The Brilliant Questions Americans Are Asking Google

Umm, guys? I think we need to talk about some of the results on this map. Apparently Fixr.com, a cost-estimating website, created this map based off a common question people are asking google these days: “How much does [BLANK] cost in [BLANK]?” The first blank is the item people were looking for information about, and the second blank is the location. And the word on each state represents what was searched for most frequently in that state.

Some of these popular searches seem pretty normal. How much does a liquor license cost? (South Carolina) Or how much does a passport cost? (New Hampshire)

But plenty of these results are either baffling, comical, confusing or play into some stereotypes. So let’s dive in and talk about the ones that stood out the most:

  • Oregon: How much does water cost?
    • Well, some versions of water are free. Others are the bottled kind and cost usually in the $1-2 per bottle range. Are you wondering what your water bill is going to be? Seems like there are a few too many factors for me to tell you with one simple google search. You know what? Maybe Oregon is just trying to find this out so it can exploit California when my state inevitably needs Oregon’s precious water in ONE YEAR!
  • California & Virginia: How much does a facelift cost?
    • Of course this would be California’s most asked question. But Virginia? That one doesn’t make sense. Is there a Real Housewives of Virginia franchise that I don’t know about? (My fiancee just told me that a Real Housewives of D.C. does exist, or did exist at one point.)
  • Arizona: How much does a vasectomy cost?
    • So is that what all the snowbirds are doing now? Moving to Arizona while making sure they don’t accidentally have another kid to drain those retirement funds? My guess would be that all these old men are ditching their old wives for younger, hotter girlfriends, but those girlfriends want to make sure they don’t accidentally get pregnant with this 70-year-old’s kid (since they’re only in it for the money, obviously).
  • Colorado: How much does weed cost?
    • First of all, it’s very interesting that only one of the states where recreational pot is now legal has this as its most asked question. The other state where it’s legal, Washington, has “How much does a passport cost?” as its question. I guess in Washington the people wanting to get into Canada outnumber the pot smokers?
    • Secondly, Colorado, you’re doing it all wrong. Look over at New York for some guidance from now on…
  • New York: How much does a pound of weed cost?
    • Bingo! Something a little more specific. You guys are so much better at this than Colorado. Now, I’m a little concerned at the amount of pot you think you need, New York. But if prices are still the same from my college days, then you’re looking at almost $5,000 for a full pound of marijuana. Don’t smoke it all at once!
  • North Dakota: How much does a minor cost?
    • This just took a turn. At least Nevada and Connecticut went with the general prostitution question. These scumbags up in North Dakota want to know how much a minor costs? Dude, that’s on another level of illegal and disturbing. Do not be googling around about paying for sex with a minor. I actually just checked to see if NAMBLA’s main office is in North Dakota, but it’s not. No excuses, Peace Garden State. Find people your own age to sleep with.
    • Full disclosure: It appears that “a minor” is actually North Dakotans searching for how much it’ll cost if a minor gets arrested due to alcohol possession.
  • Oklahoma: How much does a breast lift cost?
  • Arkansas: How much do breast implants cost?
    • How could these bordering states be so different? Is it as simple as Oklahomans having good-sized boobs but needing a little lift once they get droopy while Arkansawyers are born with tiny boobs and need the full implant? Either way, the women in these two states are really concerned about their breasts. In unrelated news, I need a vacation. Arkansas is beautiful this time of year, you say? Sold.
  • Louisiana: How much does succession cost?
    • When I first saw the word “succession” on Louisiana, I thought it said “secession” and I thought, fine, Louisiana, don’t be part of our country anymore, but please leave New Orleans behind when you depart.
    • It turns out the succession Louisiana is talking about has something to do with a person’s estate when he or she dies. BOOOORRRRRRINGGGG.
  • Mississippi: How much does a DNA test cost?
  • Alabama: How much does an abortion cost?
    • By far my favorite pairing. In one state, the men want their accidents taken care of before they become a bigger problem, and in the other state, the men are like, “See, told ya, not my problem.”
    • I hate to tell ya, Mississippi, but I think the DNA tests in your state cost a little more than the national average because the doctors have to try to figure out how the baby is also your uncle! (boom, roasted)
  • Tennessee: How much does a DNA test cost?
  • Florida: How much does an abortion cost?
    • What is it about the Southeast corner of our country that causes everyone to either abort their unwanted baby or try to prove it’s not theirs? No idea, but I’m guessing most of the guests on Jerry Springer and Maury Povich are from these fine representations of America.
  • Georgia & Minnesota: How much does a taxi cost?
    • Jesus, guys, get with the effing program. It’s Uber or Lyft now! This is why I have to live in a progressive, technologically-savvy state for the rest of my life. If I was still dealing with the hell known as taxi drivers, I’d just give up on life.
  • West Virginia: How much does it cost to drill a well?
    • How about $0.00 because in the 21st century there is this thing called plumbing. You install pipes into your home and they deliver water to all of your faucets. It’s a novel approach to getting the water you need, I know.
    • My god, is there anything more depressing than living in a state where the most frequently asked question on google is how much it costs to drill a fucking well in my backyard?
    • Wait, do you think this question is asking about an oil well, not a water well? Either way, I’m guessing the second most asked question is, “How much does a bag of crystal meth + a gun to kill myself cost?”
  • Vermont: How much does a cord of wood cost?
    • Aww, Vermont, YOU’RE SO CUTE! But it kinda feels like you’re cheating on Maple Syrup a bit with this question.
  • Alaska: How much does a gallon of milk cost?
    • Without knowing a thing about Alaska, I’m thinking there aren’t many cows up there. Which means I’m guessing a gallon of milk costs about $76.54 after tax. I’ve never seen Ice Road Truckers, but is that show based on the dangerous lives of milkmen delivering their goods to all the people of Alaska?
  • Massachusetts: How much does the T cost?
    • I’ve recently heard that waiting for the T to show up in Boston is like waiting for a unicorn to knock on your door. I really thought my home state’s most burning question would be either “How much does hosting the Olympics cost?” or “How much does the Patriots Super Bowl DVD cost?”

I noticed that nobody’s top question was “How much does hiring a professional blogger to make fun of our proud state cost?”

Bummer.

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Really Enjoyed the Free Carpet Cleaning Our Landlord Gave Us For Renewing Our Lease (He Said With Heavy Sarcasm)

So my girlfriend and I renewed our lease for another year a little while back, and they tried to jack up the monthly rent on us. But they said they’d negotiate with us as best as possible. I told them we were moving out if the additional rent didn’t go away, and they came back and lowered it by only about $49 per month. BUT they did offer up a free professional carpet cleaning upon renewal. Let’s just say one of us who lives in this apartment thought that was a great concession on the owner’s part, and the other one of us realized that even $15 more per month off the rent would be much more valuable than a one-time cleaning. I’ll let you decide which one of us leaned which way on the issue.

Anyway, we finally scheduled them to do the carpet cleaning today. They’d need a few hours in here where I could take the dog and not be around. So it worked out well that the dog had a vet checkup and then we could go for an extra long hike nearby. Even though I thought the cleaning was a bullshit counteroffer on their part, of course we wanted to maximize its effectiveness. So we essentially moved an entire apartment’s worth of possessions into the bathroom, kitchen and on top of our bed.

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Well since I’m taking the time to post about this experience, you can probably guess that it didn’t turn out well. After waking up hours earlier than normal to move all the furniture and pack up a day’s worth of stuff to keep the dog entertained (think “bringing a baby on a two-week vacation” amount of stuff), I was off. At about 11AM I get an email from my property manager saying to call him, but I had no service and was enjoying the extra long hike. When I call him 90 minutes later, he informs me that the carpet cleaner had to deal with some flood in a different apartment this morning so he can’t come today after all (Let’s not even get into the issue of whether the carpet cleaner was the one who caused the flood in that apartment, which would make me a lot less confident in him not creating a natural disaster in our apartment).

Well F me in the A. I have enough days of not being productive because of my penchant for procrastination, and then I schedule an unproductive day so these guys can come do a half-assed job on my carpet. And then they’re a no-show??

Apparently they’re going to come tomorrow morning and take care of things. So I guess I’ll have some free time tomorrow. But my question is how should I react to this atrocity? You decide:

P.S. If you don’t think I purposely stuck those flowers in the background of picture #3 to show off how great of a boyfriend I am, then you know nothing about me.

