Monthly Archives: November 2012

That’s what I’m here for man

Please, no need to thank me. Of course I didn’t mind picking you up at three in the morning. You were drinking. What were you supposed to do, drive home? Take a cab? Those taxis are such a rip-off. Not drink so much? Please, what’s the point of going out if you can’t knock a few back. I mean, I wasn’t doing anything. Which worked out perfectly, because I’m here for you man. Let me know, any time, you’re my friend.

Of course I can help you move next Saturday. I’m great at helping people move. Wait, are you asking me to come help lift large items into a truck or do you want me to swing by and actually pack? Both? Yeah, of course that’s fine. That’s why people call me up when they’re moving, because I’m great at it. The best. Of course I have extra boxes and tape. And if we need more I know exactly where we can get some. Sure, yeah, I guess I can just swing by on my way over and pick up some more. Because, yeah, you’re right, it’ll be much easier if I just go myself and save you a trip. Because, please, you’re moving. Moving sucks. You’ve got a lot on your plate, a huge headache.

Yeah let’s totally get together this Friday. Yeah that’s a great idea, let’s all meet up at my place. Yeah I have a ton of leftover beer from last time. I mean, I don’t have as much as I did last time, because we all drank a lot of it, but there is definitely some left over. I could just pick up some more. You guys will throw me a couple of bucks, right? Right, I remember you telling me about that cleaning service last time, but it just seems so expensive. Especially because it’s just us hanging out. Well, how many other people were you thinking of inviting? Well, wouldn’t we need a lot more beer than last time for that type of a party? Yeah, you’re right, I’m sure everybody will bring something, and … no, when you compare it like that, the number of people coming to how much the cleaning service costs, I guess it’s not that bad.

You need a guarantor for your new apartment? I don’t know man, that sounds like a lot of commitment. No, I know you’re good for your rent. But I just feel a little uncomfortable signing my name onto something like that. Because what if you lose your job? No, I know you’re doing OK. I’m not trying to say that … what about your parents, could they sign? They said no? Why? Well, I mean, it kind of matters a little why, to me, especially because you’re asking me to put my finances on the line. Right? And if your parents said no I should at least know why they said no.

Because, I don’t know, I have my own expenses to worry about. Well, yeah, I guess I could lend you five hundred bucks. Yeah, no, I really don’t want to cosign on your apartment. Fine, fine I’ll commit to the five hundred. But you’re good for it, right? Like how long until you’ll be able to get it back to me? Well, when is your cousin supposed to be in touch with you? Well, when is this guy’s company supposed to get up and running? Full-time associate you say? Yeah, that does sound pretty legit. Still, I’d feel more comfortable if … no, you’re right, none of us can accurately predict the future. It’s just that …

Why would you need my social security number? Can’t I just give you five hundred cash? Well then can’t I just fill out the paperwork and send it in myself? I’ve never heard of any bank that insists on anybody personally handing in all of this information, especially for such a small loan. Can I come with you at least? Maybe talk to the banker? Why not? What do you mean not technically a bank? This is all getting to be a little more than I’m really comfortable with.

Yeah I have a Zip Car. No you can’t use it. What do you mean you already used it? Did you return it? No, you have to return it as soon as you’re done with it. They charge by the hour. Because they don’t know if it’s available to rent again unless you tell them. Two days ago. You just took the card out of my wallet. Listen, I know you’re moving, but you can rent a U-Haul for a whole day for like significantly less than what it costs for me to rent a Prius by the hour. Wait a second, please don’t tell me you tried to get furniture in that thing. Jesus. Of course they’re going to be able to link it back to me.

No, yeah, no you’re right. Yeah, I’d do it for you I guess. Just, just let me know next time. Yeah, I’ll still sign. I mean, we’re friends, right? Just, just next time you all go out drinking, just give me a call, I’m always down. No, I won’t even drink. I’ll still be good to be your DD. I know a lot of times I’m sleeping when it’s that late, but only because I don’t have anything to do, so if you call me, I’ll be up and out. Yeah, totally, and no, I really appreciate you not wanting to disturb me, but we’re bros, right? Yeah, you’re not disturbing me, you’re not imposing at all. I mean, what are friends for?

