two cents is – this game is damn near perfect, and one that I’ll be playing for many months and maybe years to come.

But what I really like about it, is that it’s one of the few video games that Kate likes to watch me play, and even encourages me at times.

In the past, my two loves haven’t always seen eye-to-eye. Kate has dismissed video games as useless and a waste of time, while video games have responded with whispered jealous messages, reminding me of all the times we’ve had together.

Red Dead Redemption 2 might have finally joined the two in harmony. The game itself is an astounding visual achievement, with rolling hills, snowy drifts, and babbling brooks just waiting to be stared at.

What Kate likes most about it though is that there are small moments in the game that she feels teach the user about the importance of chores and nature. For example, in RDR2, your character lives in a camp filled with a cast of misfits and outlaws. Besides the standard outlaw things one can do (Rob a train, stick up a bank, kill bandits), you also can do chores at camp.

Chores like chopping wood, bringing water to the cook, and feeding hay to the horses. It’s these little moments that have brought Kate into the fold.

RDR2 is unlike any other game I’ve played because I find myself enjoying the moments between the game. I’ll spend hours tracking and hunting a legendary animal, or simply sitting by a creek and fishing.

The most important aspect of RDR2 to me is that it’s brought the person I love and a passion I love into a playful partnership. And that’s where the true fun is.

Red Dead Redemption 2 – 5 out of 5 Stars

The Graffiti Wall

“An Ever-Changing Array of Aerosol”

I’ve been running on a pretty consistent schedule for the last two months in preparation for a 10k next week. Yes, after completing the Venice Christmas 5k last year, we’re doing it again. Except Kate signed me up for double the distance.

Is she running double the distance? Nope. But I am. Hooray.

To not embarrass myself in a sea of swift strangers, I’ve been using the Nike Run Club app to keep a regular workout setting. If you’re into running, or want to get into it, I would recommend the app. It creates a custom workout schedule, and adjusts to your speed and completed runs.

Part of the challenge of running (besides the physical act of it), is planning or discovering a route that is both your desired length and also isn’t full of traffic intersections and other hazards.

Luckily we live right by the beach, so I’ve been running along the Venice Beach Bike Path in the morning. The only hazards I encounter are enthusiastic cyclists, haggard heroin hobos, and the various characters that have chosen to make the streets of Venice their final destination.

Yes, I know it’s a bike path, but I stick very close to the sides, and it’s 7 AM, so the path isn’t busy at all.

My route to rack up miles follows the same normal pattern. Start on the Venice Canals, run out to the Venice Pier, and then take the bike path until I hit a halfway point, then head back via the Boardwalk.

One of the early milestones this run takes me on is a winding sand-covered stretch of bike path that becomes a tourist quagmire after 9 PM. It bisects the famous Venice Skate Park and a concrete area that has become an accepted stage for rollerskate performances.

Next to the skatepark is a set of walls and concrete pillars where graffiti is legal. I don’t know the details, but what I do know is that every weekend, legions of artists armed with backpacks full of spray paint create murals over murals.

This means that whenever I run by these walls, there’s a strong chance that I’ll see something new and bizarre. Most of the time the paintings are simply well-executed tags of the artist’s name. But other times I’ll be astounded with the subtle style that these creators are able to coax out of an aerosol can.

My run on Tuesday took me past the wall, and I was greeted with a new mural staring back at me. What on Sunday had been a silver script in elegant graffiti font saying “Anti Death Krew” now had been painted over and had a crying baby face.

I surprised that a new piece had been executed so quickly. But as I ran, I started to ponder the significance of the baby’s face. Was the Anti Death Krew trying to make a statement about the cycle of life? Is the true “anti-death” bringing new life into the world? To leave a legacy?

Damn, I thought. Better just stick to running. I’ll leave the existential life questions to the graffiti wall.

The Graffiti Wall – 3 out of 5 Stars

Archery

“Not Just For Cupid”

Over the long Thanksgiving weekend, we went to a gun range to shoot archery.

Before we dive into this review, I’ve been struggling with the correct verbiage. Is it shoot “bows and arrows?” that doesn’t sound right, because you don’t shoot “guns and bullets.” But then again, do you even “shoot” arrows? Really you draw, knock, and loose.

We’ll just stick with “shoot” but I have to tell you, I’ve been struggling with the correct words when sharing this story with friends.

Like an owl at an orgy says, anywhooo.

We woke up at 6 am, met up with friends, and visited a gun range in Newhall, California. My only previous knowledge of Newhall is that if you wanted to pass your driver’s license test when you were 16, they had a more forgiving DMV than Pasadena’s.

The Oak Tree Gun Club in Newhall is nestled in a little canyon off the freeway and has all the makings of wonderland for survivalists and those who like to play with things that go boom.

I’ve only been to one professional gun range before in my life. I went to shoot pistols with a friend in Texas. Other than that, my gun range experience was limited to Boy Scout camp where I learned to shoot .22’s and skeet.

Oak Tree seemed less of a gun range and more of a gun compound. First off, it was massive, containing an archery range, pistol range, rifle range, trap and skeet range, gift shop, cafeteria, and a bar.

Second Amendment discussion tabled for the moment, walking around a gun range is exciting. Booms and bangs abound, and men and women with real weapons walk around with serious yet gleeful looks on their faces.

The archery range was a steep walk up from the rest of the gun ranges and consisted of a small area with standard paper bulls-eye targets tacked to bales of hay. But just beyond that was a little stand where you could aim at an array of foam targets that were in the shape of elk, deer, and even a headless zombie.

Obviously, we decided to go after the foam targets. We rented standard bows and spent the next hour and a half riddling the targets with flimsily fletched arrows. Our bows spoke to our amateur status. Everyone else on the range had compound bows outfitted with rangefinders and other intense looking hunting doodads.

I haven’t shot bows since summer camp, but once I got in the groove of it, I found that I still had a dash of Robin of Loxley in my arm. After taking down most of the targets, my greatest achievement was putting an arrow into the haunch of a foam ram almost 150 feet down the range.

We left the Oak Tree gun club feeling happy with our morning. The only thing that soured it at the end was seeing a pasty blonde man with a beard but no mustache not only wearing a red MAGA hat, but also outfitted in a football jersey with “TRUMP 45” emblazoned on the back. Then again, it’s a gun range, so I feel like we got lucky seeing only one.

Archery – 3 out of 5 Stars