Wednesday, December 26

Ho I Ho

Cleveland for Christmas and it never disappoints.

Saturday night we went to dinner with Anne's brother Russ and his wife Chris. Drank sidecars which is always notable. Their daughter Mandy was just back from Peru, and she freaked us all out with her stories of E. coli and crappy charity work in Lima. She hiked to Machu Picchu, and that got me thinking ... We've all seen amazing photos of Machu Picchu, and Anne and I hope to go next year (we'll take the luxury train, none of this hiking business), but I think I want to be the guy who doesn't like Machu Picchu.



Fake Blog Person: How'd you like Machu Picchu?
Futuristic me: Ugghh. I thought they would have a better gift shop
FBP: But didn't the Incas have an amazing sense of structure and civilization?
FM: Yes, but it didn't stretch to good restroom facilities did it?

Sunday was a great day of doing nothing, we ate, drank and listened to Anne's p'rents tell stories from their younger days. All good fun and I even started on a genealogy project for Anne's side of the family.

Monday began in downtown Cleveland buying pierogies and trying to find a comedic Menora (more later). God bless the missus. She had the balls to ask the guy in Family Dollar if they had one. He gave a her a look that said, "I work in Family Dollar for 6 bucks an hour".

For dinner we ate pierogies and I gained 6lbs in 20 minutes. Damn those things are heavy.

Later that night we went to Bud and Joann's house. Bud is Anne's youngest brother and he throws THE best Xmas Eve party. The house is a great mix of adults building toys for excited kids, using instructions translated from a Chinese manual. Multi-generational drunkenness and more food than you'll ever want to see. I think it was also my first glimpse of the Christmas Story. TBS run it for 24 hours. It was filmed in Cleveland and everyone loves this movie except me.

Christmas Day begins with me chatting with my folks in the land of the Eng. They had a good dinner and were kicking back to relax that evening. Back in Ohio, we do the whole Yankee Swap thing. Anne's brother Ron won the prize for the largest gift offered (a stepladder), he is also Commander of the Swap but I took offense to his Euro-effete-socialist-liberal way of doing things (oh wait that's me).

His wife Maggie was suitably punished by choosing my Hannukah and Kwanzaa diversity celebration basket. Canned yams and Shabbat candles. She took it well and I expect her to become a fan of blaxploitation movies in the coming year.

Me? I got a remote controlled snake to amuse myself as I watch Snakes on a Plane. Anne got a robotic cocktail shaker. My poor father-in-law ended up with a man purse.

Photos from the day.

Rusty temporarily bags the stepladder


Ron and Natalie look on as Maggie sings "Say it Loud, I'm Black and I'm Proud"


"First a European son-in-law, now a man bag", says Anne's Dad


Dylan gets gifts #4, 9 and 15!


Holy snakes for Christmas. Anne loves it as much as me.


Bud gets the booze ... for now


Tyler unwraps, Jenny wins patient Mom of the Year

Thursday, December 20

Copper Colored Kettles

Apparently you should jot down a list of your favorite things whenever you are in the mood to vent a little bile.

So here goes! A list of things I enjoyed on our holiday to Mexico. I threw in a few grumbles to flesh it all out.

Houston to Acapulco; some old geezer stole my aisle seat. He said he needed access to the toilet. The bastard didn't get up once during the whole flight! Redemption came in the form of the old man's safari suit he wore. Very dapper indeed.


The Customs Form you fill in on the airplane flying into Mexico states that you can only bring in ONE of the following. In case the photo is too small here's a selection: A typewriter, a pair of binoculars, 2 laser disks, a tent, 2 tennis rackers, a TV smaller than 12".

The Acapulco baggage reclaim and Customs hall is simple. An x-ray machine and a huge 20" diameter comedy-style button. You hit the button and if the buzzer goes off 2 women with plastic gloves check the contents of your bag.

Working the odds, I'm guessing you have a 1 in 8 chance of having your bag checked. Hey, guess which 64-1 shot has had their bags checked 2 years running? Meanwhile the drug mule behind me walked thru'. And what a walk thru'. Once outside Customs there's a scrum of taxi driver/time share guys selling you their wares.

