Driving into the Year of the Dragon

It’s Chinese New Year soon

Her: Wait, you’ve never been to a Sonic Drive-In?
Me: I’m not sure I’ve ever been to a drive-in, period.
Her: Well, let’s do that then.

Had to pick up the kid from NJ the other day and the Firecracker wanted to get outta the house, so she came along.

She’d met my mother-in-law a while ago but this was the first time she met my father-in-law.

It was all pretty surreal.

But everyone is so nice that it was nice.

I’d wanted to take the Firecracker to Rutt’s Hut for a ripper but then the above conversation happened – plus we were right by a Sonic – so off we went.

Unfortunately, there were only two people working that day, so we had to go through the drive-in and eat in the car.

Thought the kid would find it more entertaining but…no.

Him: This is it? We’re eating in the car? This is so weird.
Me: Yeah, I can’t remember the last time I ate in a car. Musta been when I was in college?
Her: That was what, like 50 years ago? (laughing) I used to eat in my car all the time.
Me: Really? Why?
Her: (shrugging) Going to college and working three jobs means eating whereever and whenever you can.

It was pretty good. Then again, I’m pretty easy.

The Year of the Rabbit is almost over and the year of the Dragon is about to begin.

Ever since COVID happened, I’ve not been able to see my mom for Lunar New Year.

She and my dad – like most Chinese – always thought that it was important for family to be together.

I noticed that, after my dad died, she stopped bringing it up, so I told her that I’d come this year.

But she just told me not to come since the house will be a mess.

See, my sister started a house project and it involved most of my – and my brother’s – childhood crap getting tossed.

Which I understand. But that also means that it’s gonna be another year away from her and my family for the holiday.

Her: I’m sorry. The house will be too much of a mess and…I have so much to do.
Me: But it’s Chinese New Year.
Her: I know, but…we can do it next year. You’re not mad at me, are you?

It’s fine I guess, I already told my buddy Annabel that I’d bring the kid – and the Firecracker – to Chinese New Year by her again.

The plan was to see my family first and then head to Annabel’s thing afterward, but I suppose it’s all for the best since it would be cutting things pretty close anywho.

Plus, I just got invited earlier this week to my buddy Gar’s 50th but I can’t find a sitter for the kid so late.

It’s nice having so many great people to potentially see for the holiday.

Still, I hope I’ll have a chance to spend Chinese New Year with my mom next year.

Every year that goes by, I worry that I’ll lose her and I’m not sure I can handle losing anyone else for quite a while.

Me: Mad? No mom, of course not. I just…it’s Chinese New Year is all. (sighing) I miss dad.
Her: (gently) Of course you do. We all do. We can do it next year.

Location: Earlier tonight, stubbing my dislocated toe at dinner and seeing stars
Mood: ruminative
Music: I dream of a place called home (Spotify)
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How you do anything…

…is how you do everything

My trip to Austria highlighted the fact that my life is very different now than when I was younger.

For one, the only real luggage I have is not one, but two garment bags – the first being the red one I brought all over the world for close to the past 30 years.

Still works great, btw.

The second is in the form of a shoulder bag.

The reason both are garment bags is because, in my youth, couldn’t imagine a scenario where I wouldn’t need a suit, or at least a nice dress shirt, when I traveled.

This time around, I had nonea those things and the rolling garment bag left a lot to be desired.

The Firecracker’s stuff didn’t fit it all that great and there was a lotta wasted space because of how it’s configured.

So, I started looking for luggage.

Jesus christ, are there a lotta options out there.

To narrow things down, I started only looking at luggage that had “YKK” zippers on them because that’s an indicator of quality to me.

What I noticed was that they were, by-and-large, about 20-30% more than luggage that didn’t have – or didn’t state that they had – YKK zippers.

This just supported my decision to buy one from that group because of another saying I like:

How do you do anything is how you do everything.

In other words, if a company cares enough to spend the extra money to use YKK zippers in their luggage, they probably care enough to do other things right and more thoughtfully.

