Rapid Fire Reviews

“Because Snackable Content Sticks”

To stop living in a festering pool of guilt and internal tension, I’m going to reset the clock. Here are 18 rapid fire reviews.

Travel Edition Part 3: Amsterdam

Trains to Work – The only time the world can hit “snooze” on your perfectly timed morning is with a late train. Still, it beats driving.  – 3 out of 5 Stars

Zoos – Whenever I have a moment while traveling, I’ll visit a zoo in a weird place. Animal rights tabled for the moment, the zoo in Amsterdam is my favorite cuddly jail, it had wide awake animals all over the place. Talk about instant gratification! – 4 out of 5 Stars

Envy – A fancy restaurant Kate and I went to in Amsterdam. We sat at the Chef’s Table and had an 11-course meal, four of which were mostly foam based. Do I want to eat most food in foam form? No. Was it cool though? I dunno, is eating bubbles cool? Absolutely. – 4 out of 5 Stars

Misc

Our Current Political Climate – 0 out of 5 Stars

Jicama Sticks – They lack the crunch of carrots, and yet have the weird texture of watermelon. – 2 out of 5 Stars

Bohnanaza – A card game where you’re a bean farmer and have to trade with other farmers to reap the best bean harvests. You know it’s a good game when you’re standing up and shouting across the table “HOW MANY STINK BEANS DO YOU WANT FOR ONE CHILI BEAN GODDAMMIT” – 4 out of 5 stars

Twitter – I’ve gotten back into the word whirlwind that is Twitter. Avoid all Kanye tweets. – 2 out of 5 Stars

Chia Pods – We were mistakenly given a bagful of these in our last Instacart order. They’re like if you mixed bad pudding with the gelatin portion of pomegranate seeds. – 1 out of 5 Stars 

The Good Place – What a brilliant show, and what trust in the writing staff. – 4 out of 5 Stars

Cheers – Speaking of Ted Danson, this show is uncomfortably misogynist. However, that seems like a great bar to hang at. – 2 out of 5 Stars

A Career in the Postal Service – I’ve often dreamed about is being a mailman in a nice walkable neighborhood. You get to exercise every day, you could listen to podcasts at work (learn French!) and most of the time you’re delivering something important to people’s lives. – 3 out of 5 Stars

Jazz Flute – When Kate and I were in Spain, the only music we had at the house were a stack of CD’s her family had left. Most of them were classical, except one was an album that had crazy good jazz flute renditions of Brazillian music. An Absolute Banger. – 4 out of 5 Stars

Silent Discos on the Beach – If time permits, I try to run after work before the sun goes down on the beach. Recently I’ve been coming across a group of Burner types who all wear headphones and gyrate wildly in silence on the beach as the sun goes down. Whatever works I guess. – 3 out of 5 Stars

Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes – A recipe taken from Chrissy Teigen’s Cravings, put this in your weekly rotation now. It’s the deliciousness of mashed potatoes, sans the Irish guilt. – 5 out of 5 Stars 

Bad Blood – I just finished this book about Theranos, the Silicon Valley startup that tricked investors out of a billion dollars, and then immediately made Kate read it. I’m usually not one for nonfiction, but this is a fascinating and fast read. – 4 out of 5 Stars

Wearing My Suit to a Wedding – Got to finally break that bad boy out for a trip to DC a few weeks back. While people weren’t throwing money or their bras at me, I did feel like a million bucks (at a 40% discount, thanks Atta!) – 4 out of 5 Stars

Pumpkins for Decoration – It’s October again, which means I start stressing about my Halloween costume, and Kate goes overboard on decorating. Our house now contains a pumpkin that we will never eat. It will just slowly rot until I throw it in the garbage. – 1 out of 5 Stars

Crossing Things off a List – Every Monday morning I sit down and make a list of thing I need to get done for the week. Some of them are ongoing projects, but some of them are gimmes. I literally write “make a list” and then when I’m done, cross it off. I encourage endorphin manipulation at all opportunities. – 3 out of 5 Stars 

Travel Size

This is the beginning of three-part series that documents the two-week journey that Kate and I are embarking on. We’re going to a beach town in Spain for a week, then heading to Amsterdam for work.

