Thursday, June 30, 2011

That one pair of sunglasses you just can't lose...

A couple of weeks ago while walking around Sedona, I was telling my friend Gail about this bit I’d heard about sunglasses by a comic whose name I wish I could recall. The guy was funny as hell.

He was saying how when you lose a pair of sunglasses, they’re always the brand new Ray Bans; they’re never the old, scratched-up Walmart sunglasses you’ve had for years. Those are the ones you couldn’t lose if you tried. Then he said something like,

“You could be leaning over the edge of a cruise ship in the middle of the ocean, and if those old, shitty sunglasses fall into the water, I guarantee a scuba diver will swim by and shout, ‘Hey! I got your sunglasses!’”
I love that bit. We can all relate, right?

I have a pair of those indestructible shades; they’re all scratched up and parts of the frames are peeling off.  They're the cockroaches of the sunglass world and the only ones I have right now. I refuse to buy another pair until I somehow get rid of them, since the replacement glasses are surely doomed. I bought them years ago at Walgreen’s and I can’t tell you how many pairs I've been through since. Some were sat on or otherwise broken; most were lost. I remember one pair disappearing in Ross Dress-for-Less in Boise and I swear, it was as if Rod Serling himself had pulled them into another dimension. I cannot fathom how I lost them. Of course, they were maybe a week old. Maybe.

Anyway, Tuesday afternoon Gail and I were enjoying the happy hour specials at the Elephant Bar in The District at Green Valley Ranch. Then, as we’re leaving the building, our waitress comes rushing after us.

“Here!” she exclaimed to me. “You forgot your sunglasses!”

Gail and I cracked up. I thanked our server, who said, “You’re the second person in a row who did that.”

Yeah. I’m not the only one.

Two and a half years and counting!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Exercise or have a beer? Sometimes beer's the wiser choice.

Did you know that exercising too much could land you in the hospital? I had no idea until recently, when that's exactly what happened to my dear friend Kristin.  I'll let her tell you in her own words, written from her hospital bed last month.

How I Got the Rhabdo

Last Thursday, I headed to the gym to participate in a 7pm training session. When I arrived and saw what the workout was, I knew that it was going to be tough. However, just like any other day, I was up for the challenge and gave the workout everything I had.

A little over a year ago, I started a training program called Crossfit. The training sessions are short and intense and I loved them! I saw results very quickly, loved my trainers, and loved going to the gym again. When I first started this new training regime, I remember reading about rhabdo in the Crossfit Journal. I tucked the information away and moved on.

As most of you know, in July of 2009, I lost my job. I was out of work for four months and I took a big hit financially. It has taken me a while to get back on track as a result, so when I had the opportunity to take on a second job earlier this year, I jumped on it. This means that since January, I have been working two jobs, moved into a new place, continue to volunteer for search and rescue, and am pretty much non-stop. Because of this, other things in my life took a back seat. This included my eating habits, amount of sleep, and exercise routine. I literally have zero extra time in my day.

About a month ago, I started to get down on myself about these things. I wasn't feeling good physically and wanted to get back on track. I had been feeling so good with Crossfit, and had only been dropping in at the gym every now and then. I needed to get back into a routine and was excited about it!

 So, last Thursday I headed to the gym and gave that workout my everything. I knew it was going to kick my butt, and when I was done, I was spent. Instead of eating and drinking after my workout, I drove straight home and went to bed.

Thursday's workout (which I scaled because I was getting back into my routine):
  • 50 pull-ups (I used a thick, green band and broke into groups of 10)
  • 40 dumbell snatches (20 on each arm @ 25 lbs)
  • 30 burpees
  • 20 handstand pushups (which I did with the help of a box)
  • 10 deadlifts (less than 100 lbs)
My time on this workout was 14:47.

On Friday morning, I woke up to a little bit of stiffness in my legs and arms. My arms were tender and I couldn't straighten my arms all the way. I was expecting to feel this way, so I headed to job number one. When I headed to job number two later that evening, the soreness was getting a little worse. I work as a rigger for Le Reve at night, which means that this job is a little more physical than my daytime computer job. I noticed that it was difficult to lift and move, but again, I felt as if the soreness was normal.

On Saturday, I met my friend Sarah for a little time at the mall. While we were there, we joked about my stiffness. It was getting more difficult to straighten my arms all the way and my soreness had increased. We laughed as I tried to reach clothes on hangars without being able to extend my arms. It was really ridiculous, but I chalked it up to second day soreness. Later that evening, I headed to job number two and started to notice a little bit of swelling in my arms. They felt a little more firm than normal, but again, I knew that this was going to happen. I started taking ibuprofen, worked, and by the time I went to bed that night, I was in a bunch of pain. I had a hard time sleeping as a result and continued to pop ibu.

