How I Saved the Bar

Wednesday, February 27, 2013 | 0 Comment(s)

Usually, one worries about killing a bar for his friends.  You can do this by getting belligerent and being thrown out, throwing up on the floor, or, most egregiously, dating (and subsequently breaking up with) a waitress or waiter that works there.   I wouldn't recommend doing any of these things, though the later has the most chance for a learning experience, as you pit your needs (aka sex with the server) against your friends' needs (continuing to frequent that bar).

When visiting Seattle, I was in no significant danger of killing any bars (since i wasn't looking for a long term bar solution).  I was in danger of overbooking our group-night-out bar get-together.  The wife and I, we have a bunch of people in Seattle (so many that I am just now realizing people I forgot to see).   In hopes of bringing all these wonderful people to one space, we chose an amazing beer bar/Belgian food establishment for the group drink up.  A group of nine.

Here's the thing with the bar we chose.  It is *extremely* first come first serve.  The downstairs is a wide open bar hall space with movable square wood tables.  You get enough of those tables in your possession, and you've got yourself a party.   Along one wall was a row of booths, which comfortably seat six.  They uncomfortably seat eight.  They do not seat nine.  Opposite the booths is a long, amazing bar, two-tops aplenty.

There is also an upstairs.  The upstairs is a wrap around balcony with more wooden tables, same premise as down below, with the addition of a "back room" parlor area which is perfect for large groups.  It also has two leather loungers to add to the swank index.  It's the poo.

When my party first arrived, it was wifey, her friends who we stayed with, and myself.  The only table open was a booth, and we slid right in.  Once we were slid, I was informed of the rules of this particular bar.  In stark contrast to my last blog on Seattle driving, the bar had a cut-throat and firm "everybody for themselves/first-come-first serve" policy.  As the four of us surveyed the space, we saw the problem.  We had an additional 2 seats available, and five more people coming.   Before we could work out any semblance of a solution, my five friends entered in a chaotic clump of love and hugs.  Shortly thereafter, however, we are squished and uncomfortable, and our overflow (3 people) have moved across the room to the "overflow lounge" where a side conversation has begun.  Our waitress, by the way, is not loving what's happening.  A full table in one location with a constant rotation of people.  Not ideal.  I, stress-case that i can be, am watching my imagined happy gathering crumble into a small table massacre.  I have already interrupted the middle-aged men sitting at one of the wood tables next to us to request that they alert us before they are getting ready to go, so we can "get down on that" before one of the door scavengers swoops in.  And yes, the competition is that fierce.  If you wait for the people to gather their belongings and take leave of the table, it will already be too late.

So, when I saw a group of 3 wood tables pushed together getting up to leave on the balcony, I didn't waste any time before making a bee-line for the stairs.   And that's when shit got real.

As I crest the stairs, I see the parlor is emptying out.  I also see a couple on the balcony grabbing their stuff to head in the parlor's direction.  I fast walk.  Yes, almost a speed-walk.  I walk-sprint like I would during a middle school game of eraser tag.   This is why I am surprised to encounter a young woman pulling up alongside me, headed in the same direction.  An interaction is unavoidable.

Me: (feigning surprise) Oh, are you guys headed for the parlor?
Girl 1: Oh, YAH!
Me: (more forcefully) I'm headed there too! (what a coincidence, no?)  We have nine people squished into a booth downstairs and we are looking for a space that actually fits all of us.
Girl 1: (pulling her ace from her sleeve as we reach the parlor) Oh, my friend (seated in parlor) is holding it and we have a large group 'coming'.

Ok, I do some quick calculations.  Do I believe she has a large group? No.  Were they there first? Yes (she's seated at the parlor table).  Do I think that I can convince them to give it to us?  Yes, but the clock is ticking and the 3 wood tables are still free . . .   time is of the essence.   I decide to cut and run.  I figure getting those tables across the way solves my problem and, while the parlor is the bomb, having seats all together is the primary goal.

