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.

My Dog’s Nearly-Tragic Timing and the Rest of the NFL Week 1 in Review

All of us football players prepare the entire summer for opening weekend. We go through all the required training drills, study extra film and stay late to work on our weaknesses. The preseason’s a decent warmup for what’s to come, but you can never prepare for everything. We just have to hope that we’ve done all of our work and be as ready as we can. But then of course, one of those things you can’t prepare for happens. For some football players it’s a tweaked hamstring. For me, it was a potential emergency vet visit during the first set of games this past Sunday. We woke up at 4am Sunday to the sound of our puppy trying to gnaw the skin and fur off her own body. When I opened up her crate door—something she usually greets with the enthusiasm of a 16-year-old unexpectedly losing his virginity—she stayed in the crate, continuing to lick, bite and chew on areas of her body that most women only wished they could reach with their mouths. Something is seriously wrong when our dog volunteers to stay in her jail cell. When we took a closer look, it seemed like a new flea bite was breaking out on her undercarriage every second. My first thought? “Fucking hell, Julie is definitely gonna want to take Molly to the vet when they open today.” And then, “Wait a sec, is there any chance no vet’s office is open on Sundays so we’ll have to wait until Monday to take her?” I know what you’re thinking: why didn’t I just ignore the problem and make Julie take the dog by herself to the vet while I watched football like I planned, right? Oh, wait, you’re actually thinking I’m a terrible dog owner for my first thought not being “I need to make sure my puppy’s OK.” Well, to that I say…it’s football season. A lot of people are counting on me to ignore my responsibilities and deliver meaningless football content to the blog.

Luckily we didn’t have to take Molly to the vet. She calmed down, and the flea bites took a turn for the best. For those of you wondering how I’m gonna segue from this random story to week 1 of the NFL season, well, here goes nothing. When I was worrying that Molly would cause me to miss the first round of games of the first week (including the Patriots game), another thought crossed my mind: What Would Michael Vick Do? What would he do if a dog was being a total nuisance to him? What would he do if a dog was disrupting his perfect plans? Just joking PETA!

But I did actually think of Michael Vick, and I did think maybe my dog getting sick was an omen that the only man in the NFL who is so closely linked to dogs would have a bad day at the office. Did that stop me from making “Philly -10” my lock of the week? Of course not. Will I ever get sucked into Philly being a good team again? Of course I will.

So besides a very strange Molly-to-Michael Vick correlation, what else went on around the NFL in week 1? (This is the point where anyone who only tuned in for the promise of a dog story can feel free to tune out, though I can commit that the rest of this will continue to be entertaining)

-Maybe one of my readers can advise me on which pregame show to watch every Sunday morning. There’s no fewer than five of them, and I must have chosen the worst with the NFL Network because the first thing I saw on that channel was a 10-minute segment on Tim Tebow’s rise to fame, highlighted by interviews with Mary Lou Retton, Vanilla Ice, Sully Sullenberger and William Hung. There are more than 700 players who are considered starters in the NFL, either on offense or defense. And Tim Tebow isn’t one of them. But we’re running a lengthy special on his fame? Not even on his football talent? And why are we interviewing four D-list celebrities who have nothing to do with football? Because they can help us understand what it’s like to be famous while lacking any true reason to be that famous? I’m going back to my old routine of watching Patriots Championship DVDs during the hour leading up to Sunday’s first games.

-On Twitter Sunday morning, I wrote that Philly and Atlanta were my “big bets” for the week. What I should have wrote, unfortunately, was that Philly was my big bet and Atlanta was half the size of my big bet. I might be done betting on games that involve NFC East teams for the rest of my life.

-My eyes tell me that the Patriots are going to have a top-five run defense this season. Sadly the last time a good run defense was necessary for winning a Super Bowl was before my balls dropped. Don’t fool yourselves, Patriots fans. If they can’t consistently shut down an opponent’s passing game, they’ll be just as sketchy of a unit as last year’s team.

-Jeff Kent is on the new Survivor? I GUARANTEE he makes at least one blatantly racist comment as long as there’s a black person on the show. Who wants to take that bet against me?

-I counted at least four outrageous missed calls or wrong calls by the school teachers referees in the Titans/Patriots game. And I’m willing to admit two of them were of the noncall variety that should have been pass interferences on the Patriots in the end zone. More on the refs in a minute.

-Comedic timing is my favorite kind of timing, and  it was on full display in the 3rd quarter of the Dolpins/Texans game. A split second after the color commentator finished saying, “Only one of the three interceptions that Ryan Tannehill has thrown today was his fault so he’s gotta be feeling pretty good about himself,” three defensive linemen from Houston absolutely pancaked Tannehill for a five-yard sack. It was just a nice comedic moment.

-Speaking of comedic moments, Julie’s first (and best) comment of the day was, “Wow, this announcer’s all hard for Matt Hasselbeck, huh?” And she was right, Phil Simms was unnecessarily hard for him.

-We had only two mid-game QB changes this week. Sadly both were because of injuries—Hasselbeck replacing Jake Locker and Kevin Kolb for John Skelton. If you’re interested in making a bet on who will be the first QB replaced because of ineffectiveness, forget about it. Vegas pulled the lines down because Brandon Weeden and his 5.1 QB rating is the guarantee of the century. The guy just completed 12 of his 35 attempts in a home game, so if Browns coach Pat Shurmur doesn’t put him on a short leash, we should be suspicious of Shurmur possibly fixing games because of bets he made against his own team.

-Speaking of interceptions (we weren’t, but Weeden threw four of them on Sunday), there were 35 of them thrown in week 1 by NFL quarterbacks. Last year there were about 30 INTs per week so even though it seemed like there were a ridiculous amount of them yesterday, it was really just that atrocious Browns/Eagles game (8 interceptions combined) that skewed our perception. I promise there are still some decent QBs out there.

-Back to the refs. I didn’t see all of the Packers/9ers game, but based on the comments from the announcers and the body language of the two head coaches I saw every time the RedZone Channel checked in, I’d have to say it was the worst-officiated game of the weekend.

-Only minutes after making the above note about the refs, there was the whole “does Seattle have a timeout left or not” debacle in the Cardinals/Seahawks game with 30 seconds left. I feel confident that the real refs will be back by week three at the latest. This is a train wreck waiting to happen, or a train wreck already happening depending on your point of view.

-I know it’s too early to make judgments beyond week 1, but isn’t there a chance the Packers were that team in the offseason that thought to themselves, “Hey, we won 15 games last year, had one bad game in the playoffs, and everyone’s picking us to be the best team in the NFL again. We’re good here”? Or are the 49ers just that good?

-Detroit fans might be excited about their last-minute comeback against St. Louis—especially after their team had six second-half comebacks in 2011—but the truth is that you can’t be getting into comeback situations against the less-talented teams of the NFL and expect to contend for the Super Bowl.

-What are you laughing at, Eagles fans? As a football fan, if I had to choose whether my team does what Philly did in week 1—pull off a late comeback against a hopeless Browns team—or what Green Bay did in week 1—lose a relatively close game at home to a solid team—I’d choose the Packers’ result every time. It’s weird, but one team can look better in a loss than another looks in a win.

-Julie has always been a fine person to watch sports with. For the most part, she gets it. But I’m gonna have to train her that when the RedZone Channel goes to split screen late in the 4th quarter of a couple games, it’s the wrong time to ask my opinion about which color I think she should order for a new Papasan Chair.

-Admittedly I don’t watch a lot of pregame shows or the opening of a football broadcast. So I probably miss a lot of what announcers say. So I need to ask others to help me out with this question: Has John Gruden been calling Terrell Suggs “T-Sizzle” for a while? Or did this just start? I didn’t even realize that was one of Suggs’ nicknames.

-And before I could even make the above note in my diary, Gruden unleashed a “He’s the King of Sting” when talking about Ed Reed. Guy’s on a nickname roll on Monday Night Football.

-In the final Monday night game, Antonio Gates left the game with a rib injury early in the 3rd quarter. Believe it or not, Vegas had the over/under on Gates’ first injury at five minutes left in the 2nd quarter of his first game, so somehow the over wins this bet.

-I went 10-6 in my week 1 picks (see the post HERE). As a side note, I’m in two Pick ‘Em leagues where I went 11-5 in one of them and 12-4 in the other (I luckily changed the Jets/Bills pick in both leagues at the last minute). I won the week in both. And yet somehow, I lost a significant amount of money on my sketchy gambling website. It’s because I get sucked into ridiculous teasers and parlays. Next week I’m going to bet all 16 games individually and assume that I can win 11 or 12 of them. No more teasers or parlays for this guy.

-My dog is 1-0 in her picks for the season. How many games has your dog gotten right, huh?

Reader Trivia Answers: We have a Winner! (And Many Losers)

I promised answers to all the trivia I unleashed on my readers earlier this week, and I never break a promise.

Let’s begin with the three poll questions I posed in this post.

