Friday, March 23, 2012

Predictions, Padres & Potpourri

When it comes to March Madness, I should really stop trying to make predictions. For over 15 years now I have filled out a bracket as part of a family-pool, and last year was the first time I had ever won it. This is surprising, considering I know arguably ten times more about college basketball than anyone else in the family (especially the girls, who still base their picks off uniform colors, "prettiness" of the name, and if their coach has a nice face). And yet here we stand, with my lifetime bracket record of (1-16).

Coming off my strong win last year, I hoped to repeat as champion in 2012. Well, let's just say that after the first weekend of play, I had already lost two Final Four teams (#2 Missouri and #3 Florida State) and was not exactly in a position of power. FML.

I'm off to Spring Training this weekend! Me and three buddies are driving out to Peoria, AZ for the weekend to watch the Padres play a couple games, as well as to enjoy the previously mentioned NCAA Tournament games. I haven't been out to spring training in almost 10 years, so I'm excited to go back and enjoy it as an adult. Cheap seats, cheap(er) beer, peanuts and inappropriate guy humor...and of course, grunting the whole time like Tim "The Toolman" Taylor.
1) I love daylight savings time.

2) Lots of weddings this year (including Livin the Dream!). As of right now, I believe we have been invited to SEVEN weddings. Schnikeys! It's a good thing I was born with dancing shoes on!

3) Livin the Dream has a new #1 fan! Born February 19, 2012 to best friend Tom and wife Heidi - ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Paxton Dillon!

#1 Blog Fan - Paxton Dillon

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

March Madness Is Here!

In light of the upcoming March Madness tournament, I am once again taking Thursday and Friday off to watch all the games with my buddies. Beer, wings, hoops. Yes, please!

To highlight my excitement, I wrote a poem about my enthusiasm for the tourney:


Just call me Shel Silverstein.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Little Things - Emptying the Dishwasher

In keeping with the theme of yesterday's clothing tag post, I thought I would post yet another little thing that drives me (and maybe only me) bonkers.

First off, let it be stated here that I detest emptying the dishwasher. This may surprise those of you that know me as OCD-clean, but the act of putting away dishes just irks me. I have no problem loading the dishwasher, and I don't even have a problem hand-washing dishes, but emptying the dishwasher and putting each piece back is both monotonous and potentially even frustrating.

But, if there is one thing I hate the most about the dishwasher emptying process, it's when there are small puddles of water that have formed on the tops of some of the dishes that, when you remove the dish from the dishwasher, proceeds to dribble off the dish and onto the tile/wood floor. For example, I put coffee mugs and cereal bowls upside-down on the top shelf of the dishwasher. But many glasses and bowls have a concave bottom, thus providing the perfect spot for a kiddy-pool size puddle to form after the wash cycle. And I don't know if you all are aware of this, but water is clear, so when I go to unload the dishes, I don't see these sneaky cesspools, so when I lift the glasses and bowls, I am immediately confronted with the feeling of water falling on and around my bare feet. Grrrr.

Dishwashers are Demons.

The only thing worse than the bowls and mugs is Tupperware. Those plastic demons have lips on their edges where the lid fits, allowing an entire moat of dishwater to form all the way around it. Not only does it flood the floor when picked up, but it then runs all over the tupperware itself, requiring me to go get a towel and dry it. I might as well have just hand-washed the damn thing!

I understand that my dishwasher may not be drying the dishes as effectively as it should, but this dishwasher-plague affects millions of people every year in the United States. I would guess there are at least 5,000 runny-dishwasher-water deaths every year. Look it up.

What's the solution? Beyond dumping the dishes over the dishwasher so it doesn't go on the floor, or manning up and just hand-washing all dishes, I would ask all dish manufacturers to make all flat-bottomed products, and I am about to draft an e-mail to Tupperware to step up their game and produce a non-lipped edge for their lids, so I can have dry feet in the kitchen.

I hate wet feet.

Monday, March 12, 2012

There Has to Be a Better Option!