Sunday was Mother's Day. It was also unusually cold and windy in Las Vegas. Before leaving the house, I put on a long sleeved shirt and met my mom and some family members for a burger. We had fun hanging out and again, all joked about how sore I was and the fact that I couldn't straighten my arms all the way. By early afternoon, as I changed from my long sleeved shirt to a short sleeved short before heading back to job number 2, I noticed that my arms weren't as sore, but the swelling had increased dramatically. While I was at job number 2 that night, I knew something wasn't right. My arms were so big that they didn't resemble my arms at all. I also noticed a large bruise on my left arm and knew that I hadn't bumped it on anything. During my shift that night as I looked at my gigantic arms, I suddenly rememberd reading about this. I started to think about compartment syndrome and knew that I needed to see a doctor. I pulled out my phone and did a search and ran across the rhabdo article that I had read when I first started Crossfit. As soon as my shift was over, I headed to a 24-hour clinic. When the woman at the front desk saw my arms, she advised me to head directly to the ER. That's exactly what I did.

I'm writing all of this because it's so easy to point a finger and blame Crossfit and that crazy workout. The fact is that I haven't been taking care of myself. My stress has been high, I haven't been sleeping or eating right, and I expected to be able to jump right back into my intense exercise routine as if it were nothing. I am so used to going full on that the thought of easing into things was only a fleeting thought. The truth is that it's difficult for me not to give anything that I approach my all. I now know that at the rate I was going, something was going to eventually slow me down. In this case, Crossfit happened to be the catalyst. I should also point out that if it weren't for Crossfit, I wouldn't know what rhabdo was. I wouldn't have known to pay attention to the signs and symptoms.

So here I am, sitting in the hospital with no choice but to rest. I feel totally normal, which has been the most difficult part of all of this. After the doc left this morning, he told me that my kidneys are healthy and that the muscle fibers in my arms will come back. The swelling in my arms is almost gone as well as the soreness. I'm also able to extend my arms just about all the way. I'm excited about all of this, but know that the important item at this point are my CPK levels.

What are CPK's?

When I worked out last Thursday, I ended up injuring a large amount of the muscle fibers in my arms (a small amount is totally normal). Just like anything else in the body, those muscle fibers had to go somewhere, so they made their way into my bloodstream. These muscle fibers are called CPK's in medical terms.

When muscle fibers are normally released in the bloodstream, the kidneys are able to filter them along with everything else. In this case, there are so many muscle fibers that the kidneys aren't able to filter like normal. The muscle fibers are so large that they end up clogging the kidney's filters. If this isn't caught early, this could potentially lead to kidney failure.

On Sunday night, my CPK levels were at 50,000. Normal is 200-500.

The treatment is high levels of fluid, which explains why I'm on the IV drip. The objective is to water down my blood so that it can help break down the CPK's that are sitting on my kidneys and to make it easier for my blood to continue to move through the filtering process. This treatment has been successful, but it takes a while for the muscle fibers to break down and dissolve. Last night, my CPK levels were at 30,000. The doc says that I can go home when they're down to 8,000.

At this point, I'm playing the waiting game. It's amazing how a 15 minute workout landed me in the hospital for this long. But when I think about it, I have to remember that my lifestyle put me here and there's a reason for it. So this week, I'm practicing a couple of things that I don't normally do - Patience and Rest :)
Fascinating, no?  Have you ever heard of such a thing?

I'm happy to report that Kri is all back to normal and has even had a few life changes (such as a new job that allows her to work at home) that are all for the better.  But, as I've told my dear friend, this all wouldn't have happened had she joined me for a beer that night instead of choosing to exercise. 

The fact is, sometimes beer is the wiser choice.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Dental consumers beware!

You know how you’re sitting in the dentist’s chair and then the hygienist leaves the room for who knows what—maybe to fart—and so you’re there without a goddamn thing to do except look at those posters that you see in every single dental office? I’m not talking about the posters with a goofy, colorful cartoon personification of a bicuspid giving you the thumbs-up to brush. No, I mean the ones with the people smiling brilliantly with perfect teeth as they look down at you as if to say, “You don’t have enough money to buy a smile like ours. And you never will. Sucks to be you.”

Well, the other day I was in that situation, alone with those people gracing the walls. My eyes landed on a young douche bag in his 20s. I could totally kick his ass. That couple over there that appears to be in their late 60’s? He has erectile dysfunction and she pees a little every time she sneezes. And don’t get me started on the professional looking bitch on the wall to the left.

You may have a dazzling smile, but I have a dazzling personality.

I know they’re only models, but I hate them. I always sit there feeling their scorn. Even though I brush my teeth a hundred times a day and stand in my bathroom like an idiot flicking tooth crap onto the mirror as I floss, every time I go to the dentist they peer into my mouth and can barely contain their excitement as their dream of owning a Ferrari becomes just a little closer to reality. And the people in the photos know it.

I have soft enamel, so I’m told. I just figure I have Irish teeth. Very expensive Irish teeth.