First, the answer to which country (not counting the US, UK, Australia and Canada) has read my blog the most. Germany was the runaway winner according to my readers’ votes with 42% of the total vote, followed by Japan and Singapore, each with 21% of the vote. But none of those answers was correct. The right answer is Egypt, which got only one vote. Congrats to whoever said Egypt!

Next, there was the question of which blog post was the least read of all time. According to the voters, this was an obvious answer. A whopping 63% of the responders said “Euro Update: Are We Supposed to be Excited about 1-1 Draws” was the least read blog of all time. I get the reasoning behind this…no one likes soccer. But the soccer blog was not actually the least read. The post titled “March Madness: More Than Just Basketball to Help End Relationships” is actually the least clicked on blog so far. Once again, only one person voted for this option…congrats once again to that person (and if the same person got the Egypt answer correct, wow).

The final poll question in this article asked the readers to vote on which blog was the most read of all time. For those of you who voted for the Bieber Blog, the Bachelor Parties Blog, the Opening the Kimono on Work Jargon Blog or the Scamming Restaurants with the Bereavement Menu blog, I’m sorry, but you’re wrong. None of those blogs even cracked the top 15 for most overall views. So it’s down to either “A Thorough Examination of Bird Poop Being Good Luck” or “Perfectly Good Excuses For Leaving Work Early.”

Those two posts are actually the top two most read on my blog, but in what order?

Almost 60% of the voters picked the Leaving Work Early post as the winner. And not a single person voted for the Bird Poop post. The readers missed badly here…the Bird Poop post is the most-read blog of all time!! And the Leaving Work Early post is a DISTANT second…over 100 less views than the Bird Poop.

Why is the Bird Poop article so popular? No idea, but it’s amazing that when I look at my stats every few days, the Bird Poop post has increased by another 5-10 views. It’s the gift that keeps on giving for the WBFF blog.

And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for…did anyone guess all 12 pictures correctly in the Around the Clock Trivia from Monday?

Out of all the responses, this picture seemed to trip people up the most:

That is a picture of a lake in Wakefield, Massachusetts…Julie’s hometown.

Out of hundreds of guesses, there were three people worth highlighting. Two of them (Mike “The Dream”, and Aaron “Pueto”) only got one picture wrong: Mike, guessing Wakefield was actually the Ozarks, and Aaron guessing “somewhere in Europe” for picture #3, which was Barcelona (Aaron was technically right, but the judges were looking for something more specific).

And finally, we had one winner: Neil “Nkilla” Gariepy. Here was Neil’s guesses:

1. LA
2. Boston
3. Barcelona
4. Fitchburg
5. San Francisco
6. Heavenly/South Lake
7. York Beach
8. Yosemite/Vernal Falls
9. Monterey
10. Napa/Sonoma
11. Wakefield/Lake Quannapowitt
12. La Jolla/San Diego

So, Neil, what will it be? A free In-n-Out/Five Guys meal on your first trip down to LA? Or an autographed photo of two of LA’s most famous people? You do not get any bonus prize for being extra specific with your answers.

If I do future contests, I will probably put in fine print that “immediate family members of WBFF blog employees are ineligible” so that other people besides Neil have a chance to win something.

Remembering 6 Years of College Reunions Before My Brain Turns To Mush at Reunion 7

[Editor’s Note: This is the first time I’m posting a blog that I honestly feel might only be relevant to about 10-15 people. I’ve tried to make it as readable as possible to the people not involved in these stories, but if I failed at that, so be it. This post will also help explain why you probably won’t see another blog post for the next five days.]

In three hours I’ll be boarding a plane for a four-day vacation in New Braunfels, a city that’s best known for operating the oldest dance hall in Texas. It has a population of 55,000, is expected to be over 100 degrees everyday I’m there, and there is literally only one recreational activity available…sitting in the Guadalupe River while trying not to melt.

So why am I so excited to be heading deep into the belly of Texas to spend my vacation in such an uninspiring place?

Because it just so happens to be the seventh consecutive year that a small group of us from college is getting together in a random location for a weekend of reminiscing and reliving all of our most memorable college moments. It’s a weekend where 10 of us booze heavily, sleep in a cramped house that wasn’t meant for 10 people, and play any and every kind of drinking game you can imagine. We basically turn back the clock and act like we’re in college again.

Notice that I didn’t say the weekend included “catching up with each other.” That was on purpose. I’m pretty sure out of the 10 people that usually join me on this trip, I only know what three of them actually do for a living. This is because we don’t waste time on inconsequential details like “what do you do for a job these days?” or “are you still married?”

When we all get together, we immediately fall back into our college lives, spending every minute talking about the most ridiculous shit that went on in our time at BU. And now that we’ve been doing the reunion for seven years, there are plenty of stories from those trips to relive as well.

Vacations are always fun no matter who joins you, and everyone has plenty of groups of friends with plenty of memories among those groups. But the reason this vacation with this group seems so unique should be obvious to anyone who went to college. College breeds such a tight-knit group of friends that can only come from living with those people in such close proximity for those four years. During that first year of college, everyone’s in the same unprecedented position—being truly on your own and living without your family and the friends you’ve grown up with for 18 years. Once you experience the euphoria of living near only people your age, you want to keep it going, and whether you stay in dorms for the next three years or you eventually move into an off-campus apartment, you stay unhealthily close to your friends.

And sure, most of the people in our group have moved on to adulthood—some of them are married, others bought houses, and maybe a few understand what a 401(k) is—but I’m pretty sure at times we all ache to be back in that college lifestyle, if only for a weekend.

That’s what makes this seven-year run so impressive. Sure, every group of college friends would like to get together once a year for a mini-vacation, but the fact that we’ve been able to pull it off is pretty surprising.

Maybe this blog is irrelevant to anyone who’s not part of the group, but maybe going over the highlights from the first six years will help demonstrate why we keep coming back for more:

Year 1 Boston

1). All I can remember is being psyched to return to Boston for a Sox vs Yankees “five games in four days” showdown, and then spending the entire weekend trying to drown out the memories of each mounting loss for the Red Sox. It was a five-game sweep for New York.

It’s not like there isn’t more memories from this trip, but the reunion as it stands today really hadn’t come together yet—not all of the current participants were there, we couldn’t all stay in the same house on this trip, etc.

Year 2 San Francisco

1). Renting a 14-person van for a trip to Napa, “hiring” my brother to drive (hiring in quotes because we didn’t actually pay him), 12 people finishing 12 bottles of champagne at our fourth tasting of the day and still thinking we needed to bring two more bottles of champagne into the van for the ride home…which turned into the most awful-sounding hour of karaoke in history.

2). Almost letting the group talk me into driving that same van down this the next day:

It would have guaranteed me a spot on that evening’s news.

Year 3 Florida

1). One of the group members who claims he hadn’t drank alcohol in almost a year decides to indulge on night one…promptly tries to walk by himself to the beach at 3am, stumbles through a neighbor’s yard while screaming at the top of his lungs on his way to essentially walking through a jungle and getting 2,000 gashes on his legs, then puking on the house porch and sleeping right next to that puke spot.

2). On night two, a couple of us take this same guy to a bar for shots instead of getting the groceries we were sent out for. This guy falls asleep at 7pm with french fries in his mouth.

3). One more from this same guy…watching him the morning after the puking incident lather up his entire body in sunscreen only to alternate between dry heaving in the bathroom and laying on the couch the entire day, never once stepping foot outside.

4). The strange girl in our group sleepwalking on the final night of the trip, ending up outside in the front yard by herself, coming back inside where we were all playing cards and ominously telling us, “I was outside talking to him. He was out there.” Except there was no one outside.

Year 4 Arkansas

1). A canoeing trip down a very calm river ends when the two douchebags who were talking up how good of canoers they are and arrogantly high-fiving every time they did something right somehow flip their canoe, losing the cooler of beer, most of their personal possessions and one of their oars. I’m proud to say I was one of those douchebags.

2). Remember the guy from Florida that caused all the problems? In Arkansas he somehow caused the entire group to fall out of their chairs laughing when he farted so loud in his sleep that it shook the house. And of course it didn’t even wake him up (you need an offensive farter in your college reunion group…it’s an incomplete group without him).

3). The slowest-moving person in the group decides three minutes before we’re all trying to leave to go boating that he needs to take a shower. He spent the entire morning watching TV and playing on his phone, but as soon as we’re ready to walk out the door, he feels the urgent need to get clean.

4). One of the guys decides to sleep in his car on night one even though there was plenty of room in the house. He says there was no room, but really he was just pissed off at a new nickname the group had given him earlier that night. Strangely the nickname was a compliment given by one of the girls about how skinny he looked.

5). The group kidnaps a dog for 18 hours. This is no joke. On our final night of the trip, coming back from the lake, part of the group stopped at a store to get some supplies and they spotted a dog sitting in the road. Now, there are dog lovers in this world, and then there are some of the people in our group that have a flat out obsession with them. So rather than think logically about the dog in the road, the group decided it was a stray dog who looked sick so they brought it back to the house. For the next 12 hours, we fed the dog, played with it, gave it a name…pretty much adopted it. The next morning one of the guys in our group finally called the owner to tell him we “saved” his dog (don’t ask me why we didn’t call him the night before when we first captured the dog; this detail is escaping me at the moment), and the owner was beyond confused, saying that his dog wasn’t missing and that he always hangs out on that road where our group found him. He asked that we drop the dog off where we found him the night before. So in my opinion, we did indeed kidnap an animal.

