Sunday, April 29, 2007

One of Many Random Thoughts to Come...

I may be late in the game, in terms of making this discovery, but drunk texting is the New Drunk Dial. Pass it along...

Friday, April 27, 2007

Zoning Out

What's more frustrating than entering The Friend Zone? Trying to bust out of it.

For those of you reading this who have never left their homes or have never, ever had any kind of human interaction, well, The Friend Zone is that dreadful Hotel California of relationships where you can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave.

That is, the strictly platonic relationship.

It happens to everyone. You meet someone and you get to know them so well and for so long that you can almost read each others' minds. And sometimes--not always, but sometimes--for some people, that deep-seeded familiarity with the other person can lead to intense--and often misplaced--feelings of infatuation and desire.

And if you are that other person, the object of affection, you have two ways of moving forward. You can nip it in the bud and say, "sorry...I just don't dig ya like that" ORRRR "hmmm...interesting. We should see where this goes." Either choice is fine, but as with anything, actions have consequences, every cause has an on and so forth.

Say you take the former (and, if you ask me, the safer) route, you risk hurting them and doing irreparable damage to your friendship. I mean, the next time you call them up to hang out, to say it would be awkward would be an understatement of the highest order. You're sitting there, trying to watch a movie with them, wondering if they're actually watching the movie or actually cursing you in their mind, wishing your head would shrink to the size of a peanut. Meanwhile, they're giving you looks of longing, practically trying to will you with their mind to look at them passionately, move in for a kiss...or more.

Now, say you take the latter, riskier route. That opens up a can of flesh-eating, soul sucking worms you don't dare want to take your prized Pampered Chef can opener to. For one, you know the person so well, there would be no surprises. Relationships are built on spontaneity and a spark of mystery. That's why they are so exhilarating. You never know what's going to come next. You put two friends together who already know each other so well that there's a damn-near psychic link, you can look forward to a short-lived outing of lots of boredom and yawns. Secondly, for whatever the reason, if things go south, you've quite possibly ruined a great friendship that's possibly lasted for decades.

Long story short? You are absolutely, positively fucked either way.

In a way, The Friend Zone is like that mystical baseball diamond in "Field of Dreams." Everything is fine and dandy--you're playing baseball with the boys, kicking back a few beers--then some unsupervised little rug rat gets a piece of goddamn hot dog stuck in her throat and you have go grab your fucking medical bag in the middle of the game!!!

Wow. Do ya think that maybe, somewhere along the line, I lost focus on the topic at hand?

...Anyway, you step past those little rocks at the edge, right? Once you pass those, your relationship with the other person has the life-expectancy of a ninety-year-old. And after that line is crossed, there is no going back, no matter much you wish you could. You made your you have to live with it.

Now, don't get me wrong, I am all for taking risks (well, more so than I had been) as well as being honest and sharing your feelings (I am, after all, what many people would refer to as a "'90s Sensitive Male"), but sometimes, repression isn't always a bad thing. Sometimes, there are things that you need to keep inside yourself for the greater good. And the beauty of it is, those feelings, those desires are yours. No one can take those away from you. I mean, yeah, it can be the hardest, most torturous, painful thing you'll ever have do--holding back something as powerful as love and desire.

But that's the beauty--or tragedy, depending on how you want to look at it--of life: There's always something to distract us from the holes inside of us, the pieces that are missing.

I don't know if you're reading this, but I hope it helps. You know who you are. We're best friends, come hell or high water, and I love you dearly.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Egg Hunt

Ya know what? Hey, if it doesn't happen, it doesn't happen...I'm no worse for wear. It was fun, I had a good time, we had some really nice conversations, but fuck--it only lasted for a week.

Thoughts like that serve as my own emotional auto-defense mechanism. Even though I don't believe a word of what I'm telling myself.

So, today, I'd pretty much given up with no plans to call her again. I was chatting with my dad and he's like, "If it were me, I'd try one more time tonight. Just to be sure. It's your call, though."

So, I did and she answered.

"Well, I'm pretty busy, the next couple of weeks...pretty booked up. It's not you. I'm just really busy."

Ya know, just for once, I'd really like a gal to just be like, "Ya know, it's not really is you. Yeah, you're just really fucking annoying, you're a horrible driver with an even worse sense of direction. You've got nose hairs (Blogger's Note: okay...I embellished a little there...I think) that don't quit and, um, frankly, you come across like some degenerate mongoloid. So, yeah, it's totally not's you.", maybe nothing that harsh, but wouldn't it be so cool if people actually were honest with you. At least then, you could take something away from it, you could--GASP!!--learn something.

I'm gonna just come out and say it. It's been on my mind for the last few days so, here it goes: I fucking hate dating. I do. There is nothing more wretched and awful as going out on a date. In fact, here's a selection I have on my J-Date profile regarding the perfect first date:

Anything with quiet, non-threatening conversation. The truth of the matter? I kinda hate the whole "First Date" thing. I mean, if you think about it, Jerry Seinfeld is right: Dates are essentially glorified job interviews ("what are your interests, goals?" "what kinds of services can you provide?") Same awkwardness and tension, but with the dwindling prospect of sex at the end. I know, I know...totally cynical, but totally true. At the end, you're like "Did I get it? How'd I do?!"

And the thing is, everyone gets rejected. It's a fact of life. Ya gotta kiss a few frogs (For the record, The Girl wasn't, by any means, a frog. Quite the opposite actually) to find your prince or, in my case, princess. Everyone knows that. Lately, though, I find myself wondering if maybe I should just keep my lips sealed.

And then I think to myself, who am I kidding?! People who say that you will only find love when you stop looking for it are full of shit. No matter where they are or what they're doing, single people are always looking. It's only human nature to want what we don't have--especially when other people have it.

Not only that, but I have to--HAVE TO!!--believe that this rejection, pain, frustration isn't all for naught; that there's some bigger plan, whether it's a plan to make me a stronger person or just a plan as simple as me finding The One that I'm meant to be with, spend the rest of my days with.

But is it a plan worth sticking to and, really, why would anyone want to?

Normally, I have some sort of witty aside to end each entry, but I think I'm going to answer the above question by stealing a quote from the mother of all relationship movies. Five gold stars to the first person who can name the film it comes from.

