Tuesday, March 31, 2009

I'm Goin' Hungry

Seriously, I'm fucking starving! It's not that I can't afford food and it's not that I don't like eating food. It's just that, living Denver, there's nothing to eat. Growing up in Miami, I was privy to fresh seafood, authentic Cuban food, and just about anything that could be transplanted from New York. When I lived in New York, it was New York - the cooks there shit deliciousness from their asses. Now, I live in Denver, which is to gastronomy what Fargo is to flood preparation. I know Denver's a cow town, but in a cow town, you'd at least expect a decent burger. Sadly, the burgers here make veggie burgers seem good.

The best Chinese food in Denver is Italian food with MSG. The best Italian food in Denver is Chinese food with meatballs. The best Sushi in Denver is a McDonald's Filet-O-Fish ordered rare. The best seafood in Denver is a McDonald's Filet-O-Fish. There's a Mexican joint on every corner, but strangely, none of them are better than our beloved Casa Bonita, which is known as much for its scantily clad male cliff divers as it is for giving diners severe diarrhea.

Recently, Denver's become home to numerous "gourmet" restaurants. Fine dining in a cow town is like a fat girl in a tight prom dress, it just doesn't fit. We are not Chicago or San Francisco or even Detroit. Anthony Bourdain doesn't know we exist. Stop opening restaurants that only serve beets and figs and foie gras. Who likes that shit anyway? If I'm gonna eat crap I don't like, I don't want to pay an exorbitant surcharge just because they put creme fraiche on top of it.

Fuck the bistros and the eateries and the gastropubs! What the hell happened to good ol' diners? I'll tell you what happened - SYSCO! No, not Cisco, the networking products company (although their routers are pretty tasty). Sysco, the food distributor, which supplies pre-made products to every diner in Denver. Unfortunately, everything they supply tastes like ass, especially their french fries. How hard is it to make good french fries? Apparently, harder than you'd think. If you see a Sysco truck in front of a restaurant, know that your fries will taste like lint-covered toes.

I can't even go to the chain restaurants. The best of them, Bennigan's was shut down because of the economy. I blame Bush! Benihana's doesn't taste nearly as good as it did when I was 12 and it makes you smell like you slept with an Asian hooker. I've worked at The Outback and I know what they make their steaks out of and I WILL NOT eat steaks at The Outback. Yes, Red Lobster rules, but for some reason, they only exist in remote suburbs, which I stay away from. Fast food isn't an option either. It hangs in my stomach for weeks, leaving me so gassy and bloated that I feel both pregnant and menopausal at the same time.

What the hell should I do to get my sustenance? Eat in?

Until I started watching Top Chef and Hell's Kitchen and Ace of Cakes, I didn't know where to cook Stove Top Stuffing and I didn't know how long to cook Minute Rice. Now, I'm a regular Emeril Lagasse, minus the ability to make things tasty. I say "Bam!" whenever I do anything in the kitchen and hope it will be magically delicious. It's not.

Everything I cook tastes like a rancorous blend of garlic, soy sauce, and spoiled mayonnaise, even eggs and sandwiches and egg sandwiches. I burn Ramen noodles and I freeze Cobb salads. I undercook chicken and I overcook soup. My barbecue skills are sub-par for a straight man - all char, no grill. If you like carcinogens on your brats, I'm your man. I'm such a bad cook, my dog won't even eat my food. She orders take-out!

So, eating out or eating in are not options. If I don't get a decent meal, I might wither down to nothing. Should I move to a city with better food? Should I get hooked up to an intravenous feeding machine? I don't know. All I know is that I'm fucking hungry. Help!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Poker I Damn Near Killed Her

Saturday morning, I decided to prove that my recent success at my monthly home game was not a fluke and that I was ready to become a semi-pro poker player. I drove 40 miles through the magnificent expanse of the Rocky Mountains and arrived at the dingy blight of excess and greed we call Black Hawk. Once there, I entered the ungolden gates of The Golden Gates Casino, where they were holding The Heartland Poker Tour (yes, I'm horrified that I live in what's termed as "the heartland").

I was about to play in a $340 satellite qualifier. If I finished in the top 20% of this game, I would be entered into the main event. If I made the final table of the main event, I would be on television and I would get a piece of the $750K prize pool. I would also be elevated to the status of semi-pro poker player and I would play in huge tournaments and I would win insane amounts of money and everybody would admire me for my poker playing abilities. Or, I wouldn't.