I fast walk away from the parlor towards the 10-top.  I am now physically closest to the table, but there are two women, young twenties, who I just passed who seem to also be claiming the space, albeit a bit further away from the table itself.  I am now standing on the balcony opposite our downstairs booth, and my peeps are watching.  It is time to make a stand.  I will say, that the young women I was about to converse with was about as nice as she possibly could have been given the conflict in front of us.  I give her much props.

Me: Hey, so we've been waiting for this table for awhile now downstairs (i motion to friends).
Woman 2:  Oh (all sentences start with feigned surprise during conflict), we have a large group too & we've been waiting by the door (motions to door).

I pushed.  She pushed back.  I try to barter.

Me:  You guys can have our booth down there . . . (I waive to friends, friends waive back dutifully)
Woman: (she considers)  We actually have nine people too, sooooooo.  

I pushed again.  She pushed back again.  Much respect.
Now we are at a true impasse.  As much as either of us would like it, neither of us has a firm claim to the table.  We were both there early.  We are both there now.  We both have big groups (and I believe that her group exists).  Short of having some iocane powder, I only know one fair solution to problems such as these:

Me: Rock-Paper-Scissors for the table?
Woman 2:  Seriously?!?

Her reaction to my suggestion was the most surprising part of this entire interaction.  I thought RPS was a somewhat universal sign of fair play.  She was reacting as if I had purposed anal.

Me: Yah.  It's kinda the only fair way.  1 out of 1?  Best out of 3?  I don't care.  I swear I'm no RPS champion or anything.
Woman 2:  Look you can have it if you really want it that badly.  We'll take the booth . . . 

Now, my RPS suggestion had nothing to do at all with the amount I wanted that table.  But I did, really want that table -- so when she acquiesced, I didn't argue.

Here, if you can believe it, is where things got complicated.  As I am signaling to my friends to come up, I am also trying to communicate that one of them should stay at the table and await Woman 2's group.  Just then, Girl 1 comes over and says that we can have the parlor since our "whole group is here now" (I read that as she was lying about her group size, and the waitress kicking them out, but i don't want to digress too far).  So, with this new information I am trying to steer my party to the parlor, Girl 1's party to the 10-top, and Woman 2's party to the booth.  Only the wait staff doesn't realize that Girl 1 and Woman 2 are not in the same party, and people are flying everywhere.   I am the only one who "knows where everyone belongs".  It is my time to shine.

So I go into Superman mode.  I take aside Girl 1 and Woman 2 and explain that the servers are sending their parties all over the place cause they don't know who is who.  I send Girl 1 to the 10-top, directly, knowing she has friends already in the bar who will find her.  I walk Woman 2 downstairs with me to our booth, confident at this point that if anyone tries to snake the parlor, i will cut them -- like with a knife.  As I arrive at our booth, I direct my friends upstairs while sliding Woman 2's party right in behind them.  Wife tries to talk to me.  Denied.  I'm in the zone.  I send her upstairs.  I fear that to pause for a side conversation is to lose prime bar real estate, and I will have none of that.  Not at this point.  All that's going through my mind is how much easier this whole transition would have been had we all been in our vehicles.

After settling our downstairs tab I re-upped to the parlor, order a scotch and a beer, sat down, and was greeted with a genuine applause of thanks from my friends for all my hard work in procuring the bomb-ass parlor room. It was a highlight of the trip.  I love coming through for people.

I should add, that my whole life I have been an optimist -- for no particularly solid reason.  But, when the four of us first arrived at the booth and discovered our space problem, I said aloud, "Don't worry, we'll end up in the parlor in the end."  No reaction.  And while I can't say that I came even remotely close to not worrying . . .  look where we ended up.  Moments later, when my drinks arrived, it was hard not to see both glasses as half-full.

Though not for long.