I’ve had a hard time finding a dentist I like here in Las Vegas. I’ve said before that between my last dentist and her staff, I always walked out of there feeling like I’ve been insulted. Remember this little gem of an exchange?

Hygienist: “Your overbite is really bad. Have you ever noticed that your top teeth completely cover your bottom teeth?”

Me: "Oh, really? I never noticed that, you stupid fucking moron. I only look in the mirror a hundred… no, make that two hundred times a day. Thanks for clueing me in.”
So last Tuesday I tried out my fifth dental office in the eight years I’ve been here. I was quite pleased with the clinical staff, even though it took them forever to do x-rays and a dental exam; I had to make another appointment for a “deep” cleaning because they weren’t pleased with some of my gum measurements. Super. Of course, they found a million other things to work on, and once out of the chair I was directed to meet with the benefits coordinator to go over my insurance coverage.

Holy crap, that woman was as aggressive as a used car salesman, talking wildly and answering my questions in the most roundabout way.

“The laser part of the deep cleaning isn’t covered by my insurance. Do I really need that?” I asked.

“You have gum disease,” she said, eyes piercing into me, and then launched into a discourse of how out of the goodness of her heart she knocked this much off that service and that much off this one. Silly me, I didn’t know pricing of dental health care was as negotiable as a trinket at a garage sale. I’ve never thought to ask a dentist, “Is that the best you can do?”

After 2 hours and 45 minutes, I limped out of there with a $5400 treatment plan and 0% interest funding through a third-party for 18 months. I think I might also hold the title to a timeshare.

“Most people like to put everything on one invoice one their first visit and pay it off over the 18 months,” she told me before I left. “That way they don’t get confused when they get more than one bill.”

Huh? “Why would it be confusing? There’s more than one date of service, right?”

“Most people find it easier.”

Yeah, right. Easier for you to get all your money up front. Not today, sister.

I got home feeling I’d been had. I considered canceling my appointment for the deep cleaning on Thursday, which was to cost me over $500 out of pocket, but I showed up as scheduled.

“Look, I don’t want you to do anything that’s not covered by my insurance,” I told the hygienist. “No laser.”

I expected her to push back, but she cheerily said, “No problem! I can tell you take good care of your teeth. There’s just a couple of pockets I need to clean out.”

Oh, really? Funny how she didn’t see the situation nearly as dire as the benefits coordinator, who I’m thinking must work on commission. She did a fantastic job on my teeth, and an hour later I paid a mere $104. How about that.

I’m telling you, the experience was a real eye-opener. Because I’m happy with the clinical staff, I’ll go back and have them do whatever’s absolutely necessary and only if it’s covered by my insurance. In fact, I asked for a separate treatment plan reflecting just those essentials. My out-of-pocket cost? A little more than $800. 

These days you have to be a savvy consumer at the dental office. Please keep that in mind. And do me a favor next time you're in there--draw a mustache and funny glasses on those smiling faces on the wall.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

My dog's poop is not only fake, it's clean

You know how you can see the list of your most recent texts on your iPhone?  I was just looking at mine and thought, what a loser.  Seriously, Linda, you call yourself a writer?   (Obviously I have quite the propensity for exclamation points.)  

"Holy shit!"
"That's good news!"
"Will do!"
"I don't know!"
"Hahaha!! I love you!"
"I wanted to, but I was dead tired!"
"Ha! Not that he needs sugar!"
"I just accidentally washed Stiff's fake poop!"

Wait, what was that last one?  "I just accidentally washed Stiff's fake poop"?

Yeah, I sent that one out to my friend Kristin and my sister Lori.  If you're a long-time reader, you already know about my dog, Stiff.    I got Stiff from Beautiful Aunt Joyce for my fiftieth birthday and it was the best present ever.  Stiff is the perfect pet for me because he’s not real.  Like he's stuffed. Hello--why do you think he’s called “Stiff?”

Cute, huh?

Stiff's been on two cross-country road trips (so far).  He's so low maintenance and I never have to worry about the ASPCA getting on my case for leaving him in a hot car.

He's low maintenance, but not no maintenance because one night I was out kind of late and this is what I came home to.

A couple of weeks ago, somehow his fake poop ended up in the washer.  Seriously, I did not think he could jump up that high.

So that, my friends, explains that particular text message.  And yes, I did attach the photo.  Can you believe I found that important enough to actually send to people? 

If your cell number's not saved in my contact list, count your blessings.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Happy summer--it's bathing suit season!

Not that anyone should give a crap, but I've been really good sticking to my new eating and exercise regiment.  The good news is, the more you do that Buns of Steel video, the less you want to give the guy the finger as you're sweating through it.  Even better--I'm down 2 pounds since last week, which means I'm a whole pound less than my official full-term pregnancy weight of both 1978 and 1979. Now there's something to be proud of.

