Mystery Solving

“Desperation turns to Delight”

I’ve been living a double life.

Outside of my home, I’m a loud, energetic and mostly happy writer. I go to work, I eat nice foods, I pay a monthly subscription to The New York Times (support journalism!), and I probably should work out more than I do.

At home, I’m a loud, energetic, and mostly happy writer also, but there are unique moments where I have to turn into someone else. When the moment calls for it, I transition from “Joey” to “Inspector Detective Joey.”

Basically, I solve mysteries.

What type of mysteries, you ask? Let me solve that for you.

*takes puff on bubble pipe*

Just this morning I solved the mystery of the missing makeup remover. Kate asked where it was, I located it, and then shouted: “Mystery Solved!”

It’s those type of mysteries that I excel at. The kind where I sniff out clues of the most nefarious kind.

Last week it was the case of the missing left shoe that left me puzzled for nearly three minutes. Luckily, I followed the trail of socks and was led to the scene of the crime, the living room. After greasing a palm or two, I discovered the absent shoe, hiding beneath our couch. I returned to it to the client, a classy dame who I happened to live with. Case closed. Mystery Solved.

My most difficult case so far drove me nearly to the depths of madness. In anticipation of our vacation that we’re embarking on next week, Kate and I have been organizing and packing things. However, I was unable to locate my global entry card, and instantly, Inspecter Detective Joey was on the case.

This perplexing piece of plastic was nowhere to be found. Unlike most cases, which take a maximum of four minutes, this one haunted me for days. In a fit of desperation (you know the type I’m talking about), I began to empty out drawers on the floor and go through old receipts.

While I did locate records of past misdeeds from my youth, no global entry card was found. Kate watched my investigative zeal turn into passionate panic as I scoured through the three places in the house that I put stuff.

And where was the offending ID card hiding? In the drawer next to the door where I put my watch upon getting home from work.

Another classic Whodunit answered. Case closed, Mystery Solved.

Mystery Solving – 4 out of 5 Stars

PC Gaming Cafes

“Terrible Margins, Terrific Fun”

Last weekend, I dragged two of my friends to visit a PC Gaming Cafe near our houses. In case your unfamiliar with what that establishment is, I’ll give you the quick tl;dr.

A PC Gaming Cafe (Or PC Bang) is a business that has a large number of high-end gaming computers that are available to rent by the hour. The computers have the latest games installed on them, and you’re free to play whatever you wish.

Imagine a LAN party, but one that doesn’t require you to drag your entire system to the event.

Speaking of LAN parties, they were a major part of my childhood. If you’ve read anything of mine, it’s apparent that the Nerd is strong with this one. Growing up, instead of asking for new toys for Christmas and Hannukah, my big ticket present items were graphics cards and memory upgrades for the desktop that I played on.

I spent many a weekend lugging my desktop up the street to a friends house, navigating a maze of cables and wires, ordering pizza, and binging ourselves on snacks and Mountain Dew as we played Counter Strike until the sun came up.

This pilgrimage to the PC Gaming Cafe near home immediately brought back that joy of pulling a Sheryl Sandberg of geekdom and leaning into gaming culture. This was a place where gaming was celebrated, as opposed to hiding in the shadows.

It didn’t hurt that last weekend was one of the hottest in Southern California. To be in a dark, powerfully air-conditioned room while it’s a swampy 95 degrees outside is the same reason that movie theatres see an uptick in business when the weather sucks.

We paid our five dollars to rent a computer for an hour and then got our game set up. Our pixelated adventure of choice that day was a game that focused on squad-based combat, and in no time, we were shouting nonsense at one another – dropping our best military jargon into our shared comms channel.

After several hours (obviously, we kept re-upping), the three of us emerged and blinked at the harsh sunlight. New bonds had been formed and new relationships had been solidified – all thanks to the high powered memory and performance provided to us by a PC Gaming cafe. Turns out Christmas and Hannukah came early.

PC Gaming Cafes – 4 out of 5 Stars 

Pineapple on Pizza

“Fruit Gold On Top of Pies”

I know what you’re thinking.