Six Days of Boston: Next Time I’m Bringing a Defibrillator and a Spare Liver

My visits home to Massachusetts always seem to unfold the same way: Spend the first few nights partying in Boston, reluctantly drag myself to the sprawling metropolis known as Central Mass (not reluctant because I don’t want to see my family, but because it’s just not Boston), continue the partying at family gatherings for a couple more nights (where “night” = “start boozing by 3PM every day”), walk around like a zombie for the final day or two in Fitchburg, realize how F-ing boring it is once I’m stuck there by myself on a weekday where everyone I know is working, hightail it back to Boston.

Basically if you’re in Massachusetts and want to hang out with the fun version of me, you’ll want to find me in Boston or during the first two days of my return to Fitchburg. For the people who had to see me in my final two days of this most recent trip, I’m sorry.

This was a Memorial Day trip, but I’m just now getting around to posting because there’s always a one-week adjustment period when I get back to the real world. The alcohol and junk food withdrawals tend to mess with my sleeping patterns and therefore my productivity level.

If you’re thinking, “Ross, why the hell would I wanna hear about your trip back to Massachusetts? Do you really think you’re that interesting?” …I hear ya, but all I can do is promise that you’ll laugh at least once during the next several hundred words. As a matter of fact, to laugh immediately just scroll down to the bottom where I unveil the ridiculousness that was my diet for six days.

I have no way to organize the following thoughts because they are all jumbled together in my head. Let’s just go with whatever pops into my memory first:

  • With some time to spare on the afternoon I landed in Boston before meeting up with a college friend, I decided walking through the Copley/Boylston Street area where the Marathon bombs went off was the best course of action. I honestly had no idea if there was a memorial of any kind out there on the streets to all the victims of Marathon Monday, but I figured it couldn’t hurt to check it out. After a quick Jr. Bacon Cheeseburger at the Boylston St. Wendy’s, I was off to pay my respects. Below are a few of the pictures I took when I made my way over to the makeshift memorial across the street from the Boston Public Library. But as for the atmosphere, I can only describe it as hushed, calm, respectful, and of course a little eery. Not something you’d expect from one of the busier streets in the city.

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  • For those of us that were born and/or raised in Massachusetts and had been lucky enough to never experience any major tragedies that hit close to home, this Marathon terrorist attack ended that streak almost certainly. It feels like everyone knows someone who was injured, or knows someone who knows someone who was injured. It’s one thing to hear the crazy stories from secondary sources, but it’s something entirely different when a person who was hurt during the bombings is recapping the experience as you look on from three feet away. Hearing a dad say he was pretty certain his son, who had just crossed the finish line before the first bomb went off, was dead, and then hearing him say that his son thought he was dead when the second bomb went off…just a different level of a major tragedy sticking with you.
  • The details still need to be figured out, but I’m confident that we’re getting a group of people from Fitchburg together to run next year’s Boston Marathon, with the goal being to raise money for all those affected this past year, and to specifically honor the family we all grew up with who was hurt on that Monday in April (though none of them critically injured, thank god).
  • OK, enough with the grimness, right? Right. Well, if you happen to be in your thirties and feel like you’re lacking a bit in maturity, just know that there are people in your age range who still need their mother to write their names in marker on their toothbrushes or else they’ll forget whose is whose and accidentally share the same one. I know because I live with these people whenever I go home.
  • And in possibly the greatest example of someone simply not giving a fuck about his appearance in public, I went to the movie theater with a guy in Fitchburg who strolled in wearing a fancy dress shirt on top and sweatpants on the bottom. So if you’re 35 years old and can dress yourself and remember what color your toothbrush is, you’re doing better than at least one person your age.
  • Speaking of acting their age, good to see my grandparents finally acting more like the 80-year-olds that they are. My grandfather has a history of saying borderline inappropriate things to women that dates back to the FDR administration. But it’s always been contained to good-natured joking, and only when the woman he’s talking about is present. But on his way out of my Dad’s house over Memorial Day weekend, he looked me in the eyes, made sure I was paying attention, and said, “Tell Julie I said hi and that I’ve been thinking about her.” Julie, of course, is my girlfriend who was 3,000 miles away at the time, and was presumably NOT thinking about my grandfather. Though I’m kind of afraid to ask…maybe they have some strange connection that I didn’t pick up on the last time they were in the same room together.
  • And this trip home marked the moment my grandmother gave up even trying to half-remember things I told her during my last visit. First she asked me how my book was coming along. I told her I was never writing a book, and she basically got mad at me for lying. I told her I’ve been working on TV and film the entire time. But I’m sure she’s telling people right now that my book-writing is going OK. Then she asked me if I’m still finishing up school in September, which I’ve never told her because I’ve been randomly signing up for classes whenever something looks good. So why would I tell people I had a target end date to my school work? Then she asked me if I ever write about my dog with my comedy stories. I told her the dog doesn’t play into my writing very often. So about five minutes later in front of a group of eight other people, she announced that my sex life was suffering because my dog is always in the bed with me and my girlfriend. I had no conversations with her in between the things I just told you above, but she somehow created this sexless narrative based on the few things I told her about writing, comedy and my dog. At least now we can all re-calibrate our opinion of her. Because after my grandparents left the house on Saturday night, at least two people said, “Oh, your grandmother is so sharp for her age.” Really? Did we switch the meaning of sharp recently and no one told me?
  • Not to be outdone, my other grandmother asked me one day later if I remember playing with my Mom’s dog, Bruno, who died when my Mom was like 12 or something. I need to learn to just say “yes” to any question or assumption my grandparents make at this point. It will save me hours of miscommunications.
  • But the socially-inept people that I hang out with apparently aren’t limited to my grandparents. At one BBQ I attended, I felt like I had to make small talk with a guy that was sitting next to me on the couch, so I said, “Oh, congrats. I heard you guys have a little one on the way soon.” His response was a 15-minute rant about his wife’s period, or lack thereof. I promise there are plenty of acceptable ways to discuss your wife’s pregnancy, but going into elaborate details about the tardiness of her period is not one of them. Whatever, the party had good hotdogs at least.
  • So the real reason I was home for this particular weekend was to attend a benefit event for a high school buddy who passed away last November. His family organized a great event with a ton of raffle prizes and a live auction (where I proceeded to field remote bids from my brother on items such as a signed Tom Brady jersey, a chainsaw and a cord of wood. We were outbid on every one of those items).

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  • But I don’t know if that’s the right setting for grown adults to be running around giving each other ball taps and hitting on the grieving friends of the guy who died. I haven’t been to a lot of benefit dinners though, so maybe I’m the one who doesn’t fully understand the etiquette?
  • Everyone that I saw over my six days home complimented my afro (aka “gray bush”). People just going out of their way to say they like when I have long hair, which I’m growing for good luck for the Bruins by the way. It’s like my version of the lucky playoff beard since I still can’t grow dark facial hair. Anyway, I can’t figure out for the life of me if these people really do like my hair in its afro state, or if they all got together before my visit and came up with this big practical joke to pay me back for everything bad I’ve ever done to them. If that’s the case, I’d just have to say well played, everybody. Well played.
  • Serious question: If a person talks throughout an entire movie at the theater—I’m talking repeats every line of the movie out loud to his significant other—is it OK to hit him? I bet you said yes. What if instead of a man it was a woman? Would you still say yes? I still say yes. Lucky for me she only ruined the worst comedy movie ever made.
  • Here’s why true Red Sox fans shouldn’t be upset at all with the drop in attendance at Fenway Park this year: Tickets were so hard to come by when I was in college that I was one of those people who slept on the sidewalk overnight while waiting in line for Red Sox-Yankees tickets. For the game I went to on Memorial Day against Philly, a group of four of us strolled up to the day-of-game ticket window one hour before the game and bought four seats at face value. And in theory, we could have picked any section of the ballpark to sit in. If that’s what the end of the sellout streak means, then I officially hope the teams I root for can never fill their stadiums again.
  • But here’s the moment where I almost decided not to be a Red Sox fan anymore. The ticket window that’s specifically for day-of-game sales has moved, and now it’s kind of inside one of the entrances. And there’s a Red Sox employee that tells people who enter that area that they’ll have to go directly into the ballpark once they purchase their tickets, even if it’s 5:15PM and the game doesn’t begin until 7:10PM. But then you ask the person at the ticket window about leaving that area with your tickets, and he says it’s perfectly fine. So you buy the tickets and then that first person who said you’d be stuck inside the park really tries to make it happen. But then you realize he has absolutely no authority, maybe even less authority than you have at that very moment, and you simply move a barrier and exit the park. After discussing this whole  scenario that played out when we bought the tickets with my group, we realized the Red Sox wanted to make it seem to people as if they had to enter the park right away so that most people would do so and obviously spend a bunch of extra money during the time leading up to the game, but they have absolutely no lawful way to enforce this. It just feels so unnecessarily sketchy to me. I know these owners want to squeeze every penny out of their fans, but come on. I can’t think of any other reason they would have this soft enforcer trying to persuade people to go immediately to their seats two hours before the game.
  • Final sports note: If there’s one thing I miss about Boston, it’s the palpable buzz that energizes all parts of the city when one of our teams has a big game on the horizon. We got a large group together for the Bruins-Rangers game 4, and walking around the city all day leading up to that game, you could feel the excitement. It’s unlike anything I’ve seen in the other two major cities I’ve lived in. I need to return for more big playoff moments.

