Thursday, July 21, 2011

Last Night...

Last Night I was frantic... Three papers due, two dishes, one drink, one man.  I was over extended.  So I went to the store, bought $50 in ingredients, and quickly rushed home to begin the marathon... that's right ladies and gentlemen, I cooked and did homework last night.  I know it seems I never sleep and always have fun and games, but I have a 3.75 average while working and having a social life.  That 3.75 doesn't come from thin air.  So I started a pot of Columbian Stew called Sancocho, and typed up two papers for Spanish.  The Sancocho must be Spanish for shit that sprays everywhere, because in the course of cooking, it got all over my kitchen even with a lid on it. 
Picture of Colombian Chicken Stew: Sancocho Recipe
The Stew is made of a whole chicken, one yucca, two plantains, 5 potatoes, two leeks, one small onion, corn cobs cut into thirds, and a puree medley consisting of cilantro, Sazon Goya con Azafran, three carrots, one hot pepper (I cheated and used a habanero, sue me), and 1 each red and green bell peppers.  You add the purree to 12 cups of water, for 30 minutes, then every 15 minutes add chicken, plaintains and yucca, and corn and potatoes.  While it cooked I finished my papers and went to bed.  In the morning I reheated the soup, and made another dish called arroz con coco.   The dish consists of rice cooked in coconut milk, and fortified with sugar and coconut flakes.  It is served in Venezuela as a dessert.  I took both to class today as part of a Spanish presentation, and they were a Hit!  I got a 98 and a 95 on the Spanish presentation my group did, largely because of the food (I think).  As I was driving home in my car to finish a few forgotten assignments, (like this) I realized two things: I'm glad I took this Spanish class despite the challenge, and I'm a fool with the tools! (Galen swings a soup spoon and measuring cup around his index fingers)

Where Irish chickens go to die.

Two nights after the sleep travesty that was The Place, Collin, one of the late arrivals, asked me to come out for some beers.  I couldn't get a straight answer as to who was going, but I had never been to the bar in question so I reluctantly agreed. 
The bar was called Paddys pub and eatery off of Cobb Parkway and I knew a girl who had worked there.  I called and asked her what was good, and she suggested the shepards pie.  When I arrived I met Ginnie and Collin, who swear they are not a couple, yeah right, and David and Alyssa, my direct supervisor and his girlfriend.  I made a joke about it being couples night, and David goes, "oh, by the way, Chris and Ellyse are coming too."  Fml.  I order a Guiness and ask what everyone is having.  I can smell a putrid smell coming from Alyssa's dish which I later learn is salt and vinegar chips, litterally soaked in vinegar, gross.  The guys are all eating wings, which are all you can eat, brought out three at a time.  We all order the wings, and talk about the old days when we all worked together.  Chris was let go after a safety incident, but as fate would have it, works at Lowes.  So you could say we were sleeping with the enemy, or at least grabbing a bite with them.  The beer was good, the wings were average, and the service was subpar.  But getting the rare chance to cut up with one of my best friends, Chris, was a pure delight.  Ellyse complained of gaining 6 lbs, which is funny because she is a size 2.  Allyssa is pregnant, which explains her poor taste in food, but she still smiles and isn't too hormonal thank the gods.  Ginnie is quiet, and judgy, as she frowns on most of what I say. David is David, he is the butt of jokes, yet is good natured and feigns indignity at some imagined sleight every minute.  Collin keeps us laughing with witty references and off the wall wisecracks.  It is really late, and I know I need to go home, but I stay for another beer, just to savor the moment.  I'll be heading off to law school soon, and moments such as these are fleeting.  It is just me, my friends, and great memories floating in the air at Paddys off Cobb Parkway.

A night on the town

The weekend of the 10th, I was sitting in my room when a friend called and asked me if I wanted to go out. Such invitations are rare so of course I said yes. So, around 9pm, I am laying in bed reading a book, when I remember the invitation. I texted this friend and asked what time we were meeting up. The text read, "NOW!" I quickly took a shower, threw on all black and raced over to a bar off of Sandy Plains Rd called the Place.

