Wednesday, February 28, 2007

People who don’t like cats haven’t met the right one yet.

This is Rags.

When I got my first apartment, I wanted to get a cat, so I adopted Rags from Wayside Waifs. At the time, he was 9lbs, had short hair, and a nasty upper respiratory infection that nearly killed him. In fact, the week after I picked up from the shelter, I had to take him to a vet because the URI was so bad. This vet, who I won't name because he's a jackass, told me the best thing I could do for Rags was "take him back to where I got him and get another cat." Heartbroken and deeply concerned for the fate of my poor, sick kitty, I did call Wayside Waifs, who graciously allowed me to bring Rags back to them for free treatment of his URI.

Nine years and 15lbs later (I weighed him the other day and he comes in at a healthy 25lbs), Rags is the most wonderful cat I've ever had the pleasure of being around. He's incredibly trusting of anyone, and craves human contact like food or water. He's multitalented, in that he will come when called, he'll fetch, and he will meow when commanded to do so. Yep - he speaks on cue.

Also, Rags loves you. He doesn't care if you are "cat person" or not - he wants to lay against you, he demands you pay him attention, and given his size, you don't have much choice but to comply with his demands. You see, Rags is the living embodiment of the phrase, "I'm not fat, I'm big-boned."

Rags snores, he meows just to hear himself talk, he loves nothing more than to be held for hours at a time, he carries around a little stuffed toy like a security blanket, and I thank the universe every day for letting me be the one who gets to spend time with Rags. Given that he's at least 10 years old, I'm becoming more cognizant of the fact that he won't be around forever. In the mean time, I take as many pictures of him as I can and I try not to complain when he meows too much. One day I'll really miss it.

Aww... now I can't wait to get home and scratch him on the chin.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Field trip.

I took a short filed trip today from work to visit an abandoned building nearby and take some pictures. The fact that the building is abandoned is not readily apparent when looking at the building from the outside, but inside the building is frozen in time and showing signs of severe neglect. By the way, I didn't take any pictures of the outside and I'm not mentioning where this place is, so don't ask.

I drove around back, and parked in a spot that still has a "Reserved for" sign, but most of the letters of the name of the once-important individual who warranted his own space were long gone. After tugging on the heavy back door, I went inside:

One of the oddest things about this building is that, while there is no heat, there is electricity, so most of the lights still work. Even though it was about 60 degrees outside, the thermostat inside the building read a chilly 46 degrees. Besides the cold, the other thing that is immediately noticeable is the dusty smell. After several minutes, the dust makes being in the place a little unbearable.

This is a shot of a conference room on the first floor. It's easily the most ornate room in the building, with marble walls, the recessed oval ceiling, display cases and a fireplace. The furniture disappeared long ago, and boxes and old rolls of carpet have been put in the room instead.

Outside the conference room is the main entrance to the building, with an open lobby and this ornate light fixture adorning a marble wall. Since the building still has electricity, some of the bulbs, designed to resemble flickering candles, are still burning.

Heading up the stairs from the main lobby, visitors to the building were presented with this decorative wall and clock. Here's a close-up version:

The clock still runs, but obviously doesn't get adjusted for Daylight Savings Time anymore.

Behind this wall is the main executive's office. You can tell that it was the office of a bigwig because it has huge double doors with doorknobs that are ridiculously placed right in the center of the doors. It's kind of silly, really. Once inside the office, there are several built-in shelves and some heavy, hideous curtains that were quite the rage at one time, I'm sure. I tried to get a picture of the office, but it was far too dark, and by this time my camera was running out of batteries. I had time for one more shot:

This is the executive washroom, private lavatory to whomever occupied the bigwig office. It was obviously a man, because no woman would have picked that horrible golfer wallpaper.

Overall, visiting this building was a surreal experience. The place looks ordinary from the outside, like people must come and go all the time. But the reality is that no one really thinks about the place any more. Someone pays the electric bill, and someone brings junk in to clutter it's decaying insides, but the life of the building is gone and what's left is kind of creepy and a bit sad.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Speaking of terror snow…

... I had no idea when I left work on Friday that it was snowing until I walked out of the building. Normally, I am bombarded with e-mails from Katie Horner telling me to please, Please, PLEASE get in my basement whenever the weather changes in the slightest, but I suppose the fire in Waldo stole Katie's thunder (rim shot). I bet she was pissed. Probably tried to kick the crap out of little Betsy Webster. I bet Betsy held her own, though - I heard she has a mouth like a veteran sailor, so I'm sure Katie got an earful.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Sips and snails.

When I was a kid, my parents and I would go to Houlihan's on the Plaza at least once a week. The place had an Irish pub feel (as much as a sort-of chain restaurant in KC in the 80s could have) and I remember a wooden plaque that hung near the hostess stand that counted down the days 'til St. Patty's Day. So what was my favorite Houlihan's meal as a pre-pubescent child? Why, French onion soup and escargots, of course. It's hard to believe that a place like that served escargots at all, let alone that I absolutely loved them. For a while after they took them off the menu, you could still get them if you asked nicely, but eventually the servers just sort of looked at my family with pitiful faces when we asked about them. The days of Houlihan's escargots were gone forever.

