I missed you guys!!
Been a while since I blogged about life, but good to be back. I've been away from a computer for roughly 5 days, so to see this keyboard again is a dream. In my time I went to my home town of Oxnard and reacquainted with my parents and my sisters. It was a great weekend, even if most of it was spent back home.
I thought it would be good to break down my weekend recap into several mini chapters. Each one will go into that particular day.
It began with a long drive from my workplace to Oxnard. Traffic on the day before Thanksgiving is usually brutal, so I was fortunate to get a head start. Instead of the usual 405/101 route, I took the Pacific Coast Highway, by way of San Vicente and Ocean Blvds. Then I took the California Incline down to the PCH. It was slow to start but generally pretty good traffic.
I knew there was a big feast the next day, but I *had* to make a stop at my favorite sandwich shop of my youth: Just BBQ in nearby Ventura. It's been around for well over 15 years now, and in all those years, I wondered if their quality would fall off or the prices would spike up. Thankfully neither happened when I went last week. Just like always, I got the Tri-Tip Sandwich on Garlic Toast, and I added a hot link. I got the sandwich and toast, paid the money, left a tip, and went to a nearby table to enjoy. Just BBQ is part of a detached food court that operates on its own, without a mall attached to it. The food court is indoors, flanked by some regular shops i.e. Dominos, Coldstone, etc. Anayway, on a brisk Wednesday evening I looked at my sandwich, about 4-5 inches long and roughly four inches high. You always look at it, and I did it again, and say "damn, this looks like a small sandwich", but every time, as I'd do for nearly 20 years, I'd bite into it and go "man! There's a lot of meat in here!!" The sandwich is shaped very deceptively. The roll of garlic toast always looks like just an end piece so you get the illusion that you're just getting a 1/4 of a sandwich but it's truly a full sized 'wich.
Man, it was good! I enjoyed every second of it, and it was especially enjoyable to think of this sandwich, eating it while the Heat were demolishing the Cavs on a nearby TV, then thinking of the Whole Foods Brisket I had the week before. It was like beef had come around full circle. The newest kind that I tried almost back to back w/ a tried and true cut of meat I grew up on.
There's no doubt that, had the weekend stopped there, I'd be very happy. But no! The fun was just beginning...
After the quick meal, I drove down to my parents house, said hi and we talked for a while. Just talking is something I enjoy a lot more today than I used to. Conversations, when you're a kid, always feel tedious and dry, but as you get older, you appreciate the banter you have with your loved ones and friends. It was true last night. I had a good time catching up with the family.
I had a good night's sleep in my sister's bedroom and I woke up to feel the excitement of Thanksgiving, already here. Any one will have adventures with Thanksgiving Day, and in my case, it started from the get-go. Each year, we get the basic conflict of the Thanksgiving Parade on tape delay vs the Detroit Lions football game. It's a problem unique to the West Coast, but this time around, I wanted to do my Mom a solid. So she was asking about what channel it was on, and I put NBC on for her on the Big TV, then I went upstairs to watch the Lions in the bedroom.
Those Lions FINALLY got it done! You know, a lot of things happened between their last two wins. 2003, their Thanksgiving win previous to this year, was a really long time ago. I digress.
My Dad gets home from a special round of Thanksgiving Golf. I bet he was giving thanks to the golf course for being open that day! We change, get our food dishes ready and then go to our Grandmother's house. We're joined by my other sister and my younger sister who drove in from Northridge for the weekend.
Food -- spectacular. Interestingly, as the Lions were pummeling the Packers, my youngest sister said she had an idea: bacon. It was her idea, but she took it upon herself to convince me to buy it and make it. It was no bother... I enjoy bacon as much as anyone else, and boy was it good. Now my family was huddling around me asking if I could turn up the heat or cook it faster and I said "patience! Good things take time." All I do is use a flat pan and a fork to make bacon happen. The heat is set to medium-low (level 2 out of 6 on the stove's dial). After a while you really start to smell the bacon. Then we put each of the cooked strips onto a plate lined with paper towels. JUST phenomenal. We took the bacon, some pies, and other sides to my grandmothers, and all of the above was an instant hit!