An intermediate guide to wine

Maybe like four months ago I wrote about how I don’t know anything about wine. I’ve since switched jobs. My old restaurant didn’t have a liquor license, so I didn’t need any alcoholic knowledge. Every once in a while some stuffy Manhattan couple would come in and, before I even had a chance to say hello, they’d instruct me to go fetch them a couple of glasses of Sauvignon Blanc. And I would just stand there, staring at them, not saying a word, waiting for them to realize that I hadn’t moved, that I was just staring straight at them, and when they would finally give in, finally look up to me to make eye contact and say, “Well?” I’d instantly flash a crazy smile and say, “Sorry! No alcohol! How about a Diet Pepsi?” It’s the little things that get me through the day.

But this new restaurant is, to slam my previous gig and, for lack of a better description, actually a real restaurant. Like I have to wear a tie. It’s ridiculous. And they’re all about wine. They pride themselves on their wine list. They do tastings with the staff whenever a new bottle arrives. When I applied for the job, they made me take this whole wine test. It was written. Pages and pages. I kind of expected it, but as is my pattern of not taking life seriously enough, I spent only about ten seconds online researching wines before I got distracted and started wasting time on Reddit.

Whatever, I told myself, I know enough about wines. Which is only about ten percent true. I drink red wine. I know the names of the popular grapes. I never spend more than ten dollars for a bottle. So I figured, just get in there and charm your way through whatever questions they ask. That is, I had assumed it would just be a manager talking with me about wine for a while. In that scenario, I probably could have done fine. But like I said, they sat me down with a written test.

I immediately knew that I was fucked. There were all of these questions about regions. I know Napa is in California, but that’s about it. And then there was fifty percent of the test dedicated to white wines. I never drink white wine. The last time I took a sip of white wine was at this Chinese restaurant called Silk Road that everybody went to in college. You sat there, ate Chinese food, and for two hours they gave you free white wine. Yeah it was out of a box. Yeah it was disgusting. But it was free booze. The last time that we went there during senior year, I was eating Chinese food, pounding back glasses of white wine, feeling fine, and then at the end of the meal I stood up to leave. It was like all of the alcohol had accumulated in my legs, just waiting for me to get up so it could attack my brain all at the same time. I was instantly like black out drunk. But not even. I wish I had blacked out, because I got so sick, really sick, everywhere. And I remember all of it. I still can’t drink white wine.

And now I’m staring at this white wine test. I wouldn’t know how to bullshit my way out of any of these questions. The worst part about the test was the last few pages were a direct photocopy of the restaurant’s wine list. Did I mention how much pride they take in their wine list? Certain wines were blanked out and I had to fill them in. Like I was supposed to study their wine list. Come on. That should have been the easiest part of the test, because it was just rote memorization. But I didn’t study.

So I’m taking this test at one of the tables in the restaurant. Five minutes go by and I figure, well, I can either get a zero, hand it in with some half-assed joke about not knowing too much about wines, shake somebody’s hand as they say, “Yeah. Thanks a lot. We’ll definitely be in touch.” Or, I could just take out my phone and look all of this stuff up.

I’m not a good cheater. I could never cheat on anything, even in high school, and not for any moral reasons really, because I think testing is just a bunch of nonsense anyway, but I was mainly afraid of getting caught. I’m the worst, constantly looking around, sweating. It’s all a dead giveaway. But nobody came over. I had enough time to take out my phone and look everything up, even on New York’s super overcrowded wireless network.

I filled out the red section one hundred percent correct. And then I thought to myself, shit, that was probably a mistake. What if they get suspicious, think to themselves, wow, this guy really knew every single question? Did he cheat? That’s what I would think if I were giving the test. But I filled it out in pen. What was I going to do, ask for a brand new copy of the test? They’d ask why. I’d say because I made some mistakes and I want to start over. They’d say just cross them out and keep going. What am I supposed to cross out the obviously correct answer and rewrite an incorrect one, to make it look more natural? I told you I’m a bad cheater.

