Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Frat Boys

Here's something to consider: if you're gay, and you are meeting your friends for a "boys' night out," is your partner invited? Do you want your partner to be invited? I mean, it's great to have him along and all, but is it truly a "boys' night out" if you're spouse is there? Is this also true for lesbians and "girls' night out?"

Last night I met a bunch of guys from my fraternity at Cha Cha Cha in the Mission and, yes, the gay fraternity brothers did come accompanied by their partners. Delightful these partners were, so I'm not complaining. I'd just never thought about this loophole that exists for gay couples, and as I noted above, I'm not even sure it's a loophole. Regardless, Sandra Bullock and the Jawa stayed home.

Once a frat boy, always a frat boy, I suppose, because once arranged around tables in a bar, we immediately went back to our frat boy ways. Drinks were ordered by the round, whether you'd finished the previous round or not. Voices were raised. High-fives were exchanged.

We drank late into the night. Even Tom and Cameron, who would be leaving for Vietname the following morning, slammed down the cocktails. Wait, that makes it sound like this is 1968 and they were both drafted. No, they're going for a 3-week vacation. There will be no "Apocalypse Now" moments for them, where they cut themselves with glass and dance around to the Doors while bleeding all over an overheated hotel room. Only noodles, and perhaps, knowing Cameron, unusual hats.

When I awoke this morning, I found that I had become a realtor version of Nick Nolte in "Teachers," only without the righteous anger. I threw on some clothes, silently thanking the lord for inventing dry cleaning, and have spent the morning shuffling through 2 million dollar homes, pretending to have the flu. It's moments like this that I feel somewhat guilty that I don't smoke. If you're going to be gross, why not go all the way?

Alas, I have limits on my self-destructiveness. That, plus this weird need to not be homeless, keeps me from being a real artist.

Note to all frat boys: Frank does not lie. The "hottest bartender in the world" really does work at TKs in West Portal. I will never doubt you again, Frank.

And to Mod Marky, you were missed last night. Expect many emails from surprising sources, unless that was the Seagrams talking...

Monday, January 30, 2006

Where we live today

Parents: please do not purchase (or allow others to purchase) rock tumblers for your children. Ours has been running continuously for the past 3 weeks, rendering our downstairs completely useless. No watching TV, no using the computer, no hanging out, unless you can do so unbothered by the constant rrr-RRR-rrr-RRR-(scrape!)-rrr-RRR of the rock tumbler.

In the end, we will have smooth, shiny rocks. At least eight of them.

I've often told people that, in order to live happily in San Francisco, you have to possess an irrational love of The City. Otherwise, you will wake up one day to find that you've spent a million dollars for a 2-bedroom bungalow three blocks from the projects, that you spend $18,000 a year (per child) for grade school, and that it really is foggy all summer. As long as you still get a kick out of the Golden Gate Bridge, though, or remain convinced that we truly are the most progressive, "tolerant" people on the planet, you're fine.

In addition, I feel that once you have an irrational love for a place, you are then allowed to complain bitterly about its shortcomings. This second point is one I exercise every chance I get.

It's pretty easy to complain about San Francisco, honestly. Nothing here seems to work. And it's easy to get caught up (especially when you spend a weekend night doing your taxes early so you can get them into the Financial Aid office of your kid's grade school in time) in the daily stresses of living in a very expensive place, where the benefits of residence are usually abstract and qualitative, not concrete and quantitative.

So this is the attitude I brought to my Sunday afternoon as I drove to an open house in the Richmond. I was covering the open for the Benders, a husband-wife team at work, getting myself psyched to schmooze with potential buyers. And there I was, comically overdressed for a Sunday, creeping down Stanyan Street in my Acura, my clothes wrinkling around me, stressed out and angry. I was stressed out because I thought I was going to be late, angry because I knew I had no money to put gas into my gas tank, worried about next year's school tuition and the cost of a new bathroom, and yet still trying to get into the correct frame of mind to sell myself to the people who would come to the open house.

Driving by the Haight doesn't help, of course. When the traffic is dense enough, you get a nice, long look at all of the runaways, drug dealers and huge, unkempt dogs, milling around the park like one big, foggy hangover from San Francisco's beloved 1960s. Maybe I tore off a few choice words at them, at the cars around me, at the guy who insisted on waiting until the light changed to flip on his left blinker, thus stopping a traffic behind him without warning.

