Monday, June 17, 2013

School's Out For-Evah!

The one day in the kid-year that has the ability to rival gift-giving and candy-eating holidays in terms of build-up anticipation, excitement, and all-around awesomeness is the last day of school.  Christmas and birthdays are the natural kings due to the simple fact that they're both filed with things that are (1) shiny and (2) sugary; however, the last day of school overcomes its disadvantages and earns its way into kids' hearts by being that one unique day that opens a door to three months of unmitigated freedom (Editor's note:  the degree of freedom experienced by most is probably a little mitigated, but you know what I mean).  But I've come to realize that as you grow up and get a job, the magic of that last day of school is lost.  Most of us (respect to our readers in the EU) don't get a summer vacation--in fact, my job ramps up as the summer progresses.  We find ourselves moving further and further away from the feelings we had as kids--where one day served as a gateway to sleeping in, no homework, and playing Wiffle ball in the street until it was time to catch lightning bugs.  So with 5th grade teacher She's summer vacation now upon us, I got to thinking:  what was I doing right now when I was that age?  Fifth graders are, what, 10 or 11?  What was 10-year-old G up to?

Go back to June 1994.


The end of my school year was highlighted by Field Day, which was a sophisticated inter-class all-day track meet put on by our gym teacher Mr. Brown.  Homerooms competed against each other, and based on performances and points, one class would win and get a trophy.  It was a huge deal!  Our school didn't have a track, so Mr. Brown measured out distances and painted a track on the grass, complete with lanes.  Nowadays, such an event could never happen.  I'm sure someone would complain that it was too competitive (it was--with chants and weeks of trash-talking) and that the teachers were too into it (they were--methinks there was a bar bet involved?)  That day, the track Gods looked down upon me favorably.  I'm unsure as to whether or not Field Day still exists in the form that I know, but as of a few years ago, I was STILL the school record-holder in the 50m dash.  

About a week before school got out, I got to witness something that, given the last 19/20 years and before that, the previous 54, I may never get a chance to see again:  the Rangers won the Stanley Cup.  For the benefit of all but the 16 of us who actually watch the sport, I'll keep my commentary relatively brief.  The Rangers' run through the playoffs that year was nothing short high-drama, with the Eastern Conference Finals against Jersey producing one of the best seven-game series ever.  Overtime losses here, shutouts there, a guaranteed win in the New York media, and Matteau!  Matteau!  Matteau!  Good stuff.  Anyway, Game 7 of the Finals was tense, and that was the first time I remember my mother on the literal edge of her seat (SHE got me into hockey).  I stayed up way past my bedtime that night as my mom told me about watching Fast Eddie and the GAG line.  The Rangers took a 3-1 lead into the third in what became the longest, most high-strung twenty minutes of my young life.  Vancouver got one back, and when LaFayette rang the post with about 5 minutes left, there was a collective shriek in our house.  

But then this.  And this.  And on June 17th (hey, that's today!), this.

On the last day of school, my dad pulled me out early to go here, and for a first round game, it was ridiculous.  Italy-Norway, and my chance to see MaldiniBaresi (it was actually the game that he got hurt), and Il Divin' Cordino (whom would later send my summer into despair, but that isn't the focus right now).  A fantastic game--one that I still have on VHS and will out every now and again.  Cagey Italian style possession-style until they finally converted on a free kick in the 63'. Pagliuca even saw red for coming out to defend a breakaway and handling the ball outside 18 yards!  Italians travel well, and to NYC, they travel REAL well.  That was easily the most crowded I'd seen the old Giants Stadium (Giants tickets are expensive and the Jets are, well, the Jets).  We yelled, we sang, and we learned a few words that we couldn't say in front of mom.

