Sunday, January 31, 2010

Grocery Shopping

I love to eat and I am really good at it. And while going out to eat at a restaurant is always nice, there is no place more exciting to me than the supermarket.

First of all the market is a super one, they even put the word in the title. But in addition to being super, it is only there that you can find food in all its forms. It is truly the land of possibility. Aisles upon aisles of frozen foods, hot foods, room temperature foods, all screaming, begging for you to pull them off the shelf and take them home.

Rich! Rich! See how good I look in my packaging? You know you want me!

But there is one key factor necessary to ensure a successful trip to the supermarket: A person must know how to buy groceries.

I am not that person.

For as much as I love going grocery shopping, I actually have no idea what I’m doing. I mean not even half a clue. I think most guys don’t. It’s built into our DNA from our days as hunters. We don’t compare and we don’t inspect labels. We just grab.

Have you ever read about a caveman inspecting the nutrition value on a dead tiger? What about comparing the value of one dead antelope to another?

No of course not. They see, they take home, and they eat.

And that is exactly how I grocery shop. Oh look a jelly, boom, done. Are those eggs? Boom, in the cart. I know I should be looking for certain price points, and nutritional values, but I have a limited amount of time in a grocery store before my brain just shuts down and I start overfilling my cart with protein bars and boxes of Cinnamon Toast Crunch.

God I love cinnamon toast crunch. (Interesting side note: I have never in my life closed a box of cinnamon toast crunch, if I open one, I immediately eat the entire contents and then just throw out the empty box)

Men are susceptible to easily found items. Spending time foraging in a supermarket is not really our thing. I’m actually not sure why all the staples aren’t located right next to the cash register. I mean operating on that mentality in the current setup most of us would survive only on Beef Jerky, Juicy Fruit, and a copy of US Weekly.

You will never see a man looking as confused as he will standing in the aisle of a supermarket. What it really comes down to is that men get into trouble when we are given choices.

Confronted with a hot blonde and a hot brunette, we will inevitably try to go for both. Faced with a shirt that we don’t know whether to dry clean or launder, we will do neither.

That is why the grocery store is a perfect storm of possible poor decisions. The first time I went grocery shopping in my freshman year of college, I made a grocery list. And even though the actual paper list is now gone, I have unconsciously stuck to that grocery list on every single shopping trip since.

After college there was that 2 year gap where my roommates (parents) did the grocery shopping for me so I didn’t have to worry about it. But I have now been in my current apartment for almost 2 years and I realize I buy the exact frigging things I bought in college every time I go to the super market.

Walking into a grocery store is such a confusing experience; nowhere else do I feel so excited and confused at the same time. It’s like a calculus class taught by a playboy bunny. My ability to purchase groceries depends on what meal I am buying for.

Breakfast? No problem. In fact it is usually the first collection of items in my cart. Waffles, yogurt, juice, fruit, cereal, and granola. Heck, I could do it with my eyes closed.

Lunch? Um, ok, we can do this. I fluster a little bit. A loaf of bread seems right, maybe some turkey, maybe some mustard… and then my mind goes blank. I have no idea what else to buy myself

Dinner? I look down in my cart and see I have 35 chicken breasts and a carrot.

But I think one of my other problems with the grocery store is I only know how to buy food for meals. I have no idea what to buy for the in-between. This would explain why my fridge usually looks like this.

I go to the grocery store and spend well over a hundred dollars on food (not paper towels or tissues or sponges but actual food) only to get home and realize… I have absolutely nothing to eat.


But this will not stop me from walking over to my kitchen and opening my fridge every 10 minutes as though THIS will be the time I figure out the meal I can make out of yogurt, chicken stock, and beer.

And I’m so bad at coordinating my meals with my schedule that I frequently end up wasting food because I either overbuy food during a week when I’m not coming home for dinner, or I forget it’s in my fridge and pull it out with a thin layer of blue fur.

At which point I dry heave and trip over myself trying to throw it in the trash.

So to avoid being wasteful I started buying frozen…. Everything. Frozen vegetables, frozen chicken. I even freeze my tequila! My fridge may be half empty but my freezer is so jam packed it looks like a cold war bomb shelter ice box.

