Monday, October 25, 2010

Cub Scout Camping Trip - Yay! (Read with Sarcastic Inflection)

I hate camping. Period. End of sentence. Outdoorsman is not the first, second or 30th word people use to describe me. It has been over 25 years since my last camping trip. That last line kinda sounds like something from an AA meeting doesn't it?

My first (and only) experience camping before this past weekend was when my parents took me to Maine in the summer for a nice rendezvous with nature. Sounds nice except for the fact that we suffered through two days of torrential rains in a Caldor tent. Of course the tent flooded and we ended up sleeping in my Dad's van for the entire weekend. Once the rains subsided and the sun came out we dried off. That was fine until mosquito's the size of Volkswagen's showed up to turn my pre-teen body into one giant itchy bug bite.

With that back story how could I say no to my son when he expressed great interest in camping out with his Cub Scout Pack up at the lake in town? So with my emotional and physical camping baggage packed the kid and I headed to the lake with my fingers and toes crossed that it wouldn't be too terrible.

Sometimes it pays to be guardedly pessimistic. Because my expectations were so low - the camping trip actually turned out to be almost OK. The kid had a blast - learning to lash together a wood stool, running around the woods with his buddies, roasting marshmallows by the campfire.And I must say I had an OK time too talking to some of the fathers and hanging out by the campfire.

But it wasn't all male bonding and kumbaya. The problems started when it was sleepy time. As soon as we retired to the faux-chateau it immediately started raining. Oh - and it got pretty cold. Certainly colder than my Walmart special sleeping bags could handle (you would think I would have learned after the Caldor tent, right?) And then there's this newsflash - the ground is hard. Really hard. I don't recommend sleeping on it directly. There are reasons why the mattress and box spring were invented.

So I woke up around 6:30 the next morning feeling every second of my 38 years. My son awoke a little cold but very pleased with himself. I could tell he felt he had accomplished something. He had braved the wilderness with his old man and lived to tell the tale. It was quite an exciting adventure for the little man and that made my minor discomfort worth it.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

A Little Bit of East Germany in Midtown

Have you eaten at a restaurant with sections of the Berlin Wall adorning the entryway? No? Well guess who has - Me!

This piece of history hangs outside Alto - a two Michelin star restaurant in New York City. You would think that Alto serves Sauerbraten and Wiener Schnitzels but you would be wrong. It's a modern Northern Italian establishment. So what's with all the concrete and graffiti? I don't see the relationship.

That is really the only complaint I have with the place. Wait...I do have another. I knew this dinner was going to be expensive but getting the check felt like being punched in the face. That said, dinner was bordering on orgasmic. I don't eat at such places every week but my father was having a big birthday and he wanted to try this joint so we schlepped to the City to celebrate. Nice job Dad. This was my entree. Nice rack if I dare say...

However my favorite part of the dining experience had to be my uncle requesting the much ballyhooed truffle shavings on his pasta entree. The waiter's eyes twinkled with delight.

"Yes Sir, the truffle. You know it's $95 yes?"

I've not seen a man's face contort in the way that my uncle's did upon receiving this news.

"Really?" was all he could muster in reply.

He didn't get the truffles and our waiter departed looking like a fisherman who just missed landing the Big One.

I did find it interesting that even with millions of people in this country suffering economically, this swanky restaurant was packed. Recession? What recession? The seven course tasting menu for $130 per person? Not a problem for the beautiful people around us. Maybe it's a good sign. Maybe I've glimpsed the light at the end of the tunnel. Or maybe we were just seated in a restaurant with really really wealthy people.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Stay at Home Dad Credit Crisis

As our cars both get up there in years and mileage my wife and I have started to talk about replacing at least one of them before the wheels fall off or the engine seizes. Being practical people we have vowed not to buy a brand new car but to get a slightly used car ostensibly saving us some depreciation costs. Good plan right?

So I took the bull by the horns today and located the exact yuppie wagon my Darling has set her sights on. Leather interior, climate control, MP3 hookup - the whole nine. So I called the dealer, spoke for a while and then started to give him some info to find out what kind of a loan rate they could give us.

The light bulb went off when the dealer asked:

"Who is your employer?"

"Uh, wait, umm...well I don't currently work so I'm guessing I wouldn't currently qualify for a loan."

With that I rendered the previously loquacious salesman  totally silent.

"I mean, you probably will need to speak to my wife who actually is employed."

"Yes, that would be great," the relieved salesman replied with visions of his commission still dancing in his head,  "Is she available?"

"No, she's actually working," I inform him. "But we'll be in tomorrow to take a look at the car."

Pleasantries were exchanged and I hung up the phone with a new realization. I wouldn't qualify to buy shit right now. I am completely dependent on my wife for any real buying power these days. It's a weird position to be in. I guess I'm OK with it as long as she's OK with it but I've never in my adult life had no answer for
"So who is your employer?"