June 17th, 1994 also saw my routine broken.  My childhood TV-viewing schedule up-ended and discarded without so much as an apology.  The 17th was a Friday, and who remembers TGIF??  I remember this night vividly, and I couldn't tell you why other than I was waiting for an episode of Boy Meets World that never came.  Never!  Instead, I was force-fed Channel 7 Eyewitness News watching a live feed from LA all because SOME GUY was in a WHITE BRONCO.  

My father didn't understand why anyone wanted him, considering he hadn't scored a touchdown in 20 years. 

Date yourselves, kids.  It was THAT long ago.  

Question of the day:  what did you do when you were 10?

G, age 10. 

Monday, July 2, 2012

The Dream Of The 90’s Is Alive in Portland

She said:
When I told my esthetician that G and I were heading to Oregon for a family vacation she was shocked I had never seen the show Portlandia.  She proceeded to go into hilarious detail about her favorite clips(see video below).  This was the perfect way to get in the mood for our She Said G Said Oregon Tour 2012!

PicMonkey Collage
Favorite stops along the She Said G Said Oregon Tour 2012 (be sure to click the links to learn more):
-Salt and Straw  A fresh made ice cream shop that changed our limited grocery store flavor views of ice cream and made our taste buds explode!  Strawberry balsamic with black pepper… yes please! Cough cough.  The black pepper did cause my sinuses to briefly stuff up but the delicious ice cream was well worth the sniffles.   
-Obsidian Flow Trail was an easy hike with spectacular views.
-Horseback riding at Sunriver stables
She and G pub crawl favorites:
-Deschutes Brewery  was a must stop for G while in Bend.
- 10 Barrel outdoor seating, great food, better beer
Oregon Wine Tasting Favorites (I was in Pinot Heaven):
-Penner Ash
-Panther Creek Cellars
-On this blog we have mentioned Oakville Grocery in Healdsburg, CA many times!  Well, we have officially found a Oakville Grocery twin in Dundee, Oregon!  Dare I say we may like this place even more.  Be sure to check out Red Hills Market if you are ever in Dundee wine tasting.  G and I shared the Hill Farms smoked ham with spiced honey butter and gruyere cheese, roasted in the wood fired oven. OHMYWORD!  We also split a wood fired pizza.  After lots of silence, and devouring every last bite of our delicious lunch, we walked over to the bocce ball court where G kicked my bocce ball butt!
-Willamette Valley Cheese After a day of wine tasting, we stumbled upon Willamette Valley Cheese on the way to Salem.  At Willamette Valley Cheese a large black board behind the counter lists the cheeses to sample that day.  Flavors include: blueberry, horseradish, gouda, smoked, dill, you name it they have it!  G bought TONS of cheese.  In fact, we made a stop at Walgreens in Salem to purchase a cooler so we could haul our cheese treasures back to California.  Yesterday, G made an omelet with aged sharp cheddar and we briefly relived our delicious Oregon vacation memories. 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Omaha, Somewhere in Middle-America

A question from She this weekend:

You drove cross-country seven times.  In your travels back and forth from Jersey to California, what were your favorite adventures along the way?  What surprised you about the United States?  Any tips for those road-tripping cross-country and are there any must-see places?

That's right, kids--I've been back and forth seven (count 'em--seven) times when I was working on the East Coast and going to wine school on the West Coast.  But before I go making a hero out of myself, I've gotta say that my father came along and split the driving.  So in honor of Father's Day being today, I present to you "America:  With My Dad."

Trips weren't so much vacations as they were relocations--either I was finishing the semester and going to work an internship or the job was done and I was leaving the winery (just in time for harvest) and coming back to school (again, just in time for harvest).  I can't exactly tell you where the nation's largest ball of yarn is, nor do I have a picture of myself next to Old Faithful (which would have been cool--we just didn't go that way), but my dad and I have some tales from the road that are special to us and that we'll be telling for quite some time.  

