My parents hardly ever go on vacation. They made a couple of jaunts to Hawaii a few years back when the economy was better and air travel was cheaper, but they've otherwise elected to spend their leisure time closer to home, on one of L.A. County's beaches. However, with the impending closure of Yankee Stadium for new digs next door, my Jersey-bred mother wanted to take in one last game before its gates were shuttered forever. My father bleeds Dodger Blue and loathes the boys in pinstripes (a running theme in their 32 years of marriage) but loves my mother more and they planned a week-long jaunt to the east coast. After hitting up Friday's Yankee game, they'd visit with my mom's family for a few days before heading south to Asheville, North Carolina. My dad fell in love with the area when he was there on business a few years back. Ever since, he's been talking about unloading our grossly over-valued West L.A. home for something three times the size and one-fifth the price in the mountain enclave so they could retire quietly and comfortably.
Usually, Mandy would take care of the house and their moody, 12-year old cat while they were away. This time, since my mom had diligently checked in on my apartment and forwarded me my mail in Las Vegas, it was all I could do to repay the favor.
Thursday night, Pauly and I made our first trip over to the house. It's shady backyard was a welcome reprieve from my small, poorly ventilated apartment. He fed the cat and I grilled up some filets topped with Roquefort cheese. Polenta cakes and fresh asparagus also went on the grill for me, and for the vegetable-loathing Pauly, I sauteed some shiitake mushrooms and sliced onions in olive oil. The cat roamed the yard and we drank beer, smoked bowls, listened to music and played online poker as dusk fell.
The next night we aborted our plans to grill and decided to pick up Zankou Chicken instead. Pauly had been suffering all day since Google/Blogger's retarded bots had frozen his blogs and was preparing to move his sites if need be. He popped some pharmies and I drove us across town.
I opened the door to my parents' house and hear the familiar warning beep of the alarm, meaning I had 60 seconds to turn it off before all hell broke loose. I set down my stuff and went for the keypad. I didn't notice Pauly bolt for the back door.
Before I could enter the code and disable the alarm. Pauly opened the back door. ("I just wanted to free the cat!" he'd claim later) The alarm kicked off its deafening wail. Well, fuck.
I punched at the keypad in vain, but the damage was done. I screamed for him to shut the door, but he couldn't hear me and I ran out there to do it myself. The door was shut, and his face had gone white. I tried the code again. No dice. I didn't want to do it, but I grabbed my phone and called my parents. Before I could get two sentences out, the house phone rang.
"That would be the police. I have to get that, hang on" I said to my father, who sighed heavily from 3,000 miles away.
It wasn't the police on the phone-- it was the alarm company.
"Yeah, hi-- I'm these guys' klutzy 31-year old daughter whose totally faded boyfriend opened the back door before I could punch in the code. How do we turn this thing off? Yeah, don't send the L.A.P.D., everything's fine."
What ensued in the next half an hour involved a screwdriver, unplugging red wires and black wires, the use of a flashlight and a trip to the basement.
"I feel like I'm in Die Hard or something" I quipped to the alarm rep.
The Zankou Chicken was cold by the time all was said and done. I ate it on the picnic table outside, drenched in sweat after the whole ordeal. I gave a nibble of chicken to the cat, who was completely traumatized. Pauly apologized and I told him I wasn't mad.
Yesterday, we returned and spent nearly the whole day there. We grabbed breakfast at Junior's and played Saturdays with Dr. Pauly from the back yard. He was almost Gigli when he ran into set-over-set, and I lasted through about half the field before getting it all in with a Broadway straight on the turn vs. AgSweep's set of aces, but she boated up on the river to take down the pot. GG me. While Derek battled his way to the top spot, I played five HU razz SNGs (what?) and won four of them. Congrats to Derek on his second SwDP win!
We fired up the grill for dinner. Well, actually I did the firing, and gave it a little too much gas. The flames exploded in my face and I heard the sizzle of burning hair.
Thankfully, no eyebrows or eyelashes were lost. It didn't even hurt. However, a small swatch or hair along my forehead was completely singed off. That's going to be an interesting one to explain to the hairdresser.
Pauly made cajun-rubbed burgers with pepper jack cheese and I grilled corn on the cob and topped it with garlic butter. Yummmmmmmmo. Totally exceeded all expectations.
Then... there was the lime-tossing debacle. Pauly had totally crushed me at grapefruit tossing two nights before, and decided to invent a version of his "Inside the Limes" game that he and Otis had pioneered at the WSOP. He selected a diamond-shaped swath of the back patio and decided that if you hit a certain area with your lime, you won a designated amount of money. There were four large $1 sections, four smaller $5 sections, four even smaller $10 sections, and the center two bricks in the diamond were the $20 grand prize. We got two tosses a round. I also got to "shoot from the ladies' tees," a four-pace handicap toward the diamond (which became quite controversial later in the game).
I quickly jumped out to a $24 lead, figuring a way to bounce the lime off the lip of the fireplace so it landed in the $5 spot. Soon the lead grew to $44, and Pauly started mounting a comeback. He tried a little trash-talking when he narrowed my lead back to $29, but I wasn't having any of it. I hit two $10s in a row and was back up to $49 when he took a bathroom break.
After that, as darkness fell, it was just a massacre. I was throwing anywhere from $6-$15 a round and Pauly kept hitting donut holes. He blamed the low-hanging tree branch for interrupting the arc of his lime. He blamed the quality of the lime itself. He claimed my handicap rigged the game too far in my favor. Maybe so, but he didn't quit me until I was up by $153.
Commence mega lime-tossing tilt. A slice of chocolate silk pie helped abate it only a little.
I didn't last much longer after we drove home. I popped a muscle relaxer, having tweaked my back while sneezing in the shower that morning. The feeling that ensued was an odd sensation of being active in mind but completely useless in body. I fell asleep halfway through the second set of the Phish Walnut Creek DVD Pauly just got in the mail.
Tonight's menu included BBQ chicken, baked potatoes slathered in garlic butter, grilled asparagus and garlic bread, washed down with Stella Artois. We've definitely been eating well since temporarily acquiring a grill and a back yard.
I don't think I'm a very good cat sitter, though. She seems utterly depressed in my father's absence.
(For food photos of the above referenced meals, check out Pauly's Flickr page .)