"I...I realized what a terrific person she was, and... and how much fun it was just knowing her; and I...I, I thought of that old joke, ya know, the, this... this guy goes to a psychiatrist and says, "Doc, uh, my brother's crazy; he thinks he's a chicken." And, uh, the doctor says, "Well, why don't you turn him in?" The guy says, "I would, but I need the eggs." Well, I guess that's pretty much now how I feel about relationships; ya know, they're totally irrational and crazy and absurd, and...but, uh, I guess we keep goin' through it because, uh, most of us...need the eggs."

Friday, April 20, 2007

Friday Night's Alright (For Dating)

So, tonight was the night. I went out with Chatty Cathy.

Actually, perhaps I should just drop the nicknames (i.e. the aforementioned Chatty Cathy, J-Date Girl, Omaha Girl, etc.) for now and just call her by her name: Nikki.

So, tonight, Nikki and I went out on a date. Nothing too fancy. In fact, some might call it less of a date and more of an initial meeting (we both insisted on sporting very casual attire). I mean, all we did was go to a movie ("In the Land of Women"--I'll get to that in a bit). I picked her up, we went to AMC and watched the movie, and then I took her home. Bing, bang, boom...The End. Right?

Come on! When are all of you going to learn that nothing is ever that simple when it comes to Yours Truly?

For starters, once I got to her apartment complex, I couldn't find the piece of paper that had her actual address. I looked fucking everywhere: pockets, the different consoles in my car. Hell, I nearly stuck my hand down my pants to make sure I didn't stick it there (I didn't, in case you were curious). However, I talked some sense into myself and just decided to bite the bullet and call her. Lucky for me and little did I know, I was actually in front of her place when I called. Of course, it might have been nice had I actually parked on the right side of her building. I had parked in the back, rendering her unable to buzz me in. So, I had to do a little walking. Hey, nothing wrong with a little exercise!!

So...first impressions. For starters, on a physical level...totally beautiful and not in an overwhelming, holy-shit-what-is-this-girl-doing-with-me type of way, but just--she had this natural radiance that I was really attracted to. That, and she is, by far, the shortest gal I've ever met who wasn't a little person. That should not, by any means, be taken as some sort of criticism. I'm just stating the facts. Besides, I thought it was really adorable, especially when we walked side-by-side. Plus, it was kind of cool actually being tall for an evening. Don't get me wrong, my ex was shorter than me, thus making me taller, but last night, I was TALL!!

So, after about 15 minutes or so of chit-chat, we hopped into my car (apparently, I was so nervous, I forgot to park between the lines--which she didn't fail to point out) and headed toward the thee-ay-ter. The drive there was an interesting one. I'll be honest...I'm not the best driver at night, especially if I'm driving in an area that I'm not as familiar with (or, at least, haven't been around to in a while). So, it came as no surprise that I went the wrong way and that I ended up having to make an illegal U-Turn (at her urging). All the while, we're immersed in conversation which, you know, I'm good at.

So, we got to the theater and I parked. No, to those who are asking, I did not park in the handicapped section. In fact, I hid my tag in the glove box, if you really want to know. Hey, insecurity is insecurity! What are ya gonna do? As for the traditionalists out there, yes, I paid for the movie. time.

"In the Land of Women," written and directed by Jon Kasdan (yes, the son of Lawrence--the writer/director of "The Big Chill" and writer of "The Empire Strikes Back") in his debut, is a sweet little film that's better than it has any right to be, thanks to a sweet, charming lead performance by the Jewish Geek God himself, Adam Brody (TV's The OC), a graceful, wise turn from a now middle-aged Meg Ryan (in what has to be her most complete performance yet) and an emotionally vulnerable, honest one from the lovely Kristen Stewart (whom you may recall from "Panic Room" as Jodie Foster's diabetic daughter). The movie tries really hard to be The Next Garden State, but on that level, it fails. It lacks the latter film's edge and the ending is awkward and pat. I also agree with many critics in that, with as much melodrama that ensues during the film, it really kinda is a Lifetime movie writ large. Still, between the terrific performances and a lot of the witty, intelligent dialogue, the film earns a solid B.

Okay...that concludes the Movie Review portion of this blog. Back to the date.

I must admit, watching the movie was a frustrating experience. For one, the audience was as fucking annoying as shit. I think we were the oldest ones in the crowd. Now, I was a huge--HUGE!!--fan of The OC and I love Adam Brody, but did I talk through the entirety of the film?!?! NO!!!! OF COURSE NOT!!! Maybe that's because I'm not 15 or 16 years old, goddammit!!!!!!! The dude behind me must have been under the impression that watching a film is akin to watching Monday Night Football, where everything must have a running commentary. I wanted to be like my boy Mikey B. and yell, "SON, IF YOU DON'T SHUT THE FUCK UP, I'M GONNA COME UP THERE AND KNOCK THE TASTE OUT OF YOUR MOUTH!!!"

But, um, I didn't. I gave a lot of stern, harsh looks at no one in particular, though!! That has to count for something!!

The second reason that the movie-watching experience was so frustrating was because I just didn't really know how to I wasn't sure if I was supposed to do the yawn-and-put-your-arm-around-her-shoulder thing or lift the arm rest up. I was clueless. Now, mind you, I've never had any game and, ya know, it was only just the first date, but come on! These are things a guy should know how and when to do. Needless to say, I just kept my eyes peeled on the screen. Like I said, pretty good movie.

The ride home was fine with lots of lively (read: we were both so tired--me from my usual lack of sleep, and her because, well, she's a lawyer/law intern who works her ass off--that we couldn't stop yawning) conversation. And then came the awkward, End of Date portion.