The standard route looked a little something like this:

Google Maps

Started in Jersey, taking 78W to the PA Turnpike where we picked up 70W to Utah.  After cutting across the desert, we hit 15N and took that to Salt Lake City, where we go on 80W.  Easy enough--lots of long stretches and a helluva lot of corn.  I realize that we live in an age where everyone likes to think globally and that when we plan to travel, we think of going abroad.  I'm all for that, but keep in mind that America is BIG...I mean huge, man.  Do you realize that it's almost as far from New York to San Francisco as it is from New York to London?  When I was growing up, I had the perception that our country looked kinda like this:

Everything immediately over the Hudson is Jersey, but then the rest of the country is really a void--DC might as well be in Mexico (far left) and all other places of significance are out there in the flyover space somewhere.  And of all the major cities, why is Kansas City featured? You might have to watch this movie to figure that one out.  So a beautiful vision, yes, but not terribly accurate.  Most of this country is gorgeous, and if you get an opportunity to see it, take it.

Dad and I would usually leave on a Sunday and try to average somewhere around 700 miles a day--you go a little longer in the plains to make up for the time that you lose going through the mountains.  At the end of the first day, we were in Indianapolis.  I'm sure it's a great town, but it was never one that we actually explored.  Dad and I would look for the Big 3 when stopping for the night:  (1) Comfort Inn, (2) decent affordable gas, and (3) an establishment that served both steak and beer (not as much of a given as you may think--especially in certain western states).  With our criteria satisfied, we'd leave Indy with little fanfare.  It wasn't until the second day that we'd start hitting landmarks:

And, of course,

We're going to call this one "Before."

Some time right around lunch on day 3, 6 hours from Kansas City and still another 4 from Denver, my dad spotted an oasis in the nothing-ness.  Call it a knack, call it the Force, call it hunger--whichever--he found his favorite Chinese joint EVER in the middle of Colby, Kansas.  What made it his favorite?  Selection, price ($5), location, and desire.  Going to and from, we stopped there always, and we actually planned our day around it (ex. "If we leave at 7, we'll be in Colby by 12:30 for lunch").  So to the owners of the China Buffet in Colby, Kansas:  I don't know if you'll ever read this tribute to you, floating somewhere in the Outer Rim of the blog-universe, but you've made us very happy. 

The road is not without its share of perils, however.  On our first trek, dad got stopped by a Kansas State Trooper (who could not have been a day older than I) for 78 in a 75 (I kid you not).  Though we were let off with a warning, I got a few laughs in at his expense and our respect for Kansas troopers hit new lows.

Bro had never seen a last name end in a vowel before.
I'm often asked what my favorite part of the country was, and the answer is simple.  Colorado.  Every inch of it.  Hell, even their grasslands and deserts are classy and well-kept--like they pay golf course grounds crews weekend-overtime just to take care of them.  Going 70W through Denver led us here:

The Eisenhower Tunnel sends you to hyperspace.

And on the other side, we came out here:

Another favorite stop of ours was this little establishment in Silverthorne--great people and killer sandwiches...

Murphy's Irish Pub.  Hit 'em up.

Came down out of the Rockies, and now we followed the Colorado River into southern Utah...

I've been through the desert in a town with no name....

Most of Utah looks like this..
Right now is where I give my one piece of advice:  if you ever decide to road-trip it for a few days, make sure that you go with a buddy.  There are stretches with not much to see or do and it's real easy to fall into a tunnel-vision trap and possibly go insane.  No radio, either, so unless your iPod is stocked (Dad preferred audio stand-up comedy, referring to my Jeff Buckley as "noise") you'll be listening to the sound of wind for 9 hours.  Did I mention conversation?  Nice to have someone to talk to....especially if it's your dad.  We didn't always have to talk to each fact, we'd go for hour-stretches when we'd say nothing at all.  But when we did, it was prime-time to talk about life or sports or family.

Dad's favorite gas station...because of its isolation.  The only
game in town for hundreds of miles, and baby, do they gouge!

You like outlaws?  Some cool stuff--

Robert Redford did him proud.