Escaping the scrum and surviving the shock of wonderful humid heat (coming from a Boston winter), we were ferried from the airport to our hotel in a minivan with 3 other couples. There's a patch of Acapulco in between the luxury developments that is the 'real' Acapulco. That's English 'real', not Spanish 'Real'.

The area includes a roundabout / rotary / circle, that has no rules. 7 roads converge on this one space and you can drive on whatever side of the road you want. Generally the bigger trucks seem to do best, but there's always some crazy young latino with a pencil mustache on a scooter slaloming through the melée. Or a car full of nuns. Ironically they did not have a prayer.

What's better than falling asleep, outside at night, on your own balcony bed? Sure, I was bitten 27 times on the legs by red ants, but hey, after the 6-pack abs, my legs ARE my best feature™!

Flicking through the TV channels, we stumbled on CNN who were playing a Amy Winehouse video. We spent the next 17 hours believing she had died.

To be clear, Amy's death would not be good (she's currently 24 so she has three more years before she can join The 27 Club of Jimi, Janis, Jim and Kurt), but her fake death did display just how good it was to be starved of useless media for a while (such as pointless blogs ...).

Believe it or not, the Acapulco Wal-Mart is awesome! I'm no fan of it's US counterpart but the Mexicans do it with style. It seems at the end of every aisle there is a young woman selling/promoting a product. I saw a woman dressed as the Energizer Bunny and 2 women selling douche products. We had a great conversation with a rep. regarding Coppertone sun lotion. She couldn't speak English and my awful Spanish hadn't kicked in (it takes about 24 hours before I start speaking any foreign language). Despite the linguistic incompatibilities, we managed to work out that Anne and I needed sun protection. Protection so thick that the next step would be to wear an anorak. Elsewhere we taste-tested guacamole, were offered tours of the area, and even had our bags packed by a little boy named Pico who bagged better than anyone at Whole Foods.

BubuLubu - a chocolate covered marshmallow treat. Damn those were good.

We filled in a Customer Survey and were gifted a set of beautiful 'Las Brisas' face-cloths. Kind of feel bad for stealing the toothbrush now.

We both felt slightly uncomfortable living 4 days of our life in such luxury, but compare that to the rich and spoiled over-medicated woman we shared a jeep ride with. She hated every little bump in the road and appeared to be allergic to sunlight. Poor dear.

The Road by Cormac McCarthy. The post apocalypse journey of a child and his soon-to-die father may be no laugh-fest, but on a sun-lounger with a six pack of Sol who the fuck cares?

On the ride back to the airport, an American lady took photos from inside our fast moving mini-van with tinted windows, on her 1 mega-pixel cell phone camera. "No, no, they will look great honey", said her husband. What am I loving here? Utter stupidity with no bad consequence.

Customs, taxi, concierge, security. All personnel in Acapulco seem to wear crisp white shirts with military style stripes on the shoulders. Quasi-officialdom. Great.

After a protracted journey home, to be met at the door by Isobelle the Cat is a delight. Even at 2am it's a pleasure to hear her purring like a cheap Suzuki motorbike. When you think she cannot get any cuter, she burrows under the covers and falls asleep between us.

Tuesday, December 18

Sexy Eyes!

Sometimes it's right under your nose, or in the case of Sexy Eyes right above it.

As a fan of all that is kitsch, I'm super impressed when something transcends ironic cool and just becomes stand alone great.

Today that very thing happened.

Sexy Eyes came on my iPod. The Tom Jones version.

Here's the deal. First time I listened it was just your typical 70's white soul shakedown. A touch of wah-wah guitar and a tin-muted trumpet. But after repeated listening it became apparent that this is no poor man's cover of the Dr. Hook (ahem) classic.

The opening lines are:

I was sitting all alone, watching people get it on, with each other. They were dancin' 'cross the floor, turning movement back and forth, they were lovers. No more lonely nights for me, I looked up, what did I see?

