Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Worst Christmas Ever.

Warning: the story you are about to read is extremely troubling, and not suitable for small children. But I think it's a good cautionary tale about the dangers of excess.

The day after Christmas 1998, I witnessed one of the most disturbing things imaginable. It was late morning, around 9:00 AM, when I decided to eat a baked potato for breakfast, a meal I would soon regret. As I stood in my kitchen, I heard the unmistakable sound of a woman screaming. You can always tell the difference between a playful scream and a genuine scream; the sound a little girl makes while playing is far different than the scream that emits from a woman who has, say, discovered she's run out of canned pineapple while she's halfway through a Jello® recipe.

This lady was clearly in trouble. Her incoherent cries seemed to be coming from the direction of the community swimming pool. (We lived in a condominium development, and the pool was located right across the street from our unit.) When I looked out the upper window, I saw the screaming lady standing over the jacuzzi, too much in shock to move. I instructed my mom to call 9-1-1 as I started downstairs to see what was going on. Upon arrival, I immediately wished I had stayed inside. The woman had found the body of a dead man floating in the jacuzzi.

"Chestnuts roasting on an open fire..."

The dead guy—let's call him . . . "Stu"—had just been released from prison a day or two earlier, and had pretty much been drinking ever since. Stu decided that (in the spirit of Christmas) he would spend Boxing Day drinking in the jacuzzi. Although this was a particularly warm holiday season, Jack Frost was most assuredly "nipping at his nose," if you know what I mean. So the new parolee set out to enjoy his first days of freedom with copious amounts of the most unnecessary pool accessory of all—a case of hootch.

Worst of all, at some point during a long night of boozing in the jacuzzi, our hero decided the next best way to celebrate the holiday was to release himself from the uncomfortable bindings of his bathing suit. Now, I don't want to be judgmental, and he was, after all, a new parolee enjoying real freedom for the first time in who knows how long, but I think getting naked and drunk while flying solo in a community jacuzzi right under the warning sign would have been enough to guarantee Stu a lump of coal next Christmas anyway.

Anyhoo, sometime in the early morning hours, with the combined effects of so much alcohol and steaming hot, foaming jacuzzi-water, Stu experienced exactly what the large, red-lettered warning sign next to the jacuzzi said would happen.

Intoxication combined with excessive heat plays havoc with a person's blood presure. Stu had apparently passed out and subsequently drowned.

Poor Stu's corpse must have simmered a few hours before the neighbor-lady located him. And that's how I came to be standing over his ghostly-white, naked, lifeless body—with a piece of my baked potato still in my mouth and Stu's ghetto blaster still pumping out the poignant strains of Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Freebird."

Merry Christmas indeed.

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Sunday, August 28, 2005

When Pecadillo was abroad.

Last February, I had the pleasure of visiting what is now my third favorite place in the world; London, England. (1st being my grandparents' house in Oklahoma, 2nd being Disneyland, and—in case you're wondering—4th is the Del Taco on the corner of Soledad and Bouquet Canyon Road.)

Pecadillo in Piccadilly
Pecadillo in Piccadilly

LondonAnyhoo, in just a week, London earned itself a place in my heart previously occupied only by chili-fries and dancing midgets. I was surprised, however, to find that most of what I thought to be true about the Old World was actually based on common misconceptions.

For instance, the food is actually pretty good. I found myself a reasonably good Mexican-food restaurant, a superb English-food place called Porters, and, I'm pleased to report that British Sausage McMuffins are served with two sausage patties. How 'bout that! One night, I ate a chicken dinner at a friend's house that was easily as good as any home-made chicken I'd had anywhere else.

A nap in the tower of London
A nap in the tower of London
Also, prior to my trip abroad, I was a coffee drinker. Not everyday, but I dug it. However, after being introduced to "English Tea" (tea with milk in it) I don't think I'll ever go back. And did you know that you don't have to use a tea bag to make tea???

Nigel?Not everyone in England is named "Nigel." In fact, I didn't meet a single bona fide Nigel the whole time I was there. Now that one caught me off guard. In all the movies, British people always have names like that. Not only was my visit to London Nigel-free, I didn't meet a single "Alister," "Sinclair," "Mandrake," or even an "Artful Dodger." Surprisingly, I actually met guys named Tony, Jon, and Peter.

