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Archive for August, 2010

Feeling Minnesota

Posted by evankessler on August 27, 2010

This past weekend the land mass of Minnesota , with it’s 10,000 moisture-filled pores known as Lakes, beckoned me to squeeze all of the life and excitement I could from the sponge-like state in a span of time others might deem entirely too brief to do anything of note. The challenge was to experience the vast array Midwestern American culture, wringing out all I could in the realms of cuisine, amusement, and general oddities all in a stretch lasting less than 84 hours.

Arriving at 1:30 CST in Minneapolis, I fully regret the three and a half hours it took for Operation Experience Minnesota to spring into action, but it was  a  detour since gathering friends together, renting cars and checking in to hotel rooms would ultimately serve us favorably in our stay in the Gopher State.

Having anticipated the journey weeks in advance, I came prepared with a bushel of activity to partake in. The most pressing matter upon our arrival was of the gastronomic variety. Throughout the course of this particular day, I had only had a bottle of fruit drink and some airplane peanuts; I was bordering on starving.

Gathering up a crew consisting of my high school friend Joe D, his wife JSarah, and a crew of Joe’s College housemates and their significant others; we made for the Minneapolis meat monument known as Matt’s Bar. Sure the name Matt’s Bar doesn’t call to mind anything spectacular. The moniker reminds one an insignificant small town dive along the lines of Moe’s Tavern; but Matt’s bar is so much more. It’s the home of the “Jucy Lucy.”

Matt's Bar: Home of the Jucy Lucy and Purveyor of Fine Budweiser

I Pledge Allegiance to Matt's Bar Its for Fine Meat and Cheese Fare

What, pray tell, is a “Jucy Lucy?” Well, I’m glad you asked. It’s a delicious burger with a molten cheese core and a renowned item on the list of Minneapolis culinary specialties.  It had to be tasted.  The six other members of the out of state crew agreed with my assessment.

We were able to procure a few tables in the back of the famed establishment after a brief wait and before even gazing upon the menu we all agreed what we were there for. Aiming to expedite our order, Laura (a member of our party) took it upon herself to round up the order so as to speak for the table when the waitress arrived. The preparation was all for naught as the waitress arrived and went on with her own system of taking orders simply blurting out, “How many Lucy’s? How many orders of fries?” She also had to go about the business of seeing the onion situation(fried, raw, no) for each individual burger. That hadn’t been accounted for in Laura’s original plan. The process was efficient nonetheless; and we tacked on a few pitchers of beer to go with our meaty delights.

The anticipation was great, but the wait didn’t seem too long. I was seated directly across from Steve and Laura who were situated below a wide-screen TV showing opening round games of the Little League World Series. This particular game was showing Minnesota vs. Texas and it seemed innate that I would be pulling hard for Minnesota to pull this one out despite being down 10-4 in the final inning. A brief tinge of excitement fell over me when the hometown heroes brought the game within a 2-spot with a grand slam, but that it all went downhill from there as they just couldn’t pull it out.

No matter, dinner was served. Placed before us, wrapped in sandwich paper, were our Jucy Lucys. The waitress instructed us to wait a few minutes lest we be scalded by the molten cheese inside. We obliged her warning, though I was definitely tempted to have a go at it. I opted to take my burger with fried onions au natural. I had read that you didn’t need to put any condiment embellishment on these delightful treats, so I tried to go as authentic as possible, just Jucy Lucy, me and a pint of Leinie.

Jucy Lucy Before

Slightly reluctant to scarf down the goodness in too few bites, my first nip revealed a very flavorful patty, but failed to draw first cheesy blood. The next bite was a different story. It wasn’t quite a Clint Malarchuk gusher, but it definitely would’ve warranted a trip to the emergency room if it were the result of sharp object on skin.

Jucy Lucy After

The yellow ooze was something more than just cheese on a burger. It was a flavorful burst of deliciousness that also served as a nice dipping sauce for the fries once it had settled onto the paper. The Jucy Lucy was indeed Juicy and a wonder for taste buds to behold. Part One of Operation Experience Minnesota was indeed a triumph.

The early goings of our experdition were not without casualties. Joes’s wife JSarah had suffered a bit of a neck strain/spasm earlier in the day prior to making the trip and it was not treating her kindly. So as we prepared for phase 2 of Mission Minneapolis, two key members of our team were knocked down for the count.

Like a Sergeant leaving behind two wounded soldiers (and a mediocre writer clinging on too tightly to war metaphors), we pressed on to achieve our objective; to have the most fun we possibly could during our one day in Minneapolis.

Using our next hour to recover from the “jucyness” of the lucy, the remaining revelers met in our hotel lobby at around 8pm. I had a plan in mind. I wanted to go to Nye’s – a bar so well-regarded that it had been named Best Bar in America by Esquire– as our first stop. My plans aside, I was only a small cog in part of a  group now. I wasn’t the only one who had ideas, so when Dan first suggested we go to Brit’s Pub, I reluctantly agreed with this as our first stop on the nightlife tour.