The Place is a mix between an all wood southern bar and a sleazy karaokee stage cum dancefloor.  I greeted my friend Jeri and the other Department Managers who were in attendance.  Everyone worked at Home Depot, and I became friends with the people there when I myself was a Manager.  Jeri, Kim, John, Tiffany and John were all in attendance.  One John is my age and another is in his late 30s.  The young john had invited his friend out with us, he works as an accountant and I had met him on another occasion although his name escapes me.  Anyways, our server came and took my order which ended up being a rum and coke and a budweiser.  This is a standard tactic of mine, because servers at bars are notoriously slow, and having a beer at hand gives you a fallback to drink while you wait for refills.  So I take it easy lounging in my chair watching my friends cut up when I hear that Kim started drinking with young John at 4pm.  John has a high tolerance for alcohol, but Kim is wasted.  She fervently tries to get Jeri to go out on the dancefloor jerking her arm.  Jeri says no repeatedly, and as she turns around to face the table, Kim grabs her arm with both hands and jerks her towards the dancefloor.  Jeri's stool goes flying out from under her and she and Kim go crashing down to the floor.  Jeri gets up, anger in her eyes, and straightens her shirt, picks up her stool and sits back down facing the table with a fake smile on her face.  I look her straight in the eyes and say for the whole room to see, "Don't worry Jeri, no one was looking."  Everyone in the room died laughing... I blew her a kiss to take the sting off of my joke at her expense, and looked up to find Kim grinding on my leg... "Um... guys...please... help?"  Jeri is watching and laughing, everyone else is averting their eyes, and Kim is just grinding against me happily wearing away layer upon layer of my diesel jeans.  Later, we have several associates in our age group show up, Ginnie, Collin, and Lauren, which livens the party.  So by this point, we have all had a few too many to drink, everyone is dancing on the dancefloor and everyone is having fun.  The guys are all reluctant to come out, even Tiffany's boyfriend who has just arrived, Tim.  Me and older John do our best at dancing with 3 or 4 women at a time.  By the end of the evening everyone is tired and worn out.  The next day I work at 8am.  It the time is 2:15am.  When you are in college and working full time, you have to get your social time in where you can.  So despite the terrible sleep deprivation, when I get that call, I roll.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The 4th of July

In some respects I am a bad son.  My mom is very supportive of me, and I am not always very quick to show my gratitude.  My father and brother have both passed away, and I am the last remaining member of her immediate family.  As a retired Sergeant Major, she makes a good living on her pension, and she enjoys a high standard of living.  Often, she helps me out of jams when my spending exceeds my income, or when unexpected cost come along.  She does laundry for me at times, and cooks dinners for the both of us frequently.  Mom's back and knees are bad after 24 years of trying to max out her PT scores, and outperforming soldiers younger than her.  She spends the majority of her time cleaning the house and following the Braves rabbidly, while playing with her two Shiz-tzus, Rosie Joyce and Frodo Baggins.  I realize that I seldom show my appreciation for my mom, so when she asks me to go somewhere with her, I seldom refuse.  It's not much, but it is the way we function as a family, and it has worked so far. 

So it comes as no surprise that I said yes to an invitation to see the 4th of July Braves game with her, despite already having plans with my other family at work.  I spend most 4th of Julys with my friend Jeri and her family in the parking lot at Big10 tires in Woodstock watching fireworks and enjoying each other's company.  Mom always has an invite, but she's not much of a people person, and always declines.  Me and Jeri have a weird relationship, we're always on the verge of being something more, but we never take the plunge.  It takes alot to keep me from spending time with her, so it is a testament of the sacrifice I make in deference to my mom. 

Let me be clear, I love the Braves.  I grew up watching them, sitting at the top of Fulton County Stadium, eating popcorn, and enjoying the tickets my mom got for free from her unit when she was a recruiter for the Army.  As much as any sports team does, they have a warm place in my heart.  I simply try to avoid the stadium nowadays, the seats are uncomfortable, the food and drinks are outrageous, the lines are long, and the bathrooms are like Dante's nineth circle of hell. 

I have to admit it was begrudgingly that I went this 4th of July, I did it for mom, because she deserved it.  So, I took her out to Red Lobster, it is our failsafe restaurant, and we headed to the stadium early.  We got to the parking lot, and found our way through the myriad tailgaters and mismatched SUV's with the sounds of 20 radio stations and MP3 players mixing to form a cacophany of noise, which I liken to what a murder victim must sound like being skinned alive.  After dodging the requisite homeless person, we made our way through the gates and got to our seats. 

Atlanta.Braves.    4th of July
Normally, we alternate days as the DD when we go to the stadium.  If it's her day, I can drink as much as I want, and if it's my day, vice versa.  It was her day, but seeing as I worked at 8am, I told her to enjoy herself, and she could DD the next time.  Mom grabbed two beers to avoid the line and I grabbed a Coke for a price that could feed three third world children for a week.  The game progressed as games do, and we won against a sleepy pitching staff, and a weak offensive batting order.  The fireworks began and we stared in wonder at the bursts of light off of the sky to the poor choice of Bruce Springstein's Born in the USA.  Ladies and Gentlemen, this song is not patriotic, but don't tell the Braves media manager that. 

As the night progressed, we walked a tired walk to the truck in the rain, and we made our way home.  Not only was her night made, but I got to watch a few moments that day where my mom had a smile from ear to ear and she exuded giddiness.  I knew that if I had gone with Jeri, I would have had a better time, but I'm glad I went anyway.  Me and mom are often divided by a great gulf of distance, but as I begin my life anew in law school next summer, I can look back on such memories and feel just a little bit better about my balance in the ledger.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Una noche en un pueblo loco

Inevitably, as you get older, you meet new and exotic peoples and say goodbye to old friends. They move away, they get new jobs, follow spouses, etc.  Yet whatever may be the case, you are glad to have known them, because your life has been enriched just that much more for having known them.  It is precisely so with my friends Adam and Megan. 
Adam is a friend I made in Mock Trial, a funny little man diminutive in stature, but massive in personality. Adam has a delightfully piquant wit, which sparks to the surface at the most inopportune and hilarious moments. Always the quiet type, you almost forget he is around until he graces the group with some tidbit, and laughter fills the air. Adam never picked a fight, never hurt your feelings; Adam was a binding agent in the Twinkie that was my network.