And now, the moment you’ve probably all been waiting for. I mentioned just before my trip back East how bad my eating habits are when I’m traveling or away from home for an extended period of time. I just want to show you all how bad this sickness gets for me. And there’s really no reason for me to embellish this list, so I promise I won’t:

Wednesday

  • Bacon, egg and cheese breakfast sandwich at airport in LA
  • Jr. Bacon Cheeseburger, fries, Diet Coke at Wendy’s on Boylston St.
  • A home-cooked meal of oven-roasted chicken and sweet potatoes, made by my Wednesday night hosts (and easily the only thing I ate all weekend that could be described as “reasonably healthy”)

Thursday

  • Carnitas Super Burrito, Diet Coke from Anna’s Taqueria
  • Turkey club sandwich, several rounds of fries from the bar where we watched the Bruins

Friday

  • Two eggs, two sausage links, two strips of bacon, two pancakes, two pieces of toast at breakfast in Boston
  • Peanut butter cup ice cream for lunch in Fitchburg
  • 8-10 slices of pizza at the benefit event
  • Peanut butter cup ice cream on top of a brownie as a late-night snack

Saturday

  • Omelet for breakfast in Fitchburg
  • Popcorn, Peanut M&M’s at movie theater
  • Cheeseburger, hot dog at a BBQ
  • Peanut butter cup ice cream on top of a brownie as a late-night snack

Sunday

  • Brownie, pasta salad for breakfast
  • 2 hot dogs, two peanut butter cookies, slice of strawberry cheesecake at BBQ
  • Steak & Cheese grinder from D’Angelo’s

Monday

  • Bacon, egg and cheese breakfast sandwich from Dunkin’ Donuts
  • Cheeseburger, hot dog, Diet Coke for lunch
  • Nachos and boneless buffalo wings at Game On before the Red Sox game

Tuesday

  • 2 breakfast burritos, hash brown, Diet Coke from McDonald’s at Logan Airport
  • Pulled BBQ pork, mashed potatoes, mac & cheese, texas toast, Dr. Pepper (no Diet Coke available) from restaurant at airport in Dallas

No presence of vegetables or fruit in that entire six-day run. And keep in mind that my liquids for six days were a revolving door of soda, beer and Jack Daniel’s.

How much salad do you think I need to eat over the next month to offset the damage that was done in Massachusetts?

Sign My Petition To Stop Rainbows From Making A Big Deal About Being In The Sky

I’m calling for a permanent moratorium on people being wowed by rainbows. I assumed we hit our rainbow saturation point years ago with the “double rainbow” phenomenon, but apparently not.

I was walking home from the dog park last Friday afternoon and all of the sudden it felt like I was in the opening scenes of Independence Day. You remember early on in that movie when the alien ship is first hovering over Los Angeles and Will Smith is reading his newspaper on the sidewalk? Then all of the sudden he looks up and sees all of his neighbors either standing in their yards pointing to the sky or frantically packing their cars to evacuate? That’s the exact scene that was playing out around me while I walked home. When I finally turned around to see what all the excitement was about, I half-expected to see a legit alien ship or a hologram of Jesus Christ.

Nope, just your run-of-the-mill rainbow. Not even double.

I might be slightly exaggerating with my Independence Day analogy, but only slightly. People were running out of their houses with cameras. Others were pulling over to the side of the road and hopping out of their cars for a photo op. I tried to do a google search on the frequency of rainbows in Southern California. I wanted to give my fellow Angelenos the benefit of the doubt. Maybe these things never happen around here. The search yielded nothing helpful because all the results that came up were for rainbow trout or some local LA band with the word “rainbow” in their name. I’m just going to assume rainbows happen in this area about as frequently as any other area of the world.

My biggest problem with the unnecessary gawking over a rainbow is where do you go from there? You have to have separately increasing reactions to all the natural phenomena that you might see. So if seeing a rainbow is on the low end of craziness in the sky, and an alien ship hovering overhead is the high end, you need to have appropriate reactions for everything in the middle. If you’re freaking out over a silly little rainbow, what are you going to do when things like a tornado, a meteor shower, ball lightning or St. Elmo’s Fire appear in your sky? Start packing your belongings and evacuate?

This is all a longwinded way of saying “let’s just cut the crap with rainbow adoration.” If you can see the pot of gold or the leprechaun from where you’re standing, that’s another story. Go nuts.

What’s the end game with taking a bunch of pictures of a rainbow anyway? I can find 10,000 pictures of rainbows on google that are significantly better looking than your shitty iPhone picture. I’m not impressed and neither are any of your Facebook friends. Knock it off.

Neighborly Etiquette: Posting Useless Signs And Dealing With Robberies

When I lived in San Francisco, every now and then another unit in our apartment complex would throw a wild party that raged on until five in the morning. One time my roommate got particularly mad about it and he posted some signs in the elevator/common areas that basically said, “Hey Assholes who were partying all night, please cut the shit and stop being assholes. You’re such assholes. Sincerely, The Guy Who Was Trying To Sleep”

I remember thinking that my roommate had good intentions with his message but the execution was all wrong. I don’t think swearing and badgering people in a forum like that really works. I think it only incites them further.

So a few days ago in our mail room I spotted this sign:

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Is that one any better? No swearing, but lots of name calling. Do you think the jerky idiot rich brats are going to suddenly take their dogs outside to pee just because of one neighbor’s note? I don’t. That’s one of the down sides of living in such a large apartment complex. Nobody feels any sense of responsibility to be decent because there’s no accountability. A dog pisses on my welcome mat, it could be any one of over a hundred dogs that live in this complex.

I think the only way to curb bad behavior from your neighbors is to catch them in the act and seriously threaten them. Nothing else works.

But I am curious to know if other people think the note-in-the-common-area routine works. If so, do you think I’ll get a response to this note I’m considering putting up?

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Yes, we got robbed earlier this week. I know it’s not really a joking matter, but…. I can’t help but laugh at the poor guy who took the trouble to kick in our door only to waste five minutes of his precious time looking for something valuable. Sorry, but it doesn’t exist in our apartment. I was thinking of getting one of those stickers that says “These Premises Monitored by ADT” or something like that and putting it on our front door, but I’m wondering if a sticker that says “We seriously own nothing that’s worth more than $200. Come on in and have a look if you want” would be more effective.

For those of you wondering, our “guard dog” was in her crate when the intruder came in, but even if Molly had been roaming freely, I doubt she would have done anything more than lick the guy to death or follow him from room-to-room. Those are her only moves.

Depending on whether you hear me talking to a friend or our insurance company, the person stole either $400 or $2,000 in cash (turns out insurance only covers a couple hundred bucks in cash usually…and I totally understand why. Jerks like me would too easily be able to commit insurance fraud for the chance to continue being unemployed. Well played, insurance companies. Well played).

You  may have noticed in my sign above that I said “Dear NEIGHBOR Who Robbed Us.” Yes, me and the detectives think it was an inside job. We have our reasons, but I don’t want to put the case in jeopardy by disclosing the details at this time.

The Starbucks Experience: The Writers, The Regulars and The (Possibly) Homeless

For those of you who read my football posts, you know I made a New Year’s resolution to write for at least 20 hours per week. Rather than spend most of my day thinking about writing and getting mad at myself for not writing, I decided to buckle down and force myself to actually write. My other New Year’s resolution was to spend time each week thinking about applying for a job. I’m happy to report that four weeks into 2013, these resolutions are going decent. I haven’t gotten to the 20 hour goal every week, but I’m always hovering around it.

