All posts by Brad

Mahjong Anyone?

On July 4th, friends invited us over to learn how to play Mahjong.

Mahjong!

The game my mother and her girlfriends played when I was growing up. I remember those ladies laughing and calling out tiles as I passed through the kitchen on my way to the refrigerator. I’d hear “two crack,” “three bam,” “five dot,” as they rapidly went around the table. They’d smoke cigarettes, sip refreshments and talk endlessly. Often their voices would rise in excitement, rolling into laughter. I never knew what they were talking about—and if I happened to linger too long—I was told to keep moving.

My turn

So, it was with great interest that I accepted the invitation to join a group of friends learning the game. After all, I thought rather arrogantly, how hard can it really be?

It was hard. Very hard.

And as I played, trying to figure out what the hell was going on, I couldn’t help but think of my mother. How did she ever carry on a conversation and play this game? How many rounds did she endure before she no longer needed to concentrate? And why is this game so much harder than poker? 

American version

It seems that there are two versions of Mahjong. The American—which I was learning—and the Chinese—which was being played by a group of men seated behind me. I’m guessing the American version is easier—but being new to it—it was like learning Hebrew (and that’s hard). The other guys kept saying it’s like playing gin rummy. I know gin rummy. I get the comparison. But this was beyond gin rummy. If you don’t believe me, check out the video explaining the basics. http://bit.ly/2uuMSqYContinue reading . . .    

Sleeping Beauty: Wake-up!

I’ve discovered a new talent. I’m able to fall asleep in public sitting straight up. That’s right. Put me in a chair, lower the lights, and I’m out, often sleeping through the first five minutes of a movie or a play. No matter how loud the volume or interested I might be in the subject matter, I drift off. Regardless of the time of day, I snooze.

Sleeping well at home?

Yes, I’m getting enough rest at night. There’s no problem in that department. And I don’t have narcolepsy. I’m not falling asleep anytime or anywhere. Just when the setting seems to call for it. Otherwise, I’m perfectly alert. Mostly. Unless the story you’re telling me is going on too long, or the jokes aren’t funny, or I’ve heard it all before. In that case, I might suppress a yawn. But only to be polite.

Catnaps

I’m not a big fan of napping in general. I never have been. It leaves me feeling groggy. But now I’m beginning to wonder if a catnap—defined as short, light sleep—is required as we age. Does it just come with the territory? If that’s true, I can accept it. I just wish I wasn’t doing it in public. Especially when I’ve spent money to be entertained.

Jet lag

Now I get being sleepy if you’re suffering from jet lag.

On our first day in Australia, we met mutual friends at a lovely restaurant for dinner. They invited us back to their home for dessert. The strawberry short cake was amazing. The sugar content alone should have kept me alert for hours. But after I put the cake plate down, I fell asleep. I next opened my eyes to see the host staring at me. “Are you okay?” he asked. I was fine. Certainly a bit better rested.Continue reading . . .    

The World’s Oldest Fly: Where Did It Come From?

Did you ever notice that you can’t seem to go to a deli without running into a fly circling your pastrami sandwich? It drives me nuts. Instead of enjoying my meal, I spend my time guarding my plate, swatting at the air, hoping the filthy creature doesn’t land in my coleslaw.

Other restaurants too

To be fair, it’s not just delicatessens. Many restaurants seem to have the same problem. If there’s an open patio—I completely understand. It’s just part of the dining experience. Nature will exist where man chooses to sit. You can quote me. But when you’re inside and flies are swarming, isn’t it the staff’s responsibility to eliminate the infestation? Is that really too much to ask?

Greek with a twist

A few months ago Jeff and I ate at a Greek restaurant in Palm Springs. White table clothes, soft music, and a price point that was amazing. And though the food was delicious, no one on Yelp had bothered to mention the infestation. Upon my first taste of eggplant, the flies appeared. Scarfing down the moussaka, I watched them line up on the window sill. Alfred Hitchcock could have directed the scene. The flies were soon everywhere. Did we leave? Hell no. The food was too good. Instead, we hunkered down, gobbling up our meal as we swatted away.

What are we willing to do?

And so I wonder, does anyone ever complain about restaurant flies? Is it rude to tell the management you’re leaving even after you’ve just ordered? Are we just willing to put up with the onslaught if the food exceeds expectations? And what do you do when they land on your food? Do you continue to eat?

Buck up, man

I know there are some people who think it’s no big deal. I live with one of them. So I guess I will continue to duck and dodge as I cover my food. But I still think the staff should be trained on how to use a fly swatter. Aim high, swing hard, and splat. Dessert anyone?

Breaking News: Man Discovers Pedicures

Toenails are God’s little joke on men.

Unlike women who luxuriate in pedicures, men are tough. We manage our own nail care. Bending and straining to clip them until something bad happens. An ingrown toenail. Foot fungus. Falling arches. And then we rush to the podiatrist. Because that’s where men go to manage issues with their feet. Toenails eventually get clipped—but by a professional with a degree.

