Missed Opportunities

February 7, 2008

Mood: Happy.
Music: Subdivisions (Live), Rush
Game: Rock Band (360), Call of Duty 4 (PC), Assassin’s Creed (360), Hellgate London (PC), Ratchet and Clank (PS3), MMO Beta (PC)
Book: Heat, Bill Buford
Watching: Not much.
Weather: Cold, Blue Skies.

In a few short months, I will be 40 years of age.

I can’t even believe I wrote that…even less so that it’s true.

When I think about all the things I’ve done over the last 20 years, and all the things I’ve wanted to do, I realize that I probably COULD have done a chunk of them if I had committed myself to them earlier, and just done it.

Among the top of the list of things is definitely cooking professionally. I really love to cook. I read cookbooks like other people read novels. It’s pretty interesting that I actually rarely cook things from cookbooks (I do sometimes) but more often, the recipes inspire me when I do cook something.

I’m reading “Heat” now. It was written by a former editor/writer for the New Yorker, who decided he wanted to see what it was like to cook professionally, see the food world from the inside, and ended up working at Babbo, Mario Batali’s restaurant. The book is largely anecdotal, with plenty of insight into Batali and other things.

Up until a few weeks ago, I was still entertaining the idea of maybe trying cooking professionally. When I went to Olivier’s and Co, a really excellent olive oil shop, I guess my appearance and behavior led the manager to ask me if I was a professional chef. Of course, she could say that to everyone…but I still was a little flattered.

In any case, while reading Heat, I realized that I really couldn’t do it. Not any more, really. I don’t think I’m temperamentally suited to such a thing. I know I don’t have the kind of energy I used to. Motivationally, I don’t think I could really put in the kind of hours a restaurant would require. I do like the idea of working hours doing prep…seeing how a kitchen is run. But in reality? Probably not. Like anything else, work is work.

In one of my favorite books, Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson writes the following:

“Until a man is 25, he still thinks, every so often, that under the right circumstances he could be the baddest motherfucker in the world. If I moved to a martial arts monastery in China and studied real hard for 10 years. If my family was wiped out by Colombian drug dealers and I swore myself to revenge. If I got a fatal disease, had one year to live, devoted it to wiping out street crime. If I just dropped out and devoted my life to being bad.

Hiro used to feel that way, too, but then he ran into Raven. In a way, this is liberating. He no longer has to worry about trying to be the baddest motherfucker in the world. The position is taken. The crowning touch, the one thing that really puts true world-class badmotherfuckerdom totally out of reach, of course, is the hydrogen bomb. If it wasn’t for the hydrogen bomb, a man could still aspire. Maybe find Raven’s Achilles’ heel. Sneak up, get a drop, slip a mickey, pull a fast one. But Raven’s nuclear umbrella kind of puts the world title out of reach.

Which is okay. Sometimes it’s all right just to be a little bad. To know your limitations. Make do with what you’ve got. ”

I take a lot of inspiration from that. It mirrors exactly how I feel. I used to think that if I just said “fuck it” and went off to do something, I could be awesome at it….but now, maybe it’s better that I enjoy it at my scale.

I’m still a good cook.

And Andy, I cook outdoors, on propane. While it doesn’t have the brute enjoyment of wood/charcoal, it does give me a lot more control, especially for true barbecuing, like ribs or pulled pork. I have a smoke box I use in the gas grill, and I get really good results.

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Nobody’s Perfect.

February 4, 2008

Mood: Really Happy..
Music: Dear God, Sarah McLachlan.
Game: Rock Band (360), Call of Duty 4 (PC), Assassin’s Creed (360), Hellgate London (PC), Ratchet and Clank (PS3), MMO Beta (PC)
Book: Looking for a book again…
Watching: Tom Brady melt down.
Weather: Cold, Clear

Nobody’s perfect.

Especially not the New England Patriots.

I’d like to thank the New York Giants for finally stepping on Tom Brady’s throat. Can we please stop with the “Tom Brady is the greatest QB of all time” now? The man was rattled all game, and that last possession made me laugh hysterically. Watching Brady get sacked on second down to put them at 3 and 20, Brady flat on his back, wondering what the license plate number was….

When Burress caught that touchdown with less than a minute to play, I remember saying “OK, Greatest QB ever. Show us how great you are.” Good kickoff, no return…. Four and out. Watching the Giants absolutely slam Brady into the turf and saying “Boy…that looks like a team in trouble.” Brady getting up screaming at his offensive line. Screaming at Welker as he missed a pass he couldn’t have caught if he had a rocket pack on his back.

Brady isn’t a great quarterback. When things go wrong (which, to be fair, isn’t that often in New England) he screams at everyone…as if it’s not his fault. When Eli Manning threw a ball that, by all rights, should have been caught, you SAW him slap the receiver on the shoulder and say “My fault.” Brady got in the face of one of his key receivers and gave him shit for not catching a pass that was well behind him.

I’ve been saying it for years. The man is lucky, and blessed to be on a team that is talented, and all the playcalling goes to his strengths, which is short, quick routes and screens. He doesn’t throw the ball long, and has no touch for it. Under pressure, he gets snippy and starts playing the blame game. In short, he’s not a hero. He’s a component.

The Giants figured it out in week 17. They knew what they had to do. Going in to the Super Bowl, the defense had a clear plan…fuck with Brady. Rattle him. All that talk about how calm he is, what a great leader he is…the Giants knew better. They got to him. Got in his face. Put him in the turf. “Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora walked up to Michael Strahan and said, “Do you realize if we don’t hit Brady, we don’t win the game?”” They knew what to do. “”All week long, we talked about even if Brady gets the ball out, we have to hit him to disrupt his rhythm,” Spagnuolo said. “The more we do it, the more it’ll pay off in the end.””

The Patriots believed their own press. When Burress said the Patriots were only gonna score 17 points, Brady laughed. He LAUGHED. You know what, Tom? 14 is less than 17.

Every person on that field is a professional football player. They know that on any given day, things can go your way…or not. “Any Given Sunday” son. Guess what? You fucked with the football Gods. On week 17, the Giants put every starter in…played their guts out. You would have thought that their playoff spot was on the line. It wasn’t…but the football Gods remembered. They let them beat a superior Dallas team. The football Gods killed one of their all-time favorites, Brett Favre. In freezing weather. In fucking Lambeau. Did Tom Brady think that the football Gods were gonna let him walk away with this? If Brady was gonna win this one, he needed to be hungry…needed to understand that this was gonna be a serious challenge.

But he didn’t. He laughed. And the Giants, while not the old Giants of LT (the REAL LT,) Harry Carson, Carl Banks, and the rest…they made the Patriots hurt. Brady, probably already wobbly on that bad ankle, learned the hard way.

Bill Simmons, the ridiculously Boston-biased writer from ESPN, actually had a pretty good article today, and an excellent point:

“…after the Patriots stunned the Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI. This time around, we were the Rams. We were rooting for the unlikable double-digit favorites with an unstoppable offense. We were the arrogant fans who dismissed the chances of the other team. We had the Super Bowl postgame party looming that had been a hot ticket all week. Then the game started, and everything went right to hell. We looked flat from the first minute. Our underdog opponent gained confidence, punched us in the mouth a few times, kept punching and punching, caught a few breaks, threw a few more punches, ran out of gas near the end, looked to be done … and out of nowhere, rallied for a miracle drive to steal the championship. We stood there slack-jawed while the other fans celebrated; we were unable to breathe and wondered what the heck just happened. And then we hustled out of the stadium like we were fleeing a crime scene.

The symmetry was incredible. It was staggering. It was epic.”

The football Gods smiled.