And then I saw them: an obviously rented Chrysler convertible, top down, with two twenty-something girls in the front and one similarly-aged guy in the back. He wore a Red Sox baseball cap and had a hoop earring. They had their hair in ponytails and were smoking cigarettes. Young tourists from the East Coast, finally arrived in magical San Francisco.

That's when I realized that it was sunny (unlike today) and 60 degrees, on January 29th. To the kids in the Chrysler, it must have seemed like their Froemmer's travel guide had come to life.

They were in the same traffic as me, but they weren't angry or stressed out. They just sat there, looking around, talking exitedly, smoking, listening to music. The boy in the back was looking up at the sky, at the hippies, and the buildings. My difficult Sunday was their dream vacation.

I followed them for as long as I could. They turned onto Fulton, and I guessed that they were either going to the park or all the way out to the beach. After that, they'd maybe grab some lunch, maybe walk around Haight Street, go back to the hotel and take a nap, then get dinner and hit a few bars, all the while wearing shorts, light jackets and sunglasses.

When you live in San Francisco, you never know when something or someone is going to smack you in the forehead and remind you that you live in San Francisco. Put it this way: I was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania. How many times in your life have you thought about Scranton, Pennsylvania?

Good thing I made it to the gym today. I had coffee afterwards with Chris, a nice mortgage broker whose wife works with mine, so we could discuss some biz. The giant lemon poppyseed muffin I had completely negated my workout.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Rocking the Old School

My original rule was that I would not do this on weekends, but since Doctor Frank does it (www.doktorfrank.com), why not me? Who am I when compared to Doctor Frank? Just a guy who sells houses and writes stories about lawyers, that's who.

We have been cleaning the house today, in anticipation of our dinner guests, the McNallys. Cleaning requires a soundtrack that is a departure from my usual menu of twangy, mid-tempo ballads, so I dug into that part of my CD collection bought with Sandra Bullock in mind and served up a collection of up-beat funk, rap and pop.

And what a display of no-holds-barred dancing we saw from the Jawa. The minute we cued up Michael Jackson' "Off the Wall," he was out there, busting a move with enough expansiveness to fill our entire 11 x 11 living room. The concentration was intense.

Eventually, I figured I'd join him. We are known to cut a rug on occasion, which may surprise those of you who know me as a non-dancer. Depends on the company, I guess. So I put down the vacuum and strutted out to the living room where, to my surprise, the Jawa had finished dancing and was now absorbed in Nintendogs. As I funky-chickened across the room, he glanced up briefly and said, "Nice, Dad." Then he went back to his virtual pets.

Speaking of dads, my own Sun City, Arizona-bound dad has checked in with some pithy commentary of his own. According to Dad, good gas mileage is not a curse. I will, as always, defer to dad on matters automotive. In fact, I'll defer to Dad on most matters, because he generally knows more than me. And given that, without sounding like an arrogant jerk, I know more than lots of people, you can do the math and realize that my dad knows alot about alot.

And while it is comforting to grow up secure in the knowledge that your dad knows alot (more, even than my BHDS Relief partner Steve Ganz, but then again, Dad has a good 25 years on Steve), it certainly puts a fair amount of pressure on me to gather and keep a high level of Dad-like knowledge.

Good thing I don't have one of those pesky 40-hour a week jobs. The time commitment would really cut into maintaining my Dad knowledge base.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Ode to Gum

Today's word is "interval." Use it as often as possible. If you are 8 years old, you will find many opportunities to use "interval." For example: "Do you think there will be an interval between the rain, or will it just rain forever?" or, "I think they will have an interval between the middle school band and the drama production. I will get a cookie then."

Me: Ah, I think that's intermission.
Him: No, it's interval.
M: Really? Did you just hear that word or something?
H: It's on our spelling list this week.

Interval. Use it.

And as a side note, my wife freaked out and asked that I not use her name or my child's name. So from this moment forward, I will refer to her as Sandra Bullock and him as The Jawa. I chose both names carefully.

Sixteen years ago, before I met Sandra Bullock, I had a girlfriend who liked to chew gum. I had a light history with the stuff, but my overriding sense was that chewing on a piece of rubber was kind of freaky. This girlfriend, who was very convincing and seemed to be living a clean, correct life, showed me otherwise. She turned me on to Wrigley's Extra (which, at the time existed only in the light blue flavor). I have not looked back since. I no longer chew the light blue, but have long since stepped up to the crisp, refreshing polar ice flavor. Or flavour, if you're Canadian.

