Turkey Day in Vermont

I rambled a bit last week about the freedom to do you own thing for the holidays. Last week I exorcised the demons flexed my freedom muscles by heading to NYC on Friday and continuing on to Vermont on Tuesday.

The short story is that the trip was amazing. Snow isn't so bad.

The long story follows this line, so go to the bathroom and come back with a full mug of hot chocolate.

Los Pedros picked me up at Boston's South Station after my train ride up from Penn Station. The transition was buttery. We were off up I-93 in a flash.

I caught up with Los Ps during the ride. KP was sick and would only be consoled by LP. Everything was "Mommy. Mommy. Mommy." Periods don't do that statement justice as they imply a definitive pause between the utterances. It went more like "MommyMommyMommy."

We stopped at the New Hampshire liquor store on our way up to the Vee Tee. I can't be certain that the New Hampshire liquor store was in fact the only liquor store in the entire state, but when's the last time you heard about anything outrageous going down in New Hamster? That's what I thought.

The four hour ride passed in the blink of an eye, but there was a lot to see. The trees were brilliant fall colors - auburn, gold, yellow ochre - and became increasingly covered with snow. Mountains rolled by our high performance rental car (oxymoron alert) and Christmas trees dared us to come cut them down at every turn.

TP's aunt & uncle have an amazing yet simple home up the road on Walden Mountain. There's a wood burning stove, no TV and sparse cellular service.

I loved being disconnected. I wasn't constantly blasted by Twittering friends. No TV meant no news programs, a.k.a. crime reports. We were all able to relax having been freed from a constant barrage of information.

(Un)fortunately, the incredibly relaxed environment lead to my brain not spinning at 8000 RPMs all the time. Though very refreshing, I seem to have missed etching everything into my memory from the week, so I'll just hit the highlights.

TP & I skated around on the pond after helping his uncle clear a largish rink on the frozen surface. More correctly, TP skated and I stumbled around with a hockey stick for approximately 10 minutes is what actually occurred. However, I did not land on my butt, nor did I fall through the ice, which was actually a possibility.

Thursday was Thanksgiving, but everyday seemed to be turkey day. Seriously, we saw turkeys in the snow covered fields each day of the trip. TP came close to thinking about bagging a fresh one during our Serendipity Tour through the neighborhood, but Uncle D talked him down off the trigger and save that gobbler.

Of course Thanksgiving itself was a very interesting experience. It was definitely weird to be a interloper on a family holiday celebration. Brothers and sisters caught up. Cousins reminisced about hunting trips past. I just hung out and explained that I was a friend and ex-door neighbor. Very awkward at first, but then it passed - particularly once food comas set in.

We finished the week out with some big fun, low key activities. I got cribbage lessons from Uncle D and Amy. Each delivered their own brand of complimentary trash talk as well. Caucasians and Bloody Marys were served and consumed again and again. And, we managed a hike to the "auxiliary cabin" and a rambunctious ride to the family hunting camp.

There's a lot more to tell, but that's material best shared over a brew or six. All you need to know is: The landscape was breathtaking. The snow was cold. And the company was outstanding.

Los Pedros in their natural habitatKP loves snow
Los Pedros are no longer out of their element.



This weekend marked my return to the Big Apple for the first time in two years. The trip was long over due.

Overall, everything was low key on the trip. But, my memories are pretty hazy. No, I did not get insanely drunk. I just can't remember much of the trip. Perhaps it is because I was supremely relaxed.

Scotty B and I hung out in his new neighborhood, as well as the old one. Our trip to Milady's felt like a homecoming. I spent so much quality time in that bar during my CT project that I started to become a pseudo regular. If you know the bar, then you should know that Margaret is moving back to Iceland in the spring. So hurry and get over there before it's too late to bid her farewell.

Four AM seems to arrive more quickly in NYC than it does in Houston. Perhaps that because I'm usually asleep by then. Scott and I decided to top off the free rounds of Jameson's (thanks Margaret) with some tacos from San Loco.
You been here before?


It rocks.

I gotta hose. Just order me what you get.

I got back from the bathroom just as Scott was paying for our order. FORTY FRICKIN DOLLARS!
40 bucks! Are you nuts?

Nope. That's right. It's just a bit pricey because I got us some beers.
We each had two tacos and a Negro Modelo. And, we split an order of nachos. The price tag for the same order in Houston would have been more like $20. The food was good, but damn.

The plan for Saturday was to watch the LSU game. We did that. No frills. Some anxiety, but pretty par for the course. Saturday night was anything but run of the mill.