No wonder he hid's a long way down.

Once we picked up 80 in Salt Lake City, we hit the most desolate terrain in America.  That Salt Desert is no joke.  Crystalline and white, it looks like snow but isn't.  The reflection of the sun off the surface gives the land a weird bluish-white glow, and we got the impression that we were on another planet.  No photo can do that justice--something that needs to be experienced to be fully understood.  

Westbound 80 from Utah to Nevada is a missile test range and (trivia time!) the first atomic bomb was actually detonated outside Wendover, NV.  I say they didn't finish the job.  

Remember how I said that most of America is beautiful?  Well, there are also parts of it that were never meant to be seen.  Wendover is one of them.  The best way that I can describe it would be something like this:  have you ever seen "Back to the Future"?  Marty goes back to the 50s and gets his parents to meet and go to the Enchantment Under the Sea Dance.  Eventually, he comes home to the present.  Wendover, however, does not.  The town is an eclectic blend of EconoLodges and chromed-out D-list casinos.  We couldn't leave quick enough.  

Nevada on 80 is lonely (but at least it isn't 50), but we soon came close to the end of our Odyssey...

Four days, 3100 miles, a few steaks, a few beers, 8 tanks of gas....and here we are.  Try it sometime.  

Wine of the Week:  2009 Domaine des Malandes Chablis 1er Cru.  Great, affordable top-flight Chablis for the masses.  Awesome high-acid white for a 100+ degree weekend.

What I learned today:  filters on your vacuum should be replaced every year.

What did you learn today?

Thursday, June 14, 2012

School’s Out For Summer

Before summer vacation officially began G and I got a little antsy and needed to get away.  I was in the midst of packing up my classroom, winding down the year, and we were both overwhelmed with work.   A mini vacation over Memorial Day Weekend to Occidental, CA was just the ticket to get us in the summer frame of mind.  Occidental is the perfect sleepy town treasure!  In between the coast and wine country you can’t go wrong with the nice people and great views not to mention I have become quite a Pinot lover and apparently the Sonoma Coast is a Pinot lover’s paradise.  We drove through Napa to get to Occidental.  We were in no hurry and wanted to take the roadtrip nice and easy.  As a pit stop along the route we stopped by Round Pond Winery (beautiful view so-so wine) and then we lucked out and snagged an appointment at Failla Winery (one of our personal favorites).  Sun roof open and a Fleetwood Mac Pandora station blaring through the car speakers, we continued on our way. 




Once in Occidental, our favorite winery of the weekend was Lynmar Estates.  The Pinot here was beyond!  

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                                                                                                                       I can’t wait to try my own strawberry and mint infused water a la Lynmar. 


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                     The fastest wine spinner around! 


Here are some other hi-lights from our Occidental weekend. 