People who open my freezer might wonder what it is that I know that they don’t.

Even if I do manage to keep my food fresh I still find myself buying the same ingredients over and over again because I make the same things pretty regularly. Since I live by myself I’m not really trying to impress anybody. As long as the fire department doesn’t show up when I use my skillet, I am impressed.

The only time I buy new ingredients is when I’m making a new dish. The only time I make a new dish is when, let’s say, I have a date. And I go on a date about once every… 18 months. So at this rate I should know how to make about 6 things by the time I get married.

Unless of course the woman I marry happens to be incredibly wealthy in which case we can eat out every night.

Now that I think about it, that is a way better idea than trying to get my wife to like chicken stock beer yogurt. Yea forget grocery shopping, I’ll just marry rich.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Dancing Manifesto

What do Channing Tatum and I have in common?

No it’s not the bedroom eyes (thank you for noticing though), and no it’s not the supreme physique and the ability to make women swoon (though I mean, I could if I wanted to...really).

No no, according to latest issue of Details Magazine, what Mr. Tatum and I have in common is a love of dancing.

I know this is not going cement my status as an uber-man, but I really love to dance. I have since I was very young. In fact, I have loved dancing since I was old enough to shake a limb. But for as much as I love to dance, I haven’t always enjoyed dancing.

When I was a really little kid I remember going to weddings of family dressed up in my little blue blazer with gold buttons and a red clip on tie. Thanks to my mother my hair would be perfectly parted on the side with military precision.

And I would stay that dapper until the point in the party when some DJ with a 4 dollar Vanilla Ice haircut invited all the kids out onto the dance floor.

At that point it immediately became my mission to get as sweaty as humanly possible in the shortest amount of time. And I loved it. Dancing felt good.

But then came puberty and a time of insecurity and self preservation. I began closely hording my inhibitions, stuffing them into a sack on my back like I was saving them for the insecurity apocalypse, the time when I would REALLY need them.

That time, as it would turn out, was the year of the Sweet Sixteens.

Sweet Sixteens are when girls (especially girls from Long Island) celebrate their 16th birthday by having their parents throw them an elaborate party in a catering hall complete with a very fancy dress, a DJ, a buffet meal, and a lengthy candle ceremony whereby the girl thanks the 16 most important people in her life thereby causing incredible riffs in friendships.

Jenny: Oh my god I can’t believe I didn’t get a candle
Stacy: I know. She’s such a bitch. Let’s go get 8 other girls and go to the bathroom.

While I loved going to Sweet Sixteens (much to my mother’s dismay as she had to buy me a gift for all of them) it became like a mini West Side Story. The girls started the night on the side of the room with the dance floor, and the guys did so on the side with the seats. I was eager to get out on the floor and start dancing and socializing with girls, but I was unable to do so.

Why? Well, much to my dismay, no self respecting teenage guy walks into a Sweet Sixteen and immediately starts dancing. No you have to sit around for an hour or two while the females gathered into circles and dance by themselves. Because ya know, you have to get a couple Pepsis in you before you go out on the dance floor.

It was an amazing foreshadowing of what would come later in life when guys don’t dance until they get enough beers in them not to care. It’s like they knew that in a couple years they would have regular access to alcohol and they were already practicing the timing on how long it would take them to be drunk enough to dance.

And I wasn’t the toughest guy to begin with. I was trying to fit in with the jocks and whomever else was loud enough to appear confident. So chiming in with a, “Hey guys who feels like dancing?” just wouldn’t fly.

But that’s all I really wanted to do.

By the time college rolled around my group of friends wasn’t really one to go dancing. I distinctly remember my friend Russ asking me freshman year if I wanted to go dancing. For whatever reason I couldn't that night but I can only imagine the look of longing on my face. It was like he had asked me if I wanted to go to a pool party at the playboy mansion.

In fact one of the scariest things I ever did in my life was take dance classes in college. There is no sitting around and warming up in that room. And you can’t be there for any other reason. If someone asks you why you’re not dancing in a dance class you can’t say,

“Oh I am just waiting until after the candle lighting ceremony.”

