Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Pickey Picker

I was recently eating pho soup in LA’s most hip, Vietnamese restaurant. Want proof? The restaurant doesn’t have its name displayed on the outside, just a blank white board where one would expect the name to be.

I’m sure this is a tactical move by the proprietors. Save money and keep the local American Apparel wearing residents happy that they go to a place you “just have to know about.” It also keeps cost adverse people like me coming because after, all how much can they charge you when they look like they opened for business that morning? In reality it’s been there for years and customers in essence pay them to keep the ambiance at “street-cred” level. Pretty genius when you think about it. Imagine convincing a girl that costume jewelry was way cool and real gold and diamonds was for squares. What a beautiful world that would be. It could happen too. Oprah, please send out a memo…please…come on Oprah! Leave men with something good to remember you by. If Jay Z can kill throw back jerseys with on line in a song then Oprah can end trips to Jareds.

The Pho Café’s real selling point, as it should be, is the pho. It’s incredibly tasty and at any point you can look down your row (there’s only on line of tables) and see people chomping and slurping way more than they are talking.

When I finally came up for air one of my friends I was dining with offered me a toothpick…from his wallet…not in plastic! My other homie took the toothpick. I declined and instead got a nicely wrapped toothpick from the café’s toothpick cup. My toothpick wielding friend was a bit put off but I can’t put something in my teeth with direct access to my blood line that was in somebody’s wallet. I appreciate my friend’s consideration and I’m floored by his conscientiousness. It’s like he’s a professional eater or something. I once tried to have toothpicks on the ready but I put them in my front pocket and my upper thigh didn’t appreciate being tenderized as I walked. Nor did my cuticles enjoy being jabbed to the point of drawing blood every time I reached into my pocket. So I decided to leave my space between my teeth clearing at the mercy of my dining establishments or until I get home and floss. Maybe wrapped toothpicks in a wallet are the answer. Guess I have to start carrying a wallet now. Baby steps.

Two Quick Side Notes (QSN):
>It’s pronounced Pha. Trust me, it is. And no, I don’t know why they spell it with an O
>The Pho Café comes up on a Google search. I guess it’s a not so hidden gem.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Still Ballin’

So I’m watching TV in my hotel room in Tel Aviv at 3am. If jet lag is indigestion, staying up past 2am on your 1st night in a time zone 10 hours ahead of yours is like eating a chili dog to fix it. There was no need to exacerbate matters; I was sleepy so I thought I better lay my head on my pillow and just relax so as not to wreck the following day’s productivity. Then a European basketball game came on and I looked up and saw Allen Iverson playing for the Turkish team, Besiktas. What?!...So much for the next day’s things to do list. A.I. on TV in Israel? My hands were tied.

Allen Iverson has a reputation, earned or not, of being a ball hog and not a team player. Maybe age has made AI kinder and gentler but from my vantage point in room 1812 he was a total team player. Some might argue that his apparent team first attitude will either be short lived or is the product of his waning ability. Maybe he has no choice but to defer to teammates because the days of him dominating by himself have passed.

One could go on for days speculating but I think the best indicator of who he is and has become is that he’s in Turkey playing basketball! A former all star, 1st ballot NBA Hall of Famer and arguably the best under 6’2” person to ever play is willing to lace up his sneaks and play in a gymnasium the size our elite High Schools play in.

I don’t know if he needs the money but my guess would be that he simply needs to play. There’s no senior basketball tour like there is in golf. Although, I think watching greats in their 40’s play hoop has to be more entertaining than watching guys in their seventies walk around in plaid pants for 3 hours.

A.I. played hard every game. He often played entire games with no breaks. He often played hurt and he did this against people who were taller and weighed more than him. Sure, he was athletically blessed but he still left everything he had on the floor every night.

I usually side with the entertainer and despite our so called egos I have meet and worked with many greats who have tasted fame, seen it run its course but still lace’em up every night and give the people what they want. Be it a stadium, cruise ship, makeshift stage in a Turks and Caicos resort or an old folks recreation room.

Only time can reveal certain things and I think time has shown that A.I. is the ultimate performer and competitor. His Turkish team won. He had 10 points. I spent the next day yawning and eye rubbing but it was all worth it. And I hope when I’m 70 telling jokes on a local channel at 3am someone will watch me and appreciate it.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Hebrew Haha

So I met up with a friend of mine who’s an Israeli Stand-up Comic. I went to check out his all-Hebrew show. Watching Stand-up in a language you don’t understand is a neat experiment, especially as a stand-up. I found myself trying to decipher the jokes by tone and body language. Kind of like how an almost blind person can sometimes see shapes, I could see the shapes of the jokes… The old bait and switch, the act out, the rant, comedian in pain over something menial and mundane and of course the beat boxing comedian was particularly easy to understand. Like love, beat boxing is a universal language.

The rhythm of the show was very similar to a show in the US. Without knowing what was said I could tell the guys in the crowd were laughing at edgy things that were either angry or irreverent. The girls were laughing at things that were familiar, energetic and friendly. The comedian “type” was also easy to figure out. The intellect, the party animal, the angry guy were all on display and easy for this non-Hebrew speaker to point out. Not understanding the words seemed to make some things clearer.

Think laughter isn’t contagious? A few times I found myself laughing with the crowd with absolutely no idea what the joke was. I caught myself each time and dialed myself back to “not a fraud”. It’s one thing to not get the joke and still laugh on cue. It’s quite another to laugh when you haven’t the faintest idea what was said. What if he was talking about flogging black people or eating babies but not ironically eating them? It’s possible. It’s not like other countries are as politically correct as we are. Still, I was captivated by the exchange between performer and audience and it really put into focus how much of the crowd’s perception of the performer is based on how they look as opposed to what they say.

The whole experienced reminded me of a friend who’s grandfather did not speak any English but still loved to watch the show “Sanford and Son” I guess “you big dummy!” transcends language.

I’m writing this blog in my hotel room in Tel Aviv watching a German court show. I have no idea what the trial is about but the woman in the yellow shirt sure looks guilty.

This blog brought me back to the time I translated English to English in a NYC laundry mat.