Tuesday, March 24, 2009

American Pie

Josh started his new job, yesterday- and we decided to celebrate with a great big slice of pie. For this particular pie-outing, we decided to stop by Baltimore's famous Pie Shop:

Proprietor: Rodney Henry est. 2003

We drove over (its walking distance, but its so cold outside)- and got in the door, just a bit before closing time. The owner, Rodney Henry, was right at the register, taking an Apple pie out of the oven behind him (He was baking the entire time we were there!)

As a die-hard cake lover, I have to admit, the smell was intoxicating as a wafted from the pie display case and oven, through the door. I couldn't wait to sample the buttery crust, of a bubbling hot pie.

I ordered a slice of hot apple pie, and a glass of whole milk (I'm a skim milk drinker, but it seems like there's only one way to eat apple pie). I forgot to take a picture of the pie slice, until after I ate it- but I assure you, it was great looking and delicious.

Definitely one of Josh and I's new favorite places on "The Avenue" (West 36th Street in Baltimore, MD).

Monday, March 16, 2009

The Professional

I'm starting a new job on Monday and I'm looking forward to it. It took a while to find a permanent position...I was doing some temporary legal work - document review - for a few months as I looked, but even that dried up in this economy. I can't imagine what it would have been like to have attempted to stay up on my bills in DC, NYC, LA, or San Francisco, but luckily I live in Baltimore, which is about as cheap as cities on the East Coast come.

A lot of people go to law school because they can't think of anything to do with themselves after college. Plenty of people go because they've dreamed about it for years, too. Ultimately, only about 10% of law students enjoy the experience. I knew one guy at William & Mary who had no idea that anyone else wasn't having a great time. Nice kid, if a bit on the doofy side. The problem with all of these new lawyers is that there's only a certain number of entry level jobs in the legal world. Most employers are looking for 1-2 years of experience. I just passed that threshold in the last few months, although my experience was far from ideal. If you graduate from the top 10% of your class, you can generally pick your own job. Then there's the other 90% of us...where you need to either have connections or really kill yourself finding a position. I didn't look while I was in school, concentrating on graduating (the hardest challenge of my life). I did pass the Bar on the first try, though, and arranged a very cool internship with a State's Attorney's Office while I was waiting for my results. I got to work on a few trials and generally kicked ass (including essentially directing the prosecutorial strategy for one murder trial) but ran up against the Maryland budget shortfall, and never got the chance to be hired as I was something like third in line.

After work as a paralegal in all but name (and for lower pay than a paralegal) for six months, living at home with my folks in Rockville, I got hired as a proper associate in Baltimore. The problem was the firm...shady and without any support or organization. My boss was one of the worse human beings I've encountered, although far from the worst (he was more of a delusional, lazy megalomaniac than a psychopath). In a firm with the room for a maximum of 3 associates at a time, 6 left in one way or another over the course of 10 months, including me. Not my favorite memory, and it stays off of my resume.

So, what happens to people who aren't like me, in the sense that they actually had to take out and not immediately pay off loans in order to pay for their schooling, but who are like me in the sense that their careers don't rocket into the stratosphere from the point they graduate? In this economy? Without even document review work to fall back upon (a very boring job, but stress free and reasonably paying)? Hard to say. I guess they have to choose between living on their own and paying back their student loans, if they can even afford to do either.

The worst part is that everyone who does pay for law school thinks that they'll make back that money without a problem. They see it as an investment. In the meantime, more than 3,000 lawyers were laid off from big firms in the last month or so - and here, I'm talking about the grizzled veterans and the top-of-the-class kids.

These days, I wonder if it's all just another pyramid scheme, with 10,000 new suckers every year. The market is so flooded it might as well be called Atlantis.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Eastern Promises

Josh is Back! Yay! Someone to annoy and harrass. And I started bright and early.

Around 6:45am this morning, I awoke Josh, who altogether-due to his trip- has had about 10 hours of sleep in the past two days- and told him I wanted to see the sunrise from our porch.

Knowing nothing about watching sunrises, I proceed to cajole him with promises of blankets and hot cocoa (neither of which I had any intention of providing)- and letting him know that the sun will be out soon at 7:18am.

We get outside, and I enthusiastically begin snapping pics of our sunrise adventure. Josh angrily awaits on the porch (he loves romantic notions- but rarely wants to play them out-too much work he says).

We sit in the morning cold for about 10 minutes before I realize that its getting brighter outside, but from our great view;

we aren't seeing any changing colors or sunrise activity...

That's when it occurred to me that the sun, rises in the east- and we have a western view.

Maybe we'll try for tonight's sunset...