Either way, I woke up at 7:00 AM after a long night of drinking, put on a white tuxedo (don't judge me because I wear a white tuxedo when I play poker) and had high hopes for the day. Strangely, it didn't turn out as I'd planned. First, I had underestimated the effect of being hungover at 8000 feet. I was sick and I was gassy. Second, in my excitement over playing in a "major" poker tournament, I had forgotten how much I hate Black Hawk and the people that go there.

Despite the Indian sounding name, Black Hawk's casinos are not run by Native Americans. You'd be hard pressed to find a single redskin in this town. Black Hawk legalized gambling in 1990 as a way to promote historic preservation. Sure - bring in degenerates, compulsive gamblers, and alcoholics and they'll take care of the legacy of this old mining town. Or, they'll destroy it with exhaust, capitalism, and breakfast buffets. I don't know a single person that goes to Black Hawk to take in the history. It's through and through a gaming paradise. By gaming paradise, I mean it's the only place to legally bet for several hundred miles.

I used to play at a place called The Gun Rummy Club. It was an illegal underground operation in Denver. There were rumors of mafia involvement there and a couple of my fellow players inexplicably died. Plus, most of the people that worked there were assholes. Recently, the owners were indicted for racketeering and the joint was shut down. Even if it was still around, Black Hawk would probably be a better option for getting my game on.

Unfortunately, the casinos at Blackhawk smell like old person. Ever since they banned indoor smoking there, the stench has become magnified tenfold. In Colorado, senior citizens have nothing better to do than to gamble. It's not like they're going to rock climb or snowboard or mountain bike. So, the proprietors of assisted living facilities and senior centers caravan their residents up to "the hill" daily by the hundreds and seat them and their walkers in front of 5 cent slot machines. When they leave, their odor stays. I'm so revolted by it that I can't even eat the $5.99 Prime Rib.

So, hungrily, I registered for the game. Believe it or not, I, with my 75% gray head and wrinkles from 20 years of smoking, got ID'd. What does that say about the rest of the patrons in this town? With my "legal for gambling" wristband, I waited for the game to start. I also watched my adversaries register. Despite it's recent popularity, poker still draws an interesting crowd - rednecks with non-ironic mustaches and NASCAR jackets, Asians with broken English and multiple iPods, poker nerds with sunglasses and hoodies (which, by the way, DO NOT make you a better player). Not exactly my idea of party people.

At my monthly home game, I play with people I like (or can at least tolerate). We shoot the shit, tell jokes, make fun of each other, and play cards. It's enjoyable. At the casinos in Black Hawk, it's not like that. Why, in my right mind, would I choose to spend 5 hours with a bull dyke, a 70 year-old Vietnamese man, a mechanic with a mullet and a Broncos jersey, a woman in a handi-scooter with an oxygen tank, and a 21 year-old kid who thinks he rules the world? I do not know. I do, however, find ways to make this time more bearable.

I cheat. That's right, I peek at my neighbors' hands. I hide Aces in my sleeves. I mark the cards with a Sharpie. Usually, I get caught, but when I claim ignorance, they usually let me slide. I also accuse people of cheating. Nothing is more fun than losing a hand and loudly indicting the player that won for defiling the sacred rules of this age old game.

I fart too. Yes, sitting in tight quarters at a small table with people you don't know is a great opportunity to emit my flatulent scents. No one ever calls me on it. They just accept this as one of the handicaps of playing the game at a high altitude. I also hum and cough and breathe loudly and violently yelp for no reason. And, I create dirty euphemisms for every action that could possibly occur during the game (e.g. "sucking the lactating nipple" means raising the bet; "plugging the anal fistula" means folding a hand). I like destroying concentration and ruining fun for innocent people, especially when they are sitting at my poker table.

Armed with my arsenal of distractions, I was all set to play in The Heartland Poker Tour. On my second hand, I knocked out a guy that looked like Charles Manson (currently) with a nut flush I nabbed runner runner on the turn and the river (yeah, I know the fucking lingo!). Manson didn't like that one bit. He stood on the sidelines the rest of my time in the game staring at me like I was Vincent Bugliosi. Yikes!

I sat for another couple of hours upsetting everyone and waiting to make a move. The overweight woman across from me took an insulin shot at the table. Uh huh, she was treating with her diabetes while I was trying to play poker. Come on! Then, a cocky kid that thinks poker's cool because Ben Affleck plays tried to muscle me out when I had pocket kings. That little bitch learned his lesson. I was on fire. When I got ace queen suited, I was ready to put this tourney to bed. I went all in, hoping for a caller.

