Sunday, June 29, 2014

Answering the call...

Yeah, it's a Lite Brite.  Can you imagine a child in 2014 playing with this?  Me neither....


Hindsight being 20-20 I could have been a better human being in my teens and 20s... as an adult I've tried to balance the cosmic scale in small ways ever since.  There are really three things that I do now by habit that, while insignificant to the planet at large still make me feel like I'm helping out here and there... and since I like lists...

1. Donating Blood.  I think I'm somewhere around 18 gallons at this point.  My mother was taken to the hospital 30 or so years ago and they "ran out" of her blood type.  They had to drive 20 miles to get more.  I was horrified, naturally.  So when there is a blood drive at work I always sign up... the bonus of cookies and juice is obviously a delight.

Downside: This exchange actually took place a few years ago.

Fellow Blood Donator Guy: (as he was leaving the "Blood Bus"... "Let's be honest, getting out of work is really the best reason to give blood".
TVGuy: "No.  Not really.  You actually are helping to, you know, save lives and..."
Fellow Blood Donator Guy: (Interrupting me) "No, I'm right. And you're wrong." (exits Bus)
TVGuy: (to nurse) "What the Hell??"

2. Roadside Assistance.  I got a ticket one time for a tail light light bulb that had burnt out.  I explained to the officer that I lived alone and that there really wasn't any easy way for me to check that other than my oil change place catching it.  He gave me the ticket anyway.  Since then, whenever I see a car with a light out, brakes or tail, I try to pull up along side them and let them know.  I think I've done this over a gazillion times now.. you'd be surprised how many there are that are burnt out.  99.9 of the time the driver is very grateful.

But sometimes....

Downside:  This exchange actually took place a few years ago.

TVGuy: (makes universal "Roll Down Your Window" Gesture with hand)
Fellow Driver: (annoyed, rolls down window using electric switch instead of hand crank that my gesture suggested they use -- when is that gesture going to be obsolete to this generation by the way? Anyway....)
TVGuy: "Your right brake light is out".
Fellow Driver: "Mind your own f***ing business!" (drives away)
TVGuy: (thinking) "What the Hell"?

3. Parking lot attendant.  About 25 years ago on a phenomenally windy Southern California day, I came out of a grocery store and saw a shopping cart on a beeline to give the side of my new car a door ding.  There was no way I could get there in time.  As the cart moved in on my defenseless auto, a bystander, much closer to my car than I, swooped in and saved the day.  He even refused my clumsy attempt to give him five bucks for his kindness and walked away, mysteriously and in slow motion. (Okay, that's just how I remember it...)

Anyway, most of the time between me and my grocery store entrance I grab stray carts and push them into the store. 99.9 percent of the time... well, no one really ever notices but it's just habit now. But occasionally...

Downside: This exchange actually took place a few years ago.

TVGuy: (pushing carts into the line of other carts)
Fellow Cart User: "You shouldn't do that"
TVGuy: (puzzled) "Do what?"
Fellow Cart User: "Put the carts away for the employees... they'll get fired and then you're the asshole". (walks away)
TVGuy: (thinking) "What the Hell"?


I've worked in three call centers in my life and recently ended employment with Comcast, where I helped people with their technical issues.  Many of these callers were complete assholes.  As I took these calls, I realized that I too sometimes was kind of an impatient jerk with customer service folks (TVGal can attest to this as she nods her head slowly) and vowed to be better to these anonymous 800 number folks in the future.  I would no longer be impatient.  I would no longer wonder about the intelligence of these noble folks, working hard for their companies to further their financial wellbeing.

This lasted exactly 128 days.

As I left my bank branch yesterday I noticed that their two clothing donation boxes in the parking lot were overflowing, so much so that a few homeless folks were doing some "shopping" on the stuff that had fallen onto the ground.  Seeing a 800 number on the side, I quickly leapt to the call of duty and once again became TVGuy, Helper of Those In Need.   The companies name has been changed to protect the innocent....

Customer Service Representative: "Hi, thanks for calling ClothingCorp.  How can I help today?"

TVGuy: "Hi, I'm at my bank over in Edgewater and your clothing bins are completely full to the point of overflowing.  They probably need a pickup pronto."

CSR: "Thanks.  Let me start with getting some basic information from you.  What is your name?"

TVGuy: (puzzled) "I don't work for the bank or anything, I'm just doing you guys a favor.  Why do you need my name?  Isn't the only thing you need the address or location?"

CSR: "I need it for my records.  What is your name please?"

TVGuy: (still puzzled) "I really could just say anything here right? Okay, my name is Theodore."

CSR: "Is your name really Theodore?"

TVGuy: "How could it possibly matter, to be honest.  But you can call me Ted."

