from a good bar to a grand bakery: getting it done


-- चार हजार पांच सौ पंद्रह --

I just had a pretty active and social weekend. So let's go through it, shall we?

Friday was this month's Happy Hour with Laney, which Shobhit opted not to join for -- which was just as well for three reasons. First of all, had I had to pay for both him and me, there is no doubt I would have exceeded the $50 I budgeted for it. Secondly, and this is tied to the first one, he was texting me to try to spend less than the budgeted $50, and I was glad not to have him around harping on me basically meeting that budget in the end. And thirdly, Laney and I wound up going to two places, and had Shobhit come along, he would have wanted to leave after just the first place, because he never wants to hang around all that long, typically starting to suggest we go home after just an hour. I really value my Happy Hours with Laney and I quite like it when we can just hang out and shoot the shit and visit for between two and three hours.

Now, even Laney and I would not have gone to a second place if not for how loud the first one was. We went to Good Bar in Pioneer Square, which a chorus friend had recommended to her and so she recommended it to me when I emailed her a warning that Happy Hour would likely be crowded at The Mountaineering Club on the 16th floor of the Graduate Hotel in the U District, especially without any reservations, albeit on a day with a bunch of rain in the forecast anyway. We basically agreed to postpone The Mountaineering Club until May for all these reasons, and so Laney suggested Good Bar and I was like, "Sure!"

The name of the place did not ring a bell, but I knew as soon as we walked inside that I had been there before. I never go out for drinks in Pioneer Square; what are the odds I would go to the same place twice in that neighborhood? It was kind of bugging me that I could not remember when or why I had come there before, so I had to do a search of my own website to figure it out: I had gone there for drinks with Gabriel after seeing Amy Miller with him in March of last year, as he drove us around town trying to find a place. And after re-reading what I wrote about it then, I am a little disappointed: that "Timber City Roulette" drink is no longer on their menu!

But! Laney and I both ordered a "Rusty Nail" -- $8 on their Happy Hour menu, "blended scotch" and Drambuie. If Gabriel ever read this blog anymore (and I can assure you he does not: he has mentioned it basically once ever time we talked for so many times in succession, last time I said, "You can just start assuming I know that"), he'd probably get annoyed that I actually volunteered to have such a drink, as it's much more his style of drink and not one I typically ever have. But, it was basically the best option for me on that Happy Hour menu. And it was actually good!

As were both the food items we ordered: "salt-roasted fingerlings," basically sliced potatoes which you dip into potato salad aioli; and deep fried cheese curd, which was basically like fried mozzarella except more squeaky and less stringy, and no breading. It did come with a thick tomato sauce to dip them into. Anyway it was all excellent.

And at one point one of the heavily tattooed bartenders started whacking something inside a cloth sack with a large wooden mallet, against the wall. Assuming they must have been nuts inside inside that bag, Laney cracked me up when she said, "Look at that guy whacking his nuts!" So then I was eager for him to do it again so I could take a photo and post it with that caption.

But, I never got a chance. The din in there was so loud we could not hear ourselves think, and it was too much particularly for Laney, who suggested we find another spot that was quieter, even though Good Bar's Happy Hour lasts until 7:00 -- one of the things that drew us to the place -- and it was extraordinarily unlikely we would find another Happy Hour still happening after 6:00, which was about the time we left there. (I had walked straight to the Capitol Hill Light Rail station after work, and then Laney and I rode Light Rail together down to Pioneer Square Station.)

Laney knew of a hotel nearby that was supposed to have a lounge that was likely quiet, and we walked over there first. The place only served beer and wine, so we asked the front desk staff for a recommendation of a nearby place that was quiet. They were perfectly unhelpful on that point, but did direct us toward Occidental Square Park as a strip with a lot of cocktail bar options.

That's how we found ourselves at Zócalo, which was so quiet we actually felt bad for the place, as it has a fantastic, crescent-shaped interior design -- book pages chandelier! -- and a very relaxed, chill vibe. I ordered a margarita, which was not bad -- it was fine -- and Laney very much liked her requisite Manhattan on the rocks. The Happy Hour food we'd had at Good Bar was excellent but small in volume, Laney was still hungry and so we both ordered another side at that place, both of them a dip for chips: hers queso and mine pinto bean; it worked well to mix the two. I figured I was getting a good amount of protein.