The Plaza location closed down years ago, and for a long while I didn't eat at Houlihan's at all. But that all changed a few months ago when we started going to the Houlihan's up north off of I-29. The place is completely different than when I was a kid - in fact, the only thing that is the same is the name. We normally try to stay away from big chains, opting instead for smaller, local places. But Houlihan's is a locally-based business, so we make an exception.

The atmosphere in the restaurant is warm and inviting, with a fire place, lots of rock and dark woods, and a rather striking lighting arrangement over the bar. There are several tall tables and some booths in the bar area, while the restaurant side has lots of tables and booths, and a large private room for parties. The best part of the new Houlihan's, though, has to be Happy Hour.

Happy Hour at Houlihan's runs from 4pm until close Monday - Saturday, and all day on Sunday. They have lots of half-price drink specials (a Guinness costs less than an iced tea) and all of their appetizers are five bucks. We've tried just about every appetizer on the menu and have a couple of favorites. The tuna wontons are probably the best - slices of seared (read: raw) tuna with a soft wonton wrapper around the outer edge, on a plate with wasabi mayo, ginger soy dressing, and a small salad of cabbage and banana vinaigrette. Also good are the lettuce wraps (sesame chicken, crispy wonton strips, and half a head of lettuce) and the calamari (although the dipping sauce was a bit spicier than I like, so I ask for the stuff they bring out with the fried mushrooms, which is horseradish-based, but not terribly hot). Happy hour is only available in the bar area, but there usually plenty of tables and a few booths to choose from. You'll run into trouble on Friday and Saturday nights, though, so either arrive early, or plan on sitting on the restaurant side and paying full price for drinks and appetizers.

There are some great sandwiches and other entrees on the menu, too, so don't be dismayed if there isn't any bar seating. I really like the shrimp wrap, because it reminds me of the now-defunct Santa Fe Gordita from Taco Bell, which I really liked (there are many reasons why I don't eat at Taco Bell anymore, and getting rid of the only thing I liked on the menu was one of them). It's got chunks of shrimp, lettuce, corn, black beans and chili-lime sour cream dressing in a tortilla wrap. I also like the gorgonzola chicken sandwich (grilled chicken breast, sauteed spinach and red onions, and gorgonzola spread on a whole wheat bun), and I swear that they have the best fajitas anywhere. If you want something smaller, they still have French onion soup on the menu (and it's delicious) and you can get a pretty good Caesar side salad for less than $3. If you get the right server, you'll even get a tasty breadstick with the salad. Most entrees come with a choice of sides, which include a very untypical fluffy, sweet citrus couscous, pinto beans and rice with cheese and olive and feta orzo. These choices are a great alternative to the usual "chips or fries" offered by most places (you can also get chips or fries, if that's the way you swing).

We ate at Houlihan's last night. We sat in the bar, right by the fireplace, so we were cozy and toasty. I had a shrimp wrap, while Mr. Awesome had tuna tacos. He says they are very good, but liked the whitefish tacos that used to be on the menu (the menu changed about a month ago) better because the crispy coating on the whitefish gave the tacos a much-needed salty crunch that is missing from the tuna version.

Tonight we're going to Cupini's in Liberty. I didn't even know it was there until a few weeks ago when I drove through the square and saw lots of couples walking into a storefront at 6:30 in the evening. We're going with Mr. Awesome's parents, so I hope they like it!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Be mine.

Happy Valentine's Day. So far, so good.

I finally got a flickr account, so I can start using my camera and posting pictures.

For Valentine's Day lunch, I had risotto and Brussels sprouts from Room 39. Have I mentioned that Room 39 is my favorite restaurant? Yes? Okay. Anyway, it was fabulous as usual. A work buddy brought me a surprise this afternoon:

Those are Annedore's dark chocolate hearts, in case you were wondering. The coworker has exquisite taste.

Oh, and my valentine got me this for Valentine's day (and our anniversary, and the next 12 Valentine's Days and anniversaries):

He also has exquisite taste.

What’s not to like?

The story behind the photo. More photos here.

Ben Folds and I share a love of corny pirate jokes.

Need for a roommate plus a possible Warcraft addiction prompted some San Franciscans to lure potential apartment hunters to their lair with World of Housecraft. Contains "blood, suggestive themes, use of alcohol and mild sexual content."

Anthony Bourdain quips about the current pitiful state of the Food Network. On the obscene phenomenon that is Rachel Ray: "Wallowing in your own crapulence on your Cheeto-littered couch you watch her and think, “Hell…I could do that. I ain’t gonna…but I could--if I wanted! Now where’s my damn jug a Diet Pepsi?”"

Monday, February 12, 2007

Train of thought.