I fought off my desire to be a couch potato and went to Mason Dixon. Mason Dixon a relatively new bar on the Lower East Side that is still considered cool and is enjoying brisk bidness due to its unique atmosphere. It is a Texas Ice House in Manhattan - rather it is Manhattan's interpretation of an ice house.

Like a typical ice house, MD has Lone Star in cans. Unlike a typical ice house, one of those cans will set you back five semolians. They also have Woodford Reserve, which you won't find at Jimmie's.

Mason Dixon also has an electric bull. YGBFKM? An electric bull in Manhattan. I guess I shouldn't be surprised, but I was. Rides were $10 for as long as you could hang on. It was evident that hot chicks got to ride for a couple of minutes, but the bull operator bounced all the guys pretty quickly. I don't like wasting money unless it's on booze or ladies, but I still had to do this.

Bad choice. I'm sure I looked like an idiot. Big deal. Landing on my head was pretty painful - even though my cranium is filled with concrete and the landing area was padded.

I wasn't sure if my neck hurt so badly from landing on my head, sleeping on the couch or playing too much Guitar Hero. I was pretty positive that I needed to get it "fixed" before I ended up in Vermont or I be a whiny bitch for the train ride to Boston and car ride to VT.

Fortunately, Scott is a massage maven. He referred me to a secret weapon style lady who has a studio just around the corner from his house. I'll call her Susan.

Susan was amazing. Per the photos on the wall, she is a former elite martial artist and it shows. She's six feet tall, but hopped up on the table very nimbly to walk on my back. This was after she tried to press her elbow through my spine and into my lungs. And, the only happy ending was me getting up off of the table with all of my limbs still attached after 90 minutes of being pulled, poked and twisted.

I love visiting that city. Four years ago I would have moved here in a New York minute. Now, I'm not so sure I could survive there.


It's your thang. Do whatchoo wanna do.

Holiday time typically makes me want to jump in front of a bus or listen to Yani. Most of the time I opt for Yani because the consequences are less permanent, but this year the bus jump seems appealing.

It's not that I don't like the time off from work. I do. I REALLY do. My family stresses me out. More accurately, I stress myself out thinking about what my family is thinking about if they are not surrounding me every second of every day during said holiday period. Anybody got some Valium?

Here's the deal. Like many folks in my generation (yikes that makes me feel old), my parents are divorced. Fortunately, each side of the family still loves me and wants to see me. Unfortunately, holiday happenings (like Thanksgiving) typically occur during the same period of the day. For example, Thanksgiving dinner usually cranks up between 11:30 and 1.

Welcome to the holiday shuffle. You need to arrive at the first location at least twenty minutes early so that you can schmooze as much as possible. Only serve yourself tablespoon sized portions so that you can taste everything but will remain hungry still have room for food at subsequent destinations. Depart Destination #1 as soon as someone gets up to serve themselves another portion of anything. Arrive at Destination #2 and repeat above steps while limiting yourself to a 30 to 60 minute window of visiting before heading off to a subsequent destination.

Sounds like a whole shit ton of fun, no? During college I "had to make" FOUR stops on Thanksgiving. Stoopid.

Many of my friends are married now, some with children, which means that they have gained some sort of secret power that allows them to say no to their families without the guilt trip or constant torment. What the?

I'm grown up, too. I am over 30 and have a mortgage. Just because I'm not married con kids doesn't mean I should be trapped into mandatory family visits on the holidays. Perhaps their families are just cooler? Maybe they're not Catholic so they don't have the built in guilt machine?

Sara and I were talking about this the other day. She's got the same issue. We've decided that the best course of action may be to be holiday dates for each other.
Sorry, I can't make it home for the holidays. I'm going to Sara's.

Sorry, I can't make it home for the holidays. I'm going to JB's.
Instead, we head for Fiji, which would be great because then I'd get to stare at her boobs in her bathing suit. She's got great boobs.

Please don't misunderstand me. I love my family. No, really. No, really. I don't always like them, but I love them and like hanging out with them. But, I don't like having my time off from work mapped out without any sense of freedom.

This year is different. I put my foot down. I'm doing my own thing for Thanksgiving. It was easier than I thought. I blamed it on Los Pedros. Not really, but slightly. I accepted their generous offer to explore the wilderness of Vermont for Turkey Day. I didn't even have to get married.



It's Not Easy Being Green

New Yorker Wrapping Paper

New Yorker Wrapping Paper, originally uploaded by JaseMan.