Worthy of Shakespeare, but anyone can read great lines. However. It takes a special talent to deliver these lines with a sexual panache so great that Planned Parenthood are paying overtime (wo)manning the phones. Across the land, disco ladies are mysteriously getting knocked up.

Tom's voice is more suggestive than a suggestion box in a Nike Bangladeshi sweatshop.

The clip below is audio only. Because anything more would set the internet on fire. And that would spoil it for everyone. Wouldn't it?

Sunday, December 16

Supermarket Weep

Regular as clockwork I had another supermarket event today. It's snowing like a bastard, so we decided to walk to our local Whole Foods.

At check out we handed our environmentally friendly bags to the bagging guy.

Now there is a difference between a Stop & Shop/Shaw's bagger and a Whole Foods bagger. It's probably a partial credit on a Political Science degree and $1.50 an hour more, but they both know dick about bagging groceries.

So I'm splitting bagging duties with the Harvard drop-out and he grabs my bag and RE-bags it!

I don't proclaim to be good at many things (although parallel parking and mini golf spring to mind), but one thing I do have is excellent spacial awareness. I can bag groceries in my sleep.

The result is that Anne's carrots were crushed (which is odd because she doesn't really like them). Meanwhile the dread-locked middle class quasi-lib will be oblivious of the vegetable damage he created as he smokes weed in his Central Square bed-sit tonight.

Saturday, December 15

Cake

It's my better half's birthday. Probably closer to 15/16th than half however.

Her own classy link. Happy Birthday pookie.

Postscript. Went to Olé for dinner last night. I've previously blogged about what a great place it is. The restaurant packs you in tightly, and last night was chock full. So all of us got to listen to a baby crying. Really? You have to take an infant to a busy expensive restaurant on a Saturday night? Of course none of us dared to complain. Instead every table quietly fumed.

Thursday, December 13

Nobody cares what it is like in YOUR country

I'm trying to stop with the whole "In the U.K ..." start to a conversation (even when co-workers graciously acknowledge a good British TV show over it's diluted US version).

I've lived here for more than 7 years now, so I obviously quite like it. However.

Taxis.

For a country that prides itself on giving good customer service is there any shittier experience than riding in a US cab?

With no sense of hyperbole, I think ALL cabs in Boston have the "car requires service" check light activated.

A Crown Victoria is a huge car, and yet once they fit that stupid center piece, sitting on the back seat feels like an OB-GYN exam. None of the drivers seem to use the security panel so it's removed leaving large protruding flaps of plastic that would leave bizarre scars on my forehead if we crashed ... of which there is every chance, because Boston cab drivers are assholes. They've developed this notion that it's part of the charm of the city that they drive like utter twats.

And don't give me the NYC taxi cab defense. Remove the checkerboard pattern and you're still in a death-trap driven by a guy with umlauts in his name. The only redeeming assurance is that at least most of Manhattan is on a grid. So there will be a sense of geometry to your car crash.

I've no problem putting my suitcase in the hold of an aircraft to be man-handled by a douche bag from US airways, but the US taxi trunk is always some deep filled pit of rusty wheel disease.

Constantly chirping 2-way radios, distracting cell phones, lame FM and an air freshener named "Ass/gas with a hint of overly sweet/sweat fruit".

Also. I live in Cambridge and none of the drivers at Logan have any idea of the street names. And then they try to take the Ted Williams tunnel instead of Sumner. It's the wrong direction you shit-head!

As an additional bout of buggery from the City of Boston, taxis are NOT allowed to use FastPass through the tunnel. Instead they have to wait in the long line (while the clock runs) and are charged more than other vehicles. Genuine use of buggery and tunnel in a sentence there.

London taxis are clean and spacious (4 adults and their bags no problem), the drivers while boorish have to know every street within a 30 mile radius. Cabs are wired so that you can speak privately, or you can choose to listen to the driver drone on about how "foreigners" are spoiling England (I said they were boorish). And they can use the special lanes to get you quickly to your final destination.

Listen and learn America.

OK I'm done.

Tuesday, December 11

Once upon a time in Mexico ...