CSR: "I'll put that name in my system, but I think you're lying."

TVGuy: "Let me put your mind at ease. I'm definitely lying."

CSR: "So you aren't going to give me your real name?"

TVGuy: "My parents once told me that they thought Anthony was a nice name.  But you can call me Tony."

CSR: "I don't know why you won't give me your name... what possible reason could you have for not doing so."

TVGuy:  "What possible reason would you need it in the first place.  Look my name is Frank. (said with as much earnestness as possible, hoping she would believe me...)  Can I just give you the location so I can move along with my day?"

CSR:  "One moment please." (I hear typing in the background that goes on for at least a minute.  Either she simply can't spell Frank or she is finishing a novel.  It's a coin flip.)

TVGuy: "Hello?"

CSR: (finishes typing) "Okay, what city and state are you calling from?"

TVGuy: (still puzzled) "Aren't you a local company?  Your donation box says something to that effect..."

CSR: "Yes, we are located in Denver, Colorado."

TVGuy: "Why would you ask what state I'm calling from then.. isn't there just one answer to that question?:

CSR: "We have to ask it for our records."

TVGuy: "That simply doesn't make any sense. Okay, I'm calling from Arkansas."

CSR: "No, you're not."

TVGuy: "I most certainly am.  Beautiful downtown Little Rock.  Located in the great state of Arkansas.  Where I am calling from right this second."

CSR: "Sir, you're not calling from Arkansas..."

TVGuy: "How can you be certain?"

CSR: "We don't have donation boxes in Arkansas."

TVGuy: "You kind of just proved my point.  Look, the box is in Edgewater in the shopping center by Sloan's Lake.  It's in the (Generic Bank Name) BankCorp parking lot.  Is there anything else or can I go now?"

CSR: "What are the cross streets?"

TVGuy: "Sheridan. There is no other cross street close by.  It's in a very long shopping center, again in Edgewater.  It's probably the only one in your system listed as Edgewater."

CSR: "I need the cross streets for pickup or else I can't send someone out."

TVGuy: "Look, I'm just calling as a courtesy.  Whether you pick up the clothing or not is your business."

CSR: "If you didn't care about the clothing being picked up, why did you call in the first place?"

TVGuy: "I'm thinking it would be easier if I just lit the clothing on fire, saving us both some time..."

CSR: "Please Hold"

TVGuy: (listening to bad hold music and wondering why I had called in the first place.  I thought about hanging up but then stupidly stayed on the line... three minutes later...)

CSR: "Sir, what city are you in?"

TVGuy: "Edgewater, as I've said several times."

CSR: "We have no Edgewater in our system."

TVGuy: "It's a suburb or something of Denver."

CSR: (searching her computer) "Ah, BankCorp in Denver on Sheridan. I found it.  In the future, when you call in just say it's in Denver and this will go much faster."

TVGuy: "Do me a favor.  Think of the largest number you can.  Now insert that number into the following sentence.  What are the odds that I ever call this phone number again... (Your Number) to One?"

CSR: (not understanding or caring about my witty retort):  "Do you have a pen handy for your confirmation number?"

TVGuy: "Confirmation Number?  For what possible reason would I need that?" (I then realized instantly what she was going to say and starting laughing as she replied...)

CSR: "For your records."

Meredith: At the end of the day, there are some things you just can't help but talk about. Some things we just don't want to hear, and some things we say because we can't be silent any longer. Some things are more than what you say, they're what you do. Some things you say cause there's no other choice. Some things you keep to yourself. And not too often, but every now and then, some things simply speak for themselves....
--"Grey's Anatomy" (ABC)

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Final Frontier...

  Pacific Ocean Sky...


Like millions of Americans over the years I found myself unemployed after our TV Network was closed in 2012.  What followed was a brutal process of applications sent out and no response back.  I'd estimate I received less than 5 percent of actual ding letters or emails or phone calls.. 95 percent there was just no response.  Which really really sucks.  400 days went by with only 2 offers of employment.  (The worst part is applying to places where you know people that work there or companies you've helped in one way or another over the years and hearing nothing in return.)

I am a semi-decent photographer who sells his work around town and on the internet.  I've sold enough images (1,500 pieces or so since January 2013) that financially I've been fine... TVGal makes a good living and our benefits are very good through her company.  I've been asked over the months why I just didn't do photography full-time.  First of all, that's a scary leap from amateur to professional.  Secondly, I'd like my 401k to get bigger with help from a business other than myself.  But more importantly, I like being around people and feeling like I'm part of a team.  I've had a lot of friends move out of Colorado over the past few years and I'd been by myself most of the time (apologies to the wondercats Chili and Pepper... you two have been a delight).