Sips of Seattle

Tuesday, February 26, 2013 | 0 Comment(s)

Just got back from an all-to-brief west coast swing.  This trip also marked the 5th to last US State I have left to visit (Hawaii, Alaska, Oregon, and North Dakota remain).  And my wife astutely pointed out that it was really wonderful to be in an entirely new place for the first time in quite some time.  We rarely vacation outside of the Virgin Islands (don't cry for me Argentina), but this is despite having adventurous souls.  Taking in the ever-present evergreens alongside the expressway made it clear we were in virgin territory.  But lest you mistake the surrounding forests for the rolling hills of New England, those illusions are dissed as you crest the hill to spot the breathtaking snow-capped mountains not native to the east coast.  Those are some real ass peaks.  For a second, I am transported to Switzerland, riding along the twists and turns of the country roads, Alps outlining the way ahead.

There is no question to Seattle's natural beauty, and we were lucky enough to have a few sunny days where its majesty was fully on display.  But in this first Seattle related blog post I want to talk about two specific things: Seattle driving & Seattle coffee.

I was only in the northwest for 7 days, and I'm pretty sure I could direct a hilarious YouTube Video entitled: Seattle Driving.  I'm not sure if the west coast would find the video particularly laughable, but i know the east coast would.  Let's get specific.

1) To set the paradigm.  In Seattle, a yellow light means stop.  Not speed up.  Not "determine whether or not I can get my vehicle even close to the point of no return so as to be 'forced' to go by common decency".  Not even slow down and cruise through the intersection.  Yellow is a full on stop.

The blow my poor defenseless brain into tiny itty-bity pieces.  As a learner's permit, born of New York and Chicago drivers, and born into Massachusetts, I can't wrap my head or car around the concept of slamming on the brakes so as not to run a Yellow.  A Yellow!!!!!  In Massachusetts, when you get pulled over for running a red, the state friggin motto is, "I'm sorry officer, but I'm pretty sure it was Yellow."  We argue for Yellow.  Yellow is our ally.  Its banana beauty standing for truth, justice, and no more points on our license.   Watching 8 cars all throw on the brakes as the light touches yellow is the love equivalent to breaking my heart.

2) Seattle drivers have a need to be liked.   They are polite to the point of creating accidents.  A 4-way stop sign is essentially a coffee shop.  Everyone is trying to do right by their neighbor and it turns into an absurdist play of "you go," "no, you go," Ad infinitum.  The only thing I've seen that comes close to this level of manners is rural Japanese drivers, who bow politely from their cars while letting others merge.

If you get, understandably, impatient as the car in front of you continues to idle at the now solid green light, *don't honk*!  I know this is counter-intuitive, but stay with me.  In NYC, if you honk at another car, it's like a fart in the wind.  In Amherst, if you honk, everyone turns to see who the car is waiving "hello" to.  In Seattle, if you honk, the car in front of you comes to a full stop, to suss out what horrid problem has occurred, and how they can fix it.  They look left.  They look right.  Only then will the car realize that the noise originated in it's own lack of momentum.  And so, from a full stop now, the process begins again.

3) People brake to let you merge.  Like on the highway.  People are all, "oh you want to change lanes?  I'm sorry to be blocking you at 75 mph.  Let me brake a bit to let you get directly in front of me."  This, in and of itself sounds like a solid move.  But when you get so many people braking for each other, it means that the traffic is always slow moving.  And, the slower the traffic gets, the more rule #2 applies, which slows it down more.  Rush hour is not a fun time.  But it is friendly.

4) The rotaries say it all.  In Mass, we pride ourself on our ability to navigate 3-lane deep, high speed, multi-exit rotaries.  We can keep you in, we can box you out, we own the rotary.  Seattle's rotaries are . . . well . . . . so Seattle.  The rotaries in Seattle have a little island in the middle, are one lane, and are generally used to make U-turns around.  It's more a modified 4-way intersection than a rotary.  But then I realized that the road design was germane to the city itself.  Designed for ease of flow and  a lack of potential conflict.  Their rotaries are really just vehicular meeting places, and isn't that adorable.

And of course, the coffee. Everyone always asks about the coffee.  I saw the Starbucks flagship store.  I didn't get a coffee there.  I did drink some very nice brews of the drip, espresso, machiatto, and latte variety.  All were good, though my espresso was inexplicably put in a paper cup for no apparent reason.  Here are a sample of my cups of coffee from Seattle, with the exception of the paper cup:

At a fancy cupcake shoppe.  tagline: "I am a Frostitute"
Good message, good coffee, great breakfast (and a 5 lbs. cinnamon roll!!!)
simple perfection
Bottoms up.

