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Weekend Shenanigans: BBQ, Gym, ELO

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About two months ago, my friend Stan gave me a no name cheap-o barbeque.  Our mutual friend, Dave the Dentist had been after me to get a barbeque for my backyard so we could cook like men.  (Translation:  He wanted me to get a bbq so he could come over, get hammered and blast some tunes.  And barbeque.) 


And that’s exactly what we did on Friday, late afternoon.  I assembled the barbeque a few weeks back and flirted with breaking it in myself, even going so far as buying charcoal on a solemn Sunday two weeks ago.


I pitched the idea of barbequing to Dave via text Friday...it was warm and I didn’t want to spend the evening by myself, even though I kind of wanted to be by myself.  Widowhood has thus far introduced itself as a dichotomy:  Staying indoors with the shades down and the TV on is easy, comforting.  But around 8 or 9pm, you wish you were doing something with someone somewhere else.  So I sent that text with a wee bit of apprehension.  You get one guess how little apprehension Dave had in saying, “Yes.”


I was in for a long one with Dave.  I knew this the minute he caromed into the driveway with his late model BMW, identifiable by the KLOS Kinks sticker on the rear bumper.  Remember those multi-colored KLOS stickers?  They’re cool.  Dave go his on ebay.  When it arrived in the mail, it was his Nirvana.


Dave got out of his car and started pulling out his bags which contained:  multiple bottles of vino (“It’s not as much as you think; most of them are only half full”...I love an optimist), assorted DVDs, cheese, hummus (Dave adds his own olive oil), two lemons half a cheesecake, and a giant speaker system for his Zune.  When we go back, we go waaaay back.


My idea of bbq’ing is grabbing some steak or chicken, strike up the charcoal and throw on a little salt.  Garlic salt when feeling zany.  If I’m lucky, I don’t overcook it.  Not  Dave.  It’s a science.  He’s the best kind of ‘foodie’ in that he puts his head down, goes about the work and makes delicious food.  No play-by-play horse feces like our presumed chef friend who drives you nuts with malarkey like, “I grind the pepper first and set it aside while I simmer the olive oil on a low heat.  And you don’t want to add the lemon too soon because I find that the emulsification can blah blah blah you to death.” 


I told Dave beforehand that I didn’t have anything to cook except some crackers and egg whites, so we went to Sprouts.  Dave likes their chicken and I like the psycho-positive yoga chicks in Lululemon that shop there after having the bends. 


Dave said, “Let’s just make a whole chicken.”  And I didn’t know what the hell he was talking about.  A whole chicken?  Bones and all?  On a bbq?  To quote Tubbs from an episode of Miami Vice:  "You heard right." 


We took that mother f’er home and Dave proceeded cut it down the middle and beat all hell out of it in the back yard. with the bottom of one of my wife's Le Crueset pots.  He wanted to flatten it a bit for the grill.  Again, no pretense, just work.


Then, he rubbed the chicken (always room for junior high humor on this site, yes?) with olive oil, garlic, curry, and some other stuff I had in the pantry.  None of it’s fresh.  It’s been sitting there for a while, but we do what we can.  Dave's the Chuck Norris of cooking.


We made our way outside to the bbq.  Dave yanked the charcoal bag, ripping off some of the paper and created a good flame.  Next, he threw on some squash and zucchini, cut just so.  And finally, a round of brie in the middle of the grill.  WTF?


It was good.  The bbq melted the brie, and along with a splash of balsamic vinegar to the plate, it made a not complicated but satisfying warm-up, prima facie.


Dave was on his second half-drunken bottle of wine and we were listening to his Zune and the sun was behind the house so it was cooling off.  We had some laughs about our over-the-top cooking friend.  After a bit, Dave threw on the chicken but not before lifting the grill off and parting the charcoals so that they formed a circle around the edge of the ‘que.  “Aren’t you going to even out the coals?” I said.  He looked at me and said:  “Shhhhhhh.” 


He placed that chicken in the middle of the grill and lowered the top.  “With chicken, I part the coals, or the chicken cooks too fast on the outside and it gets dry on the inside.” 