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On the last day of school, G’s family came in to town from New Jersey!  This was the first time G’s family met my mom.  In no time our families were laughing, sharing stories, enjoying routines like breakfast every morning on the patio, piling into the Honda Odyssey, mom’s sitting together in the third row of seats.  G drove and drove with his dad enjoying the father-son chats.  California Dreamin’ the theme of the week.  First we landed in Monterey on the 17 mile drive.  The cold and the wind did not deter us and the golfer’s on the greens were blown around as well.  Even a bride straddling the rugged coast rocks, buffeted by 50 mile an hour wind and cold, smiled for the camera man.  Some of G’s wine rounded out a picnic lunch located on picnic tables by the market.  Next stop the lodge where we shared chocolate fondue and watched the golfers on the 18th hole, sipping French wine!   Devine!   Barbequed steaks and corn rounded out our first day of vacation fun!  G’s mom sent pictures to New Jersey to share with her colleagues.   We all became bird watchers as the day progressed.  G’s mom had her California Bay area bird card and we helped her spot the song birds.  Next day, a 7:00 a.m. departure, put us in Napa for our first wine tasting appointment at our favorite winery, Lancaster Estate.  We love their wine.  G presented the very gracious hostess with a bottle of 1997 Lancaster Cabernet that he found on a shelf in San Jose.  The cork was a challenge, but every sip gave us pause, realizing just how well the Lancaster Wines age.  When we left, our wonderful hostess presented G with a complimentary bottle.  We were in high spirits as we headed down the road to Healdsburg to have lunch at the Oakville Grocery, where the best sandwiches are sold.  Next stop was a feast for our eyes, no wine tour, just a table on the terrace over looking the far reaching view at Domaine Carnaros.  Our 2:00 appointment at Reverie was fast approaching.  The Redwood Grove and Messy, the wine maker’s terrier are just some of the finer delights at Reverie.  Our tour guide was a former school principal, so my mom and I felt an immediate bond with her.  Strangely enough she was flying to New Jersey that night with her 90 year old mom.  Small world.  Time for a fine dining experience!  Brix restaurant on the highway 29 in Napa did not disappoint!  Before heading home, we enjoyed the gardens in the rear of the restaurant where the lettuce, herbs and grape vines greet the guests.  Sunday was a coasting day!  The mom’s walked the Los Gatos Creek trail and looked for birds and shared stories.  A text alert was sent at 11:00 with the news that Ridge Winery in Cupertino would be the adventure for the day!  The mini van trucked up the mountain.  G managed the hairpin curves, but G’s sister and Mom were not happy that the road had no guard rails.  They were ready for a drink when we reached the top and the car was ready for a cool down.  Only amazing wines to be had at Ridge!!!  And to add to the enjoyment, there is a view of the Santa Clara Valley; off to the right, San Francisco is in the panoramma!  Cheese, crackers, salad that I packed and wine was enjoyed by all at the picnic tables on the property.  New Jersey request was seafood for dinner so salmon on the barby was served up by the pool.  Yum.  By now we have our inside jokes, we are asking G’s sister to do another hand stand each day for a photo shoot, mom’s are sharing wine out of the same glass and things are so easy and fun!!!  Watching pro golfers in San Francisco was the next adventure at the Olympic Club, watching pre-US Open golfers practice for the big event.  G’s aunt joined us for dinner at Sinbad’s Pier 2 Seafood restaurant on the wharf. The view of the Bay Bridge and the ferry action made the dining experience memorable!    Next day was mellow, we shopped at Santana Row, where G’s sister enjoyed the upscale shops, and Blowfish Sushi restaurant.  Our final meal together included sushi grade tuna along with sushi rice topped with cucumber, crab, shrimp, avacado and seaweed wrap cut in small squares (I like to call it cheap and easy She’s deconstructed sushi).  California sunshine, wine and fine dining, will be calling to our New Jersey family!

                                                 IMG_1110     Cheers from Oakville Grocery!  Turkey and brie heaven!


IMG_1192       IMG_1191

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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

I've Got It Bad, Sooooooo Baaaaad

People of the interwebs:  this is not a faulty signal.  Make no attempts to adjust your displays.  We are controlling the transmission...

She Said, G Said is making its triumphant return to the blogsphere!!  After a brief hiatus (and, unfortunately, the end of the New York Rangers' Stanley Cup run), we've decided to ressurect our humble little blog and make it better than ever before with a new look and some streamlined features.  She and I definitely appreciate our readers' (i.e. Kari) patience during our rennovation! 

So let's do what we do best:  ask some questions and get some answers (or perhaps rant, which is typically easiest)...

She Said:  What is it like to date a teacher?

G Said:  At first glance, a number of you might see that question and say "Don't answer!  It's a trap!"  But there's no need to worry.  This blog would be nothing if it wasn't honest and transparent.  And besides, I'm happy to answer.  Dating a teacher, at least my teacher, is a lot like this:

Each night, I go to bed thinking about how lucky I am that I live in a world where David Lee Roth can take all of my thoughts and feelings and put them to words. 