Most folks assume that I'm just another run of the mill consumer who throws caution to the wind and his recyclables right into a land fill. Suck it. You're wrong.

For a few years now, I have combined a small recycling effort with my disdain for the manufactured industries surrounding the holidays - specifically the wrapping paper industry. Do you honestly expect me to pay hard-earned cash for wrapping paper just so giftees can rip it apart and throw it away? Are you out of your tree?!

This year folks will once again be receiving items wrapped in deconstructed magazine pages taken from New Yorker and Harper's and maybe a Wired or two. Just to be clear - I'm not being cheap. I'm protesting Hallmark industries.

Any money saved gets passed on to friends and family as kickass presents. Suck on that, Mr & Mrs. Hallmark Set.


The Height of Irony is Cooking

It should come as no surprise that I frequently get tired of eating out all the time. I'm on the road for work so it's breakfast, lunch & dinner at some eatery - way too often it's a chain. Because of this situation, and more over my penchant for eating at the same places all the time, I get sick of eating out. At least someone else is picking up the tab most of the time.

Fortunately, I love to cook. Unfortunately, I hate cleaning up which means that I don't cook much besides sandwiches and toast most of the time. However, occasionally something snaps in my psyche that results in a perfect storm of cookery in the kitchen. That happened this Sunday.

I woke up on Sunday determined to cook - more specifically to cook a lot. My plan was to make a stock out of the frozen turkey and chicken carcasses that were taking up all the space in my freezer. I then planned to turn that stock into gumbo and jambalaya, which I would then freeze - which would occupy more space than the carcasses did initially. Yeah, I'm a genius.

Given the fact that I hate cleaning up, I decided that I should probably go ahead and make some Moroccan veggie stew and Andy's White Chili, too. That way there would only be one real mess to clean. Huh. Clean? Huh. Anyone seen how clean my office is?

In any case, the cooking went down on Sunday and finished yesterday. The cleaning has yet to be completed, but it is in progress.

Here's the poultry stock on the stove. Big ups to JayLay & DFT for the pot hook-up (not that kind).

Poultry Stock In Process

I didn't burn the roux! I bet the folks at Fudpucker's wished I'd been able to manage that way back when.

The Roux is Done

Voila! Turkey & snausage gumbo served over a bit of plain jambalaya rice.

Turkey & Andouille Gumbo

Looks good, doesn't it? Yeah, you right. The only problem is that three days of cooking have resulted in my being sick of looking at the food. Thus, I am back to eating out.

Next time I'm sticking with cooking toast.


Test Driving Scrubs & Sports Cars

The day started out innocently enough with breakfast at 10 AM. Then DFT and I had a quick chat to figure out what we were going to do today. It went something like this:
"I think I'm going to clean up the outside of the house with the pressure washer."

"I'm going to clean up my office and throw away all the clutter that I've been staring at for the past six months."
"We could go test drive cars..."

"We should stop by the hospital and pick up scrubs first."

We took off shortly there after in the direction of a one of the hundreds of hospitals in town that also happened to be on the way to several of the hundreds of car dealerships in town.

DFT and I figured out my "story." Should we get questioned during the scrubs mission, he suggested that I was a classmate from med school who was in town and interested in touring the hospital. Done.

I suggested that my back story for the car salesmen was vascular surgery. Orthopedics was my first thought, but then I figured someone might ask me to examine an ACL or give a consult on a torn rotator cuff. No dice. I was a vascular surgeon for the day. Who knows anything about that besides a real vascular surgeon?

Apparently XXL is the most preferred, or least common, pair of scrub pants in the hospital. We were able to quickly locate a XXL top in the first locker room but the matching bottoms were no where to be found. Shit. They did have XXXXXL bottoms. I hopped into those, and we continued to the cardiovascular men's room to search out the XXLs. Nope. There was one locker room left to check; it could be dangerous. Of course we had to check in it.

There are two places in a hospital where security is super tight - anywhere they store drugs and in the baby wards. The OBGYN locker room was the last locale where we may find the XXLs. Love my XXXXXLs as I did, I really needed some smaller pants.

We circumvented the Nurses' Station by wandered through a labyrinth of cream colored corridors before arriving at the back door of the OBGYN ward. I couldn't help but thinking, "This must be how Luke Skywalker felt wandering around on the Death Star," buscept no one had guns in this hospital, and I'm pretty sure DFT and I could bullshit our way out of any scrutiny.

We found the locker room. No OBGYNs around; I guess I'd have to wait to question them about if they get tired of looking at nahnees all the time. I swapped my bottoms, but held on to the XXXXXLs just because they're so cool. Who knows when I'll need pants big enough for two?