At first glance, Brit’s seemed like any other plain pub. For a gimmicky British Pub-type it had precious few options in the way of authentic British brews. Nothing, I couldn’t get at most bars in New York anyway. I voiced this opinion once, but refrained from anything else that might be construed as whiny because I realized it was silly. This place wasn’t so bad. It had Twins games and Rugby on the TV. No one was bumping anyone out of the way, so as to cause someone to spill their beer. This place was alright. Then we made the move to go upstairs and outside because Dan heard they had lawn bowling. I wasn’t too excited about lawn bowling since we have a few places to play Bocce here in Brooklyn, but once we made it outside I shut the hell up.

Brit's Impressive Lawn Bowling Expanse

Brit’s had an impressive, grassy expanse for which visitors could get competitive.  The well-manicured bowling green was unfortunately in use for a corporate event and we couldn’t partake in the festivities, but I was still impressed by the layout. We stayed at Brit’s for at least 3 beers before packing up our things and heading on to the next bar, but not before being joined by my good friend Matt and his wife Lindsay.

The next move was a bold one and one that I greatly approved of. Rather than grab a cab, we decided the night was too lovely and the next bar was too near. We walked through downtown Minneapolis seeing many impressive architectural specimens on the way til we came to a bridge that crossed the Mississippi River and brought us to Northeast Minneapolis where we were soon face to face with the aforementioned Nye’s Polonaise.

Along the way we saw a Mary Tyler Moore Statue...

and this lovely fountain scene...

before walking over...

the Mississippi River.

Nye’s seemed like a classic old-time bar. I don’t really know how to characterize it other than that. It had a long, dimly lit bar and older man with a foreign accent behind the bar. There was a tiny stage in the corner where instruments rested for the time being. Most of the people I encountered in the establishment were relatively attractive, but not overly hipster-ish. It had the general easygoing vibe of your local dive, but something more unique.

Nye's Polonaise!

A Classy Looking Joint

We arrived to find 7 available stools at the bar even though the vibe was anything but dead. Soon after our arrival the house polka band retook the stage and began steadily churning out standards. At one point I was sure I recognized one of the songs just from the first few notes as “Pennsylvania Polka” from the film Groundhog Day. Lo and behold, the singer started in on the lyrics. There was just something comforting at this bar as I sipped on Grain Belt and made easy conversation with an old friend. I felt like I was in Brooklyn.

Polka Your Eyes Out!

The night went on and my urgency to see all that I could see caught up with me. My friend Anna, a Minneapolite, recommended I check out U Otter Stop Inn for a dive-y karaoke bar. So our crowd gathered outside yet again, though we lost Matt and Lindsay, and off we went to the next stop.

Maybe We Otter Not

I’m not sure what I was expecting. Maybe I was spoiled by the great feel of the last 2 places, but U Otter Stop Inn was cramped and kind of annoying. Gopher and Viking Pride lined the walls and the crowd was a bit rowdy, though not completely out of hand. Part of me longed for civility, but also held on for somewhat of a unique experience. Instead, I just got your run of the mill cheap beer and some underwhelming karaoke without the thrill of participation.  I put in for a few karaoke songs, but was pretty sure I’d never get to hear them.

I have no idea what this song is.

Minnesota Pride

Rather than wait it out til the end of the night, we piled in a cab and headed back downtown where we ended our night at a place called The Local. After a beer or two it was closing time and we each headed back to our respective hotel rooms. At some point in the night Joe and his wife had made for the emergency room to deal with her neck issues. I returned home to the empty hotel room that the 3 of us had shared and passed out happily on the firm slab of heaven that was my bed.

I slept like an angel, even though at some point I heard Joe and JSarah tiptoe back into the room. I wasn’t waking up for anyone at that point. I was just too comfortable.

Not sure what time I woke up the next day, but I knew we’d be checking out soon after I did. Joe had secured a late checkout thanks to his emergency room visit. We didn’t hurry though. Steve, Dan, and company left before us for some breakfast and got a head start out west towards Spicer, where we were all headed for a wedding.

Our plan was to pick up Suli at the Airport and maybe catch up with them by the World’s Largest Ball of Twine in Darwin, MN. It didn’t really work out that way. We got a later start than expected after grabbing brunch at The Local and having some issues with our GPS on the way to the airport. We eventually reached Suli waiting by pickup section of the Delta Terminal. He had been waiting a bit, but his trip was just beginning. All told it was probably the same amount of time he would’ve waited to rent a car.

So we were off. Not really much to do but drive west and wait to be enveloped by small town awesomeness. That awesomeness enveloped us about an hour and 25 minutes into our road trip. We had just stopped to get some water and take a bathroom break along Route 12 and been cruising along through towns with miniscule populations for close to a half hour when on the driver’s side Suli spied a wrestling ring surrounded by a crowd and with some townsfolk cheering on some grapplers. Someone in the car let out a “holy shit!” and before we knew it we were looking for a spot.