Monday's Random Thought

How annoying are those clear plastic stems used to attach clothing tags in a store? When you get home and are ready to commit to cutting off the tags, you either have to make the long trip to the scissor drawer, or even more daunting, the grip-it and rip-it approach. Yeah, you know what I'm talking about. If you don't hold both ends of that stem, then you run the risk of ripping the stem through the clothing and putting a hole or rip in that new shirt you're so excited about, or at the very least shredding the back-of-the-neck tag that has the washing instructions. And then even if you are successful, you know that at least half of that stem went flying across the room and is waiting somewhere to be stepped on while barefoot.


Yep, I care that much about this topic to just stop here.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

What a Weekend - PART FOUR! (The Finale)

And so we have reached the final part of the Los Angeles weekend bloga (if you don't know what that is by now, screw it, I tried to invent a word). If you haven't read Part Three yet, click here to read up!


Considering the epic day we had on Saturday, the four of us were more than content with the fact that not a single one of us bothered to set an alarm for Sunday morning. We slowly started shuffling around the room and getting ready for some breakfast (not before we called for a late checkout, of course). The day before, I had taken the time to ask Mr. Hipster-iPad man if there were any good brunch places on Sunset Strip, and without hesitating he said, "If you don't mind the wait, The Griddle Cafe has the best pancakes in town." Boom-bam-bing, say no more! On a vacation with no plans, I was happy to wait in a line if it meant a pancake pot-of-gold on the other side of the rainbow!

So we took a nice long walk down the strip to the highly touted brunch hub known as The Griddle Cafe, and as soon as we were within two blocks of the place, we realized that everything Mr. Hipster-iPad man said was true. Not only could we smell some wonderfully intoxicating sweets ruminating from the doors of this place, but we could also see not one, but two sets of lines waiting to get in! We walked in and put our name on the list, and walked back outside, curious why everyone was in line if they had put their name on the list. Everyone was thoroughly confused, but I soon learned that my UCLA basketball game campout history had prepared me well for this moment.

*SIDE STORY: While in college, my friends and I had tickets to UCLA basketball games, and we would camp outside the arena for every single game to make sure we got a "priority pass", which allowed us to be the first ones in the stadium the next day to get our preferred seats. To do this, we would show up around 2:00pm the afternoon prior with sleeping bags, pillows, footballs and (some) class-work and sit outside Pauley Pavilion until 6:00am the following morning (day of the game). Once you arrived down to the campout, you would put yours and your partner's name on "The List" (very official piece of college-ruled paper), and once you had done that, either you or your partner had to be there at all times. The rule prevented random twerps from coming down, writing their name on the list, then continuing right along to a class or frat-party without actually camping out and deserving a spot traditionally reserved for the most dedicated of fans. How was it enforced? Well, we would do roll-call every hour or so, calling off every name on the list, and if those people weren't there, we would all yell "1-2-3, So Long Chief!" and the line-leader would cross off their names. I always appreciated the simplicity of this rule, and the joy of eliminating some line-cutter. Hey, this is serious cuts, no butts, no coconuts.

Yeah, we camped outside to sit up close in here, so?

With that in mind, let us transition back to the brunch line. After putting our name on the waiting list, we then had to go outside and stand in line, because every 15-20 minutes or so, the restaurant host would come outside and run down his list to make sure we were all there (as opposed to putting our name in and then going down to Starbucks to wait). It all made sense, and I was happy to explain this phenomenon to Julie, Peter and Dana, who were all new to what I obviously knew as Basic Campout Rules. Who needs class in college when basketball teaches me real life lessons?!

I did have one problem with their line system. Because their restaurant is so small and packed, they split us into two lines - one for parties of two, and one for all parties three or more. Since they have so many couples show up, eat and leave relatively quickly, they often times had tables free up for two, so couples in the 2-person line that came well over 30 minutes after us were being seated while we still had four parties of four ahead of us in our line. I call this the Social Jealousy Discrimination. Hey, just cuz I got friends, don't hate!