A "chick" that looked exactly like Billie Jean King (shit, it probably was Billie Jean King) called me. She had pocket fives. I was clearly in the lead, but hit nothing. Just like that, I was out. Everybody that had to deal with my boisterous behavior and malodorous ass emissions stood up and applauded. I grabbed my white tuxedo jacket and left the table angrily.

On my way home, I decided that I no longer wanted to become a semi-pro poker player. Forget the fact that I wasn't good enough to win a regional satellite qualifier. I didn't want to spend the rest of my life going to places like Black Hawk and spending time with people who annoy and sometimes downright scare me. I think I'm just going to stick with my monthly home game. It's closer, it's cheaper, and my friends don't bastardize me for trying to entertain myself during the tedium of the game.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Living Will

I've been thinking a lot about death lately. Not because I've already reached the statistical halfway point in my life. Not because the cigarettes I constantly smoke make that statistical halfway point actually a three quarter way point. Not because my devouring of fried food, avoidance of exercise, and functional alcoholism make that three quarter way point actually a nine tenth way point. No, the reason my thoughts have been focused on the expiration of existence is that I'm considering writing a living will.

According to Wikipedia, a living will "covers specific directives as to the course of treatment that is to be taken by caregivers should the principal be unable to give informed consent." Essentially, it allows me to call the shots if something terrible happens.

I need a living will because I want to be able to speak, even when I can only drool. I want power, even when I can't get a hard-on. I don't want anyone else making a decision about whether I should live or die. That's my call. If I can't shit on my own, I at least want to determine if I should breathe on my own.

For the most part, I'm going to opt in favor of pulling the plug. I'm lazy. There aren't many situations where it's easier to live than to die. Working isn't easier than collecting unemployment. Sitting through a post-1988 Eddie Murphy movie isn't easier than leaving the theater. Pleading guilty isn't easier than staying on house arrest in your $17 million dollar apartment (unless your name is Bernie Madoff, apparently).

So, my living will basically will be a list of situations that would make my life no longer worth living. For example, if I'm brain dead (not just from too many roofies), I'd like to be euthanized. Or, if I somehow become paralyzed Stephen Hawking-style, I'd like to be wheeled into traffic (despite what I may type with that little straw joystick thing). Or, if I'm in the late stages of Parkinson's disease, I'd like to be shot before I start making TV specials about optimism like Michael J. Fox.

Here are some other instances where, in my living will, I will ask to be put out of my misery:

- If I get post-nasal drip.
- If I become lactose intolerant. Seriously, if I can't eat cheese, I don't want to live.
- If I'm mauled by a chimp.
- If the government takes away the bonus I was promised for the work I did at AIG.
- If I go bald and shave my head like every fucking schmuck that lost his hair at 25, but still thinks he's tough.
- If The Jonas Brothers or Miley Cyrus or Fallout Boy release an album that is touted as, "actually very good" or "a well received departure".
- If I lose my ability to discern between good underground music and crappy music that was cleverly placed in the underground by corporate entities just so hipsters would be under the false impression that it is good underground music.
- If soon, dogs don't reach the next step in the evolutionary maturation process by walking upright.
- If I'm forced to attend an America's Next Top Model audition.
- If I find Jesus, if I start going to temple again, or if I even entertain the thought of hearing more about Scientology.
- If, after Bush's wrongs are a distant memory, I start saying that he was actually very intelligent (like everybody does with Nixon).
- If I start complaining that Obama is socializing our country. I've been to Cuba. We are not and we will never be a socialist country. Trust me!
- If I have a child who is a methface or a wideclops.
- If the press doesn't stop covering the Octomom or Nancy Grace doesn't shut the fuck up about the Tot Mom.
- If I become a lawyer.
- If I start wearing Dad Jeans or my wardrobe is strictly comprised of Tommy Bahama patterned shirts.
- If I start enjoying musical theater.
- If I wake up after a long night of drinking with this lady next to me.
- If I have to return to using MySpace.
- If whatever happened to Seal's face happens to my face.

You get the picture! Nobody should have to suffer through the aforementioned plagues. If you're my care giver, don't fuck around! Heed my living will. At the first site of anything on my list, pull the plug. If I'm not on life support, put me on it, then pull the plug. If that won't kill me, call Dr. Kevorkian's disciples and get them to do their murderous magic. If that doesn't work, put me in the ghetto wearing a racist sandwich board, like in Diehard 3. Or hire Fletch or that guy from No Country for Old Men. Just do what you gotta do. Or, don't. That's your call.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

We All Gotta Duck

True story...last week, my mother was leaving Publix in Hollywood (Florida, not California) when she came across a woman who had to be at least 90 years-old. With a cane and a hunch and tattered shoes, the old lady was struggling to walk down the street. A sensitive liberal Jew, my mom felt bad. So, she pulled up next to her and asked if she needed a ride.