Obviously, like all sayings, there are exceptions to it but it’s generally true, for the most part.

Been telling the kid things like this now that he’s getting older and can understand such things.

And this particular saying is pretty applicable to him because of his personality.

    • On the positive side, the kid is relentlessly upbeat and excitable.
    • On the negative side, because of his joie de vivre, he tends to rush at things and not really focus when he needs to.

So, I’ve been trying to tell him to slow down, which is hard for a kid like him.

It’s a work in progress.

Him: Done!
Me: That was fast. Lemme see…OK, well, you got every single thing wrong here.
Him: What?! I added up everything and checked my answer.
Me: Yes, I see that. Your math is right, but the instructions said round your answer to the nearest 10. You didn’t do that. So, yes, you got all the *math* right in all eight of them, but you got the *answers* wrong in all eight of them.
Him: That’s not fair!
Me: Listen carefully, kid: Life’s not fair. Accept that and your life will be better than most people. Now, slow down. Notice things. If you do that, you’ll be different from most of the world.
Him: What if I don’t wanna be different?
Me: Look, if you’re different, you can be irreplaceable. And if you’re irreplaceable…your life will be better still. And that’s all I want for you. Slow down.

This is the one I got.

I like red.

Location: 18th Street, getting floored because of my dislocated toe
Mood: ouchie
Music: Yeah, I want that red velvet (Spotify)
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Benjamin, Olly, and Scarlett

Ithaca is Gorges

The Firecracker has met a lotta my good friends, but not alla them.

RE Mike and her just never seemed to be able to cross paths but he hit me up outta the blue to tell me about a kid event in Chelsea and I checked if the Firecracker was free.

Her: Oh, I finally get to meet RE Mike?
Me: Looks that way!

So, on the one nice day this past weekend, we headed downtown to see them.

The event was at a place called Olly Olly downtown, which I’d never heard of.

Essentially, they had two huge bouncy houses there and costumed characters.

The kid was just happy to be able to bounce around; he and Mike’s kid got along swimmingly.

Mike was ever the charmer…

Him: Are you aging backward? You look younger every time I see you.
Me: It’s all the drugs and alcohol. I’m like Benjamin Button.
Him: (to the Firecracker) You know you look like Scarlett, right?
Her: Why thank you! I have heard that, yes.
Him: It’s not a bad thing.

The kid got hungry, so I ended up just getting him a quesadilla, which he ate completely by himself.

This kid is eating me outta house and home.

Afterward, we went to – of all places – the Jacob Javits Center to check out a travel show.

Him: You used to be in this industry.
Me: Ages ago. Man, we’ve known each other a long time.

His wife is a doctor, and her practice is just a few doors down from the gym.

Her: Why did you open a gym down there?
Me: (shrugging) Everyone liked the space.

Mike’s also a lawyer, when he’s not doing all his other businesses. We both talked about our taking the bar there.

Him: (to the girls) Can you imagine this place with rows and rows of nothing but desks and chairs with people taking an exam?
Me: And it was dead silent. Not a single sound except pencils on paper.

We went to the Japan exhibit…

…and then to the Taiwan exhibit where the kid did a high five with someone in a bear costume…

…and then listened to the orchestra – of course…

…before we ended up at the Ithaca exhibit, of all places.

Me: I went to Cornell!
Guy at booth: You did? I have something for you!

He slipped behind the display and rummaged about…

…before reappearing with this.

Me: Awesome – thank you!

Before we left, the kid walked by the Florida exhibit and the guy there proceeded to put an urchin, a starfish, and a snail on his hand.

Him: This is so weird!

Which kinda encapsulates life with RE Mike:

You never know if you’re gonna end up at some ritzy private event with celebs, a private concert, a Broadway show, or a travel exhibit with someone putting sea animals on your kid’s arm.

Wouldn’t want it any other way.