Deep Thoughts: Reading on the Toilet

Tuesday, February 19, 2013 | 0 Comment(s)

Currently, I have escaped the frigid bitter cold of the northeast in favor of the sunny sneaky cold of America's northwest.  Specifically, Seattle, WA.  Having arrived at night, it was only in the jet-lagged haze of morning that I found myself surrounded by white capped peaks, all the while exploring the bright green lawns and snow-devoid temperatness of the city (and suburbs) proper.  And, since being on vacation means giving myself permission to work or not work as i see fit, I hope you'll excuse any delays in the usual onslaught of my opinions.  

Today's post revolves around a disturbing thought that has had me a bit rattled and I can't seem to shake.  Do you remember those cool after-meal mints that you could find either at 24 hour diners or fancier restaurants back in the late 90's early 00's?  About the size of a dime, they had a white brittle mint frosting on the outside with a tiny gummy center.  The gummy center came in a bunch of different colors and flavors (which when talking about candy seems redundant to say, as color = flavor) and there even was a black licorice, for people who hate themselves.

These two in one favorites usually were dispensed from some kind of bowl or container, but every once and while you'd find some new clever mint delivery device.  I remember in college, our favorite diner had the "Bingo-game delivery system".  The mints were all inside a plastic globe that looked like it would be hilariously fun place to let a gerbil run around inside of.  Instead of a small vermin, however, the top had a spout which you tipped downward, turning the plastic globe upside-down, and with the help of gravity, the mints came tumbling into your hand. 

Whenever I saw a new contraption for mint delivery I always asked myself why such a complex "Mouse-Trap" like delivery system was necessary.  I wondered that until the study came out.  

I have no idea if this was a real study or a fake study or a word of mouth rumor or an urban legend or what, but to everyone who heard it, is was fact.  The study stated, very clearly, that when analyzing the contents of those little mints, there were significant traces of both urine and poo.  The study claimed, or the person who told me about the study claimed, that the reasoning behind the findings was that people go to the bathroom post-meal, forgo or do a poor job of washing their hands, and then it is straight to the mint bowl they go.  Again, I'm not positive, but I suspect this study was the beginning of the end for those non-wrapped mint-making enterprises.   I certainly looked at that Bingo-ball differently.  Now it just looked like a floating rectum, waiting to flip its abhorrent contents into my outstretched fingers.  No thank you.

And this bring us to the disturbing thought which has plummeted me into an anxiety I fear I may not be able to pull up from.  If there is a significant fecal content in the restaurant mint candies served at the register,  how grotesque is the fecal content of the screens of our cell phones.  

I know.  I know.  You wish I hadn't said that.  Me too, frankly.  But, we also simply cannot ignore the ubiquity of using one's phone as a distraction while taking a poop.  Cell phones are the new magazine bathroom reading (or shampoo bottle in a pinch).   I would love to believe that we are all cleaner now than we were back when mints became poop-flavored, but regrettably I have no reasonable argument to make on our behalf.  And frankly, the existence of Honey Boo Boo, everything Kardashian, and Buckwild makes me think we may be even dirtier than before (our souls certainly are).  If my completely unscientific but extremely convincing calculations are correct, we are all carrying around poop-coated calling machines.  And what's worse is that right after we dial our friend's number, we place that poop screen upon our cheek and ear, mouth adjacent.  

Is the public health field on this problem?  Will you ever be able to look your iPhone in the eye (i?) again? Probably not.  But, if you are looking for a way to feel better about all this, I have you covered.  

First, find a friend.  
Second, tell or convince them (use your own imaginations here) to lick their phone. 
Lastly, direct them to this blog post and have them give it a read.  

Feel better?  I thought so.