Let's talk bathing suits.  I have two of them.  One is a two-piece that I'm the first to admit I look disgusting in.  I got wicked stretch marks during those two pregnancies over 30 years ago--the worst I've ever seen on anyone, but people with those kind of stretch marks aren't exactly showing them off, either.  They haven't faded a bit over the past three decades, but for some reason I think a tan makes them seem less prominent and my stomach less flabby.  Of course, no one sees my stomach except Mike, who claims to love it, gross as it is.  But I'm sure that's only because it makes me less attractive and significantly reduces the chances of someone stealing me away from him. 

Anyway, the two-piece is for when I'm basking poolside at Linda Land.  Alone.

The second is a more modest suit for when I'm around the kids.  Mike's 6-year-old is precious, but she doesn't miss a thing and she's quick to point out every friggin' one of my imperfections.  Like I'll just be minding my own business pecking away at my laptop at the table and and I can feel her eyes on me, sizing me up, leading to this exchange:
6-year-old (staring at my gut): "Um, Linda, can I ask you something?"
Me:  "Of course, sweetheart."
6-year-old (positively transfixed by my gut): "Um, Linda, are you pregnant?"
Me:  "No, silly.  You know I don't like children."
Sometimes she scrutinizes my face and all I can think is, Whatever you see, don't tell your father

So in anticipation of what she'd have to say about my horrendous midsection ("Linda, were you in a fire?"), I got a one-piece.  Wait, it's not just a one-piece; it's a total old lady bathing suit, complete with the little cellulite-on-the-thighs-hiding skirt.  It actually looks good--when the 6-year-old saw me in it she gave me the thumbs up and said, "Wait till my dad sees you!"which pretty much validated my total existence, but let's face the facts.  The progression over the years has been bikini, then a two-piece providing more coverage, then a one-piece, and now I'm in something resembling an Olympic figure skater's costume.  I don't know whether to swim or do a double axle.

Here's a bit from my book, Bastard Husband: A Love Story, on the subject of bathing suits.  Enjoy!

You have a big ass and your kids are brats. That’s what I wanted to say to the woman in front of me at Walgreen’s this morning.

He’s been gone two weeks. I’m so depressed and miserable, even Jesus would cross the street if he saw me coming. So in a perverse attempt to see just how far I can press the despondency, I’m heading to the mall to shop for a bathing suit.

After sifting through the racks, I enter the dressing room with eight options in hand, holding particular hope for a cute little number with diamond-shaped cutouts strategically running down the sides. Between the hanger and my body, however, something goes horribly wrong and the thought that security personnel might be watching through a one-way mirror sends me into a panic. Not that I’m concerned about modesty; I would just hate to gross anyone out.

I decide on a simple black two-piece (not a bikini, for God’s sake) that actually doesn’t look too bad. I haven’t worn anything but a maillot for the past 25 years, but I’ve seen what other women wear poolside at my apartment complex and I think I can get away with this.

The minute I get home, I try on my purchase again to make sure I didn’t gain weight in transit and that the mirrors in the store didn’t make me look dubiously thinner. I think sometimes they do, so you’ll buy stuff.

I’m still safe. The bottom is cut high enough to hide most of the stretch marks on my stomach and the bra top makes my boobs look a little bigger than they actually are. I don’t look bad. Hell, I look pretty good.

There’s still about an hour until Guiding Light comes on, so I have time for a swim. This is my life: get up, meditate, do some yoga, read the paper and do both crosswords, give his picture the finger every time I walk by it, go to the pool, and then at two o’clock I watch my soap while eating two bowls of mocha almond fudge ice cream. I kind of like this routine, especially since at some point I’m going to have to get a job.

I wrap a mini-sarong around my waist, tighten my abs and strut myself down to the pool. As I approach the gate, I pass a woman about my mother’s age and a little blond girl in a frilly pink bathing suit with matching flip-flops. I smile at them with the confidence that comes when you know you’re looking good.

The woman smiles back and points to me. “Look, Emily!” she singsongs. “That lady looks like your other grandmother!”


Well, I am, in fact, a grandmother, but I do NOT look like one. In good lighting, I can pass for 39, which is much too young to be a grandmother, even in Las Vegas.

Jesus Christ, lady, do you have any idea how fragile my self-esteem is? My dipsomaniac husband left ME because he needs to “return to his homeland” and I don’t know if he’s coming back or not, and if he doesn’t, I’ll have to start dating again and break in a new guy, in which case, the situation will eventually lead to nudity—maybe with the lights on—which quite honestly I wouldn’t have worried about until you had to make that stupid fucking comment.

Glaring at the bitch, I say to little Emily, “Your other grandmother must be hot.”

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Return to the bitchy women bookstore

Remember a few weeks ago I told you about my visit to a used bookstore?  I went in there to sell some books and quite honestly, it was my worst customer service experience ever.  And that's counting the time I lived in Buffalo with BH for a few months back in 2000.