6). Of course, the Sox get swept by the Yankees in four games while we’re all together, strengthening a creepy trend of the Red Sox always having a terrible weekend against New York when the BU group reunites.

Year 5 Rhode Island

1). Playing flip cup isn’t enough of a drinking game. We add a new rule that says the losing team of each round has to vote for its worst player to take a shot. Of course one team dominates while the other blacks out.

2). The guy who is obviously becoming the star of most of my previous memories tries to cook 30 hotdogs on the grill at one time, but forgets to remove a bathing suit that was drying on top of the grill, leading to a melted bathing suit and a ruined grill, and burning about 23 hotdogs.

2). Almost no one in the group wants to visit Foxwoods, but when we all convince each other to go just for a quick visit, the group loses a collective $1,200 in 30 minutes.

3). One of the girls shows up with an “adult pinata” in the shape of a former BU friend (once considered part of the group) who turned out to be a wacko. We get absolutely no pleasure from beating the pinata until we see that it’s filled with more alcohol.

3). Leaving the owner of the house (who was the younger brother of one of the group members) a pile of cash and leftover booze with a note that said, “Sorry for ruining your grill and kitchen table. Hope this helps.”

Year 6 Boulder

1). Rafting Boulder Creek and almost winding up with no survivors. I don’t know how to explain this better, but we thought we were going on a lazy rafting adventure where we could relax on inner tubes and do some boozing, and we winded up fighting just to survive. There was a nearly broken tailbone, a narrow miss of a broken hip, and we actually almost lost three people.

2). The invention of the “drawing a name out of a hat to see which sucker has to be designated driver” game. It was the most stressful 40 seconds of my life. This year there will probably be a new game invented called “I’m gonna get so drunk before we do the ‘name out of the hat game’ that even if my name gets picked no one will want me driving.”

3). Deciding we needed to tailgate/pre-game with Miller Lites while in the Coors Brewery parking lot waiting to go on a tour.

4). Noticing a disturbing trend that the person in our group who seems to still party the hardest always is the first in bed on these trips. Discussing whether we should still invite her.

5). The introduction of arguably the greatest drinking game ever invented, “Slapping Cups.” (also possibly the worst name for a drinking game ever). If you don’t know it, I promise it’ll be the best game you ever play. And it’s simple, which I learned the morning after the group sent me to bed because I couldn’t figure out the two rules that make up the game. Here it is:

6). Playing a three-hour trivia game where we had to answer questions about our own college memories. Even with over 100 questions involved, the game naturally ended in controversy with no clear winner when the creators of the questions couldn’t even decide on the correct answer to the tiebreaking question.

Every Year

1). Ten college-educated adults can’t figure out how to properly divide up all the expenses from the weekend so we all crowd around a computer and watch in awe as the one person who knows what he’s doing crunches the numbers. I blame it on the astounding amount of brain cells lost over the previous four days.

2). Underestimating the amount of alcohol we need when we make our first grocery run of the trip. When we inevitably run out on day two, we go back to the store and severely overestimate how much more alcohol we need for the rest of the trip…leading to that final night where everyone is overtired, but feels like they have to stay awake and try to drink their share just so we’re not left with so much extra.

3). The guys in the group wanting to play poker, and the girls acting like this is a mortal sin, like they didn’t watch us waste five nights a week in college playing poker and ignoring them.

4). There’s one person in the group who tends to have the least flexibility with his time off and work schedule, causing him to arrive late and leave early on every trip. It wasn’t until year 6 that we realized he was doing this on purpose so he would avoid having to be part of the chaotic grocery store trip in the beginning and the house cleaning at the end. Now that we know, we’ll be subtly punishing him for this…like when he left his sandals at the house last year and we decided to throw them away instead of sending them back to him.

Although it seems like these reunion trips are all sunshine & candy corns, there’s a bit of a cloud hanging over them…the knowledge that someday we won’t be able to do this anymore. The cloud gets bigger with each passing year, and it’s starting to be impossible to get full attendance. Everyone seems to think it’ll come to a screeching halt when the first person in the group has a kid. I disagree. I think it ends when our drunken antics turn from cute to calamity (i.e. instead of setting just hotdogs and a bathing suit on fire, we burn down the entire house).

The Best Possible Sporting Event You Can Attend? The Verdict Is In

For the record, I’m a casual golf fan—I can name most of the popular professional golfers, and I’ll typically watch three of the four days of the major tournaments on TV only if there’s not a better sport on at the same time.  But that’s where it ends for me.  I can’t tell you who the top 10 golfers in the world are based on their ranking (interestingly enough, the top 10 ranked golfers are not necessarily the most popular golfers to the casual fan), and I certainly can’t pretend like I’ll watch one of the lesser-known tournaments.

As far as my golf-playing abilities, I’ll just tell you that I’m left-handed, have been playing golf left-handed for the past 14 years, but there’s a chance I could start playing right-handed tomorrow and immediately be better.  I’m uncommitted enough to the sport that I’m living in LA and my clubs still live in San Francisco.

But I’m going to try to convince you that watching a major golf tournament in person may be the best live sporting event you can attend—whether you’re a diehard golf fan or someone who doesn’t know the difference between Tiger Woods and a 5-Wood.

While I’ll try to sound like a total expert on this topic, I’ve actually been to only two major golf tournaments in my life: the 2010 U.S Open at Pebble Beach and the 2012 U.S. Open at the Olympic Club in San Francisco.  These experiences were amazing enough that I will probably attend any Major for the rest of my life that is taking place within a 500-mile radius of where I live.

A quick note for the uninitiated: there are four Major Tournaments in golf each year, and in terms of importance, you should think of them as the Championships.  The best golfers in the world are ultimately measured in terms of how many Majors they’ve won.  So while there is only one Championship in baseball, basketball, football and hockey each year, there are essentially four in golf.

Here’s one man’s incomplete list of why a Major is the best live sporting event you can see in person:

-$6 per beer!  Let’s start off with the most important reason.  Every sporting event is better with alcohol, but we’ve all been conditioned to expect to pay nearly $10 per beer at every stadium.  At these golf tournaments, you pay only $6…meaning by the time you’ve spent $60 on alcohol, you’ve had four more beers than if you were at a baseball game.  That’s a steal!  (I should add the lack of a two-beer limit at the concession stands as a plus for those of you who like to triple or quadruple-fist your drinks.)

-No assigned seating.  There’s an amazing freedom when it comes to being at a golf tournament.  Your ticket allows you to roam around the course, watching golfers at as many of the 18 holes as you want.  And you can choose to watch them teeing off at the start of a hole, hitting their second shots from (hopefully) the fairway, or snuggle up close to the green and watch them finish.  You can choose to sit or stand on the grass around the green, or you can get a seat in the makeshift bleachers they setup at every hole.  There’s really no limit to where you choose to watch (apparently if you’re the second best NFL quarterback, you can even follow Tiger Woods around to each hole inside the ropes where the public is not allowed, just like Aaron Rodgers did last Friday at the U.S. Open).  This means there’s a decent chance some of the best golfers in the world are taking a shot within five feet of where you’re watching.  By comparison, think about the ticket you buy for a playoff basketball game.  It probably cost you $150 and you’re probably in the nosebleeds.  You’re stuck there and it sucks.  Even if you paid $2,000 for a 3rd row seat, Lebron is never going to be taking a three-pointer from a spot where you could reach out and touch him.

-Speaking of ticket prices…only $100 per ticket.  This may seem expensive to watch a bunch of guys play golf, but let’s put it in the perspective of a Major being the equivalent of a Championship game in other sports.  Even if you get a ticket to a Stanley Cup Finals game for $100, you’re paying for essentially three hours of entertainment (or $33.33 per hour).  One day at the golf tournament gives you about 12 hours of entertainment if you choose to be there that long (or $8.33 per hour).  You tell me which is the bigger bang for your buck?  Actually, the ticket prices for the weekend days of the Open were $125, but plenty of people were selling them on Craigslist for $100.  When’s the last time you bought tickets for a playoff game BELOW FACE VALUE??

-Chance an errant shot lands directly in front of you.  Here’s another beauty of golf: Even though the golfers would like to play all their shots from within the roped off section because that’s where they’re supposed to hit it, it never works out that way.  Every player screws up bad enough that they have shots where the ball goes into the crowd.  When this happens, if you’re lucky enough to be standing near where the ball lands, you get to see one of the coolest things in sports…a golfer only 18 inches away from you, talking to his caddy about how the hell he’s going to hit from behind a giant Cypress tree.  And you’re actually allowed to crowd around the guy when he takes this next shot.  Just take a look at this youtube clip to see what I’m talking about.  This situation happened to me three or four times in one day at the Open last weekend, and being up close and personal for these shots was cooler than I can describe.

