January 20, 2010

Fighting for Tacos and Podcasts

I wish I could get really excited about worthwhile causes, like the environment, health care reform, and climate change. I think about myself becoming activist and wearing shirts with witty, incisive slogans and getting together for big activist potluck dinners where we plot how we're going to stick it to the other side, perhaps by sit-ins or exhausing letter writing campaigns. That all sounds worthwhile and engaging, except for the fact that I'm just not that interested in all of that stuff.

Instead, I save all of my excitement for slightly less important interests, like Texas Rangers baseball, NBC's Thursday night lineup (deal with this: Parks and Recreation is the best thing on TV right now), and breakfast tacos. I've long since come to terms with this. Not only is it less stressful to care deeply about these things, but no one is going to mace me for liking breakfast tacos. (If someone does mace me for that, then that is one enemy that I WILL FIGHT.)

You can also add podcasts to the list of topics that get me inordinately worked up. They're great. Anytime you find yourself bored in the car, just fire up a podcast and you're instantly immersed in a fascinating conversation.

One podcast that I've been loving lately is the Moth. It's just one person telling a story each week, and I just love the crap out of the stories they tell. I heard one story earlier this week that everybody should check out, because it's interesting, fun, and surprising. It's Jewish Blood, Irish Heart by Brian Finkelstein. You can listen here, but first prepare yourself to be delighted.

Posted by Cody at 7:41 PM

January 19, 2010

Buona Sera

If you were to break into my Netflix account and peek at the queue, you'd probably assume that I'm about to start a North Austin crime family. Here's what we're currently rocking at our house: The Godfather II (2 disc special edition, because that's how we roll) and then Season 2 of the Sopranos. That tells you 2 things about me: I love gnocchi and I'm not afraid to bust some knee caps.

Well, not exactly. I mean, I do love gnocchi but I'm not a violent individual. It's been probably 20 years since my last fight, and I think I'm actually flattering both of us by calling it a fight. It was really more like 45 seconds of flailing by both of us before we both collapsed from asthma attacks.

After watching so much in this genre lately though, I start to feel a little bit like one of the characters. I kind of want to swagger around town, paying for canoli with a $100 bill and then spend the rest of the afternoon eating sandwiches with my big, fat friends. Also, I want to issue ominous warnings. For example, just imagine you're at the grocery store and the lady in front of you snags the last cart. You step in front of her, shake your head slowly from side to side, and whisper, "You don't have the muscle for this in my neighborhood." Then you walk off with the cart. Wouldn't that be the greatest moment in your week?

Of course, mafiosos have a lot of other things to deal with besides these small perks, like assassinations and incarceration. These issues really outweigh the little fun parts that I mentioned above, which is why I'm going to turn down any and all offers to join a family, even if they want to make me consigliere. I'm taking a firm no-mafia stance, I don't care how controversial it is.

And yet, from watching the Sopranos and the Godfather and all of this stuff, there is something I want to do. I want to be an old Italian man, preferably one like you'd find in a movie. I like the way they dress, I like the way they talk, and I like how they strut their stuff around the neighborhood. Not being Italian, I am going to settle for just hanging out with some old Italian men. What's the easiest way to do that? Craigslist, I imagine?

Posted by Cody at 9:35 PM

January 4, 2010

Cry For Me, Argentina

Yesterday, we got back from a week-long trip to Argentina. Yes, the food, wine, people, and all of the sights were great. Going to Argentina and having a fabulous time is like having Randy Quaid over for dinner and getting the police called on you; it's just going to happen. So, rather than do a day-by-day kind of account, I'm instead going to talk about some of the surprises we encountered while we were in country.

Argentinians operate on a slightly different schedule. It's not really a country that's suited for early risers. The first day we got there, we went to this really nice restaurant there on the bay and attempted to secure a table for dinner. It was about 7:30 PM at the time, and the place was buzzing with people. When we went up to the host and asked for a table though, he told us the restaurant was closed until dinner started. I asked, "Who are all of those people eating?" He said, "They're still finishing lunch."

When you adjust to the schedule and find yourself eating dinner at midnight, you'll see the tables around you full of families. And they're not families eating late because they're running from the law or because they just had to bail Mom out of jail, it's just how they roll.

It's hard to overestimate the importance of beef in Argentina. I made a lot of jokes before we went on how I'd be surviving the next week solely on rib eyes and malbec, just like Marlon Brando. That was actually an incredibly prescient observation. Pretty much every meal is beef, with a side of a beef, a cup of au jus as your beverage, and beef cake for dessert. If you need a toothpick, they give you a cow tendon.

At one point, we got this glowing restaurant recommendation in Mendoza. She told us the restaurant, the waiter to ask for, and the exact thing to order. With that level of detail, you get pretty excited as to what's coming. We proceeded to find the restaurant and the waiter, and we ordered as we told. About fifteen minutes later, the waiter comes out with a big grin and a huge plate. What was on the plate? What was this incredibly awesome meal that we were in store for? It was a 4 pound hunk of incredibly rare steak that we were all to share. No vegetables, no sides, just meat. (And yes, it was a hell of a steak.) When in Argentina, switch to carnivore mode.

They're still figuring out the tourist thing. One day, we took this epic tour of the Andes. The tour itself was just amazing; it's hard to describe how majestic those mountains were. About halfway through the tour, we stopped at this little village up in Andes for lunch. It didn't take us long to discover that something was wrong with our waiter. I had to ask for my ice cream dessert (absurdly great ice cream across the whole country) roughly 157 times. Rather than ask for the 158th time, I went up to the manager and explained my frustration. The manager gave me a remarkably honest explanation: the waiter was just really, really drunk.

The manager called the waiter over so we could all talk together, and he asked the waiter a couple of questions. "Are you drunk?" No response. "Did this guy ever get his ice cream?" No response. "Fine, go back to work." I love it that, at this little tourist trap cafe, it's not totally unreasonable to get a smashed waiter, as long as he's timely with the ice cream.

I could go on and on about the surprises, but the whole point here is that the place is different. I don't really see the point in travelling if it's just like home. I, for one, welcome the late night dinners with infants, the daily 2 pound allotment of sirloin, and the gloriously drunk waiters. Mucho gusto, Argentina!

Posted by Cody at 9:51 PM