I'd hoped to get back into the TV business but after banging my head against the wall for the better part of 18 months (a couple of good scenarios were around but both involved leaving Colorado) I took a call center job with Comcast with the hope of returning back to the TV side someday.  My first day there they changed the policy of applying internally to another position to 1 year (from 6 months).   Brutal.

Despite being good at the job it was not good for the soul.  After doing some searching of that same soul for awhile I realized I needed to do something new and at the tender age of 50 I pretty much had one career change left in me if I wanted to build a career, move up the ranks, blah blah blah...

Despite the fact that entry level pay/hours were going to suck (the photography sales help offset that) I wanted to try to work in a field that I have always wanted to work in since I was 12 years old.  So four weeks ago I applied for a position with a local company with international ties.  The interview went very well and they did the drug testing / background check then and there.

Today I received the offer letter and I accepted the position (which begins in two weeks).  They have one benefit that is probably the best benefit I could imagine and I will use it (as will some of you) early and often as long as I'm there.

It will be challenging physically I'm sure and there will be days that will be stressful.

I honestly can't wait.

Thanks for the 28 years television... with the exception of the last two you've been great.  But it's time, for now, to move on to something new.

Besides, I've always wanted to work with animals...

(that last sentence is a hyperlink that you need to click on to answer the question "Where IS he working anyway?")

Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you’re kind, I’m telling you, amazing things will happen...
—Conan O’Brien, “The Tonight Show” (NBC)

Lodo Bites 2014, part deux.

Appetizer at 5280 Burger Bar...


Lodo Bites, Part Deux.. when we last left our intrepid gastronomes they were on their way to Coohills Restaurant.. we now join TVGuy and AirportRob, already in progress....

10.  Coohills -- A bite of food the size of a thimble and the hard upsell to buy their alcohol.  Thanks but no thanks Coo...

Score -- (out of 20)  3.0

11. Protein Bar -- I thought it was going to be a smoothie joint only but they completely exceeded our expectations.. think of it as a super healthy Chipotle.  Tons of stuff that is good for you (Kale, Quinoa, etc) but was also quite delicious.  I'll be going back for breakfast on the weekends once we move the TVGuy Mansion to downtown Denver (Estimated early September)...

Score -- 17

12. Squeaky Bean -- Any place that serves brunch and has a giant Bingo board is okay with me.. Szechuan Chicken Wings and Vodka Watermelon snow cones helped cement this place as one of our next dinner/brunch spots for sure...

Score -- 14

13. Lucky Pie -- Last year's winner by a mile filled with me dread as there was no way they could top their Bacon Brownies (80 million times better than you think), delicious pizza, beer tastings and what was the best bite of 2013... Lamb Meatballs.  (I'm not a lamb guy by any stretch but dear lord were they outstanding... I think TVGal had 11 dozen of them alongside 14 brownies..).  As we went in I quickly looked at the serving station and sadness ensued as I saw there was no pizza OR Bacon Brownies (those things deserved to be capitalized btw).  While there was beer tasting (I think Airport Rob's favorite part of the night -- it was pretty great) and the aforementioned Lamb Meatballs (its definitely a marathon and not a sprint.. 18 restaurants in all but I still ate 6 meatballs) they made up for the no pizza with hot out of the fryer Cheese Curds.

They. Kicked. Ass.

Well played Lucky Pie.... well played...

Score -- 18

14. Backcountry Deli -- we were pretty full at this point and BC Deli in the past has put out pretty damn big samples of their sandwiches and that was what we faced this year as well.  The thought of eating large amounts of bread was daunting to say the least.  Let it be said that the quality of their vittles overcame my stomach's groans... pretty damn tasty.

Score -- 14

15. BD's Mongolian Grill -- 3 different entrees and we ate one only due to the stomach's capacity to only intake so much... It was fine and all... but part of the fun of Mongolian BBQ is picking out your own ingredients and sauces and having them cook it on that weird circular grill.  I realize that they couldn't do that for this event (this place was PACKED) but I left feeling disappointed.  I do love BBQ at this place though...

Score -- 11

16. McCormicks - They do possess one of the best Happy Hours of all time, but every year they treat this event as an annoyance.. we've never had good luck here for Lodo Bites and this year was no different.. dry tamales and something else was offered.. they had run out of whatever that empty bin promised... we quickly fled into the rainy night...

Score -- 5

17. Maggiano Pronto -- I've never eaten here and I should.. TVGal's favorite place from two years ago didn't disappoint this year.  I was hoping for a drink of some kind as the thought of eating more food was not appealing at the least.. their salami and mozzarella crostinis were so good I ate three.

Score - 12

18. Jax -- A simple shrimp gazpacho finished the night.  This place doesn't need the boost -- it's supposedly one of the best places to eat anywhere in Denver and is always packed -- but I appreciate that they showed up anyway...