To all of you shaking your heads and fists, I understand.  And I'm sorry.  This blog's squeaky-clean PG-rating is now down the toilet.  But really, what is it like to date a teacher?  People close to me know I hate speaking in generalities, and I realize that my response (or pieces of it) may not be applicable across all of teacher-dom.  While reading, it's important to remember that I'd love my teacher even if she were something completely different--like a toll collector or an accounts payable clerk  (note:  no toll collectors nor accounts payable clerks were consulted in the writing of this post).  I wasn't necessarily seeking a teacher to date, either.  It just kinda, you know, happened.  And I'm happy it did!  There must be serial teacher-daters out there; and if they're friends of the blog, I'd appreciate their input.  However, until then I operate on pure speculation. 

One of the things that makes dating a teacher so neat is that they have teacher friends, and hence anyone in that circle gets, like, eight times the exposure (still well within FDA limits).  When they get together they're almost always talking about "teacher stuff," so I've had the benefit of interacting with a teacher in captivity as well as a few of their kind in the natural world.  The following are a few observations I have reagarding dating a teacher...

Your teacher is more organized than you are.  If one day we as a nation suddenly decided to totally scrap education and let our kids run wild and free, places such as Michael's and Staples would immediately cease doing business.  Something like 90% of their revenue must be generated from educators...I mean, who else is buying color-coordinated crayon bins and personalized lunch-box holders?  And Post-It Notes?  Don't even get me started on Post-It Notes.  You may think you use a lot (hell, I think I use a lot), but in actuality we're blips on the 3M demographic radar.  How do I know that teachers are more organized than the rest of us?  Because they have conversations about organization.  Yeah, I know.  The first time I heard one, I was scared, too.  Rubbermaid was taken to a whole other level.  In the classroom, everything has a home...everything has a place.  You want erasers sorted by size?  Got 'em.

Teaching is a thankless job, and every now and then, that's going to show up.  Teachers are under a ton of intense pressure from just about every angle--their district, their state, their kids (students), the parents of their kids, and themselves.  If you're currently (or considering) dating a teacher, then you need to understand that school days don't end when the kids leave.  All too often, they're on working late nights (10, 11pm) and weekends coming up with ideas to engage your kids.  The planning that goes into these's unbelievable...especially at the younger grade levels.  Familiar with the attention spans of little kids?  If you lose them 5 minutes, the day is shot.  There's no recovery from that one.  But wait, there's more.  What about report cards?  Some of these teachers take DAYS off work just to get everything together with assessments and comments by the deadline (on top of everything else that they're doing).  Speaking of assessments, the worst thing a parent can do when hearing that their kid might need special instruction is to take their frustrations out on the teacher.  These people are certified, spend more time each day with the child than they do, and are trained to spot problems in just such areas.  Teachers are on your side, and they're professionals.  And the bureaucracy?  I'm going to stay away from politics (for now, anyway) but I'm becoming more and more frustrated that hierarchy in education is not determined by merit (like every other industry or business in this country).  What do you do if you're dating a teacher?  You might want to find a way to make all this excessive external pressure disappear, but I've got news for you:  it's not.  There's not a whole lot you can do in that department, bro.  There are always going to be bratty kids, brattier parents, budget cuts, and state requirements, and there are going to be days when the teacher that you're dating is overcome.  Your teacher might want to retreat into a hole, take up a physical sport, cry, or, in most extreme cases, destroy something (note:  this blog does not condone destroying anything).  Teachers need a ton of love, and the best thing that you can possibly do is give it to them.  Just roll with it...through everything...and let them know that they're doing a good job.  It's terrible that there aren't a lot of people on their side, so that's where you need to be. 