-No jumbotrons or artificially pumping up the crowd.  Unlike at venues that host the four popular sports, there is no one on a golf course telling the fans when to get loud.  Actually it’s the exact opposite.  Officials have to signal the fans to be silent when a player’s about to swing.  What this means to me is that you get a lot more natural of a crowd reaction in golf.  There’s no stupid scoreboard telling the fans to yell “De-Fense” or simply urging them to “get loud.”  When a golf crowd goes bonkers, it’s organic…the shot they watched was simply that amazing.

-Speaking of the venues, golf is the only sport where the playing surface is truly an X factor for the players.  In fact, sometimes the golf course can end up being the biggest star of the weekend because it’s so unique, difficult, beautiful or something else (like this past weekend in San Francisco…the Olympic Club course was talked about more than any single player.  It was so difficult that we were surprised to see most of the players even bother showing up for their final round on Sunday).  And the courses can be so different from one tournament to another.  One tournament you might have a hole that’s 670 yards long, and the next tournament there’s no hole longer than 550 yards.  Always bringing a new challenge for the players.  Obviously in football, the field is always 100 yards long.  In basketball the court is 94 feet long.  There are no hills, no water, no sand traps and no trees to compete with in these sports.  The golf course is an added opponent for the players.

-Rooting for every player to do well.  Like I said earlier, I’m a casual fan so maybe this is different for hardcore golf enthusiasts, but I doubt it.  At a golf tournament, the entire crowd is rooting for every player to succeed.  Since it’s not a sport where the guys play defense on each other, you don’t have to pick which side to root for on a specific play.  You can root for every golfer to have great shots and scores, and eventually someone will be just enough better to win.  In golf, the crowd tends to be supportive of great shots and great play rather than cheering for a specific player or team.  And you certainly never see the crowd booing one of the golfers.  Compared to those other sports, being at a golf event is full of positive vibes and reactions from the entire crowd.  What’s not to love about that?

-Golf fans’ attire.  Before you go thinking golf is too serious, just know that there’s a very humorous aspect to being at a tournament.  Golf fans apparently like to dress up as if they are actually playing golf when they go to see a tournament.  I really struggle to understand this phenomenon.  It seems like everyone wants to be ready in case the PGA starts asking fans to participate in the tournament.  Fans will dress up in ridiculously goofy pants, polo shirts and sweater vests.  And believe it or not, many of them will actually wear golf shoes with the spikes on the bottom…to watch other people golf!  Can you imagine if hockey fans dressed up in full gear, including helmets to see an NHL game?  Or if all basketball fans only wore mesh shorts and a tank top to NBA games?  Keep in mind that there is plenty of funny people watching at these golf events.

Now before the naysayers can say nay about my article, let me bring up the one negative people are likely to point out.  “There are 18 holes on the golf course and upwards of 150 players competing.  In every other sport you can see the entire game happen, with all the players involved, from your seat.  In golf, you can never see everything so you’re missing out on a lot.”  That’s fair.  But at least at these majors they do a great job having a leaderboard setup at every hole so you can constantly see who’s winning overall and who’s moving up or down.  On top of that, they give you a little radio earpiece that broadcasts the live coverage of the tournament.  So even if you’re standing at the 13th hole watching the guys in last place, you can be listening to what’s happening with the leaders over on the 2nd hole.  When a new group of players approaches your hole, you’re always up-to-date on where they’re at in the standings.

I know this list is incomplete so I urge my fellow U.S. Open compadres to add more reasons in the comment section.

Does My Girlfriend Secretly Think I’m the Least Handy Man Alive?

I would never have thought the answer to that question could be Yes until about a week ago.  Up until then I figured she thought I was reasonably handy—like she knows I know the difference between a phillips head screwdriver and a flat head screwdriver, but probably assumes (correctly) that I can’t change the oil in a car by myself.  Have I ever changed a flat tire?  Hell no.  But have I successfully started a camp fire?  Of course (lighter fluid, starter log and match light charcoal).

But then a week ago I rented a moving truck, and on Wednesday night we packed all of her and her roommate’s things into the truck.  On Thursday morning, I helped her roommate drop off all her stuff at a storage unit, leaving only Julie’s items in the truck.  After I drove home , I looked in the back and saw that boxes had flown around all over the place.  Makes sense since the roommate’s items were gone and there was nothing holding Julie’s items in place anymore.  When I called her and told her I was busy rearranging the truck because this happened, she told me to leave it alone until she got home to fix it.  But she didn’t say it in a “Gee, Ross, I know you’ve got a lot to do today” kind of way.  She said it in a “You’re probably gonna fuck it up even worse so just stop” kind of way.  I admit I’m not the world’s greatest packer, but come on…

And then today, I’m on the phone with her (she’s in San Francisco, I’m at our new apartment in LA), and she asks if I tried to setup this tiny metal file cabinet thing we bought from Ikea.  I told her I hadn’t, and she literally said, “Oh good.  I don’t want you to try to do it and screw it up so just leave it for when I get back.”

Of course I was flabbergasted, and she quickly backpedaled saying, “I just figured you’ve never setup Ikea furniture so you might not know how to do it correctly.”

First of all, I’ve setup plenty of Ikea furniture, but that’s besides the point.  Anyone who has ever been to Ikea or seen a piece of their furniture knows it’s made to be 100% idiot proof.  The furniture and their corresponding directions were made so even my unborn nephew could easily build a dresser from the womb.  Like if you just empty the Ikea box onto the ground, there’s a 66% chance the different pieces will put themselves together for you.

And just so everyone knows how big of an idiot my girlfriend really thinks I am, here’s a picture of what she didn’t want me trying to setup:

Eight total pieces, two different types of screws.  Lucky for me, she just inadvertently gave me permission not to lift a finger around the house for the next 16 days while she’s gone.

Adventures in Relocating: Fallout from the Move

Eleven days of silence from the WBFF blog probably has people worried sick.  Am I alive?  Stuck under a pile of moving boxes?  Busy selling movie scripts all over LA?  Auditioning for my first (porn) acting gig?

Actually, in those 11 days, I spent five of them on a bender in Boston—Red Sox game, Celtics game, Wedding, Memorial Day BBQ, and a Wake (yes, my family typically serves alcohol at wakes…you know it’s a great idea)—I spent two of them packing four peoples’ lives into a moving truck, and I’ve spent the past four days unpacking in LA.

There might have been a post over the weekend if the company that was supposed to setup my internet and DirecTV service hadn’t completely boned me.  The reason I pushed to leave San Francisco at 4AM on Friday morning was to make sure we had enough time to get to LA, unpack everything from the truck and have the TV setup so these guys could do their job when they showed up at 4PM that day.  Only they didn’t show up and wouldn’t be able to until Monday.  I put together a sob story for the sales rep, saying that they were hurting my ability to work from home without the internet, and that I had plans to have friends over on Sunday night for dinner and watching the Celtics game.  He must have known that I have no job and no friends because he didn’t really compensate me much for this inconvenience.  The company’s name is Bel-Air Internet, and they are on my shit list.

But I digress.

My favorite thing about moving out of an apartment is the discoveries you make in random places you haven’t checked in years.  For instance, when we moved out of our college apartment, I’m pretty sure we found a mouse trap behind the mini-fridge that had a dead mouse on it…and that dead mouse had apparently died while trying to eat a smaller dead mouse.  At the apartment in San Francisco, my favorite discovery was this jar of mayo in the cupboard.  Expiration date: September ’08.  I tried to take a picture of it next to something white so you could see the color discrepancy:

Pretty gross, but I ate the whole jar.

Up until a week ago, I had never been to a self-storage facility.  I’m now convinced I’ll never go back to one.  In my head, storing possessions at one of these places is as simple as driving your truck right up next to your unit and unloading.  Kind of like this:

But reality is slightly different.  Reality is parking your truck in a tiny, crowded garage where there is only one elevator that everyone fights over to get your stuff up to your storage unit.  Reality is trying to navigate the world’s narrowest hallways with a dolly full of your possessions, while ducking under low-hanging pipes and lights.  And unfortunately, reality means realizing your storage unit is elevated about 10 feet above you, and good luck carrying those 70lb boxes up the librarian’s staircase without killing yourself.

This picture doesn’t do it justice. But picture those top units being 10 feet above ground and having a wobbly staircase as the only method to haul your shit up to them

After living in my new apartment for three days, here are the additional positives I’ve found that weren’t obvious when we toured the place in May: the flushing power of the toilet, the perfect temperature in the apartment by keeping the porch door open at all times (no need to use the central air so far), and the amount of power outlets throughout the place.

And here is the one negative I’ve found: lack of lighting even though there is an endless amount of light switches on the walls.  Seriously, there’s no overhead light in the living room, the bedroom or any of the closets.  And yet, there are at least seven light switches that do nothing, like they want to be used for overhead lights.  Even the kitchen is too dark in certain corners when the lights are on.  How many lamps will I have to buy to properly light this apartment?  It feels like more than five.