Valentine's Day (is a) Massacre

Thursday, February 14, 2013 | 0 Comment(s)

I have a rule.  Once you have been writing a blog for 3 years, you can beginning reposting relevant old posts on occasion.  Since I will be working at the bar on Valentine's Day, I will most likely be "fakin it til I'm makin it" in terms of Valentine's cheer.  Therefore, I am reposting my true feelings regarding this "holiday".
Originally posted 2.10.10

I should start by saying that I have never had a bad Valentine's Day.

Ok, that's not true.  One year my then girlfriend's dog died on Valentine's Day and her mom decided to go ahead and call her up at college and tell her that evening (ingenius mother's birth control tactic?). . . which i happened to be visiting her for.  It was a mess.  But even still, consoling someone you love on the death of their pet certainly isn't what I was expecting on that day, but it's also definitely part of the job description of being a significant other.  So i sucked it up.  But that's the worst of it.  Really.  In college i would use Valentine's Day as an excuse to ask beautiful women that were a bit intimidating out on dates.  Both times I had a wonderful evening.

But here is the thing.  I hate Valentine's Day.  I really really really hate hate hate it, and I think it's a bad thing.  I don't feel this strongly about most subjects, but on this i will take a stand.  One of the excitements of getting my PhD as a "relationship expert" is so that I can say, I'm an expert on romantic relationships, and Valentine's Day is fucked up and should be done away with.

Let me explain.

If you are in a relationship, I have no doubt that it is possible, and possibly even wonderful, to set aside some time for you and your significant to do something, just the two of you (or three of you or four of you, I don't judge).  Putting aside the fact that part of a healthy relationship is letting your partner know that they are loved and cared for all the time, I understand that we all lose sight of that from time to time and take those we love the most for granted.  But lets understand something.  This paragraph so far, is talking about the VAST minority of people in America.

For most people in relationships (still focusing on them to start), Valentine's Day creates an amazing artificial pressure to do something particularly special for your loved one.  Putting pressure on most relationships is akin to farting in your relationship's face: you may survive it, but you're not going to enjoy it.  Pressure creates two separate sets of expectations (from each partner) and therefore creates the possibility for an incredible amount of unnecessary let down and disappointment.  The irony being that Valentine's Day creates tension, fights, and conflict for couples that otherwise probably wouldn't be fighting.  So even for the subsection of the population that presumably should benefit from this "holiday," you see negative returns.

And now the single people.  Let's be real folks, the majority of people who are single out there are not socially adept enough to just "make sure they have a date" for Valentine's day.  That's just the truth.  Even many of those who can get dates don't always have people around they WANT to date at any particular time.  And what could make those people feel more jump-off-a-bridge awful than a day (and month leading up to it) where the media/society/restaurants/stores all tell you that the only way to have value is through your love with another (actualized through a credit card).  That is some utter bullshit right there folks.  And people DO get sad.  Depressed.  Forlorn.  And if they don't, they still can end up internalizing that negativity and the message that their lives are incomplete without a relationship.  And then Valentine's day goes and announces this message from its candy heart, chocolate-rose covered megaphone that there is something wrong with you if you're single.  And it's like revving your Lamborghini's engine in front of a homeless guy driving his shopping cart.  It's like driving a Hummer when the world is slowly burning.  It's just so utterly douchey that I can't be a part of it.

If you're in a relationship, you lose.
If you're not in a relationship, you lose.
That's called a lose-lose.  (Even Michael Scott knows that that's not what you want)
This is so not a good holiday.

The only real winners on Valentine's Day are card companies, chocolate makers, flower sales (online flower prices are skyrocketing [for love]), and jewelry stores.  And frankly, I don't care if you throw that stuff off a bridge, it the lonely 14 year olds I'm more concerned about.

Just say no to the perpetuation of pressuring us to love on any particular day.  Love everyday.

And, for the record, buying the discounted Valentine's Day candy on the 15th is TOTALLY kosher.

Sriracha is the New Black

Wednesday, February 13, 2013 | 0 Comment(s)

I have never reviewed a product on this blog before, but never has there been a product so worthy of review as the one I set before you this day.  From the absolute genius that is (as part of a  collaboration between The Oatmeal and Bacon Salt.)  Behold:

"Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh…"  *…cue white light*
That is right folks.   Sriracha lip balm exists in this world of ours.  Get yours.