Lets put this in context: to me, gum is cigarettes. I shove a slice in my mouth in the morning, after meals, before bed, when socializing. Though there have been days that I've experienced gum overload, coming home from work with a hollowed-out, minty feeling, the next day I'm right back there, chewing away. A few years ago I wound up at a chiropractor because I'd completely trashed half of my jaw through overchewing. Did I stop? Of course not. What addict would?

Yesterday, I had no gum. It was a very sad time. I took the Jawa to the middle school band and drama performance and felt lifeless. No gum. I had begun my day with gum, but at some point I lost my pack. There had been at least 7 slices left in that pack, which, I'm embarassed to say, is only a two-day supply at best.

This morning, on the way to the gym (unshowered, of course), I stopped at Walgreen's and got a new pack. I looked at it for awhile, enjoying the familiarity of its bold, blue and silver wrapper, silently congratulating the Wrigley company for staying miles ahead of their competitors. The Extra flavor really does last a long time. Other gums, you chew them for awhile, they lose their flavour, you have to crank on your jaw just to work the stuff. Not Extra. It is the champagne of gums.

This will come as no surprise to anyone who knows me: I have a workout gum routine. I have one piece during my cardio, then return to the lockerroom for a new piece for weights. Yes, this is my life.

As we get older, "they" will take things from us. They will tell us that we can no longer eat an entire pint of Ben & Jerry's, that a 2-liter of Coke a day is too much. They will tell us that we have to sleep less, work more, and drive boring cars that get good gas mileage. They will tell us all of this, but they will have to pry that last pack of gum out of my cold, lifeless hands.

That sounded like a manifesto from the NGA (National Gum Association).

Interval. Use it as often as you can.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Used to be Cool

There was a time, long before hair loss, when I was cool. Seriously. And despite my best efforts at remaining 23, I aged. But more than that, I got less cool. And now, as I sit here in my Banana Republic khakis and mock-turtleneck sweater, I realize how far in the rearview cool is. Gone are the motorcycles of my past, replaced by sensible Subarus. And when you're bald, frankly, there's not a whole lot of interesting things you can do with your hair. Worse yet, it'll be twelve-plus years before my son is old enough to go to bars, leaving me with no one to watch live music with.

It's sad, really.

I say this all merely as an introduction to my friend Jeff's blog: http://jefftats.blogspot.com/. He is almost 40, and yet manages to stay cool. Hats off to Jeff, even if you, like me, risk sunburn by doing so.

Of course, there is an upside to leaving cool behind. For one, when you drive, cops don't follow you around suspiciously. For another, you generally get a decent table at restaurants. Unless you arrive with an 8-year-old child.

Today, as usual, I entered the shower room at 24-hour fitness following a stellar workout. I carried my shaving stuff and exhilarating facial scrub, anticipating a nice, relaxing shower. Unfortunately, I was met with a strong urine smell, completely destroying the experience. Yes, I wear flip-flops, and I'm not going to completely blame whatever George Costanza urinated in the showers for the massive cuts I endured while hurrying through shaving, but a pox on whomever is responsible for this heinous act! It's bad enough showering with three other naked guys as the muffled sounds of Janet Jackson filter through the walls.

Some have asked, "Well, Lefty, why do you shower at the 24-hour fitness?" and, to quote one particular wisacre, "What is this, Junior High?" I do have my reasons.

I am a practical man, but also one who loathes group showers, lockerrooms and in fact, public restrooms. However, when the shower in your worth-only-slightly-less-than-$1 million San Francisco home:

a) measures out at a spacious 9 square feet (that's a 36" box, or as we prefer, "coffin.")
b) has absolutely no water pressure since the plumber fixed the leak. As my wife says, "That leak doesn't sound so bad now, does it?"

Well, you get the idea. Eventually, and some day soon, we will redo our bathroom, much as we redid our dated and odd kitchen last year. Oh, the glory of our kitchen!

And yes, if you're doing the math, our house has one (1) bathroom. Next house I sell, plus the proceeds from any magazine articles I write, all of it's going straight to that bathroom remodel, so that I may shower at home, away from friendly Buddhists and urinating strangers.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Welcome, for Real

Now I go public.