I once lent Dave, former model/current dentist, the Miami Vice box set.  He texted me somewhere around Season Two saying he wanted to be Don Johnson/Sonny Crockett.  Just thought Sonny Crockett was the coolest mofo in the world.  You see those Ray Bans Dave’s wearing in the photo below?  He got them after a long search.  You see, Ray Bans from the ‘80s don’t say ‘Ray Ban’ all over the g’damn place.  And the pins joining the arms to the lense area are different.  Shortly after Dave tracked down the Ray Bans, he sat on them, breaking an arm.  He was pissed and tried to have them repaired.  But the eyeglass dude screwed up the pins, replacing the broken side with the present day version.  Dave no longer wanted those glasses as they are now an imperfect representation of the ‘80s, Vice and Crockett.  He gave them to me and I have them handy for when Dave visits.  And now he’s wearing them with his chicken.



And me with my chicken:



The chicken was excellent.  Dave the understated chef knew his business. 


After our meal, we retired to the living room.  Dave lined-up all his DVDs for display which is his tradition.  Ya know when you go to some music stores (I still go to them, anyways) and they put up the disc or album of whatever is playing under a sign that says “NOW PLAYING?”  That’s pretty much what Dave does.  He’s a killer for detail and order, and I regret not taking a pic of his display. 


We watched The Cars first.  The Cars...I worry they are getting overlooked as time goes on.  I was never a hugely devoted fan, but gave service to the hits and a couple of the album tracks.  This video was from 1978-1982.  Ben Orr wore lifts on stage probably because he was short to begin with and Ric Ocasek is 6 foot 20.  Still trying to figure out how he landed Paulina Porizkova.  Ben Orr had a great, soulful voice with a tear drop in every note.  He is missed.


Next, Dave fed me ELO at Wembley Arena 1978.  While watching, it struck me how bands of that era had to be the real deal.  Couldn’t hide behind computers and in-ears. 


I held the remote control and Dave instructed me when to forward to another chapter, so we made quick but studious work of each disc.  We weren’t in a rush, but we didn’t want to sit around and watch a 20-minute stoner’s opus either.


Watched Gary Numan in Belgium, 1988.  Make-up like a chick from Penthouse, 1984; his face had an earth tone patina.  Numan had really white teeth at this time, so I asked Dave the Dentist about teeth whitening.  Since he was smashed, he said he’d set it all up the next day for free.  I didn’t expect anything but I was interested.  Why not?  I been drinking too much coffee the last, oh, 10 years and it has cast a bowling alley sheen to my teeth.  I want my teeth to pop like Villaragosa’s at a photo opp.  Actually, a little less than that.  I want nothing to do with that kook.


After a generous serving of cheesecake, Dave hit the road, but not before making a couple trips to the car to transfer his humongous Zune player and various DVDs. 


I wound it down with my cat, who I think is still trying to figure out what the hell that was all about.  That means it was a good night. 


I got a bit of a late start on Saturday probably because I stayed up too late watching the first hour of “Death Wish III.”  Surprisingly, I got a text from Dave.  “Picking you up for whitening, 10am.” 


Dave’s dad is a kick-ass orthodontist.  We went to his office because he has a good lab by which to make all the goodies Dave the Dentist needs to throw a lifeline to black tar teeth like DR’s. 


The first, and premiere orthodontist in this area of OC, Dad’s office is no b.s. and all o.g.  I see where Dave gets his studiousness and attention to detail.  No sales pitches clogging the walls, no head shots of himself, no flat screens anywhere, no baloney.  Just an office which might have been remodeled somewhere around 1986.  Or 1976.  A ‘Freaks and Geeks’ set.  The real deal.  As you might notice, it has bright green cabinets.  See if you can spot them:




While waiting for the trays to set, we took down some Vietnamese food.  Chicken, rice and egg roll for DR.  Dave was hungover so he went with the pho.  I told Dave  how I always channel Lt. Castillo in Miami Vice when I’m chowing oriental food.  Castillo’s backstory is that he served in the DEA in the Golden Triangle during the Vietnam War.  There’s a scene in an episode where he broke it all down over Thai food with Crockett, Tubbs and the rest of the crew.  I’ve referrenced it before, and yes, here it is again:  watch the Miami Vice two-parter called “Golden Triangle.”  It has more surprise turns than Space Mountain.  And just like the ride, you can’t see the path you’ve been set on, at least in the first part.  It also features my current favorite Jan Hammer composition called ‘Candy,’ named for a hooker who sets up the story ingeniously.  This episode is how one-hour episodicTV writing is meant to be, people!


