Virginia Open – Day 1

Well, it’s that time again: THE GRANGE. Definitely one of the best times in all of disc golf. Mike Trapasso and company put on one hell of a tournament, still with unrivalled amenities and great party atmosphere. Oh, and TIKI! But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

So SaxMike heads down to my place the night before, and he doesn’t show up until 1:30am, already a promising start. We get up at 7 and head on out, hoping to beat the traffic. And we do. Ish. Once we hit VA, it STOPPED. It took us 4.5 hrs to get to VA, and another 2 1/2 to get the remaining 45 miles. *sigh* By the time I finished setting up the tent, I only had time for some tiki in preparation. No aces, though I played even.

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Sax showing how blurry his knee surgery has made him

He ended up withdrawing from the tournament after one painful round to preserve his knee (which had come out of the cast ONE WEEK AGO) I give him all the credit in the world.

From there, I drive to Reagan Airport to pick up the lovely Ashley, whom I hadn’t seen since leaving Reno in early March. w00t! After a detour to the Macaroni Grill, we hit the campsite and immediately played some TIKI!!! The girl’s got some MAD SKILLZ. Her first three throws were with my putter, and they were straight, flat, and necessarily far (she was in the center of the fairway and the correct distance on the tiki holes without putting more than 40% into it) Here she is, not playing disc golf.

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MySpace-worthy

Without much partying, and very fatigued, we hit the tent before 11pm and were getting ready for some serious golf. After all, I had 5 months of miserable play to erase.

Now, since I don’t have many photos from this first day, here are some photos from a party at Jeff’s house a few weeks ago. (I just never posted them)

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Cops HATE me

So, ignoring the well-chronicled Stick Incident of ’99, I have managed to pile up some recent heated stories between me and the men in blue.  In fact, all three of the following stories took place within a half-mile radius in my hometown, Elmwood Park, and all in the last three weeks, so maybe just the EP Police hate me.

1) I’m rushing to get to the train station, and I’m stuck behind a bus.  The bus is at a street corner waiting for kids to board – kids, I may add, who must have been coming from other counties.  The bus was there LITERALLY three or four minutes waiting for running children.  Also at this corner was a police officer, blocking off the side road where the kids were running.  Some joker behind me honks his horn.  I’m looking nervously at the clock, hoping to make my train.  Finally the bus goes.  The two cars behind it go, and then I go.  The cop walks IN FRONT of my car and starts pointing at me and yelling at me.  Unprovocated.  He’s saying “Why are you honking your horn?  Huh?”  And I’m yelling back, “I didn’t honk my horn!”  He finally lets me go after some more finger-pointing and yelling.

2)  On the same street, I am driving back FROM the train station a few days ago.  I’m going the speed limit 35, and as I’m driving, a cop on foot is crossing the street in the middle of moderate (not stopped) traffic, NOT IN A CROSSWALK.  I hit my brake fairly hard to let him go.  He literally starts yelling – I’m not sure which he was saying –  either “Why don’t you slow down?” or “Why did you slow down?”  Either way, I thought it was a pretty silly question, since I was *again* not doing anything illegal.

3) Last night, I’m driving on Market.  There’s an admittedly annoying and confusing traffic mess that consists of two sets of lights and a RR crossing, all of which are tied together (so when the train goes by, the lights turn red just as a precaution.)  So last night, I’m driving by there, and there’s TONS of lights.  There are two cop cars stopped by the tracks (blocking one of the two lanes in my direction and the lane in the other direction), and the RR lights are flashing (though the bars are up).  The traffic light then turns green.  So I’m confused what to do: there is an open lane, but there’s intimidating lights everywhere.  I am relatively new to the area and don’t really know a good detour to get back home other than going straight.  So I go up to the cop cars (on MY side of the tracks) to ask what to do.  Nobody in them.  I see three cops standing on the other side of the tracks.  I drive up to them and they all RUN over to my car, shouting, “WHAT THE HELL DO YOU THINK YOU’RE DOING!?”  Here’s the conversation as best I can remember it.

ME. I’m sorry, I wasn’t sure what was going on.

FUZZ. [sarcastically] And all those flashing lights didn’t maybe make you think that maybe you shouldn’t go through?

ME. Again, I apologize.  I was driving up to your cars to ask you–

FUZZ. [interrupting] With two police cars blocking off the road you still go through?