I parked the car (this time, in front of her place) and we talked for a bit. I walked her to her door and she held it open for me to come in. I stopped and said, "oh...I, um, thought you were tired. I don't need to come up." She goes, "ummm...I am. I thought you wanted to come up." I replied/stammered with "No...I was just kind of getting overheated in the car and thought we could talk outside, get some fresh air." She comes outside for a moment and I go on a mini-Hal rant about how my mom has taken on the nasty habit of using the phrase "biotch." I went on to say that my mom has never sounded quite so white or Jewish as when she uses that phrase. It's like the equivalent of an African American saying "dayenu" (which means "enough" or "it was sufficient" in Hebrew) or "oy vey" ("Oh, G-d," in Yiddish). Anyway, she thought that "biotch" was less a Black Thing than it was a Rich, High School Cheerleader Thing. I asked her if she ever used that word and she answered, "No, I was neither rich nor a High School cheerleader."


At the end, I asked if she wanted a hug and she expressed that she wasn't much of an after-date hug person. She seems to be a person who kind of has her own little Personal Space bubble. Fair enough. I know what that's like. I used to totally hate being hugged by people. That's a totally different can of worms, though. So, I ended the date with a handshake, commented jokingly on how awkward that was and we parted ways for the evening.

And that's The Date. The. End.

The big question is this: Was it a good date? Honestly? I dunno. Seriously...I've never been good at gauging the quality of dates. And my ability is even worse now because I'm a little bit more insecure and a little bit more lacking in the confidence dept. than I previously was (which, ya know, is kind of saying a lot, if you think about it).

Now, did I have fun? You bet! I had a great time with Nikki and I really hope she's up for Round 2, date-wise or, at the very least, up for continuing to chat on the phone. Truth is, I don't know where to go from here. Then again, it's less than one complete day later. So, for right now, I'm just going to play things as they've been laid.

I mean, I had a great time, this week. I really did. We had some great conversations (FIVE HOURS ALONE JUST ON SUNDAY!!!), a lot of laughs and if that's how it ends, well, that's how it ends.

Que sera, sera.

Of course, I'd be lying if I said that I didn't have my fingers crossed. Well, at least just a couple of 'em.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


You know, they say that some days you're the windshield and on others, you're the bug. Well, today, I was, without a doubt, the windshield.

I'm back, people.

The Hal that everyone used to like and enjoy being around is back. And ya know what? It's pretty fuckin' great to be back. In fact, everything is just...well, it's great. Life is great. I wish I had a better word to use, but I think, just this once, I'll use the easiest one that I can think of.

After all, when you have friends like the ones that I have--the ones that love you and look out for you and want you to do well and succeed and live life to the fullest and just be happy--well, ya know what? I only have one thing to say to that.

Bugs beware.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

R-Rated Conversations

Well, it was bound to happen sooner or later. I finally met someone who talks even more than I!!

Please re-adjust your seats and trays to their upright and locked positions and do feel free to realign your jaws.

So, as I stated in my previous blog, I had begun e-mailing back and forth with this gal who, for once, lives in Omaha. We met off J-date. Cross your fingers, right? Anyway, the first e-mail I sent was pretty short and simple (for me, anyway--hehehe!!). She then replied with this monster e-mail that even made me nearly shit my pants!! ME!!! So, I sent her a long one back, thinking ha!! By god, no one can top this!!! Sure enough, her e-mail was even longer!! Finally, a girl after my own heart!!

So, we continued exchanging e-mails for about three or four days, asking each other burning questions and all of that good stuff until finally, on Saturday, she asked me a question I really wasn't sure what to respond with. Or rather, if I wanted to respond at all.

Why did your last relationship end?

It hit me hard. It was a really simple question that called for a very complicated answer. I started writing one, two, three, four paragraphs (in addition to the 13 paragraphs beforehand), telling her how things went down. Finally, I stopped, feeling somewhat insecure about what I was writing, and asked my friend Emily what she thought and she said, "Hal...girls really don't wanna hear the details. Keep it simple." Truth be known, that's kind of how I wanted to answer all along. So, I deleted those paragraphs and wrote the following:

How did my last relationship end? Well, in a word, badly. I got hurt and it's still kind of painful for me to talk about. If you really want the nitty-gritty details, I'll tell you about it sometime but just for now, I rather not discuss it. I hope that's okay. Whew! Next question!

I don't know why but, for some reason, I felt relieved after I wrote it. I know I tend to be long-winded. It's true. Sometimes, I write too much and to my own detriment. It was nice to keep something to myself. It doesn't happen too often. I'm an open book that could, on occasion, use a lock.

Anyway, moving on, after all of the e-mails, we agreed that I'd call her on Sunday night at 9:15. And so, I did. Well, okay, I didn't call her until 10 minute past the designated time. Oh, well. I'm fashionably late!! Or wait!! Wouldn't that be considered S.J.T. (Standard Jewish Time)?! If that's the case, I'm totally in the clear!!

Boys and girls, dear readers, I kid you not when I tell you that, except for one 30-second break (blasted Bluetooth battery!!!) we talked on the phone for no less than five hours. Now, many of you, at this point, are thinking to yourselves, my god, Hal!!! Are you an ogre?!?! How could you subject that poor young woman to your incessant blathering?!?!?! Talk about a horrible first impression!!

On any other occasion, I would consider the following reply as childish, immature and downright lame, but here goes: WELL, SHE STARTED IT!!! Seriously, this girl gave as good as she got!! And then some!!! I was probably silent and just listening for half of the time. And ya know what? It was kinda nice. Finally, I can die knowing that there's someone besides myself who will continue talking even after they've run out of things to say. Do you know how abso-fuckin'-lutely REFRESHING that is?! We talked about anything and everything!! It was fantastic!! (And, as a side note: I did give her a very brief rundown of the demise of my last relationship. Hey, she wanted to know and once I got to talking with her, strangely enough, I felt a little more at ease with the topic. But like I said, I kept it pretty brief. The end.)

And the thing is, I'm still not quite sure about her yet. And I don't mean that in a bad way either. Oh, I think she's really awesome and I can't wait to meet her in person, but when I think of her, I'm kind of reminded of Vince Vaughn's bit of dialogue in "Swingers": "
I don't want you to be the guy in the PG-13 movie everyone's really hoping makes it happen. I want you to be like the guy in the rated R movie, you know, the guy you're not sure whether or not you like yet. You're not sure where he's coming from."

