Proposing

“So…What Do You Think?”

Welp. I did it.

I tricked Kate into saying that she’ll spend all of her love currency on me, until forever.

To say I tricked her is actually incorrect. For the last three years, I’ve conducted a thoughtful and calculated campaign of love. I’m talking flowers, I’m talking handwritten notes, I’m talking cleaning the toilet bowl.

Someone asked me “When did you know she was the one for you?”

Realistically, there are two answers.

The first answer is the moment I saw her. I was working on a couch in a cramped two-bedroom apartment of a startup we both worked at. She walked in, and I immediately was smitten. But to go from smitten to dating took a while.

The second answer, and more honest of the two, was when we had a big fight, but then didn’t break up. In fact, she ended the fight with something like “I know this is tough, but let’s work through this.” Up until that moment, I had never been in a relationship that could have conflict, even more so, healthy conflict that made our bond stronger.

Therefore, my most logical step was to lock that shit down.

After a month of design and work, I had the ring. I returned from the Jewelry district in DTLA last Wednesday and immediately felt it burning a hole in my pocket. Against the guidance of my peers at work, I strongly considered asking her that night, just on the canals, but it didn’t feel like the right moment.

I did know that I wanted to do it soon. Early in our relationship, I had mentioned that I would propose to her on a hike, so that was the sketchy plan of mine. I slyly asked about our schedule that weekend, and she told me that we were going to visit a Wolf Sanctuary – an experience that she had gotten as a gift for the both of us during Christmas.

Wolves? Other people? This didn’t feel right. But then the more I thought about, the more I considered it.

On Thursday night I laid in bed and was 97% good-to-go.

Then Friday I went to my book club, consisting of all married men (and me). After discussing Vonnegut’s short stories, I mentioned my wolf proposal thought process. Each and every one of my book buddies encouraged the wolf avenue.

“Wolves dude. Wolves”

So Saturday morning we drove out to Palmdale to visit The Wolf Connection. Upon being let in, milling around with the other 15 or so participants, I sprung into action.

By that I mean, I waited until Kate went to the bathroom, then awkwardly ambled up to one of the employees and said “Uh…Hi. I know this is kind of sudden, but is there an opportunity during this experience where I could maybe…sorta, propose to my girlfriend?”

I was told yes, there might be a spot, but it wouldn’t be until the end of the experience.

So, for the next two hours, Kate, myself, and 15 other people become one pack. We learned about the 33 wolves on the compound, learned about what makes wolves special, and then we spent 30 minutes in several wolf cages, petting the wolves and getting wolf licks.

Finally, it was time to go on the wolf hike. We formed into a single file line, with wolves on leashes interspersed, and trudged up a short and easy path through the brush. Then we came to a fire road, where the group assembled.

The leader of the experience leaned over to me, and whispered “Now would be a good time” and I instantly was filled with terror.

Muttering something lame to Kate like “hey let’s take a walk over here”, we went up the fire road, rounded a bend, and had privacy.

I began to say the speech that I had come up that morning on my run. It involved an allegory about things being temporary, like popsicles, but how the love we have is permanent (unlike popsicles).

Stupidly, I hadn’t thought to take the ring out of my super cool CamelBak, so 3/4th of the way into the speech I had to awkwardly sling it around, and grab the ring and the box. Bending down on one knee, on a fire road in Palmdale, surrounded by wolves, I asked THE question.

After exactly one second longer than I was mentally prepared for, Kate said yes, and we smooched.

We had a few minutes to ourselves, then the leader of the experience rounded the corner, saw our happy faces and gave us hugs. Then she brought out a special “engagement wolf” for us, and we sat on the side of the road and petted a very large wolf-dog named Koda. We’re talking Game of Thrones size.

The drive home was full of phone calls, text messages, and smiles. We threw an impromptu party at the bar across the street, and friends came out of the woodwork to celebrate us.

Besides getting literally drunk, I became drunk with engagement power. At the bar, we barely paid for drinks, due to our happy moment. However, after leaving the bar, we saw a hot-dog truck across the street. Kate loves hot dogs, my feelings are well documented.

We ordered the dogs, and then I shouted “We’re engaged! These hot dogs are free!”

I was very quickly and sternly admonished by the owner of said hot dog truck that no, they were not free.

