Category Archives: Uncategorized

Money, money, money, money … MONEY!

“We’re interested in anything that’s going to earn us a fair wage. It’s not to say it’s not about art, but we made that art fucking 20 years ago. So forget the fucking goddamn art. This ain’t about the art anymore. I did the arty farty part. Now it’s time to talk about the money.”

— A candid Black Francis of the Pixies talks about the possibility of doing shows that rehash songs from early albums like 1987’s Come on Pilgrim and 1988’s Surfer Rosa. Next thing we know Pavement are in it for the chicks…

Defeating the winter doldrums, one couch at a time

That old, familiar urge is returning. No, wait, that’s not quite accurate. The Wild Feeling never disappears completely; it does, like the moon, wax and wane, however.

So far in February, as it always does this time of year, it has waxed more than waned. Maybe it’s the weather and the never-ceasing snow that’s crammed a certain Cabin Fever mentality into every inch of my being.

It’s safe to say I’m done with the snow. I yearn for flowers and singing birds and warm weather and late night bike rides.

So instead I did what most reasonable people do in February, the dread of winter: Take road trips, eat warm, hearty food in restaurants with windows covered in condensation and drink pale ales in frosty glasses in the company of loved ones.

First on our road trip itinerary was IKEA for a new couch, and after way too much time there we dropped by the Incline for a ride with the “third most romantic view in the U.S.,” according to MSN.com.

I can’t protest, especially as Jess and I had the car to ourselves on the way down the hill overlooking Pittsburgh’s Golden Triangle.

Jess overlooking the city of Pittsburgh

Despite a little poor planning on our part, a trio of ladies, two from Boston, one a native ‘burgher, offered us the fare needed to get back up the hill and after a quick conversation with the native, who happened to be vegan, too, we cemented our decision for dinner (her recommendation was the third or so we’d gotten).

But first! Beer! We made our way to OTB, a hipster-ish bar on Pittsburgh’s E. Carson Street, dedicated to all things bikes. The misc. bike parts and bikes hanging from the walls and the murals of BMX, Mountain Bike and road racers only further stoked my itch to get outside. Fortuantely, the can of Dale’s Pale I consumed distracted me from my desire to hop on my bike as soon as possible (seriously, beer with an actual taste? In a can? Where can I buy it by the truckload?).

After that, it was time for some grub.

The Quiet Storm, Pittsburgh's best vegetarian/vegan restaurant.

The restaurant where we dined, aptly named Quiet Storm, specializes in vegetarian and vegan food (what else?), but had a BYOB alcohol policy. So after ordering our meals, I ventured back out into the Pittsburgh cold, slushing my way through sidewalks walled in by snow to make it to a small grocery store less than a block away. A sixer of Magic Hat #9 under my arms, I returned ready to imbibe with my girl.

Jess sipping a little Magic Hat #9, her self-proclaimed new favorite brewski.

The weather kept the crowd in the restaurant sparse, so there was a peaceful silence cast over the atmosphere as day turned to dusk outside. It was easy to then focus on nothing but our food and our beer and each other. Our conversation revolved around music and books and the practicality of buying a couch for our Valentine’s Day present to each other.

It might not sound like the most romantic of gifts, but it earned the approval of her married-for-35-years mother, who remarked that the purchase “made sense.”

Still, as much sense as it might make, all I could think about was spending evenings cuddling up on a couch together for the first time really in our relationship. Jess and I spent our first year commuting to each other’s apartment and house, but neither of us had a couch in all that time. I had a loveseat that hardly inspired love it was so small, and Jess had a vinyl orange thing without arms or a stable back rest.

When we’d get home with our IKEA couch put together, I envisioned, we’d spend long, lazy evenings cuddled together with books and Jim Jarmusch movies and season three of The Wire. My sense of romance may be off — I do have two ‘X’ chromosomes, after all — but to me nothing sounds more romantic — and a better recipe for defeating the winter doldrums — than that.

Jess and I at the Incline's Observation Deck.

A hard snow’s gonna fall

The best part about a large snow storm is the way the white, brilliant brightness magnifies the smallest bits of color, making them seem that much cheerier.

The look out my front door Saturday morning.

The look out my backdoor Saturday morning.

Of course, it could be those rose-colored glasses I’m wearing from being most likely, definitely, probably, sort of, for sure, the most happiest I’ve pretty much ever been:

Any woman that considers a Wire marathon, drinking whiskey and eating a stew a great way to spend your one-year anniversary is a keeper, boys. Mark it down. This is your measuring stick for all future relationships.

An unexpected joy

We left our house for the Huntington airport early on a Thursday morning. An hour into our trip south, the rising sun filled the sky with that warm, optimistic, hazy glow that’s only found at dawn.

A seedy gas station outside Ravenswood (is there any other kind?)

Our guests, Megan and Craig, Jess’ sister and her Australian boyfriend, were coming in on the only 9 a.m. flight that morning. We got there a little early and enjoyed the rocking chairs lined up down the only corridor in the airport.

That is the bored look that only a Huntington airport can provide, rocking chair or not.