When Julie and I were moving in over the weekend, I was looking for one thing early on that I could start a huge all-out war over with her.  I picked the way she puts the toilet paper on the toilet paper dispenser.  I walked out of the bathroom on Saturday and said, “This just isn’t gonna work. You always put the toilet paper on upside down and I can’t live with that.”  I expected a fight, but instead she told me she didn’t even notice how she puts it on, it’s not even worth thinking about, and she’ll do it the way I want.  How dare she be so dismissive about something so important to me?

Speaking of the lady of the house…I folded a load of her laundry yesterday, and I never want to attempt it again.  My clothes have basically two shapes: regular-looking pants and regular-looking t-shirts.  My clothes are also made of only two possible materials: cotton and denim.  I know how to properly fold these shapes and materials.  Apparently a woman’s wardrobe consists of more variety: tank tops, strapless shirts, dresses with one sleeve, strapless dresses, skirts, shirts with a deep V-neck, normal length pants, three-quarter length pants, sweatshirts that look like shirts, shirts that look like sweatshirts, three different thicknesses of sweaters, belts that apparently go in the wash…and of course there are different materials that don’t want to fold like my cotton shirts.  Even though by living together we’re merging a lot of possessions, I’m pretty sure we’ll continue to do our laundry separately.

That Moment When You Realize Your Parents Have Lost Their Minds

Every child worries about the moment when it becomes crystal clear that his parents are senile.  When that moment comes, you realize your parents probably shouldn’t be doing much of anything on their own anymore…shouldn’t be traveling on their own (especially driving a car), shouldn’t be left alone with their grandkids, and shouldn’t even be allowed to make their own decisions on major purchases—TVs, phones, furniture.

Just to be clear, I’m using the word “senile” in a generic sense to represent any incident where you would naturally mutter under your breath, “Jesus, Mom is losing her friggen mind.”

For instance, my parents probably first said those words about my grandmother 16 years ago when they got home from a vacation and I told them that while watching me and my brothers: A) Grandma tried to give me a sponge bath in our sink…I was 14 years old, and B) Grandma backed her gigantic white Lincoln town car into the side of the garage.  It was her last time she was ever allowed to be alone with her grandkids.

Another example is when my grandfather tried to plow our driveway after a snow storm, only he plowed our front lawn instead of the driveway. After that incident, my Dad bought a few extra shovels and we cleared the driveway off as a family after each storm.

It might seem a bit early to be calling my parents senile, but today I discovered two pieces of damning evidence to support that theory:

1). My mom apparently showed up to Logan Airport for her flight to San Francisco about 14 hours early, having forgotten to check the AM/PM designation next to the flight time.

2). I found this at my Dad’s house:

It’s roughly the size of the first computer ever invented, it’s heavier than my 17-inch laptop, and I’m pretty sure a blind person could see those numbers.  What causes someone to need a calculator that requires him to use an entire fist to punch in each number?

Maybe these incidents aren’t as outrageous as grandma almost driving her car through the garage or grandpa plowing an entire front lawn, but it feels like we’re heading down that path.  And I don’t think me or my brothers are ready to move back to Fitchburg and be full-time caretakers.

The Best Sightseeing Fitchburg has to Offer (aka Allow Me to Demonstrate How Bored I Am)

Every time I’m back in Fitchburg visiting my family, I tend to fall into the same routine: catch up with people over dinner and drinks every night, but during the day when they’re at work, sit on a couch and be BORED OUT OF MY GODDAMNED MIND.

Want some proof?  I just got excited because on the Today Show they had a larger-than-normal rabbit on the set…and he was eating a piece of the carpet!  And yesterday afternoon, I watched three episodes of Sex and the City, bringing my lifetime total of episodes watched to three (fine, I’m lying it was five episodes yesterday.  And by the way, no one ever told me that show was essentially softcore porn, right down to the cheesy porn music that gets played throughout entire episodes).  I also read a People magazine cover to cover for the first time.

What always happens is my days in the ‘Burg end up totally revolving around food.  Even though my parents always stock the fridge plenty for my arrival, I still get take-out several times a day because driving somewhere to get food will at least waste an extra 15 minutes.

So I started thinking…what would a tourist do with his time in Fitchburg? Trick question, I know.  A tourist would never come to Fitchburg unless he was in Boston or Worcester and needed to score some “suburban heroin.”  I actually googled “Fitchburg tourist attractions” earlier today, and one of the top results was the local Dairy Queen…

But as it turns out, when I was leaving Massachusetts seven years ago to move to San Francisco, a friend gave me a Fitchburg T-shirt as a going away gift.  This particular shirt had seven Fitchburg landmarks on it, apparently representing the main tourist attractions of this great city.  So what I thought I’d do today is try to go see these landmarks…assuming, of course, that the lines to see them aren’t super long.  Could I waste a few hours today sightseeing in Fitchburg?  Let’s see.

Curious what the T-shirt looks like and what the landmarks are?  Here you go:

OK, I just returned from seeing almost all those landmarks on the shirt. And even after trying to spend as much time at each place as possible, I was away from my house for exactly 17 minutes.  It’s overcast and threatening rain today so maybe that’s what’s keeping all the tourists away from these amazing sights.

I know the different things on that shirt are a bit unclear, so let me explain.  Of course there are the typical landmarks that any city would put on their t-shirts: City Hall, the Public Library, a monument honoring local people who died in wars.  But here are some pictures of the more obscure landmarks:

1). A statue of two naked boys in the middle of a fountain:

There was no explanation for the significance of this fountain, no plaque, nothing.  All I can tell you is that a very crazy man named “Mickey” used to spend a lot of time near this fountain screaming at these two boys.  He was always wearing a ton of sunscreen on his nose, and rumor has it he used to be a millionaire, lost all his money, and then went nuts.  He may even be Fitchburg’s most famous resident.

2). A church:

I actually don’t know for sure that the church on the t-shirt is this exact church, but either way, there is no historical significance to any of the churches nearby that I can figure out.  I think they just needed to fill out the shirt with more items.

3). A bank:

The bank is my favorite part.  On the shirt, it’s a picture of Fitchburg Savings Bank…because banks are always on the top of the list for city landmarks and tourist attractions.  Except now, in 2012, Fitchburg Savings Bank is gone and this new bank, RBT, has replaced it.  How could they do that to such a meaningful landmark?  Was there a heated City Council meeting where the Historical Society argued that they can’t replace Fitchburg Savings due to its historical significance?  What will they do with the new Fitchburg t-shirts?  Pretend FSB is still there?  Replace the picture of the bank with a picture of one of the many broken-down bridges in this town?  If I knew where my friend got the original Fitchburg shirt, you can bet your ass I’d be there right now seeing if there is an updated Fitchburg shirt (at least that would help waste another 10 minutes of my day).

If you don’t think I’m coming back later today or early tomorrow with another Fitchburg post, then you really don’t understand just how bored I am.

Adventures in Relocating: Apartment Hunting, “Move-in Ready” Cleaning and Sexual Offenders

So the clock is ticking on the month of May as I have only eight more free days before June 1st to get my life from a state of chaos to a state of organized chaos.  While it seems ridiculous to be wasting this precious time blogging, maybe recapping the progress I’ve made so far will lower my stress level.

Here’s where things stand with the relocation efforts as of Friday morning, May 11th:

Apartment Hunting

-It was official yesterday: We have an apartment in Culver City locked up with a lease starting on June 1st.  It’s funny how location, a fancy-looking complex and an amazing sales guy can make you forget about your ideal budget for an apartment (but I swear I’ll use the pool and the gym all the time!)

-I almost panicked when one of the first people I mentioned the signed lease to said, “Culver City?  Why would you want to live in that shitty area?”  He’s someone who is supposedly very knowledgeable about LA, but then he said Culver City is in the “valley,” and I realized he’s actually just a fucking moron.  So I think I’m still happy with our location.

-No, I won’t include a link to the building we’re going to live in because it never seems like a good idea to put your exact address on the web.  You can email me and ask nicely if you really want to see.

-It took us two-and-a-half trips to LA to find the right apartment.  I consider my roundtrip to LA and back this past Tuesday a half trip because I was there for less than four hours (but was in the car driving down and back for over 11 hours).

-In total, we made 17 appointments to see apartments over the course of those LA visits.  I believe we only went into nine of them because the other eight ended up being “drive-bys.”  Drive-bys happened when we felt like either the apartment was too far removed from civilization or when we feared for our lives because the neighborhood it was located in probably experienced a lot of actual drive-by shootings.  Of the nine places we really looked at, three would only show us “model units” instead of the actual units we’d be living in.  Sorry, but you can’t convince me to sign a lease based on the theory of “your apartment could potentially be similar to this, but we’re not sure until you put a deposit down.”  If they had allowed us to live in a model unit Arrested Development style, that would be a different story.  A few other places just weren’t a good fit for whatever reason.  There was the in-law apartment where the owner who lived in the main house was about 92 years old.  I’m not living in a place where there’s a 95% chance that my landlord would die only a few feet away from me within the first month. There was the lovely homeowner who when I asked her how maintenance gets done in the apartment said, “Oh, that’s easy.  I’ll send you a YouTube video on how to fix things when they break.”  And finally, there was the leasing agent who told us he wouldn’t live in the area we were looking if he was us…as he’s showing us an apartment he theoretically should be trying to sell us on.  It’s a good thing the place we locked down worked out because it really doesn’t feel like we found too many other options.