Maybe not.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Low Budget High Roller

There are two very good reasons to avoid using ATMs in Atlantic City casinos: 1) the exorbitant $4.50 fee (matched, unfortunately, by the very sneaky Bank of America); 2) no $20 bills, only fifties and hundreds. I owed eighty bucks to the guy who booked the room, due to the fee being split three ways (one guy flaked...), and wanted to maybe gamble with a total of $40, with another thirty-ish in my wallet already. That wouldn't have been a bad idea, really, thinking ahead, except that it was sometime around 5 AM and my boy Jared and I wanted to play some cards, and his friend Matt had disparaged limit Texas Hold 'Em earlier in the day. Between the alcohol I had consumed over the course of the night (relatively lightly buzzed at the point I sat down to the poker table) and general exhaustion, I was somewhat susceptible to suggestion. Also, I've only ever played no limit Hold 'Em, but not with this kind of money, and not walking in as a severe shortstack. But I'm skipping ahead too much, I think.

Nicole dropped me off in front of Pickles, the bar outside of Camden Yards, where I was meeting Matt and Jared to make the drive up to New Jersey. We took two separate cars, and arrived sometime around 9:30 PM at the Tropicana.

That's Matt to the left of the picture and Jared to the right.

After we checked in and stashed our bags, it was off to the in-casino sports bar for $5 forty night. As I downed two giant jugs of Yuengling, we were joined by two friends (Brian, I believe, and another guy whose name I forget) of Matt's who happened to be in town for a poker tournament. Sitting around a table were four guys with wedding rings and myself. Needless to say we were nigh invisible to the local wildlife, which was just as well.

Matt bet the nameless guy, who I will call John, because why not, that he couldn't handle chugging two forties in two minutes. John downed them impressively (pouring out cups and handling each with about three swallows, with only minor spillage) then started talking about getting arrested because his wife wouldn't let him smoke marijuana in private, instead forcing him out to his car, where he was spotted. Ah, good times.

Eventually we wandered down to some kind of dance club thing, also in the Tropicana. While the rest of us were otherwise occupied, Jared went ahead and paid the $5 cover to the place (they had a DJ), in spite of it being over-priced, over-loud, and not exactly over-crowded. We were tourists, sightseeing back to our own days of singledom, with binoculars. I have had some great times with Jared, back in the day, but otherwise I've never been a bar person. There were a few monitors with silhouetted strippers, as well as one or two scantily clad women writhing around with each other, begging for attention...and receiving it brazenly.

I purchased an (decidedly non-forty-ounce) Amstel Light for $5 after being told that Delerium would cost me $20. Yeah, that wasn't going to happen. Jared, tired of all of the fluid in beer, ordered a martini. It was all vodka and olives, and huge (also probably single-handedly responsible for his hangover today). I have no idea how much that cost. Jared and John and I drifted over to a table, and it became increasingly clear that John was drunk off of his ass. After he nodded off to sleep a few times, the bouncer came over to tell us that he had to stay awake or leave, so we spent a few minutes prodding him before I decided to step outside and call Nicole, because I missed her, and we'd texted so I knew she was up. While I was gone, John spewed something upwards of 80 ounces of fluid from his mouth onto the floor of the club, serenaded by Jared's hysterical (and rapidly receding) laughter. I didn't notice the reams of paper towels on the floor when I came back in to the noisy place, but did witness John's stumbling retreat from the wet spot, presumably towards a dry bed.

The rest of us left after another half hour or so and headed to a local pub (actually stepping outside and crossing the street) for some 2 AM drunk food...I had a pizza burger and a Magic Hat, for a total of $14. Delicious in my pleasantly buzzed state. Somehow Jared and I challenged Matt and Brian, or vice versa, to a game of pool. There were three tables in the place, all taken. One was currently the property of a pair of very good players. Matt and Brian offered to play them for it in order to allow us to play a game against our friends. After M/B got destroyed, Jared and I took a turn. $1.00 in quarters. Jared is usually a better player than I, but he was off his game. Still, we managed to win by using strategy, which was great. Plus, bragging rights. By now, it was inching towards 4 A.M., and Jared had wanted to play cards, which brings us back to the start of this blog.

Life lesson: never break a $100 bill into chips at a no-limit table where you intend to play unless you are perfectly willing to lose $100. For that matter, never play no-limit when you only have a $100 bill. I folded a lot of hands before getting an Ace-Queen, still with $95 in front of me. I bet $10 pre-flop and almost everyone folded, with the exception of one guy with a huge stack of chips in front of him and far too many drinks in him. The flop was King-King-Jack, and both of us checked but I was pleased to note that I could get a straight with a ten. The turn, a Queen, and I figured I had the high two pair with an Ace kicker, a good hand. I bet $15, looking to buy the pot. He re-raised another $20, and I considered the possibility that he held a King, but decided to see the river, hesitating because, of course, this would exceed the limits I had set for myself. The river was a seven, no help to anyone. I checked, he raised $35, essentially putting me all in (I would have kept $2.00 for a later big blind). He was representing the King, but had bluffed on earlier hands, playing fast and loose. Nicole tells me that I should have called the hand. Maybe I should have. I do think he had the King and lured me in with the check on the flop. Anyways, it would've been a lot better if I'd had only $40 in chips on the table, which had been my intent if not for that damn ATM and some foolishness. Perhaps I could have taken some chips off of the table in between hands. Ah well.

