Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Dead Before He Did Before He Died

Here’s a definition for irony: Dave Freeman, co-author of a book entitled “100 Things To Do Before You Die,” died in his early ‘40s by banging his head in a household accident well before he was able to do everything on his famous list.

The news article reporting Freeman’s untimely and strange death mentioned that he only got about halfway done before kicking the bucket. Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman got more down in a few movie months than this guy did in his whole life. So unfortunate, especially considering he wasn’t killed doing something super-awesome. He just bumped his head in a freak basement accident or something. The least he could’ve done was have his bungee cord halfway down the length of the Eiffel Tower.

Anyway, his list included some admittedly cool stuff:

  • Mardi Gras in New Orleans
  • The Iditarod Sled Dog race in Alaska
  • The Pageant of the Masters in Southern California
  • Carnival in Brazil
  • The Cannes Film Festival in France
  • Oktoberfest in Germany
  • Running with the Bulls in Spain
  • Yom Kippur in Israel
  • The Pushkar Camel Fair in India (Whatever THAT is)
  • The Nude Night Surfing Contest in Australia

The book’s got like 90 more necessary locations and activities, but I’m not concerned about this guy’s list. I’m going to make up one of my own.

Here we go. Ten Things I Want To Do Before I Die

Learn how to do at least 50 celebrity impersonations credibly. There a few impressions I can already do reasonably well (Pee-Wee Herman, Shrek and Donkey, Spongebob Squarepants), but there are so many more that I really would like to do flawlessly, most notably Bill Cosby, Vince Vaughn, Ray Romano, Owen Wilson, and as many cast members of “The Simpsons” as possible.

Defend my wife’s honor. I’ve never really been a fighter, but once (and only once) in my life, I’d like to be put in a situation where I have to fight someone who has insulted my lady. I’m fine with this as long as the insulter is under 5’4” and doesn’t have any experience with mixed martial arts.

Put an arcade basketball game in my basement. You know the ones I mean—nets line both sides and you shoot as many tiny basketballs into the hoop as possible before your sixty seconds runs out. I don’t personally know anybody who owns one of these, but I’d like to be the guy everyone talks about because he has one. After a few drinks at the local pub, my peers would say, “Let’s go to Joel’s basement and entertain ourselves with the arcade basketball game.” Legendary.

Write a novel. I consider myself a relatively entertaining writer (I hope—is anybody reading this?), and I think that could translate well into an extended piece of fiction. There are a thousand ideas for stories floating through my head, but I never seem to have the motivation to finish any of those ideas. Someday, though. Someday.

Invent an invention. At this point, pretty much everything has been invented already. I understand. But wouldn’t it be cool to come up with something new anyway? New flavors of ice cream? A robot that does chores? A force-field that protects human epidermises from mosquitoes? There are endless possibilities. If only I liked science and math.

Polish a shotgun in front of my eventual daughter’s prom date. This is going to be awesome. I’ll have to buy a shotgun if and when I have a little baby girl, though.

Meet Michael Jordan. Working for HOOPSWORLD has allowed me an awesome opportunity to meet some of the biggest stars in today’s NBA: LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett. But the player I’d love to met more than anybody else is the basketball Jesus, MJ himself. I’ve met a few members here and there from the Jordan championship years, including Scottie Pippen (though he was half drunk when we shook hands), but His Airness may as well be royalty with the secrecy he employs when attending games. He’s a currently with the Charlotte Bobcats, so hopefully he’ll come watch a game in Chicago and I’ll get my shot. Come on, big guy. Make my life.

Catch a housefly in my bare hand on the first try in front of somebody. Things that make me look awesome are a priority. I’ve never done this, especially not while somebody was watching, but how Karate Kid would I appear if I pulled this off. Just in the middle of a conversation with someone and then swipe! So extreme.

Successfully complete an eating challenge. There are restaurants across the country that offer you a free meal if you can put down some insane amount of food. A four-pound cheeseburger or tire-sized pancake. This would make me feel more like a man, and I’m not exactly sure why.

Concoct a recipe my whole family begs me to make at holidays. Currently I’m working on a pretty delicious chili recipe for the autumn months, and everybody really seems to enjoy that. But I need a signature dish for either Thanksgiving or Christmas. Something nobody can make right but me. Something that when I die, my descendants will try to make the dish but everybody will say, “It’s not the same as when Joel made it.” I don’t know how or what, but I’m going to do this.

My list is awesome. Now it’s your turn. What am I missing?