We totally get lied to by Hollywood.

At John Bunyan's Tomb
At John Bunyan's Tomb


Thursday, August 25, 2005

Pecadillo's Kitchen volume 1

Pecadillo cooks!

After carefully contemplating what my next post should be, I think I may have come up with something very helpful. It is my belief that a good post should be both entertaining, and useful. It is also my belief that many of my readers are a lot like me: single, with no signs of that changing anytime soon. What could be more useful than teaching my terminally single friends how to make the world's greatest nachos?

First of all, I think a warning is in order; if you're one of those people who refuses to cook anything without a list of exact measurements, then don't bother reading this; you will never hear such a thing from me. You know who you are—the type of person who will actually rake a cup of flour with a knife, so that your measurement is as precise as possible. If that's you, you make me sick. Where's your sense of adventure? How do you expect to improve your recipes? Instead of cups and quarts, I go by the Pecadillo Standard Measurement System; consisting of mostly handfuls and, well—more handfuls. If I were like you, I never would have discovered that the trick to making really, really, really, incredibly, good Kraft Macaroni & Cheese is to add nearly twice as much milk and butter than the directions say. GOSH!

Anyhoo, another warning: don't expect any strange or hard-to-come-by ingredients from me. I'm well aware that most people think it's cool to offer recipes filled with herbs and spices you've never heard of. I'm sorry, but if you have to travel all over the world just to obtain the required ingredients, that kind of defeats the purpose of cooking at home. Not only are my ingredients easy to find; they're cheap.

Also, two very crucial facts should be noted; I am by no means a cultured person, and I grew up in L. A. This pretty much means everything I cook is an Americanized rip-off of an otherwise excellent Mexican meal. Translation: If I cooked it, you can bet it's going to be very spicy and very unhealthy.

Another thing: whenever I give you a recipe, I may suggest brand names, but I leave it up to you to decide what brands to use. That may come as a shock, but it is quite logical. Have you ever eaten over at a friend's house, and everything tasted weird? You know what I'm talking about; the milk tastes strange, the bread's all wrong. They use fake butter. I hate that. Everyone has their preferences. That's why I don't force mine upon you. I will only ever suggest what works for me.

NachosAnd finally, anything from Pecadillo's kitchen is meant to be consumed by a man. I have yet to meet a woman who shares my culinary tastes. Any and all recipes of mine are meant exclusively for men; don't hold your breath for Pecadillo's Fondue Recipe. If you're a woman, and if after reading my description you feel you might enjoy the World's Greatest Nachos, then by all means, give 'em a shot. Just don't say I didn't warn you.

That being said, here's what you'll need:

  • Tortilla chips (preferably Mission Corn Tortilla Chips)
  • Grated sharp cheddar cheese (it's a bit on the pricey side but Tillamook is the best)
  • A can of your favorite chili (If you don't already know what your favorite can of chili is, then stop reading this. In fact, don't ever show your fancy-boy face at this blog again)
  • A jar of jalapeños (Mission has made yet another contribution to my refrigerator)
  • Bottled hot pepper sauce (your preference; but there is NO beating Cholula)
  • A carton of sour cream (Knudson is mighty fine)
  • A bottle of salsa (I prefer Herdez)

Arrange your chips on a plate like a ring, with a hole in the middle. I call this "the chip-doughnut." After you have heated your chili in a separate dish, apply a generous amount in the middle of the chip-doughnut. This may sound strange, but it is essential. Most people just pile the chips on the plate with the chili on top. Unfortunately, by the time you reach the bottom of the nachos, your chips will be too greasy from the chili. If doing this does not cause your chips to become soggy with orange grease, then you prefer a pathetic excuse for chili and are no longer welcome at this blog.