Yeah, as I recall the service workers in Buffalo were totally Night of the Living Dead. Salespeople or store clerks would perk up only if I happened to ask for something out of stock or discontinued.
Me: “Do you carry [name of item]?”
Them: (Sudden great big smile, wide open eyes, cheery vocal tone) “No, we sure don’t!”
 A moment later, back to flatlining.

I've delivered quite a bit of customer service training over the years, and I feel there's no excuse to treat customers poorly, especially if you're the owner of the goddamn store and especially in this economy where business people should be grateful that anyone has set foot in their establishment.

Well, as promised, I returned to the bitchy women's bookstore today to see if my experience would be any different.  Mike came with me this time and as we walked from our parking space in the practically empty lot of the shopping plaza, I told him I was going to keep an open mind (which is something I hardly ever do because it's just not my nature). 

We walked in and only the older woman was there, with the same grumpy throw-up burp look I remembered from my first visit.  As I perused the shelves, I could hear Mike striking up a conversation.  Let me tell you something about my boyfriend:  he's a talker.  It's amazing that we could both be talkers--like how can either of us get a word in edgewise?--but he totally has me beat.

So I can hear him asking, "How's business?" and then talking about Dante's Inferno and other smarty-pants topics of conversation and it seems he's been able to engage her.  After a while I take some books up to the counter, ready to cash in on my 50% store credit from the books they bought from me last time I was there.  (Still think that policy sucks.) 

The woman was totally pleasant.  No doubt Mike and his charm softened her up a bit, and I wonder what she'd have been like if he hadn't attempted to get her talking, but she was fine. 

I decided to converse with her a bit myself.  "So, was that your daughter in here with you last time?" I asked.

"No, she's a good friend.  My daughter used to work here, but she's disabled now."


Well, folks, I have to tell you, if my daughter were disabled, I might be pretty bitchy myself.  I didn't prod any further.  She gets a pass.  Now, I don't know what was up the younger woman's ass when I was in there, but who knows?  Maybe she's dealing with something as well.

I try to remember that most of the time people behave as they do for good reason, but my first encounter with those two was so miserable, I couldn't even get myself in that frame of mind.  Whenever I encounter someone obnoxious or arrogant, or if I simply don't like their stinkin' looks, I try to think of how I would feel about them if one of my grandchildren needed a kidney and they were the only possible donor on earth and they were willing to give it up.  I would freakin' love them!  They would be my saviour!

It would be nice if we could maintain that approach for all the strangers we come in contact with during the course of a day--cashiers, co-workers, people we pass on the street.  It would be nice, but frankly, I'm not that big a person.  When I get poor customer service, I get pissed off. 

And don't get me going about people who talk in the movie theatre.  You know my policy:  "Behead them!"

Thursday, June 16, 2011

49 more years of looking good

A couple of weeks ago after my (45-step) beautification process, I looked in the mirror and thought, "Holy crap, I am actually having a good hair day!"  Of course, being the a-hole that I am (that's "eh-hole" for my Canadian readers), I had to take a photo and post it on Facebook.

That would make an awesome obituary picture, no?  People would be like, man, too bad she's dead--she's cute as hell.  (Being an a-hole again.)  As much as I have practically made a second career of scrutinizing my reflection for imperfections, I actually think I am pretty goddamn decent looking for a 53-year-old. 

Until I saw this photo.  My friend Gail took this last week when we were in Sedona.

Oh, hold on.  I cropped out the horrifying part.  Here's the whole picture.

Ugh!  Can you say, "middle-age spread"?  Seriously, WTF?

That, my friends, was my wake-up call.  You know how you hear about a 600-lb. guy and you're thinking, "Dude, when the scales tipped, let's say 300, didn't you think, 'Holy shit, I gotta put the brakes on?'"  Well, 140 is my 300.  Christ, I weighed 139 on my last doctor's appointment before I gave birth.  Both times.

So this is what I'm doing about it:
  • Needless to say, I've been doing my Buns of Steel DVD all week and no kidding, I already can tell things are firming up.  That video is freakin' magic! 
  • I replaced my 250-calorie per bowl Starbucks mocha chip ice cream with 60-calorie Ciao Bella sorbet.  I don't even notice the difference.
  • I eat whatever carbs I want before noon and then try to cool it from there.  Cutting carbs makes a huge difference, but I need the energy in the morning.  
  • I eat no food after 6 p.m. except sorbet.  I know there are carbs in sorbet, but tough.
  • I replaced my dark beer with Coors Light.  I don't even notice the difference.  ...  ...  ...  PSYCHE!  What, are you out of your freakin' mind?   That's a quality of life issue!
By making these changes, I already feel less... disgusting around the middle.  I know that yeah, people naturally gain weight as they age and your metabolism slows and blah, blah, blah... but I am not accepting that.  I believe that sure, there are certain laws of nature, but overall whatever you expect is what you get.  And I expect that upon my demise, as I lie in state on what will surely be a national holiday, people will pass my open casket and between their uncontrollable wailing they'll think, "Wow, she looks awesome for 102." 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

I got to meet the brewmaster at Ellis Island!

