Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Gifts Keep Getting Smaller

Most of you probably remember Christmas and birthdays as a child.

Part of the childhood magic was in seeing the gifts before you opened them.

Having two brothers, there was almost a contest, an Olympic if you will.

There were only two medals, "biggest gift" and "most gifts." That was the way you judged if this was going to be a great holiday or a "I can't believe you ruined my life" holiday.

I remember sneaking downstairs on Christmas at 2:00 a.m. to groggily see what this year's haul looked like. My brothers, unprompted by me, used to join me near the tree only minutes later.

In one of those loud whispers, you would shake the medium sized boxes declaring it was Legos and would kick the small packages out of the way to get to that one or two large boxes in the back of the tree.

We would need Nick's skeleton arms to reach through the sharp, dried pine needles to sort of maneuver the box around so I could see the name. "Ugggh, it's Brett. Brett gets the big one. I'm going back to bed." I'd slam a shot of milk from my Superman glass and go to bed feeling like I had just gotten a pile of coal.

Birthdays were the same. I sat cross legged on the living room carpet waiting for my parents to bring the gifts out. It was as much of a full on Olympic festival as Christmas was, but it was at least an event. I would take stock within the three minutes the gifts entered the room and I started opening them and know which medal I had won.

It's hard to take stock anymore.

Before, the large boxes usually presented as a bike or the Death Star play-set. Now, you're sent emails with digital codes, unwrap gift cards, or at best you might get a tablet. (That gift size was maybe worth 5/10 points in the old Olympics.)

As a side note, remember when you could only buy gift cards at the actual place? Now I'm grocery shopping and buying a Gamestop gift card for my imaginary nephew.

Does it take a little bit of the magic out of these childhood days? There's something less majestic about a Christmas film that pans across the fake Christmas tree with 30 iPod sized boxes underneath.

Maybe this Christmas I'll wrap Sallie's gifts in much larger boxes, just to see if it feels different.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

All the Weird Things I Eat

Sal and I spent a jam packed day in the suburbs Saturday and it started by eating a Tocano's Brazilian Grill.

I've always wanted to try Brazilian food. There's something so American about getting served meat on a sword skewer.

The place is built for that point where you've had too much meat that you can't talk anymore.

Your breathing is heavy, you're somehow sweating even though the air conditioner is pointed directly at you, and the smell of beef is coming out of your pores. Breathing is even harder because you're still wearing pants, but you just don't have the energy to get them unbuttoned.

And in this cardiac crises all you want to do is tell the smiling servers that you just cannot eat another cut of pork or fried white fish. But since you can't tell them, they continue to cut meat and throw it on your plate that is covered with the juices of at least 4 animals. And because you're American and don't want to lose the respect of your fellow pain-filled diners, your shaking hand slowly brings that meat up to your lips, and somehow you choke it down.

To keep that from happening, they have this little token on your table. One side is green and one side is red. Red up means stop the meat train and green means all-aboard.

It was an experience.

Anyway, I try strange foods if given the chance. It's a great ice breaker.

I've had a bison burger on a bison conservation park in Salt Lake. (I still don't know how a park built to save bison can serve their meat, but whatever.)

I've had gator-kabobs in New Orleans, Octopus in Myrtle Beach, snoot in Alton (I still don't know what this is, I just know it comes from a pig) and now I've had chicken heart in St. Chuck.

It wasn't bad. It tasted like un-spiced chicken. It was incredibly chewy. I don't think I would eat it again, but I'm glad I knocked it off my list.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Hottest Day of the Summer without AC

Get a cat they said! You'll love it they said!

So around 3:30 pm yesterday, I noticed the AC stopped kicking on. The temperature rose quickly, as did my temper.

I had a fairly sleepless night seeing as how it was 75 degrees with 75% humidity.

I adjusted my internal thermometer when it got to 94 degrees in the house with 92% humidity. That's when things are miserable. I prayed for that 75 degrees.

The cats all spent the morning laying in the middle of the floor, panting their little cat butts off.

I wasn't much different. Sweating and panting on the leather furniture.

Side note: Leather furniture looks nice, but has no practical application in the heat.

So I had the AC guy come out. He checked a few things and went down to the furnace. As he was checking the power he said something's not right. It might be the compressor which is about $450-500.