Hell Yes!

Upon parking and further investigation, we were about to witness the FLWA Wrestling and the Dassel Church of Christ’s Bible Slam 2010. At first we stood back as mere observers afraid of being pegged as outsiders. A match had just ended and the ringmaster was announcing another FLWA event two Sundays from the day. He encouraged the audience to make the scene, while also putting an accent on the importance of going to church that day too…or at least finding some time to go to church if you were going to go to wrestling on a Sunday. With that reverent proclamation, he proclaimed that it was time for a ten-minute intermission.

A Thing of Notable Importance in Dassel

JSarah and I took this as an occasion to wander around the town. We saw a sign for the Dassel Historical Society four blocks away and made for it with excitement as a way to pass the time between bouts. We were cut off as Joe and Suli pulled up in the car and told us to get in. Joe said someone gave him the finger and he wanted to leave due to feeling unwelcome. This was a bit of a red herring. Some woman in a car gave us the finger when we didn’t know if we could cross the street as she waited for us to cross. It wasn’t that big of a deal. It wasn’t as if the townspeople were waiting to sink their pitchforks in us. JSarah and I got in the car, but convinced Joe and Suli to pull over and stay awhile. We were going to see going to catch some of Bible Slam 2010 no matter how welcome or unwelcome we were.

Before the wrestling commenced there were some announcements and the ringmaster got some volunteers to throw out some Bible Slam shirts to the audience. Joe and I hooted and hollered but still didn’t get any of the precious apparel thrown our way. Sure we could have paid $5 for one from anyone in town, but we didn’t want to give them the feeling that small town folk were so novel and we were mocking them in anyway.

Once the shirts were all distributed, the next match was announced. The Challenger/Villain Sammy Savard took to the stage and started bashing the audience and the town of “Dass-hole,”(Dasshole) Minnesota and its inhabitants with repetitive banter and insults that made you think he was just waiting for them to announce his opponent. Luckily, the FLWA champion soon arrived.

” (Paul the ?)Psycopath” arrived in a Ghostbusters-like vehicle with his face plastered on the side of it. He sat in the back seat and the driver/orderly from the Mental institution came around to let him out.  Psycopath paraded around the stage…and that’s when all hell broke loose. You can see it below.

We didn’t stay for the entire match. Things got a bit ridiculous after awhile and we had a ball of twine to see. We were so close we could almost taste the quirkiness of the upcoming roadside attraction.  Several small towns later, we found ourselves parked across the Darwin, MN Gazebo that housed the Giant ball of twine 12 ft. in diameter. It loomed quite large, but didn’t make for a great photo op since the plexiglass that protected it was entirely too reflective. If only it had been a more cloudy day.

The Sign Says It All

The Picture Doesn't Say That Much

Eager to obtain further proof of my visitation, I went to Jack’s Tavern across the street to seal this momentous occasion with a souvenir shirt. I liked quite a few of the shirt designs, but most of them were either size XXL or only available in silly colors that I would never wear. After making the poor girl behind the counter remove nearly every single shirt I was going to have to settle on buying the first Medium of any shirt she found. I threw $16 her way and off we went towards Spicer; the site where our good friend Eric would be tying the knot the very next day.

Upon our arrival at the Willow Bay Resort, we rejoined our friends who had left ahead of us and made friendly conversation with the folksy proprietor of the establishment located on beautiful Nest Lake. The owner/manager was surprised when we asked him for the key since locking the door was not such a common occurrence in them there parts.

Our cabin situated above the front office/store, had quite the homey feel with a nice view of the lake. There was a living room and kitchen area and two bedrooms, one of which had a bunkbed in addition to the queen-sized. Each cabin also came equipped with it’s own grill and fire pit. We had stumbled into a bit of a rustic paradise for what was definitely a reasonable  rate.

Our Little Slice of Minnesota Heaven

The first order of business after settling into our temporary abode was to enjoy some soft adventure on the placid lake. There were a pair of kayaks, a paddle boat, and two water-bikes for the taking. Having a bit of kayak crush, I made my selection. We had several hours to kill before a booze cruise with the bride, groom, and other guests, so the lake was our chief source of entertainment prior to grilling some dinner, during which Dan impressed everyone with his ability to duplicate (to an extent) the “Jucy Lucy.”

Dan Brings Jucy Lucy to a Simmer

Dinnersota

Class of Dinnersota '010

Once water amusement was had and patties were enjoyed, we made towards another cabin retreat where we met up to have drinks with all who would be joining us aboard the booze cruise. Some old acquaintances were on hand and some new ones made as we enjoyed a few brews in celebration of the bride and groom. The party continued as we headed out into the middle of Green Lake aboard “Cruisin’ at Melvin’s.”