Jared made a stupid move two hands later, thinking his opponent was bluffing when there was two pair on the board and Jared held an Ace. He wound up down about $25. We retreated back to the room we were sharing with Matt (still out drinking with Brian...they'd show up at 7:30 AM, about a half hour before I woke up completely and a few more before Jared and Matt would - I wandered around a bit and called my lovely girlfriend).

Breakfast skillet: $8
One attempt at penny slots: $1
Tolls: $15 (instead of gas)
The experience...well, let's say it was worth it.

Home Alone 8: Lost in Baltimore

Just Morty and me, all weekend

I think it's happened. I think it's official, and there's nothing I can do about it. I've turned into that 'type.' You know what 'type' I'm talking about- the 'We-'er' type. The Person in a Relationship that is so used to starting their sentences with 'Significant Other and I'- that when said SigOther is gone, you're kinda lost.

As you can see from the aforementioned post, Josh is spending the weekend in Atlantic City with his guy friends. Now, while I'll never ever begrudge him a weekend with 'the boys'- as a matter of fact, I encourage it- I can't help but realize that because we spend so much time together, I don't have much to do when he isn't around.

There are always the standard 'go-to's'- cleaning, laundry, new recipe, manicure, haircut- but realistically, who wants to do most of those things when you have free time. I do have a few girl/guy friends in the area- but not one is available on a whim. It's so different from my college days when there was TOO much to do. Several Parties, or if I didn't feel like going out- there was always just getting together with a bunch of friends and watching movies in someone's dorm. It was fun- all the time.

I wonder if this is what life holds for the 'couple' for the rest of our lives. It's good while he's here (great, even)- but when he's gone- I'm half missing. Not my attempt at being cheesy- but seriously reflective...is it any good that I am this reliant on another individual for entertainment? Does this happen to everyone- or am I alone (both literally and proverbially) Hmm...

Friday, March 13, 2009

Introduction to Josh and Incipient Weekending

About two months ago, an old friend of mine asked me to go this weekend with him and another two guys to Atlantic City. Now, at the time, I was wrapping up (without my knowledge that it was ending) a temporary gig doing document review. To those who don't know me, I suppose I should at least introduce myself to the point of saying that I am, technically, a lawyer. I got sworn in to the Bar in December of 2007 and was hired for a real gig a month-ish ago, with my new job starting in 10 more days. The economy is horrible for new lawyers, and there are many, many new lawyers. Something like 10,000 per year are pumped out by law schools. Usually, they are people like myself who did not know that they wanted to be a lawyer long before graduating college. Personally, I thought that I would attempt to make a living in art, first, and then tried (substitute) teaching. So I guess those who can, do, those who can't, teach, and those who can't teach go to law school. Actually, I could teach pretty well, but I didn't have the patience for administrators and parents as much as I did for the kids, who were usually pretty great (with the exceptions of the poorest and richest demographics of Montgomery County, Maryland)...I also didn't enjoy the whole teaching-to-the-test thing that's been going on for the last while, due to No Child Left Behind. I also had some talent for the art stuff but never had the necessary passion/craziness/addiction. So I became a lawyer.

If you read my posts, you'll find that I tend to think in tangents, digressing, ebbing and flowing back to the same point. I have ADD. Actually, I've got a few other learning disabilities, too. This has meant, over time, that I learned how to think in different channels from other people. Often, I'll arrive at a correct/insightful/surprising conclusion because of this. More often, I'll get distracted by something shiny. Law school was very, very difficult for me, but I got through. Passing the Bar wasn't anywhere near as hard as getting through three years of drudgery and forced formulaic thinking.

Anyways, there are new law schools opening up all the time, because a university can charge as much for each year of a law degree as any other graduate program, but with considerably less overhead. All you need are lecturers and lecture halls and a law library, as compared with, say, a steady stream of cadavers. I happened to go to a pretty good law school, William & Mary, ranked somewhere around 30th in the country. It should be getting a bit higher, actually, because they recently renovated/upgraded the law library. By recently, I mean during the 3 years of my time at the school. I had gone there largely because of how quiet and peaceful it was, and lived right next to the school, in graduate housing, and they went and started construction when I was about a semester in to my higher, higher education. Ah well. I should've gone to George Washington University, but I didn't like their campus and, you know, hindsight is 20/20, etc.