Me: So, you finally met RE Mike.
Her: I did! So, have I met everyone?
Me: Nah, there’s Bryson, Paul, The Professor, Bridget, Nadi, Paul, CoB…

Location: West 71st, chatting up a fella who’s girlfriend just handed me a Macbook
Mood: getting over this damn cold
Music: with a shade of scarlet, running fast to better days, I’m on it (Spotify)
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Trying to not be heated


The kid started swimming lessons again.

He seems to be enjoying himself.

While he’s doing great, I’ve been sick lately.

Spent most of the week in bed but one thing I had to do was crack open my computer because it was randomly shutting down.

Figured the CPU was overheating so I slapped on a Noctua heatsink and fan, which seems to have fixed the problem.

Speaking of overheating, evidently, the idea that humans are, on average 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit is a relatively modern conclusion.

The very latest health research seems to indicate that the new average is about a degree cooler at between 97.5 and 97.9 degrees Fahrenheit.

At least since 2019, I’ve been averaging about 97.3 degrees but lately, I’ve been drifting even lower – above is what it was this morning.

There seems to be two major theories for this:

    1. People are larger now, which generally results in lower body temperature, and/or
    2. People are just less chronically inflamed.

Can’t speak for the world-at-large but I gotta think that my lower temps are because I’ve lowered my overall inflammation since I wasn’t super big to begin with.

When Alison first got sick, I did a baseline reading for myself and found that I was consistently around 97.9 degrees but, since her illness, I spent a good amount of time and energy trying to reduce my inflammation overall, resulting in temps I wrote above.

This past week, I’ve been ridonk sick with some weird cold. Mainly fatigue and coughing but my temps maxed out at 99.6 degrees.

Kept wondering if I had a fever.

Technically speaking, a fever is anything above 100.4 degree Fahrenheit.

But the question is is, if I’m a full degree lower than normal, is a fever now something above 99.4 degrees?

In any case, I’m better today; the last four days were spent in bed but today I felt well enough to cook for the kid – the Firecracker spent most of the week cooking for him.

As the years go on, more and more people ask me how I stay so young looking.

Obviously, genetics have a lot to do with it. So does the fact that I’ve been on a diet for 36+ years.

But, in terms of recent changes I’ve made, that’s all been focused on my reducing my systemic inflammation to try and combat cancer.

The unexpected benefit is that I think I’m literally slowing down my aging even more.

In any case, reducing my inflammation means:

Just like my computer shutting down when it overheated, I think that people don’t realize just how damaging being inflamed – thus, over-heated – is for their overall health.

These are the kinda things I think about when I’m sick.

Her: How’s the patient?
Me: Blargh.
Her: Are you resting? No computer fiddling?
Me: There might be some fiddling going on.

Location: home, making a rasher of bacon because I’m cranky and it’s easy
Mood: see above
Music: they always say, “Don’t it always seem to go'” (Spotify)
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A night at hot pot, the Library, pizza, Criff Dogs, and (almost) a Speakeasy.

And we ran into another friend, too

The Firecracker needed to get some legal work done but it was outta my wheelhouse, so I asked my buddy Reed to take a look at it for us, which he did.

So, as a mini-thanks for the help, the Firecracker and I took him out to eat hot pot and get some drinks.

We started off at Hou Hot Pot; the Firecracker and I arrived first, and he came just a few minutes later and had on a pearl necklace, like the Firecracker.

Her: Hey, we’re both wearing pearls!
Him: Yes, yes, we are.
Me: Dammit, left out again.

We ordered a ton of food and just caught up.

Afterward, we went to the Library of Distilled Spirits

….where we chatted with the bartender, who also starred in Drunk Shakespeare.

Me: Is it always the same person drunk each time?
Him: Nah, we take turns.
Me: Seems sensible.

Reed ordered a Paper Plane variation, while I had my old standby, the Old Fashioned…

…and a rum drink that I’ve never had before.

Bartender: Have you ever had an Old Cuban?
Me: Nope, but I’ll have one now.