This weekend, Mr. Awesome and I had dinner at Sakura. Sakura is a Japanese steakhouse and sushi bar, located at 75th and Neiman. More importantly, Sakura is the only sushi bar in town that has a sushi train. The train method of sushi distribution is ideal for those who love sushi and for those who are novices. The newcomers can sample several different varieties of rolls and nigiri without feeling as if they must finish something that isn't to their taste. The pros get the pleasure of seeing plate after plate of delicious sushi goodness roll past, each plate tempting, but not required eating. Sushi porn, if you will.

One rather large group of people took up residence at one end of the bar. They had in their company a little boy, maybe 2 years old (I'm horrible with children's ages, so he could have been older, or younger, I don't know) who kept putting his chopsticks up to the train. We eventually noticed that he was touching almost every plate that went by with his germ-covered chopsticks. At one point, his fat little arm thrust a chopstick forward just in time to derail the train. His parents didn't seem to care that much, but did tell him not to touch the train any more. He sort of complied, but really, if your heathen fucks with the train, they should lose bar privileges, pronto. I don't care how much you want to sit at the bar - you take your vile creature to a table and confine his cooties. We vowed to not take anything that passed by him for the rest of the night.

The place was pretty full, but there was a single seat across the bar from where we were sitting. About halfway through our meal, a beautiful young woman, maybe in her early twenties (Okay, I'm horrible with all ages, so she could have been older or younger or both or neither), sat down at the bar, alone. Wearing a teal tank top with a cropped cream colored cardigan and a pink wool scarf tossed around her neck and shoulder, she looked, to me, quite a bit like Scarlett Johansson. The girl was startling, not just in her beauty, but because here she was, dining alone on the weekend before Valentine's Day, not at all self-conscious or awkward. She was trying to not be noticed, as she was keeping her limbs close and making small, cautious movements, but she was such an anomaly in the usual scene that I don't think anyone could help but notice her.

I love the idea of the beautiful girl who loves sushi so much that she goes to the bar alone on a Saturday night. That is the magic of the sushi train - you don't have to interact with anyone if you choose not to, you can be totally anonymous and enjoy your meal. But as a patron of the train, you become a participant in the dinner show, and can't possibly be totally anonymous, as all the other participants will undoubtedly apply their own narrative to you.

Monday, February 5, 2007

More of the same.

This year, many sites have compiled what they claim to be the best music videos of 2006. Here are a few of my favorites:

Knights of Cydonia - Muse. It's Kung-Fu meets spaghetti western with some sci-fi and a unicorn thrown in. Everything cheesy mixed together does not, surprisingly, equal a cheesy mess.

Rise Up With Fists - Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins. A satirical look at Hee-Haw. Lewis channels Sissy Spacek channeling Loretta Lynn. Sarah Silverman has an appropriately inappropriate cameo.

Dirty Blue Jeans - Jeremy Warmsley. At first you think your eyes are playing tricks on you, then you realize they aren't, and then you notice what a brilliantly shot video this really is. A cinematic accomplishment.

We Are Your Friends - Justice vs. Simian. That must have been some party, because now the place is a frigging mess.

All In My Head - Good Shoes. Party tricks on parade!

Meds - Placebo. I hate this band's name. Okay, now that I got that out of the way, this is a great song and a totally trippy video.

Friday, February 2, 2007

The Semi-Annual John Hodgman Post.

So I swung by John Hodgman's site today for the first time in much too long. Here are a couple of my findings:

That is all.

From “The Noble Nature” by Ben Jonson

From The Noble Nature by Ben Jonson

It is not growing like a tree
In bulk doth make Man better be;
Or standing long an oak, three hundred year,
To fall a log at last, dry, bald, and sere:
A lily of a day
Is fairer far in May,
Although it fall and die that night -
It was the plant and flower of light.
In small proportions we just beauties see;
And in short measures life may perfect be.

Read more about Ben Jonson here.

Stuck in my head.

One of my all-time favorite movies is The Jerk starring Steve Martin and Bernadette Peters. It's ridiculously full of quotable lines that I have memorized and whip out during appropriate occasions, much to the confusion of friends and family. More than just being silly (roll-on-the-floor, wet-yourself hilariously silly), though, The Jerk is a story of family, of self-discovery and ultimately, of love.

At one point, Navin and Marie cuddle on a beach beside a campfire and sing a sweet duet to each other while Navin plays the ukulele he has brought along, presumably for just this moment. It is this song that I have in my head this morning:
I know (I know)
You belong - to somebody new
But Tonight you belong to me...

Although (Although)
We're apart - your part of my heart..
And tonight you belong to me...

Way down by the stream..
How sweet it will seem..
Once more just to dream
In the moonlight...

My honey I know...
With the dawn..that you will be gone..
But tonight you belong to me...

Way down way down along the stream..
How very very sweet it will seem..
Once more just to dream in the silvery moonlight...

My honey I know...
With the dawn..that you will be gone..
But tonight you belong to me...
Just to little old me...

Here's Josh Ritter and Erin McKeown performing their version of this song via YouTube. Now you can have it stuck in your head, too. You're welcome.