Dave dropped me home, where I did the dishes from the bbq.  Kitchen still smells of curry and there’s a shade of yellow on the cutting board that would make a homesick Indian quit his stateside programming job and move back home. 


(As I write this, I’m watching the Miami Vice episode “Trust Fund Pirates.”  One of my favorite lines:  â€œBuenos dias.  You’re dead.”).


I thought about meeting with my Iranian friend who drove down from L.A. for a bike ride, but I was tired from last night so I slouched down for an afternoon of Angels’ baseball.  From my un-ez chair, I saw and heard people biking by on the street outside.  They were having fun.  Girls in bikinis, laughter...Summer.  I needed to get off my ass.  I turned off the Angel game and got to the gym.


The traffic at the beach was a real bastard.  But I was in the gym at 3:30.  Me and two or three others.  Made small talk with the front desk folk but reminded myself to keep it quick.  My friends and I have a term for people who don’t know when to leave a party, even after everyone’s left:  ‘Stay-partiers.’  I don’t want to be a stay-partier at the front desk.  One of the workers left me Dexter, Season One, with a fancy little note on it.  Pretty cool.  I tried watching Dexter with my wife about three years ago but she couldn’t watch all the cutting and blood.  You can never have enough good TV so I’m going to give it another go.  I need a rainy couple of days to make this work.


One of the benefits of the gym on a hot Saturday afternoon is that it’s pretty empty.  In fact, I had the entire upstairs (cardio) all to myself.  However, the parking structure, shared with a chartered boat company, is getting dicey because it’s wedding season.  And ain’t nothing that says prestige more than a big-ass boat for yo wedding, fool.  The guests drive down from Pico Rivera and other points East L.A. to join in the fun.  Denny’s would make a killing if they set up shop on a boat.  They would make a tonne (British spelling today) with this wedding reception business. 


Looking down from my second floor Lifecycle, I spied a captain of one of these boats parking his car and feeding his meter.  On one occasion when I pestered the front desk folk at the gym, I was told about how the boat captains sometimes saunter into the gym after a cruise with more than a little buzz and ask about the joining.  As far as I’m know, none of them have signed-up yet. 


I always wonder about the people I see from my perch.  I like to build stories for them.  This captain, for example, I can see him living in a one-bedroom apartment full of half-empty bottles and a couch full of good stories.  He looked about 50-something, so I bet he’s got some good yarns. 


The Cap’n looked at his reflection in the passenger window of his late-model pick-up.  He straightened out his captain’s jacket with a hint of pride and pushed his arms through each sleeve.  Even in the heat, I could see that he was going to make sure that this jacket was on when he walked the ramp to the boat.  He’s the boss.  If I were walking by, I woulda said, “Hi, captain.”  It’s fun to give people props when you know it makes them feel alright.  And like J. Lo’s love, it don’t cost a thing.


I had another 10 to go on the Lifecycle so I let the Cap’n fix his hair, feed the meter, and embark for a ship full of hammered fatties with sweaty, maroon dress shirts and $8 pre-wedding haircuts.  And the wife/girlfriend with almost as much make-up as Gary Numan.  The view from the second floor.  Where's that Duffy headed?:



I finished some light weights and weighed in just before bailing.  Back in April, I signed up for a gym-wide challenge where the parameters involve both weight loss and body mass index (BMI).  I don’t know jack about BMI but I can report that I started April with 22% of it and finished June with 18.8%.  Peppy Fitness Gal behind the desk said, “That’s really good.”  Merci.


I went home but not before waiting about 20 minutes to get out of the parking garage.  One of the love boats had just concluded its cruise (what do you think they odds are the d.j. played “Unchained Melody” somewhere around Lido Isle?). 


Earlier in the day, Dave the Dentist told me he and his family were going to Tiny Rob’s house for dinner (see previous Shenanigans for Tiny Rob, but long story short:  Had a stroke 10 years ago and now has to live with the folks who deal with it pretty well as long as there’s a bottomless supply of Chardonnay handy and there always is). 


Rob’s mom is an original California Girl.  She’s probably in her late-60s, but still has a youthful attitude and after about the fourth glass of the grape, she’ll get up and dance around, singing songs which built the California Dream in the ‘60s and ‘70s.  She can sing “Ventura Highway” and “In My Room” with more enthusiasm than skill, but she still has the blonde hair and optimism.  I think of the California she grew up in:  less crowded, fewer rules, and abalone shells on the shore.  Her dad was a good businessman who made alot of money but, like the older generations of Californians, he didn’t flaunt it.  Low profile car, Harris and Frank wardrobe and you don’t throw a g’damn thing out unless it has absolutely no use, or the expiration date was only a month ago.  And you can’t freeze it. 