Before we move to the discussion portion, I feel it necessary to get a few minor fact-based disclaimers  out of the way:

1) I have received no moneys (sic) or product for this review. 

2) I have not yet tried the product I am about to review.

3) There are a load of necessary balm puns that just need to be made before any even semi-serious discussion can be had on this topic, and for this exact reason I have enlisted the services of my friend Nick.  A hot sauce connoisseur, my college roommate, and an economics bigwig …to wit . . .

It's the balm! 
 Suicide balm-er?
How I learned to stop worrying and love the balm?
"I do not believe that civilization will be wiped out in a war fought with the [balm]. Perhaps two-thirds of the people of the earth will be killed." - Albert Einstein

[Lip balm] [Lip balm] you're my [Lip balm] / And baby you can turn me on." - Tom Jones

The biggest contribution Nick made to this article, however, is this quote, "Sriracha is the new bacon."
This is totally true.  It is additionally additively true in that, Sriracha on bacon is the 'tastegasm of the moment.'

I completely realize that reviewing a product that I have yet to physically grasp, let alone try, is journalistically irresponsible and a bit laughable.  But I am no journalist, and I am extremely laughable, so I'm going to do it anyway.

What's most important here is the idea.  I have faith that chemists have the ability to replicate a taste such as Sriracha.  And while I myself am not a big hot sauce fan, Sriracha has such a uniquely exquisite  depth of flavor that I can completely understand wanting to take that tingling sensation home with you.  

Admittedly, the idea of mixing Sriracha with sunscreen and moisturizer is significantly nauseating.  Thankfully, you don't rub the idea of those ingredients together on your lips, you just rub that tang-tastic hot-saucey taste on your tongue toppers.  The moisturizer and UV protection are thrown in for free.

I mean, the one woman in my, albeit fictional, world named Hot Lips was certainly a positive influence in my early years.  And Hot Sauce is the handle of a particularly amazing street baller.  I just don't see how hot sauce lip balm could be anything but fantastic . . . and yet . . . these are some of the comments:

"This seems counter-intuitive... I typically use lip balm to soothe burning lips, not make them worse :P"
(Dear Commenter.  No one uses that smiley face.  It is the West Virginia of smiley faces . . . we haven't gotten rid of it, but we aren't particularly proud it's still there either. )
"don't even want to imagine how painful that would be…."

"Wow... not sure I'm brave enough to try this one…"

These people just don't seem to get it.  It's not for you!!!  If, when seeing the picture of the lip balm at the top of this page, every lobe in your brain didn't go all seartonin six-gunner -- firing off every neuron in synaptic sight -- then they didn't intend this product for your use.  Also, do you really think they made the lip balm so strongly spicy as to be physically unable to stand?  I grant you that this would be one of those moments when having tried the product would be particularly useful.  But it would be difficult to convince me that people intelligent enough to come up with this idea aren't capable of pulling it off competently.  And if you need further convincing, well, they sell a Tauntaun sleeping bag, so yah . . . case closed.

I want you so badly for so few good reasons.
So put away your pessimist Parmesan and pass the friggin Srarchabalm.  It's the balm-diggity. 

Publishing Perfect Poetry

Tuesday, February 12, 2013 | 0 Comment(s)

To Perfect Imperfection

I have spent half a lifetime wondering if my poetry has merit.
And it is only now
Hitting 35 on the highway to nowhere,
that I've discovered that this worry 
is the essence of the art.

You bring your raw untainted emotions 
in from the storm of the real world.
And you present them,
Like patient rounds through medical hallways.
Being judged on severity
The ability to evoke empathy from onlookers. 

But my poems are only as damaged as their author,
and they require no diagnosis or postmortem.
To perfect imperfection, 
is to kill the undying,
and then from where will the next verse flow. 