The Griddle Cafe

So following a solid 45-60 minute wait, we were finally seated inside and were promptly presented with our menus and had drink orders taken (I emphasize this point because as packed as this place was, I was shocked with the quality and SPEED of the service...huge props to the staff of The Griddle Cafe). The only thing more shocking than the service was the menu. I mean, holy hell. This place had the most amazing selection of flavored pancakes I had ever seen, and more likely than not, than I'll ever see. They had everything from Oreo-cookie stuffed pancakes, to Frosted Flake pancakes to Red Velvet pancakes...and they had over three pages of just pancakes! I would like ALL of you to take the time to look at the menu options, because it was the most wonderfully overwhelming experience of my young life:

The Griddle Cafe Menu

After scouring the menu options for far too long, I decided I was in a french toast mood (which allowed me to at least keep my options to one page). So I ended up choosing the Apple Cobbler French Toast, which had a write-up that read: "Our thick-sliced apple bread rolled in our cinnamon crunch batter and grilled to perfection. Served with baked cinnamon apples (Home, Sweet Home!)." How could I resist?!

We quickly discovered that this place had abnormally large portions, as they presented three pancakes to each of my co-eaters, when all three of them were incapable of eating one. It was almost depressing to see how much food was left on their plates at the end of the meal, especially when compared to the absolutely defeatedly-full expressions on their over-indulged faces. All I have to say is, I housed my Apple Cobbler French Toast...and regretted it the rest of the day. My stomach has no limits...until it's too late.

Overall Review - The Griddle Cafe has my ultimate respect for its waiting line rules, regulations, terms and conditions. The food was probably a 9.5/10, and the only reason it's missing 0.5 is because sometimes an overwhelmingly large portion can prove to be unappetizing. But if I'm back on Sunset any time soon (which, if you read on, you'll understand why I might not be rushing back to the L.A. roads), I'll be back waiting in line at Griddle Cafe...but only with Julie, cuz I want that 2-person line!

So after we finished our meal (or in their case, made their feeble attempts at attacking the stacks of pancakes), we decided to go check out Venice Beach before we headed home. So we figured we'd jump on Venice Boulevard and make our way down to the beach. It was a good thought.

If only we got there...

But what we were forgetting was that attempting to access Venice Beach, on a Sunday afternoon, on a beautiful weekend is almost impossible. As we neared the beach, we anticipated seeing palm trees and roller-bladers, but instead, all we saw were brake lights. Lots and lots of brake lights. From the time we left the hotel to the time we got to the coast (15 miles), it had taken us roughly 75 minutes. Of that time, the last 45 was spent rolling two cars per green light. And then when we did get down there, there was absolutely zero parking to be found under the price of $30/car.

Now, in times of frustration, I am a relatively calm guy, and especially on the roads, I just expect some dumb drivers and long traffic and just suck it up. Well, I had hit my limit on Sunday. Between the slight hangover I was still experiencing, the pulsing stomach ache from too much Apple Cobbler French Toast, the sun beating on me through the car and the unmoving traffic, I began to flip my sh*t. And poor Julie started to watch me unravel. I was about to lose it. All I wanted to do was scream...or act out the scene below from Bruce Almighty...

Bruce Almighty Traffic Jam Scene

Well, after driving around forever, we decided to just leave and go to grab some lunch away from the mayhem, then cruise back to S.D. I got some Fro-Yo, took a breath, and all was right in the universe again.

All-in-all, that was one hell of a weekend. From the hike to The Comedy Store to breakfast, the trip had some unforgettable moments, and some moments I can't wait to put out of memory as well. But hey, my boots are dry, my car keys are in my pocket, I no longer feel Apple Cobbler french toast in my stomach, and I am nowhere near Venice Beach. So it's all good.

But if only I could have met the other kid from BIG...

Where did you go, Jared Rushton?

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

What a Weekend! - PART THREE

Welcome to Part Three in this four-part bloga (remember, that's a blog-saga) detailing my experiences this past weekend in Los Angeles. If you haven't read Part Two, click here to catch up!


As we wrapped up our delicious and interactive meal at Gyu Kaku, we made our way back to the hotel and then walked over to jump in line for The Comedy Store. We had already bought tickets for "The Main Room - 14 Headlining Comics", and now we started to get excited as we looked at the list of comics posted on the door (CLICK HERE to see the full lineup of comics from that night). I will tell you that all of the comics were funny, but I felt the need to spotlight five of them, including one sequence of four comics who performed back-to-back-to-back-to-back. That was, without question, the most intense, non-stop hour of laughter I had ever experienced. So here are the funniest comics of the evening's show!