Just then, Slider comes downstairs and rubs against the furnace. The guy looks down and notices that there's a power switch about Slider height. He flips that, and the AC comes on.

So because Slider brushed against this switch I've never noticed, I lived 20 hours in one of the worst, more miserable states I ever had.

The AC guy was at least cool enough to just charge me $69 for the maintenance fee instead of the $89 for the diagnosis fee.

All three cats are now sitting in front of AC vents. I'm laying on the floor, almost naked, just giggling with glee.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Old Timey Radio

So our TV broke. We probably got more time out of it than we should have.

We bought it over 5 years ago in Myrtle Beach. There was a pricing error at Wal Mart. A 42", HDTV was priced at $865. Retail for that size and the specs of our TV was closer to $1500 at the time. So we snatched it up.

I had a huge technology high as the Wal Mart employee wheeled it out to our blue '95 two-door Mitsubishi Mirage. Turns out, 42" is much larger than what a Mirage can handle.

So while Sallie went back to work, I had a buddy of mine with a larger car meet me in the parking lot. I had a lot of time to contemplate how Sallie and I probably had made some wrong decisions when our TV didn't fit in our car, but then I imagined playing Call of Duty in HD.

Last night, the TV wouldn't turn on. After jiggling some wires and doing a hard reset, I did manage to get the TV to turn on. Today, I didn't have as much luck. After some quick internet searches I found out the power capacitor is blown. Everyone said send it into the manufacturer to get repaired.

Problem is, Olevia hasn't been a company in about 4 years. They went under during the height of the recession. And the last time I brought something to a TV repair shop, they were going to charge $100 just to look at it.

So, Sallie and I had to drop some money on a new TV. I found a great deal on Amazon, but it won't be here until Wednesday.

So we're sitting in our living room, listening to the radio, like some sort of caveman and woman. Actually, its not too bad. We've both been incredibly productive tonight. So maybe this isn't the worst thing.

Since the TV won't be here until Wednesday, we're going to use tomorrow to re-caulk the bathtub. And Tuesday, who knows, maybe we'll go for a walk because I can walk without my brace.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Kid From the Streets

When I woke up, the graffiti was already on the wall, only 10 feet away from me. I sipped on coffee while contemplating how the hell someone could've put their tag on the inside of my house, in the same room I was sleeping and I didn't notice it.

It was a complex tag too. It had multiple colors and you could tell the artist had complete control over the spray paint. I took a picture of it on my phone.

I wasn't mad, that was until I noticed both my home desktop computer and work computer were missing. I stared at the wires hanging from the back of my desk, rage and panic taking over my mind. 

I stepped outside and the cool autumn air smacked me right in the face. There were school kids playing all around. I called one of the closer ones over, a little girl with her hair up in brightly colored barrettes. She had confidence that scared me. 

"Yeah, what do you want?" She stood six or seven feet from my front porch. 

"Do you know who's work this is?" I showed her my phone.

"Maybe I do."

"Well, I like it, but it seems I'm missing some things from my house. You think you could get whoever did this? Tell them just to come here. They can stand ten feet away for all I care, I'm not trying to catch them, just want to talk."

She scrunched her face up for a minute and said, "Yeah, ok, I guess that's fine."

I continued drinking my coffee as I saw a pre-teen boy approach. His confidence was that of someone who knew he was busted.

"Um, yes... yessir."

"Hey man, so I'm into your art. I think you have talent. I don't plan on pressing charges, but is there anyway you can get my computers back for me? I'm crippled and broke. I really need to work."

The kid looks down at my leg and sees my brace. He pulls out his cell phone, still unsure if he can trust me. The kid turns his back to me and talks to someone on the phone. He somehow thinks that just because he can't directly see me, that will muffle the sound. 

"Yeah, so I have the gray computer still. They're bringing that back."

"What about the black one? That's my work computer. I need to sign in at 9."

"They're working on that. We had to send it to another guy because we couldn't get into it."
"Well, while we're waiting, you want to come inside."

The kid does follow me in, and I'm not really sure why he trusts me all of a sudden. 

I offer him an orange juice and we both stand, sipping our drinks, staring at his work. "I do really like this work. I've seen it around town. Most graffiti I think is ugly, but when someone actually has talent and spends time working on it, you get some beautiful stuff."

"What do you know about art?"

I pull out some of my old sketch books. "I'm a little rusty, I don't get to draw to often anymore, but I know art. I can teach you."