If you are in a dance class, you just have to forget your inhibitions and dance. It wasn’t until after college that I really hit my dancing stride (pun intended).

It was also after college that I realized one of my biggest complaints about dancing in general.

It’s the criticism. We’re all guilty of it.

Look at that guy, he looks ridiculous.

Yea but I bet he feels amazing.

If somebody wants to flail around in the middle of the dance floor like an epileptic witch doctor at a rave in Ibiza… I say more power to them!

You see there is no such thing as “not being able to dance.”

If you are catatonic, sure, you are not able to dance. I will give you that. But everybody else can dance.

One leg? You can dance. In a wheel chair? Of course you can dance. Fat, skinny, or German? Dance it up my friend.

Sure you may not look great while you dance. You might not be able to follow the beat particularly well. And you may step on more toes than Kanye at an awards show, but you can still dance.

Dancing is just the art of shaking your body around, moving with music (or against it for that matter) and just living. It is cathartic, it is pure, and it is beautiful.

And yet people continue to make the argument that themselves or others cannot dance.


Nobody ever tells a toddler they can’t dance. As a 6 year old in my sweaty clip-on haze, I don't remember ever hearing anybody say to me, “Hey kid, you can’t dance, you suck, go home.”

No of course not. That’s ridiculous. Nobody tells little kids they can’t dance and nobody should ever tell you.

It is the simplest thing in the world. It is elemental. It is expressive, elegant, or aggressive. But whatever it is, it is distinctly you.

I argue that you should dance just because it makes sense to. Dancing just makes sense, and that is reason enough to. Dancing makes sense. And in fact, with all the things going on in our world from earthquakes to contract breaks, it might be the only thing in this life that truly does.


Sunday, January 17, 2010

May I Take Your Coat?

I know it’s a little late for New Year’s Resolutions. But I actually make Chinese New Year’s resolutions so technically this is coming in early.

This year I made a life resolution:

Never check my coat anywhere, ever, ever again.

A coat check is a good idea in theory, but based on several bad encounters and 1 extremely awful experience on New Year’s eve/day. I have resolved to just keep my coat with me as opposed to subject myself to the insanity that comes with trying to retrieve a checked coat.

The first time I checked a coat I was living in Italy during my college years. It was winter in Florence so we would head out to the dance clubs all bundled up and ready to party.

Invariably every single person would leave the club at the same time and a gaggle of drunk Americans would converge on the coat check like they were trying to get a peak at a bearded lady or a unicorn. The process was always cumbersome and pushy and way too exhausting for my liking.

Going to school in Arizona I never had to check a coat… I never even had a coat. And then when I graduated and moved in with my roommates (my parents) I didn’t have what many people consider to be a thriving social life. I honestly don’t know if I checked a coat between 2006 and 2009.

But I went to a friend’s birthday party in Manhattan last year in a bar that had way more feet than square feet and against my better judgment, I checked my coat. I quickly forgot about it but was given a brutal reminder of the awfulness that comes with a coat check when I tried to leave.

The coat room was empty but for a giant black wooly mound on the floor. With terror in her eyes the coat check lady looked up at me and said:

“The coat rack broke; all of the coats are on the floor.”

Thank you coat check lady. I can see that.

I think it’s fair to point out that this is why I rarely pre-tip the coat check lady. It seems to me that any time I put a dollar in the coat check ladies bucket at the beginning of the night, it says to her,

Hey do me a favor and make my life a living hell when I try to get this back OK?

Amazingly that night ended with me getting my coat back but I was pretty sure that was my last interaction with a coat check.

Not so much.

Flash forward to New Year’s Eve 2009. Chicago! A swanky price fixed bar! Fancily dressed ladies! A bow tie! What could go wrong?


As we checked our coats downstairs at MARKET BAR in Chicago I felt hesitation, but knew that I was planning to dance and dancing with a coat in hand would inhibit all of my sweet moves.

So we hand off our coats. Megan is number 84, Jen is number 85, and I am number 86. Brilliant. Ticket goes in my pocket. And we go upstairs to celebrate the New Year.