Her face has been blasted from the sun and she’s put on some pounds as gravity and age will do to anyone, but that doesn’t dissuade her from breaking out her inner Stevie Nicks.  If he were still with us, Huell Howser could have made a show on this species.


Dave’s life is filled by music.  He controls the music wherever he is, bringing CDs with him or creating playlists on his Zune such as:  “Rob’s House, Peggi mix,” or “Rob mix 1981 English punk.”  He creates playlists with your name on it but it’s really for his own comfort.  He don’t want no one playing nothing that ain’t Dave approved. 


Rob’s step-dad likes to hug.  He’s a big dude who likes to lord his hugs over you I think more to remind you that he’s bigger than you.  I try to avoid his hugs because I don’t like personal space invaders and I’m not a ‘70s touchy-feely EST (look it up) type.  Step-dad likes to make intense eye contact with me and say things like, “are you hanging in there, bud?” or “how’s everything...we’re here for you.”  I appreciate it but it’s awkward and I never ever know how to respond other than to say “thanks.”  Times like this are when I contemplate pounding a bottle of Chardonnay in the garage like a character from “Intervention.”


I got home around 10pm and committed to staying up late for no good reason.  I looked at all kind of interesting pictures on tumblr, which is a really good and interesting space filler in the quiet hours.  I like to hit some of the music links from the ‘80s music blogs I follow.  I thought I knew the decade pretty well, but I’m getting flat out schooled by the tumblr 20-somethings.  New favorite song:  “Just An Illusion” by Imagination. 


I finally raised the flag and went to bed at 2am, finishing off “Death Wish III.”  Just a terribly made movie but it’s fun to zone out to. 


I got five hours sleep and was groggy Sunday morning.  Cat had something to do with that. 


No plans for Sunday so I put on the Angel game while doing some writing.  Passive aggresive.  Around 1 o’clock, I shut it down and drove over to the in-laws who wanted me over for lunch.  It’s getting better seeing them; not quite as emotional, but I’m still careful to not talk too much about my wife so as not to upset her mom. 


I like going to their house probably for the same reason they like having me around:  we’re both reminded of my wife and how things used to be.


After a couple hours and watching some golf, I got home and did some more writing.  Then, it hit me:  that awful Sunday late afternoon anxiousness.  So instead of pouting to the cat, I got off my arse and made way to the gym.  So glad I did.  I made tiny talk with the chick behind the counter whom I felt was glad to have someone to talk to.  In other words, I didn’t feel like the dreaded stay partier.  My gym closes at 8pm on Sundays, and I arrived at about 7.  Outside of the front desk gal, there was one other person in the gym.  I put on my headphones and played some Blondie, Bryan Ferry, The Jam.  The Style Council. 


I did about 35 minutes on the Lifecycle, each song making me want to stay a little longer.  My mood picked up and so did my speed. 


I made my way out of the gym at about 7:50pm feeling much better.  Like I had a weekend.  Before walking out the door, I gave the desk gal a high five.  She asked if she could call me by my nickname, which came up in our conversation.  I said yes. 


I got a frozen yogurt on the way home, my shirt full of sweat. 


Remember the Blonde?  I sent her text last week to see if she wanted to get a coffee on Friday.  She said she was too busy on that day, but she would be at Hi-Time on Saturday for a champagne tasting.  So, I’m thinking this chicky is either an alcoholic or a very serious wine enthusiast considering she’s at the joint pretty much every other night.  Her family owns a winery so maybe she’s just interested in that world.  But I’m not that interested.  As I told someone last week, I’ve been through too much shit to settle. 


Plus, I need to whiten my teeth and go back to the gym tomorrow.  I'm too busy.




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Keep it up the good work in the gym DR.


I put on a few lbs after my wife passed. I was feeling down and so I would go to Buffalo Wild Wings to eat and watch sports on their many TV's. I was in a bad way and then something clicked for me and I lost 55lbs. I'm not a big guy and I let myself balloon up to 205lbs. I felt gross.


I feel great now and have been able to keep the weight off.

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