You’re thinking, “well here we go, a delightful and wild yarn on the pros and cons of pineapple on top of a pizza.” Well, you’re mostly wrong, but not entirely.

This a piece about friendship, romance, and maybe just a bit of pizza.

Pineapple on a pizza order is a weirdly divisive thing. While it doesn’t rival the tribalism that we’re seeing in our national politics play out every day in the headlines of CNN and Fox News, it’s just a rung below.

People will get strangely passionate about whether or not pineapple has an appropriate home on top of cheese and bread. Obviously, I’m strongly in the pro-pineapple camp. How could you not like biting into a juicy baked explosion of sunshine and sugar as a counterpoint to the normally savory bits on a pizza?

Now, I’ve never ordered the pineapple option a nice pizza or Italian restaurant. It’s never a choice between a nice Margarita and a Hawaiian. But if I’m at home and don’t have anyone to please but myself, you’re damn right I’m ordering a Pineapple, Jalapeno, and Pepperoni from Dominos.

And this brings me to the crux of my argument. It doesn’t matter whether or not you’re pro or anti pineapple. What does matter is that you surround yourself with people in your life who have the same pineapple leanings.

I truly believe that my relationship with Kate wouldn’t have made it if we both hadn’t been pro pineapple. As a couple, a real loose estimate is that we’ve ordered around 75 pizzas delivered to our home in the last two and a half years of dating. Probably 72 of them have been Pineapple, Jalapeno, and Pepperoni.

Can you imagine the resentment, rage, and raw sadness that would have been built up between us if 96% of the time, one of us was getting an unfulfilled pizza experience?

All relationships, romantic or otherwise, are built upon and ultimately solidified by sharing a slice of za. Like a doughy and well-risen crust, pizza creates a solid foundation of trust and respect – and if you and another person nearly come to blows over the pineapple debate, the relationship won’t last.

Find people in your life who you can easily order a pizza with. Having a group that sit firmly in one side of the pineapple camp or the other shows that each one of you is of strong moral character (but maybe weak in fiber if they’re anti pineapple), and with those bonds built, you’ll always have one another to lean on, order a slice with, and laugh together.

Unless they’re olive people. Immediately cut that useless chaff out of your life.

Pineapple on Pizza – 4 out of 5 Stars 

Sleep Masks

“Go The F&*K to Sleep Eyeballs”

I’m 31, so that means the only thing I value more than cryptocurrency is the precious hours I set aside in my life for sleep. Most often, these hours are enjoyed horizontally, in a bed of my own making.

Occasionally, I’m forced to attempt to sleep while being an awkward vertical. This occurs on airline flights. But in the last two years, I have found a new weapon in the battle against wokeness.

Better than alcohol, better than Ambien (and with no racist side effects), a comfortable and cozy sleep mask is the answer to all your unwanted waking hours.

First introduced to me when I managed to get a business class flight home from Rome a few years back, a sleep mask is a gamechanger. The ones they hand out in business class are nice, but they’re not manufactured for multiple uses. If you’re in the market for better zzzz’s, shell out the 10, 15, or 20 dollars for a quality mask.

Their price point is so low that they allow experimentation. Kate surprised me with a mask on our flight to Iceland last year, but since then we somehow have acquired (and since misplaced) around 8 different types of masks.

Bug-eyed masks, large and uncomfortable masks, masks with creases for your nose, we’ve tried them all. What is right for me probably isn’t right for you. But I have to say, investing in sleep accouterments is not only fun, when you find something that works, it’s incredibly rewarding.

How will you know it’s rewarding? Because you won’t think about it, that’s how. You’ll be too busy flying on a piece of celery to wage battle against the tyrant red onion oppressors. You’ll be too tranquil listening to the dulcet tones of a praying mantis playing you a harmonica ditty that lulls you to ultimate peace.

You’ll be too stressed about falling asleep to realize that you’ve already fallen asleep and that you actually don’t own a Maybach made out of marshmallows in your waking life.