A major reason for this spike in writing time is me finally realizing I need to leave my apartment everyday if I want to be productive. No matter how much I tell myself in the morning that I’m going to spend at least five hours at my desk writing, it just never happens. I’ll spend 45 minutes at my desk playing with a Rubik’s Cube (seriously). Then I’ll go “check on Molly” in the living room, which turns into me playing fetch with her for 30 minutes while the NFL Network is on TV in the background. Then I decide it’s best if I move my work area out to the couch so I can keep an eye on the dog while writing. Well now that I’m officially taking a break, I might as well check the DVR to see if anything good taped last night that I should watch. Then a quick search of my most-visited websites for any new content, and all of the sudden it’s 3PM and I’ve done about 30 actual minutes of writing.

So for the last three weeks, Starbucks in downtown Culver City has been my new office. While several distractions still exist—the ability to mindlessly browse the web, the temptation to watch the baristas make drinks in fancy machines—the biggest ones (Molly, TV, my bed) are all gone. Typically I go to Starbucks between 9-10AM and stay for at least four hours, sometimes longer.

When Julie was asking me all about my new daytime life at the coffee shop the other day, she was stunned by my revelation that I never order anything from Starbucks during the entire time I’m there. I’ve been there 15 of the last 21 days and haven’t ordered a thing in that time (it should be noted that I’ve never drank coffee in my life to this point, so this is a bit easier for me than others). I think Julie was actually appalled by this, like what I’m doing is probably a felony or something. I countered that plenty of people go to Starbucks for the sole purpose of doing work, and a lot of those people don’t order a damn thing. Starbucks knows this. They also know that people freeloading off their wi-fi isn’t going to hurt their sales so they might as well let people hang out all day and hope those people eventually order something. Right? Or am I totally crazy? Now if you want to make the argument that my behavior at Starbucks makes me no different from the homeless people who hang out there all day and never order anything, that’s perfectly fair. I’m only about two more jobless months away from officially joining their ranks anyway.

Well until the other day I thought my etiquette at Starbucks was just fine, but now I’m a little unsure. The poll at the bottom of this blog post is for my readers to weigh in on the debate. Please take a look.

The original point of this blog post was for me to provide insight into what it’s like hanging out all day every day at a Starbucks in Los Angeles. Coffee shops are notorious hangouts for unemployed, wannabe writers, and LA is the wannabe-writer’s capital of the world. So you’d think a Starbucks in LA would be overflowing with douchey delusional fake writers. Turns out no matter what time I’m at this particular Starbucks it is overflowing with people on their laptops. Unfortunately I can’t confirm that the majority of them are writers. Not everyone allows me to creepily stare at their computer screen.

But some of my fellow java house squatters are definitely working on screenplays and scripts like me. It always boosts my morale to think about how bad their scripts probably are. But I also notice a good percentage of those people with laptops doing real work, like filling out sales reports, emailing their employees, designing marketing collateral, etc. So the demographic of laptopers at Starbucks is probably a 50/50 split between gainfully employed people and painfully unemployed people like me.

But of course some of these writers stand out over their peers, and not everyone who hangs out all day at Starbucks has a laptop. So let’s go a layer deeper and explore some of my favorite regulars at the Culver City Starbucks:

SpongeBob SquarePants Guy: This guy may or may not be homeless, but he probably is. I’ve never been to Starbucks and not seen him. He either sits at the outdoor seating if the weather’s good, or he comes inside if the weather’s not good. I call him SpongeBob SquarePants Guy because he’s always wearing a giant yellow hat in the shape of the SpongeBob character, and he’s always drinking out of a plastic travel mug that’s also shaped like Bob. He wears the same bright plaid pants and sweatshirt every day (a detail that leads me to believe he’s homeless), and he always has a mini-DVD player and a case of DVDs with him (a detail that leads me to believe maybe he’s not homeless). If he is homeless, he’s the type of homeless I appreciate…doesn’t bother anyone, never asks for money, minds his own business (this probably means there’s no way he’s homeless, right?)

Homeless Dude Whose Pants Are Always Falling Down: Pretty self-explanatory. He’s the polar opposite of SpongeBob Guy on the homeless spectrum. He’s always asking for money, he’s loud and his pants are always falling most of the way down so you’re forced to see a lot more of him than you ever wanted. I have no idea what type of things he says to people because I’m smart enough to know that you always keep your headphones in your ears at Starbucks. I do know that almost every day of the week, the Culver City Police show up and escort this guy off the Starbucks premises.

Straddling The Fence Between Homeless & Homed Guy: The most confusing guy in the whole place. He often sits at the same table I’m sitting at and spends most of the day doing crossword puzzles. He eats a bag of Cheetos every single day, and every now and then he makes a phone call to someone who seems like his AA sponsor or parole officer. I say that because I often hear him saying things like, “There’s this guy sitting down at another table dressed in SpongeBob SquarePants gear, and it’s taking everything in me not to go over there and hit him.” (Swear to god I heard him have that exact conversation.) So I’m thinking he’s calling some sort of mentor/sponsor person in that case. He also wears very old, ratty clothing, and he seems to know an awful lot about the other homeless people milling about. My best guess is that he’s a former homeless person who’s gotten his shit together and is doing his best to stay out of trouble. I can tell you that he’s very polite and courteous when you move your backpack to free up a chair for him.

Foreign Couple Feeding Each Other in a Very Sexual Way: Speaking of people sitting at a table with me, I should let you know that at this particular Starbucks they have a large table in the middle of the place that fits up to eight people. So if you’re unlucky enough to have to sit there, you’ll be surrounded by strangers. The other day I was sitting there minding my own business when I looked up to see this man and woman literally feeding each other bites of blueberry coffee cake. Like it was their wedding cake…they were putting it in each other’s mouths, wiping it on each other’s cheeks and lips. It was so fucking strange. I hate when people do crazy shit like that and then I hear their foreign accents. Because I have to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume the awkward public-feeding is customary in their homeland.

Sweatpants Movie Writer Who’s Always Creeping Me Out: This guy I’ve seen a few times. He’s obviously working on a movie script (I base that on the fact that I’ve totally looked at his computer screen and notebook when he goes to the bathroom, and he is in fact writing a pretty bad-looking script). He always wears sweatpants and a sweatshirt, always the same color. And I swear he spends the entire time staring at other people. And usually it feels like he’s just staring at me. I’m not positive that he really is, but all I know is every time I look up from my computer screen, there he is, looking directly at me. Buddy, that screenplay isn’t gonna fix itself. You might think about spending less time giving everyone the creeps and more time developing your protagonist.

The Guy With Terrible Spatial Senses: You know the guy. Of course you do. Because he doesn’t only exist at this Starbucks. He’s the guy who treats a small public space as if he’s alone in his study at his Beverly Hills mansion. He’s sitting at a table with three chairs. Two of the chairs are covered in his belongings. The chair he’s sitting in is pushed all the way back to the point where it’s touching the table behind him…so no one can walk by without having to tell him every fucking time to push his chair in. He’s got computer cords everywhere. He’s basically running a military command center out of a crowded public space and he doesn’t give a shit about anyone else.

The Guy Who’s Way Too Excited About Being a Regular: Anyone who’s worked in the food service industry knows this guy. He’s a regular and he knows it, and loves it. He does everything short of giving each Starbucks employee the wink & the gun as he enters. Prior to ordering his coffee, he talks to the cashier about whatever’s on his mind for 15 minutes, and then after they hand him his coffee he proceeds to stand as close to the barista as possible to continue his conversation. Only the barista has like 325 drinks to make so he’s super annoyed by the regular. My advice for you: Never be the first person this regular makes eye contact with after he realizes the barista is blowing him off…because he will transfer that conversation to you. He obviously wants to talk and he doesn’t care who’s on the other end of that conversation, just as long as it’s another person. Don’t let yourself be that person.

The Woman Who Tries To Be the “Mom” of Starbucks: I don’t even know if that’s a good description for this lady, but she definitely reminds me of an overly-concerned mom. I’ve only seen her at Starbucks three times, but each time, after about an hour of her being there, she stands up and announces to the entire place that “sitting for too long is really bad for you. So I’m gonna stand up for a few minutes.” Again, I’m not lying or exaggerating. She makes that PSA loud enough for everyone to hear. I think she’s always hoping people will stand up with her. She’s looking for companions in the fight against sitting for too long. But when everyone ignores her, she proceeds to shake her head and make a “pfffff” sound under her breath, just so we all know how disappointed she is in us. And just like the regular guy, if you accidentally lock eyes with this woman, she will give you a one-on-one talking to about the dangers of all us fatso’s sitting down for too long. When I’m in a bad mood and she’s there, I always catch myself hoping she eventually dies from a heart attack or clogged arteries. That’ll teach her.

