Monthly Archives: August 2010

EX-CEL-LENT, he says

The search is on for Rodal’s replacement. I’ve taken some pretty big preliminary steps and am ready to make the move to driving off lots and testing out the vroom vroom.

1. Registered Rodal

Like I mentioned earlier, it’s very hard to part with $144 to register a car that you know you won’t be driving for the full year or even a quarter of a year. Also, it sucks to throw down that much money when you’re adamantly trying to save your pennies for a new car and realized long ago that you were done even spending $$ on an oil change for the Ol’ Girl. If she needs oil, she’s gonna get it a quart at a time at gas stations.

2. Got my credit score


Like everything else I avoid, I hadn’t checked on my credit score for some time. Considering the mountains of student loans, maxed out credit cards and closed accounts, I figured I already knew what the number was going to be—Awful. Oh, is that not a number? How about… Terrible. Subpar. Presents serious risk.

With a stiff drink in one hand, I took a deep breath and clicked my way through my *free credit score. (Free, my arse! Is $1 free? Is $4.95 free? Is $24 a month free?) But, alas, HUGE mistake on my report and one I’m in no rush to fix.

It seems yours truly has EXCELLENT credit. That’s right, fools. Jealous? Superb. Outstanding. A-OK. EX-CEL-LENT, as Monty would say. Truthfully, I don’t know in what Twilight Zone universe I end up with excellent credit, but I’m going to let it slide until someone tells me different.

With my EXCELLENT score in hand, I’m going to strut on car lots this weekend and see what kind of steals deals I can finagle. I am a prime person to sell to. They’d be happy to make comish off me. It’s great to be in this position for a fraction of my life.

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South African Epicuriosity, Part 1

There has yet to be a place I’ve visited where I’m not stunned by the wonderful food available. At times, I’m greeted with a cornucopia of delicacies at every step of the journey from couture restaurants to rickety street vendors. Other times, the jewels of the palate must be actively sought out. Keeping the tradition alive, my two trips to South Africa were epicurean feasts.

Sure these people love their meats. A HUGE steak of I-don’t-know-what game animal served with a side of boerewors sausage? Or would you prefer a shepard’s-pie-like bobotie and some biltong?

But this is also the land of the best Indian food I’ve ever eaten, some pretty amazing seafood, and to wash it all down? Pinotage, what else?

This miniseries of posts will explore my culinary ability to duplicate some of the best dishes I had during this latest trip to South Africa. Some were simple salads. Others were complicated entrees. All were far beyond my skill level. Contributing is MexiCAN #2, whose obsession with taking food photos, provides some of the “before” shots.

Without further ado…

Tomato and Garbanzo Fondue

Location: Bistro Sixteen82 at Steenberg Vineyards, Constantia, Cape Town

Date: Monday, June 14, 2010

BACKGROUND: This was the perfect comfort meal. This dark and dreary day that had seen calamitous rain the entire morning was also the day we decided it would be a good idea to rent a car, I mean “hire a car” and drive to Constantia for some wine-tasting since our previously planned wine-and-bike tour in Stellenbosch was rained out. After a hectic morning of staying in my left-hand lane and sampling some South African wine, we arrived at Steenberg with every intention of eating from their tapas menu. Alas, we arrived too early and had to settle for the regular lunch. A blessing in disguise…

WHY SO YUMMY: It was a tomato and garbanzo fondue over a bed of perfectly cooked couscous. I mean PERFECTLY COOKED. I’ve never tasted couscous like this. It was a complete epiphany… like my whole life I thought couscous tasted one way and then I ate this and realized just how wrong I had been. The whole thing was drizzled with this yogurt sauce and topped with fresh herbs. DELISH!

WHAT I DID: Well, I kinda completely forgot about the yogurt and the green stuff. And I had no clue what a “fondue” was in any context other than molten cheese or chocolate. My approach was simple: Grab a can of garbanzos, rinse and dump them in a pan with some tomato sauce and diced tomatoes. Add some seasoning. And what of my couscous? Well, it was cooked and that was its only similarity to the South African meal.

Of course it looked better on a plate the night I made it, but I only have photos from my lunch the day after. I swear it looked better!