So I figured I’d make up for it by not doing so well on the whites. I made up some incorrect answers. I left some blank. Whatever. And then I handed it in. The manager looked it over and said something like, “Wow. You really nailed the reds. I guess we’ll just have to work on the whites.” And I kind of just let out this internal sigh of relief, like I couldn’t believe I actually got away with it, like I couldn’t believe nobody even gave me one verbal question to make sure I hadn’t cheated through the whole ordeal.

But I’ve been at this job for a few months now and I’m pretty sure that I didn’t really need to know anything about wine. I still barely know anything about wine. When people ask for a recommendation, I literally point to a random wine and start going off, really convincingly, “Oh this one is just delightful. Unlike your typical Chardonnay, this one’s got a lot less of those oaky overtones. And there are so many complex aromas. You can detect vanilla, passion fruit, shnozzberry. It’s wonderful.”

But even that is super rare. I think I’ve been asked for a recommendation maybe twice. Usually people come in and are just like, “Give me a glass of the house Cabernet.” At this point I’m supposed to direct the guest to our wine list, to show them that we have three house Cabernets, that we take our wine very seriously. But whatever, I know what they want, the cheapest, and I want to minimize the number of words that have to come out of my mouth directed at that person.

The best is bottle service. Somebody buys a bottle of wine, even the cheapest bottle, and it’s already doubled the price of the check. Some of the other waiters are really good salespeople, adept at hawking off hundred dollar bottles. My strategy is a little more modest, only because I know I could never pull off those rare vintages with a straight face. If someone asks me for a good bottle, I always point out the second least expensive. The customer will look at it, think to themselves, well, out of all of these wines, this waiter is pointing me in the direction of a moderately priced bottle. I’ll take it. Which for me is a win, because I’m just assuming that the majority of the people I deal with will always default to the cheapest option. That’s what I would do anyway. And so in most scenarios, I’m bumping them up to the second cheapest option, which, done regularly enough, is a huge win for me. But like I said, I’ve only been asked for a recommendation maybe twice.

The one thing I picked up way too fast was the whole opening the bottle at the table. I say too fast because, after a month or two, I felt so confident in my opening skills, that it just escaped the realm of my imagination that anything could go wrong. So one night I had this group of four men, they each had like three glasses of Scotch at the bar and started ordering bottles of wine at the tables. The first bottle went smoothly. The second bottle went even smoother. So smooth in fact that the cork offered basically zero resistance as I pulled it out. And not expecting such an easy job, the hand cradling the bottle automatically jerked down a little bit, expecting somewhat more of a fight. The result was that half of the bottle splashed out directly on top of two of the guys I was serving. Like they were soaked. Like I couldn’t even try to clean anything up, because it was all over the both of them. It looked like they just gotten out of a red wine shower. I had to fetch a new bottle of wine because this one was noticeable depleted. What a disaster. I comped the bottle and told the manager that these guys had a little too much to drink at the bar.

Crisis averted. I think. Maybe one day I’m going to go into work and the boss will just be like, “All right buddy, this has gone on far enough. You’re not fooling anybody. Name me four types of Chardonnay right now or your fired.” And I’ll just have to be like, “Yeah, sure. But, can you hold on one second? My mom’s in the hospital and I just want to text my dad and see if she’s OK.” And then I’ll really hope that the wireless network is moving quick as I’ll open up my phone’s browser and try to load up the restaurant’s wine list.


I’ve been taking these writing classes for the past year. They’re usually like eight weeks long, once a week type of deals. They’re great. They keep me writing. They force me to go beyond my habits, the way that I go about writing almost unconsciously. I’m starting my third series of classes tomorrow morning, and, although I had told myself that this time would be different, it’s not different at all. It’s ten thirty at night as I’m writing this, and as of right now, I still haven’t even started the homework that’s due tomorrow morning.

I always do this. I’ve always done this my whole life. It doesn’t matter if I have a day or a whole semester to complete an assignment; every single time I’ll put it off to the last second humanly possible, and then I’ll sit around for another ten minutes or so before I really get to work. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. It’s not a good feeling, that growing ball of anxiety in my stomach, the knowledge that I’d be saving myself a lot of grief if I just got something started, anything really, so that when it’s all said and done I could look back and think, well, at least I tried.