ME. There was an open lane and the light was green.  I was trying to ASK you–

FUZZ. More blah blah blah blah yelling blah blah three guys yelling…

ME. I really am very sorry.

FUZZ. Just go through!

Why do the fuzz hate me?  It must be my sporty Saturn that intimidates them.

Pinot Grigio #7

Werewolf Pinot Grigio 2005 – I’ve heard of Pinots that the good ones are very good, but the bad ones are abysmal. I didn’t bother with that sort of poppycock since even the ‘bad’ pinots I’d had were more appetizing than, say, the best cup of coffee. Well, I’ve found the stinker in the group. Now, I immediately expect to hear, “Well, you dink, it’s a gimmicky bottle of wine. It’s called Werewolf!” I will of course shoot back that one of my all-time favorite wines, Undead Red, is as gimmicky as it gets. In fact, perhaps the biggest problem with Werewolf is that there isn’t fake blood dripping down the cork.

Anyway, for wine purists, I would say ‘don’t drink this wine’. For a newbie who thinks that Pinot Grigio might be palatte-pleasing, I would say, “Don’t say terms like palatte-pleasing because you sound like a pretentious twit.” Werewolf was a weird combination of tart and unsmooth. I don’t use words like ‘smooth’ to describe wine, but if that was my normal vernacular, I would say this particular wine is “sandpaper”. It didn’t even taste like a Pinot, truthfully. It tasted like someone had a third of a bottle of Pinot laying around, and a third of a bottle of an old riesling that wasn’t very sweet, and a third of a bottle of chalk resin, and they mixed it with a rusty hand-held eggbeater.

It wasn’t the worst thing I’ve ever put into my mouth, as I still have coffee and tequila that dubitably take that honor, and it narrowly escaped the title of worst wine because of that one glass of Diner Wine I had, but it wasn’t good at all. Don’t be fooled by the picturesque moon on the label, or the fake ‘wolf’ scratch marks, or even the fact that it’s made in Romania and, therefore, might be ‘exotic’. It’s crap. 1.5/10.

The Seneca Soiree

Well, I’m writing about a tournament, which means I must have played respectably. And that’s what I did: not stellar, but respectable. The first round will not be discussed (see the aforementioned rule about not writing when playing like crap) That being said, I got HOSED that first round. This story is pretty much how my first round went on hole 17 (I started on 10, so it was less than halfway through the first round)
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There’s a tight little hole that’s about 260′ with two small gaps (the picture is taken from an angle so the gap looks bigger than it really is). I threw a thumber – for those that don’t know, a thumber is an overhand throw that has a very specific flight path. After it hits, it most often gets another 30-50′ of bounce/roll. So I throw it and totally hit the gap. Then if you squint in the picture, you will see a stump in the middle of the fairway. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to deduce that I hit this stump. But do you expect THIS!?

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I WAS STUMPED!

So instead of an easy drop-in after the roll, I have a 40′ putt, which I chain out on. So was my first round. On the easiest layout (easy tees to easy pins) I threw a +4 with only 2 birdies.

The second round, playing all 27 holes, I pick my game up a bit. I carded nothing worse than a 4 my whole round, and I threw 5 birdies (on the short tees to medium pins). Wonderful. The round felt good because I started crappy but ENDED strong.

Final round, another 27, this time from the long tees. I had a great group for this round, playing with guys I’d met and played with before, but nobody I really knew well. All great guys. Here’s some pics of them killin’ it. (Of course, Andrew, the one who really killed it, I somehow don’t have a picture of)

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Tom Coffin, real name, killin a drive

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Chase, color-coordinated to match the woods

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Paul, emerging from a tree
The round started mixed. For the first four holes, I was the *only* one in my card to give myself putts at 3’s. Of course, I only got a 3 on the first hole, so it was mixed. I felt like I was playing well, but the score was meh. Then I took a circle 6 on the signature hole 14. After that, I told the group to tell me how much I sucked. From there, I took very good 3’s on two holes, and followed it up with back-to-back-to-back 2’s on VERY tough holes. I suddenly felt like I could get into the cash.

Long story short, I blew up the last five holes, putting myself at +5 on those five holes. But even if I had gone -5 on them, I wouldn’t have cashed. The first round killed any chance of that. But at least I averaged “above” my rating for the tournament unnofficially. I still like Seneca. It always whoops up on me, but I enjoy playing there.