PHOTOS: (top) My Tomato and Garbanzo Fondue at Constantia vineyard (Credit: MexiCAN #2); (from left) My concoction looking rather sad in tupperware (Credit: Me); looking even worse for wear after eating (Credit: Me)

I’d rather be… driving a busted-up car

For the last week, I’ve chosen to drive this beauty instead of my v-dub. Of course, it doesn’t still look like this. It’s put together, more or less, after my younger brother crashed into a dumpster. Yep, a dumpster. Let’s move on, that little chistesito is a whole different story.

I started off driving the busted up 4Runner out of necessity. Needing to take a 60-mile road trip, I knew my car would have been the wrong choice for that journey. Plus, with expired tags, that’s a lot of real estate to travel and avoid cops. Of all the times I’ve been pulled over, 90 percent have been for expired tags. It’s one of those things I never get around to in a timely manner.

At first, I had trouble adjusting to this car. All the dashboard lights are out of whack. Had to double check I wasn’t driving with the emergency brake on. Had to figure out how to stay in my lane. Had to come up with a plan B for changing lanes since I couldn’t see through the blacked-out windows.

But then, I realized something profound. I loved riding around in this behemoth. Not needing to worry about shifting in traffic. Changing lanes when I want to because I’m huge. Seated up high I can see around other cars. Dark windows so no one can see and steal my dance moves.

I doubt I’ll trade in my Rodal for an SUV. This is a fleeting summer fling I’m having. Nothing serious. I know it won’t last and I’m not looking for it to last. In the week I’ve been driving around in it, I’ve already had to make a couple trips to the gas station. That’s lame.

If anything, this has made it clear that I have to start looking for a new car. Also, I shouldn’t put off registering Rodal. I’ve missed two deadlines so instead of paying $77, now I have to shell out $144! That’s too much for a car I’d gladly ditch for one that looked like it’d been through a meat grinder a few months ago.

PHOTOS: (top) Morning after hitting the dumpster, the 4Runner looks a hot mess; (left) cinder blocks and cracked wheels; (right) dangling eyeball lights.

Espana tiene la vaca, pero Mexico el chicharito (UPDATE)

Mexico fans were promised at least FIVE games during the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. I made lofty predictions that we’d be there for both the opening match and final showdown. I swore redemption would be ours as we took out Argentina.

but what happened instead?

As per usual, Mexico didn’t advance to the quarterfinals. Aguirre quit. I hung my psychic hat after it was clear we wouldn’t make it out of June. And Argentina handled us… again. (FIFA’s apologies meant nothing.)

What has happened since everyone left winter-in-June South Africa? They’ve all gone back to their club teams. Chicharito started up with Manchester United and proved right off the bat he was a good investment.

As part of the celebrations honoring the bicentennial of Mexico’s independence, El TRI faces off in a friendly against LA FURIA ROJA. I don’t know what to make of this game. Who’s going to show up? Will it be a Mexico that’s ready to put the pieces together post-World Cup fiasco? Will it be a wash for a team who’s star players have already moved on? (Chicharito will play.) Will it be a chance for all those players who didn’t get a second of World Cup play to take part in the fun? (Memo Ochoa, perhaps?)

And what about Spain? Are they going to try to start off their reign as World Cup champs with a win? Will they go for an exclamation point? (Meaning: More than one goal)

Doing a little bit of research, I’ve found these teams have met up seven times before and Mexico has been on the short end of the stick each time. If they haven’t outright lost (five of seven), then they managed to tie (two of seven). These games, however, have never taken place at estadio Azteca… ultimate home field advantage.

TIME: 12 p.m. PST

WHERE: Univision… where else?

UPDATE

Chicharito scored the opening goal in the first half and Mexico was on the verge of its first ever win against Spain. But, alas, the other “Chi” Silva from Spain scored beautifully in the 90+ minute of play… again, Mexico fails to win.

PHOTO: Chicharito and the rest of the Mexico team face off with the World Cup champions, including scoring machine David Villa.

Post mid-year updates

Taking some time to update my status on my 2010 resolutions and other tasks I’ve set aside to do soonish.

1. Eat kosher.

Almost happened. Barely happened. Didn’t happen.