Joe and Eric Go Cruisin' on Green Lake

For all the fun that goes with the idea of going on a booze cruise, the prospect looses of lot of its luster when the Booze Cruise in question carries a somewhat rank odor and resembles the infamous bug scene in Indiana Jones in Temple Doom. There were areas of the boat that were quite literally covered in creepy crawlies– the bathroom probably being the most notable.  So while people sucked down drinks and alcoholic whipped cream, their enjoyment was tempered by the fear of being chewed down to the skeleton by a swarm of various mites. Post booze cruise there was another round of drinks at the aforementioned cabins and some tumult that followed before we could effectively call it an evening.

The next morning, Sunday, bore a large resemblance to the previous day after we had arrived at the cabins; there was plenty of time for water sports and grilling prior to the wedding that was to begin at 5pm at the local Bible Camp Chapel. Being of Jewish background I always view the act of entering anything seemingly as Christian as a Bible Camp with a little bit of caution and cynicism, but the scene was both lovely and rustic. We were greeted by a babbling brook and a mini-waterfall on the way up to the chapel and when we we entered a hair late, the wedding was just set to start. Joe, JSarah, Suli and I hurried past the wedding party and found our seats near to the rest of our group and took in a wonderful ceremony that lent equal portions from both the Jewish and Lutheran (?) faith.

Some Wedding Going on or Something

The act of actually departing from inside the chapel was a little time consuming. Each row, before exiting the building was  to be received by the bride and groom while still seated in their pew. It was nice to stay seated and relax for a bit, but it was a perfect day outside and I did have a longing to enjoy the outdoors.

Once outside we were all given lacy baggies of birdseed, in lieu of rice, to toss at the newlyweds on their exit from the premises. In anticipation of the moment I undid the bow of my baggy feeling that I had it safely in hand. Within a matter of seconds my birdseed had emptied out on the floor in tragic fashion. Thankfully, someone was kind enough to lend me some of theirs so that I could load up and loft some projectiles into the hair of the bride and groom.

Bride and Groom Unknowingly Wandering Towards a Birdseed Firestorm

Bible Camp was a merely a pitstop on the road to the wedded bliss of Sunday evening. The party carried on in the small resort town of Spicer, from the shore of where it had gone mobile the previous evening. Melvyn’s on the Lake played host to the reception and also played host to what was probably the first ever dancing of the Hora in the history of Kandiyohi County. After the just married couple arrived via boat to the venue, there was a wonderful cocktail hour followed by heartfelt speeches and plentiful  dinner and dessert options; though it wasn’t until the dancing portion of the evening commenced when the wedding felt as if it were in full effect.

Behold, Jewish Folk Dancing!

It started with an awkward invitation for the attendees to witness some “Jewish Folk Dancing,” which seemed to lend with it an air of  novelty along the lines of watching walruses mate at the zoo for the non-chosen folk. The DJs had to be instructed to put the song on repeat for when the track on his CD first ended we had barely started circling the room and were not even close to lifting up the bride and groom on their respective chairs. Our mission was eventually accomplished and our heritage celebrated, but it was not without some uncomfortable pauses in the excitement.

The Elevated Portion of Jewish Folk Dancing

From there on out the wedding took on the personality of late 80’s early 90’s prom. The DJs, who were employees of 94.1 “The Loon” knew somewhat we wanted to hear, but also were not shy about accepting our requests. They seemed in awe of our uninhibited, sloppy-enthusiastic dancing. Maybe they were gearing up to put our moves on youtube or were truly captivated by the zeal with which we took to the dance floor, but I think we kind of knocked their socks off with our collective will to party and request good songs that they themselves were into.I was sober for most of the wedding, but I didn’t hold back when it came to having a good time and more or less kept myself in motion throughout.

Post-Wedding Fireside Chat

The party eventually dwindled down and it was back to the cabin for our crew which had grown to 10 in the past few hours. Rather than call it a night a few of us sat out by the firepit and drank a few beers. There was even some irresponsible lakefront high jinks as JSarah and I pedaled around the lake as a few others swam out to the floating dock.

At one point I was having a few steering issues and everyone had gone in. I found myself helplessly pedaling in a very undesirable horror movie predicament. I was waiting for some creature to emerge from the lake and mysteriously swallow me. Fortunately, I was able to wrest control of my floating bicycle and bring it safely to shore after a few minutes. Jsarah and I sat out for a few more minutes finishing our beer and then called it a good night.

I was somewhat sad to leave the Willow Bay Resort on Monday morning. Nest Lake looked so inviting upon waking up. Sitting in a kayak in the middle of it while wakeboarders hydroplaned in the not-so-distance seemed like a nice alternative to how I would’ve liked to spend my day. Alas, we had to get to Minneapolis. Our flight was leaving a little after 5pm and there was still a little we wanted to do.

After saying our teary goodbyes to our fellow temporary lake-dwellers, Suli, Joe, JSarah, and I headed out of Spicer only to be snagged by the prospect of lunch at the town Dairy Queen –where I’m pretty sure most of the employees were 13 years old. So…after Dairy Queen with high-tailed it out of Spicer, stopping only along the way to Minneapolis to take a photo of the sign for Darwin, MN.