The night was a smash hit (to say nothing of the bow tie) and we had a blast. Around 12:45 we decide we better round up the cattle to go. The line going downstairs for the coat check is understandably long… perhaps 40 or so people. But I figure it should move quickly since it is only a coat check. I give you number, you give me coat. Right?


I’m not sure what happened while we were upstairs dancing but apparently there was seismic shift in the space time continuum because 45 minutes later, the 3 of us still had not gotten our coats and we were now only in the middle of the line.

Why were there no coats to be distributed? Where had they all gone?

Had Rumplestiltskin come by at midnight and spun all the coats into gold? Had there been a coat heist? Had the coats been thrown so far into the closet that they ended up in Narnia? Where the hell were the coats?

Of course it only got worse as drunken idiots from upstairs got on the line. And of course nobody was yelling, or pushing, or being obnoxious.

But the dramatic idiocy of the coat check fiasco got even worse if you can believe it. Every 8 minutes somebody would come out of the closet and say something like,

Does anybody have number 146?

Are you effen kidding me? This isn’t coat bingo. I wasn’t hoping to impress my friends with the sweet ladies pea coat I won on New Year’s, I want my coat!

Does anybody have a Banana Republic coat?

You know who has a Banana Republic coat? Half the frigging yuppies here. Give me my damn coat!

What does your coat look like?

What do you mean what does my coat look like, its black and made of wool like every other winter coat in the known universe. GIVE ME MY MOTHER @#$*% COAT!

Megan finally gets her coat. Soon to be followed by Jen and myself right?


We waited another 20 minutes for Jen to get her coat. So then there was just me in the middle of a frigging riot. I felt like I was battling to get my rice rations from the Vietcong. People are screaming, there are multiple idiots from the Market Bar trying to make things worse for everybody including one dooshbag manager who looks like a pre-pubescent Muppet who starts screaming:

Do you want people to start dying? No? Then back up.

Now I know my training in crisis management is minimal, but I am pretty sure telling people that they might DIE while waiting to get their COAT is not a best business practice.

During the 90 minutes it took me to get my coat I was pushed, prodded, shoved, condescended to, ignored, yelled at, screamed at, and cursed at.

And do you know how I finally was able to get my coat back?

I said to the coat check guy; I am looking at my coat. I can see it. Can you please give it to me?
Finally with coat I thought I was free. Hooray.

Except of course for the drunk girl sitting on the steps who would not let me up, the 45 minute wait in 0 degree weather to catch a cab, and the cops who refused to let people wait inside the bar.

But hey at least I got my coat back right?

At least.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Doogie, The Brie, and Me

Megan’s dog got diarrhea and it’s all because of the fish museum.

Here is how it happened.

This is my friend Megan.
I spent the New Year in Chicago with Megan at her Mom’s apartment. It was a very thoroughly planned out trip, it happened kind of like this.

Richard: What do you want to do for New Years?
Megan: What if we just went to Chicago?
Richard: I’ve already bought the tickets.

So we arrived early on a Wednesday morning. Megan’s lovely mother Barbara picked us up at the airport and brought us back to her beautiful apartment.

I forgot to take a picture of her.

When I got to the apartment I immediately looked for Megan’s younger sister Jaime. This is Jaime.
I ran into Jaime’s room. Jaime was still asleep so I jumped on top of her to wake her up. I was joined by Megan’s very fluffy Mini Australian Sheppard dog named, I’m not kidding here, Doogie Bowser.

Yea. I know. This is Doogie.
We get Jaime out of bed and we stroll into an as yet not painfully cold Chicago to get some breakfast. We filled our bellies at a delightful placed called West Egg and then hopped in a cab to the Shedd Aquarium.

Now, I myself am a huge fan of aquariums. I have been to aquariums in several different states and countries. And while they may not always be amazing, they are always a good time.

Not so much this time.
We get dropped off at the museum and there is a line of several HUNDRED people. The line is so long that it goes down the steps and snakes around the park out front. The line bends so much in fact that in this picture we are in line, but not even at the end of it.
So after about 30 minutes in this line a museum employee comes by and says he can get people inside instantly and starts taking people to get into the “express line.” This employee doesn't explain what the “express line” is but to me this sounds like a scam so Jaime, Megan and I pass and stay outside.