At the unceasing urging of at least 3 people, I now have my own blog. I've already cranked out a few entries as a warm-up, but now that I've alerted the press, here's an idea of what to expect from me:

- A constant, almost annoying obsession with the arcane.
- Fawning descriptions of my child's daily activities.
- Awe-struck considerations of my wife's daily activites, including her supernatural organizational skills and laser-like focus on practical tasks at hand
- Seemingly unending references toward Judaism and Brandeis Hillel Day School
- Slightly confused comments regarding the San Francisco housing market and Zephyr Real Estate (my "employers." actually, given that they don't pay me a salary and in fact, serve mainly as support for my real estate efforts, they function more as "enablers" than "employers."
- The occasional foray into local, national and international political comment. Hardly ever informed.
- Shockingly deep knowledge of sports, for a geek like me.
- Irritating rants directed at hippies and their subsequent sell-outs and hypocritical ways. If you are a former, present or future hippie, don't say you weren't warned.
- Again, a constant, annoying obsession with the arcane.
- Nearly as annoying encyclopedic knowledge of pop culture.
- Very little of intrinsic value.

This all being said, I now absolve myself of responsiblity for ticking anyone off, boring anyone, making obscure references without explaining them, trying and failing to be funny, and pumping up my wife and child to the point where you are certain that I live in a dream world.

So lets start.

Here's to Chaim Heller, former interim Head of School at Brandeis Hillel Day School, whose italicized impermenance was finally removed today by the selection committee. Like many at the school, I am a card-carrying member of the Cult of Chaim, easily recognizable by my WWCD wristband. I like the goatee, the vest, the kepa, the sports knowledge, the overall calm demeanor and the unassailable ethics, the whole deal. Thank you, Board of Trustees, for making the correct choice. Now I don't have to wrack my brain to come up with an appropriate protest.

Now everyone call me up and buy houses.

Today I am working from home, which, in my various professions, means I am sitting in front of the TV with a computer on my lap. My feet are falling asleep, but otherwise I see very few drawbacks to this arrangement. I have been sending emails, calling people, creating powerpoint presentations, all while the 1983 movie "Private School" plays in the background. Why "Private School?" After all, Comcast on-demand gives me a practically bottomless well of movie choices. I almost went for "Crash," the recent study of race relations that earned Matt Dillon a Golden Globe nomination, but in the end, I chose movie comfort food. Phoebe Cates, Matthew Modine, the inimitable Betsy Russell, and of course, Ray Walston's unforgettable portrayal of Chauncey, the limo driver. Such hijinx!

Anyone got any ideas for a Valentine's Day restaurant that is okay for kids? As a family of only 3, we tend to do that one as a celebration of all of us. After all, we are only possible as a whole unit. Take one of us away and the whole thing falls apart.

Again, welcome.

Monday, January 23, 2006


The title above refers to the final score of our first basketball game. St. Brendan's, continuing a long tradition dating back to the Crusades, stuck it to our little Jewish team, leaving us bent but not broken. I have made a habit of following that score with a breakdown: first half - St. Brendan's 32, Brandeis 4; second half - St. Brendan's 14, Brandeis 2. Obviously, we need to work on our offense.

We are no less proud for this final score. Watching our squad lay on the swarming defense (in the second half) was a thing to behold. Every time those tiny (seriously, it was a 2nd grade team) St. Brendan's kids got the ball, they faced at least 2 Brandeis defenders. We shut 'em down. My favorite moment, with a parent's bias, came at the end of the 1st quarter (score 18-2), when my child ripped his headband off in disgust and threw it on the ground. Already showing a flair for the dramatic. That's my boy.

One more entry and I'll go public. Meanwhile, I continue to blog in a vacuum. Just geting warmed up.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Freaking Cold

It can't be more than 60 degrees in here, man. Freezing. And only a few degrees warmer upstairs. See, we have no insulation, which means that, even though it's probably only about 50 degrees outside, it's also 50 degrees inside. Chew on that one for awhile, those of you in Seattle who thought we were moving to some kind of tropical paradise when we came down here to San Francisco. Nope. Cold.

Is there a code of etiquette for locker room conversations? More specifically, if you start a conversation with a guy who is undressing, is it then okay to continue the conversation once you've both entered the shower room? My instinct is to say "no," which did not dissuade the very nice Buddhist I met at the gym Tuesday.

Normally, I don't speak to anyone at the gym. I slap on my headphones, crank up the sports radio and off I go. Sometimes I feel a little bit outcast when I see guys talking to each other either out on the floor or in the locker room, but this is the avenue I chose. I live with it.

Last Tuesday, I was in the locker room nuding up for my shower, when the phone rang. It was my wife, asking some questions about our first basketball practice. I must have seemed like the kind of guy who invites random comments from strangers while nude, because this guy chimes in with a bunch of questions about coaching kids, my kid, etc. Not a problem. We were still partially clothed, and in the locker room. We talk about kids, the conversation ends, off he goes to the shower.