In summary, proposing around wolf dogs is awesome, but it doesn’t result in free hot dogs.

Proposing – 5 out of 5 

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

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 

Calvin and Hobbes

This is the second 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 TWO: SPAIN

“Still Relative”

Whenever I have even the whiff of free time, there’s a strong chance I’ll spend it reading. So when I was tasked with choosing a limited list of books to bring with me on this European experience, I was noticeably stressed out. This is not a new trend in my life.

At the age of 11, I got in a screaming (and then sobbing) fit with a poor babysitter who was getting me prepared to spend a weekend away from our home in Los Angeles. I had packed a shirt, pants, socks, and then filled the rest of my large bag with books. They numbered over 20. The thought of being somewhere without the perfect book to read has been a real fear of mine since a young age.

Since our arrival last Friday evening, I’ve burned through three books and a few short stories. I finished the latest one, The Alienist, a copy of which I found in the bookshelves of the home we’re staying, early this afternoon, and I’m now in the sad funk between finishing a book and starting a new one.

To satiate my need, I read a few essays in Consider the Lobster while Kate puttered around the house and tided up (all while listening to a book on tape using her AirPods – this trip has included hours of silence between us as we’ve read. It’s been glorious). As I read, she stuck her head out from behind a corner and said: “There’s a Calvin and Hobbes book here!”

Bill Watterson’s genius comic strip, Calvin and Hobbes, holds a special and unique place in my heart. According to my parents, I began to read in earnest in second grade, and it was Calvin and Hobbes compilations that truly opened my mind up to the wonders of reading.

The layers of sarcasm (and competing philosophical attitudes) that were ingrained in the selfishness of Calvin, played against the earnest and through provoking foil of Hobbes occupied hours of my young life. I would pour over these comics with wonder, relishing each and every witty response, even looking up (or asking my parents) the definition of the vocab that Calvin used. My first encounter with the word “homicidal” was the title of one of my favorite compendiums.

It seems like Spain has given me a special love letter to reading in the form of an old Calvin and Hobbes book, just waiting for me to open it up and say hola. It’s not often we get to return to the experiences or items that formed a very core part of the person we have become, but when those little moments pop up, be sure to treasure them.

Much like the unique friendship between Calvin and Hobbes, I know that I’ll forever have an unbreakable bond with the sarcastic young boy and his come-to-life stuffed tiger whose adventures set me on a path to explore words and attempt to create worlds beyond my own two eyes.

And for that, I can only say muchas gracias, Señor Watterson.

Calvin and Hobbes – 5 out of 5 Stars

The Halfway Mark

“Couldn’t Have Done it Without You”

Holy crap, we did it.Somewhere between 26,000 and 52,000 words have been written, all reviewing things in life, on the Internet.

I started this on my birthday last year as a personal challenge, and to see if I could do it. I’m happy to admit that I’ve only missed one deadline, and have delivered The J.R.S. (riddled with double words and some grammar errors) to a group of devoted readers (you) 26 times.

This has been an amazing exercise in self-indulgence, and from the bottom of my heart, I truly thank you for putting up with me. As I enter the second half of The J.R.S. game, I’m going to be making a few more changes moving forward.

  • As promised, I made a website! If you had the unfortunate experience of seeing my accidental Twitter and Facebook spam this weekend as I uploaded all the old editions, I apologize. The J.R.S. will always be newsletter focused writing endeavor, but I did want to create a repository for readers to share.The website is unsurprisingly joeyreviewsstuff.com. I’m going to be fiddling with the layout and look for the next month or two. I want to keep it focused on words, and my next big challenge is to develop a more robust email capture system. For someone who works at a website company, you would think I would be more of a wizard when it comes to my personal shenanigans.
  • I’m going to try to keep the reviews a little more general. Now when I say that, I only mean that I’m going to try to write in a way that if you don’t know me personally, you’ll still get enjoyment out of the experience. Hopefully, that already happens, but I’d like to write with a bit of a wider audience in mind.
  • The length. When I get really excited about a story, I’ll blink and 800 words will be gone. My goal for The J.R.S moving forward is to keep the stories around 350 to 400 words each. More easily digestible #content.
That’s it! Thank you so much for giving me your eyeballs every week. It’s been a wonderful journey, and we’re only at the intermission. I can’t wait to see what happens in the second act.The Halfway Mark – 5 out of 5 Stars

Kate

“My Girlfriend”

Today is my two year anniversary with my girlfriend, and her name is Kate.

