An Update for the Sake of Updating

Speaking of sake, I now have only five more to try to complete my Dragonfish sake club card (out of twenty-two).
Monday night completed my very first season in a bowling league. Personally, I did fairly well considering I bowl once every pon farr, or thereabouts. (apologies for that reference) I met some nice, interesting people and had a fun time. I may do it again in the near future.
The Sounders must have lost a coin toss to be stuck opening the season against the L.A. Galaxy. There was no way Sounders would win, and that’s what we call ‘starting off on the wrong foot’.  It was an exciting game, however, in really nice seats thanks to the unfortunate timing of illness for a very nice woman.
One of my friends lost her job (unfairly, I might add) and tomorrow is her last day. It is a tough time for a lot of people, and this was a particularly sucky situation. I hope that good things will come out of this for her, that this loss will set her on a fortunate path.
Over the last several years, I’ve had the occasional dream wherein I’ve uprooted myself and returned to New York to continue my education and further my career. These are generally very good dreams, but always twinged with a thought of “am I really doing the right thing?” In recent weeks, I’ve had the occasional dream wherein I’m just leaving, moving somewhere else. In these dreams, I am overall happy and content, and there is no question of whether I’m doing the right thing. In fact, the most recent version had me packing up my things and joining with a friend/love interest for a trip around the country. The intent was to go to a town, try it on for size, and if it didn’t fit we’d move on to the next town, with the idea that maybe we’d stop at the first town we came across, or maybe we’d never find the one that fit. Either way – or else somewhere in between – we were perfectly OK with that.  I felt pretty good waking from that dream, and I intend to ponder its meaning for a while.
I purchased my first ever PBS item and it is currently on its way to my domicile – Lidia’s Italy: 140 Simple and Delicious Recipes from the Ten Places in Italy Lidia Loves Most. Lidia has kept me company on many sleepless nights, and I’ve been meaning to get one of her books and cook one of her dishes myself. I’m pretty excited.
And that, my friends, is that. (for now)

Cell Phones Off, Please! Enjoy the Films!!!

I remember back in 1997, seeing Lost Highway at the Angelika at the midnight showing on opening night. The film is, in a lot of parts, quiet – long stretches of silence or near silence throughout. It was an amazing experience to be in a full movie theatre – in New York City especially – where no one made a sound. The audience as a whole was totally into the film and respected the silence. It was beautiful.

I had a similar experience five years earlier at a preview screening of Dracula at a nice midtown theatre. Not a particularly quiet movie, but still the audience did not detract from it by whispering, crinkling candy wrappers, or letting their cell phones ring (were cell phones even a big thing in ’92? There definitely wasn’t texting yet). We were allowed by the silent audience to make it a private experience while also sharing it with a couple hundred fellow filmgoers. This was in direct contrast to my 2nd viewing a week later at a multiplex in the East Village where there was a more typical NYC movie crowd. They laughed outloud at the cheesy parts, talked back to the characters on screen. . .  And I cannot say it wasn’t enjoyable also, just in a completely different way. Still, I’m glad I saw it first with the quiet crowd.

Yesterday I completed my second week of films at the 35th annual SIFF festival. In between films, I overheard a conversation about the change in the audience “consideration”. (I think this may have been a general statement about film audiences, stemming from a direct observation of the SIFF audiences.) Every year, audiences are asked to turn off phones and beepers, a couple years they added “anything that lights up, including watches”, and this year they’ve added “no texting”. Despite these requests, people still pull out their phones mid-movie. I sometimes ask myself: Do people really need to be told not to text during a movie? And the answer is Yes, yes they do.

Last week I watched Small Crime at Uptown Cinema. It was a cute little comedy set in Cyprus. Apparently the female half of a newlywed couple sitting in front of me was from that part of the world and had extensive knowledge to share with her other half. Throughout the entire film, she was offering little tidbits to him which I’m sure were interesting. I couldn’t actually hear what she was saying, but considering the subtitles floated just above their heads, I sure did notice. It was quite distracting, but not wanting to distract anyone else, I refrained from saying anything to them. I did kick her chair a couple times “on accident”. To them I say, if you want to discuss it as you watch it – rent it and stay home!

There have been a couple films in which I find myself in serious need of a potty break. I sit there, trying not to squirm, trying to figure out if I can hold out ’til the end, or if I should just make a break for it. I really don’t like getting up in the middle of a film, but when Nature calls . . . So I can empathize with other people who are wondering “how much time has already passed?” and “how much longer until the credits roll?” Sometimes it’s a very helpful piece of information, sometimes it just eases an anxious mind. To these people I say – Wear a watch.  Timex makes a really affordable white-face analog time piece that can be read in the light of most films, without even having to turn on the Indiglo. There is absolutely no reason you need to pull out a cell phone and light up the entire row just to find out what time it is. (You know what time the film started, take a guess!)

There is also no reason to have your phone on at all. If you really anticipate that someone might call or text you and cannot wait up to 2 hours for a reply, you really should consider renting a movie and staying at home. That way, if that emergency does take place, you can stop the film and resume it later, after the crisis has been averted. In this way, you are not annoying your fellow movie watchers, and you don’t have to miss the film. It’s a win-win situation.

The overheard conversation mentioned the more frequent home viewing as a cause for this type of inconsiderate behavior. I think there is more to it. As we become more addicted to our devices which connect us to other parts of the globe, we become less aware of our very immediate surroundings. If it weren’t a problem, we wouldn’t see signs at the coffee bar asking customers to refrain from cell phone usage while they are in line. Do people really need to be told to be more present in their immediate interactions with their fellow humans? Yes, yes they do. Will they listen? Hold on, I’ve got to take this call . . . .