To kill time, we talked to a woman who had brought her 4-month old pug with her to the airport. As can only happen in West Virginia, this dog, this poor, poor dog, was wearing a pink camo jacket. As can also only happen in West Virginia, we overheard an elderly lady tell a biker dude that she couldn’t wait to pop the champagne and see someone get popped in the head with the cork.

By this time, I was getting nervous. Craig grew up in Sydney and his American adventures so far had included Florida and California. I love the Mountain State, but to a Floridian and an Australian, well, these things might be hard to explain away as charming quirks.

Nonetheless, after landing we quickly whisked them away from the airport and on toward one of the best restaurants in the state, the Bluegrass Kitchen in Charleston. This was to be the first adventure of many to come over the weekend they were with us.

There’s nothing like a visit from out-of-towners to make you appreciate where you live. You get to show off all the cool places to get coffee and eat:

Craig and Megan at Donkey Coffee in Athens

Megan, Craig and Emily (Jess and Megan's super cool vegan cousin)

Even if a lot of those cool places are 45 minutes away.

You also get to show off the cool parts of your self, too. Like how I dominate in Apples to Apples and make a killer vegetarian sushi and waffles (served separately, of course).

The best part about this visit, though, was getting to know our guests better. I learned to never play Trivial Pursuit with Craig because the man knows his Japanese current events and history and somehow every question in the game falls into this category. I learned that Craig peppers his speech with the word ‘beautiful’ to describe good looking food and that that can make me, the chef, blush like a school girl getting inadvertently told by the junior high heart throb that she looked cute that day. I also learned that Megan is less than impressed when someone lights a fart on fire.

But what I enjoyed most was seeing my girlfriend in a different light. That of a sister. I had only met Megan once before, and it was a rather hurried and harried short weekend back in the summer. But seeing them interact and laugh and regale us with stories of childhood — that was a joy I didn’t expect.

And so when the weekend adventures were over and Tuesday rolled around and we hauled their luggage into my Vibe and drove off to the Akron airport, a certain bittersweetness hung in the air, as you’d expect.

We said our goodbyes and gave our hugs, though, knowing it was only temporary and that we had all gained something much more permanent and meaningful from their visit. We had gained new family members.

Happy birthday, duder

I hope you got everything you wished for …

Though judging by the multiple celebrations …

A traditional Tampico birthday cake

And the many friends and family in attendance at your “official” party, I’m pretty sure you did.

Pushing the boundaries

Jazz greats Duke Ellington, left, with drummer Max Roach, center, and bassist Charles Mingus, back right.

“Oh no, Charles, let’s not go that far back.”

— Duke Ellington, when asked by Charles Mingus to record “something really avant-garde.”

What makes a boy?: A reflection.

My son turned six yesterday. Six years ago he was born into this world. In those half a dozen years, this is about the only thing I’ve learned definitively about being a father: No cliche is ever more true than the cliches of parenthood.

My world has changed? Check.

I couldn’t imagine my life without him? Check.

I think my kid is the smartest, bravest, best behaved? Check.

Well, let’s back up here.

Kyan is a bright kid — as smart, sympathetic and brave as the next one. Well behaved? Well sometimes. He can be a wild, untamed beast of a devil, free to follow only his own whims and cares. These last few weeks of school, after holiday break, the Wild Thing within him has lurked more closely to the surface. But is this not also a cliche? Is this not what it means to be a boy? Perhaps.

I know this much. To be a boy is to declare at some point in your life, like Ky did recently, that a dog is your “best buddy:”

It is to be mischievious:

It is to be creative:

It is to smile the biggest when you’re with your dad:

And it is, finally, to become your dad, for better or worse:

When talking about a boy, doesn’t it always come back to his father?

Believe it or not, that is my dad above, to the right, a few years younger than I am now, though looking far more like me than he has in any picture I’ve seen. Looking at this picture the other day, I had never felt more like my father. And I consider that a success.

In high school, most of my wardrobe consisted of my father’s old clothes. In fact, one of my favorite shirts was the one he’s wearing in this picture. I wear a beard today mainly because my dad did through most of my childhood. There was no one I looked up to more than my father, and I always thought if I was half the dad he was, I’d be a pretty decent dad.

Even knowing the sins of my father now, like I do, I still hold this outlook.

I had a conversation with my childhood best friend the other day about our fathers. About how we see them in a different light now that we’re older. But his viewpoint differed from my own. I admire my dad more now, knowing his faults. He is flawed, yes, but my picture of him is truer than ever. And that makes me love him more.

It’s ironic, though. Every parent’s ambition is for their kids to surpass them, to live a better life than they had as a child, and to become a better man or woman than they are. And yet, my boy, just as I did, wants nothing more than to be exactly like his father. I recognize the way Kyan looks at me, for I too once looked at my father the same way. And yet, when I look at him, it is with hope that he will be better than me. For my sins are many and my flaws could fill an ocean. And Kyan, he has so much potential — beast and all. That is what I see, just as that is what my father saw in me.

It’s impossible to not put so much of our own hopes into our children. For that’s the way of the final and most absolute of the parenthood cliches, and I’m obligated to carry on the tradition.