After filling the chip-doughnut with the chili goodness, it's time to add the cheese. Here's a valuable rule of thumb. There is no such thing as too much cheese. Taking heed of this rule will do wonders for you if you plan on mastering anything and everything from Pecadillo's Kitchen. Just be sure to apply the cheese as evenly as possible, allowing for even melting. Next, you add the jalapeños and hot-sauce (better be Cholula). No rules as to quantity; all I ask is that you refer to them with my preferred pronunciation: "jah LOP a noes."

nachosNow it's time to microwave. All microwaves are different, so I won't specify time. I've found that it works much better if you nuke it in several small spurts as opposed to one long nuking. Also, it is important to cover your plate with a splash guard. Failing to do so will dry out your entire plate of nachos. The only other thing you need to know here is that you should wait until all your cheese is completely melted; count to five; then stop the microwave. If you cook them too long, you'll notice that the cheese begins to bubble and form a hard texture. If this occurs, you've just ruined the nachos and are now forced to start over. Assuming the nuking went well, remove your nachos from the microwave, and apply sour cream to taste. More is better.

Now pour yourself an extra large drink and enjoy.


Tuesday, August 23, 2005


Is it just me, or is the word "genius" being thrown around way too much today? Apparently everyone today is a genius. Musicians, comedians, artists, and athletes alike are all widely acknowledged for their talents and declared geniuses.

RayFor instance, ever since the Ray Charles movie came out, and it became cool to pretend you listen to his music, people have been very generous with their assessment of the man's talent. Would somebody please explain to me how Ray Charles qualifies as a genius? Clearly it took a lot of talent for a blind guy to play the piano so well, especially when you consider how "coked up" he was half the time. But was he really a genius? No. Ray Charles was simply a very talented blind guy.

RayYou want to talk about a genius; the guy who invented the churro, that dude's a genius. I'd pay ten bucks to see a movie about that guy any day.

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When to quit

Have you ever been at a mall or amusement park and seen a "leash kid"? You either have or you haven't, it's not the type of thing that is easily forgotten. If you have managed to avoid such an unsettling display, I'll explain. A "leash kid" is a child that has apparently proven themselves untrustworthy in their legal guardian's eyes, and have consequently been sentenced to be permanently harnessed to their parents whenever in public. The leash usually goes from the parents arm to the child's arm, although I have seen on numerous occasions a leash that extends from the parents hand to a harness that the child wears much like a backpack.

I went to Disneyland today (one of my favorite places in the world) and saw a few of these unfortunate children tethered to their parents. What's even more bizarre, is when the parents have multiple children. It's not a pretty sight when the kids get all tangled up. Strangely, most leash kids seem to be old enough to be somewhat on their own. Most of the ones I saw today looked like they were at least six or seven.

Anyhoo, the point of all this is not to bash leash kids or even their parents. Today, I was reminded of a painfully awkward moment that happened in Disneyland a few years ago. I came across a seven or eight year old boy with a leash and made a crack to my (then) girlfriend. The joke went something like, "I wonder if the kid has had flea shots or if he just wears a collar." I seem to remember expecting to hear her laugh or at least chuckle. What I got was silence. I figured her lack of response was due to the possibility that either she didn't hear me or maybe the flea joke was too obvious. Either way, I felt I needed to make another attempt. So, in my ever-present lack of discernment and general stupidity, I went in for the kill.

"I wonder if he has his own dish or if they just keep the seat up for him?" This time, instead of just silence, I got "the look". I think every man in the world knows what that look is like. Surely my toilet seat joke hadn't been too obvious.

In my characteristically unthoughtfull and ill-perceptive nature I frantically tried to think of another zinger. Had I actually thought before I spoke, I would have saved myself more trouble. In my mind, there wasn't time to think, after all, comedic timing was at stake here; leash-boy was walking (actually, being led) away. Thankfully, before I could think of another joke, she cut me off.

She promptly informed me that she herself had once been a "leash kid" and she really didn't appreciate my comments.

And so the silence began.

Words cannot describe the feeling I felt in my gut. The closest thing I can relate it to is the way it feels when you're in a car that has just rear-ended another car, only my feeling lasted the rest of the day. I'm not sure who spoke first but, I do remember the silence lasted quite some time. In telling this story, I cannot help but think of James 3. And now, whenever I walk by the teacups, I'm reminded of that awkward silence and my foot shaped mouth.