-If there’s one thing I’m most excited about with a new apartment, it’s picking a junk drawer.  I’m actually bringing a box down to LA that’s filled with take-out menu’s, rubber bands, Sharpie’s missing their caps, some old Christmas cards that should have been thrown away five months ago, a stapler, a mouse trap and a deck of cards.  I cannot wait to fill up my new junk drawer.

Moving Logistics

I’ve secured a moving truck for us to drive down to LA on June 1st with all of our possessions.  I don’t have a lot of experience with this so I wasn’t sure what size truck to get.  I went with a 16-footer.  Since Julie isn’t yet an expert on driving a manual transmission, which my car has, she’ll be the one driving the semi down to LA.  My hope is that I’m not updating the blog on June 2nd with a picture like this:

Cleaning

-Unfortunately before I can pick my new junk drawer, there are things to do at the old apartment in San Francisco.  It would be nice to leave this apartment the same way my roommates and I left our college apartment at the end of senior year…basically without cleaning the place at all and then simply telling the landlord to use our security deposit as our final month’s rent.  I don’t know how we got away with that without a lawsuit, but I have a feeling my current landlord wouldn’t really be on board.

-Not only is our landlord expecting us to clean, but she told us it needs to be “move-in ready” in order for us to get our full security deposit back. To me that’s a very subjective measuring stick.  What’s move-in ready to me may not be move-in ready to her.  For instance, I have no problem moving into a place that has a giant circle of dried paint embedded into the carpet, and even better, the dried paint has a large piece of broken glass stuck inside it:

You may not be able to see this clearly, but it’s paint that’s been there for over six years with a large piece of glass trapped in it

-She may not think of that as “move-in ready,” but if I cover the entire carpet in white paint and then stick random pieces of glass in the paint, will she maybe think that’s the type of flooring she originally put into this apartment?  Luckily if she does tell us she needs to replace the whole carpet and that it’s coming out of our deposit, my Uncle Steve owns a furniture and carpet business in Massachusetts, and I’m sure he will gladly ship a nice carpet out here free of charge to help the cause.

Sexual Offenders in Your Area

-As I was reading through my new lease yesterday, I noticed a section about sexual offenders.  I didn’t really pay attention to what that section was telling me because I got distracted by this link they included: http://meganslaw.ca.gov/disclaimer.aspx

-The next thing I know it’s three hours later, and I’m still screwing around on that MegansLaw website.  Go ahead and give it a try, but just make sure you have some time on your hands.  I was searching for sexual offenders in my new LA neighborhood, my current SF neighborhood, and even the neighborhoods of some of my friends.  Once you’ve done the same, you’ll naturally start drilling into the individual offenders to see what they look like, what their crimes are and what documented scars and tattoos they have.  If you’re like me, your imagination will run wild when you read the crimes because the descriptions are vague.  For example several of the offenses I saw were tagged as: “LEWD OR LASCIVIOUS ACTS WITH A CHILD UNDER 14 YEARS OF AGE.”  I’d like to know what these acts were specifically and how much “under 14 years of age” were the children.

-For those of you worried about me and Julie, relax.  The closest sexual offender to our new apartment probably isn’t doing much offending these days:

That’s everything for now.  Time for me to re-read the manual for my new vacuum to see what setting will suck up a “dried paint and glass” combo.

Watching Sports on Tape Delay: a Stressful and Chaotic Practice

Being able to listen to the Red Sox radio broadcast on WEEI through my iPhone is one of my favorite things about modern technology.  With the MLB.tv subscription, I can actually watch the Red Sox games on any of my devices, or if I happen to be in a situation where I can’t look at a screen, like when I’m driving, I can still listen to the game live.  So even though I was faced with the daunting task of driving the six hours back to San Francisco from LA by myself on Tuesday afternoon, I was excited that three of those hours would be spent listening to the Sox/Royals game. With the converter I use that plays audio from my iPhone over the car’s speakers, I was set.  A 16oz Red Bull, some beef jerky, a full sleeve of Sour Cream -n- Onion Pringles and the Red Sox game on my car radio… where’s the downside?

The downside was that I basically had to keep my hand on the radio’s volume knob for three hours in case WEEI wanted to interrupt the broadcast to update its listeners on the Celtics playoff game.  Over the course of the baseball game, I think WEEI did this four times.  Luckily I was ready each time and avoided hearing the score of the Celtics by immediately turning the volume down.  Other than almost hearing the score accidentally a few times, the other problem was that I had to dedicate one of my hands to the volume the whole time.  I was already one hand short because I kept getting my entire right arm stuck inside the Pringles container.  So I was basically driving up the 101 at 80 miles per hour steering with my knee.

The reason I had to censor the score updates is because I had the Celtics game taping on my DVR back at home.  Knowing I’d be in the car at the same time the C’s were trying to close out Atlanta, I wanted to avoid any exposure to the score so I could watch it later Tuesday night.  On top of the radio situation, I also had to avoid all text messages, phone calls and the urge to scroll through Twitter while driving.

While this was far from my first time doing the tape delay of a live sporting event, it really got me thinking.  Is it worth it to temporarily cut yourself off from the entire outside world because you want to watch a previously-played game as if it’s happening live?  Are some games acceptable to do this for while others are not?  Are you allowed to strangle someone if they happen to mention the score of the exact game you’re trying to avoid hearing about?  It’s a dangerous game we play when we try to create an alternate reality where a sporting event is “live” only when we’re ready for it to be live.

Like I said, I’ve been dealing with this conundrum for years.  Living in California makes it even more relevant because during the week, most games played by my Boston teams begin by 4 or 4:30, and unfortunately getting out of work early isn’t always an option.  So you do the whole song and dance of taping the game and telling all your coworkers that if they check on the score and happen to mention it to you, they’ll never see their families again.  And generally that works because people don’t want their loved ones to die, and because it’s just one hour or so that you have to avoid all spoilers for.

But what about those weekend days when a game starts at 1pm, but there’s just no way you can watch it until 7 or 8 that night?  How hard is it to avoid a spoiler in that situation?  On that kind of day, it’s not like you can sit in a dark cave shut off from the rest of the world until you’re ready to watch the game.  If that was the case, you’d be watching the game live.  No, on that weekend day you’re inevitably in a situation where you have to go for a hike with your girlfriend; or go apartment hunting because you decided on a whim to move 400 miles away.  So you’re out in the real world where all sorts of idiots can screw up the game for you. You somehow have to avoid the game being ruined by people who are around you as well as accidentally seeing the score on TV or hearing it on the radio.  It’s stressful to the point where you’re not even remotely enjoying whatever that other activity is that you got sucked into.  And then the person that made you participate in it gets pissed off because you’re ruining everyone’s day…and suddenly she wishes you had just stayed home and watched the game live.  (Hint: ruin enough of her Sunday hikes and brunches and she’ll never ask you to miss a game again)

There’s one other problem with this practice of taping the games.  This past Tuesday night I was taping the Celtics game to watch it by myself when I got home, but many times a group of us will decide to avoid seeing the score of a game, and we’ll all get together later in the night and watch the taped version.  So in theory you have three or four people who are all on the same page, having shut themselves off from all communication about the result of this game.  But then you start watching, and suddenly one of the guys is on his iPad screwing around. You warn him that if he sees the final score online, he better not say anything.  He doesn’t say anything, but the next thing you know the Celtics are down by seven points with three minutes left, and this guy is putting his shoes on and getting ready to leave.  Gee, I wonder if maybe you already know the Celtics’ comeback fell short if you’re walking out the door in silence as the game is still happening on my TV?  If you have that friend who really can’t commit to avoiding the result, just stop inviting him over for these delayed viewings because his body language will ruin the outcome for you every time.  It’s similar to when you tell your friend not to mention the score because you have it taped at home, and then he says, “ahh, I’ll save you some time, they got crushed tonight.”  He thinks he’s doing you a favor, but what he doesn’t know is that now you’re planning to get back at him by ruining something he really cares about, like his upcoming wedding.

My final take is that you cannot do the tape delay thing for the biggest games…The Super Bowl, The NCAA football and basketball championships, any championship games really.  These games are important enough that you should be watching live.  And you can’t do it everyday for regular season baseball, basketball or hockey games.  That’s just obnoxious to be avoiding the outcome of a game every single day. And you can’t do it for football on Sundays because then you miss the RedZone Channel and following your fantasy team live as the games are happening.  So really, the only appropriate time to watch games on tape delay is for early-round playoff games in all of the major sports.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go setup Game 6 of the Celtics/Hawks series to tape later tonight.