Long story short, this girl is like the girl in the rated R movie. In a way, she kind of reminds me of Catherine Keener, personality-wise. Well, at least, the hard-edged Catherine Keener circa "Being John Malkovich," as opposed to the softer "40-Year-Old Virgin" version. For example, when I told her that I cry in a lot of movies (including--shut the fuck up!!!--"Meet the Parents!!" They were so mean to my man, The Stiller!! I felt really bad for him on the airplane, when he was telling that bitchy stewardess that he had feelings and to leave him alone--er--to "step off, bitch!!"), she replied with, "Are you some kind of wuss or something?!" I didn't know how to answer and there was like this extremely awkward moment of silence before she went, "Um, I'm KIDDING!!"

Anyway, we talked again tonight for another two hours before I told her that we should probably not talk as long for fear of exhausting things. I asked her when she wanted to talk again (I've decided to put the ball in her court) and she was like, "Well, I'm not tired of you yet, so whenever." I asked, very hesitantly, if she wanted to talk tomorrow. Seriously, I'm really learning that one shouldn't overstay their welcome. She laughed and said, "YEAH, THAT'S FINE!! I have no problem talking with you!!!" And then she added, as a joke, "Just as long as we're not, you know, IM-ing each other eight hours a day."

We hung up around 11:30 p.m. and the same thought is still echoing through the windmills of my mind:

Curiouser and curiouser...

Sunday, April 15, 2007


I'm going to be brief, tonight--er--this morning, but I want to touch base.

Without going into too much detail for right now, in the last few days, I've begun e-mailing back and forth with this really sweet gal who--believe it or not--actually lives in The Big "O!!" Go me, right?!?!

Truth be told, I thought it was going to be a long time before I met someone nice again. Then again, good or bad, this year has already been full of surprises.

Anyway, it's late, I'm tired and I really don't want to say more for fear of jinxing anything.
I will say this, though. It looks like my mopey, mournful period of darkness is slowly but surely coming to an end.

Day by day, people. Day by day.

Luckily for me, somewhere in the world, a sun is rising and a new day is beginning.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Hero Worship

So, tomorrow is my father's 54th birthday.

There are a few things I want to throw out there, lay on the table. There is no one that I admire as much as my father. He is one of the smartest, funniest, most generous guys you'll ever meet. He's my hero and he's my best friend.

As stubborn, sarcastic and self-superior as he can be, though, he's sometimes also one of the most exasperating people I know. Sometimes, after my dad and I have had a disagreement or something, I'll fix my mom with a stare that asks, how the hell do you do it?!?!

But then there are those many, many moments when I just look at him and I see it. He has the kindest eyes and beneath that smart-ass exterior lies one of the most gentle souls you'll ever meet.

People think it's weird that my dad and I spend so much time together and that we have odd conversations (for instance, after having just talked to Hula Hoop Girl--er--Beth, I told my dad that I was pretty sure I came across looking like either a date rapist or a mentally-challenged man. He responded with the following: "Wait. Hold on. Which one are you classifying as worse?") like the kind you would have with your best male buddy.

Scoff all you want, haters. I love my father and I cherish every single second that I spend with him.

Now, if only he would eat my cooking...

The Day the Music Died...

So, today, I got into a little trouble at work. Eegads.

Basically, my manager caught me playing my iPod at my desk. I had one of those little iPod docks playing my music ever so softly (trust me...I'm sure I am the only one who could hear it). Even though the screen was black (I turned it off as I saw her approaching), the little blue ON light emanating from the dock must have caught her eye; that, and the deer-in-headlights look I sported on my face.

She loomed over me and tapped one of the buttons on my iPod to discover that, yes, the music had been paused. She tapped my hand and I could just barely hear her say (I was on a call when this went down) "put it away." About 15 minutes later, I received a nasty-gram from her saying that "further discussions on this topic would result in progressive discipline."

Okay, first off, don't touch my shit and ESPECIALLY don't touch me! Second of all, it's MUSIC, for chrissakes!! Third of all, if I'm the only one who can hear it, who fucking cares?!?! Even if someone could hear it, they'd realize that there is nothing "offensive" about it. I mean, that is, unless you count Rufus Wainwright (okay...there IS that one song, "Gay Messiah," but something tells me Boss Lady isn't going to start Googling the lyrics to my music), U2, Fiona Apple or David Bowie as offensive!!

I'll tell you what it is. It's a power trip!!! My boss wants me to know she's in charge at all times. And I get that. I mean, if you're in a position of power, you want people to show you respect and follow your lead. One-hundred percent understood!! But for cryin' out loud...don't you have more important things to do than crush a guy for listening to his music at a more-than-reasonable volume level?!?!

And the thing is, she's actually a pretty nice person when you get to talk to her, one-on-one. Somewhere along the line, though, I think she lost perspective on The Big Picture.

I guess what boggles my mind the most (and, yes, I know this will sound overly simplistic) is how, with all the pain and suffering that goes on all over the world, something as tiny and insignificant as a person's music could be seen as a threat, nuisance or problem. It's really quite sad.

I know we shouldn't sweat the small stuff but sometimes...the small stuff really sweats us.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The First Supper

I know. It's okay. You can say it. Fine! If you won't, I will!!

"Hey, Mr. Neu-FUCKIN'-rotica....When in the bloody HELL did this become a cooking blog?!?!"

Hey, somebody had to say it.

So, alright. I know I've been talking about cooking a helluva lot. And yeah, I know it's probably starting to get annoying to some of you (well, maybe not so much American Idol guy. Dude!!! Sanjaya is still in the game!!! What up wit dat?! Hollaback, yo!!) Normally, I'd say fuck off and go read a copy of Us Weekly if you want something juicier than my growth in the culinary arts, but even I'm starting to get bored writing about the cooking thing.

So, with that, I'm going to cut down on the cooking blogs. However, not before writing about the lovely evening I had with my mom, yesterday. Once again, I cooked the Mexican chicken and beans recipe. As always, it turned out beautifully and my timing couldn't have been any more perfect as it was done by the time my mom arrived with the puppies, at eight.