PART ONE: TRAVEL PREPAREDNESS

“Convenient and Cute!”

When you plan for a two week trip in a couple of countries, size matters. We’ve made the decision to not check a bag because we’re not heathens, but that means that each and every item and object needs to earn their spot in our coveted carry-ons.

Kate is a sucker for miniature versions of things. Whenever she has a bad day, I bring her one of those small bottles of wine they sell in four packs, and they instantly put a smile on her face (and a blush to her cheeks).

Our journey to Spain and the Netherlands gave her the excuse she needed to go a bit ham in the travel size section of CVS and Target. So don’t worry, when it comes to mini conditioner, sunscreen, shaving cream, and even bath salts, we’re good to go.

This got me thinking about travel size… everything. So here is a list of things in life that I wish came in travel size versions.

Baseball Glove + Ball – I don’t play catch as much as I would like to (no, it’s not “have a catch,” it’s “play”), but I would like to have the option to always be able to be ready to throw.

Vinyl Record Player – Because what if the place I’m staying at doesn’t feel hipster enough. How will they know that I’ve been a fan of Jim James for years?

Lasagna – I just really really like lasagna.

Puppies – Travel is stressful. I wish that I could just rent a cute puppy to sit next to me on a flight, but one that didn’t actually have any needs. Just someone for me to play with, then have it fall asleep on my lap, which would, in turn, put me to sleep.

Newspapers – I love newspapers, in theory. But holy crap I hate trying to read one! The folding, the going to page 16 to finish a story on the front page. It’s a hassle. And don’t say just read a magazine. Magazines are garbage.

Now I realize there are solutions to almost each and every one of these travel size options, but it’s my fantasy, you are all just silent observers.

Travel Size – 2 out of 5 Stars

Blue Cheese

“I’ve Made a Huge Mistake”

I’m a fan of the fromage.

As I slowly ease into my thirties, unlike most of my peers, my digestive system hasn’t thrown me any warning signs that I should chill out on dairy. Maybe that’s because I wasn’t a kid who drank milk, but cheese has always settled well with my system.

Boring it may be, I’ve always been an extra sharp cheddar guy. I’ve found in general that I’m a fan of the hard cheeses over the soft, the savory over the sweet. Goat cheese with honey is nice, but give me something that I need a real knife to cut through and I’m happy as a mime who found the perfect black and white sweater.

When it comes to stinky cheese, the jury is still out. I have a large nose – I don’t know if that gives me extra olfactory powers, but I normally try to avoid eating things that smell like shit. I was at a BBQ the other day with some truly stinky cheese (there was a special contraption designed for this cheese) and I had a slice of the stink. To be honest, it tasted a bit earthy, like mushrooms, but it wasn’t anything to write home about.

Then there’s my relationship with blue cheese. It’s a complicated one. It hits notes that I think I would like, it’s relatively hard and it’s savory. However, every time I order it, I find it absolutely overpowering.

During my time in Bangkok, my roommate and I would catch a craving for good old American hamburgers about once every two months. Luckily, there was an “American” burger restaurant named Dukes a few malls away (Thailand is all about malls), so we made our pilgrimage.

Every time we went, I would peruse the menu, be immediately tempted by the standard cheeseburger, and then I would be seduced by the Blue Cheeseburger.

“Joey, you got that last time and you hated it”

“That doesn’t sound like me, I’m sure this time will be different”

It wasn’t. Every order of the Blue Cheeseburger resulted in me having to push the overwhelming hamburger away from me, as my roommate bellowed with laughter.

Kate is going through a chop salad phase right now. I’m a fan of any salad that makes its main focus bacon, but the blue cheese makes it a hard salad to swallow.

True happiness is a rectangle of extra sharp Cracker-Barrel cheese and a box of wheat thins. Any other cheese will leave you feeling blue.

Blue Cheese – 2 out of 5 Stars 

Piloting a Boat

“I Am the Captain Now. And I am Very Bad at It”

Last weekend, in a celebration of one our dear friends continued existence for 365 days, we rented a small Duffy boat for three hours and motored around the marina near our house. It was a delightful time full of white wine, nautical puns, and many sea lion sightings.