Here’s a few more pics.

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And Disc Golf Monthly TV was there, which is a fun little organization. Whenever Kevin has his camera on me, I tend to shoot very well. Here’s a five-minute run-down of the tournament, in which I make a few appearances (playing well!) Enjoy.

TOURNAMENT TRAILER

Oh, and I’m proud that my backwards-photo-taking-out-the-window-while-driving skills have not deteriorated.

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Hyzer Creek Pictures

I won’t blog the details of this tournament, mainly because I vowed not to blog about a tournament until I play respectably, so here are some pics from the tourney. Enjoy.

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2nd place winner Scowbag showin’ how it’s done
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A blurry Kurt (the TD) makes a SICK tree-putt from 40′

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“New” hole 17 at Hyzer

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Fats and Cromwell: version 19402485
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Everyone’s favorite, Bobby “Brown Guy” Jones

Merlot #1

twin fin Merlot 2003 – This is just bizarre.  Countless wines into my column and I’ve only NOW picked out a Merlot.  It was out of desperation, I assure you – I was headed to a poker game where the only beverage there was this chocolate beer that tasted rather like licking the moss of a damp inactive turtle.  At a small store like I went to, I wasn’t thinking of finding a malbec, and I still will shun the Yellow Tail brand of wine, since I like good flavors.
I paid $9 for this wine at a not-so-cheap liquor joint adjacent to a bar, so I wasn’t expecting much (I imagine this California wine retails for about $6 in a normal wine store).  I was pleasantly surprised, or rather, I was NOT unpleasantly surprised.  I expected very little, and I got a little, which is better than I had thought.

I always considered Merlot’s the Minnesota Twins of the wine community – sure, everyone knows what it is and everyone’s seen it at some point, but does anyone actually LIKE it?  It’s the generic wine.  This was indeed generic, but I have to rate it slightly above a middle grade because, although I could not taste the advertised “dark cherry fruit, mocha, and smoky oak”, I could taste a slightly above average red wine with no punch to the face and no aftermath.  Just a solid wine.  5.5/10

Gewürztraminer #1

Hogue Gewürztraminer 2005 – Before I dip into this flavorful white wine, I will need to make a concession.  I will not be typing out Gewürztraminer again.  In fact, I have been cutting-and-pasting it just so I didn’t need to figure out the shortcut to an umlaut.  Instead, I will call this wine something more palatable on the keyboard: Pauline.  That’s right, I sampled some fine Pauline the other day.

She was not entirely unlike another German favorite, Reisling.  This particular Pauline, however, was imported from…. what the…. from WASHINGTON STATE!?  There’s a bloody umlaut in the name!  How is it from the Columbia Valley in eastern Washington State?  Bollocks!

Anyhow, this is not your typical dry Pinot-type wine.  No, this is definitely a fruity beverage, as if the better portion of an exotic garden had an orgy and you are enjoying the remnants.  Further, the bottle goes on to say that it is a “perfect match for hors d’oeuvres or spicy pan-Asian cuisine.”  I believe I drank it with some popcorn as I watched a baseball game, and I gotta say, pan-Asian or not, it seemed to wash down the popcorn just fine.

The alcoholic effects, like the Reisling, seemed to be non-existent even after a few glasses, despite boasting (warning of?) a 12.7% content.  However, this appears to be as close to a desert wine as any Pauline might be, so it’s probably not the type of liquor you’re going to drink to make the girl you’re dating seem any more attractive.  This might be the one you’ll ply her with if you want her to sleep a little sounder so you can get on with paint-detailing your Star Trek miniatures.

It gets a 6.5/10.  This may seem low, but I’m wary of anything from Germanshington State.

Chianti #1

Piccini Chianti 2005 – Aside from being a fantastic name for an eccentric Italian film producer, this wine, featuring a distracingly bright orange label, conjures up many images.  For me, it basically reminds me of Thanksgiving dinner, growing up and getting tiny samples of wine as a treat.  I’m pretty convinced that chianti was my father’s red wine of choice, and at $8.99 a bottle (pre-discount), it would fit right in with my father’s overall “Dutch spending” (I mean that fondly – I haven’t paid more than $14 for a bottle of wine yet.)