It was honestly, pretty good – but nuthin could beat that first Old Fashioned.

We got pretty lit there and I got snacky, as I’m usually wont to do.

So, we got some pizza.

Her: Whenever Logan drinks, his “no carbs” rule goes out the window.
Me: You sold me out!
Her: But it’s true!
Me: That’s not the point!

It wasn’t enough.

Reed: Let’s go to Crif Dogs and get cheap beer and some dogs.
Me: Sold!
Him: We can also check out the speakeasy there that’s hidden behind the phone booth.
Her: What? Wait, is this Please Don’t Tell?

It was.

But the line was waaaaay too long so we just got dogs and beer.

Turns out the guy running the front desk grew up in Ithaca, where I went to college.

Him: My family owned Rogan’s.
Me: For serious? Man, I haven’t had that in ages.

We just ended up chatting the night away.

Him: Oh, I was engaged once.
Me: No kidding?
Him: We’re still friends. Her daughter visited the city not too long ago and I showed her around.
Me: You’re such a mensch!

It was late when we headed back, and we ran into my buddy Lau who had just finished up a private show.

A lot more happened, but I suppose this is all I wanted to tell you.

Location: in bed almost all day
Mood: sick, send soup
Music: Lethal poison for the system (Spotify)
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A year with the Firecracker

Being in it

Her: Are things like anniversaries important to you?
Me: (thinking) Hmmm, not particularly. You?
Her: Very. But I get it if it’s not to you.
Me: If it matters to you, it matters to me.

The thing with dating in NYC is that there are (a) so many options that it’s easy to think that there’s something better out there for you and (b) that fact also means that you’re always questioning if you’re being too picky.

Close to two years ago, my therapist told me that I wasn’t giving people enough of a chance, mainly because I go on a single date and then bail.

So, I tried dating several people for longer than I normally wouda.

Everyone was quite nice and each had her definite strong points but I couldn’t shake the feeling that they weren’t right for me.

Enter the Firecracker.

From the moment I met her, I felt like I knew her.

Fast forward a year and we went out the other day to celebrate our one-year anniversary of when we met.

It was sweet that it mattered to her, so I took her out to eat the other night at a Thai restaurant that we’ve both wanted to check out for a while now.

For me, one of the signs that a relationship is struggling is when you spend more time discussing the relationship versus just being in the relationship.

It’s been a long time since I was just in a relationship versus arguing about it.

Of course, she and I aren’t perfect, we do bicker at times.

But, more than anything, we see the world very similarly.

Her: Can we stop talking about the relationship and just be in the relationship?
Me: That’d be great, actually.
Her: I’m not perfect. I’m gonna make mistakes.
Me: No, you’re not perfect. (thinking) But you might be perfect for me.
Her: (sighs, smiles)

Location: yesterday, a snowy slope with four boys, three sleds, and one Firecracker
Mood: so full
Music: I was making jokes and you politely laughed (I appreciated that) (Spotify)
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SF Loop Dreams

Shooting in a dot-com

Didn’t have much time to decompress after our trip because I pretty much immediately had to get ready for a two-day Scenic Fights shoot.

The last time I checked, we were closing in on 585,000 subscribers, which itself is pretty nuts.

But getting – and keeping – alla these subscribers means that we gotta keep cranking out good content.

So, the other day, we tried shooting in my buddy’s dot com.

It’s weird, I know alla these serious movers and shakers these days, and I often marvel how I ended up knowing any of them.

Case-in-point, a buddy of mine sold one of his many companies to Facebook a little while back.

I’d never been to his offices before but he mentioned that he had a studio in one of them.

Me: Whoa! Can we shoot at it? We’re always looking for new places to shoot Scenic Fights.
Him: Sure – have your producers reach out to me to set it up.

And they did.

Honestly, I don’t have the words to tell you how gorgeous these offices were.

Like, they had two bars/kitchen areas in them.

And we took full advantage of them – I almost made myself sick eating all the snacks there. I did my best to not have too much of the alcohol since we were filming.