Back from Acapulco. Needless to say it was wonderful.

Private casita and pool, absolutely no commitments, phones or computers. I read 6 books and drank 3 times as many beers.

Roll on 2008, so we can go back there again.

The only complaints I have revolve around when we HAD to interact around other people. Normal bitching and grumbling will return soon

I should have picked Acapulcan Luis Miguel for the musical accomp., but instead I went with Joe Cuba.

Wednesday, December 5

God Bless America(n Airlines)


I e-mailed American a few days ago. I wanted to know if I my parents in England could use an AA gift card.

First mail I received was an automated one.

Could they kiss my ass any more? Kiss ass comments in bold.
Bold Italic text demonstrates why automated mails are stupid.


Dear Mr. Taylor:

Thank you for sending us such nice sentiments via our American Airlines Customer Relations online form. Positive feedback means a lot to us as it helps us pinpoint areas of our service where we excel so we can improve our overall service.

Again, thank you. We regard every contact from a customer as a welcome opportunity to listen and learn. It is a privilege to have you as an American Airlines customer.

As the holiday season fast approaches, we begin to think about spending treasured time with friends, loved ones and .... shopping| For a very special holiday gift, you may want to consider the gift of travel. Check out our holiday gift cards at: http://www.aa.com/givetravel.

That's right, my mail requesting information about gift cards garnered an automated response suggesting a gift card.


The 2nd mail ...

3 paragraphs copied and pasted from the website i.e not written by Customer Service. And then: ... I'm sorry that your parent's will not be able to utilize the gift cards since they live in the UK.

Sorry to be the grammar police but parents should not have an apostrophe.

All things considered I still like American Airlines, and will carry on using them. The 2nd e-mail was from: Dixie L. Hoopes

How can you dislike a company that employs Dixie L. Hoopes?

Tuesday, December 4

It's a scientifically quantifiable amount

.
THINGS I'VE HAD A COMPLETE AND UTTER ASSFUL OF

Christmas music - Children playing, having fun. Who cares?

Starbucks customers - Starbucks have good product, they're charitable and they pay benefits to part time staff, so why do I hate every single person stood in line? "Oh, I cannot start my day without a Venti Chai Latte." Try living in Darfur bitch.

Boston driver superiority - Having rotaries doesn't make you better drivers until you learn to use them properly. Stop yielding when you are on them, and stop entering them at speed without looking left you dicks.



Local Government - 2 pieces of mail, first born child, inside leg measurement, a letter from your employer, cornea scan and a gift wrapped box of attitude just to get a parking permit

Door to Door Charity Collectors exposing my psychological weaknesses
-
"Hello Mr Taylor, we are collecting for battered women, would you make a donation?",
"Hello Mr Taylor, would you subscribe to this magazine to help pay for poor kids to go to college?",
"Hello Mr Taylor, give us your money or the kitten gets it in the face"


New & Improved - Putting 1% more Soy Lecithin in EZ-SQUEEZE-CHEEZE, does not make it New & Improved.

To address the imbalance.

THINGS PEOPLE AROUND ME HAVE HAD AN ASSFUL OF
The following words come out of my mouth every hour, on the hour,
"I'm going to Acapulco on Thursday."
Let me hear you say "Oh yeah!"

Sunday, December 2

Separated at birth? *


Javier Bardem as Anton Chigurh in No Country for Old Men.
and Saleisha from Cycle 9 of America's Next Top Model.
To quote Jay Manuel, "They both work it like the rent is due tomorrow."

* Apparently this humorous observation made by my fellow cinema-goer was culled from fourfour. Their ANTM model weekly recap is often funny. View it here.

Saturday, December 1

The colonoscopy of theaters

Anne and I went to see Margot at the Wedding at Kendall Square Cinema tonight. Boy is that place 'up it's own ass'. The movie was good however.

In fact full marks to Jennifer Jason Leigh, she's 45, she had a semi-clad Jack Black next to her, and yet she still managed to look damn sexy in a pair of men's pyjamas (it's how I spell pajamas).