Saturday, August 02, 2008

The Honeymoon: The Food

There are a lot of things a feller could get excited about when it comes to a honeymoon, and food is almost certainly one of them. Usually a man takes his love to a nice restaurant twice a year—once at Valentine’s Day and once for the anniversary—but on the honeymoon you get to eat great food over and over again, night after night. Not only that, but at an all-inclusive resort this delicious food doesn’t cost you any extra dime.

At Couples you simply seat yourself, pig out on whatever food you can stuff down your gullet, and walk out of the restaurant when you’re finished. Amy and I joked that when we got back to civilization we’d probably forget to pay our bill at our next TGI Friday’s excursion. We’d just stuff down our award-winning Guy Fieri hand-selected dinners and wander out of the store without a care in the world. Then we’d wander our way into the backseat of a Bloomington Police Department cruiser.

While on our honeymoon, however, we didn’t have anything to worry about. Not even tips, as workers on the resort can get fired if they take any extra cash from the patrons. There’s no better way to live, ladies and gentlemen.

The food itself was high-quality. Couples Swept Away has six restaurants, and we spent our fair share at every single one of them. In general, our daily routine started out at the buffet restaurant for a deliciously varied hot breakfast. The highlight for Amy was their thick French toast and fruit syrup, while I opted for the king of all breakfasts, eggs and sausage and bacon. For breakfast dessert I’d mix together an unholy alliance of fruit juices: cherry, orange, pineapple, and a lovely concoction called “soursop.” I’m salivating now at the mere memory.

Goodness gracious.

Lunch was almost always a burger for Amy and Caribbean Jerk chicken for me. For those of you ignorant to this delectable dish, it’s basically a baked chicken sopped in spicy jerk sauce. Then they chop the hell out of the meat and serve it to you with coleslaw. The same grill served Jamaican beef patties, which I’m not sure how to explain. Good, spicy, beefy. I’m probably not painting a good picture here, am I? We’ll just agree to leave it at, “I love native Jamaican food.”

Things varied for dinner. We ate a Thai place a couple of times, which was surprising considering Amy’s general aversion to anything not totally plain and made in America. But she was a trooper and generally enjoyed the dishes we were served. She especially enjoyed the fried bananas and ice cream that place gives out for dessert.

We also at once at the big fancy five-star restaurant on campus, Feathers. It’s won awards for being awesome, but like a lot of the stuff you see being made on Iron Chef, nothing on the menu looked particularly edible in a practical sense. Sure, everything that went into the dishes were clearly food on their own, but for the most part these smaller parts had no business being mixed together.

It was at Feathers that Amy and I ate duck and oxtail “open” ravioli (which looked more like a baby lasagna), lamb, and some ridiculous soup made out of pumpkins and cappuccino. I will say that the steak was terrific and the dessert was top notch. We weren’t sure what to order off the dessert menu, so we just got them to bring us a little bit of everything.

We actually did that quite a few times. I remember one night we were eating at a restaurant and I couldn’t decide between the lobster (which I had never tried before and desperately wanted to) and the ribs (which were ribs and therefore the trump suit). So to solve my little predicament I just ordered both, which I got. Later in the same meal, Amy and I ordered three desserts. Gluttony owned us for ten days, what can I say?

But what’s the point of being a glutton if you can’t also be a bit of a lush? The tour de force (is that the right French idiom in this context?) of an all-inclusive resort is the free alcohol. Because of the heat and the constantly full stomachs, Amy and I didn’t get fully inebriated at all the entire trip, but we did enjoy trying a bunch of new drinks and dabbling in the top shelf liquors we’d never spend $10 a mixed drink for back home.

All the tropical fruity drinks there have fun names like Blue Lagoon and Caribbean Mist and Dirty Banana. I can’t tell you how many times I just asked the bartenders to surprise me, and every single time I got back something awesome and delicious. If I could’ve tipped those guys, I absolutely would have. But I couldn’t. Free, remember?

Grey Goose, Crown Royal, and every colored label of Johnny Walker you can imagine. I spent the week rotating between drinking like a sorority girl and like James Bond. In both cases, it was pretty awesome to order whatever the hell I wanted without having to worry about the financial repercussions.

Oh, and all the Red Stripe you can drink!

The food and spirits were all top-notch, but really the whole honeymoon was just what a honeymoon should be—tropical, warm, indulgent, fattening, and fun. The only sad part of the whole thing was coming home and knowing school was right around the corner. I’ll tell you what, summers go by quickly when there’s a wedding involved. Still, it was all great from the planning to the wedding itself to our trip to Jamaica.

So to put the period on this thing before it gets too long, I’ll just say that it was all good. Yeah, mon.