It had also been previously decided that we were leaving Spicer at an earlier time to make an appearance at the (in)famous Mall of America, the largest Mall in the United States– if not the world. Upon our arrival at the daunting shopping complex our first task was to find the perfect parking spot. We settled on the section marked Georgia Peach where we found a juicy spot right next to the entrance. We braced ourselves for commerce and we got it in triplicate.

Suli About to Find Out How Welcome Pakistanis are at the Mall of America

The overwhelming monument to shopping boasted an impressive expanse of ways to waste your time. From an amusement park to a casino/hotel. Luckily, I didn’t find the casino in time as I’d have been content not to waste my time gazing into the various Caribou Coffee storefronts or the Minnesota Vikings locker room team shop in its stead. I may have never even found my way to the food court where I ended up deciding to dine on an underwhelming salad option.

What I regret most about my trip to the Mall of Americas is that I didn’t make it to the cheese shop or ride the roller coaster. But those are adventures reserved for another time. It’s hard to hit all of the choice emporiums when you have to wade through several incarnations of The Gap and other well-known retailers who seem to be populating an abundance of the storefronts in different wings of the shopping arena, just in case shoppers tire out and decide the north end of the mall is entirely too far of a hike and one’s purchasing pals would be better suited leaving them for dead near the Rainforest Cafe.

Who Doesn't Love the Smell of Commerce in the Afternoon?

We covered 3 of 4 mall compass points and then it was off to the airport to bid the fair state of Minnesota adieu. I’d love to say something climactic and uniquely Midwestern occurred during our wait for our Delta flight, but aside from a bit of a delay it was just standard airport fodder. I was hoping the flight would be overbooked so that I might volunteer my seat and spend a little extra time in town and possibly score a free plane ticket to anywhere in the continental US for my troubles, but there were no such announcements.

Instead we boarded our flight two hours late and arrived back in LaGuardia without a hitch. All’s well that end’s in a boring fashion I suppose. Though, I can’t say I was the least bored by Minnesota.

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Watching Bunny

Posted by evankessler on August 19, 2010

In the tradition of heartwarming, coming-of-age tales like “Tuesdays with Morrie,” “Marley & Me” and The Last Airbender comes a harrowing, yet endearing tale of a man (myself) left to watch after his brother’s dog (Bunny) over the course of a weekend. In the process he learns about a lot about himself, caring for pets, and the true meaning of life.

It all started early last week when my brother called to ask if I was busy the following weekend. That’s how it always begins isn’t it? A simple, yet intriguing, question is posed which could lean in one of two directions: the first direction being, “I have something really awesome that we could do– that is if you’re up for it?” or the alternate  inquiry, “I have something I need you to do for me.”

Naturally, I was hoping for the former and it ended up being the latter in the arena of dog care. Not very fond of the idea of taking care of pets – worried it might impede on my somewhat already formed weekend plans to do wonderful things out and about in the city I call home– I peppered my lone sibling with a “maybe” and left it at that to gestate in the “maybe I can find someone else” chamber of his brain over the course of 24 hours. My deflection of duty was merely delayed defeat. 48 hours passed, but my silence came crashing down in the form of a subsequent lunch meet up and trip to get an alternate key made up so I might be able to enter my brothers abode in the heart of Hipstertown, USA come Friday.

Not exactly feeling suckered, though with some measure of trepidation, I accepted my duties as I was given them. I felt the brotherly chore might do me some good.

I had only been asked to carry out necessary dog duties on one other occasion and it didn’t exactly go as planned. As the story goes, our best family friends asked me to go over and walk their bearded collie for whom I’d always had a liking. The pup was probably about thigh high to my then diminutive figure, by know means a toy or a beast. I’d seen her owners handle the canine’s toilet time needs with relative ease and thought the task at hand would be as easy as buying a pie at your local bakery. Little did I know that the simple act of walking a dog would become a test of wills, a stare down into the soul of two stubborn beings; one who was intent to stay outside and enjoy the fresh air as much as possible and one who needed to go do his homework. To make a long story short, there was a lot of pulling that went on on both ends and I stayed outside much longer than I had planned and maybe even resulted in me lamely begging and pleading with an animal that only understood me about as much as I understood Charlie Brown‘s teacher. I knew this task would be very different, but my previous experience stuck with me and kept prodding me with the notion that it would not be as easy as simple as possible.

My first action on the canine front line  snuck up on me like a mother. Having finished my workday on the early side Friday, I found my way to Williamsburg taking the Q to the L –which always seems like the longer route because you’re going into Manhattan to go back to Brooklyn.

Walking down the street of this largely unfamiliar neighborhood, I wondered if I even knew where my brother lived. I had helped him move in several months back and was pretty sure of the street corner, but nothing was ringing a bell. I started to picture the arrival of my brother back home on Sunday night to find a malnourished dog who fell victim to my poor sense of direction. Just when this thought reached its fateful climax, I found myself situated at a familiar building and let myself in without issue.