It’s My Birthday!

McDonald's Sign

There’s nothing I love more than myself. And so when my birthday comes around I try and do something special for me. As some of you know, one of those things is buy myself a cheeseburger.

It all began in, let’s say, 1994 when I decided I did not need to eat beef in order to have a complete diet. I had eliminated pork from my diet at least five years earlier for somewhat religious/spiritual reasons. Why did I need to continue to eat cows? I didn’t, and I didn’t think it would really be that much of a sacrifice. The only things I thought I might miss were cheeseburgers and chicken fried steaks. So I made a vow not to eat beef except for once a year – my birthday. On that most auspicious of days, I would consume a cheeseburger for lunch and a chicken fried steak for dinner.

The first of these birthdays found me in the Houston metropolitan area. I decided I would have the Ultimate Cheeseburger at Jack in the Box. It truly lives up to its name. Or it did back in those days. Back then, it was beef, cheese, bread, and their signature onion mayo. Deliciously elegant in its composition, and totally fulfilling. And filling. I don’t remember the chicken fried steak. It is not difficult to find one in Texas that fulfills all my requirements of such a meal, so it doesn’t particularly stand out.

The following several years I was in New York City on my birthday, specifically Manhattan. There are no Jack in the Box’s to be found, but there are several really good burger joints that will not disappoint. And surprisingly, there is a very good place for chicken fried steak – the Acme Bar & Grill. All the years I was in New York on my birthday (including a year after I moved away) this is where I got my CFS. I love this place, and ate there at other times as well, enjoying the Cajun Chicken instead with mashed potatoes and collard greens. They call it N’awlins Chicken now, the Cajun-fried option.

In the first 8 years I lived in Seattle I’ve struggled each year (minus the one I was back in NYC) to find a cheeseburger and a chicken fried steak that meet my criteria. On the CFS side of things, I suppose it’s not all that surprising that I can’t find a good one in the Pacific Northwest outside of Claim Jumper. I even went to Claim Jumper one year – it was good but grotesquely large, and I spent a lot of time agonizing over wasting it versus eating it for more than just the one day. Then a couple years ago I gave up searching. I decided that instead of the CFS, I would have a real turkey dinner on Thanksgiving, something I was beginning to miss more each year since I stopped eating poultry shortly after arriving in Seattle.

That just left the cheeseburger. There are a lot of “legendary” burger joints in the Seattle area. I think I had my birthday cheeseburger at a different place every year. The possible exception could be Luna Park Cafe, which I used to love. (They changed management and while it is virtually the same, there is something just a wee bit different and I don’t like it.) None of the burgers was quite what I wanted and every year I was a little disappointed. So last year, after lamenting that nothing was quite the Ultimate Cheeseburger, my friends convinced me I should just go for it. So, for the second time since I started this tradition, I had an Ultimate Cheeseburger for my birthday, only to discover that those clown-faced jerks changed it. It was more or less the same, but they served it with ketchup and mustard instead of the onion mayo. So, instead of just being able to walk up to the counter and say, “I want an Ultimate Cheeseburger and spicy curly fries,” I had to special order. The burger was amazing, but I was still disappointed.

This year, I decided to do something different. As it does some years, my birthday fell on Martin Luther King Jr Day. While not a holiday at my company, I took the day off anyway so that I could eat my cheeseburger in solitude. I considered trying to find a place that only sells organic free range beef (does that even exist?). I nixed that idea when I figured a place like that would probably want to put sprouts and avocados on my patty. So, instead, I thought that a high-quality steak house should be serving high quality beef – at least something higher grade than McDonald’s. I hope. There were a few steakhouses that came to mind – really just three after I eliminated the national chains. The Brooklyn, Daniel’s Broiler, and the Metropolitan Grill. I checked their menus online and opted for the Met, as it had the simplest cheeseburger.

The “American Kobe Style Beef” Works Burger
American Wagyu sirloin, cheddar and swiss cheeses, caramelized onions, drive–in sauce, lettuce, tomato.

I only made a couple requests – herb mayo instead of “drive-in sauce”, and no tomato. The sauce is their own 1000-Island dressing, something of which I’ve never been a fan.

Birthday Cheeseburger


I ordered it medium, it came medium well, which is fine for a burger. There were a bit too many onions, but that was easy to remedy. The first bite was pretty much heavenly. After that, it was just really good. Some bites brought back memories of the mesquite barbecued brisket of my childhood. My meal was accompanied by Sinatra, Gershwin, and other standards, as well as a vodka collins.

Ivan Collins

It was followed by a dish of Burnt Cream which had the consistency of thick pudding or slightly warm butter. After the burger and a few fries, I could only manage a few spoonfuls of the cream, so I boxed it up for home.

Burnt Cream

After my lunch, I walked it off by the Lusty Lady where I snapped their latest marquees, and then up to Pacific Place where I watched Charlie Wilson’s War. Another piece of evidence that there are some good things – besides myself – that come out of Texas.

And now My Day draws to a close. The only thing I regret is not telling my waiter it was my birthday. I probably could have got a candle in my Burnt Cream at the very least. C’est la vie. Next year I plan to celebrate my birthday in Baltimore, near the grave of fellow January baby and literary hero Edgar Allan Poe. Not sure if there’s a Jack in the Box nearby, but perhaps someone will give me a recommendation between now and then.

Aside: Considering the county Seattle resides in is named after Martin Luther King, Jr., you’d think this holiday would be a much bigger deal. Unless you’re looking, it is difficult to find any kind of celebrations or observances anywhere around the city. Quite sad.