The old lady got in my mom's car and they drove to the bus station. Once the old lady got out, my mom felt like a saint. Twenty minutes later, at Walgreens paying for a prescription, she discovered that her wallet was gone. Soon, she discovered that her cell phone AND her Kindle were gone too. My mother had been burglarized by a seemingly helpless old lady she tried to help. Normally, I'd be exasperated. However, in this economy, nothing surprises me.

The government calls it a recession. That's putting it mildly. We're not receding, we're straight up bald! This is a depression, my friends. Our economy hasn't been in such turmoil since 1929. The Dow keeps dropping, people keep losing their jobs, nearly 20% of houses are in foreclosure, big business are closing their doors each day. This is a goddamn crisis! So yes, I understand when people go to great lengths to survive, even if those lengths involve robbing my sweet mums.

In their 1983 song "When The Shit Hits The Fan", The Circle Jerks sing, "In a sluggish economy inflation, recession, hits the Land of the Free. Standing on an employment line. Blame the government for hard times. We just get by, however we can. We all gotta duck when the shit hits the fan."

Fuck, man! The shit has hit the fan.

Our revered president thinks he can fix this. I love Barry-O as much as the next guy. Still, I'm not really counting on his plan. He's spending all the stimulus money on bank bailouts and highway construction. Maybe I'm wrong, but I never knew loan officers and construction workers to be big spenders. I was under the assumption that bankers were stingy and road laborers were criminals. Are these disparate demographics going to come together and all of a sudden rescue our financial markets? I doubt it.

Chairman of the Fed, Ben Bernanke (a Bush appointee) says the "recession" will be over by the end of 2009. It won't. It's gonna last for a long time. And things are only gonna get worse. It's my prediction that America will end up a third world country. Instead of doing the outsourcing, we're going to be outsourced to. We'll be the ones answering tech support calls for Indians, faking a Hindi accent, pretending our names are Sanjay or Padma. We'll be eating whatever we can afford - guinea pigs like in Peru, cats like in Vietnam, people like in New Guinea. We'll be illegally crossing the borders to get into Mexico so we can wash dishes at their American restaurants. It's possible!

Even if we don't become a third world country, it's gonna be tough. If unemployment keeps rising and people keep getting kicked out of their homes, we'll be living in shanty towns, like during the Great Depression. Will our shantys have wi-fi and digital cable? Will we pay for our shantys with interest-only loans? I do not know.

And if the government keeps spending money on fruitless stimulus packages, our deficit is going to get huge. This might make our debtors nervous. Will they break our collective legs if we don't pay the vig? Will they try to repossess our country? What if China calls our loans? Will they move in and make America its own? Will they force us to sing karaoke, drive slow, and indulge in bizarre sexual fetishes? Maybe.

Either way, if everybody's poor, a lot of things are gonna change. The homeless will have more competition for their panhandling pursuits. Liquor stores will sell out of MD 20/20 and Night Train. Potato sacks will become the newest fashion craze. Hobos will be angry that there's not enough room on the trains they're hopping. Most everyone will be angry, like Michael Douglas in Falling Down (that's actually good because McDonald's will be forced to start serving breakfast after ten).

The shit has hit the fan and the shit will continue hitting the fan until we're so covered in shit that we're like the little kid that jumps in the Porta-Potty in Slumdog Millionaire. We're gonna at least need some relief. Give us rations, like in Iraq (hell, we're worse off here than there). Open up the soup lines. Start dropping the free loaves of bread and the 5 lb. blocks of cheese. I love cheese. The only thing better than cheese is free cheese.

Maybe I'm exaggerating. My house hasn't been foreclosed on and my business is still thriving. I'm just sick and tired of reading about doom and gloom constantly. I can't stop writers from writing though. All I can do is join 'em. So, like Tracy Jordan when he was on Larry King, I'm feeding the fire. Good luck and duck!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Shitter

For the past year or so, all of my geek friends (and I have A LOT of geek friends) have been hounding me to join Twitter. I'm already on Facebook, LinkedIn, Plaxo, MySpace, Bebo and every other social networking site that some starry-eyed entrepreneur launched during the great social networking gold rush of '05. I also blog, I use Flickr, I steal music and movies, I play online poker and Scrabble, and I'm addicted to Internet porn. Do I really need another way to waste my time in front of the computer? According to the growing legions of Twitterers, the answer is a resounding yes.