This wasn’t Kate and my first Duffy boat ride, but this one felt more classy. Instead of blaring reggaeton horns at passing boats, this time we exchanged pleasant waves interspersed with appropriate volume yacht rock.

Instead of lapsing into drunken Northeastern fisherman accents (get to the fackhan habah yah louse), this time our boat kept a pleasant and light chatter. Two people announced they were pregnant. It was elegant.

What wasn’t elegant was my Captaining skills. In an attempt to show Kate that I might have some blue blood in me yet, I signed myself up to be one of the designated Captains. While they didn’t hand me an ascot or an acceptance letter to Trinity College in Hartford (Trinity University forever!), I felt an inch closer to being an east coaster. Boats, ships, and sailboats are something of a class thing, and dag nabbit, I was going to be classy.

Turns out piloting a boat takes more finesse than I thought. Our real captain, the organizer of the birthday bash (and boyfriend of the birthday girl) handled the wheel with an ease and confidence that made me think “hey, that doesn’t seem too hard”, so after an hour, I asked to take over.

Skippering a boat is a game of inches, as opposed to the 18-wheeler steering wheel sized turns I was making. Our route through boat docks was anything but straight or smooth. However, I was told that I made the ride more exciting.

The real test of my innate maritime mastery was when the other gentleman on the boat asked me to dock our boat. Now he actually owned a boat, so obviously I was intimidated. What progressed was an incredibly stressful 11-minute experience where I sidled up close to the pier, cut it in neutral, hoped to be carried into the dock, but to no avail.

After minutes of Austin Powers-like maneuvering, we finally got close enough for the certified captain to jump onto the dock and drag us in.  After depositing our cargo (his pregnant wife), I sped away and basically forced the helm back onto the original Captain.

Lesson learned I’ve realized that the only blue that runs in my blood is my affinity for the ocean itself, and my confidence in swimming in its vast embrace. I’ll leave the fast floating (aka boating) to others, and do my best to lay off the reggaeton horn.

Piloting a Boat – 2 out of 5 Stars 

Hummingbirds

“The Avian Equivalent of Tweakers”

Since we redid our back patio, Kate and I have been spending much more time outside. Sunday mornings with breakfast tacos and The New York Times have become a favorite activity, and it was during one of those respites that we noticed that we had a squatter on our land.

It seems in the bougainvilleas that haunt my gardening career, an industrious hummingbird decided to lay down roots and build a precariously perched nest, all in the hopes of raising a family. Kate and I were both enthralled and concerned about this third wheel in our life, and obviously we have changed our entire outdoor habits to support this bird.

We now avoid walking by the nest, in hopes of not disturbing the Mama bird. We’ve named her Fritzette, mostly because Kate called her Fritz, and I told her that Fritz was a boy’s name.

Fritzette isn’t very polite. Even when we don’t walk near the nest, she’ll tweet and zoom near us. Now Hummingbirds are very cute, but there is something sinister about their speedy movement. Their rapid darts combined with their needle-like beaks make me concerned for my eyes whenever Fritzette bleets close to me.

According to our research, it takes about 20 days for hummingbird eggs to hatch. I haven’t had the opportunity to peer into the nest (because of my aforementioned fear of losing an eye), so I’m unsure if Fritzette has even laid eggs yet.

I do know that our landlord pays for a gardening service that shows up whenever they feel like it. They don’t have a regular schedule, but they always blow leaves right outside our bedroom window whenever I’m battling a hangover, of that I’m sure.

I’m worried that they’ll show up, and through no fault of their own, trim off the branch that is Fritzette’s temporary housing. This has resulted in me practicing my ornithological Spanish.

“Cuidado, Colibrí!”

Hummingbirds – 2 out of 5 Stars  

Trains

“Steampunk’s Preferred Transportation Method”

For the first time in my life, I traveled by way of Amtrak train, and it was a delightfully confusing experience. I found myself needing to travel down to San Diego and back in a day, so at 7:20 in the morning on a Friday, I was listening to a man in an old-timey conductor outfit explain the train times before we boarded at Union Station in Downtown Los Angeles.