Technically, we met over two years ago, but our official romantic circumstances began 730 Earth rotations past, and I’ve loved every moment of it.

They say you don’t really know someone until you [insert rom-com cliche here], but in the last 730 days, I’ve been Kate’s co-worker, co-pilot, companion, and many other c things – my credibility is indisputable.

We met working together and when she walked through the door, I knew I was immediately smitten. I spoke with my friends that night about this woman who was consulting at my job, and I was met with a resounding chorus of “Joey, not in the workplace!”

So, like any gentleman, I bided my time and waited for the right moment. The right moment, like all right moments, started with a bathroom.

That moment occurred a few months later when I asked what she was doing that weekend, and she mentioned that she had plans to paint her bathroom. Doing my best George Clooney impression, I responded with a “Nope, we’re going to paint your bathroom”

Kate is one of the most driven and passionate people I’ve ever met, and for someone with such a zeal for life, she has true compassion for others. It’s instantly apparent when you watch her enter a room and start engaging with strangers. I’m telling you, this girl is fearless.

When I was up in Portland I was telling some friends about her, and they asked me what I liked so much about her. Without hesitation I responded that she’s incredibly smart, smoking hot, and most importantly, laughs at my jokes.

It’s the laughter that I’m most looking forward to in the coming weeks, months, and years. I’ve found someone who I can create genuine joy with, and it’s the best feeling in the world. We balance each other out, possessing complementary skills to one another assets, and while our relationship hasn’t had its ups and downs, it’s one that I know gets better with each hurdle that we get through together.

With a smile, wit, and grace, how couldn’t I fall in love?

Kate – 5 out of 5 

Felix

“Worth The Wait”

Felix Trattoria in Venice might be the hottest restaurant in Los Angeles currently. It received a glowing review from Jonathan Gold, and its Cacio e Pepe was called the best pasta of 2017 by Bon Apetit.

To grab a bite at Felix is a process of patience. Their reservations only go 28 days out, and they’re a packed house every night. You can try to get a walk in table at 5 PM, right when they open or hover near the pristine marble bar to see if you can snag a seat.

My Girlfriend and I opted for the long con. I called ahead almost a month ago and grabbed their next available table for four. When it comes to reservations you make, forget about, and then are pleasantly surprised by your foresight and responsibility, this is at the top of the list.

This actually wasn’t our first time at Felix. One of our best friends had pulled the exact same move a few months ago.

“I got us a reservation at Felix, but I forget to tell you. Can you come?”

This time, our friends who were going to join us had a last minute event, so our four top was quickly cut in half, giving my girlfriend and me opportunity to dine on delicious pasta, Lady and the Tramp style.

I’ve been lucky enough to spend a significant amount of time in Italy, even studying photography there for four months for my study abroad stint in college. I’m no slouch when it comes to pasta, but I have to tell you, the dishes that are being served at Felix are pure divinity.

Our meal started with this fluffy yet oil soaked rosemary focaccia, that almost had the consistency of cotton candy when it was in your mouth. We followed that up with grilled Octopus, delicately charred with a sumptuous smokey zing.

Then our pasta came.

Obviously, we ordered the Cacio E Pepe, as well as an Orecchiette and Lamb Ragu. The Cacio E Pepe was downright incredible. As I slurped down a noodle, I realized I’ve never had pepper that was this fresh. The lamb ragu was good but felt more akin to peasant stew than a pasta, but it was the Orecchiette that stole the show.

All the pasta that we ate was handmade that day, and the Orecchiette – which I had never had, almost was like an open-faced tortellini. Accompanying it was mouth-watering sausage and fresh and tangy broccolini. I had to make a mental note to stop saying “mmmmm” after every bite because my sounds were becoming a bit too sexual for a public restaurant setting.

All in all, it was an unforgettable meal. It was expensive, but I felt the costs justified the price. Can you really put a dollar amount on a food experience so good you start to moan? If you’re in LA or are going to be visiting it in the next 28 days, call in and get yourself a surprise reservation. Your mouth will thank you for it.

Felix – 5 out of 5 Stars