This was actually the second time we'd seen Fortune (yes, that is really her name). This woman has an extremely witty and self-deprecating style, and utilizes comedic pauses and awkward silences better than anyone I've ever seen. She has some hilarious bits, the most ridiculous being her thoughts on Hooters (the restaurant).

Fortune Feimster on Hooters

She has a tremendous resume, acting as a full-time writer for the "Chelsea Lately" show and appearing as a semi-finalist on Last Comic Standing. She led off the show last Saturday night, and man, did she set the tone! To learn more about her, check out her website.

Some of you may recognize Kirk as Sewage Joe from the NBC show "Parks and Recreation." This was the first time I had heard of him, and I thought his set was, without question, the most solid from start-to-finish. Kirk was the first of the next four comics to perform for us (one after the other), and he really set the bar. He has a special knack for ranting and raving about common daily-life annoyances, and his skits on Kids and Airplane Seats are must-sees.

Kirk Fox - No Kids

And so the murderer's row of comics had begun, and Kirk was followed by...

If you watch "Curb Your Enthusiasm", this name should most definitely ring a bell. Jeff is the executive producer and stars as Larry David's manager on this hit show. The best part about his stand-up is that he showed up as if he had no routine, no set bit. But that is exactly his schtick. He has an incredible improv background, and he uses that as he walks into the room and surveys the crowd. He picked two relatively easy targets (a dude with his hat backwards and a girl dressed quite similarly to Brittany Spears in "Hit Me Baby One More Time"...aka slutty) and just absolutely lit into them for his entire set (15 minutes). His delivery was by far the best of all the comics all night. Check out his website.

And so after Kirk and Jeff performed, I realized I hadn't breathed in about 30 minutes. These guys absolutely brought the house down, and the applause was crazy. I could have sworn the night couldn't get any better, until out walked...

Yep, that's right, we were being treated to an evening of amazing TV comics. Steve currently plays the role of Kevin on the hit show "The League." Now, I have never seen this show, but after hearing more than a few positive reviews from friends, and then seeing Steve in concert, I feel I have to start watching now! This guy did one of the most hilarious sketches of the evening when he spoke about raising his son. I am so pissed I can't find this bit anywhere, but suffice to say, this guys' physical humor, facial expressions and energy were unparalleled that night!

Click here for more information on Steve!

I had never heard of this guy before, but he did some of the most hilarious voices, impressions and faces I've ever seen. He is known for his role on the show "Whitney" (personally, never heard of it), and I have to imagine he is an extremely hyper, funny actor. Along with Rannazzisi, he had some of the most funny physical moments of the night. I personally could not get past the fact of how much his delivery reminded me of my friend Matt from UCLA, and that only made this guy even funnier.

Here's Chris' website.

By the time this hour of comedy had ended (still with about five more comics to go), I was completely out of breath, and realized I hadn't touched my beer because I had been busy laughing. I absolutely encourage going to The Comedy Store and going to their Main Room show. All four of us had a blast, and the experience can really only be appreciated by witnessing it first-hand (although I know I just tried to do a whole blog post on it).

As the show ended, we walked one store front down to our hotel and called it a night. We were absolutely exhausted, after running into helicopters, falling into ponds, locking my keys in the car, sitting in L.A. traffic, running into the kid from BIG and laughing my ass off. Just another normal day, right?

Stay tuned for the finale of this four-part series, where I detail an amazing brunch place, an awkward line waiting system, and the single closest I've ever come to actually succumbing to pure, unbridled road-rage. Only in L.A., right?!

What a Weekend! - PART TWO

This is Part Two in a four-part blog-saga (or "blaga" as we blogging elite call it) detailing the good, the bad, and the quirky of our weekend trip to Los Angeles. If you haven't read Part One yet, click here to see what you missed.