We probably spent close to an hour at both places, after which we took Light Rail back to Capitol Hill. I keep an alphabetized index of all our official monthly "Happy Hour" places we have gone to since starting it as a monthly activity in 2014 on Flickr (click "Show more" in the description near at the top), and this was our 61st such outing (and this does not always include an occasional extra outing we might have that just happened to include drinks); factoring in repeat appearances it's the 38th different place we've gone to; and -- I only tracked this just the other day -- and Friday's two places counted as the ninth and tenth places outside Capitol Hill we've gone to. As it happens, most of the next several months are already scheduled to be outside our home neighborhood as well:

Thursday, May 3 (extra for my Birth Week): Fremont Brew Cruise, my "Laney outing" with this year's nautical theme Friday, May 10: Mountaineering Club atop the Graduate Hotel, U District Friday, June 7: back to Capitol Hill for new vegan bar Life on Mars, on Pike between Boylston and Harvard Friday, July 12: Kinsey Sicks show in Tacoma in lieu of Happy Hour; this will be our last chance to see them with founding member Ben Schatz as Rachel before he retires -- the last of the founding members still with them currently Friday, August 2: Spin Seattle, bar/ping pong club downtown Seattle

We've got our cocktailing work cut out for us!

-- चार हजार पांच सौ पंद्रह --


-- चार हजार पांच सौ पंद्रह --

And then I saw Laney again the very next morning, meeting her at Capitol Hill Light Rail station at 10:45 and then heading downtown to see the 11:30 am showing of Shazam! at Pacific Place. We had both thought it looked fun when we saw the trailer at an earlier movie we went to see together; it was getting good enough reviews that, to be perfectly honest, we both expected it to be better than it actually was. There was a lot about it we both enjoyed a great deal, actually, but also a good amount of it was just not done very well. Like nearly all of them, it suffers largely from an overall plot that just isn't original enough or compelling enough. Anyway you can read my review for more of those kinds of details.

I didn't get around to writing the review until much later Saturday evening, because the movie was pretty long -- two hours, twelve minutes -- which meant that, adding the trailers on top of that, and then the Light Rail ride home, it was 2:30 -- three hours after the movie's published start time -- before I was even getting off Light Rail on Capitol Hill.

And then I walked up to 14th to get some deodorant at Central Co-op, and then up to 16th to get some fruit for Shobhit at Trader Joe's. There is some Hindu religious observance I cannot recall the name of going on, and for that apparently Shobhit's mom asked him to observe a fasting ritual in an effort to getting him closer to a higher-paying job. Apparently, Shobhit has decided to indulge her with this request -- sort of. He decided he would do the fast on the first and last day of the observance; the first was on Saturday. This does not mean no eating at all -- I forget what all counts as exceptions and therefore he can eat; I know some particular type of flour was one of them. Another he could eat was fruit. That's why I got fruit for him -- he had not eaten all day by the time I picked him up at 3:50, and he asked I bring him one or two bananas. I brought him for bananas (of which he ate two), two apples (of which he ate one) and the rest of the pineapple we still had in the refrigerator (of which he ate none; maybe we should make smoothies out of that or something).

Anyway, by the time I got back from the stores, I had only half an hour before I needed to leave again -- hardly enough time to write the review, especially when I also still had to put away the lights in the dryer. I also gathered stuff needed to make chai, and then went to the U District to pick Shobhit up, as he had gone there for a day of presentations to get information for his niece thinking of coming her for college. Who apparently does not know he is gay. Yet. That's a whole other thing. In any case, it sounds like the engineering school offered here at UW is not quite aligned with his niece's focus so she probably won't come here for school; nevertheless, Shobhit seemed to have had a good time and felt it was a really good learning experience for him, just in terms of how our secondary education works.

-- चार हजार पांच सौ पंद्रह --

We then drove down to Danielle's in Renton, with the intent of getting the rest of Danielle's and my travel planning decisions nailed down. In effect, we were there several hours and got all of one decision made. That seems to be how it's going with her -- whether it's where to stay or how to travel, we get basically one decision made every time we get together to talk about all this stuff.

Shobhit is hyper-focused on getting the cheapest option available; Danielle used to be much more like that but has had so many stressors in her life the past year that she's now so chill about the planning process that, quite honestly, she's almost as annoying in her feet dragging as Shobhit is about harping on just getting it done and at the cheapest rate possible. Almost. Shobhit stressed Danielle out so much that after that she specifically asked not to have his input during hers and my conversations about it from here on out: "You can have your own private conversations about it." I did explain to her Shobhit's point of view here: she may feel she has her own decision to make, but those decisions still have to be made in collaboration with me, which directly impacts both Shobhit's and my finances on the whole. So, I actually would say Shobhit has a right to a say in all of this.