I was just telling DFT how surprised I was with the ease at which we'd accomplished our little covert mission. Then, we passed two cops on our way out the door. Then, we passed another security guard in the garage. Then, we drove past the security patrol vehicle. Then, I finally started breathing again.

But, it was easy. However, I should point out that none of this would have been possible without DFT's badge. And, for the record, this type of access was not illegal, unorthodox maybe, but not illegal. People tour hospitals all the time - they just don't get to take home such a sweet outfit.

We were really pleased with ourselves. Really, really, really pleased with ourselves. I can't speak for DFT, but this level of "pleased with myself" rivals the feeling I used to get when I would walk out of my high school chemistry class, past the Vice Principal, hop into my MG-BGT (parked in the teacher's lot) and head out to Taco Town for lunch. I'm 34, but I felt like I was 17 and skipping AP English again. Holy shit! I'm old.
"What are you going to tell the salesman when he asks about your Vans?"

"Oh, I like wearing these because the footbed is so wide it holds my orthotics well. Yeah, they're still comfortable even after you've been standing in the OR for a couple of hours. Plus, I don't have to worry about them coming untied since they've got Velcro straps."
The first salesman started trying to break my cover immediately.
"So, you guys doctors?"


"What kind of doctors?"

"He's in anesthesia. I'm a vascular surgeon."

"So you fix the ugly veins in people's legs?"

"Yeah, but that's kind of boring. The fun stuff is taking a piece of one vein and putting it somewhere else - like making a new aorta."

"Wow. Doesn't that gross you out?"

"It's kinda weird at first, but you get used to it."


"Yeah, it's not nearly as bad as the formaldehyde cadaver smell in school."
There's no way I was getting busted - especially by a dude like that.

We'd needed an exit strategy because the salesman was way too talkative, and we had more cars to drive. DFT was behind the wheel of a new Volvo C30 (we'd seen one at a light decided to drive it), and we were just about finished with our test drive when my phone buzzed. Perfect timing.

"That was Zamora. They've got Mrs. Jones in pre-op. We've got to get back."

Off in a flash, we headed to the Porsche dealer.


Top Ten Things You Need to Know Right Now

Originally uploaded by Finstr
10. I'm sick.
9. I'm sick.
8. I'm sick.
7. I'm sick.
6. I'm sick.
5. My project is on hiatus for the next 3 weeks.
4. My travel plans for the next 4 weeks all have to be canceled and rebooked.
3. I may not make the trip to New Orleans this weekend so that I can get well in time for Thanksgiving.
2. My destinations for the Thanksgiving break are still the same - NYC & Vermont.
1. I'm ready for vacation.


Bicycle Pub Crawl Great Success-uh

Bikes - good. Beer - great. Together, they are outstanding. Thus, it was no surprise that Saturday night's re-emergence of the Urban Getaway was a great time despite the fact that 20 people RSVPed but only 11 made the journey.

I was psyched that my high school buddy, Hank, and his traveling crew of film makers made time for the trek. They've been working pretty much non-stop for the past six weeks or so on The Smart Show and were wiped out from too much NOLA. Is there such a thing? They rented bikes. They made the ride. What happened to you nine missing "Yes RSVPers?" THAT'S WEAK SAUCE PEOPLE!

During our seven hour tour, we covered roughly 17 miles, visited seven bars and one wooded park to savor the suds on this trip. Here's the quick and dirty run down:

Stop #1: Petrol Station @ 7 PM
Petrol Station is a quick two mile ride from the starting point. Er, that is a quick ride until your rear wheel locks up just after you cross a busy intersection despite the bright orange hand telling you to hold your horses. No worries; a bit of wrenching and a Session made this an easy fix. Ye Ole PS just wasn't happening. I guess the Guitar Hero tourney got moved. So, the crew mushed on to Red's.

Stop #2: Red's Country Inn @ 7:30 PM
Red's doesn't look like much from the outside, but the inside is pure gold. The stools and chairs are uncomfortable but hand wrought and so heavy only Hercules could pick one up and hit you with it. The interior is hand painted to look like a Tiki bar/Jimmy Buffet video. Thank God that there was a TV so that I could check in on the LSU v Bama game. Great. The Tigers are losing. Time to head to the next bar.