Sliding my key into the lock an excited, miniature bark escaped into the thin slice of air now between the door and the frame. I remembered one of the key selling points of the dog when I had first met it around Passover was that it never barked. That was about the only thing I remembered about this little Papillon pup save for the its portable nature and its rather sizable, furry antennae.

The door shut behind me, I looked down to see a more mobile version of a Mogwai skittering towards me with excitement and pulling up short at my feet.

Bunny Meets My Feet

I greeted Bunny with an outstretched hand ready to remake her acquaintance…and so the licking of my feet began. Having a tiny being lick your feet is a confusing moment. There’s a brief moment of ticklish flattery, followed by a brief tinge of inhumanity that you’re allowing said creature to apply said tongue to your filthy feet, and finally the moment where you just think being on the receiving end of too much animal adoration is uncomfortable and creepy.

Having absorbed the full weight of the thrill of seeing her first living thing in hours, I set about figuring out what to do from there on out. I wasn’t but 20 feet into the apartment when I decided this living thing needed both food and water to continue the life cycle.

Filling the water bowl was easy enough, but inside the freezer I was faced with two options: one a yellow bag full of raw meat medallions;  the other a white bag full of some other frozen chicken-type treats.  After a brief text with my brother, the yellow bag was determined the winner.

Bunny scarfed down a semi-defrosted meat medallion at so rapid a pace, you might think her capable of tracking down and gnawing on a Wildebeest on the African Savannah or that she hadn’t been fed in days; but as a phone call to my brother minutes later would reveal, she had already eaten her day’s worth of chow prior to my arrival. Well, she would certainly not die of starvation any time soon.

After the feeding frenzy came to an end, I finally made it to the living room table where my brother’s girlfriend’s note on Bunny care and maintenance laid out the proper feeding procedure amongst other things. I guess if I had ventured further before taking things into my own hands, I may have fewer questions with which to interrupt my brother’s vacation.

The next 3 hours were an absolute delight. I got to know Bunny, but more specifically I got to know that when Bunny is dragged around by the chew toy in her mouth, she can glide like the best swiffer sweeper across a hardwood floor. I picked  her up and made her soar around the apartment like an airplane; I spun her around in circles; I played tug-o-war with her snake, rat, and tribal lion toy.  It was a regular play-athlon that I was goaded back into whenever I tried to  take care of my own business. The second I focused on doing something other than keeping Bunny occupied, there was an shin height specimen lapping at my ankle hairs.

Bunny and the Snake

Unfortunately, it had to come to an end. Around 5pm I took my leave of Bunny and struck out back to Park Slope for my a night of drinking activity and nary a moment of playing Puppy Airplane along with intermittent spells of tongue on toe discomfort.

That’s not to say I wasn’t slightly smitten; a big portion of the night was spent showing off adorable photos of my new best friend.  Drunken excitement aside, I was eager to do right by her and get her fed as soon as I woke up the next morning.

There was more of a begrudging nature to my puppy care routine come Saturday. The previous evening’s trials had lasted well past the midnight hour, thankfully ending in sandwich inhalation. My disposition on making a trip to Williamsburg in such a worn down state though might not best be described as “sunny.”

Nonetheless, I gathered myself together and hopped two trains back to the ‘burg. When I arrived I could tell that Bunny was extremely needy having spent what amounted to probably the last 17 hours or so alone. Heck, I get jittery and crazed after spending that much time by myself. I can’t imagine having 3 toys to play with and the inability to turn on the TV or take a stroll outside.

I was half-tempted to take Bunny for an outdoor jaunt in the building’s courtyard; but having inspected it for a brief moment, I noticed there were some fences that she might go under and get into mischief. My brother had told me that if this were to happen I should just call her and she’d come back. Reassuring as this might have been, remembering my earlier childhood experience with the stubborn bearded collie, I decided not to make things too difficult for myself. Instead, I stayed inside and watched her satisfy her ravenous appetite before playing Swiffer Puppy and tug-o-war, only during the latter she made sounds that convinced me further that her breed of dog is just a cover for the existence of gremlins.

This latest visit with the lively tail-wagger was somewhat shorter than the last and I could see the disappointment in her mannerisms as I raced toward the door. There were goings on going on that I wanted to be apart of back in Park Slope and the G train was heading my way and I wasn’t going to concede to this creature’s concept of permanent playtime.

Before making my way to my friend’s BBQ, the twinge of guilt hit me that but a few miles away there was a lonely critter pooing and peeing on a pad in between bouts of wishing there was someone to play with. I packed a bag and resolved to spend the night at my brother’s so Bunny would be kept some company.