Megan is a wild and free spirit. A self-proclaimed geek girl, Megan champions her role as a purveyor of inane trivia, comic knowledge, and a strangely neo feministic philosophy which I have yet to fully understand. Megan has long dated a young man by the name of Jack who was unemployed and generally considered a deadbeat boyfriend. Megan kicked Jack out of the apartment, Jack joined the Navy, and in short, order, came home, proposed to Megan, and made plans to consolidate their new house in a year’s time. Two weeks past, Both Megan and Adam threw simultaneous parties, albeit unknowingly, which seriously left me in a dilemma.

I decided to split my time going to Megan’s party first and Adam’s second.

I arrived at Megan’s party laden with food and was greeted at the door by a mysterious stranger. She alleviated me of my burden, several salads, and bid me to search out Megan at the pool. I went around to the back of the house and was greeted by a running flurry of arms and cheek kisses, as well as a nipple twist. I never quite know how to act around Megan, she is flirty and sarcastic, and she acts much like a girlfriend acts towards a boyfriend towards everyone. I detached myself and asked who was there and for my troubles received a knowing wink and a smiling incline of her head towards Aphrodite lounging against the sideways hammock in the corner.

I had not known she would be there, but a girl I had fallen very hard for and very fast was staring back at me, very coy, and very knowing. As I approached, she lifted herself, sauntering towards me with more grace than many women I have known, and as only she does, wrapped her long sinewy arms around me in a greeting. Despite the fact that we are both dating other people and we realize that we are not right for each other, we still have some unspoken thing between us. When we touch, I can feel her heart racing as much as mine does. As we break from what was most probably an inappropriate embrace, we put on our masks and move into the cool and comfortable conversation of friends. I ask how her man is doing, she in turn asks how my girlfriend is, and the verbal banter continues. Meanwhile, others come around to introduce themselves to me and I turn up the charm for these strangers holding hands for too long, even kissing a few, and greeting men and boyfriends alike with arm clasps and big smiles.

Before long, as I say goodbye to an old friend, I meet several new ones. This exchange is typical and I briefly think that I am trading in an old and trusted model for new, flashy models of questionable quality. While I ponder what the return policy is, I see Megan watching us from the house and excusing myself, go inside. “What’s wrong?” I ask. “I’m going to miss all of you, and there’s nothing that is going to make that better.” She replies. In an attempt to cheer her up and pull her out of her self-pity I walk up to her, tussle her hair and tell her, “you can always visit us silly.” We both know she will not, but we do not voice the unspoken.

My love interest gone awry, Bethany, walks in and sees that an exchange has taken place. She apologizes for interrupting, and makes to leave, despite our mutual objections to her going back to the pool. We both turn to go outside and I see out of the corner of my eye Megan look out the miniblinds at Bethany leaving as she says, “She loves you, you know?” I stop, look back at her and say, “You don’t have to be with someone, to love them.” Megan tilts her head, looks at me her mind sifting through the many meanings such a statement could have, and breaks out into a beaming smile. She moves over towards me, and grabbing my arm, walks back out to the pool.

I almost feel guilty sitting there by the pool with two women I love, each in a different way, surrounded by strangers and one time acquaintances. Even thinking about my girlfriend who did not come to the party, and whom I love as well, I am reminded of how wonderful and terrible it is to love someone. Much later in the evening, I realize that it is time to leave, and I make my goodbyes, give Megan a kiss on the forehead, tell her to give Jack my best, and make plans to visit each other. I smile at Bethany, tell her how wonderful it was to see her, and enjoy the socially acceptable goodbye hug, a little too tight, and a little too much. As I break away, I am rewarded with a sigh, and a look, and I quickly move away before the tension builds too much.

I return to my car, only to realize I have forgotten completely about my friend Adam. Frantically I call wishing, hoping, that I have not ruined a friendship. He responds, seemingly in good spirits, and I begin my apologies. Even across the phone, I can see his knowing smile, he knew where I was going, and he tells me to relax. When he returns from Korea, we will grab a drink. Such a gesture is so simple and easy to do, that I know we will. He understands I would not have missed his sendoff party for the world, and that I will miss his funny comments, witty insight, and stoic support in the year to come. I tell him to enjoy the culture, beware the Soju, avoid karaoke, and be safe. He tells me to quit being a whore, says he has to go, and we say our goodbyes. As I think back to my night and the conversation I just had, I smile and get into my car. It is just as I told Megan, with a different context, “You don’t have to be with someone, to love them.”