So, last week, I sat down and filled out a short form. The next thing you know, I, too, am a Twitterer. When I logged on to my Twitter homepage, I expected to find the greatest advancement in communication since speech. I expected to find the true meaning of cyber life. I expected to find Nirvana. I didn't. What I found was a tool for posting and reading status updates. That's it!

There's this scene in The Kids in the Hall's classic film Brain Candy, where a pharmacist announces his next big idea for a drug. In a large board room surrounded by executives, he proclaims, "Well, I've invented a pill that gives worms to ex-girlfriends." The CEO asks him what's positive about that and he responds, "Well, it's a pill that gives worms to ex-girlfriends." The CEO then asks him if it could also give worms to ex-boyfriends and he resolutely responds, "This is a drug for the world to give worms to ex-girlfriends!!" That's Twitter - it allows you to post and read status updates. Nothing more, nothing less.

Then why, you may ask, is everybody going so crazy over it? Well, I have this theory - Twitter is a cult. Don't believe me? The readers of your posts, which they refer to as tweets, are called "followers". When you're reading somebody else's tweets, you're "following". They also encourage you to "invite" followers and they "suggest" people you might follow. Isn't that how Scientology operates? Isn't that how Heaven's Gate convinced people to put on Nikes and jump on a comet? If Jim Jones hadn't sipped his own Kool-Aid, I'm pretty sure he'd be sipping the Twitter Kool-Aid.

Another, more plausible theory is that our celebrity-obsessed culture has made humans desperate for recognition and fame. From reality television to gossip blogs, the mainstream media has programmed us to believe that we're nobody unless we're somebody. Unfortunately, most people are either too lazy or too stupid to do anything worthy of recognition. With Twitter, they can just type in what they're thinking, and soon, somebody will know they exist. In their own little microcosm, they will become famous.

IMHO (yeah, I now use internet acronyms), the worst part about Twitter is that users are expected to tweet multiple times each day. There's even an "auto-nudge" feature that reminds you to tweet if you haven't done so in the previous 24 hours. Sadly, people tweet a helluva lot more than once every 24 hours. Who has all this time?? Where do people get a minute every ten minutes to post something? Maybe that's why our economy is in the shitter. Nobody's working, they're all tweeting.

Regardless, I don't care if you're Abraham Lincoln reincarnated as Keith Richards and you're banging the love child of Rosa Parks and Adolf Hitler, you're still not interesting enough to post thirty-eight updates a day. Subsequently, most tweets are mundane or redundant or just plain disturbing. For example:

"I'm walking from this room into the other room. Maybe later, I'll walk into another room."
"Angelina Jolie has a mustache. Did you see the picture everybody else blogged about 9 hours ago?"
"Bacon tastes better when marinated in human blood. Don't believe me? Try it! Virgin blood works best!"

Also, like Faceholes, Twitterers create and perpetuate idealized versions of themselves and their lives. Everybody is hip and intelligent and successful and happy in the Twittersphere. Nobody ever says they had a bad day because they have severe hemorrhoids and Preparation H just won't cut it. Nobody ever says their tastes in music and film are lame and they never read that book everybody's tweeting about about and, in fact, they haven't read a book since freshman year...of high school. Nobody ever says that their kid was recently diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome, which is a relief because they thought he was just an asshole.

On Twitter, everything's great. We're not in a depression. Business is booming. Everyone's rich. Everyone travels to exotic destinations. Everyone's in love. Everyone's good looking. Nobody's marriage is about to crumble. Nobody's face is grossly deformed. Nobody's suicidal. Nobody's homicidal. Nobody just contracted syphilis. Nobody just masturbated. Nobody hates Jews. Come on! This isn't the real world. It's a stupid fantasy land Twitterers choose to live in, almost like Second Life or World of Warcraft. Twitterers don't see it that way though.

They see Twitter as this big technological revolution. They see Twitter as the future. The use words like microblogging or short-form journaling to describe their witless activity. Spoiler Alert: they're just posting and reading status updates. It's not a movement, it's a sham. Twitter is sort of like Pabst Blue Ribbon. PBR is a horrible beer that tastes like urine. Because of marketing and press, we've been convinced that it's cool. Now, everybody's drinking it.

Yes, Twitter is stupid. Does that mean I'm going to deactivate my account? Probably not. I, too, am an attention whore. My life is shit, but for a few brief moments, I like pretending that it's not. In 140 word increments, I can convince myself and my followers that I have something important to say. And, if I keep tweeting, maybe one day I could finally start a cult of my own. I'll call it The Branch Gellmidians!