Douchey Red Sox Hat-Wearing Weirdo Who Brings His Own Sandwich and Water to Starbucks: Wait, that’s me. Hopefully my 17-inch MacBook helps people realize that even though I bring the same sandwich packaged in saran wrap every day, I’m not homeless. Yet.

Now take the damn poll.

First Run-In with LAPD Produces My Very Own “Lebowski Moment”

Dispatcher: “9-1-1, what’s your emergency?”

Me: “Yeah, uh, someone just threw a glass bottle at my car while I was driving down Santa Monica Boulevard.”

Dispatcher: “OK. What started the altercation?”

Me: “I said ‘fuck you’ to him.”

Dispatcher: “OK, we’re sending a police unit over…”

Ask anyone who knows Los Angeles what the worst part of the city to drive through is, and I’d bet my life that their answer is “Hollywood.” The whole area is a constant cluster fuck of rich locals driving their $100K cars way too slowly, adventurous Angelenos heading for a hike in the hills, and tourists wandering around completely befuddled as to why the famous “Hollywood Boulevard” is so underwhelming as an attraction (that’s an entirely separate blog post someday).

Based on where my apartment is in the Culver City area, there’s no worse place to have to drive to than Hollywood. It’s just far enough away that taking the freeway through downtown almost makes sense. Except that in LA, taking the freeway should always be a last resort. If your life is depending on it, I guess you should consider taking the freeway. Otherwise go side roads. When I inevitably have to suck it up and visit Hollywood, the goal is always just to get there and back without incident.

Saturday afternoon’s drive home from Hollywood can best be described as “with incident.” And it was this incident that finally made me google the sentence “when should you use 9-1-1”.

LAPD’s website answered: 911 should only be used for an emergency. An emergency is a life-threatening situation, crime in progress, or serious crime that has just occurred.”

Something tells me what happened to me and Julie on Saturday at 5pm was not an emergency in the life-threatening/serious crime sense. But does anyone bother to remember their local police department’s phone number these days? Do people have a bunch of emergency contacts stored in their phones? Or do people react to all police-necessitating situations like I do and lazily dial 9-1-1?

Maybe it’s best if I start from the beginning. Let’s see…how to best describe my driving habits without having my girlfriend’s parents read this and panic over the kind of maniac who’s driving their daughter around. I guess you could best categorize me as a combination of “ultra-aggressive with safety in mind” and “short fuse towards any driver who makes a mistake.”

And LA suits my style perfectly. LA driving is on a level of aggression I’ve never seen before. It’s like I’m sharing the road with 10 million other Ross’s. And if there were 10 million of me on the road, I imagine there would be plenty of controlled road rage. Normal things like swearing, flipping each other off and giving people the handjob sign as a symbol of your annoyance level (don’t pretend like you’ve never escalated from the middle finger to mimicking an HJ at somebody…I have no idea what that’s supposed to tell someone, but we all do it).

So when Julie and I were driving down Santa Monica Boulevard Saturday afternoon and I started honking my horn and screaming at a cab driver who just cut across three lanes of traffic, cutting me off in the process, I couldn’t help but be a little bit proud of him. He’s a man after my own heart. He needed to get in the left lane immediately and just went for it. Screw all the other drivers. While part of me respects that aggression, another part of me loves to antagonize people who do stupid shit while driving (cutting me off is one of those things).

When I pulled up next to this cab at the next traffic light, his window was down and he was staring at me. He mumbled something to the effect of, “Screw you, everyone does it.”

Ask my Mom what it’s like trying to get the last word in against me. It doesn’t happen. So just to make sure he knew I disagreed with his driving, I replied “fuck you” and then pulled forward a few feet. The next thing I know the cops are swarming around me, trying to revive me and checking to make sure I know where I am. There’s flashing lights and police sirens everywhere.

Wait, no, that’s not what happened at all.

The next thing that happened was the cab driver threw a glass bottle and hit the back of my car. I think I would have been less shocked if he had pulled out a gun and started spraying bullets at the side of my car. I immediately backed up a few feet to pull even with him again, and asked in a completely shocked voice, “Did you just throw something at my car?” His response? “Fuck you.”

Every detail at that point is foggy except for his license plate number, which Julie and I immediately wrote down. He sped off one way (yes, I believe he did in fact get the last word, dammit); we slowly drove the other way, completely shellshocked. Who throws a glass bottle at a car in the middle of a crowded intersection? What kind of cab driver loses his mind after another driver says “fuck you” to him? Doesn’t that happen to him probably 15 times a day?

So I dialed 9-1-1 a minute later for two reasons: 1). Shock. I didn’t know what to do, really. What’s the protocol for this? Let it go? Sure it wasn’t a life-threatening situation, but there was a crime in progress wasn’t there? And 2). I didn’t know how much damage had been done to my car. I figured it would be best to get it on record with the Police in case the bastard had messed up my car.

If I could do it all over again, I probably would have pulled off to the side of the road and looked at the back of my car before calling the cops. Turns out there was no damage, and all the cops did was not-so-subtley lecture me on the unimportance of the incident. They couldn’t have been more honest about how little of a priority this was to them.

But for anyone who’s ever watched The Big Lebowski and wanted their very own “leads? yeah, sure, just let me check with the boys down at the crime lab”  moment, I got mine. After we asked if they were going to find the guy who did this to me, the cop said, “Yeah, um, another unit is checking him out right now.” Suuuuure they are.

What’s the point of this article? Fuck, I dunno. For me to vent, I guess. For me to get reader feedback on whether “throwing a bottle at a car” is the next logical escalation in the altercation I had with this guy (I think he should have spit on my car before throwing a bottle, that’s the correct order in my opinion). To warn any reader who ends up in a car with me that there’s at least an outside chance this could happen again, considering I don’t plan on reducing the number of “hand job mimics” I pass out on a daily basis.

Oh, and for anyone in LA that wants to boycott the cab company with me, it was a Beverly Hills Cab driver:

beverlyhillscab

My Culver City Neighbors: Conserving Paper Even When Losing a Found Turtle

So the sign below is currently taped to a telephone pole a block away from my apartment. I never thought an 11-word sign could cause me to have so many questions. What happened here? Did someone find a turtle in the neighborhood and post the original sign, which said, “FOUND TURTLE CALL (310) 558-XXXX?” And then I guess the finder lost the turtle again so the original owner decided not to put up his own sign, but instead just alter the existing sign, changing “FOUND” to “LOST,” adding that it was “8 inches” and that “she got out of the backyard“??? And I guess the original owner wouldn’t want people calling the original finder so to cut out the middleman, he updated the sign with his phone number?

I guess another possibility is that a really dumb person lost their turtle, and they accidentally wrote “FOUND” instead of “LOST” on the sign. When he went to update that mistake, he noticed he also put down the wrong phone number initially, and he decided there’d be a lot better chance of his turtle being found if he added the super-helpful details of its size and the fact that it got out of his backyard.

Are there other possibilities? Maybe the alterations were made by some punk kid just fucking around? Would love to hear any other logical explanations you have.

 

 

 

 

 

-Thanks to Julie for pointing this sign out.

Life Lessons in San Francisco: Pie Shakes are Good, Babies are Difficult, Humping Can be Effective

Here’s a random list of things I learned over my 53 hours in San Francisco last weekend:

1). You can always count on your friends to give great advice when you’re having a major dilemma. Here’s the problem I approached my friends with on Friday night as we were crushing beers: Recently at the local dog park, our female dog has been approached and mounted by some male dogs. It gets to the point where the male dog’s red rocket is definitely alert and ready to go, but there hasn’t been any penetration yet. Sometimes the male dog’s owner has been quick to correct his dog, and sometimes the owner isn’t paying much attention so no action is taken. When I ran this scenario by my friends, there was an immediate consensus: next time a male dog is trying to hump Molly and the owner just sits by watching, I should slowly inch closer and closer to the owner until I’m close enough to hump his leg. And then, if the person still doesn’t get uncomfortable and start to pay attention to the situation, I’m supposed to start humping his leg and asking him “if he likes that” as I hump over and over until he gets it. I’m sure this won’t get me and my dog ostracized from the park.

2). Pies taste good, milkshakes taste great. Pie Shakes may be the world’s greatest food combination invention. A place called Chile Pies (& Ice Cream) in San Francisco makes homemade pies, and one of the menu options is for them to put a slice of pie into a blender with milkshake ingredients and make a pie shake. Just like it sounds. And because this is the smartest food operation going, they give you a straw that’s thick enough to allow you to suck up chunks of pie crust. Priority one for me when I returned to LA on Monday was doing a google search for “Pie Shakes in Los Angeles.”