Well after another 20 minutes and another offer to get on the express line I decide to investigate and figure out what the difference is. Basically instead of paying 19 dollars you pay 39 dollars (39 Freaking dollars) which guarantees you a ticket to the 4D movie and a ticket to something at “Fantasea” which sounds like some sort of Burlesque show involving King Neptune and a dolphin.

With our extremities approaching blue we cave and decide to pay the outrageous fee. So they take us inside to the “express line” where we end up waiting for ANOTHER 30 minutes. The only difference is it was indoors.


By the time we finally got our tickets  (including a ticket so see the topless King Neptune show which doesn't start for 3 hours) we were ready for some fish to blow our minds.

As it turns out, every human being in the state of Illinois was at the aquarium. I stepped on the tiny feet of no less than 40 toddlers. We had to wait on a line for everything. A line to see the skinny fish. A line to see the fat fish. A line to get in the elevator. A line to get out of the elevator. It was awful. And we were carrying our coats.

The entire time Jaime keeps raving about the 4D movie because she has seen it before. Jaime tells us this movie is amazing. This movie will change our lives. This movie will make me a good singer and thicken Megan’s hair. This movie is amazing.

This is us waiting on line for it.

We finally get into our life changing movie and does it change our lives?


As it turns out a 4D movie just means that for a 15 minute film they spray water on you, whip your ankles with a string, and poke you in the back with a stick. After that we were cranky and ready to start drinking.

We left the aquarium and abandoned our plan of having lunch somewhere and just went back to the apartment. Extremely pissy and sore (from the pokes in the back) and since the view from Barbara's apartment was so grand we just decided to open a bottle of wine and decompress a little.

Well 1 bottle for 4 people is not nearly enough so we quickly opened another, and Barbara brought out some crackers and a very large, very lavish triangle of brie complete with the rind.

These delicacies were placed in the living room on the coffee table where Megan and Jaime and I sat and nibbled on them while Doogie sniffed around and looked for a cuddle. We didn’t eat much because we were more interested in drinking and bemoaning the dramatic inefficiencies of what I was now calling the Fish Museum.

I say Fish Museum because it did not deserve the title of aquarium. For me an aquarium is a happy place full of fish and joy. Whereas a Fish Museum now means a place where you pay 39 dollars to wait on a hundred lines and get poked in the back.

We were depleted. We couldn’t find enough wrong with the museum from the extra charges, to the misinformation, to the complete lack of order. We had just lost it. We were done.

So when we walked into the kitchen to join Megan’s mother for a third bottle of wine we were starting to feel more than OK. Jaime would tell us later that as we walked into the kitchen she thought to herself that she should maybe bring the Brie with her.

We continued to indulge ourselves in our 3rd bottle of wine and some time before we opened the fourth I wandered back into the living room and saw Doogie next to the coffee table but the brie was gone.

Not have chewed or half consumed but gone as though it had never existed. The plate was completely empty.

Doogie had eaten and entire wedge of Brie, rind and all and was now walking around the house with somewhere around 30 dollars worth of French cheese in his stomach that was going to make his (and Barbara’s) life hell for the next 36 hours.

It quickly became obvious the following morning that Doogie was in a world of hurt. He walked around the house in a listless kind of haze with a look on his face that seemed to say, “What have I done?”

There were many whimpers that came from the poor pooch. Many trips over the door to be let out only to change his mind and turn around when the door was actually opened. He just didn’t know what to do with himself. And in fact every time he came back in from outside, Megan’s poor mother would pick him up and put him in the sink. She would then wash his fluffy little but off so he wouldn’t leave a trace of his poor decision on anything he sat on like he did when he hopped on Megan’s white bed Thursday morning.

Even though he had done some damage Doogie wasn’t done eating.

In fact over the course of 5 days Doogie also ate other things left on the coffee table including:

A small chunk of Boursin cheese
Half a peanut butter bagel
And some eggs over medium

This was all in addition to what he was able to get from the dishwasher.