Score -- 12

And... we're done for this year.  Fortunately we have Whiskey & Wings next weekend so the culinary summer adventures continue...

For the record, I did eat a decent-sized breakfast the next day.

Alton Brown: Slicing a warm slab of bacon is a lot like giving a ferret a shave. No matter how careful you are, somebody's going to get hurt.
--"Good Eats" (Food Network)

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Lodo Bites 2014 - Part 1 of 2

Burger at 5280 Burger Bar, Denver...


So... we're back.  I've deleted all old posts and we are starting anew.  This blog might be about food.  Movies.  TV.  Airports.  Cocktails.  Knitting.  Okay,  not Knitting.  But I'm going to try to post at least  twice a month.  We'll see.   First up, 2014 Lodo Bites review....

Lodo Bites is an evening in Denver where you walk around for 35 bucks and sample 18-24 restaurants offerings of drinks, appetizers etc... this year it was 18 and we always try to make sure we get to each restaurant before the end of the four hour time limit.  Turns out when you only have two people attempting that you can get done in about 2.75 hours. (Lots of folks that we normally do this with were out of town, in the Witness Protection Program, what have you...)

TVGuy and AirportRob began our assault at 5:01 and finished at 7:45.  A new track record.  Kids, don't attempt this at home... herewith, our journey....

(By the way, I haven't said yet that Lodo Bites is a great, fun undertaking for all.  It is.  Maybe our favorite summer day in Denver.  Keep that in mind for 2015 won't you?)

1. Wynkoop -- Normally a perennial powerhouse with brownies, beer, entrees... and this year.. not so much.. a single spoon of some shrimp thing that was tasty but still felt like we were gum on the bottom of their shoe and they couldn't be rid of us fast enough.. might be the biggest disappointment of the night and we are only one restaurant in...

Cumulative Score out of 20 (we award 10 each per place): 5

2. Vesta Dipping Grill -- Normally doesn't rank very high because they normally do a seafood taste and most of our normal group aren't seafood eaters.. this year because they weren't joining us Vesta decided to make a Chicken Salad Something or other that I could have eaten 10 of.  Again, just a bite and we did return at end of night for a 3 dollar white sangria that kicked ass... but the staff was great and despite the minimal food presentation a solid score...

Score: 14

3.  Crepes and Crepes -- You'll be shocked to learn that this restaurant served crepes.  I know, stunning right?  Anyway, AirportRob called it before we entered that it might be nutella and it was.. and despite the fact that it wasn't hot out of the oven it was pretty yummy anyway...

Score: 12

4. Euclid Hall -- Every year a top five finisher and this year continued their strong showing... bite size chicken and waffles, Gourmet sausages with homemade mustards, and a Killer Grilled Cheese cemented their standing as the best overall restaurant in LodoBites history.  Just a tremendous restaurant... (still the greatest salad of my life served to me during my last two dinners there... Cauliflower Salad... Eighty million times better than it reads, trust me...)

Score: 18

5. Hapa Sushi -- We both have never eaten dinner there but after this effort we both want to, and isn't that really the point of all this?  4 small Asian samplers that all were great.  Well done Hapa...

Score: 16.5

6. Jimmy's -- The surprise of the night... a new restaurant serving classic pub food that served up an incredible Greek Nacho chip and a delicious slider.. just great stuff...

Score: 16

7.  Wazee Supper Club - Known for its pizza (why, I have no idea.. it has really sucked in previous years) this year they went with a side salad.  Weird and not all that good.

Score: 8

8. Black Crow -- I have been here before but AirportRob hadn't... I knew it was pretty good but we were both blown away by the service, the fire pits, the gourmet drinks offered and Trout Corn Dogs.  Look, I know Trout Corn Dogs sounds weird.  It was also one of the best bites of food of 2014.  We are DEFINITELY going back this summer.  Insanely great.

Score: 20 (the maximum.. and we wanted to score it higher.. seriously...)

9. Fogo De Chao -- Cheese Bread and perhaps the greatest cocktail of my Denver life, the Brazil Caipirina... small but incredibly tasty AND a future gift card.. a quick in and out, but so worth it...

Score: 13

Part two tomorrow....

Spike: We're out of Corn Flakes again.
Giles: We are out of Corn Flakes because you ate them all. Again.
Spike: Get some more.
Giles: I thought vampires were supposed to eat blood.
Spike: Yeah, well, sometimes I like to crumble up the Corn Flakes in the blood. Gives it a little texture.
Giles: Since the picture you just painted means that I will never touch food of any kind again, you'll just have to pick it up yourself.
--"Buffy the Vampire Slayer" (WB)