Anyway, chianti itself is an interesting red; it’ll slap you in the face like a zinfindel, yet gently caress you afterwards like a merlot afterwards.  Yup, chianti is the overbearing yet apologetic mother (not necessarily yours).  But that’s not necessarily a bad thing, especially if you like getting slapped around.  Variety is the spice of life.

This particular chianti was middle of the road for me – I didn’t want to throw out the glass, but I wasn’t rushing to get a second.  Therefore, it gets a middle of the road rating.  5/10

The Austin Lounge Lizards

So these guys are one of my favorite bands, and I’ve seen them a few times (in FL, PA, and last year at their first show in NJ ever in their 27 year existence.) They were playing a few shows in the area and I went.

Friday’s show – at Bodles (inexplicably pronounced ‘boodles’) in Chester NY. This is a small bar setting, and it’s right up the Lizards alley. They played a very similar show to the other shows I’d seen, which is by no means a bad thing. It was a great time. The opening act Carla Ulbrech started it off with some good musical comedy in the Christine Lavin fashion (if I know my audience well, I just named a woman nobody’s heard of and compared her to another woman nobody’s heard of). Then the Lizards took the stage – they know me by now, mainly because, as Hank put it once, “You’re not really in our demographic.” I was not the youngest one there, but I might have been the youngest one there not immediately related to someone older there.

Anyway, it was a great show. The highlight came during “Teenage Immigrant Welfare Mothers on Drugs”. Live, Boo changes up the one line. This night, it was “Who’s to blame for that comedy music phase?” Corey, the fiddle player in the band who’s close in age to me, says, “DEREK!” and looks over to me. Good stuff. He only knew this because I shamelessly and tactlessly gave him a CD to listen to. Hey, gotta whore myself out somehow.

Saturday – at a church. Yes, the band who wrote “Jesus Loves Me (But He Can’t Stand You) played at a church. It was surreal. This was a COMPLETELY different show which was both a good thing and a bad thing. The good parts was they played many many different songs, including a handful I’d never heard before. The bad news is the handful of songs they picked were songs I don’t find particularly funny. Meh, I’ve seen them before, so I’m biased. I brought along a bunch of newbies who thoroughly enjoyed the show. The Lizards sold out of their new CD, so that’s great news!

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It was surreal them being in a church, and that paved the way for many memorable moments. Not only did they still sing “One True God” (There are some that call God God / but worship God in a way that’s odd / we’ll have to kill them, it’s a shame / we’ve only got themselves to blame), but they sang “Strange Noises in the Dark” (a song about adultery and infidelity), “We’ve Been Through Some Crappy Times Before” (which contains the line: those bible-thumping homophobes have got the upper hand), and they even pimped out the Austin Lounge Lizards Family Bible (which, when edited for things they don’t think are important or bits that they don’t frankly agree with, is admittedly more a pamphlet.) The night also featured the BEST verion of “Buenos Dias, Budweiser”, which featured Korey trying to translate into pig-latin on the fly.

I ended up chatting with the guys for a while, especially Korey, who was probably just relieved to see people his age. They’re class acts, though Tom is still quite enigmatic. When I found out he HATES “Anahuac” and never wants to play it, I said, “I won’t ask him about it, I’ll let him live in his bitterness,” Korey and Boo laughed out loud. Perhaps I spoke too much truth?

Anyway, the true highlight of the night came from this picture of Hank Card (one of the founding members) and Jeff DeLiberto. The resemblance is UNCANNY!

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Father and son!??!

Actual quote by Hank Card: “Wow. Jeff, I don’t say this often to a guy, but you’re a good-looking man!”

Johnny Boge Tourney & Fool’s Fest

The last two tournaments were even worse than Rutgers, which was the worst I’d done since last year.

I happened to look at the results for Fool’s Fest from 2004, when I came in 8th in advanced.  I shot the same cumulative score as I did yesterday playing PRO.  I didn’t come in last only because Dome stopped trying after the first hole of the day.  Here is my decree: I will not blog about disc golf here until I throw a respectable round in 2007.  I have not done this yet (aside from getting an ace on Thursday at Buzzy’s)  Goodbye, disc golf posts, but hopefully not for long.

Aaron’s Wedding – Part 3

The after-parties. Ah yes, the reception was in Lyndhurst at a place very special to the DeCarlo family as just about everyone with that last name has had some wedding reception there, including people just named Carl. We shlepped the bridal party in a small limo which definitely led to some legs falling asleep and one of the greatest pictures ever taken of Jason.