There were snacks and drinks everywhere, but I – of course – didn’t have any because that would just be gauche.

It’s been a long time since I’ve worked for a dot-com, but being there reminded me of onea my possible pasts from decades ago.

I often wonder what my life woulda been like if I’d stayed.

Then again, I suppose I like how my life is now, horrors notwithstanding.

Even though it’s nuthin like I’d expected it to be all those years ago.

Location: freezing getting from A to B anywhere right now
Mood: so gauche
Music: Dear me, you’ll be older one day. I’m writing from the future and you’re doing ok (Spotify)
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Like a post-doctorate bagel

Welcome home, then

While the Firecracker and I had a pretty great time in Vienna, we were both happy to see our kids again.

It’s funny how much you miss someone after only a few days.

Me: I missed you.
Him: I missed you more!
Me: (laughing) Tenuous.

Donnie: How was Vienna?
Me: Oh, great! I ate my body weight in croissants.
Him: (laughing) Why croissants?
Me: (shrugging) They’re like educated bread.
Him: Ah, like a post-doctorate bagel.

Whenever I come back from Asia, the first thing I wanna have is something like a burger, a gyro, or some chili.

On the flip, whenever I go to someplace like Mexico or Europe, all I want when I’m back is some Asian food.

After eating nuthin but (delicious) European food, I was craving something Asian.

Me: What about some Chinese food?
Her: Taiwanese?
Me: Done!

So, as soon as we got back to the states, we immediately headed to Taiwan Pork Chop House, which is this absolute hole-in-the-wall joint in Manhattan’s Chinatown but the food is killer.

Me: (in Chinese) We just got back from Austria.
Waitress: (motioning to the Firecracker) Is she German?
Me: Nah, she’s an American. But, funnily enough, I speak German to people, and they respond to her in German.
Waitress: (laughs) Welcome back home, then.

Location: freezing downtown in the wintery rain
Mood: brrrrrrrrrrr
Music: don’t let me drag you down (Spotify)
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Travelogue: Vienna 2023 Pt 6 – Marie Antoinette, Schönbrunn Palace, Fake Ruins, Home

Can’t tell you how disappointed I am

Her: You know what’s wild? The same time we were in the room where Marie Antoinette was born, my sister was in Paris in the room she was in right before she died.
Me: That *is* wild – and so sad to me for some reason.

The last day we were there, the Firecracker had us heading out to the Schönbrunn Palace, which was where the Hapsburgs summered.

Coincidentally, her sister was in Paris at the same time, leading to the conversation above.

Now the Firecracker just likes going to castles in general, but I was super jazzed to see the Roman ruins – more on that in a moment.

Beforehand, though, we enjoyed some of the Christmas market outside the castle before heading in.

Just like the Hofburg, it was opulent and impressive.

While there was a glass cutaway in the palace showing the Roman ruins, I wanted to see the more impressive ruins on the grounds…

…and they were super impressive…

Me: I’ve never seen such nicely kept ruins, ever!
Her: This is amazing!

…and super fake:

Me: Holy cow, I can’t tell you how disappointed I am.
Her: Man, that stinks!

To assuage somea that disappointment, we headed to the next town over in search of a traditional German joint that was less than 550 years old.

We stepped into the first nice place we saw and ordered a Diet Coke and another Radler…

…along with a traditional Weiner Schnitzel and Beef Goulash.

It was all pretty good but definitely not American-sized portions, so I was still pretty hungry afterward.

Her: You’re always hungry.
Me: This is true.

There was one last castle that the Firecracker wanted to check out before we left but, because I was still hungry, we hopped off the tram early to check out a bar right before it called Cafe Prinz.

Me: (to owner) Zwei bitte. Und gibt es Apfelstrudel und Wurst?
Owner: I’m sorry, do you speak English? My German isn’t so good.
Firecracker: (surprised) Are you American?
Owner: (shaking head) No, I’m from Czech Republic, moved to Canada decades ago, and was on my way back home to the Czech Republic when my friend convinced me to stop here in Vienna and we ended up buying this bar.