3). In THIS POST a while back I discussed how raising a puppy is harder than raising a baby. I’m now willing to admit in some instances I may be wrong. For example, when I want to watch 10 straight hours of football on Sunday, I simply leave the dog in her crate for a few hours at a time, then take her for a super-quick walk so she can go to the bathroom, and then I feed her a couple times by putting food into a bowl and leaving it for her. As I got to experience this past Sunday, a baby can be a bit more complicated: During that 10-hour football-watching period, you may have to change a baby’s diaper four or five times; you probably have to put more effort into feeding it than just leaving food on the ground and letting it eat when it’s hungry. And you probably have to deal with a nap gone poorly where the baby is screaming bloody murder in its crib for 45 minutes. If I need Molly to sleep, I toss her in the crate and she sleeps purely out of boredom. Easy peasy.

4). Drinking heavily two days in a row used to be as easy as this: Drink heavily until I pass out on night one, then wake up and drink heavily until I pass out on night two. Now if I wanna binge, I have to make sure I’m equipped with Advil, Tums, a toilet to puke in and an updated will. Life’s so complicated these days.

5). When you’re at an airport bar watching football & baseball, and you’re surrounded by all guys except for one woman, do NOT be the guy to acknowledge that woman when she awkwardly says to no one in particular, “This is so weird that we’re all sitting here in silence not talking to one another.” I should have been as much of a dick as the guy to her left and turned my chair to face away from her. Unfortunately I took the bait and got stuck in a very strange conversation. It’s a learning experience that taught me to always have headphones in my ears even if I’m not listening to anything.

6). I’m mature enough at this point to consider washing my friend’s bedsheets after I stay in his bed for two nights without his knowledge. But only mature enough to consider it, not actually do it.

7). Now that I’m a writer-in-training, there are plenty of people who want to help me generate story ideas. Over the weekend, these ideas ranged from a blatant rip off of Inception called Perception to a story about me staging my own disappearance on an Alaskan cruise and then blogging from a mystery location. With helpful ideas like that, I can’t believe I’m not already a famous writer.

How Should I Deal with a Gym Screamer? You Decide My Fate

My apartment complex officially has a screamer. At first I thought he was just a loud grunter, but yesterday he crossed the line from “possibly acceptable but annoying grunter” to “completely inappropriate, possibly psychotic, screamer.”

If I polled 1,000 people, I bet 999 of them would say it’s perfectly acceptable for someone to make grunting noises when he or she is working out at the gym. I agree. Some grunting when you’re lifting a lot of weight and trying to push through the end of an exercise is fine (even though I still think it’s unnecessary).

But if I polled those same 1,000 people and asked if it was acceptable for someone at the gym to scream “NO PAIN, NO PAIN” during every exercise while also doing psycho runs in between sets, I hope at least 999 of them would say it’s outrageously inappropriate.

What’s a psycho run? It’s a phrase I invented yesterday to describe what I saw as I entered our apartment’s gym: a tank top-wearing bro running laps around the gym literally shadow boxing in each corner of the room. Wait, isn’t shadow boxing when someone punches the air as if they’re boxing? If that’s true, then this guy wasn’t doing that. He was real boxing: actually punching the walls, including a yoga mat he had leaned up against one wall to act as his punching bag. He then proceeded with the “NO PAIN, PUSH IT, NO PAIN, PUSH IT” screams throughout the rest of his workout (not just when he was lifting a ton of weight…he also did it when he was simply doing regular sit ups).

Just to be crystal clear in my explanation, I’m not talking about someone who’s saying motivational phrases under his breath. I’m talking about someone who was screaming so loud that I couldn’t hear what was coming out of my headphones even though the volume was maxed out and I was 20 feet away from the screamer.

Also keep in mind that this is a gym at an apartment complex. It’s a room that’s probably smaller than most peoples’ living rooms. And of course it was just the two of us at the gym. Maybe I’m overreacting a little if I’m in a big gym surrounded by lots of people. At least then it would be easier to ignore the awkwardness. But in the context of our gym, it was a shocking experience.

So, readers, what should I do to address this problem? I’ve encountered this guy in my gym three times already. How do I get it to stop?

Adventures in Relocating: Checking in After 1 Quarter of LA Living

After three months of living in LA, you’d probably expect me to have lots of stories from all these new things we’re experiencing. I don’t. Turns out life isn’t that exciting when you’re an unemployed writer trying to get by on the money from your childhood savings bonds, and it’s even less exciting when you have a puppy that demands your attention 18 hours a day.

Rather than end this post right here, I’ve put together a list of frequently asked questions that people might have asked me about my first quarter in LA.

FAQs

Question: You mentioned being unemployed. What’s the deal with that? Any jobs on the horizon?

Answer: I’ve learned that it’s tough to get a job when you haven’t started looking for one, and unfortunately, Julie isn’t making quite enough money yet for me to be a stay-at-home boyfriend. The blog is starting to pull in some revenue…I made $0.99 last month off my advertisements, but Word Press doesn’t allow me to claim any funds until I’ve made $100 or more. So in just eight short years, I should be able to cash out that first $100 from the blog. In all honesty, I’ve been waiting for someone to contact me about a job in the entertainment industry. I hear that’s how it works around here, you just wait for people to pursue you. I will have to start searching for a job soon, but football season is just a really busy time for me. Check back in February and I’ll probably have started my job search by then.

Q: What about your writing? Have you finished any major projects yet like TV or movie scripts?

A: Do 2,000-word blog posts count? There’s nothing major finished yet, but before the end of 2012 I’m planning to have at least two television scripts and one movie script finished. The goal is to continue blogging and writing a ton of football content with the hope that a popular blog/website spots my amazing talent and hires me for a seven-figure salary.

Q: Three months in LA…have you made any friends?

A: We do have a couple friends at this point, but there’s a 50% chance they’re just people who feel really bad for us. I do think at times we’re giving off a strong stench of our desperation to make friends (like when we were leaving a BBQ at a friend’s house a few weeks back and I said to the entire crowd, “It was good meeting everyone…we really need friends. When can we all hang out again?” Obviously we haven’t heard from any of them since).

Q: The people in LA have a reputation for being superficial, stuck-up and self-absorbed. Have you noticed any truth to this?

A: There are just as many superficial, stuck-up, self-absorbed assholes in LA as there are in any other major city. I don’t think douchebags are exclusive to Southern California. It’s just that our douchebags are tanner than yours.

Q: You’re living with your girlfriend. How’s that going?

A: Fine.

Q: Have there been any issues, fights or surprises during the first three months of your cohabitation?

A: I’ll be reading a statement that Julie has prepared for me: “Living with my girlfriend has been the most incredible and rewarding experience. There have been no fights or issues stemming from us living together. And every surprise has been a good surprise, like when I’m trying to sleep in sometimes and she’s awake and full of energy at 6:30am. It turns out I didn’t really want to sleep until 9:30 after all.”

Q: It seems like you’re unwilling to admit to any cohabitation problems that have happened in the first three months. Are there any problems looming on the horizon?

A: Possibly the issue of us only having one TV. I’ve tried to gently inform Julie that I plan to watch 12 hours of football on Sundays, three hours on Mondays and three more hours on Thursdays (and eventually three hours on some Saturdays). She actually got a dose of how disruptive football season can be when I taped 10 NFL preseason games on our DVR and it caused all of her Sex & The City’s to be deleted. She should be plenty prepared.

Q: One TV? How has that worked out so far?

A: It feels like my viewing of Sex & The City, Say Yes To the Dress, Keeping Up With the Kardashians and Snapped has increased by 5000% since we moved. And yet, if I put the TV on ESPN or the NFL Network for 10 minutes, I get crucified for “always putting it on your stupid sports shows.”

Q: What’s something weird or interesting that will jump out to any visitors of your apartment?

A: Other than the patio being coated in a thick layer of dog piss (there’s a Thompson’s Water Seal joke here, but I don’t feel like writing it)? Probably the fact that nothing we’ve hung on the walls (pictures and shelves mostly) is even close to level. We’re blaming it on the apartment walls and floors not being level, but we wouldn’t even know how to test if that’s true or not.

Q: How about exploring outside of your apartment? Is there good sightseeing in LA? Where have you taken visitors?