In high school I would stay up the whole night before a test and not start studying until like five in the morning. That’s crazy. I knew it was crazy. But I could never get myself to actually crack open a book unless I felt that sudden panic, the kind of a physical response that you only get when you look at your watch, look at all of the work that you have to get done, and you say to yourself, “Holy shit, there is no way I’m going to be able to write a ten page paper in half an hour,” and then all of the sudden I’d be working like crazy.

Why couldn’t I do that same level of work, but earlier? Why couldn’t I spread it out? Give myself a chance to do maybe a second draft, a reread at least. So when I got to college I thought, you know what, I’ll just go to the library. I’ll just sit in the library, free from distraction, away from my friends watching movies and having fun. I won’t leave until I’m done with my work. But the library had a vending machine. The library had Internet. Sometimes I would just go wandering the stacks and looking through random books that had absolutely nothing to do with the task at hand. So all I would wind up doing was wasting time, but in the library instead of in my dorm room.

It’s like there is some part of me that would rather do anything, literally any other thing than what I’m supposed to be doing. I must be a glutton for pain. Because, and I already said this, but knowing that something is due in like an hour is the worst feeling in the world. Sometimes I wish that I would have just not handed anything in, got an F, and then called it a day. But I’m always somehow able buy myself more time, prolong the agony. I’d go to a professor’s office hours and ask for more time. They always said yes. So I’d be stuck an extra day in the library, again wandering the halls, wasting time trying to get into normally locked doors, seeing if they had anything cool hidden away.

I took this to such an extreme that, after four pretty successful years of somehow managing to stuff a whole bachelor’s in liberal arts worth of work into maybe ten cumulative hours of last minute fury, I decided that, for my very last paper due at college, some ten page final grade essay for some elective philosophy class that had nothing to do with my major, I’d just not do it at all and see how far I could push back the deadline. It was pretty far. I got the dean and professor to allow me to hand it in like mid July, about a month and a half after graduation. I actually had to go to the dean’s office and exchange him this paper for my diploma.

That’s totally, beyond crazy, really. I was like, well, this is my last paper, after this I’ll be free of this night-before-an-assignment-is-due anxiety. And so it didn’t seem important. It didn’t seem real. My brain thought, well, if you actually put your graduation in jeopardy, I mean, that would take the pressure and the anxiety to a whole new level. So I spent my last month at college picking up extra hours at my part-time job, playing intramural softball, making stupid t-shirts for campus clubs … anything and everything except doing this paper that I wound up typing up like half an hour before the dean’s final, I mean it this time, you have to hand it to me in half an hour deadline.

I know that a big part of the problem is with me, there’s just something inside that can’t stick to the task at hand. But I know that another big part of it is the Internet. When I was in the Peace Corps I had no Internet for a solid two years. It was awesome. I started writing, like not just once in a while writing, but writing everyday. It’s the only reason why I’m doing this stuff now, because I know that I can. And I figured out that I could only because I had absolutely nothing else to do with my spare time.

But I’ve been back in America for like a year and a half now and the same old problems are back. I’m sticking to this goal of getting a blog post up every single day, just to give myself a deadline, just to really make it count. Because otherwise I wouldn’t do it at all. But everyday, to get something done, sometimes it takes forever. I’ll just waste so much time not writing when I could easily be writing.

And it’s all even crazier because the only reason I’m writing a blog post right now, at close to eleven at night, is because I have actual homework, writing homework, that I should be doing for tomorrow morning’s class. I haven’t even started it yet. What is wrong with me? Why couldn’t I just have at least started thinking about what I would write for class like a week ago? I signed up for it two weeks ago, and the registration page posted the assignment that was due for tomorrow. I didn’t even look at it. This is ridiculous. Instead of writing my assignment, I spent the same amount of time and energy writing something else, this. This is just insane.

I’m still eating Halloween candy. Somebody help me, please.

This year for Halloween I bought a bunch of candy in case any trick-or-treaters came by. But not even one showed up. So now I’m stuck with all of these bags of candy, which I tried to resist at first, but by now I’ve given in, and I’m just constantly eating candy, waiting for it to run out so that my brain stops bothering me every ten seconds, whispering stuff in my ear like, “Hey Rob, so, uh … how about some more candy?” And it’s such a strong craving I’ll taste it in my mouth, I’ll want it so badly, and I’ll cave to the temptation almost immediately.