The problem from Shobhit's side is he doesn't seem to understand the difference between having a say and having the final say. He also doesn't seem even remotely interested in acknowledging that Danielle is actually taking so long in an effort to get the best value as well, just using her own process, which actually in the end gets us pretty close to Shobhit's own targeted cost goals for the trip overall. And if we're circling around to the same financial decisions anyway, what good is it doing anyone, seriously, for him to be overbearing to not just me, but also to Danielle, stressing us both out in the entire process? He's literally not making it any better, and actually making it worse for everyone. And when I tell him he's stressing everyone out, instead of every acknowledging that might be, you know, a problem, he just doubles down and acts as though his behavior is not only justified but it should be obviously so to everyone. Shobhit loves to accuse me of selfishness, and yet he spends all of his time as though it's clear the only ideal way to look at or approach anything is the way he does it. AND IT IS NOT.

Now. As I said, I have also gotten a little frustrated with Danielle as well. Even when we were on the phone figuring out what flights to take, once we finally had a conversation in which we made some actual decisions and booked something -- and I think that was maybe our third conversation about flight options alone -- it was a good thing we were just on the phone and not on FaceTime, because I found what were clearly the best options for the best prices, and she would go from Google to Orbitz to Travelocity and one or two other sites besides even those, comparing and contrasting over and over.

So, it was similar when we were at her place on Saturday, looking at options for how we were to travel between Toronto, Niagara Falls and Syracuse, as well as places to stay. She would look at Costco Travel, and then at Orbitz, and then at, and then at the direct sites for specific hotels, and AirBnB, and VRBO, and on and on. Shobhit would find a place on and basically say "This is cheapest, you should book this one!" As ever, I basically fall between these two extremes. I don't want to jump on something otherwise less than ideal just because it's cheapest; neither do I want to spend literally hours comparison shopping. (Shobhit would like to say he feels the same about spending too much time, except you should see him boring me to death as he browses clothing stores. That's essentially the same bullshit.)

Danielle told us on Saturday that spending all this time researching options is fun for her -- it's one of her favorite parts of planning a trip. I had yet two more phone conversations with her yesterday, split up only because Shobhit and I needed to take Shanti and Guru to their annual exam, but each call was over an hour long. And still we got only one or two basic decisions made during each conversation:

*On Saturday, Danielle booked a rental car for three days, to be picked up in Niagara Falls, NY and dropped off at the Syracuse Airport -- a pretty smart financial compromise as it's far cheaper not to pick up and drop off in two different countries; also, for some reason it's cheaper to rent the car for three days than it is for two, even though we really only need it for two.

*Also on Saturday, after endless deliberation, Danielle submitted a booking request for a room in Toronto for two nights on AirBnB. In our message we made the mistake of mentioning we might have cocktails at home, which, even though they were diplomatic about it, that clearly was the reason they responded yesterday with a rejection. Shobhit said their names sounded like they were Muslim so they maybe would not want drinkers around. Danielle and I then agreed we would not say anything about drinking again in any subsequent booking requests.

*On Sunday, Danielle gave me the go-ahead to book the two-hour Megabus ride between Toronto and Niagara Falls, Ontario; this is what we're doing between those two points in lieu of renting a car for the entire trip. When I had looked this up on Saturday, I thought Megabus had no stop in Niagara Falls, but this was because I was visiting the U.S. version of their website, which clearly assumes either your departure or your arrival will be in the U.S., and therefore if we were leaving Toronto, they only showed the closest U.S. city stops for options -- the closest of those being Buffalo, NY, which is 20 miles away from Niagara Falls. But! I finally thought yesterday morning to visit the Canadian version of the site, and discovered Megabus does have a stop in Niagara Falls, Ontario. That bus stop is a mile and a half from Rainbow Bridge, where we can cross the border on foot, and then have Enterprise come pick us up and bring us back to our rental car.

*As of yesterday, we did have to go back to square one in terms of lodging, once that AirBnB place in Toronto had officially rejected us. Danielle got that message while we were on the phone, and actually in fairly short order we found a downtown condo that looked particularly great. She texted me later another room that looked even better for an even cheaper price, which was shocking. I suggested that, since it's still so far in advance, she also try to book that place, and just cancel the other one if we get it. And that's what happened! As of right now, this place with pretty spectacular city and water views, like a block away from the CN Tower (my top-priority Toronto attraction, naturally), is where we'll be staying. For the dates we wanted, it was maybe $10 a night cheaper than the other place we tried to book shortly beforehand.