Adventures in Relocating: Why? Why Now? and other FAQ’s

I’ll try to tackle just a few of the basic questions you might have about my plan to relocate to LA.  For this specific post, let’s just address the broad questions that everyone seems to have.  Some of you have probably already heard a bunch of these answers, but keep reading anyway.  It’s not like you have something better to do with your time.

1). Why LA?

Whenever I get this question, it’s accompanied by a disgusted look on the asker’s face.  What that person is really asking is, “Why would you move to a city that’s best known for its traffic problems and the fake, superficial, self-centered bastards who live there?”  Good question.  And those who know me well could also add in, “Why are you moving to a city you’ve never even been to?”  Again, great question.  The answer is because I want to be a writer in the entertainment industry.  Look, if my passion in life was to be a woodworker in Santa’s workshop, I’d be moving to the North Pole.  And if my passion was taffy-making, I’d be on my way to York Beach, Maine.  If those are your passions, you need to be in the places where you’ll have the best chance to get your foot in the door (as a side note, being a woodworker for Santa and being a taffy maker were my 2 passions up until the age of 16).  With entertainment, LA is where I need to be.

2). What makes you think you can succeed in the entertainment industry?

Well, you’re reading this blog right now, aren’t you?  Also, I think I’m a natural born storyteller.  I remember being picked for the role of “narrator” when my fifth grade class performed Aladdin…though in hindsight that might have been because when I tried out for the role of Aladdin, I kept getting a boner every time Princess Jasmine talked to me. And I also remember a priest at Church telling me I should be a lector (I think that means someone who reads the Bible stories during Mass) because I had storytelling talent…thinking back to that now, there’s a 100% chance he was just saying that so I’d let him take a closer look at what Princess Jasmine did not want to look at.

(Side Note: Have you seen the shit that gets made into TV shows or movies these days?  C’mon, this is gonna be a piece of cake.)

3). What specifically do you want to do in entertainment?

Writing scripts for porn seems to be my calling, but I’m wide open to any type of writing that’s considered entertainment.  No, really it’s all about comedy writing for me.  Right now that makes me think script writing for TV or movies, as well as sketch comedy…think SNL, the late night talk shows, Daily Show, etc.  But if someone wanted to pay me to write quasi-funny blog posts, that would be cool too.

4). OK, script writing.  Do you have any experience whatsoever doing that?

Depends on your definition of the word “experience.”  If experience to you means writing a couple of TV scripts more than two years ago, and then doing nothing more since, then yes, I have a TON of experience.  I also took an online class two years ago through the Gotham Writers’ Workshop that tried to teach me how to write a funny TV script.  I even got a group of friends together to do a table reading of my script.  I realized the script was no good when my drunk buddy drawing fake abs on himself with a marker got bigger laughs than any part of my story.  So no, I don’t have a ton of experience writing and completing scripts, but man, if you could only see my Google Docs account with all of my brilliant ideas…

5). Why not continue writing in your free time in San Francisco so you can keep a full time job?

That would make sense, wouldn’t it?  Rather than go to LA with no job and no experience, maybe I should have waited until I could complete a few more scripts in my free time.  The problem is I’m just not wired that way.  I can’t stare at a computer screen for 45-50 hours a week at my job and then come home and write until I go to bed.  The reason I was able to complete two scripts in 2010 is because I was unemployed during that time.  In the two years since then while having a full time job, I’ve written no scripts.  I’ve launched three different blogs with varying degrees of failure, but I really haven’t put enough time into writing.  I actually just counted the number of books on my bookshelf where screenwriting is the primary topic…I have 18 of them.  It’s time to stop reading books, stop writing down the next great idea, and just write.  Write until enough people tell me I’m horrible or until I’m on the verge of homelessness.

6). When did you know you were going to make this move?

I think it all began when I was about 12 years old and tried to watch the movie Fantasia.  I thought, “You gotta be fucking kidding me…a whole movie with Mickey Mouse and no sound?  This isn’t entertainment.  I need to fix this industry.”

More recently I’m pretty sure I knew during those unemployed days of 2010 that I eventually had to give this a try.  I would have done it right then, but I was out of money after screwing around for four months in Europe and Australia.  But if you’re asking when did I specifically know that I would be making this move in June 2012, then I’d have to say it came on November 3rd, 2011.  I know it was that date because it says so in my diary.  And that was the day I had jury duty.  I remember sitting in that courtroom praying that I’d get picked to be on the jury for a six-day trial so I wouldn’t have to go to work.  That’s when it all came together. Why would I stay at a job that makes me want to be at jury duty instead of working?  After that it was simply a matter of calculating how many more months I’d need to work to save up the right amount of money for my journey.

7). Is there anything you wouldn’t do to break into the industry?

Blowjobs.  Handjobs, yes; blowjobs, no.

Well that’s all the time we have today.  I hope you all learned something, and I’ll be back with more next week.

Adventures in Relocating: How Adults Do It

This is exactly how I plan to move my things on June 1st

When I relocated from Boston to San Francisco with my brother in October 2005, I didn’t blog much about the moving preparations.  As a matter of fact, I wrote only one blog post about the move before the move actually happened.  Somehow it reveals absolutely nothing about the route we were taking, the transportation to get to the new destination, packing up all my belongings, saying bye to friends and family, tying up random loose ends, or what my plan was once I arrived in SF.

This is probably because I was five months removed from college graduation with no possessions, no money and no plan.  Back then it was basically one brief conversation between my brother and I where we decided we were moving, followed by putting all of my clothes into a large duffel bag the night before we left.  If I had been a committed blogger back then, I would have written about the amazing going away pub crawl my friends in Boston threw for me…a night that must have been good since it ended with me puking in the urinal of the White Horse Tavern and trying to escape the wrath of the bouncers.  I would have mentioned how one day before we were set to leave, my brother tried to fix something in the car we were driving out to California only to inadvertently short out the radio.  And when we told my Dad we might have to delay the trip by a few days to get the radio fixed, he basically threw his car keys at us and insisted we drive his car out West. In retrospect, what should I make of the fact that my Dad wanted us gone so badly that he literally gave away his car to ensure we wouldn’t linger? I also would have written that my brother’s friends threw him a great going away party in Fitchburg, but the only problem is that it occurred the night before we were leaving…and he got HAMMERED.  This led to a great moment where I had to wake him up at 9am the next day to tell him we had to get going, only to have him look at me like he was hearing of this “moving west” plan for the first time.  To say he was hungover and unprepared would be insulting to hungover and unprepared people.  He woke up, found a duffel bag and started shoveling clothes into it.  That’s the full story of him packing to move his entire life 3,000 miles away.  I would have finished my blog post back then with a note on how I had to smoke a five-pack of Phillies Blunt cigars to stay awake at times when I was driving (did I mention I had no money? Five cigars for $2.50 was me splurging at the time).

But even if I had been writing all that down while we were moving, I still wouldn’t have had much to say about the preparations.  For example, I never thought twice about mail that would keep getting sent to my old addresses in Boston and Fitchburg back then because there wasn’t any.  I didn’t really care to have the bank’s letters that said “stop trying to withdraw money, you have none,” forwarded to my new address in San Francisco.  Actually, I didn’t even have a new address in SF.  I was sleeping on my oldest brother’s couch until further notice.  That’s another thing I didn’t have to do in 2005…look for a place to live prior to moving.

So here’s my goal over the next few weeks: to unleash a new series of blog posts that will educate you on the successes and failures of my move to LA.  The title of each of these posts will begin with “adventures in relocating” so if you really don’t want to read these, you’ll know which ones to ignore right away.  And for those of you saying, “LA?  What the fuck is he doing moving to LA?” Well, I’ll have a post coming up soon with answers to all the questions you could ever ask.

For anyone who has relocated as an adult, you probably realize that things were a little more difficult than my experience seven years ago. You deal with tying up loose ends in one place while establishing yourself in another place.  And my move to LA is coinciding with me being jobless, which means I’m not going to spend money on having professional movers pack up my shit and deliver it to my new apartment. And I’m not going to pay for the cleaners to come to my current apartment to help me get my security deposit back.  There’s a lot more “do it yourselfness” going on here.

But I expected a lot of work, and that’s why my last day at my job was April 27th.  I’m moving on June 1st so I wanted the entire month of May to take care of all these things; big things like finding an apartment in LA and renting the right Uhaul truck, and little things like using leftover gift cards to places that only exist in San Francisco before I leave.

But then I went and booked a trip back to Boston from May 21st through May 30th.  Why did I plan a trip that takes me away from everything I have to do for the final 10 days leading up to the move?  I can justify a piece of the trip because I’m going to a wedding in Boston over Memorial Day weekend, but the extended 10-day trip?  That was probably dumb of me.  Soon I’ll be panicking because there’s less than three weeks before I have to be 100% ready for this move.  There are also a couple days where I know I won’t be productive: May 7th when me & the brothers have a final golf outing together, May 12th when we celebrate the going away of me and Julie in Golden Gate Park, and May 20th when we party one more time in a way that’s only possible in San Francisco….Bay2Breakers.