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We started the cocktail hour in a small room for just the bridal party. Jason’s wedding didn’t have this, and I can understand pros and cons to both ways. But MAN was that some tasty breaded shrimp. I could have just engorged myself on those all night. Anyway, onto the actual ceremony. It was a pretty prototypical reception, which isn’t a bad thing. The toasts were quite touching and funny, and there are hundreds of pictures elsewhere online of all that. I got to see lots of backs from where I was sitting, so picture-taking wasn’t exactly a fruitful idea.

Then we got to the chairs. In Jewish weddings, it’s quite common to hoist the bride and groom up on chairs and walk around with them. What’s NOT typical is dropping the bride, which did manage to happen (only once!) So the looks on their faces were when she was hoisted BACK up. And, for the record, I absolutely love this pic (which I stole from Jay – thanks!)

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We had to take the obligatory photos of people at the wedding, of course. Susan I have a decent track of one sweet photo a wedding:

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And the obligatory other married couples photo:

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And of course the obligatory late-in-the-reception “What ARE they doing” photo:tim_peggy_thumb.jpg

Peggy and Tim

Somewhere near the end of the ordeal, I realized my camera takes VERY good close up shots (right around when Jay realized he could take black-and-white photos that still keep a selected color). Here are my artsy-fartsy shot:

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And that was the reception. Everyone had a great time. Congratulations to Aaron and Julia Bell. We can definitely see how happy Aaron is about it here.
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We had to finally toast the weekend with one wild party, partially to celebrate the wedding, and we had about two dozen other excuses. There are many pictures of this event floating around, already, and I will not put them up here. I will only leave you with one thing. Paul Reisman has a tendency to leave indelible fingerprints on most of our social gatherings. Scars might be a better term. And, as per usual, he did not disappoint. Enjoy!

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Aaron’s Wedding – Part 2

The actual wedding. We got to Aaron’s early to look good in our tuxes, mainly. Oh, and of course to play Guitar Hero. You’d think it was a theme for the weekend or something. Aaron was nervous, but hanging in there. With only a minute or two before the wedding was supposed to start, one of the readings hadn’t shown up yet. The minister asks if Aaron has a back-up. Aaron asks, “Can it be someone in the wedding party?” The minister says sure. Aaron points to me, “You’re reading.” That’s always fun to hear just before the wedding starts. But we were safe and he showed up at the last moment. He did just fine.

Julia looked stunning, and you can clearly tell that by this really dark photo of her being walked down the aisle by her father. They have the same weird mouth thing going on. It’s adorable, really.
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It was an interesting dual-religion wedding, and I think both the minister and rabbi were willing to work together. The minister even told us he thinks it’s ridiculous that most ministers and rabbis wouldn’t even consider it. Then again, he also told Brian and I that Aaron should really take a shit before the ceremony started if he knew what was good for him (his words).

Of course, I missed most of the good photo ops because I was busy clapping. For instance, while Aaron was stepping on the glass, I was clapping and then he IMMEDIATELY kissed Julia. I did manage to nab that one.

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Another mid-ceremony shot.

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Then we did a few canned photos. Peter managed to find out that the “night landscape” setting works best inside churches. Go him. Here is the complete wedding party and the happy couple.
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It was a concise ceremony and it was simple, despite the inherent complexity of a dual-religion wedding. Went smoother than most ceremonies I’ve seen in the past. And it went without a hitch, pun completely intended.

Aaron’s Wedding – Part 1

So my longtime friend Aaron finally tied the noose… er, knot, with Julia this weekend in what was a very nice ceremony. But we need to backtrack a bit. I would like to share how I met Aaron. In 9th grade, my friend Rob used to host “bored parties” on Fridays, where we’d all just hang out and watch a movie or play games or something. He invited this guy Josh over one time, who invited Aaron. We decided to play one of those “host-a-murder” type games where you all act out characters and figure out who killed someone. Having one too many people, Jay Lawton and I played the same character Scoop. Good times. Anyway, at the end of the night, Aaron says “Thanks for having me. If anyone ever has a party, invite me.” Maybe eight months pass by, and I throw a party, and I contact Josh to invite Aaron, not because I got along with him particularly well or anything, but just because he told me to. Fifteen years later, we’re still friends.