Who’s kidding whom? Of all my resolutions, this was a total throw-away. I never took it seriously. Maybe if I grew up kosher and had never experienced the joys of cheeseburgers, shrimp and bacon-wrapped anything, then I could give eating kosher a legitimate shot. But since I wasn’t… since I fondly remember breakfast burritos with crunchy bacon and chicken quesadillas, there was no way I could suppress those memories and switch on the kosher diet switch. I’m sorry. I failed. But is it really failing when you never thought you’d win? Am I cheating the system? *shoulder shrug* Who cares?

2. Run 500 miles

I thought I was getting a good handle on this until I remembered I hated running. I run because I race and I race because I want a medal. No other reason. That’s my motivation to run and that was lacking in great supply in 2010. I have only run ONE measly 5K, but I did get a huge n heavy medal out of it. That has sorta changed. I signed up for the Los Angeles Rock ‘n’ Roll in October and will soon sign up for Las Vegas Pt. 2. I’ve already started training and have, since Aug. 1, logged 9 miles, which leaves me with 391 to go.

I rounded up. I calculate that I ran about 100 miles in the first seven months of 2010. In order to meet this goal, I have to log about 80 miles/month until the end of the year or about 20 miles a week!

This may be a sliding finish resolution. If I do end up reaching it, it’ll be, as we say in Spanish, ¡de panzanzo!

3. Read 30 books

As soon as I finish Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, I’ll have 20 books left to read. I’ve stalled. I was dragging this book all over South Africa and not once popped it open. I blame Emirates well-developed in-flight entertainment. Instead of reading a book that I could have finished on ONE leg of that flight, I spent my time eating their awesome food, drinking cocktails and watching a slew of rom-com and other movies. Don’t ask me what the weird inhabitants of the island are, but if you want to know how Leap Year ends or the origin of Kristin Bell’s curse in When in Rome or what’s up with Percy Jackson’s mom marrying Joe Pantoliano, come my way…

My Zack Morris evolution

Every now and then the world gives you the little push necessary to make some big changes. Recently, in order to join the world of competent communications professionals of the 21st century, the world decided that my phone first had to die.

Granted, it didn’t “die” as in “stop working.” The battery just needed to be charged. My charger was rendered useless by a little white maltipoo named Coco, who thought it would be fun to chew through the wires. Of course, instead of buying a new charger, I decided it was time for an upgrade. And, of course, since I can never do things immediately after they happen… I was left without a phone for six days until I got my new *DROID.*

Yep, I hear an awesome little *droid* any time I get anything… a new email, text, upgrade, update… I’m still in the honeymoon stage and haven’t gotten sick of the *droid* noises, but I am marveling at the amount of junk I get.

In honor of my very first smartphone and baptism into this brave, new world, here is my cell phone evolution:

Ahh, the Nokia. It served many noble purposes. And was HUGE to boot. Does anyone else remember all the cool cases you could buy at the mall for these suckers…?

… or these suckers? Of course, I went from the HUGE nokia to the palm-sized model. I don’t remember much about this phone other than being the proud owner of one for what seemed like eons.
My first foray into flip phones was this piece of shit. By the end of my time with it, I couldn’t shut it. I carried it in my backpack and my car wide open or else all calls would drop.
Of course, since I was done with flip phones, I went back to the tried and true. I’m not sure this is the exact model. It looks shinier than what I had, but you get the point. This is around the time Jack Bauer and the rest of the 24 crew were pimping Ericsson phones.
Yep, I got the ultra cool Motorola razr. Of course, I got it maybe a year after it was in vogue and as a hand-me-down from my cool-with-the-hottest-phone-trends younger brother.
Another hand-me-down from my younger brother. So embarrassing! It served its purpose until I used it to oblivion. It was missing a handful of buttons by the time I finished using it.
The Movistar! My Mexico cell phone!. Man, they give you cheapie phones if you’re not looking to invest. I’m gonna blame Carlos Slim for this obvious backward slide in modernity. I’m talking circa 2009.
What?! It slides. I’ll take it. After my long back-and-forth battle between flippers and non-flippers, I felt like a slider was just what the doctor ordered. So while everyone else was busy with their iPhones and Blackberries, I was sliding my baby open and shut. You got nothing on me.
Another black mark on my evolution. This prehistoric little number was courtesy of Vodafone in South Africa for the World Cup. It served its purpose well. But, I never realized how much I loved predictive texting–my apologies, I mean SMS–until I came across this phone.