He was absolutely incorrigible. I would love to say that Doogie learned his lesson this week but I don’t think he did. In fact I am almost positive that if he saw an even larger, stinkier block of Brie on the table tomorrow that he would eat the entire thing without a second thought. So while Doogie didn’t learn anything, I certainly did.

The Chicago fish museum gives dogs diarrhea.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

I'm Done

I've come to a decision: I'm ready to retire.

Now I know what you are thinking. "Rich you are too young and full of pep and zest to head south for the rest of your life!" But I really don't think I am. I've taken stock of the things I enjoy in my life, and the things I would be able to do as a retiree, and aside from the fact that I have no idea how I would be able to support myself financially... I really do think it is about time for me to retire.

As I cross the hump from my early 20s into my late 20s, I have started to wonder: shouldn't I be a millionaire already?

When I was in my teens I looked at 25 as the pinnacle of my life. That would be the year of my prime, the year in which I was wanted by gorgeous women, making tons of money and reveling in my success.Well since rounding 26 and heading deeper into this decade of my life, I realize the only gorgeous women who want me are those who need a jar of jelly opened. I certainly don't make tons of money. And after some unmet expectations, I have redefined success as getting through the whole day with my fly closed.

So if I can't have the life I had anticipated, I might as well fast forward to the end of this movie and head right into retirement. I think it is really the best option at this point.

My parents are retired and living in South Carolina. This is a fine place to retire. Visiting them makes me realize that while I may have to give up certain things I enjoy to live in a place like they do, the benefits to my life would far outweigh any losses I would suffer.

Here is why I think I should retire.

While I enjoy an active and engaging lifestyle I also really like doing nothing. Not the kind of nothing that involves bumming around the house, fiddling with this and that. No. I mean nothing! Staring out the window at a tree kind of nothing. Doing so much nothing that I fall asleep because I am so relaxed. That is the kind of nothing I can really sink my teeth into.

Here is a rough itinerary for the days I typically spend visiting my parents.

Wake up, eat, golf, eat, nap, eat, watch TV, read, eat, sleep.

This is by far the most beautiful schedule I have ever seen. Picasso couldn't have painted a better schedule if he put its nose on the side of its face. Now the activities may switch place or occur in a different order, and once in a while there will be something additional like "shopping" or "visit Savannah" or "eat thirty cookies" thrown in. But for the most part, the schedule here is pretty accurate.

I would like to take this moment to point out that the golf is not a fixed structure on the calendar. While I generally enjoy golf I am so bad at it I really do question why I continue to play. It is a sport that entails a fair amount of adding. And the way I swing the club I have to do a lot of adding. The ball never goes in a straight path. And I usually end up spending half the day walking around the woods like I'm trailing Sacagawea.

Retirement relaxes you... I'm guessing. At least I feel relaxed when I am pretending I am retired. The only reason I even wear my watch when I visit is to make sure I didn't miss my tee time. Otherwise who needs a watch? What was I going to miss? It is always time to eat a cookie and take a nap. Always.

And as for my phone I just leave it in my room. Nobody calls me. The only person that calls me is my friend Megan and I'm pretty much the only person that calls her. So if we both walked around without our phones the only thing we would be wondering about is what the other person is doing.

In fact a lot of the time I turn my phone off. Why not? Nobody is going to call me to ask me to have dinner or hang out or anything like that. All my friends are 800 miles away. Who is calling me? Phone, you can be turned off.

I want to lead a life like these dogs I saw in the backyard of one of the houses on the golf course.

Any place where dogs hang out on lounge chairs has to have something really special about it.

Now maybe you think I am going to miss out on some really important things by skipping right to retirement.

Like what?

Working for 40 more years? Pass. Fighting commuters, crazy cab drivers, and mass hordes or tourists? Pass. Battling the freezing cold? Really pass.

The only concern I have is how I will support myself financially. And to be honest I really don't know how I will do it. But I'm sure there is a lot of money to be made in the untapped market of opening jars for old ladies. And as long as my fly stays up, I will have all the success I need.