Effortless sleep is for the young. Once you’re past 25, start investing in your sleep future (Sluture) and purchase a sleep mask or two. There are many ways where it’s good to be “woke” but in bed isn’t one of them. It’s time to pull the wool over your eyes and drift off.

Sleep Masks – 4 out of 5

KTLA 5

“News, but Nicer”

After the 2016 election, I quickly instituted a household rule that we still follow to this day. No national news coverage while we start our day and prepare for work. It became very apparent that if you wanted to have a positive outlook on the next 12 hours, avoid all forms of CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and others.

While we’re avid New York Times enthusiasts, we really only the time to sit and read the paper on Sundays. So we were presented with a conundrum: How do Kate and I spend the 55 minutes we have together in the mornings preparing ourselves for the day, while still maintaining an active participation in world events?

Ladies and Gentlemen, we became dedicated fans of local news.

Not just any local news channel mind you, we’ve become obsessed observers of KTLA 5, a Los Angeles based channel that is just the right blend of relative stories to our lives mixed with a relative lack of polish that creates a genuine sense of authenticity.

Beyond puff pieces like bears swimming in pools, Kate and I enjoy watching their weatherman who is sliding deeper and deeper into nonsense, and a reporter who seems to possess an unending closet of full-body costumes, correlated directly with whichever positive event is going on in LA that day.

Seriously, if you find yourself getting exhausted by the 24/7 cable news network heads screaming at one another, find your local station and just take it all in. Yesterday KTLA dedicated at least two minutes of air-time discussing how one of the reporters “roasted” one of the anchors…earlier in the same day.

There’s a reason that news bloopers are so popular on YouTube. It’s because there is a true sense of genuine passion and care to the stars and reporters on local news. These are real people who maybe still believe in the righteousness of journalism but have realized that before they’re Woodward and Bernstein, they might have to report on a local bake sale or two.

Ginger Chan, the KTLA 5 traffic reporter, might have the most thankless job in news media. Similar to the weather reporter in Chicago during the winter, her updates are almost never good. The weight of LA traffic is on Ginger’s shoulders, you can see it slowly grinding her down. However, when she gets to report on a day when there are no major accidents, her joy flows off the screen.

I think my favorite part of KTLA 5 is that they do a decent job of not taking a political stance on issues. Now, this is news station in Los Angeles, California, so some liberal tendencies are expected. But for the most part, when they have to report and decipher the latest ridiculous tweets, they keep their composure.

Do yourself a favor the next time you’re starting your day. Turn on your local news station and just note the stories they run in seven minutes. Even the abrupt changes in tone from “pedophile sighted!” to “Puppies for adoption!” will bring a smile to your face, and you can take that smile with you as go through your day.

KTLA 5 – 4 out of 5 Stars

Swimming in the Ocean

“Kelp or Killer Whale?”

There’s a special delight mixed with desperation when you swim in the ocean. It’s that combination of freedom and fear. Anything could happen, and there are few experiences that I do frequently that cause me to question my own mortality.

I’m doing a very small triathlon in 17 days, and the first portion is an open-water quarter mile swim, so I’ve been trying to get prepared for this very doable feat. Monday morning I threw on my wetsuit, dragged Kate to the beach at 7 am (as a witness in case I died), and jumped in the relatively placid Pacific ocean for what I thought was going to be a leisurely morning swim.

Two things were revealed to me. I’m not in as good swimming shape as I thought, and paddling through the Pacific is more tiring then I remember.

I’ve been jumping into the Pacific since a young age. Our family was mostly a mountain trip family, but we would always have a beach weekend or week during the summer. I always found the ocean fascinating, instead of intimidating like some people. My memories of Poseidon’s playground involve me throwing rocks into it, yelling at the waves, and when I was old enough, swimming around.

I had an Uncle who lived in Hawaii when I was younger, so we used to visit him. It was sometime on that trip that I had my first real dangerous encounter with the sea, getting pummeled by a wave then tumbled underwater that felt eerily similar to a washing machine cycle. The tumble resulted in that moment of pure terror where you question “will I ever breathe again?” and then your head breaks the surface of the water and you emerge, alive and adrenaline filled.