I want to give you a little bit of perspective on the evening. All my life, my mom has been at my side. She's given me so many things. Hell, I might not be walking or even sitting here, typing this if it weren't for my mom and her (tough) love. Every single night, she has provided me with meal after meal...even after I moved out!! So, please, dear reader, imagine how wonderful it felt to sit her down at a set table and serve her a Caesar salad and a dish that I prepared all by myself. Picture how amazing it felt to have her--the same woman who will eat just a bowlful of spinach and Basmati rice and call it "dinner"--wolf down two giant tortillas and ask me for the recipe at the end, not to mention suggest I go to culinary school (Nahhh...I like to cook just for fun.)

Yes, I get it: It was just one meal and I probably owe her around 9,489 to catch up (if you must know, I went 26 x 365 to come up with that number, so shush!!).

After dinner, mom laid down on the sofa with the puppies and we watched "The Holiday" (love it!!!!). I must say, it was weird seeing them on my couch like that. And yet, it was so satisfying having my mom relax at my place for once and just chill out with me. I think, when it all comes down to it, the reason the evening was so perfect was because for once, my mom and I were hanging out, rather than me just...hanging around.

And for the first time, I felt like I was an adult, a grown man in her eyes and not just her little boy. It's funny. Normally, I tend to eat and run while I'm at their place; like I can't get out of there fast enough. So, it struck me as odd that I felt a twinge of sadness when she and the dogs left. Oh, well...they'll be back.

They all come back.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Hula Hoop Girl--The Journey Continues

So, today, I did it! I broke the ice with Hula Hoop Girl!!

After a week-long absence, Hula Hoop Girl made a welcome return to the gym, this afternoon. I have to be honest, I was really afraid that my mom had actually frightened the poor girl away indefinitely!! Hey, you know me: Always thinkin' the good thought.

Anyway, I got to the gym with my dad around 6:05 and there she was, hula hooping her heart out (wow! nice alliteration!). My heart started to race, my mind blanked. All the ideas I had regarding what I wanted say to her just vanished inside my head.

So, for the majority of the time, I did what I normally do: watch her from afar with puppy dog eyes and looks of longing. But then something happened toward the end of my work-out routine. Something that had never happened. She stopped hula hooping, looked at me and smiled. I proceeded to melt for a good 30 seconds or so.

Apparently, she was done hula hooping for the day and, as luck would have it, I was about 15 feet away. From behind me, I could hear my dad whispering, "Go! Now! Talk to her now!!"

So, I did.

I quickly--a little too quickly, if you really wanna know--approached her and asked, " do you do that?!" She pulled one of her ear buds out and pointed to her eyes, which have sort of like a butterfly design on the sides (hot!) and said, "Oh, you mean these?" Now, the smart man would have said, "why yes! That design really brings out your eyes!" Perhaps it would have made her blush and it would have launched us into a flirtatious back-and-forth.

But nooooo...!!

I pointed to her damn hula hoop and said, "No. How do you do, um, that. You know...hula hoop for hours on end. How do you do that?" She answered back with a single word and smiled: "Practice."

I quickly threw out my hand and introduced myself. I told her she had met my mom the other day (WHY, G-D, WHY?!?!).
She then gave me her name and we shook hands. All the while, I could feel my face and my ears start to turn a bright tomato shade of red. Before I walked off, I let out a little nervous chuckle, looked at her hula hoop again and heard myself say "so, wow...craziness!!"


I walked back over to my dad, pissed with myself for coming across like such a freak. Apparently, my dad had pretty much heard everything. He he had this look on his face that was a mixture of bemusement and pride. He said to me, "hey...ya broke the ice. Good for you. Ya did it." I went on one of my little self-bashing rants about how I probably came off looking like a date rapist or a mentally-challenged man. He finally was like, "Hal. Stop it. Give yourself some credit. You made a first step and now she knows who you are. You did good!"

I wanted to continue being angry with myself. I wanted to continue calling myself names and knock my head up against a wall, but I couldn't.
My dad was right. While it may not have been the introduction I'd been exactly dreaming about, it was still an introduction. People are always saying that you should pick your battles. What they fail to mention is that you should also pick your victories.

Like my dad said, now Hula Hoop Girl knows who I am. And yeah, now I know who she is.

She's Beth.

Happy Endings--Part 2

As I've mentioned in a few past blog entries, this blog is my own version of therapy.

I remember going to my former shrink, a few years back. I would talk and talk and talk (and talk!!) and I never really felt like I was getting much help from his end. He would just sit there with a blank expression like Droopy Dog, only once in a while offering a comment along the lines of "I'm a little confused about..." or "How did that make you feel?"

And yet, I would always feel better just talking. I didn't really need any feedback. Having said that, I could talk to a wall and get the same results--and it would cost me absolutely nothing!

The same goes for this blog. As I've said in the past, it's nice to know that people read my entries and leave me feedback (well, except for those "American Idol" comments!! I mean, Jesus!! Don't you have anything better to do?!), but at the end of the day, this blog is for me to get things out of my system and make coherent, rational thoughts out of them.

As for last night's entry, well, that was an entry for me. I'm glad that y'all--whoever you are--read it, enjoyed it, whatever...but that one was for me. It was me saying, ya know what? I think I'm doing okay. It was sort of like my own self-distributed progress report. If you pay attention to the comments I receive, you'll notice I got one telling me to stop obsessing. Well, it's really not me obsessing. It's me working through my own issues the best way I know how: writing.

This entry, dear readers, is for you...

Every Saturday night, I go to the same Greek restaurant. I have been doing this for nearly four years. I have friends who work there, you see. So, I come in, we chat, I leave. The end.

This last Saturday, however, was different. I had mentioned to Chef X on Thursday that I was going to make the stuffed shells again and she suggested I make something else with pasta. After all, there are a zillion things you can do with pasta. I said, I should make pasta with olive oil and garlic. She gave me a quick tip to infuse the oil with the garlic...or whatever.

So, later on, I got three general guidelines from my mom and on Saturday, I had an amazing experience.

I got off of work at 5pm and stopped at Whole Foods, where I picked up a fresh herb salad, Caesar dressing and olive oil. After that, I stopped at the Kroger's next to my place and picked up some penne pasta, Roma tomatoes and a loaf of freshly baked bread.