The evening was another busy one. People were grilling, other people were debuting plays and grabbing late night meals before ending up at wine bars; I went along for those rides. It wasn’t until after 1am when I let myself into an obviously attention-starved Papillon’s apartment. Bunny wanted to play and dropped a toy rat at my feet, I wanted a drink of water and went over to the refrigerator; I wanted to check my e-mail, Bunny wanted to lick my feet; I wanted to watch an episode of Louie on Hulu, Bunny wanted to lick my hands.  This back and forth went on for awhile until Bunny won. I resigned myself to 15 minutes of the “let’s see how many times in a row Bunny Swiffer Sweeper can go around me without letting go of her tribal lion” game.  When she broke her previous record of 8, I called it a night. Bunny did not.

I went into my brother’s room to get some shut eye and closed the door on this eager animal. As soon as she was blocked off from another living thing the miniature barks began. I probably should have left the door close and let the whimpering subside, but not able to withstand the pain of another being up close, I opened the door.

The next several hours of sleep were marked by frequent interruptions. I’d wake up to the feeling of a dog licking my legs and/or staring at me from the heightened perch of my very own chest. In the latter cases, I would simply remove Bunny from my chest and nestle her in at my side. This seemed to work for awhile, but ultimately always ended in some exposed skin being licked and my eyes opening to my wide-eyed, Gizmo-like companion making not-so-subtle overtures for me to wake up and get ready for a tug o’war.

I was no longer to resist sometime around 8:30am. Bleary-eyed and not so bushy-tailed, I disposed of Bunny droppings and gave her an airplane ride before trying to break the previous night’s world dragging puppies around record. Finally, I changed her water and slipped her two tasty (I assume) beef medallions in order to delay her a bit so I could get some work done. She was occupied for probably two minutes.Nonetheless, I managed to get some work done with Bunny repeatedly licking my hands and feet and threatening to step on the laptop I was working on.

Having completed both my personal responsibilities towards work and the one’s given by my brother in regards to feeding and playing, my time with Bunny had reached its end. I was eager to rejoin my friends who were headed out to the beach in a matter of hours. Before I rushed out the door I spun Bunny around a few times let her lick my hand for a few seconds and promised the little creature I’d be seeing her soon.

I Had to Say "No" to This Face

As I made a move for the door, the tiny thing skittered after me as if to once again say, “don’t go.” I couldn’t oblige. I shut the door beaming proudly, knowing that in the span of a few hours my brother and his girlfriend would arrive home and find their puppy still alive. Mission accomplished.

As for me, what did I learn from this whole experience? Well, I think I learned that pets can make you feel great and are loads of fun…in small doses; but spend too much time with them and they’ll give you undying affection forever provided you never stop playing tug o’war with them.

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The 4 L’s

Posted by evankessler on August 18, 2010

The 4 L's: Live, Love, Laugh and Air Conditioner

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Brilliant Idea #807: The Sandwich Shop

Posted by evankessler on August 6, 2010

I have a lot of brilliant ideas. Ask me some time, I’ll share some of them with you. The latest stroke of genius inspired by some form of secular divinity came about the other day as I was wandering the streets of Brooklyn trying to conjure up a clever name for my 2010 Fantasy Football league team.

Pop cultural references were being batted around my cranium, largely failing to adhere themselves to the center of my brain that derives pleasure from subtle and not-so-subtle wordplay. Somewhere in the flurry of politically incorrect sports references grew a gem of subtle hilarity not at all related to the sports world, instead referencing one of the more beloved televised cultural landmarks of the 1980’s- Miami Vice.

The name in question was Crockett & Subs.

Perfect Sandwich Pitchmen

Initially, I didn’t think of Crockett & Subs as anything beyond a great name for a fantasy football team, provided I could find a photo of Don Johnson eating a sandwich to use as my team logo; but the more I thought about it it became painfully obvious that Crockett & Subs might be the best name for a sandwich shop in the history of the world.

The success of this newly thought out culinary venture would depend on two things:

1) The finest quality ingredients

2) Location, Location, Location.

Now, the first part of that equation goes without saying. Who aspires to open an eatery with the lowest quality ingredients that isn’t opening a Taco Bell franchise? So really the only area left to focus is on the place of business. Now in order for Crockett & Subs to be a profitable business it would have to be located:

a) in Miami

b) Any town named Crockett in the USA

c) Universal Studios Theme Parks

Option b is quickly cut out of the equation because the irony and hilarity might be totally lost on someone living in a town like Crockett, TX. So clearly, in order to be appreciated to its fullest extend it must exist in either Miami or Universal Studios.

Universal Studios is less of an appealing option due to the fact that amusement park food is usually over-priced and is not really focused on quality and craftsmanship.

This leaves the final option of Miami as the most natural location for a Crockett & Subs location. Now, I’d be all for moving my operation down to Miami and starting up this fine business if there weren’t two glaring obstacles:

1) I don’t have the capital.

2) I consider the state of Florida to be the most god forsaken place on the planet Earth.

But who knows, if the right pieces come together and if I ever decide that getting my house blown over by a hurricane on a yearly basis isn’t so bad, I might just start this baby up.