Horrible Husbandry

Monday, February 11, 2013 | 1 Comment(s)

Last night I watched the Grammy's.  Armed only with scotch and a my cell phone, I started live tweeting like a middle schooler.  Some samples:

"started drinking when LL lips hz lppps. #drunkduringgrammys"

"thatscarlyraejetson!!!" #drunkduringgrammys

"stop all drinking games. this shit just got real."  #bobmarleytime

"Not sure Marley was a cocaine man?" #brunomarsbigband

ps.  my twitter is now open for everyone: @mattitiyahu

Not too long after the Bob Marley tribute, I started switching channels and began research into the new impending ice storm set to hit our blanketed region.   And, since any TV news cycle that isn't 24-7 is un-American, there were multiple blue framed cancellation screens to divert my attention towards.

Again. I have to reiterate that this was post-scotchville and just after most of the remaining Marley family sang a great tribute piece (minus Bruno as seen above), which really got me in my most Rasta of moods.

***Winter Storm Warning***
This was already a good sign.  Having my wife home for 4 guilt-free days of getting whatever she needs to get done done, makes her an unbelievably wonderful person to be around.  It's kinda of like parenting when your kids are away at summer camp.  You just feel ahead of the curve for a minute or two, and it can make all the difference for your week ahead.

You can imagine the glee that rose in my belly as a saw how extended the cancellations were already.  Holyoke, MA -- closed.  Springfield, MA -- closed.   And as we winded and whittled our way to the "W's", I could feel that nervous excitement in my belly that remains a vestigial organ of my childhood exuberance.  Remember, I don't have school tomorrow either way.

And then.   Those magic words.  All Westfield Schools are closed February, 11, 2013 due to ice and snowy conditions.  Pop goes the magic bubble now rising to the base of my esophagus.  I am giddy.  Freaking giddy.  I'm hopping around downstairs, now reaching for my computer to double-check the news.  Yup.  There it is again.  Westfield school are totally closed.

I bound, BOUND, up the stairs to the bedroom where my wife has been asleep for two hours already.  I, carefully but energetically, nuzzle up to her and exclaim, "NO SCHOOL TOMORROW!!!".  I am now straddling her, tiny kisses headed toward her neck and ears as my whisper grows louder and louder.  I relay the joyous news, "All Westfield Schools are closed!?!" 

She responds with furrowed brow and only one eye peeking open, "You mean Westhampton right? Not Westfield?  My school shows up as 'Hampshire Schools' on the TV ticker."

Oh friggin no.   That rising ball of excitement is now in an amusement-park like free fall heading straight down in the direction of pooping my pants.   This is what a complete emotional turnaround feels like.   Giddy is immediately and completely morphed into shame.  I just woke my loving wife out of her much needed REM sleep in order to lie to her about not having to work tomorrow.

As I rush back down to now triple check my work, I already know that my chances of pulling up from this wreckage of a situation I created are slim.   I know I saw Westfield and not Westhampton. I'm just hoping at this point that the Hampshire School district has coincidentally also cancelled school early.  Somberly I realize only now that I should additionally look outside my own window.  Currently, there is zero precipitation.

As I march carefully and decidedly more slowly back up the stairs to my now groggily confused half-asleep wife, all i can say over and over is, "I'm so so sorry."  Two "so's" every time.  It is the feeling of being unavoidably and unmistakably 100% wrong.  So. Much. Shame.

Wifey was extremely understanding.  I mean, she did see how ecstatic i had been to give her the no-school news.  I think she realized how much fun she was going to get to have at my expense come morning that she didn't feel the need for additional humiliation at bedtime numero dos.  Or perhaps, because she is a decent human being, her drive towards sleep was more powerful than her need to laugh at me.  That's love.

I was not 100% wrong.

Yes, at the time, I was.  If you don't think I fully understand the depth of my initial mistake, I would recommend you rereading the previous paragraphs.  But, come morning, there was wifey, as snug and as the curled up as the two pups which were also still slumbering in our bed.

It was now my turn to groggily wonder what was up.  "No school today," says wifey, "they cancelled it cause it's gross out."

"I was right!," I replied in that singsongy of morning voices that most resembles a kitten meowing and can't be mistaken for carrying even a trace of enmity or "i told you so".