Teachers know how to have a good time.  Back in my tasting room days I was pouring for a group of middle school teachers and their spouses who had come up to the winery to celebrate the end of the year.  I got through my deal and the (I don't know...9?) of us gradually made it to the end of the bar where we talked about life and wine and told jokes for maybe an hour.  Not exactly what my manager wanted to see out of me on a busy weekend-day in June, but I can write about it now since time eases all things, I suppose.  Anyway, I think we had touched on wine sales and the Sideways effect and one of these teachers said, "We're teachers--we drive wine sales!"  I don't know why that always stuck with me, but it did.  They all enjoyed each other's company, were family-oriented, and were able to laugh and joke about themselves.  All sound like good qualities to me!  I comp'd their tasting and may or may not have thrown in an extra freebie because I thought that they were genuinely good people who deserved a break.  Now I'm not saying that you need wine to have a good time, but it would be a lot cooler if you did!  The same holds true for She's friends now--a tight-knit circle with diverse (but supported!) interests who know how to release some tension without overdoing it while maintaining a family dynamic.  I like teachers.

Your teacher is going to talk about kids.  When you're dating a teacher, eventually the conversation will shift to the subject of her (or his, for that matter) students.  What needs to be thoroughly understood, however, is that the discussion is by no means pressure on you to advance the relationship and actually have your own.  It's cool, bro--no reason to run.  Speaking from personal experience, when She talks about her kids it's endearing.  She really cares about them--which is something that all you teacher-daters should notice.  If your teacher isn't talking about their kids outside of school, then he or she is probably in the wrong profession.  So embrace the kid-talk...any day with kids is like a soap-opera, anyway--you could enjoy it!  You might not know them by sight, but after hearing months-worth of stories, you'll be able to piece together personalities until you reach a point when conversation will be like this:

Teacher:  Wow, I had a really long day that was complete chaos.

Significant Other:  Uh-oh.  What did _________ do now?

And if you're willing to talk about kids for an entire academic year, then I highly recommend taking a day off work and volunteering in your teacher's classroom.  Not only do you get to be a kid for a day, but you get to see the thousands of hours of hard work that are put in so that (hopefully) the kids turn out better than you did. 

Wine of the week:  2008 FAILLA Wines Occidental Ridge Pinot Noir. 

What I learned today:  Pauly D eats 5 apples a day.  Thank you, VH1 and Jersey Shore Pop-Up Video.

What did you learn today?

Thursday, September 29, 2011

You're in the 0-6-0-1-0

Hey look!  New content (you lucky people, you)!

I've been asked by my lovely female counterpart to write about guys and our relationship with fantasy football (or all fantasy sports, for that matter).  The name alone is probably enough to make our female-readership cringe at the thought of missed chores, broken appointments, or, worse yet, general annoyance at the fact that the man in your life puts forth so much time and energy into something that's fantasy.  Not to say that the popularity of fantasy sports is strictly a male-perpetuated phenomenon (there are always some women in my football leagues every year), but there are an overwhelming number of Y-chromosomes in these parts.  So.....why?

1.  Camaraderie.  The best fantasy football experiences come in leagues played among your friends....high school or college buddies, co-workers, family, neighbors...whatever.  The internet is the greatest thing that could have ever happened to fantasy sports--all you need to play is an email address, some form of connection (yes, even your parents' 28k dial-up will suffice), a couple clicks, and're drafting a team in a matter of minutes.  You could decide to fly solo and be placed in a "public" league (sort of the 8th grade dance of fantasy sports....the lights are on, everyone keeps their distance, and it's over relatively quietly.  Or you get a bunch of your friends together (Ed. note:  friends, used in this instance, constitutes anyone that you know in real life and are comfortable trash-talking) and let loose:  build hype, make free-wheeling trades, leave ridiculing messages...what's not to love??  Not to mention getting together for a draft.  A lot of leagues will make a day/night of it...get everyone together at someone's house, drink a ton of beer, and pick teams.  And thanks to this internet fad, drafts don't need to occur in one location!  I've been in the same baseball and football leagues for almost 10 years with the same group of guys, and we're spread around the world (our league manager is in Switzerland, just to give you an idea).  But we pick a date and time when we can all be available (see "some form of internet connection") and do it there (Yahoo! or ESPN).  She was even nice enough to wake up with me reeeeaaaal early on a Sunday morning in August for my draft--if that isn't love, I don't know what is.  