So yes, I have a new job and I'm looking forward to starting it. First, though, I'll be going with a few guys I know from back in the day (circa 1995) to Atlantic City. Is this a good idea when I had to ask my folks for a bridge loan? Simply put, no. I don't intend to put down more than $25, in terms of gambling, and will be sharing a room with three other guys who are also all in serious relationships. If I win, I'll play with my winnings, but I am not counting on winning. Never risk more than you're willing to lose. This is more about me spending some quality time with a best friend of the past, the one who invited me, than anything else. All the same, I feel guilty about doing anything without a steady paycheck, and I don't like that I'll be leaving my girl at home alone, even if it is just for a day.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Recession + New Home = Entertainment and Dining Innovation

This is the first post on the new blog, and I figured I'd just jump right into it- and skip the whole 'we're an interracial/interfaith yuppie-tastic couple', living in the inner city, and starting a cliche blog' schpiel...IT'S A RECESSION, Y'ALL!!!

And with the recession, comes innovation. As someone who's always been a 'spendthrift' and 'deal enthusiast,' it's surprising to me that it takes our country being in dire straits before we start seeing penny pinching News Reports, and Money Wise articles printed daily. I'm thrilled that the world is finally coming around (and that I don't seem so cheap anymore)- but I also believe that the new frugality that people are being forced to experience is something to be embraced as a way of life, long after this recession has faded into distant memory.

Joshua and I (Joshua being the lighter and righter half to my chocolatey goodness)- comes from a background where there has always been a decent bit of financial support- and rarely wanted for much, growing up. Fortunately, he still possesses a keen fiscal sense- and can never pass up a good deal (more on why 'passing up a good deal' is important sometimes- later). This has aided in our compatibility, with Joshua often saying to me, "This is why I love you," after I tell him I would never accept flowers as a gift- because they're too expensive and just die (we have a 'special' relationship). With our personalities combined, we've been able to develop a sense of self-sufficiency that can weather any economic storm.

We had become accustomed, as is part of dating ritual, to going out to dinner as frequently as 4 times a week. Never would our stingy personalities let us have a $100/plate meal- but $5-$10 bucks a person- can really add up! We've taken to figuring out how to replicated our favorite dinners out- at home. That's right...We're using the kitchen, the stove, going to farmers markets, and the Asian market. It's crazy, it's yup-tastic (def; to behave in the manner stereotypically reserved for Young Urban Professionals or Yuppies), and it's delicious. I've decided to use this post- and maybe some others for our better finds (entertainment, cheap eats, and recipes).

Last evening Joshua and I had Sushi for dinner. And no- we didn't spend $60 bucks eating out at our favorite restaurant in Baltimore- we made it ourselves, at home!

I know, I know, daunting task, right? Should I risk seafood poisoning, just to quell my burning desire for wasabi laced yellowtail? The answer is simply...Yes. It's just isn't as difficult as it seems- not to mention, that there are many good reasons why sushi is a great dish to replicate for yourself at home...

1. Sushi rarely, if ever, requires special spices- so if you are one of those people who has attempted chinese food at home- and was frustrated that your "Fried Rice," didn't taste quite right- Sushi may be for you.

2. It's fast. As long as you've prepared your Sushi rice in advance (it only takes an additional 20 minutes if you haven't)- you're looking at a 30 minutes or less to the table. You can't even get your sushi that quickly if you drive to the restaurant and order it.

3. You can try all the flavors you never had the guts (or funds) to order before. Never had eel? Give it a go. Crazy for Conch? Wrap it up. There are countless options- even Thai-Style Sticky Coconut Rice and Mango Rolls- that you can create.

So now that you're convinced that this is the way to go- here is where to start:

1. A quick trip to your local Asian Market or Trader Joes for ingredients- see this website for a basic list of things you'll need (I estimate about $20 bucks- east coast, mid-atlantic dollars- for equipment and ingredients- this doesn't include the cost of the fish or the bagged Edemame-Soybeans- that you can get for $2 bucks).

Sushi Equipment List: http://www.imakesushi.com/sushi-equipment.html

It may seem like $20 bucks is a bit much to spend on a 'fooding adventure' (I know some of you are thiftier than I)- but considering that you'll get over 10 rolls (at 8 pieces per roll) out of your purchases- you'll more than quadtruple your cost.

2. Next it's important to educate yourself on how to make sushi correctly- read this short step-by-step (WITH PHOTOS) and watch this short YouTube clip. It makes it ten times easier to get started.

Step-By-Step Instructions: http://www.imakesushi.com/howto/sushi-roll.html
Sushi 'How To' Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nz9EAqTBrNw&feature=channel

3. Get Rolling.

As cheesy as it sounds, it's wonderful to know that you don't have to go out to get a great meal. We've been thrilled with the way our dishes (particularly; crepes, italian, sushi, and even an at home Chipotle Burrito!) have turned out- and our bellies (and pockets) feel even happier.