So the hijinks started on Wednesday with the bachelor party. The wedding party all went into the city to a place called Morimoto, which is highly recommended if you have money burning a hole in your pocket and you like asian cuisine.

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The Bachelor Party

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Oops, I guess this was supposed to be a smiling picture

Aaron ordered a $96 piece of steak. I figured each burp he had was worth a ten-spot. Well done, Mr. Bell. Then we headed back to my place for the TRUE party. Now I know what most bachelor parties consist of: strippers and liquor. Ours was no different, except instead of strippers, we had silly gifts and guitar hero. It started with the gift exchange. Here is Aaron modelling some of his gifts.

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The actual name of the hat is, no joke, The Black Madman

And the gift I got for him:

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And it was time for the first shot: saki-bombs!

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After that, the serious part of the party happened, and that would be Guitar Hero. We made a drinking game out of it, which primarily saw Aaron drinking alot. We did have priorities, after all. We can see what was had by all on the wall:

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The night was a success, and perhaps not as wild as a typical bachelor party, I think it ended up being just about right. I even got to be creepy, and any time that happens, you know it was a good time.

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Cabernet Sauvignon #1

Red Diamond Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 – I have been quoted before as saying I don’t like Cabs, and I, of course, was talking about taxis.  But the same holds true for wine: I’m not a fan of that particular red.  UNTIL…  Red Diamond is easily the best Cabernet I’ve ever had in my life (having only had one other one that I enjoyed at all, and several which were the liquid equivalents of neausea.)  When I bought it, the clerk said: “Oh, that stuff is GOOD!” (they apparently had just had a tasting at the store)  He was right.  It’s good.  I think I normally don’t like Cabs because of the laziness implied by hailing one, and also by the cold detachment with which you are often transported.  The same hold true for the wine – it’s cold and lazy normally – BAD for a red wine.  But this Washington state wine was delicious (who knew ANYTHING interesting came out of Washington state?)  It was sweet, but not the point of facial recall, which does happen with certain Cabs.

At $13 (pre-discount), it is certainly affordable and definitely recommended for someone who wants to try a Cabernet Sauvignon for the first time, or for true Cab lovers who haven’t picked it up yet.  I bet it has a rating somewhere in a real wine book.  I’ll assume it matches my rating: 7.5/10.

Rutgers March O’St. Pat’s Madness

For the first time in history this tournament was PDGA sanctioned. Turnout was pretty low since conditions were less than ideal. It was about 36 degrees with a fairly steady 15 mph wind throughout the day. Worse, however, was the fact that the course was covered with a layer of ICE. Every missed putt had the risk of sliding an extra forty feet past the basket. I saw people laying up from forty feet. It was crazy.

And carrying on a tradition of the new year, I sucked. I’ve played 5 pdga rounds so far (and probably another 6 tournament rounds) in 2007 and I have yet to play a good round. For the first winter, not playing has SEVERELY hindered my game. My drives were so irratic. I was griplocking half of them, and letting the other half go early. My putting was solid (until the last four holes), but really, no aspect of my game was working. BBD suggested that, to be good at upping, I *need* to learn how to throw a putter off the tee and from 200′. He’s probably right. I might practice that, you know, in my abundant spare time.

Anyway, I carded a 60 the first round (on the very easy Rutges B-Tee layout, which can easily see a -10 in good conditions). Here’s how my tourney started: hole 10 is a big anhyzer hole with a hill sloping down to the left towards a creek which is OB. I throw a decent shot (it hyzered at the end, so it wasn’t GREAT), but of course the thing slides ALL the way down into the water. I throw my next shot to within 50′ of the pin. I just try to layup to take my circle 5, and my disk slides up and hits a tree, stands up, and then rolls ALL THE WAY back to the water, OVER the water, and lands on the other side. My fifth shot sees me throwing to the EXACT same place my 3rd shot landed. I layup (no roll) and start the day with a circle 7. That pretty much killed my entire round.

The second round I carded a slightly better 55, but with only one birdie on a course where each hole is birdieable, it’s just not gonna cut it. So my 115 was not even close to the 102 that won the tournament.

What happened to the way I ended 2006? I wanna get back there!