Also on the table for Thanksgiving: shrimp, a pork roast my Mom made, mini chicken pot pie snackers, a Filipino appetizer called "Lumpia," salad, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, baked salmon, home made chili, cookies, a birthday cake, and the star of our show: the turkey. Even as our Thanksgiving spreads go, it was one of my all time favorites. The turkey in particular was *spectacular.* How'd my grandmother make the turkey so juicy?! Usually it's dry here and there, but this year, not at all! The skin was crisp and golden. Everything came together so wonderfully. All of us gathered for the dedication, then we ate. It was roughly a dozen of us gathered at my Grandmother's modest house. We had a great time, and boy were we full.
While we ate everything, we took in the Dallas game against the Raiders, and later, the Steelers/Ravens game. The Steelers were so close to winning it! THAT close, but a gutty effort by PIT. In between, my Aunt showed some videos of my cousin's high band competition. For my Aunt's family, the show "Glee" is close to real life -- I would think. I can't speak to the sexual overtones, but the band and cheerleaders part is pretty accurate.
Not surprisingly, Fox took the liberty of entertaining my Mom's family with a new episode of "Glee" around 9pm. Hahahahahahahahaa... well played!
This day was spent with my older sister and her daughter. I was at her apartment for most of the day, and I'd really like to express my sincere gratitude for her putting up with me watching 102 hours of college football that day, or what felt like it. I played with my niece during the day, and the three of us had lunch. Then we went back to her apartment and talked while these games were going on. The game in particular that had my attention was Oregon State vs Oregon. What a game that was! The Beavers really had Oregon on the ropes, wow. At any rate, we laughed, enjoyed some snacks, and just kicked it.
Day turned to night, and between the football and the Lakers incredible comeback at Detroit, we got word that the rest of our family was coming to visit my sister's apartment ALONG with my Aunt and her two daughters, and a friend of theirs. My sister's apartment got busy in a hurry! By the time the rest of the family came I switched it to Food Network. It was a marathon of "Diner's, Drive-In's and Dives". Everyone was saying how much Guy Fieri grosses people out with the way he eats. I don't know... I think he's just really excited about food so I wasn't really in agreement there. We were checking out some of the foods though, and they looked pretty good! As all this happened, we're shooting the breeze and eventually we left and said goodbye to my sis and my niece. Back to my parents' house...
This was a more unusual day of the weekend. My parents spent quite a lot of it attending a friend's wedding. It was their LONG and I mean LONG time friend's daughter's wedding. Man... I remember this lady when we were little kids... hard to believe a day like this could come. I never really saw her that much. IIRC, the last time I even met her was a good 15 years earlier, at a tennis tournament at UCLA that my Dad and his friend and the combined kids went to. Anyway, Saturday was her wedding w/ a Military Man (I'm afraid the branch of service escapes me), so they left me alone for a good while. My two sisters left to do some work leaving me alone for about 90 minutes. During those 90 minutes I saw the Alabama/Auburn game among other things. My parents came back from the wedding ceremony as there was a two HOUR window between it and the reception at Spanish Hills Country Club. So, they're back, they change into casual clothes for the moment, and my Dad sees me watching the "Iron Bowl" on TV. He's asking me about the teams and all and I explain that this is a battle between the #1 ranked team and the #4 ranked team and how Alabama is undefeated, it's a game to decide who goes to the SEC Championship Game, etc. THEN, he watches with me as Auburn comes back with that unbelievable missed FG-return for a touchdown. One of the greatest College Football games I've seen in my lifetime.