Nails like Howard Hughes

For men who live mostly in colder climates, and therefore rarely expose their feet, there’s little hope. If you check out those toenails, and I have seen a few, they’re in horrible shape. Too long, too dark and too crusty. I won’t go on—but trust me—it’s disgusting.

I used to live in Michigan so I know all about hiding your feet. Wearing socks to bed isn’t always about staying warm. But living in Phoenix, a hot weather climate, toes are on display much of the year. In the summer, everyone wears flip-flops and sandals. We walk around barefoot. We go swimming.

You are the toes that cling to you.Continue reading . . .    

Where’s the Shift?

I’ve been driving Jeff’s new car. A Lincoln MKC. And much to my surprise, the whole thing is push button. The entire shift mechanism is gone. You have to literally point and touch your way to park, reverse and drive. Great for keeping your mind agile.

Change for changes sake

Every now and then, there’s an older person who plows through a crowd. That’s due to confusion between the gas pedal and the brake. And yet, with the graying of America, cars continue to change. Haven’t we learned anything? Fortunately, Ford has modified the once complicated My Ford Touch. They’ve gone back to the manual radio and temperature control system. Thank goodness. Traveling at 75 mph on the highway and trying to figure out how to make those changes was a death defying feat. Common sense has prevailed.Continue reading . . .    

Arthritis Anyone?

I’ve just taken an Aleve to calm the pain in my left thumb that an orthopedic surgeon pronounced as arthritis. Damn him!

Okay. It happens. None of us are young forever. My Dad had the same problem with his left thumb in his mid-forties. That’s when he dropped out of his bowling league. He was an awesome bowler until that left thumb started to ache. And being a lefty, well, that wasn’t going to work.

Me – I’m a righty. So this slow deterioration has come without any physical justification. My left thumb is barely used. I don’t hitch hike. And unlike Jack Horner, I don’t stick my thumb in pies. Though, if I did, I’d head over to Rock Springs Café in Black Canyon City, Arizona. Spoiler alert: best pies ever. Come visit Arizona and I’ll prove it to you.

So what good is a left thumb?

I don’t use it to type. My right thumb handles the space bar. But I do use it to hold the steering wheel when I drive. Yow that can hurt. And my left thumb is also the preferred digit for ripping open envelopes. I’ve tried using my right thumb. It just feels so wrong.

Not the worst thing

I guess this isn’t the worst thing that could happen. People are diagnosed every day with life-threatening illnesses. What’s one left thumb in the scope of all that suffering? Not much. Besides, it gives me an excuse to stop lifting heavy weights at the gym. Instead, that left thumb might enjoy holding onto something icy cold like a shake from Culver’s or Dairy Queen. Come to think of it, I’ve heard icing an ache can bring down swelling. Hmm. Now there’s a perfect solution in search of a problem.

Weather or Not … Here Comes Summer

Some people are obsessed with weather. Thunderstorms, tornadoes, sleet and hail. A simple snowstorm becomes a nor’easter. Millions without power. At least that’s how reporters ramp up the story. But living in Phoenix, we don’t have much weather. It’s generally sunny and pleasant most of the year—until it isn’t. Then it’s still sunny and hot. Did I say hot? I mean really hot.

That’s a lot of zeros

When we first moved to Phoenix, the summer seemed unendurable. That’s because the triple digit temperatures started around May 7th and lasted until October 7th. I know this because I was desperate for a time limit on the experience. As the snowbirds flew north, we remained. Air conditioner jacked up. Ice water nearby. Pool in constant use.

And oddly enough, it’s during a Phoenix summer when you see Phoenicians in sweaters. That’s because the restaurants and movie theaters are kept at the temperature of a meat locker. We’re all wearing light weight clothing to stave off the heat.  At the supermarket, you have to run past the dairy aisle. The meat counter isn’t much better. And pity the poor soul who gets stuck in frozen foods. You can literally build an igloo in that aisle.

Sand anyone?  

And then, we have the monsoon season. It kicks in around June 15th and runs through September 30th—with most of the activity in July and August. The monsoons arrive courtesy of the Gulf of Mexico, bringing rain and dust storms called haboobs. Haboobs present the most dramatic weather of the season. Huge clouds of dust are swept up from the Arizona desert and engulf the area. News stations catch the beginnings of these haboobs as they start to roll. As you wait for them to arrive, the air is still. Then the skies darken and a massive gust of wind kicks up. You’re overtaken by sand as the visibility drops to zero.  Continue reading . . .    

Awkward Man Hugs

When did shaking hands as a greeting go out of fashion with men?

It seems that everywhere you go—guys are now hugging. Restaurants, gyms, sporting events, car shows—wherever men gather—they’re engaging in these awkward man hugs. Not quite touching—and yet—touching a little too much. No longer content in a fist bump, they’re now deep into each other’s shoulder space, bent forward as they stand two-feet apart.