2.  Competition.  The best part about playing with your friends is beating your friends.  There.  I said it.  Am I horrible?  Hell no.  Just ask any other guy in a fantasy league.  Wait, scratch that.  The best part about playing with your friends is winning your league and, hence, gaining bragging rights over your friends until the next season.  Ah, sweet, sweet victory.  Weekly matchups carry a little more weight when you're in a private league against your buddies--take this case, for example.  What phrase carries more weight?  "Team Megatron has some studs at RB," or "I need to kick Rich's ass this week if I'm going to stay in playoff contention."  Maybe you and your friends like to throw down some stakes or a wager...not that this blog condones gambling, but maybe you guys like to play for jellybeans (and the winner receives a whole s*&^load of jellybeans).  Just makes things more fun.

3.  We're going to watch sports anyway.  We might as well have a hobby to go along with..our hobby.  Being part of a fantasy league (if you're a responsible fantasy owner) means staying up on players and stats, and for a lot of us, playing fantasy sports is a way of validating our knowledge--like there's a good reason as to why we memorize yards per carry, batting average, or the dreaded WHIP (if you know what that means, chances are you've been in a fantasy league).

4.  Finally, let's be real about fantasy sports.  They're as close as we'll get to the actual sport.  Ladies, ask your man what he wanted to be when he was a little kid...chances are baseball/football/basketball player was the answer at SOME stage of his childhood (my answer would be soccer player, but then again, I'm an outlier).  So now that we've all accepted our athleticism for what it is (and the fact that steroids can be on the $$ side), we've moved on to more realistic goals.  But that little kid in us will never go away (and all those times you get mad at us for being immature, that's just him popping out to say "hey!") and some dreams never die.  So when we're given the opportunity to pick a team of superstars (and a clever team name to boot), we get to feel like the owner.  We can set our lineups, bench players that we think are underachieving, and even "fire" someone because we don't like their face!  Bahahaha!  Now we're in control of sports, and when the players on our team do well, WE do well.  We hitch our little fantasy wagons to their stars in hopes that we can make our friends look pathetic and weak (thus incurring more ridicule and smack-talk--see points #1 and 2).

Shout-out here to ESPN's "Fantasy Focus Football" podcast...Nate the Hate and TMR forever (but not you, Pod Vader).

Friday, September 2, 2011

Memories pressed between the pages of my mind, memories sweetened through the ages just like wine.

She Said: The day after the wedding G and I took a quick trip out to Dundee Oregon to visit one of G's favs, Argyle Winery.  This winery also has a special place in my heart.  On our second date G and I went to a Greek restaurant and this was the first time G had ever ordered us a bottle of wine.  I remember the wine coming and the waitress pouring the initial sip for G to taste.  The next few seconds were a combination of me watching G with both shock and surprise as he stuck his entire nose in the glass and took a big sniff, then he took a sip and sloshed the wine almost like he was using mouthwash.   I remember being stunned, and I may have glanced around to see if others were seeing what I was seeing.  It was clear he was a winemaker; wine was his passion, and he knew what he was doing.  G gave the ok and our glasses were poured.  The wine tasted spectacular and enhanced by the "second date" high.  At one point, I reached out and looked at the bottle of wine.  I read Argyle and then my eyes spied Dundee Oregon, Willamette Valley. My family is from Oregon.   I excitedly told G  the connection, how special Oregon is to me.   Arriving at Argyle felt like a walk down memory lane.  I must admit though, I drank A LOT at the wedding the day before and my wine taste buds were tapped out.  After we did our tasting we enjoyed walking the gardens on the property.

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