I haven’t eaten this much candy in a while. In fact, I don’t think I’ve eaten any candy in a while. So I’m having like a mini candy renaissance. I pick out four big bags of fun sized treats. They looked pretty harmless when they were still packaged behind all of that clear plastic. I wasn’t yet feeling any appeal. But then I decided, what the hell, it’s just going to sit there. I might as well have one piece of candy, two tops.

And then I opened that first bag. It was a variety pack, a mix of Milky Ways, Twix, Snickers, and Three Musketeers. As soon as I split open the plastic I was overcome with the actual sensation of being a little kid again. I was instantly transported back to my childhood, canvassing the neighborhood on Halloween for candy, and saving that candy for weeks. It was that scent of assorted chocolates and candy bars. It was the smell of Halloween.

I hadn’t even popped anything in my mouth yet and I was already feeling way more excited than I had anticipated. Any ideas about having just one or two were replaced by having to try out at least one of each variety. I picked out a Milky Way and ate it. I’m telling you, that one bite completely altered the trajectory of my whole day. I was flooded with energy. It tasted so good, even better than I remember it tasting when I was a little kid. It was too much, I started making fists and jumping up and down really quickly. I didn’t want it to stop, so I went straight for the Twix. It was the same reaction. No wait, it was even better. The effect was amplified. I turned around in a couple of circles, the energy was overwhelming. One after the other, each flavor tasted better than the last. And even better, and totally unexpected, Milky Way Dark, which I never liked as a little kid, it now tasted incredible, delicious.

I went through like fifteen pieces of candy in under a minute. And then I started feeling a little worried, because I knew somewhere in my mind that eating that much candy isn’t really the best thing to do for your body. I gave myself a minute to let my brain catch up to my taste buds. Sure enough, the euphoria was very fleeting, and once I started to get my feet to stop jumping up and down, I realized that my tongue felt a little raw. Worse, I was actually sort of full, in a weird gross way, and it especially sucked because I had just ordered some dinner, and I think I might have spoiled my appetite.

But yeah, over the course of a day or two I made quick work of that variety pack. And I told myself, just don’t open the other bags. Just keep it in check, keep it together Rob. I think I kept it in check for maybe a day. And then I opened up the Kit Kats. This was really disappointing actual, because, and I didn’t even realize it until after I had opened up the first Kit Kat, instead of using chocolate, they used orange dyed white chocolate, I guess for some sort of a Halloween theme. Gross. I tried to just close my eyes and pretend that it was the original, but unlike my experience with Milky Way Dark, a candy I hated as a child but now liked as an adult, unfortunately my sense of taste remained unmoved by white chocolate. It tastes like eggs or something. I can’t really describe it except to repeat again that it’s gross.

That’s still sitting there, untouched. I’ll probably have to just eventually throw it out at some point. I think I’m going to throw it out right now just so I don’t have to look at it anymore. But I’m halfway through a giant bag of Peanut M&Ms. There’s still an unopened sack of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. I can’t take this anymore. Now it’s all becoming so compulsory. Every time I’m bored, every minute or so, I get up and eat a bag of M&Ms. My teeth are starting to hurt. I haven’t eaten an apple in like two weeks.

And you know what I think a big part of the problem is? Fun size. To what psychopath does a bag containing six M&Ms seem like a fun size? That’s not a fun size. A fun size is one of those party bags of M&Ms, where there’s no individual packs, just tons of loose M&Ms, like you fill up a whole bowl with them and put that bowl out at a party. That’s always the best, going to a party where there’s a giant bowl of unwrapped candy, because nobody ever goes for it. Nobody except me, I hit it really early in the night. After a while my fingers are all stained red and blue and it’s clear to everyone that I’ve made it my personal candy bowl. Still, I always get a stomachache from that much candy.