So! Decisions yet to be made: lodging in Niagara Falls for one night; and lodging in Syracuse for two. We're almost there, at least! The way things are going, it'll probably be two more conversations before we get both things finalized. The thing is with Niagara Falls, Danielle is well and truly obsessed with getting a good enough place for the right value -- with a view of the falls from our room. To Shobhit and me both, this is basically a pipe dream: Shobhit and I both already know from experience, you cannot specifically book a room that has the view you want, on the side of the building you want. At best, you can book a room in a hotel you know has such views, and then see what they can do for you at checkin when you're there in person. Danielle doesn't quite seem ready to accept this, and so for Niagara Falls in particular, she is taking hours and hours to make a decision. I found a place on that's on the New York side, is eight stories tall, within short walking distance of Rainbow Bridge, and though clearly no view of the falls themselves, it does have view of the water that feeds into the top of the falls. That has been my choice for some time and remains my choice.

I mentioned that several times to Danielle, to the point that she finally said, "Okay, just book it. I'm starting to feel pressure from you to book it so go ahead." I wasn't exactly trying to pressure her, and felt that came a little close to guilt tripping -- but, I opted not to book it just yet. I mean, is it that important? I would still rather she feel good about the decision that's been made. And it's not the end of the world if I wait a while longer for this. I mean, I will be immensely relieved once all these things are booked and confirmed -- but, we do still have seven weeks before this trip is even happening. I can live with waiting a while longer.

This is the difference between Shobhit and me. I can accept what I don't necessarily like about something if it's not the biggest deal in the grand scheme of things. Shobhit, on the other hand, has to make both himself and everyone around him crazy.

Anyway. Shobhit did make us all chai when we were at Danielle's on Saturday. He did not eat anything, and Danielle said the only food she had was potatoes, broccoli and carrots, which she roasted for dinner. I happily took some of the potatoes and carrots; I hate broccoli. Actually I had nearly all the potatoes -- Danielle said she didn't like potatoes as much. So really she just had broccoli and carrots for dinner. That's a pretty damned healthy dinner -- and even though mine, being starch heavy, was much less so, it was still far healthier than most meals I ever eat. I was down a couple of pounds the next day, which was nice.

-- चार हजार पांच सौ पंद्रह --

As for what else I can tell you about yesterday, as I mentioned, Shobhit and I took Shanti and Guru to the vet for their annual exam. Shanti was already getting fat last year, and she's gained something like three pounds. But, we have an action plan: 1) cut back on the dry food we've been giving them (which Shobhit had suggested I increase so Guru would actually get some food; even he gained weight though, just not as much as Shanti); and 2) try to eliminate seafood completely from their diets. That's to see if it has any effect on how often they puke; the vet said seafood sometimes is what makes cats nauseous. So, we'll see. Otherwise no particular issues were found; they're both perfectly healthy.

I did go for the extra twenty bucks for the vet basically buzzing away a landing strip between Shanti's asshole and her twat -- she even said they call it "a Brazilian." This was to help with the chunks of shit that keep getting stuck in Shanti's fur, where she's now too fat to get to it to clean it. Shobhit suggested maybe we could buzz her ourselves when it's needed again. We'll see about that. Hopefully we can get her weight going back down again.

After we dropped the cats back off at home -- both of them visible relieved after the super-high stress they both experience every time we take them to the vet -- Shobhit and I headed back out to split a lunch at Grand Central Bakery on Eastlake. I had one last "free sack lunch" coupon I had been given yet again at work a couple of months ago, and suggested we go get lunch with it. Shobhit gets a Social Review point for that! Thus, even though he doesn't get one for Friday, he still gets two for the weekend.

After my second phone conversation with Danielle, when we made our decision on the new place to stay in Toronto, Shobhit and I spent much of the rest of the day watching TV, from The Big Bang Theory to Will & Grace to Santa Clarita Diet to a few episodes of Cheers. We never did get around to the HBO Sunday shows, I realized this morning: we now have Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, Veep and Barry to catch up on.

Anyway when we made that final decision on the newer, cheaper place downtown Toronto, I was so in love with it I was giddy. We just started making dinner and I was super excited about it. Frustrating as planning it has been, I am really looking forward to this trip, which will bring me to three different places I have never been before: Toronto, Niagara Falls and Syracuse. I have to admit, though, that when we take our trip to Las Vegas in the fall, I'll be much relieved it's only to one city that time -- and thus just two major decisions to make: what flights to book and where to stay. We won't have countless lodging and transportation decisions to make that take us weeks to get through.

-- चार हजार पांच सौ पंद्रह --


[posted 12:09 pm]