After driving in some ridiculous traffic along Santa Monica Boulevard for far too long, we finally made our way to the Sunset Strip to the Hyatt Andaz. We chose this property as it sits next door to The Comedy Store, our target for that evening. Now, I had been to this hotel before, as two of my closest friends held their wedding there a few years earlier. The property is absolutely stunning, featuring a very modern vibe, and a roof with some of the most beautiful views in the city. But let me tell you some more about this hotel...

As we walked into the lobby, we were immediately hit by the modern, schwanky feel of the place, from the artwork to the music to the ritzy clientele. But before we could soak all that in, we were quickly greeted by what most hotels would refer to as the front desk attendant. But this was no front desk. They walked up to us with their own personal iPad, asking our name and checking us in as we stood comfortably in their lobby. After the 3.5 seconds of check-in with Mr. 25-year-old-tech-wiz-hipster-front-desk-iPad-Man, we were then informed that there were refreshments offered 24/7 in the lobby, complete with excellent chocolates, apples and assorted drinks. In addition, there was a hosted wine reception every night from 5:00-7:00pm for us to enjoy. And then we were told that all the drinks in our room (except the alcohol) were complimentary - which we would later find to be a mini-refrigerator loaded with sodas, waters, and assorted juices. After we got our high-tech keycard needing to be scanned in the elevator, we opened the door to our room to find an epic view of the city.

Now the best part about this hotel is without a doubt, their rooftop pool, complete with poolside cabanas and a walk-up bar. On a beautiful L.A. weekend, and following a dirty hike, we had no choice but to go enjoy the amenities of the pool, right?

Well, not only did we enjoy the amenities, we had our one celebrity sighting of the weekend. As we waited for a cabana to open up, we saw a couple leaving and my friend Dana asked them if they were leaving and the guy said it was all ours. As they walked past us, I looked at the man and said not-so-discretely "Holy hell, that's the kid from BIG!"

PETER - "Who?"

ME - "you know, the guy who played the producer in that Jessica Alba movie Honey!" (why I said this as if it was a better descriptor of the actor, I'll never know)

Yep, that's right. I got excited when we ran into none other than David Moscow!

BIG's David Moscow

As Mr. BIG walked away from the pool deck, I couldn't help but think that the day couldn't get any better. Oh how wrong I was...

After taking a nice dip in the pool, relaxing in the cabana, and getting cleaned up, we made our way to the wine reception downstairs. We had surprisingly good tasting (free) wine, lazed about the modern, comfy furniture, and then continued on to Gyu Kaku (Korean BBQ) for dinner. For those of you who have not been, Gyu Kaku is a must-try while in Los Angeles. You cook your own meats and vegetables at your table, and the interactive vibe makes for an incredibly enjoyable evening. As usual, big thanks to my blog friends at Two DC for introducing us to this awesome place!

Upon further review, I feel it necessary to make this a four-part post. Due to the absolutely amazing quality of comics at The Comedy Store headliner show, I feel that evening deserves a post of its own.

So stay tuned for PART THREE tomorrow, where I will detail the hardest laughing two hours of my life!

Monday, March 5, 2012

What a Weekend! - PART ONE

This past weekend, Julie and I made our annual trip up to Los Angeles with our friends for a quick weekend getaway. This year we decided to go hiking in Malibu, go to a comedy show at The Comedy Store, stay at a schwanky hotel on Sunset Strip and walk around the town on Sunday. All in all it was a fantastic weekend with great weather and phenomenal food, but there were a few things (good and bad) that stood out from the weekend that I felt compelled to share with the masses. This will be a four-part installment (originally 3-Part), detailing the wacky events of our time...1) On the hike, 2) At the hotel, 3) At the Comedy Store and, 4) Sunday. So without further explanation, please enjoy Part One of this four-part saga. Let us begin with...


After researching hikes in Malibu, we decided on Circle X Ranch's "Grotto Trail". After a beautiful ride on Pacific Coast Highway, we turned east and started winding our way up the mountain to this trailhead. We had a beautiful hike as we slowly made our way down (yes, the hike started downhill) to a small cave and water cascade where we stopped for lunch and some climbing. But we didn't get to this beautiful spot before we were stopped by a helicopter.

Wait, what?