Brewmasters.  When it comes to what a girl needs, they're right up there with mechanics and plastic surgeons, no? 

A couple of years ago when I was writing for I did this piece on one of my very favorite places to hang in Las Vegas, Ellis Island Casino & Brewery. If you’re a Vegas local I don't have to tell you, it's a gem.

4178 Koval Lane, just south of Flamingo
First, let’s talk about their steak special. It includes your choice of soup or salad, a huge hunk of filet-cut sirloin, a potato cooked the way you like it, garlic-buttered green beans, and a 20-ounce microbrew beer—all for $7.99. Can you imagine?

But you know me—it’s all about the beer. When I first moved to Las Vegas, beers were going for a buck apiece. Now they’re up to a whopping $1.75, which is still the best deal in town. And for the best beer in town.

Last week I got to meet Joe Pickett, the brewmaster at Ellis Island, the man who makes the magic happen. I asked Joe how he came to be a brewmaster. Like was it something he dreamed of becoming since he was a little boy?

Well, Joe started working for the Atlas Prager Brewing Company in Chicago when he was 17 years old. “I’d lift stacked wooden kegs, two high,” he told me. But that wasn’t his first exposure to beer cookin’. Nope. His father actually won a brewery in a card game!

Really. Joe’s dad was all set to attend Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, but then the young man's father died. To support his eight brothers and one sister, he took a job on a riverboat dealing cards and one night while playing cards himself, well, he won the Tube City Brewing Company. It was one of the first breweries to open after Prohibition.

So beer is pretty much in Joe’s blood.   He did take some time to pursue a degree in chemistry and microbiology and had a successful career as a food engineer in the chemical industry. But after the third or fourth time the chemical plant blew up, Joe must have figured beer was a much safer career choice and returned to brewing.

Beer making has taken Joe around the world and he told me of his travels to England, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand (yeah, we know they can drink…) and China, to name a few. Joe came to Ellis Island 13 years ago and built their brewery—he’s their original brewmaster.

Joe Pickett, the magic man
Joe told me Ellis Island is one of the top 20 brew pubs in the U.S. and is the largest in the Pacific Mountain states, selling close to 1 million glasses a year. To qualify as a brew pub, 25% of the beer must be sold on site. Ellis Island sells 93% at their location on Koval Lane in the shadow of the Strip and 7% at the Village Pubs around town. Good to know, huh?

They offer six types of beer and a 100% natural root beer that rivals A&W. Joe also makes a no-carb, no-sugar hard lemonade, which boasts the highest alcohol content of all their malt beverages. I tried a couple of sips, but you know me—I’m a dark beer girl. 

(BTW, I asked Joe if he thinks women who drink beer are prettier, smarter, and all around more attractive and he said, “Of course!” So there you go.)

It was a real thrill to hang out with Joe—he’s a swell guy and super interesting—plus I got a free stout. If you’ve never been to Ellis Island, I don’t know what the heck you’re waiting for. For a $20 bill, you can have dinner, two drinks, gamble a bit, and take in some entertainment in their karaoke lounge. It’s a little more costly than the $1.50 hot dog special at Costco, but remember folks, Costco doesn’t serve delicious beer.

Many thanks to Joe for being so generous with his time last week. Is anybody thirsty? It’s five o’clock somewhere!

"Like" Ellis Island on Facebook.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Black Ops, a stupid sign, and a CLEAN clip from my stand-up

Well my beloved boyfriend is now bragging that he's reached the "15th-level prestige" (whatever that means) in Black Ops. Yeah, well this is what I have to say...

Oh, what a surprise.

Hey, I took a picture of this sign in Albertson's grocery store last week.

I figured I should post this in case you've been wondering what those baskets near the front door are for. Now you know.   You put stuff in them for "easy shopping."

Finally, I edited a clip from the comedy set I did in Albany back in April. The video quality isn't great, but this is actually clean! Yeah, a whole minute of clean stuff...

Can you believe America's Got Talent passed on that???

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

I got to meet Mary Wilson of The Supremes!

We had a special, and I mean special, guest speaker at last Monday's meeting of the Henderson Writers' Group.  One of our members, Don Riggio, arranged for Mary Wilson, a founding member of the Motown singing group The Supremes to drop in and talk to us for a while.  Mary wrote the forward to Don's book, Seven Inch Vinyl, a  novel set in the early days of rock 'n' roll.  The story is engaging and with so many historical references, the book is quite educational as well.

What a treat!  Mary (I really feel like I should call her Ms. Wilson) told us all about how she, Diana Ross, and Florence Ballard started singing while still in high school in Detroit and that they were called "The No-Hit Supremes" because they went for so long without a hit record.  She told us about her travels and performances throughout the world and revealed some deeply personal details of her life, such as how the woman she believed to be her mother turned out to be her aunt (a neighbor clued her in by telling her, "Johnnie Mae's you're mother") and the death of her 14-year-old son in a car accident, with she herself at the wheel, years ago on the way to Las Vegas.