It’s May 3rd.  I have 15 open days to find an apartment, pack up everything and move.  Something tells me I can’t get away with shoving all my belongings in a duffel bag and sleeping on someone’s couch this time around.

Perfectly good excuses for leaving work early (Supplement to my previous post)

So by now you’ve read my blog post titled, “How to avoid working while giving off the impression that you’re working.”  If you haven’t, I suggest you check it out here.

But you might be saying to yourself, “Well that’s some great advice if I actually want to sit through a full day of work at the office, but what if I just can’t stand being at work?  How do I leave early without having to take paid time off or sick time?”

I’m glad you asked because I’ve got that covered too.  I’ve used all of these throughout my career.  Just don’t be an idiot and overuse them.  The best situation is when you’re constantly getting a new boss so you can reuse these plays without fear of being caught.  I’ve now had four different bosses in 22 months at my current job.

1). You left your car in a parking spot that turns into a tow zone at 4pm: During my second week at this current job, I was sitting at my desk around 3:30 waiting for the day to end when all of the sudden panic set in.  I never moved my car off a street that turns into a tow zone at 4pm (due to traffic coming into the city for the Giants games).  If I didn’t make it home in 30 minutes, I’d be looking at a minimum of $350 in towing fees.  I ran over to my boss, told him what was up, and he said, “Go take care of it.  See you tomorrow.”  Forty-five seconds later as I was in the elevator, I realized I had actually moved my car earlier that morning.  It didn’t matter…I had inadvertently created a great excuse to leave work.  I’ve used that two more times since that day.

2). The maintenance guy is doing some work in your apartment and things have gone missing before when he was there: As soon as you tell your boss that your maintenance guy is a potential criminal, you’ll be immediately excused from work so you can go protect your possessions while he fixes up your apartment.  No questions asked.  And this is one you can reuse sparingly even with the same boss.  Washer/dryer isn’t working…roof is leaking…rat infestation…plenty of different reasons your maintenance guy could be making multiple calls to your apartment.

3). There’s an important package being delivered to your apartment that you have to sign for: This one is weaker than the first two, but in a pinch it can work.  If you can get your boss to understand exactly why it’s so important, even better.  I’ve tried this one before, but I don’t suggest using it: “My mom sent an Easter package and if I don’t get the Cadbury Mini-Eggs in the fridge right away, they won’t be the perfect amount of cold when I try to eat them later.”

4). You have to pick up your brother/girlfriend/cousin at the airport: For some reason, picking someone up from the airport works well, even though everyone knows that person is perfectly capable of taking a cab or public transportation up to the city.  When I first moved to San Francisco, I used this one every other week, and my boss just assumed that all of my relatives were coming to visit me in my new city.  Just don’t say you have to go pick up your friend.  Family members and significant others work; friends for some reason do not.

5). Find out your boss’s interests and work off of them: I’ve had a boss who was a big time skier.  All I ever had to do during the winter is tell him on a Friday morning that I was leaving early that afternoon to drive up to Tahoe.  He was perfectly fine with it because he understands how awful it is to leave for Tahoe after a full day of work.  He was even a little jealous and would tell me fun skiing stories whenever I told him I was taking off early.  I’ve also had bosses who were huge Boston sports fans.  Sometimes before I could even ask, he’d beat me to the punch by asking if I was heading home early to catch the Celtics playoff game or the Patriots Monday night game.  Absolutely I’m planning to leave early for that.  I’ve never had a woman boss, but I bet I would have gone with, “I’m leaving early to see the new Sex And the City Movie,” if it would have gotten me out early.

Road Trip LA: apartment hunting, celebrity staring contests, mind-boggling traffic

So I spent the weekend in LA looking for apartments and doing a general tour of the city.  It seemed like a good idea considering I’m moving to LA on June 1st and have only been there twice.  The first time I was there, it was for a total of 10 hours.  Five of those hours were spent inside a bar, and the other five were spent inside the Staples Center watching Game 5 of the Celtics/Lakers NBA Finals.  The second time I actually stayed over night, but all the waking hours I was there were spent in a parking lot competing in a grilled cheese cooking competition.  Safe to say this trip was needed to actually learn a little bit about the city.

Here are some random thoughts, observations and lessons learned from the weekend:

-It dawned on me that many of my friends and most of my family have probably never been to LA, or at least haven’t spent any significant time in that city.  I called my mom on Sunday to update her about apartment hunting, and I told her there were a few apartments we didn’t even bother going into because just driving around the neighborhood convinced us we would never live in that particular area.  When I told her this, I could hear the overwhelming concern for my safety in her voice as she responded, “Oh good, that’s great.  Yeah, don’t even think of living in those places.”  It seems a little backwards that your mom would be rooting for you not to find an apartment, but that’s the way it goes.  And then I realized that when my mom pictures LA, this is what she sees:

-A word of advice if you’re in LA and your girlfriend is convinced she sees a celebrity: don’t tell her she’s wrong, even if you’re 100% sure it’s not who she thinks it is.  This will save you from the embarrassment of your girlfriend having a 15-minute staring contest with that celebrity as she tries to convince you that it’s her.  We were at a comedy show on Sunday night and moments before the show started, a few people walked in and took the remaining seats.  My girlfriend immediately says, “That’s Mandy Moore.”  My instinct is to laugh because there’s no way Mandy Moore is coming to this no-name comedy show.  My girlfriend says it’s gotta be Mandy because she’s looking back at us, knowing we’ve figured it out.  I was convinced this random girl was just uncomfortable with the fact that two strangers were staring at her.  For the rest of the show, I made jokes about Fake Mandy, and nearly had my girlfriend convinced that it probably wasn’t her.  When the show ended, of course we had to stand around right outside the entrance to wait for Maybe-Mandy, and when she walked out and I heard another couple behind me say, “Yep, that’s her,” I knew I was screwed.  Turns out Mandy Moore likes free comedy shows on Easter Sunday.  Now my girlfriend will be checking Mandy’s twitter posts for the next 10 days to see if she mentions the “girl that was staring at her nonstop at the Upright Citizen’s Brigade show.”  I also realize anytime we see Mandy Moore on TV for the rest of our lives, I will get the whole, “remember when you couldn’t spot Mandy Moore from 30 feet away” treatment.

-I’m sure LA didn’t invent this, but it was the first time I’ve ever seen anything like it so LA’s getting the credit.  We found a wine bar on Saturday night where you purchase a credit card-like device, load money onto it and insert it into a machine that automatically pours tastings of different wines into your glass.  Each tasting costs $1.50-$4.00 depending on the wine, and you load $15, $20 or $50 onto your card.  The four of us that went to this place blew through $60 before we each got a full glass for another $9-12 each.  If it had been a normal bar, we probably would have spent a total of $40.  Great idea for the bar; great unique experience for the alcoholics patrons.

These devices make it even easier to spend $50 on wine over a 20-minute period

-The strangest thing that happened on the trip: when we were walking to the car on Sunday night after the comedy show, a passerby asked us if we wanted to buy a Taser.  I brushed it off as a random guy asking us a very random question, but the girlfriend immediately went into minor-panic mode.  “Why does he think we need a Taser?  Is this area dangerous?  How far away is the car?”  Luckily I was able to do an ocular scan of the area, assessed it as clear to pass, and we moved on without a problem.

-If there’s one common criticism that I heard about LA before this trip, I think you can all guess what it was: the traffic.  After spending a long weekend down there–a weekend that included Easter where you’d expect less traffic on Sunday–I can tell you that the traffic is absurd, outrageous, disastrous and mind-boggling.  In fairness, I currently spend an average of seven minutes in my car per week so any amount of traffic or being stuck in a car seems awful to me.  On this trip, we spent nine hours in the car on Friday (driving from SF to LA and driving around the city once we got there), seven hours in the car on Saturday (apartment hunting), another nine hours driving around on Sunday (apartment hunting and site seeing), and finally 11 more hours on Monday (a few hours driving around in the morning and then a sanity-testing eight hour drive back to SF).  Never has it seemed so important to make sure my new apartment is going to be walking distance to where I work.

-The drive from LA back to SF was just crazy.  And if being stuck in traffic for eight hours isn’t enough, I had to endure the maddening signs on route 5 that count down how many miles away  San Francisco is.  I don’t mind these signs every now and then when I’m driving, but I swear to god that freeway has a sign every six miles.  “San Francisco 282 miles…San Francisco 276 miles…San Francisco 270 miles…San Francisco, you’re six miles closer than the last time you saw this sign.”  It’s enough to make someone go on a killing spree.  Who is it helping that you taunt us with mile markers every few miles for 300 miles??

-I don’t know if anyone else does this, but in order to pass the time on this drive, I started creating fake rivalries with other drivers.  So my girlfriend was rightfully confused as she’s on the computer, doing some work, and she hears me going, “Haha, not this time white Toyota, get back in line behind me.”  I tried to convince her that there were three other cars near me and all of us were having a friendly competition to pass the time.  I was only able to convince her that I had lost my mind.

So there you go…my first trip to LA caused me to lose my mind.  June 1st can’t get here quick enough.