Who knows? Maybe I’d even let Philip Michael Thomas work there, but only on the condition he’d let me call him “Subs” the entire time.

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What a Dump!

Posted by evankessler on August 1, 2010

There are a lot of vivid memories retained from my childhood Springs, Summers, and Autumns spent in the Hamptons.  Most of them bleed together in a recollected blur encompassing one long summer that saw me grow from the ages of 4 to 14 in a single life experience spurt. I know it’s not possible for so much to have happened in one crazy summer, especially when I’d lived in 3 different houses during the process.  Normally, a lightning rod for long term memories and their surrounding circumstances, I find myself unable to reconcile the exactitude of this particular place over such a long span of time. Maybe this is so because the activities were so carefree and child-like: Intense football games on the sands of Atlantic Ave beach and East Hampton Park, browsing through lewd cards and pez dispensers at the Penny Candy store, and last but not least trips to the town dump.

As a young child there was really no place more stimulating to the senses than the East Hampton Town dump.  Not only were the olfactories assaulted with the stench of rank rubbish ranging from disposed foodstuffs to rusty machinery, but the mountains of trash stretching nearly as far as the eye could see also provided a visual feast for the imaginative.  Somewhere in there, there had to live a sort of trash beast that feasted on milk cartons, soda cans, and broken beach chairs.

Perhaps the greatest thrill for a me as a kid was the opportunity to toss a glass bottle into a deep refuse ravine in the hopes that it would shatter into a million pieces upon making contact with something equally unable to withstand impact of said hurled item. Never before was a preteen boy’s penchant for destruction ever so quenched or left unfulfilled as on a trip to the dump.

So it was with a suppressed , childlike thrill I reacted this past Wednesday when my mother proposed that I help her take a few things to this very same East Hampton Town dump.  I envisioned that the steep mountains and narrow gorges that I marveled over as a child and was most recently reminded of during a viewing of the film Wall-E, had only grown bigger with ever-more-breakable items thoughtlessly disposed of.

A brief portion of my Wednesday evening was spent fantasizing over the rancid expanse. The prospect of causing some minor amount of harmless destruction thrilled me to little end. I looked longingly at our array of empty beer and wine bottles, only I didn’t see empty beer and wine bottles.  I saw shards and fragments flying about in a victorious storm, the product of a haphazardly tossed green Heineken grenade.

Thursday morning arrived with a sense of anticipation and though I coolly inquired about when we’d be heading to the dump, inside I was filled with an immature giddiness. Unfortunately, I learned all too soon that we would not be tossing bottles, vases and other combustible javelins into the waste abyss.  Instead we’d be getting rid of a broken umbrella, some flowers that had conjured up quite a stench and a broken dehumidifier unit.

Though my destructive ambitions had taken a hit, I took a bit of solace in knowing that launching that heavy dehumidifier down the hill would likely send some spare parts crashing into one another with knobs, dials and pieces of plastic dispatching themselves in every which direction. I hopped in the car, hopeful that I’d get to knock a few things around before the hour was through. The entire five minute ride to our destination was filled with “are we there yet?” anticipation, which came to a fever pitch when we finally made the turn.

Expecting to be met by a pungent wall of odor and Mount Trashmore, instead we came to a booth checking permits prior to entry.  My mom pulled in to an administrative building to pick up a permit and drove around once more to pull into a parking lot to another covered structure. Rather than launching the umbrella into the wild junk yonder, we anticlimactically parked near  a trash bin labeled “non-recyclables” and dropped it along with the flowers inside.

Umbrella and Flowers Reach Their Final Resting Place

It seemed that people were no longer casting off their expendables into a sea of scraps, but separating them by classification, that lent a higher purpose to that which was being disposed. Cans, bottles and big bags of trash weren’t just tossed for the seagulls to pick at and eventually choke on.  This was no longer the “dump” that I had  shattered fragile projectiles at 20 years prior. It had grown up into a more responsible, respectable “town recycling and composting” center.

While I had an abiding respect for the way the town had come to view its responsibilities towards trash disposal, the wind had gone out of my sails. I got back in the car as my mom drove to the discarded electronics area where I was to deposit the dehumidifier with the other failed appliances. On the way we drove past the hills once fertile with refuse now transformed into large mounds of compost ripe for more environmentally friendly decomposing. It was at once encouraging and saddening; a sign of newfound respect for the environment and a bygone memory all in one.

The Hills Are Alive with the Decomposure of Compost

Finally we came toward a three-sectioned awning which was separated into old furnishings, used tires and past their prime electronics. I got out and retrieved the dehumidifier from the trunk, placing  it next to what was probably a ten-year old TV whose only misfortune appeared to be that it was not of the flat-screen variety.

RIP Dehumidifier

I walked back to the car and closed the door and as we drove off back past the compost heap, through the permit checkpoint and on towards home I felt nothing but disappointment. I know progress is a good thing, but sometimes it’s just not that exciting.

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