Saturday, August 20, 2005

Yet another reason to bring my nunchucks to work.

While working my day-job at a local fish and aquarium store last week, an irate customer attempted to provoke a fight with my boss. The man looked like a cross between a bad Steven Seagal impersonator and the bad guy from The Karate Kid III. Under normal circumstances, such a person would not arouse much physical intimidation. However, on this particular day, our friend was accessorizing a "Crocodile Dundee" style knife on his belt. To be fair, it was really more like a small sword. Anyhoo, it's still unclear why he became so infuriated but one question has baffled me ever since:
What is more frightening, a man who carries a two foot knife on his belt, or a guy who tries to look like Steven Seagal?


Thursday, August 18, 2005

Is it really that hard?

Have you ever shaken someone's hand, and immediately wished you hadn't? We've all been there. Here you are, engaging in our polite and civilized method of greeting one another, and what do you get? A cold, moist, seemingly lifeless and ill-placed handshake. WOOF!

Why do guys do that? I say guys because women are supposed to have soft handshakes. Men, however, are supposed to have a man's handshake. That's like, one of the requirements.

Last December, while attending Les Miserables in downtown Hollywood, I noticed that pseudo-celebrity John Tesh was seated a few rows in front of me. John TeshDuring the intermission, I found myself standing behind him in the snack line. Now I don't know why, but for some reason I find it funny to meet lame celebrities. Not A-listers, mind you, I'm talking about E-listers here. If I were on a plane with Tom Hanks or George Clooney, I really wouldn't think much of it. However, the novelty of meeting a person like Mr. T or the kid from the Dell commercials is extremely amusing to me; I still enjoy telling people about the time I ran into Sinbad at Tower records.

Anyhoo, there I was, standing behind the eight-foot-tall gargantuan known to the world as John Tesh, and I decided to make contact. At this point, there were two very important facts I was overlooking that would have convinced me to abort my mission; 1. He is an established pianist, and 2. He is John Tesh. Either of those helpful pieces of information would have been enough to rule out any chance of receiving a real handshake. Nevertheless I shook the man's hand.

At first I thought he must have been holding a dead octopus. It most certainly did not feel like a hand, or any recognizable extremity for that matter. When I looked down to see what it was I was shaking, I realized it was his bare hand I was holding. I was speechless. What could he have been doing to make his hand feel like that? Does he soak it in mayonnaise? Had it been frozen and then recently thawed? Had he sustained some sort of chemical burn? Not likely. Unfortunately there was and is no logical explanation for the moistness of that man's hand. However the strength, or lack there of, can and should be addressed. Sadly, this is not a problem that only a few people encounter. On the contrary, this is an epidemic that has haunted millions. When shaking a person's hand, there are a few rules to know:

1. If your palms are sweaty, wipe them off on something before you shake someone's hand. Anything will do; your shirt, the inside of your pocket, the family dog, anything. Just don't allow another person to touch your hands if you've been stricken with "Tesh syndrome".

2. Get your palm square onto your partner's. None of this half-handshake monkey business. There is never, EVER a reason for that to happen. Nobody wants your lifeless hand slothfully latched onto theirs. Be a man! Get your entire hand all the way around the other guy's. Remember, your shaking hands, not fingers. If you have ever violated rule number two you should be ashamed of yourself.

John Tesh3. Don't get fancy. All too often people attempt to cover up their poor hand shaking skills by adding a snap or a slap or any combination of non-shaking movements. Remember, your not an expert. If any of these rules seem new to you then chances are, you'll never be an expert. While we're on the subject, Pastors and Seminary students alike seem to enjoy adding an arm-grab at the end. If you've never witnessed this, try to imagine a normal handshake, only with the left hand (typically the non-shaking hand) placed on the tricep of the shakee's right arm. It's almost like a way of securing the normal shake, forging a solid greeting that is unmistakably diplomatic. This form of handshake is acceptable, however it's usually reserved for Pastors and/or anyone over the age 65.

4. Never shake hands with John Tesh. I learned this rule the hard way.

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