"Yeah? Ummm, that might be cool. I'm going to make another call."

I can hear him in the other room, just slightly muffled, but the sound carries through the thin walls. "I don't care if you have it in pieces. Bring it back. This guy is pretty alright and he has to work. Alright, bye."

We spend the next 15 minutes just sketching and talking. Kid has parents that both work two minimum wage jobs and he essentially gets to roam the neighborhood doing what he feels like. He eats at a little diner everyday. They know him well enough to know that he eats the same meal on each day of the week. He's telling me that Thursday is Turkey Club day when a chubby red head boy wanders into my house without knocking. He has my computer in a backpack. 

Without talking, he starts pulling pieces out and putting them back together. "Sorry about this, we were just trying to get past the encryption so we could sell it."

"So what I want to know is how I didn't wake up during this."

The artist starts laughing. "Man, I don't know, you were asleep though. We had ten people in here, messing with your stuff." The kid shows me his phone and sure enough, 10 kids all taking pictures with my who is in what has to be the deepest sleep of my life, going through my underwear drawer, and one kid who seems to love licking things. "Hell, we're pretty sure your wife saw us and waved."

I reach for my phone to call Sallie and...

Newbie jumps on my stomach and I wake up. I didn't get to finish the dream, which sucks because it wasn't the normal sort of dream I have. Wonder what would've happened. 

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Mall Ratting at Jamestown Mall

Any of you lucky enough to stay up late drinking with me might know of my sick fascination with malls. (I think I've written about it on here before too)

I was a mall rat from approximately age 8-17. They are in my DNA. I love the lighting, the soft pretzels, and the feeling of the tile against my feet.

When Sallie and I planned to be out in Florissant this weekend, I couldn't pass up a chance to go to my original childhood mall, Jamestown.

The mall was built in 1973 with the thoughts that the suburbs would crawl to the land around the mall area following the trend of people leaving the city. Things took a terrible turn when all the suburbanites started instead running to the St. Charles area.

This mall has long been empty, losing two of its four anchors almost 10 years ago.

The fountains were empty except for about $20 in change that had stuck to the floor with a nice mossy + rust paste. The pipe that fed the water in before was still leaking some water.

This is the food court. It had a Chinese restaurant. I remember when they opened this food court and it was packed with hundreds of people. 

This was once a Sears.

One of the weirder shops still open was a picture shop that specialized in African American versions of famous paintings. (The last supper, all with black dudes.) This piece is a bunch of Union Civil War soldiers riding horses. If you look closer, you realize Martin Luther King Jr. is leading the charge with Michelle Obama, President Obama, and Colin Powell following behind. 

This was once a Sam Goody I bought many singles from. The neon sign that said, "Goody Got It" (with a minor adjustment) was still hanging and lit up inside. A church meets in this location now and they changed the sign to say "God Got It."

And this is the large, un-air conditioned hallway that had an MMA gym and one of those fake jewelry kiosks. At the end is the movie theater. 

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Birthday List and Quick Notes

Hello all,

  1. Birthday List: It's that great time of year again where I pretend that I'm not an adult and send out my birthday list. Only 24 shopping days until that holy holiday at the end of July.

    This year, I've decided just to give you all access to my Google doc Want List. This is a list I keep all year long of stuff I want. This is mostly for situations where I have gift cards and can't remember anything I wanted to get.

    So it may look huge, but don't let it scare you. It just means there are plenty of gifts for everyone to get me.

    The Birthday List!
  2. Soccer: Scored tickets to the Real Madrid vs Inter Milan football match at the Edward Jones Dome. A fellow soccer enthusiast buddy of mine and I will be attending this glorious event and having delicious beers downtown. I was incredibly bummed when I missed out on the Premier League match at Busch a few months back.

  3. I started a video game blog since my website has been down forever. If you want to read my thoughts on video games, old and new, check out Nostalgia Gamer.
  4. The Private Investigator: Yesterday I had one of the weirdest interactions of my life. A Private Investigator came over to interview me about a buddy of mine that applied for a position with the government.

    This guy was a certified bad-ass. Had a badge, looked like he street fights in his free time, and I'm fairly sure he probably kills terrorists for fun.
  5. Surgery Update: In three weeks, if I'm comfortable, I get to ditch my leg brace. That alone is worth celebrating.