Ubiquitous hugging

If you watch sports, it’s everywhere. Touchdown! Give me a hug. Three pointer. Body slam. Home-run. Grab a dude and lift him in the air. For decades men have been eager to touch as long as they’ve scored on the field. Celebrations only really start when men are leaping, grabbing and hugging. So when did it all morph from special events to everyday behavior? No one really knows. But man hugging is definitely here to stay.

Gay Hugs

Now gay men—they know how to hug. They pull you tightly into their personal space. Sometimes, you don’t know whether they’re being friendly or just feeling you up. It can actually be both. But when you get a hug from a gay man, it’s warm and welcoming. It feels completely like what it is. An embrace of supportive “great to see you” man admiration.

Shut up and give me a hug 

Today, we hug anyone we causally meet at a party. Friends of friends. Relatives you don’t even like. And if touching strangers is not your thing—well—something’s clearly wrong with you.

Years ago I had a friend who greeted everyone with an arm held stiffly out to signal that you were supposed to stand back. He refused to hug. And that never changed. Over the years, friends came and went through his revolving door. He never seemed to really connect. In hindsight, it’s not surprising. The signs were always there. Beginning with his unwillingness to embrace.Continue reading . . .    

Who is that Coughing?

I hate getting sick. I guess that’s normal. But I hate it even more when Jeff gets sick. And not because he’s uncomfortable—or I need to take care of him—but because I’m usually the next one up. It seems when you live with someone, it’s impossible not to catch their cooties. Especially if you’re together working out of the same house.

The secret

I’ve been told to avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Yeah right. Like I could ever do that for a solid week. And washing your hands obsessively doesn’t really help either. Trust me. I’ve tried that too.

Clorox wipes with bleach are great for killing germs on counter-tops—but probably not a great idea for wiping down the person lying in bed next to you. Besides, whatever nastiness is happening, isn’t on the surface. The gross crud is breeding in the recesses of your beloved’s nasal cavity, throat or chest. And sometimes, God forbid, their tummies.

Flying

There is nothing worse than being on a plane and hearing someone sneeze. It’s like vigorously shaking a can of soda and then opening it. You’re trapped in a metal cylinder as germs float throughout the cabin. It’s simply impossible to avoid getting caught up in the wet spray. And if you must use the restroom, I recommend always using a tissue to open the door once you’ve done your business and after you’ve washed your hands. God only knows who was in there before you—though there’s little doubt what they were doing.

I’ve read somewhere that the aisle seat is the worst on a plane. Upon boarding, everyone passes by, breathing down on you. Hmm. And here I thought the extra leg room was the added bonus.

Theaters

And then there’s always someone coughing during a play. At the symphony, people seem to be constantly clearing their throats. But in a movie theater, the film volume is so loud it drowns out any background noise. It’s impossible to know if anyone nearby is sick. My advice. Slink down into your seat and keep your popcorn close.

Compassion

And so, I think it’s truly best that when your spouse is ill to move into the guest room. Close enough to check on them, but not so very close as to get infected.  But of course the time you spend away will depend on how attracted you are to someone who is ill. Personally, I’m a sucker for neediness. But that’s a topic for another blog.

Not Another Supermarket

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about why I seem to always be in the supermarket. I must have better things to do with my time than wander through Safeway, Fry’s and Trader Joe’s. And yet, now, I even go to Whole Foods to take out lunch.

Has grocery shopping become my new hobby? Seriously. How else can I explain pushing a cart up and down the aisles every other day and thinking it’s fun?

Feed me

I’ve decided that as you age, eating must be an obsession. As if time is running out, I seem to be eager to try everything.

Lord knows there’s enough food in our house to last for weeks. If we really needed to unload the cupboards, we could easily manage, though we’d be light on dairy and produce. Hmm. Perhaps that’s what’s going on.

Is anyone hungry? 

Maybe it just reminds me of my childhood. In my family, food was love.

Feeling blue? Have some chocolate pudding. Sick. We have a great chicken soup. Tired? Coffee cake is on its way.

There was once a time when I went outside on a nice day and rode a bike. Now, I wander the supermarket aisles. Not exactly exercise, but it is walking.

Bigger is better

Of course, I’m writing this sitting outside of Costco waiting for the doors to open. It seems my desire to be entertained has morphed into the big box stores. Making a second meal on bits of cheese, guacamole dip, and hot appetizers that they cook up for eager shoppers. I might buy the paper towels, but let’s get real. I’m here for the freebies.

Worried

I try not to let it bother me—but I am getting concerned. I wonder how many other people are feeling trapped by their fascination to horde food. Perhaps it’s all just a big nothing. Or maybe, I’m onto something. Either way, I find myself totally enraptured. Cut it, slice it, serve it. Call me yours.