Photo by Teresa Watts
Now 68, she looked absolutely stunning.  (You know those black women never age.)  (That's not racist.)  What a beautiful lady, inside and out.  She's still singing and will be performing at the Riviera from June 22 - July 3, a show I definitely hope to see.  Ms. Wilson also frequently speaks to young people about persevering to achieve one's goals despite obstacles and adversities in their lives. In addition, she's a strong advocate for The Supremes' legacy and has made headlines for proposing a bill to ban impostor groups from using the names and likenesses of famous acts from the 1950s and 1960s.  Evidently there are many groups out there doing just that, while the original members often live in poverty.

This is funny as hell.   I swear to God, while talking about these imposter groups Mary said, "And you know black people all look alike," with a completely straight face. "No, we really do!" she insisted. 

Well. that's something only a black person can say, but it's not too far off from what I wrote in a post in April 2010 entitled, "It's okay, all hippies look alike, too":
It’s always nice when the guys in the tribute band physically resemble the members of the actual band. During the show last night I was thinking if I ever went to a Temptations or Earth, Wind and Fire or O’Jays tribute band, I’d be totally happy as long as there was a bunch of black guys on stage. In fact, you could sell me a ticket to an O’Jay’s concert and substitute the real band with tribute guys and I totally wouldn’t know the difference. Kind of like the old Folger’s instant coffee commercials. We’ve secretly replaced the O’Jays…
See?  I knew I was on to something.

Anyway, it was a real thrill to see Mary Wilson live in front of us.  So gracious, intelligent, and inspiring.  Thank you, Don, for arranging her visit to our group!


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

People in service jobs should not greet customers like they just had a throw-up burp

A couple of Saturdays ago my Purgefest 2011 mode merged with my questioning of all the spiritual shit I've been feeding myself for the past 20 years and I decided to get rid of four boxes of books.   They weren't all spiritual books; some were just books I bought or somehow ended up with but will never realistically open again. 

Earlier in the week I called a used bookstore to see if they're currently buying books.  The woman on the phone said they were and explained that they give store credit toward future purchases.  I figured that was pretty standard and would be better than nothing, so I loaded up my cute little Scion and schlepped the books to their store.

What a mistake.  Have you ever walked into a place only to be greeted by someone who looks like they just had a throw-up burp?  Well, there were two of them and one was more miserable than the other.   Younger Bitch was rolling her eyes and sighing heavily as I put the boxes on the counter.

"I called earlier this week," I told her.

"I didn't know you had four boxes," Younger Bitch snapped.

"Well, you didn't fucking ask me," I should have said but just stood there like an idiot.

Older Bitch looked over my books as if they were covered in shit.  "Just a lot of junk here," she said to Younger Bitch.

They ended up taking one box, for which I got $30 in store credit to use toward half the purchase price of anything in the store.  Half.  That means I'd have to fork over some of my own money in order to use my credit and by the time I was through dealing with them there was no way they were gonna get a cent out of me.  I told them I'd be back some other time (see you next Tuesday) and took the three remaining boxes to Goodwill, which is where they all should have gone in the first place. 

I'm not kidding, this was the worst customer service experience I've had in... maybe forever.  I usually try to give people the benefit of the doubt; you never know why others act the way they do.  Maybe they were both miserable for a reason, like maybe they're related and a family member or close friend has a terminal illness or got in a horrible accident.  In my heart I don't believe this is the case; I think they're bitchy simply because they've been able to get away with it.  Assholes like me take it from them, so they continue to give it.

Well, guess what.  This asshole is going back.  Yep, I'm gonna cash in on a little bit of my credit line, and if they're bitchy to me again, I'm gonna find out what bug flew up their ass.  And if they're polite and courteous, I'll ask why their customer service sucked so loud the last time I was in. 

Stay tuned.  I'm on a mission.  In the meantime, be nice.  I'll try as well.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Love means never having to say you're sorry you overdid the Botox

Did you happen to see the Love Story reunion on an Oprah rerun yesterday?   I remember seeing Love Story in the theater as a kid, and was happy to hear that neither Oprah nor Ali MacGraw ever understood what "Love means never having to say you're sorry" was all about.  Even when I first heard that as a 13-year-old, I thought, "WTF is that supposed to mean?" (Except, of course, "WTF" wasn't invented yet.)

It's freaky to think that Love Story was released over 40 years ago, in 1970.  Even freakier--Ali MacGraw is now 72 and Ryan O'Neal just turned 70.  Man!  Ali MacGraw's Yoga Mind and Body DVD is one of my all-time favorites, so I expected her to look good--yoga is the closest thing we have to the fountain of youth.  I'm not sure the hair style she's had probably since high school is the best look for someone over 70, but who the hell am I of all people to comment on someone's hair?