Remarkably, we go through all that, and there's still time for my parents to change back to their fancy wear and leave for the wedding reception. At that point it's just me and the TV in Oxnard, so I'm bouncing around between a whole lot of college games, and my sisters come back. My sister had plans, my other sister had plans too, and so before they all did their thing I ordered them a delivery pizza from Topper's. Half the pizza had pepperoni, and the other half had what they call "Spicy Sliced Sausage." I was mesmerized how much my sisters enjoyed the Sliced Sausage slices. I truly didn't expect them to care, but each of them tried a slice and LOVED it! I got the sliced sausage just for me! Haha, but there was plenty for us all.
After a while, my parents come back from the wedding and tell me all about it. It was posh! It was grand, and it was like a scene out of "Beauty and the Beast." The ballroom used for their reception looked almost EXACTLY like the movie. It was too funny! I posted a picture of it on facebook.
Yes -- UCLA torched USC that night. I am not pleased per se, but I also got the feeling that SC might have "overachieved" toward the end of the season. UCLA's win felt like course correction, and I could accept that. The Bruins have a pretty darn good football team.
If I may interject, I'm going to take this Pac 12 thought further. You might think Stanford is an odds on favorite, but I really think Arizona State is going to destroy the Cardinal. If you followed the Pac 12 most of the year, it was clear that the Sun Devils were the best team in the conference, improved throughout the year, and also beat all the best teams in the conference! The *exception* was Stanford, but let's face it, Stanford on the road is a totally different ball game. The Pac 12 championship will take place in Sun Devil Stadium. MAJOR advantage: ASU.
On to Sunday...
This was a Buffalo Wild Wings day. I didn't have much of a gameplan here, just wanted a reason to use some of the free BWW money I got from "College Gameday" (see the November Daveblog entries). I went on a lazy Sunday morning and sampled all the NFL action. My Dad and a friend of his both joined me towards the "Witching Hour" aka final hour of the Early NFL games. It was a wild one! Chicago and Minnesota nearly going to a stalemate... Jacksonville and Cleveland in a shootout... Tennessee nearly beating Indy on the road... It was fun! We stayed until about 1 quarter into the Denver/KC game. My friend left to go home, and my Dad and I joined the rest of my family who was............. at the nearby TGI Fridays!
The Friday's in Oxnard has been around since about 1995, and I was going through all the memories of evenings there with friends or siblings. Meals there back in high school, I think there was another moment, about the time I was 21, roughly a decade ago, where at the same Fridays, I was blitzed myself, and my friends at the time said "wow, we like drunk Dave! You're funny!" If you can believe this, I was an even greater lightweight then than I am now. Rest assured, I've toned it down quite a bit, but those loopy moments are still out there. but on Sunday, it as a mundane lunch with my Mom, my three total sisters, my niece, my Dad, and me. My pop and I already had a bunch of wings from B-Dubs, so we just got a soft drink and chatted together. I really had some nostalgia hit me as I looked around the ole Fridays. I was saddened to see there was not much traffic there... I wonder if the Fridays is hitting hard times? It was a late Sunday afternoon, between 3pm and 4pm. I hope it was just a slow hour.
Lunch was done, and we went home, and we got out the Christmas decorations and our artificial tree, which looks pretty nice, if I may say so myself.. Then, towards the end of the day I said good bye to my family, got my things, and went home (to be accurate, I packed my stuff in the morning). I drove the PCH back to SM and I was fully unprepared for the complete Xmas makeover Coach did to our apartment. When I left it, I had an apartment, when I returned, entered the Macy's on 34th St. in Manhattan. The decorations are rather impressive!
My friend and I spoke about football for a few minutes, then I set to the computer to write this blog entry, and that's how the long, eventful, Thanksgiving weekend ended. I hope your Thanksgiving holiday was great too! We're back at it, and I hope to see you back here soon.
Before I go: I want to let everyone know that Coach's friend Nick, my friend too, is going to be a contestant on "Jeopardy!" I can't get into too much detail for fear of undermining the production or breaking any code of secrecy, but his episode will tape on Tuesday. I'm wishing him the best of luck -- but the good news here is that a worst-case scenario still yields a $1000 consolation payout for 3rd place. 1-2-3 let's do this, Nick!