If my emotions were to narrowed down to one feeling, it was “excitement” I was thrilled to be riding in a rail car down the Pacific Coast, on a train named “The Surfliner” no less. When I lived in Europe I was no stranger to trainsportation, and when I lived in Thailand I rode the aboveground and belowground subways to and from work (and at one point, I also was riding a motorcycle, taking two boats, and walking through people’s backyards, all to get to work and back)

However, I had never taken a train in the USA. The technology that conquered the West and gave way to the fabric of modern America. I was eager to be my own version of Joe Biden and take the Amtrak.

For the trip down to San Diego, The Surfliner was two stories, and I was impressed. Partly because it felt so luxurious to be on the second floor of a train, but for the most part, I was impressed with how old everything felt.

Riding the train down to SD was a true assault of anachronisms. Besides the obvious fact of being on a train, it seemed that all the workers on the train were stuck in the 1960’s. Their outfits were exactly how I expected them to be, but it was the sheer commitment to the denial of progress that I found most fascinating.

When I asked to upgrade to business class, the ticket taker told me to simply call a hotline. Once business class was achieved, you simply just walked between cars, with nary a glance at your ticket.

The journey down was seamless and smooth, chugging down the coast at a leisurely pace, all while treating viewers to crisp and clear scenery. When we sidled right next to the Pacific, it felt like I could reach out and ruffle the hair of surfers who were catching waves parallel to the tracks.

Exiting the train, I was in a pure and pleasant mood, instantly vowing to travel by railway whenever possible. It was one of those moments where I pondered, “why don’t more people do this?”

It was on the train ride back that I understood why more people don’t travel by rail. The return train to LA was late, but my trainthusiam couldn’t be crushed as something as simple as a 20-minute delay. I’m sure we would make the time back as we gleefully steamed by commuters on the 5 freeway.

Once again, upon boarding (a single story train this time), I was struck by the weird time warp one entered. A nice train attendant gave me a box of #TrainTreats, reminding me that I was still in 2018, and even trains aren’t immune from hashtags.

Due to our late departure, our train had to wait for every single other train on the tracks to pass, resulting in us parking several times for 10 to 20 minutes on an extra rail, twiddling our train thumbs, conducted to cease movement until the rail was clear.

Oh. This is why train commuting sucks. The ride back to Los Angeles encompassed four hours, making my total travel time to and from SD a combined seven hours. The train was charming, and something I’m glad I did, but if ever have to be anywhere on a relative deadline, I’ll take transportation that is a bit more in my control. And in the relative century.

Trains – 2 out 5 Stars

Spicy Mafia

“From a Blog Long Dead”

The J.R.S. is not my first run at a writing publication. When I lived in Thailand I kept a seldom updated blog that documented the adventures that I found myself in over the course of two years. I thought it would be fun for y’all to see how my writing has evolved (or not) – so here is a tiny excerpt from my old blog – Joey’s Faux Pas, about my experience with spicy food.   

Seriously. This place is NUTS, and I love it. I now take eating alone as a cultural and gastronomic adventure. My mom won’t believe me, but I’ve been eating everything on my plate that has been offered. This includes the spicy red-hot chiles that seem to come with everything.

A word on my relationship with Spicy Food. Spicy Food and I are not friends. We never were. In fact, if Spicy Food was a kid in my high school, I probably made fun of Spicy Food from across the Cafeteria during lunch. I probably made out with Spicy Food’s ex-girlfriend, then TP’d Spicy Food’s house.

Well, Spicy Food is all grown up now.

While I was messing around in college, it appears that Spicy Food (the person), moved to Thailand, made a shitton of money on the internet, and now lives in a Penthouse in Bangkok. Spicy Food is now in the Thai Mafia, and Spicy Food is the Godfather.

I now pay my respects to Spicy Food. Spicy Food has been gracious enough to accept my apologies for my immature ways toward him in my youth and has even let me join his Mafia family.

However, I am in the bottom rung of the Spicy Food mafia, so basically, that makes me Spicy Foods’ bitch.

But I love it. I love Spicy Food, for all his vengeful ways. I take a bite of a chile that is mixed in with my chicken and basil, and I start to cry like a little baby. However, I soldier on, because that is the only way to rise in the ranks of the Spicy Food mafia.

Spicy Food Excerpt – 2 out of 5 Stars