I always thought Ryan O'Neal was cute--God help me, I can't resist those Irish men--but let me tell you, I thought he looked pretty damn scary.  I took this photo of him on Oprah with my iPhone.

I don't know what the hell he's done to his face, (actually, this picture doesn't quite capture the horror), but he looked like he belongs in a burn ward.  Seeing him prompted me to post this plea on Facebook:
To my male friends: PLEASE just say no to Botox and other plastic surgery. Have you seen Ryan O'Neal lately? Your face should reflect a lifetime of expressions, not look like it was smoothed over by a Zamboni. Lines and wrinkled are cool, guys! (But does the same standard apply to women?)
I like Ryan O'Neal, but he looks like a goddamn freak.  One of the cute Irish-guy actors on Guiding Light ruined his face in the same way, and he's only my age or maybe a year younger.  It's such as shame, especially because yeah, I do think there's a bit of a double standard for women, which is an even stronger case for men to leave their faces alone.   (Don't get me started on Meg Ryan...)

I'll bet you anything Ryan O'Neal would still look cute if he had just let himself age naturally.  Crow's feet and lines add character; why sand them down?   Look at this extemely handsome 53-year-old.

And hey, here's another example of natural beauty.  Can you believe Mom is going to be 77 next month?  Holy crap!

All natural!

That said, I will probably be Mom's age when I finally stop dying my hair.  There will be no Botox for me, but I'll be the L'Oreal poster girl for another 20 years.  And I'll probably be like Ali MacGraw and have my high school hairdo at age 70.

How about you?  Could you mess with your face?  Could you let your hair go gray?  Is there a double standard for women?  Let it rip, people!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

What would you give up if you didn't have to work?

When I was a kid, maybe half of my friends' mothers worked outside the home.  And I bet the majority of them started working only after the kids were old enough to go to school.   I've been thinking a lot and writing a lot about work life lately and how crazy it is that you have to spend such a big friggin' chunk of your day doing stuff you really don't want to do but you have to do it because you need the money.  But what are we working for? 

Let's go back and look at how life was when I was a kid in the mid 60s and early 70s.  Cable TV was not yet available, so there were no monthly cable bills with everything associated--no HBO, no upgrades to digital cable, no DVR.  There were no DVD players or Blu-Ray discs to buy, no X-Boxes, PlayStations, no Call of Duty or other games to buy.  There were no monthly Hulu Plus or Netflix subscriptions.

Nobody had to buy computers, modems, or printers and there was no monthly bill for high-speed Internet.  There was no such thing as cellphones--much less cellphones for the entire family--and the monthly bills that go along with them.

Because mothers didn't work, most families had one car.  That meant there was only one car to pay for, put gas in, maintain, and insure.  Some families did have a second car--almost a junker--that was the mother's car and the car that kids used when they learned to drive.  It was probably a car that no 16-year-old today would want to be seen in. 

Mothers who didn't work didn't need to buy work clothes.  And speaking of clothes, this was an era before designer jeans and WAY before kids thought they were entitled to a pair of $100 sneakers that they'd grow out of in no time.

Because mothers didn't work, there were no weekly daycare or afterschool care expenses.  Mothers didn't have to spend money for lunch in restaurants with their co-workers; lunch consisted of a sandwich and potato chips at home.  And speaking of homes, they were a lot smaller back then (kids had to share bedrooms!) and were therefore less costly to heat, cool, and maintain.

Mothers who didn't work also didn't have to deal with the stresses related to the workplace--keeping a boss happy, dealing with all kinds of co-workers, sitting through stupid-ass performance evaluations, juggling coverage to be home with a sick child... just having to be somewhere every goddamn day at a certain time looking halfway presentable is stressful in itself!

This was an era before TV remotes, so you actually had to walk to the other side of the living room if you wanted to watch a different program.  Maybe that's why nobody had a gym membership back then; that was another monthly expense that didn't exist.  In fact, I don't ever remember my parents exercising, or any of my friends' parents, for that matter.   The thought of my grandmothers exercising cracks me up!   But wait a minute.  My grandparents died their 70s and 80s, which is pretty typical.  Several of my friends' parents have died in recent months--again, in their 70s and 80s.  And almost everyone back then SMOKED FOR MOST OF THEIR LIVES!  What are we exercising for?

And what the hell are we working for?  Are we a slave to the technology that's supposed to be enhancing our lives?   What would you be willing to give up if you didn't have to work?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Hurricane Mikey is blogging again!

Good news for Hurricane Mikey fans!  I got an email from the big guy yesterday and he's returned to the blogosphere!  Check out his new blog and his alter ego, Grant Silverstone.

He's the same Mikey we know and love, but with a different spin on life.  And he has some pretty impressive plans for the future.  Join me in wishing my beloved friend well!