"You were right," the greatest wife in the world graciously responded, "You just knew five hours before the superintendent."

So yah, I'm pretty much a superhero.

Bob the Cat Rips into Your Heart

Wednesday, February 6, 2013 | 2 Comment(s)

This is the text i received from my neighbor yesterday while I was eating lunch in town:

"Just saw this Lynx run through my yard!  What's going on in the neighborhood" 

Attached was this picture:
"Bob?  Bob? Is that you?
His text references his "rabid raccoon sighting" that he told me about from earlier this week that, until i saw the preceding picture,  I figured was mostly one of his drunken hallucinations.  Which is to say that as I marveled the musculature of this incredible feline, I was not only feeling an adrenaline rush from contemplating its imminent danger, but also that of a potentially deranged Ranger Rick roaming our woods.

My 3 textual responses to the neighbor were: "Holy shit, don't you have to call someone about that?!?" "Seriously though, do you call animal control about that?" and  "ps.  bobcat"

His response: "Nah, it didn't seem sick of anything.  It was out quick."  "PS. Lynx"

Me:  "North American lynx is a bobcat."  "That or you saw the first confirmed Canadian Lynx in MA since 1885.  Call the paper."

My utter textual owning of my friend aside, I was in awe of his calm demeanor regarding this matter.   Now, he grew up in these parts, and maybe that explains some of his general malaise regarding big cats in and around the area of his house.  That said, I also grew up with a state forest in my backyard, and every time a bear decided to make a go of it round the residential areas, I can assure you that, at the very least, animal control was called.  My mother does not take too kindly to bears chilling out on our back porch (actually happened).  My guess is that my neighbor would argue that in that case the animal was not "out quick".

I showed this picture to two of my close friends that I was dining with.  To my great surprise, both of their responses were versions of, "awwwww, what a cute kitty."  They expound in some detail about how they would want that bobcat to sit in their lap so they could pet it, love it, and eventually domesticate it.

Feelings about domesticating wild animals aside, I could not believe that this was the reaction I was getting.  These were not hot-head big-talking college-aged friends either.  These were men.  And they were talking about this bobcat like it really was no big deal.

I thought I was being punked.  I looked for Aston.  This is a goddamn BOBCAT, I told them.  That thing will rip you open like the ziplock seal on a plastic bag.  Maybe, MAYBE, bobcats are super cool when you hear about them in Shutesbury or one of the other hill-towns in this area where you expect crazy interactions with wildlife   (Brief aside: I had a young guy come into the bar last week who, while putting up flyers in one of the hill towns and had been tracked for a mile or two, and then attacked, by two coyotes.  On Main Street!!!!!  -- yes he got a free beer.)   As far as I can tell, being blasé about big cats near your homestead is not a long team survival strategy.  Especially if you own dogs.

My friends assured me that the bobcat would be more scared of my pitties than they would be of him.  Which I believe.   That said, were my dogs to pursue the bobcat and force its hand, I fear I would be left with pittie pillow cases.  And that, I can not abide.   Bobcats are not "one tick away from domestication," as my friends were suggesting.  And yet my friends were making me feel like I was neurotic for fearing the feline reaper.

"It's only this big" one of them says, showing me the bread-box sized bobcat of his imagination.

The other friend then interjects, "Wait, wasn't it a bobcat that ripped that ladies face up, like, last week?"

"YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!," I say.  "Thank you."  This is my point.

The cherry of top was when the chef, also a friend, later came out of the kitchen and was shown the picture of the kitty in question.

"Damn, he said, that's some crazy shit.  Their paws are like this big." He, in turn, demarcates what I would deem a head-sized shape.  I agree heartily.   I tell him that our friend's bread-box sized idea of a bobcat could probably use an actual bobcat's claw as a house to live in -- given its diminutive stature.

The picture of the bobcat did not keep me from walking the dogs yesterday.  I am not that overly dramatic about my neuroses.  Yet.  I did walk the pups in the opposite direction of that neighbors house however.   Better to be safe than scar-y.