Zinfandel #1

Gnarly Heady Old Vine Zin 2005 – Yes, I bought this wine solely for the name, Gnarly Head, named for the gnarly heads of the vines and not, I would assume, because it’s just a great name for anything.  Zinfandels are wine that I like to say punches you in the taste buds.”  This one was no exception.  It’s got a full flavor, which is much better (in wine terms) than containing partial flavor.  I had this without food, and in fact, it was while playing Wii Bowling, so that may have increased the potential taste value (it is well documented that drinking wine while doing something active does alter taste.)  I can’t compare this to many other zins, as I’ve only had one since starting this column.  This was one was better, though I’d be at a loss to explain how.  It’s quite a drinkable wine if you like something with more flavor and less down-ability.  Definitely a wine you could have one glass of and call it a night.

At $13 (or $9 with my discount) it certainly is worth it, without being spectacular.  It passes with a 6/10.

The Nevada Trip Wrap-Up

It’s been a few days since the end of my trip, and I suppose it’s time to wrap it all up in a tidy bow, but trying to wrap a violin bow around a intangible thing like a vacation has proved insurmountably difficult.  So I’ll just chat briefly about it.  First off, I didn’t notice much of a social difference between Nevada and home, but that was until I got home.  First of all, it’s refreshing to see black people.  It really is.  I think it was a bit of culture shock: I was warned that Reno didn’t have a big ethnic diversity, but I didn’t know that it meant it was literally a cowboy hick town.  The only thing that separated it from being a southern bumpkin town was the sheer amount of book stores.  (I’m kidding here, Ashley…)

But it was a very rural area – surprisingly so.  I’ve never seen a more apt slogan for a city: “The biggest little city in the world”.  So true.  Down to the pick-up trucks, country music, and spittin’ (as far south as Vegas, there were signs posted not to spit inside the carpeted poker rooms)  It’s a bit harder to gauge the city of Vegas simply because it seemed to be 95% tourists.  It’s like judging how hot a girl is based on her socks (though that’s not an appropriate metaphor because I can sorta gauge how COOL a girl is by socks alone…)

Anyway, nobody is on hear to read about the cities I visited.  They want to know what happened with Ashley.  Okay.  It was great, put simply.  Just a fantastic time.  We got along from minute one until one minute left.  Saying goodbye was also surprisingly easy because we’d done it mentally since before we met – that’s the joy of being PRACTICAL when viewing a significant other that you think rocks.  I’ve already been asked “What’s next?” a few times.  Nothing.  It’s an answer nobody really likes, as they wished I would have fallen madly in love and moved out there next week.  Instead, she’ll probably come out here some day, and I’m hoping to make another trip out there during the summer so I can truly enjoy Tahoe.  Other than that, we’re gonna exist like we do right now: talking very often but living our lives.  In a year, if we’re still here, that’s a different story.

And was the *actual* purpose of the trip (to wrangle and see friends) a success?  Mostly yes.  I didn’t get all my friends gathered, especially Scott (with whom I originally came up with the plans).  But I got to see Mitch, Corey, Alisha, Cyrus, Kevin and Angela.  Those are many of the people I would put at the top of my list of friends and, sadly, many of whom I don’t get to see nearly enough.  Of course, a day or two is NEVER enough, but I would say it was worth the hefty paycheck to lug myself out there.

And as for gambling?  Success again.  Based on my rudimentary count, it looks like I came out $210 ahead.  I did significantly better in blackjack than in poker, and I only lost $2 or maybe $3 in the slot machines.  Considering I probably spent near $100 in tips when all was said and done (between dealers, drink ladies, maids, taxis services, shuttle services, and Soapy Bubbles the Intriguing Lady of Mystique and Unparalleled Flexibility), I came out ahead.

I can’t wait to do it again.

What Happens in Vegas…… (Day 11)

10:43pm – I’m home at last. I don’t know what’s more absurd: the trip out or the trip back.
The trip out: in order to go from my apartment to my hotel, I took the following: car, train, train, subway, subway, bus, plane, tram, plane, shuttle.  That’s silly.

The trip back: to go from Reno to Laguardia is 2,702 miles as the crow flies.  I flew like a pretty drunken, confused crow.  Reno to Atlanta to Chicago to Laguardia (a total of 3,903 miles).  That’s over 1200 extra miles.

A full update will come later.