I met my friend Crystal at the apartment and it was off I went. I boiled the water and THEN threw the pasta in. It came out perfectly. Yes, it was al dente (hey, I learn from my mistakes,alright?!) Oh, while waiting for the water to boil (remember, I have a crappy-ass electric stove so everything takes forever), I rinsed and sliced up those Roma tomatoes I mentioned earlier.

After I drained the pasta, I let it sit for a while. From there, I thawed out two chicken breasts and cut those up. I put a little olive oil in a pan and browned the chicken, sprinkling some basil leaf on top.

Then came the moment of truth. The pasta sauce. I placed a nice-sized sauce pan onto the burner and poured in the following:

1/4 c. of olive oil
1/4 T of butter
1.5 T of fresh minced garlic

I let it simmer up on medium-high heat until it started to sizzle and then I threw the pasta in. I tossed the pasta and the olive oil for about 5 minutes or so, before throwing the fresh tomatoes and the chicken in. I poured in about a 1/2 cup of grated parmesan cheese and sprinkled a little more basil on the pasta and it was done!!

I'll admit, the last few things I've made have been awesome in terms of taste and flavor but kind of lacking in the aesthetics department. Not this time. The pasta dish that I made on Saturday was so beautiful, so pleasing to the naked eye, I couldn't help but take a few photos of it with my camera phone (...and when I figure how to transfer the photos from my phone to laptop, I'll upload them onto this entry).

After the main dish was done, I tore off a piece of aluminum foil and spread some olive oil and minced garlic on it. Upon it I placed five or six slices of bread so they could sit in the garlic/olive oil mixture while it was in the toaster oven. In the meantime, while the bread was toasting, I got the Caesar salads going.

Finally, at long last, we ate the spectacular meal. It was, in a word, heavenly.

I might have been good with that, too, but at around 11pm, Kevin came over. I got his dinner ready--salad and all--and he sat down to eat it. He took a few bites, looked up and went, ", yeah...this is amazing!! This is the kind of stuff you have to pay tons of money for in a nice restaurant. We both know I could be a dick about this if I wanted to be so obviously, I'm not blowing smoke up your ass. This is so good!!"

Now, granted, Kevin is not the end-all and be-all of compliment-givers, but it felt so great to get one from him. Yeah, it was just one compliment, but as hard as he can be on me sometimes, his one irony- and sarcasm-free compliment kind of validated everything I've been doing this last month. I could feel myself get all warm and emotional inside.

I've always been that friend who wants to make all of my other friends happy--not necessarily with me...but just, you know, happy. It's just who I am. I'm a people pleaser.

I mean, here was Kevin who worked this horrific shift at the Med Center until late at night. He was tired and hungry and I was there for him. He got to my place and filled his stomach with something that I made. Not from a recipe, but just from the top of my head. Aside from those three guidelines, this was something that I concocted on my own.

Saturday night finally made me realize what Kevin was talking about the week before. I now know what kind of power I have--the power to make the people I love happy. I'm realizing that this really has been inside of me all along. It may not have been a desire to cook at first, but I've always had that intrinsic desire to please. Finally, I have a way for that desire to manifest itself.

Really, there is so much inside of us that we never knew existed. It's all there! It may not be one specific skill (
cooking, sewing, musical instruments, etc), per se, but there are those emotions and feelings and desires inside of us that amazing skills are born from.

When one can finally come to such a conclusion on their own terms, in my book, that is a happy ending!!

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Happy Endings

I have this bitchy gay best friend named Kevin. Think Jack on Will & Grace but with a million times more dignity and a helluva lot less tact and you may begin to get a picture.

He can be the most infuriating, offensive asshole on the planet. Sometimes, I just want to grab him by the collar, slap him across the face several hundreds of thousands of time and just scream at him until he's covered in spittle and, depending upon how many spirits I've imbibed, bile. He gets under my skin that much.

But by G-d, when he speaks, he speaks the truth--even if it's a truth I don't particularly want to hear. At first, anyway.

A week or so ago, I went on a rant--albeit an extremely drunken rant--about how sad I still felt and blah, blah, blah about the demise of my relationship with The Girl. Thank goodness Kevin's tolerance for alcohol is higher than mine, because what followed really knocked a lot of sense into me. He just looked at me and just started yelling at me. Really yelling at me!! Big time!! He basically said, "Hal! Do you think you're the only one who goes through this shit?! Everyone goes through this!! Why do you think you're so fucking special?! Fuckin' MAN UP!!"

Wow! "Man up!" I never thought I'd ever hear those words come out of, of all people, his mouth. No, I don't mean that as an offensive and stereotyping commentary about gay men not being Real Men (In my experience, the gay men that I've known have actually been better men than many of the straight ones!!
). It was just so not a Kevin thing to say. Hell, even he laughed a little in disbelief after he said it!!

And then he got onto the topic of my cooking. He was like, "Who are you kidding?! It's obvious that you're doing this to maintain some sort of connection with The Girl!!" I then asked him why he was getting so mad at me and why he was yelling at me and he finally answered: "I'm yelling at you because you think you're this amazing person because you're cooking and the truth could and should have been doing this all along!! It has always been inside you!! I've always known you could do it!!"

I hate, hate, HATE admitting when he's right. But hey...when you're right, you're right.

As you know, I've been doing a lot of cooking, this last month. And I love it. I can honestly say that watching people eat and enjoy my food--not to mention eating it myself--has been better than any marijuana high I ever had (Okay..there WAS that one time when I watched "Apocalypse Now" absolutely blazed. Now THAT was crazy!!). And yet, I started my culinary adventures for the completely wrong reasons. In fact, a lot of the cool things I've been doing lately (cooking, grocery shopping, the whole cutting of the parental umbilical cord, etc.) started for the wrong reasons. Mainly, it was to get The Girl back. I figured, if I worked on myself as a person, maybe I could win her back.

I know, lame, right? Yeah, it is lame. Lame, but--sorry to say--true. In a way, it kind of reminds me of a great line that Albert Brooks had in the film, "Broadcast News":
"Wouldn't this be a great world if insecurity and desperation made us more attractive? If 'needy' were a turn-on?"