Fun size. Come on, it’s a trick. If they were packaged as regular sized packs of candy, I guarantee you I would only eat one. But because they are so little, so comically small, there’s no way I’m going to stop at just one. So I’ll just keep going, little by little, slowly getting into the double digits until next thing I know, I’ve just eaten a pound of M&Ms without even realizing the magnitude of what I’ve done. That’s not fun. Nothing that small is fun. Just call it small size. Or tease sized. Actually, you know what would be a really fun size? Like a swimming pool, an Olympic sized pool filled to the brim with Peanut M&Ms. And I’d climb up to the diving board and execute a perfect dive, face down, mouth open, just totally submerged in Peanut M&Ms. I could eat all of them, without stopping, I don’t have any doubt. That would be a really fun size.

I’m all for it

Here’s a tip. Whenever somebody uses the phrase, “I’m all for ____,” they’re not really all for it at all. They’re really all against it. One time I heard a commercial on the radio for an SUV. The narrator was some mom, and she said, “I’m all for the environment, but safety is my priority when buying a vehicle.” You have to get past the fact that, this lady isn’t who she says she is, she’s an actress. So it’s really the car company itself speaking directly to you, telling you that they’re all for the environment. But what they’re really trying to tell you is, “We don’t care at all about the environment. And you shouldn’t either. Buy our Canyonero.”

I’m all for healthy eating, but if food companies want to use trans-fats, who are we to say they can’t? I’m all for portion control, but I don’t want the government telling me what size soda I’m allowed to buy. I’m all for gun rights, I just don’t think that people should be allowed to buy semi-automatic firearms, stockpile hoards of ammunition, or carry concealed weapons. See what I did there? I don’t care about gun rights at all. What I was doing was stating my argument while at the same time countering any arguments that might say that I’m anti gun rights. Which is false. It’s just a clever trick of the English language.

But you can use this trick in a more abstract way. You can make a really broad general statement, like, “I’m all for personal liberty.” And then you can follow it up with a statement that has nothing to do with the first part, thereby invalidating whatever you’re talking about. I’m all for personal liberty, but I’m don’t think New York Jets fans should be allowed to wear any team merchandise in public. I’m arbitrarily slamming an entire sports franchise and its fan base while at the same time standing up for something vague and general, in this case personal liberty. Who is going to argue against personal liberty?

When you’re engaged in an argument, or you’re making an argument, you’re always supposed to maintain some sort of civility. It’s just nice. When I’m arguing, I like to say stuff like, “Well, I disagree,” instead of saying, “No, you’re wrong.” That way you can get your point of view across without alienating whoever you’re engaging with. “Well, I would argue that …”

So on the surface anyway, “I’m all for,” really should be a nice thing to add to a conversation, to a disagreement. And maybe it was when it was first used. But whenever I hear it being thrown around, it’s always in a way to trivialize whatever it is being argued against. Go back to my SUV example and the woman on the radio. “I’m all for the environment, but what I care about is safety.” What’s going on here? To me, what I’m hearing is, “The environment? That’s cute. OK, sure, we’re for the environment too. Having said that, it doesn’t matter. Safety.”

That’s another trick. Just say safety. Arguments for safety basically trump anything. Why don’t high schools or colleges sponsor ski trips anymore? Why is marijuana illegal? Why did we go to war in Iraq? Safety, safety, and safety. But the safety excuse isn’t even applied universally, because we still encourage kids to run at each other headfirst every single day at football practice, we still allow people to buy and consume unlimited quantities of alcohol, and there are still a ton of other despotic countries in the world that we aren’t invading and overthrowing. Look, I’m all for head injury awareness, but football is ingrained in our culture. There’s no way we’re ever going to change anything. Look, I’m all for the free market, but we cannot stop until the war on drugs is won. Look, I’m all for diplomacy, but listen up Saddam, you have twenty-four hours to get out of Iraq before our tanks start rolling in towards Baghdad.

And seriously, nobody really needs this detailed of an explanation, but I’m running out of things to say here. I had something to say, and yeah, it took me a little long to cut to the chase. Or, it didn’t really take that long, but I added a bunch of unnecessary words. I’ve never really figured out how to be concise. Something about ten words where one will suffice. But listen, if you’ve got any advice, how I can tighten all of this up, let me know. I’m all for some constructive criticism.