A: The sightseeing in LA blows. It’s not an exaggeration to say that the sightseeing in Fitchburg, Massachusetts (which I wrote about in THIS) is better than the sightseeing in LA. I’m about done bringing people to Hollywood Blvd just to see them underwhelmed by all the “stars” on the ground. And sure, there’s the famous Chinese Theater and Kodak  Dolby Theater, but there’s not much to look at from the outside. The entire Hollywood Blvd area takes about 11 minutes to thoroughly see, and there’s a decent chance you’re gonna want those 11 minutes back when you’re finished. Other than the Hollywood sign, there are no other relevant landmarks worth seeing in LA. Oh, and if you’re like me and had this awesome image of the La Brea Tarpits in your head because of the movie Volcano (starring Tommy Lee Jones where the tar pits are literally erupting and spewing out tar throughout the movie), you’re going to be severely disappointed when you see the real thing:

Q: Any final thoughts on living with your girlfriend?

A: Yes, I’d like to address the one topic that every other couple brought up to us when we told them we were moving in together: pooping. Strange as it sounds, every couple we talked to said having to share a bathroom, particularly when one of us had to take a shit, was going to be the biggest adjustment. I’d just like to say that it hasn’t been a tough adjustment at all. I poop whenever I want, wherever I want in the apartment. And Julie has learned to simply go around the corner to the McDonald’s or Starbucks whenever she has to go number two. I don’t understand why this is such an awkward thing for other couples.

Topeka’s Biggest Celebrity Visits LA Then Writes About It…Sort Of

[Editor’s Note: You’ve probably noticed guest blogs popping up on the WBFF blog recently. Not only does this give me more free time to sit by the pool at my apartment complex and take random weekday trips to Palm Springs (my current location), but it allows me to tweak my resume to say something like, “Responsible for managing a team of writers on an internationally-renowned blog.” I’m happy to introduce a new guest blogger today, Matt Blanchette. And he’s not just any ordinary Schmoe…Matt happens to be the pride of Topeka…Yes, Topeka, Kansas. Feel free to read more about my most famous guest blogger HERE. Matt was our first official visitor in LA over the 4th of July week, and we did our best to stay busy. We agreed that having him write about his experiences would be a good way for other would-be-visitors to decide if visiting us in LA is worthwhile or not. For some reason he seemed nervous about writing too much in this blog post (something about boring people, which I try never to worry about), so I’ve taken the liberty of adding to his thoughts (my comments in red). Enjoy.]

First off, I want to thank Ross for allowing me to be his second guest blogger, and god help me I am determined to do better than a series of blogs about Euro League Soccer.

I found myself with some free time over 4th of July and campaigned some friends for a free place to stay. Ross and Julie were very insistent that I head west, so LA it was.

Our visit started with a look at Ross’ new “haircut.” And by “haircut”, I mean “letting it grow out in any direction for as long as possible without ever trying to tame it in any way.” Turns out, I missed the accompanying mustache by a few days. So if this whole comedy writer thing doesn’t pan out, I am sure there is a 70’s era porn star impersonation gig available for Ross. [It’s true, I haven’t gotten a haircut in at least three months. I tried to keep the mustache going for as long as possible, but it got really itchy and almost caused me to be unexpectedly single. Here are some pictures of the three-week experimental mustache and the “hair growing in any direction.”]

First stop on my trip, a hike in Malibu. Aside from getting lost looking for a lake, which turned out to be nothing more than a puddle, the highlight came from a 15-year-old girl at the swimming hole. Basically this was a cliff jump into the water, but one girl decided to stand on the edge of the cliff for 20 minutes while everyone screamed at her to either jump or die.

Long story short, after we left, three fire engines and ambulances raced towards the hole. I can only assume this is her:

[Matt’s totally underselling just how ridiculous this swimming hole scene was at Malibu Creek State Park. It was a small swimming area littered with douchey teenagers who had absolutely no adult supervision. If it hadn’t been so damn hot out, and if we hadn’t been promising Matt an awesome lake to swim in, we probably wouldn’t have bothered jumping into the swimming hole because it just seemed like something bad was going to happen with all those kids. Julie even said this out loud while we were swimming. The funny part (if there is a funny part to this story) was when we left the hole and were walking down the trail towards the parking lot. We heard sirens in the distance and joked about how they must be coming up to Malibu Creek because that girl who refused to jump fell off the cliff and killed herself. Two minutes later those fire engines and ambulances are tearing up the trail towards the hole. Anyway, below is a picture that kind of shows you what we’re talking about. And also, getting lost wasn’t a total downer because Matt & Julie got to play inside some props from M*A*S*H.]

After Malibu Creek, it was off to a Malibu Vineyard…where they happened to be shooting season one of “Ready For Love,” the new reality show from your favorite housewife and mine, Eva Longoria.

The setup is simple: a good-looking guy takes multiple women out on dates one after another. In this case Ben, the good-looking guy, had his choice of five or six very attractive, though malnourished, females. I admit, I do not watch reality dating shows, but it was wild.

One of the female producers (who we called Scissors, for her ability to scissor the girls to put them in a good mood) had the unenviable job of coddling each woman while Ben was on dates with the others. In one case a hysterical woman was only put at ease when she was handed another bottle of wine to suck on. Basically all the women sit in the “bullpen” and wait for Ben to call on them.

Ben did get some action, to which I gleefully proclaimed “They’re kissing, they’re kissing.” (I had an entire bottle of wine.)

Look for this scene on the show on NBC this fall!

[Matt’s description of the “They’re kissing, they’re kissing!” moment doesn’t come close to doing it justice. Here’s how I would have described it: “And after two hours of staring at these reality show contestants nonstop—to the point where we wouldn’t have been surprised if security had asked us to leave the premises—we finally saw Ben essentially choose his favorite girl by making out with her…at which point Matt turned into a fifth grader who was seeing two of his classmates kiss for the first time, and he exclaimed in a pre-pubescent shriek, “They’re kissing, they’re kissing!!!”]

Day two (4th of July) was Dodgers Day. If you have not been to Dodgers Stadium, don’t, or at least do not sit in left field. It is basically a stockade. Fans have no access to center or right field, nor the rest of the stadium. You have one bathroom, and one concession stand, which has limited food options (dodger dog, chips, and cracker jacks).

And check out the scoreboard:

I felt like I was watching RBI baseball 1993. Nicely done, Frank McCourt.

As for transportation options, there are none. The traffic is a nightmare, and to walk (which we did) takes about 30 minutes to get to civilization. Luckily we found a dive bar that included a shot of Patron with every beer.

But hey, at least the fireworks at the stadium were good.

[OK, I gotta stop you right there, Matt. The night of the baseball game escalated quickly because when we finally got to “civilization” and jumped inside a bar, the bartender confused me with a drink special to the point where I ended up ordering each of us a beer and two shots. And even though we decided that was too many shots, we went ahead and ordered a third shot just moments later. Other things of note that happened after those shots were: Matt contemplating drinking a beer that a stranger had left on our table, Matt buying a 12-pack of Budweiser over Miller Lite just because the cans had an American Flag symbol on them, Matt & Julie getting in an argument over the difference between a pizza with buffalo sauce on it and a pizza with buffalo mozzarella on it (I did the sensible thing and ordered the pizza with buffalo mozzarella AND got a side order of buffalo wings), and finally, Matt working up the courage to get a picture with one of our childhood idols, the Ultimate Warrior…see below.]

Most of you have stopped reading the blog by now so I will speed through days three and four.

[Matt is really underestimating how bored the WBFF blog readers are at their jobs. He doesn’t seem to understand that people have been reading my ramblings for months now.]

Going to the beach is never a sure bet in LA, as far as I can tell. We were not blessed in that arena.

[What Matt is trying to say here is that we didn’t get good beach weather, and as a matter of fact, I haven’t yet been to the beach in LA when it has been beach weather. I hope that changes soon because why the hell did I move here if it wasn’t for the beach? Here’s a picture to show you just how non-beachy the weather is every time I try to bring someone to a beach in California.]

[For some reason, Matt decided to leave out two of the coolest things we saw on Day Three of his visit: the back of the Hollywood sign (sure everyone can see the front of it from all over LA, but how often do you see the back?), and people randomly getting foamed up and washed down at Venice Beach.]

And if you plan to be a tourist and do sightseeing when you go to LA, appeal to Julie. Ross is not sympathetic in that area.

[Completely true. I will pretend like LA has no sightseeing or landmarks until you’re convinced. And if you’re still not convinced, I’ll tell you that they are all closed for maintenance.]