But now that some time has passed and the dust has settled, here I am. I've come to terms with the fact that, other than friendship, there will be no Happy Ending with The Girl. While the end of a romantic relationship is hard on anyone, people like myself tend to forget that life around them keeps moving, And yeah, like Kevin said, it happens to everyone. I'm starting to learn that, once you have experienced the ordeal that is heartbreak, what you take away from it and how gracefully you bounce back...that's what counts.

Admittedly, for the first few weeks, I was neither bouncing nor graceful.

And now, look at me: I'm cooking for my friends and family, I'm visiting my parents' house (read: leeching) less and less. I'm finally--FINALLY!!--starting to live my life!! And I'm loving every minute of it!!! Does it matter that my original reasons for starting this life-changing journey were the "wrong" ones? Ya know, I really don't think so. In the end, it's whatever works, whatever pushes you in the more positive direction, right? I may not have the Happy Ending I originally imagined or desired, but this one really ain't so bad. In fact, I'm enjoying my life more now than I previously had in a very, very long time.

As for Kevin, well, he's still a bitch.
Always has been...always will be. But I love him and I'm grateful to have him as a friend. Sometimes, tough love is the only way to break through the madness of self-doubt, regret and insecurity. As far as the whole manning up thing goes...I just don't know about that. By nature, I'm an emotional, high-strung guy. I always have been and I suppose I always will be. Then again, always is a really long time.

Growing up, on the other hand, well...that's completely doable.

Friday, April 6, 2007

The Z Factor

I'm afraid that I'm not of much use to you, this evening, dear readers and read-ettes.

For the last three weeks, I've been getting less than five hours of sleep a night. Don't ask me why. I tend to go through long stretches where I have trouble getting to bed at a decent hour, due to various distractions in my apartment or because I just get caught up in other things.

As I write this, I look like absolute shit. I'm starting to lose color in my face and my eyes are so red and bloodshot, I look like I just walked off the set of the sequel to "28 Days Later." In terms of energy, I'm drained.

And yet, I feel up. Happy "up." I mean, lack of sleep aside, it's really been a good week.

I had a nice Passover Seder with my family and friends on Monday. The food was great and so was the company! Plus, when mom gets so drunk on kosher Manischewitz wine that she can't do anything but lay her head on the table and let out the occasional cackle toward no one in particular, you know it's bound to be a grand evening for the books.

Tuesday, well, you know how that went. With the power of my cooking--and the whiff of a free meal--I reunited two long-lost friends!! Does it get much better?!

Well, yeah...actually, it does!!

Wednesday was even better!! As I mentioned in one of my previous entries, I went over to my friend Christina's house and cooked her dinner. Unfortunately, I had a (former) stoner moment and forgot to bring the movie (Yes, I know what you're thinking: You?! Forget a movie?!), so we went to the bar our friend Nichole works at and had a few drinks. As a result of Wednesday night's fun, Christina and I have decided to make Wednesday night a regular thing: Cook together and then go to the bar. Not only is that exciting news because I love hanging out with Chrissy, but because it's one more night I'm not mooching off my mom for food. Baby boy is really growing up!! Top o' the world, ma!! Top o' the world!!

Seriously, though, there are times when you start to question who your friends are and, even worse, you start to have doubts about yourself as a friend. Wednesday flushed those insecurities down the toilet because it proved, without a shadow of a doubt
, that there's a helluva lot of magic left in my friendship with dear ol' Booty Pants (Christina...not my mom. 'Cuz wouldn't that would be weird!!!).

Thursday, well, OK...Thursday was kind of shitty and nondescript, but at least I got work out with my dad!!

That brings us to tonight. Well, OK...not much happened. But hey...ya can't go wrong with Chinese food. Tai Chin Chicken and Shrimp!! YUM!!

Yeah, obviously, with its inevitable grammatical and spelling errors (this is the one entry I will not sift through with a fine-toothed comb. THAT is how tired I am!!!), I need to get some sleep. But I will leave you with this uplifting, after-school special-ish message: No matter how tired you get, no matter how weary and overwhelmed and insignificant you feel, there's alway room for even the smallest hint of a smile.

That's how you win.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Baked...And Loving It!!

Not to crib from a fellow blogger, but MY OVEN WORKS! MY OVEN WORKS!! I know this because tonight, for the first time ever in my life, I baked.

Chills, people, chills.

For my first baking experience, the great and oh-so-spectacular Chef X recommended that I try her Stuffed Shells recipe:

Stuffed Shells

1 lb. box jumbo shells (pasta)
2 lb. ricotta cheese (it will be by the sour cream at the store)
1/2 c. grated parmesan cheese
2 eggs
2 tbsp chopped parsley
salt and pepper to taste
garlic powder to taste
26 oz tomato sauce (spaghetti sauce. this is also where you could buy a jar that already has meat in it)
1/4 c. grated parmesan cheese

Cook shells as directed on package. Mix all ingredients, except tomato sauce and 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, thoroughly and fill cooked shells. Line a 9x13 baking dish with enough tomato sauce to cover the bottom of the dish. Place filled shells in pan in a single layer and cover with the remaining sauce. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup parmesan cheese. Bake at 350* for 20 minutes.

I have to say, surprisingly enough, this was the toughest recipe for me to make, A lot of it had to with the fact that I screwed up on the pasta. Yeah, memo to self: do NOT place pasta in the water before it has come to a boil!! It makes the water starchy and utterly nasty to look at and the pasta gummy in texture. I realized that early enough that I could get a new pot, bring some fresh water to a boil and drop the half-cooked (read: soft and chewy, but with a nice crunch. Ick.) pasta in the new pot. Admittedly, a lot of the pasta shells kind of got thrashed and ripped in the transfer from strainer to pot, but everything seemed to come out OK.

Naturally, when the going got rough, I started to doubt myself and my ability to make this dish. At one point, the thought crossed my mind to throw in the towel and make the Mexican dish for my two guests, but I quickly pressed the eject button on that one, clearing my brain of any negativity. When I was a young lad, my mom always used to drill one thought into my brain: the word "can't" was not in my vocabulary. Tonight was no different. I saw it through to the end and the result was nothing short of a small miracle.

Not necessarily for the reason you might think, though.