She was super nice, and we ended up taking a picture with her.

The Firecracker wrote some postcards for her parents, and I offered to drop them off at the post office for her.

It was “only” two blocks away but each one of these blocks were like three NYC avenues.

Firecracker: I thought you got lost!
Me: I didn’t but…man, they don’t fool around with the blocks here.

After we had some food and drink, we headed off to the last castle.

There was another Christmas Market there, so I ended up buying more Glühwein with this cool mug.

We ended up just enjoying the market for a bit before heading back.

The next morning, we took off for home.

It was pretty uneventful except for the fact that we had to board the plane from the tarmac…

…and the food was pretty atrocious.

Her: It’s not good.
Me: It tastes like they saw a picture of a pizza and decided to make it based on the picture.

We got back to the states and missed the train back into the city by just two minutes.

Her: Wait, the train’s delayed, we didn’t miss it after all.
Me: Awesome! Well, that’s a good way to end this trip.

And that’s our trip to Vienna.

Back to our usual nuthin in the next entry.

Location: home all day, after a night of drinking with Mr. Read
Mood: sober
Music: Even though I love the road, I’m missing home (Spotify)
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Travelogue: Vienna 2023 Pt 5 – Opera House, Wiener Riesenrad, Griechenbeisl, and a Radler

I go where you go

The next morning, I had some brie and smoked salmon while she had the yoghurt she bought, along with several cups of coffee.

But it wasn’t enough and we ended up going to a tiny, non-descript cafe…

…where she finally got to have a pretty good rendition of a Sacher Torte.

Me: They’re generally a bit dry. Whaddya think?
Her: I liked it! The apricot jam really helped.

Stepping out, we noticed a building which had the same kidnapped photos/posters as we have in NYC, which was a somber reminder of the current state of the world.

Afterward, we headed off to the Opera House because she got us a 45-minute tour there.

Only found it somewhat interesting, but both the Firecracker and I really marveled in the history and beauty of the whole thing.

We essentially paid for the tour just to see the inside; the tour was very basic and 45 minutes was more than we needed for just seeing it.

Still, I was glad to have done it.

One of the only things that I really wanted to do was to visit the Prater amusement park and check out their iconic ferris wheel.

It was featured in onea my fave films, The Third Man, which actually starred my buddy’s grandfather.

Both the Firecracker and I wished that our kids were there to enjoy it.

Her: They would have loved this.
Me: When they’re older, we can bring them.

Afterward, we went to have dinner at a traditional Austria Bisel at the 550 year old (!) Griechenbeisl, which is a beisl, or a traditional German tavern with food and drink.

People that have eaten there includes Mark Twain, Beethoven, Mozart, Luciano Pavarotti, and Johnny Cash – so I figured we were in good company.

Getting there was fun – we felt like spies coming outta the cold war.

The name translates to “Greek Tavern,” but it had zero Greek food, just traditional German food, which is exactly what we wanted.

We ordered the traditional pork leg for two.

It was exactly what my belly wanted.

Oh, and there was another cool ceramic heater in the corner.

We both really enjoyed the drinks and the meal.

This was the aftermath.

We walked around for a bit afterward and ended up walking into this rando apartment building…

Her: Should we go in?
Me: No. But let’s do it anyway.

…checking out an underground furniture store…

…window shopping at above-ground luxury stores…

Me: I heard the Devil wears that.
Her: She does! I could never bring myself to spend that much on stuff like that, though.

…and, finally, hitting up another bar where we each had a radler/shandy.

Me: This was a super full second day.
Her: It was your idea to pack in everything today!
Me: True. We may have taken on too much. Should we head back?
Her: If you’re going back, I’m going back. I go where you go.


Location: a steamy swimming pool with the boy, who just got a certificate
Mood: argumentative
Music:  you feel like we’re on a Ferris Wheel (Spotify)
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