Yep, that's right, a helicopter. No more than five minutes into the hike we started hearing the recognizable "whoop-whoop" of rotor blades, and we saw a helicopter circling the canyon where we were about to hike. As we continued walking, the sound got louder and louder, and then we realized that it was no longer the sound of a flying chopper, but it had slowed to an idling one! As we turned the corner and started up a small hill on this narrow path between the chaparral and wildlife, we came to a wide open grass patch where a Ventura County-emblazoned medic helicopter had landed. It's blades idled over the top of the trail, and the medics saw us and gave us the "Stop" hand signal. Being on the bottom side of the hill, we could not see what they were tending to, or even how far away the person in question was, since was the only place in the entire canyon with enough room for a helicopter to safely we waited.

The cause of the wind

After about 5-10 minutes spent discussing the rarity of the incident, the awe of the speed of the back rotor, and the girls constantly trying to fix their hair from the wind, the blades finally sped up and the helicopter took off...with nobody new having entered the aircraft. So finally we began our hike again, and as we came across that corner, we found two medics still tending to a lady with a swollen ankle. From what we gathered, she had taken a fall and they had just landed the chopper to check her out. She must have been getting some great phone service out there...I'm guessing not AT&T. We later saw the chopper returning for a second run (presumably to pick up the medics and patient). Definitely a hiking first for me.

Once we had successfully (and without helicopter-necessary injury) made our way to the caves, I decided to do some exploring and climb along the stone on the water's edge and up into the trickling waterfall. Julie took her shoes off so she wouldn't get them wet in the event she slipped into the water, but since I was wearing my waterproof hiking boots (and being ever-positive about my climbing abilities), I left my shoes on as I climbed around the water and up onto the smooth stone outcropping. Well, after taking many photos and climbing, I carefully began my route back down the cave. After searching for perfect hand and footholds, I navigated my way back all the way to the last turn of the grotto...and immediately lost my footing and slid shin deep into the pond. I don't care what type of waterproof boots you have, when you fall shin-deep into water, it don't matta'! I don't need to go into great detail of the reactions of my loving fiance and friends, but suffice to say that for the rest of the day, the only thing I heard more frequently than their oh-so-funny jokes was the unrelenting squishing from my boots.

That's me pulling myself out of the water...

But surprisingly, neither the helicopter close-up nor my pond-fall served as the greatest highlight of the day's hike. Nope, that moment didn't come until after we got back to the cars, used the restroom, changed out of our dirty clothes, and closed the trunk on my smelly boots...and realized the keys were in there with them.

Ah yes, for the first time in my life, I had locked my damn keys in the trunk. And not only did I lock them in the trunk with the doors locked, I did it right as I said to my friend, "Wow, between having no traffic on the way up, perfect weather and a great hike, everything is going so smoothly. With our luck something bad is gonna happen at some point!" I literally shut the trunk as I finished that sentence, and almost immediately followed it up with "Oh sh*t."

Oh, and I just happened to be in a dead service zone, on a hike in the mountains. After publicly berating myself for quite some time, I made my way into the ranger's hut to use their phone to call AAA. After waiting on hold for about 15 minutes, I was informed that it would take a minimum of an hour before they could get a service truck up there. But then, like an oasis in the desert, the most amazing sight appeared. Roaring up the mountain was a fire truck, which completely by chance was on its way to attending to a hiker with a rattlesnake bite (it was quite a busy day in the life of a Malibu ranger!). My buddy stopped them on the road and asked if they could come back and help us once they were done with their call, and they happily agreed and told us they'd be back 5-10 minutes! And perhaps even more surprisingly, they did! So instead of a potential hour long wait, we had EMT's jarring open my door 20 minutes later! Man did I dodge that bullet! Big shout-out to the Ventura fire crew that saved my ass from further humiliation.

My Heroes

And thus our two-day L.A. adventure was underway. I drove out of the trailhead lot feeling both embarrassed and lucky. But little did we know, this would soon become a distant memory in a weekend full of stories.

Tune in tomorrow for "What a Weekend! - PART TWO", where I discuss a schwanky hotel, free wine, and a celebrity sighting!