In the end, when it was all said and done, we didn't eat until 8:45pm. It was worth the wait. Not just because the meal was delicious or because watching my two dinner guests eat until their bellies were full made me beam with pride. No, it was deeper than that. See, this was the first time in several years that my two friends, Derek and Crystal, had hung out together. I really never thought I'd get them in the same room again. We all went to high school together but once we closed that chapter in our lives, as is the case with that type of situation, Derek and Crystal just kind of lost touch and faded away from each other. The food that I made brought them here tonight and watching them reunite, embrace, catch up, relive old times and laugh together made me well up with emotion and a feeling of self-satisfaction that I can't even begin to describe.

I'm starting to realize that cooking really is good for the soul. It has not just fulfilled me emotionally, but it has boosted up my confidence immensely. It has made me start to ask a very important question: If I can do this, what else can I do? It's so easy for one to be complacent or satisfied with they think they can do. Much harder is being willing to push things further and risk staring into the face of possible failure. Tonight, I'm happy to say that I did just that.

And yeah...using an oven? Not so bad either.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Hula Hoop Girl and The Great Snip-Snip

So, I'm gonna just cut right to the chase. There's this girl I'm into.

I see her at the gym all the time and I just can't keep my eyes off of her. It's like I'm hypnotized. And it's not just because I find her extremely attractive--which I do! Man, oh man, I do!!--it's because she hula hoops the whole time. Seriously!! The girl does this exotic (no, pervs...not the Jessica Alba/"Sin City" variety of exotic dancing) dance for 45 minutes to an hour listening to music. All the while, she manages to, um, hula her hoop. Must be some pretty great music.

And the thing is, I watch her every time I'm at the gym. Not in a weird, sexually-charged, I'm-a-salivating-creepazoid way, but well, I'm just--I find myself intrigued. I'm always turned on by women who beat to the tune of their own drummer. As I've mentioned in previous blogs, people have always told me that they'll never meet anyone like me. Truth be told, I guess I'm looking for someone who is kind of quirky and different like me.

Somehow, I'm thinkin' that a girl who hula hoops non-stop for an hour at a time seems to fit the bill on that count.

So, getting back to the point--I think there's a point, anyway!--for the last several weeks, this girl has caught my eye and I've really wanted to talk to her but for various reasons, I just can't. The most glaring of those reasons being that the girl is doing her own thing, ya know? She's doing her special Hula Thing to her tunes. What kind of approach should one have for that type of situation ("My, my, my!! You must be a hit at the Bar/Bat Mitzvah parties!")? I'm a nervous guy with low confidence to begin with, but THIS--it's impossible!!

On Sunday, though, a window of opportunity seemed to present itself. Unfortunately, it's kind of a mixed bag. You see, earlier in the day, I made the mistake of mentioning to my mom that I kind of dug Hula Hoop Girl. Well, we got to the gym later on and, to my horror, I saw that my mom <gasp!!> had decided to strike up a conversation with her. JESUS BLOODY CHRIST!!!

About 10 minutes later, their chat session ended and mom--Master of Subtlety that she is--scurried over to me to unload all of the information she got. If I'd previously never known what it's like to have my eyes glaze over, I certainly can't make that claim now. As my mom continued to tell me about Hula Girl, I could feel the color drain out of my face. I was mortified, to say the least.

Here's the deal, I love my mom. She's an amazing woman filled with soul, passion and life. Sometimes, though, she can be just a tad much. This was one of those times. Lately, I've been trying to make myself this self-sufficient individual but it's hard, because I know she wants nothing more than for me to be happy and that desire gets in the way of just letting me breathe, letting me live and just letting me be. And that's partially my fault. I've been so dependent on my parents for so long that now that I'm finally up to the challenge of going my own way, cutting that parental umbilical cord has become increasingly difficult.

And I appreciate what she was trying to do with this girl at the gym. I think it's so sweet how she's constantly trying to help me out, whether it be providing me with cooking utensils, food (one can never get enough Raisin Bran, people!!) and coupons or "helping" me out with Hula Hoop Girl. Like I said, my mom is a lovely woman who means well and has the best intentions. However, in the latter case, meaning well and doing well are two completely different things. And make no mistake, I already feel as though I've been struck upon the head by her Giant Magical Staff of Jewish Guilt for writing these words. And she hasn't even read this yet!!

On the plus side, however, despite my objections, my mom really did get some good info on Hula Girl. For starters, she's 23, single and, according to my mom, very nice ("Oh, my GAWD!! SHE IS SO SWEET AND RECEPTIVE!!!"). Plus, she got her name. YES!! Hula Girl has a name!! I'm in business, people!!

Oh, but there's just one thing: How the FUCK can I talk to this girl now?! I can only imagine what she'll think when I start talking to her (great...the guy had his mom pump info out of me for her son. Nice.) Now, not only do I not have an approach, but I also look like a Mr. Vagina Von Vaginasteen without an approach. Great! Yes, this is the kind of shit that goes through my head. I'm once and forever more the King of Over Analysis.

But I'd be lying if I said I'm completely at a loss for ideas.

See, music is a huge deal in my life. Well, listening to it anyway (I tried learning how to play piano but quickly realized that I was out of my element when, during my first and only recital, I fucked up the second verse of "Mary Had A Little Lamb." Yeesh!!) Music has such a profound effect on my mood as well as the way I live my life. So, having said that, I have to say, I've always been curious about what kind of music gets a girl pumped enough to hula her ass off for such an extended period of time.

So, in the next couple of days, when she's there, I'm going to go up and ask her about it. It's not exactly a grand introduction, but hey...ya gotta start somewhere, right?

Any (serious!!) suggestions from the Peanut Gallery would also be immensely appreciated. Drop me a few comments, peeps (yes, you read that correctly. I said "peeps." Gosh, I'm so street!), if you feel so inclined.

As for the Mom Situation, I think that, in time and after further conversation, she'll come to realize that hearing the inevitable snip-snip sound shouldn't be cause for fear, panic and anxiety. On the contrary, it should be cause for celebration and a newfound sense of hope and trust that I'll make the right choices, decisions on my own. Even if there's a twinge of pain at first.

Hell, is there ever not?