Also in LA, everyone seems to be in the entertainment business or curious if you are. And you “think” you see celebs everywhere, but we really did not see any that I know of.

[Wow, Matt totally glossed over the fact that on Night Three when we went to a free concert at the Santa Monica Pier, him & Julie spent the entire time staring at a group of people and debating whether one of the women was a celebrity. The entire night. I’m not even exaggerating. Matt was saying things like, “I watch A LOT of TV so I’d know if she was famous…unless she’s on one of those Real Housewives shows or reality TV.” To which Julie quickly replied, “Oh, I’ve got those covered. She’s not from one of those shows.”  This topic is ripe for an entirely separate blog…thinking we see famous people but never being able to put a name to the face.]

So I guess the point of this blog is to get others to visit LA, so I would recommend it. Maybe that will buy me a second blog.

[Gee, thanks for the ringing endorsement, Matt. “I guess Ross wants me to say LA was fun so others will visit…so yeah, it was fun.”]

[For anyone who does decide to visit, I can’t guarantee that we’ll see the filming of a not-going-to-be-on-the-air-long-anyway reality dating show, but I promise we can find a group of people to stare at in Santa Monica and discuss how each of them might be famous.]

Throwing Down the Gauntlet on LA’s Toughest Physical Challenge

Do these stairs look intimidating?  I can’t tell if this photo does them justice, but they are fucking ridiculous.  I’ve tried walking up them twice now, and the next time I go, I’m taking camping gear and setting up shop at the halfway point on night one.  It’s about a three-day journey to the top at my pace.

I haven’t even begun exploring LA’s most difficult hikes or running trails, but I’m calling it already: this staircase at the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook in Culver City is the toughest workout you can get in the city.

Beyond the fact that it’s like a third of a mile straight uphill, the stairs are completely uneven and awkwardly spaced so you’re sometimes taking two or three steps in between each stair.

I’m throwing out the challenge to all comers now: visit me in LA and run all the way up the stairs (and live to tell the tale), and I’ll buy you In-n-Out Burger or Five Guys as a reward.

If you think you’re in shape, I promise you’ll rethink that after the staircase-of-death challenge.  Just look at the people in this picture who are either stopping mid-stairclimb to rest or actually having to sit down on the stairs.

The allure of the stairs is the promise of amazing views of the entire LA area at the top.  I tried to take a picture of the view, but threw up all over my phone instead.

Adventures in Relocating: Exploring the Five-Block Radius Around my Apartment

I guess by now I was supposed to have explored a lot of Los Angeles, considering I moved three weeks ago.  The girlfriend arrives on Friday, and she’s probably gonna ask me all sorts of questions I don’t have answers for, like, “Where’s the nicest beach?” and, “Where do you like to get your hair done?”

Only problem is I haven’t been to the beach, and I definitely haven’t gone to the salon since I’ve been in LA.  The first 10 days were a waste because I was laid up on the couch with a herniated disc in my back that was caused by three straight days of moving (OK, it wasn’t anything nearly as severe as a herniated disc; it was actually just a stiff neck, but a really stiff neck!).

But once I was out of the ICU, you’d think I’d start exploring my new city, right?  Am I allowed to say that exploring LA completely on my own never sounded like fun?  That I’m not in the same mindset I was when I traveled by myself through Europe and Australia three years ago, willing to go anywhere and meet anyone?  Also I knew that once Julie got down here she was going to want to explore all the popular places anyway, no matter how lame I tell her they are.  So I’m waiting.

But before I moved down here, LA experts told me that I better live in an area that had everything I’d need close by…restaurants, bars, grocery store, hospital, homeless shelter, and any friends you actually want to keep up with.  Obviously this is because of the ridiculous traffic and how spread out the city is.

So if I couldn’t explore all of LA in my first three weeks, the least I could do is explore the five-block radius around my apartment.  I wanted to know what’s within walking distance, hoping to minimize how often my car leaves the garage.

Here’s what I’ve discovered is within reasonable walking distance of my apartment:

-Essential fast food: In-n-Out Burger, Rally’s Burgers, Wendy’s…In hot weather, I typically average nine milkshakes per week.  All three of these restaurants meet my requirements of proximity and shake thickness.

-Essential fast casual Mexican: Chipotle…How I haven’t eaten here for 20 straight days is a mystery.

-Restaurants: Millions of them, an abundance of Thai places, Harrison Ford’s son’s restaurant, no big deal

-Bars: My biggest concern moving to Culver City was a perceived lack of dive bars in the area, places I could get a $2 PBR and the only food they serve is the three bags of chips hanging in the corner.  I still haven’t found any true dive bars in walking distance to my apartment, but I have found a couple decent sports bars.  They’ll each go through try outs in August to see which one turns into my Sunday football bar.

-Grocery Stores: Trader Joe’s, Albertson’s, Smart & Final.  The S&F is so close I could go purchase something right now and get back before you finish reading this sentence.

-Cosmetic Surgery Facility: For the ass implants I’m planning to get eventually.

-Hospital/ER: For future slipped disc issues

-Starbuck’s: I still don’t drink coffee, but I can suck down a hot cocoa like a champ.

-Farmer’s Market: Tuesday afternoons, meaning if you live in Culver City, you have to choose between having a job or getting fresh vegetables.

-Movie Theater: Apparently it’s a good thing this is so close because my go-to activity for when I’m bored and by myself is seeing a movie.  I’ve seen four and counting since I’ve been down here on my own.

-Frozen Yogurt: For when I’ve overdone it on milkshakes.

-Dry Cleaners: Assuming one day I come out of retirement and look for a job, might have to get the suits that currently sit in a ball in my closet dry-cleaned.

-Brazilian Steakhouse: Already bought a Groupon deal to eat here soon. If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of a brazilian steakhouse, slap yourself in the face and then go find the nearest one now.

-Sony Studios: People have suggested I should sit outside the Sony buildings and write movie scripts all day, theorizing that someone who works for Sony might see me and offer me a job.  More likely someone will see me there day after day and call the Cops.

-City Hall & Police Department: No idea what the benefit is to having these things close to me, but it can’t be a bad thing, right?

-Culver City Park: A pretty decent park that includes basketball courts, baseball fields and a skate park (three things I will never use), running/hiking areas (which I will use), and a pretty sweet dog park (debatable whether I’ll ever use this or not):

-Balona Creek: Sure, there’s nothing pretty or scenic about it (see picture below), but it’s a four-mile bike and running trail that goes to the beach, meaning you can run or bike to the beach and back and never have to deal with cars or traffic lights.  Even if some of the Yelp reviews told stories about women getting attacked by homeless people along the creek, well, good thing I’m not a woman (if Julie ever has to be on the trail alone at night, I’ll arm her with a butter knife or water gun).

-Flower Shop: Obviously good to have right next to my apartment for when I piss Julie off by suggesting she ride her bike alone along Balona Creek.

Basically what I’m saying through this long-winded blog is good luck getting me to leave Culver City once I do the obligatory one month of LA exploring in July.

Scamming Restaurants by Eating Off the Bereavement Menu

So I’m heading to dinner tonight in Leominster with some relatives and we’re going to some place called The Luxury Box.  Don’t know much about it except that it meets my “20 Flatscreen TVs minimum” requirement.  As is my habit, I was looking around on their website for a menu so I can decide on my meal now.  That way I can ignore everything going on at the table and just watch TV.

I find the menu link and what do I stumble upon?  A bereavement menu:

Bereavement menu?  Has anyone ever seen anything like this?  Is this the most random thing?  I’m wondering if maybe this restaurant is located next to a church and cemetery and happens to be the only dining spot in the area.  Why else would they expect to have such a large number of grievers visiting their establishment?

“We here at The Luxury Box would like to express our deepest sympathy in your time of sorrow.  We would like to help ease the burden…”

Listen up, Dad, Uncle Steve, Grandma and Grandpa.  Here’s the plan for tonight: We just got done burying a loved one and we’d like to eat off the bereavement menu (we’ll take menu option #3, thank you).  We’re very sad, regardless of how much we’re cheering for the Celtics during our dinner.  When the check comes at the end of the meal, we act even more sorrowful and quietly explain to the manager that we just spent all of our money on the funeral and can’t afford to pay.  Let’s see The Luxury Box put their money where their mouth is…if you really have sympathy for our situation and wanna ease our burden, you’ll go ahead and take care of that check for us.  Thanks.

If this works, I’m only eating at restaurants with bereavement menus from now on.