For as terrible as they are, I understand why the Iron Islands in Game of Thrones worship the Drowned God.

Since that Hawaiian baptism, I’ve always felt comfortable and safe in the ocean. I also played water polo in high school. I was objectively terrible, but for three years I swam miles upon miles in a pool and then spent hours upon hours attempting not to drown as boys who were bigger than I pushed me down to the pool floor.

There is that extra layer of dread lurking beneath the surface of the water. Whenever your foot touches something that isn’t sand, one experiences that fight or flight reflex. Is it seaweed or a shark? Either way, it’s time to boogie.

As I throw myself into the Pacific in anticipation of my 400-meter dash on the 24th, it feels more like a reunion, rather than a foreign body. The waves crash and clang, but all I hear is a symphony of bubbles saying welcome home.

Swimming in the Ocean – 4 out of 5 Stars 

Buying a Suit

“You Gotta Get a Guy”

When I lived in Bangkok, I was lucky enough to have two suits custom tailored for me. They’ve served me well throughout the years, but that was in 2010. It’s been brought to my attention that my body and suit styles have changed.

Turns out, I don’t have the lean physique of a 22-year-old anymore, and maybe it’s time to buy a new suit. Or as Kate delicately put it, “I’d like to bring you back to the East Coast and not hate your clothes.”

So we went suit shopping.

I had resigned myself to the suit exploration phase to last a few weeks before we made a decision. Our first stop was a bicycle ride to our local J. Crew. I figured they were a good benchmark of what was in style, and perhaps we could find something that fit the budget.

I really want to like J. Crew, but if you’ve read anything by me you know that I’m a huge stickler for service, and that pendulum swings both ways. I could have the worst meal of my life, but if the waitstaff is friendly, I’ll tip well. Our experience at J. Crew was comically bad.

We went to the upstairs section of the store and spent 10 or so minutes tugging at suits before someone came up to us. I’m not saying we needed attention immediately, but the floor wasn’t busy at all. Finally, an attendant came up to us and asked what we were looking for.

Kate explained we were in the market for a suit and gave a rundown. He asked if I knew my measurements, handed me a jacket, then told me to find him if I wanted to ring anything up. The best part was that he had a broken hand. I asked him what had happened and he said that he had a punched a door.

“Acting” he said and then slinked away.

Kate and I made a fast exit, and I was ready to be done for the day. Her perseverance prevailed and we rode our bikes to Bloomingdale’s.

“I want you to see what good suits look like.”

We wandered into the store, found the suit section, and started perusing through jackets. In 17 seconds a man came up to us and introduced himself as Atta, and with aplomb he said,

“I’m the suit specialist in the store. How can I help you?”

Boom. Sold. We explained our predicament, and he sagely nodded his gentle eyes. Laying that tranquil gaze upon me, he (correctly) guessed my measurements, then grabbed two suits and directed Kate and me to a dressing room that was bigger than some apartments in New York City.

Atta is a good suit salesman. The first suit he gave me was a Hugo Boss suit. I put it on, turned to Kate, and watched her have an immediate physical and emotional reaction, in the best way.

“Oh my” she gasped.

Well shit. That’s the kind of reaction that one wants when you’re looking to get a new suit. The second suit was excellent as well, but we both knew which suit we wanted. Too bad it was way out of my price range, roughly the cost of a New York apartment.

I did a fashion show for Atta, and he complimented me, but then I told him it was too much.

“Let me see what I can do” Atta murmured.

AND THEN MY BOY TOOK 40% OFF.

This wasn’t a swap meet. This wasn’t craigslist. This was Bloomingdale’s. You don’t haggle at Bloomingdale’s. You don’t get 40% off just by asking at Bloomingdale’s.

Unless of course, you’re in the helpful hands of Atta.

Now I’ve got a great suit, and I’m open to appearances. How much so? I wore it to the airport to pick up Kate, looking like a really sexy Uber driver.

If you need a suit, I’ve got the perfect guy.

Buying a Suit – 4 out of 5 Stars