Eric & The King at Rose GardenStop #3: Rose Garden @ 8:15 PM
Rose promised to have Polish sausages ready for the gang when we arrived. The sausages were there, but she wasn't. What the? We stuck around for a second round before Rose arrived with Alice. We told her her thanks and gave her a high five. We told Alice we were headed to her place next, but she didn't hurry along to meet us - probably due to all the corn nut throwing from years past.

10th Annual Crew with the Tall TexanStop #4: Alice's Tall Texan @ 9:20 PM
I ordered 10 goblets for the gang and nearly fainted when the barmaid said, "That'll be $17.50." I LOVE CHEAP BEER IN FISHBOWLS! We sucked down the goblets and took a few pix with the Tall Texan. Then the wheels fell off for me. I couldn't remember the way to Shiloh Club. I couldn't even remember that Alice's was on the opposite side of the street from Shiloh, which would have pointed me in the right direction. Fortunately, Foley lives in the area and was able to get us to Shiloh before I had a mental break down in the parking lot.

Somehow I believe itStop #5: Shiloh Club @ 10:15 PM
What's that they say? It's something like, "When you fall off the horse, the only thing you can do is get right back up on it." Thomamas must have seen me fly off the horse, or maybe he heard me yell, "Fuck beer! Shiloh is the spot for Jack shots!" In any case, he was Johnny-on-the-spot with a round of Jack and Budweiser chasers. WOO HA! The Jack got me back in action and ready to push on to OC.

Miguel rallys the gang at Onion CreekStop #6: Onion Creek @ 11:15 PM
Riding down White Oak on a Saturday night is tricky due the cars trying to decide where to park and if they are going to run you over. Lucky for us all riders made it safely into the parking lot. Guess what I found inside OC! A Colombian, a Bolivian and a veggie sandwich. Neither one of the guys were riding bikes because these two only know how to ride llamas (pronounced YAH-muhs). I'm pretty sure I enjoyed the weggie sandwich more than the guys only because I was super hungry which often leads to grumpy.

The Not Stop: The Shady Tavern
The tentative route called for a swing by The Shady Tavern, but they didn't answer the phone so we didn't stop in. No, I didn't warn them ahead of time that we were coming. They only ever have eight customers on a good night. 'Parently, they didn't want any of our mojo. Their loss.

Stop #7: Tall Boys in the Timber @ 12:30 AM
I had originally planned, at the suggestion of El Pedro, to grab beer for the park at a Stop 'N Rob at Shepherd and 11th. But, midnight was dangerously close, aka two minutes away, when left OC so I ducked into the Shady Mart next to the Creek. Whew. That was close.

We arrived on time (and under budget whatever that means) in West 11th Street Park for a sip in the pines. I informed the crew that they were imbibing on endangered grounds since developers have been threatening to turn this incredibly cool, totally wooded park into a bunch of condos. We savored the suds as appropriate, and I gassed up my newly flat front tire before continuing on to El Spot.

Stop #8: The Spot Club @ 1:15 AM
Pound for pound The Spot Club delivered more entertainment value than any other contender along the pub crawl route this year. You just never know what you're going to get. Saturday night featured a one-man-band set-up turning out the R&B classics as well as anything else you could think of. Plus, Jan was behind the bar slanging cans of Lone Star like she was born to do it.

I took my can outside to work on my flat. Some regular who doesn't know me, because I'm only a semi-regular, tried to stop me from leaving the smoker's patio area.
"Uh, you can't take that beer past the door."

"I'm going to fix my flat tire."

"But, you can't leave this area with that beer."

"Jan said I could."

"You need to come back over here with that beer."

"Go take it up with Jan."

That shut him up quickly. Ain't nobody taking nothing up with Jan because she "don't take no shit from nobody" - not even the bar owner.

Jan's my friend, but she broke my heart on Saturday night. "I ain't staying open another hour for you fuckers even with the time change, so drink up!" she yelled across the bar. "That's bullshit, Jan," I fired back, but she didn't budge. And, that was that.

Honestly, none of us were in any shape to continue drinking so we convened in the parking lot for the last three miles back to the ranch. The crew was tired and nursing a variety of overuse injuries to shins, calves, thighs and taints. I was sad to see them go, but glad to hit the sack. That said, I did miss the late night round of d-golf, complete with a Nalgene of Jack & water, that El Pedro and I enjoyed after the last crawl.

Is it too early to be ready for next year's ride?


10th Annual Urban Getaway Rolls Tonight

Urban Getaway - 2007, originally uploaded by JaseMan.

Here's the route map just in case you non-bike-riding, unadventurous vehicular dependent types would like to join us along the way.

FYI: no destination is certain until we actually get there. Call me if you'd like our location.