What Happens in Vegas…… (Day 10)

2:13pm – Ah, the internet – the oasis of the desert of reality; how I’ve missed thee. It’s been a while, and I say “oops” and “I’m tired of paying $12 a night for internet access.” But much has happened since the days of snowboarding. Namely, the arrival of “the others”, Kevin, Angela, and Cyrus (not in that order). Cyrus strolled into town Friday night and was met with a rousing chorus of me showing him how to lose money at blackjack. Fresh off the heels of my winnings in Vegas, I thought that my luck would continue. It did not, nor did Cyrus’, although Friday night I did manage to find myself +$7 at the end of the day. Here is a picture of Cyrus that I absolutely love.

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My program’s crop feature sucks

Additionally, we celebrated Ashley’s sister Jennifer’s 21st birthday by watching her imbibe an awful lot of liquor and wobble away quite contentedly.
Anyway, Saturday morning we got up and decided to try our luck at Hold’em. 27 minutes later, Cyrus and I were both out in one of the most impressive displays of bad luck and poor play I’ve ever encountered. To combat this, we tried more blackjack. Let me tell you something about the Atlantis Casino. It’s nice, and the rooms are spacious and awkwardly decorated, but DO NOT play games there. You will not win. By the end of Saturday, I’d flushed $160 of my winnings back down the toilet, only if I had actually done just that, I would have at least had the joy of watching the water swirl.

Then Kevin and Angela arrived, as is evidence by this picture.

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We decided to hit an early dinner at this great steakhouse Cyrus and I had found, where the very cute (and apparently underage) hostess was making cute-talk with me. I can’t IMAGINE why I wanted to go back. There, we had way too much food (a recurring theme in Reno) and some shenanigans.

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From there we split up with intent to make our way back to the hotel and play dash. Ash and I got distracted by one of the most beautiful moonrises I’ve ever seen. These two pictures do it NO justice, and quite frankly, I wish I had a better camera.

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Moon over the mountains

Then the trip took a turn for the inevitably worse. We stopped back at Ash’s house to feed her dogs only to get what I’ll call a verbal obliteration by her parents. Without going into great detail, suffice to say they are not exactly pleased with my presence and seeming abduction of their daughter. I felt bad for Ashley, but really, I just didn’t want to be there (though her sister Jennifer politely managed to pull me into another room to play with her two-year-old daughter Lexi, who might be singly cutest human being alive.) After the drama went down, we left brusqely and headed back for some Dash.

After maybe an hour and a half of some small-table Dash (I haven’t looked through the definitions yet), we headed out, but not before this gem.

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He’s so cheery it hurts

We headed out to this bar to watch Sol Jibe, a very unique band. It’s a tribal latino infused sound with a lead irishman playing the fiddle. Quite good for the $7 charge. After that, a quick stop to the Nugget (a casino) to watch Cyrus and Ashley shoot things in the arcade and we were home to bed.

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We’re adorable

Today, we awoke to grab some quick lunch before Cyrus headed back to sunny, markedly warmer CA (though to be fair, it’s gorgeous out right here… 50’s and sunny). Ash managed to snap a terrific picture of Kevin, which I might crop better sometime down the line, as well as an outright enigmatic shot of the man-Chi and myself

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He’s staring at the black wall

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Some things are better left unexplained

Finally, we dropped Kevin and Angela off at Kevin’s grandfather’s place and bid adieu to Cyrus, who I was VERY glad I could see and get hooked on blackjack, despite losing alot of money at it.

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For some reason, I LOVE this pic

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And this might be appropriate for later tonight, but a great look at the scenery of the surrounding Reno area.

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Up next? NAPTIME!

8:50pm – I don’t like anything about Nevada hotels and casinos. Not a thing. Here’s why. Every single aspect is to keep you downstairs gambling. In terms of hospitality, NOTHING (I couldn’t even get a corkscrew – I had to buy a $2 one at the gift shop. Why? Of course – so you drink their alcohol. No fridge or microwave. Why? So you buy their expensive buffets. No sultry staff maids who fluff pillows in short skirts. Why? I have no idea. But seriously….

And then, something much more enigmatic about Nevada. They very recently (2 years ago) passed a law requiring seat belts (and people are pissed about it.) But we are fully allowed to ride in the open bed of a pick-up truck all we want. When asked to explain, Ashley kindly said that we’re allowed to because the truck had no more seat belts. It was a cold and painful ride, and I’ve never been so scared of rear-ending in my life. Reno is just as weird backwards, I must say.