Here's the thing, though -- I'm ready for the shower ten seconds after he leaves. So I grab my stuff, head into the shower room, and start to obey what I thought was proper etiquette concerning large, open shower areas. I turn toward the wall and say nothing. While it is true that back in Jr. High School, guys not only talked in the shower but also slid all over the place on their butts, Jr. High School was almost 30 years ago.

But no! Apparently you can continue a conversation right where you left off, even though both of you are butt-naked and all soaped up! Said conversation can continue while you both shampoo, rinse and shave, and will show no sign of stopping even as you both towel off.

And the worst part is that if you face toward the shower head / wall, you won't be able to hear what the other guy is saying. You have to actually face him to understand. My advice when this happens: keep your eyes locked with his.

Man, it's cold down here. I'd love to go upstairs, but we have to do our financial aid forms now. That's right. Financial aid for fourth grade. Gotta love the city by the bay.

Welcome to my Brain

At least ten people have demanded that I do this, so here goes. If you check my profile, you will note that I am at least 10 years older than most people who do this, so for my peers, a refresher: BLOG, the word, is not a contraction for a vintage Led Zep track. It's not a word I particularly like, in fact. I'd rather this were called "On-Line Journal," though that would suggest a level of intimacy I doubt I'll reach.

And so we begin.

Lets get this out of the way: if anyone in San Francisco wants to buy or sell a house, please contact me. I lied on my profile; I'm not just a dad. Though that is my most rewarding job, I am also a realtor. And a writer. And, as of yesterday, a guy who gets in strangers' faces when they make illegal u-turns in order to steal parking spots that I have patiently been waiting for.

Though I am known as someone who shrinks away from confrontation, something about this guy (notably the fact that he didn't look violent) sent me over the edge. We had a quick, ineffective exchange at the spot itself.

Me: Bad move there, pal. You made an illegal u-turn and then stole a parking spot from me.
Him: (unreasonably jaunty) Really? I thought it was pretty nifty!
Me: Yeah, well you would. Are you going to be here long?
Him: (still obnoxiously chipper) As a matter of fact I am! I'm having lunch at Zeke's!

Here's where he made his mistake. Why would he tell me that he was going to Zeke's? And why would he brag about this, since Zeke's is a run-down sports bar that I didn't even know served food? At the time I was unaware of his rotund build, and in fact was so angry that "Zeke's" didn't even register. I made some crack about how he was not cool and sped off.

But you know, I couldn't shake it. As I circled the block, looking in vain for parking, I seethed. Then, I saw him standing in the entrance of Zeke's, talking on his cell, older than me, African-American, wearing a ridiculous vest, black jeans and some dumb baseball cap advertising fishing. Not a care in the world. Me, driving around, parking spot-less, no guarantee of a spot at all, angry.

I found a spot shortly afterward, very close to Zeke's. And I thought, "Am I really going to confront this guy? Why would I do that? What could I hope to accomplish?" and worse, "What if he hits me?"

I figured that if I adopted the hurried, head forward but face up walking style of Ray Liotta in that part of "Goodfellas" where he pistol-whips that guy who pushed his girlfriend out of the car, that would intimidate the spot-stealer enough that he wouldn't hit me. I turned the corner and there he was, stupid vest and all, still inexplicably standing in front of Zeke's. Why out in front? Was Zeke's packed? Seemed unlikely.

He saw me as I got closer, and for my own benefit I'll imagine that he immediately knew he was in trouble. Here comes Ray Liotta, making a bad bad face. Maybe he even thought I might have a pistol in my stylish laptop bag. No, I had mints.

I got right in his face. "You know, if you're going to do something illegal and then steal someone's parking spot, you shouldn't be smug about it!"

He said nothing. Just looked at me.

Again. "You STOLE MY SPOT. You are a piece of garbage. Trash! And you shouldn't be smug!"

(side note: This type of rage would be much more effective if I swore. I don't.)

He was either thinking, "Geez! I hope I get out of this without getting hurt!" or "Maybe if I just stand here, this idiot will go away."

"HAVE A NICE LUNCH, YOU LOSER!" and I walked away, leaving him there, anticipating a nice Zeke's burger and a decent story to tell the bartender.

About halfway down the block, I smiled to myself and said, out loud, "You know, that felt pretty good."