Thursday, November 29, 2007

Nuthin' But A Nostalgia Thang

Earlier this month, we rightfully mocked Snoop Dogg's new single "Sexual Explosion". In it, the D-O-double G channels equal parts A-K-O-N and T-P-A-I-N for what is unquestionably his worst first single off a solo album. It's since been rechristened "Sensual Seduction", cuz everyone knows alliteration sells!

And, dig the sh*tty video

Anyways, since I'm probably one of the guy's last 500 fans left, I got to thinking about Snoop's other "first singles".

Album: The Chronic, 1992

First Single: "Nuthin' But A G Thang" - Video

TBG Sez: OK, so this was actually Dr. Dre's first solo album, but the ubiquitous first single pretty much made Snoop (Doggy) Dogg's career. The juxtaposition of Snoop's nasal twang and Dre's meandering Neanderthal flow works, while the beat actually does most of the heavy lifting. One of the most influential - if overplayed - cuts in Hip Hop history.

Best Single: Same

Album: Doggystyle, 1993

First Single: "Who Am I? (What's My Name?)" - Video

TBG Sez: This one's probably more remembered for its low-budget "morphing" video and accompanying "You don't love me, you just love my doggystyle" line. Folks in Long Beach were losing their minds when this dropped, though. The George Clinton "Atomic Dog" sample would be bled to death in subsequent years and this single would end up taking a back seat to "Gin & Juice", which is arguably Snoop's most identifiable song after "G Thang".

Best Single: "Gin & Juice"

Album: Tha Doggfather, 1996

First Single: "Snoop's Upside Your Head" - Video

TBG Sez: Marred by a three year layoff between solo albums, the departure of his mentor Dr. Dre and the terrible in-house label decision to release this one just a week after Death Row Records dropped Tupac's Makaveli CD, Snoop was fighting a losing battle out of the gate. Snoop answered critics who wondered if he could recapture the magic of his first album with a resounding "hell naw". The uninspired Gap Band sample (and an even more uninspired Snoop Dogg) makes this one of his more flaccid efforts.

Best Single: "Tha Doggfather"

Album: Da Game is to be Sold, Not to be Told, 1998

First Single: "Still a G Thang" - Video

TBG Sez: Produced by West Coast beatmaker Meech Wells, Snoop's first No Limit Records single wasn't as bad as you probably remember. Snoop ditched the mush mouthed flow from his Doggfather album and spit over a sound that was a little more up-tempo than most of his biggest hits to this point. It suckered enough of us into buying this "Master P & His No Talent Friends" compilation album disguised as a Snoop CD.

Best Single: Same

Album: No Limit Top Dogg, 1999

First Single: "G Bedtime Stories" - Video

TBG Sez: Contrary to popular belief, "Bitch Please" wasn't the first single off of this album. I vividly remember watching Snoop appear on The Daily Show and airing a clip of the video. And, the video might be the only thing worse than the song. Not sure if this is supposed to be a tribute to Slick Rick's classic "Children's Story" (probably, since Snoop had previously bitten Rick's "La Di Da Di" track) but it's bad enough to make you wanna put out your (good) eye.

Best Single: "Bitch Please"'s not often that one song saves not one, not two, but three careers. Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre and Xzibit would be resuscitated from it and, it could be argued, that even Nate Dogg got another 24 months from it for just an "Ayyyyyy-OOP, Ayy-OOP, Ayy-OOP" at the end.

Album: Tha Last Meal, 2000

First Single: "Snoop Dogg (What's My Name II)" - Video

TBG Sez: I still don't get the acclaim that this song got. Timbaland's high-gloss faux-techno production has never done it for me and Snoop seems stuck in neutral, but it picked up a Music Video of the Year nomination from what used to be MTV and sparked speculation out here that this would be the album that brought Snoop back. Meh. The "Double Dutch Bus" sample isn't the least bit effective, but points for the Nate Dogg/Lady of Rage(!) hook...such as it is.

Best Single: "Lay Low"...Dr. Dre's brief renaissance continued with a superb start-and-stop beat. Snoop's underrated Eastsidaz combo had terrific mic presence and the hilariously awful Master P verse at the end is so tacked-on, you can practically hear Percy begging Snoop to let him be on a Dre track.

Album: Paid Tha Cost to be Tha Boss, 2002

First Single: "From Tha Chuuuch to Da Palace" - Video

TBG Sez: And, again, my opinion differs from that of the general public as I loved this song. Nice beat by The Neptunes with random scratches thrown in all over the place. And, while it's light on lyrical substance, this single is one of Snoop's most fun tracks. Still, it really wasn't well received by listeners, who instead clamored for this album's second single, "Beautiful". The public was wrong on that one, too, but that's another post.

Best Single: Same

Album: R&G (Rhythm & Gangsta) The Masterpiece, 2004

First Single: "Drop It Like It's Hot" - Video

TBG Sez: Three years after it was first released, I'm still torn on this one. The minimalist beat (mostly tongue clicks and a drum machine) was refreshingly original, but this has always felt more like a Pharrell Williams track with Snoop as a bit player. The video was phenomenal, though, and probably had as much to do with the #1 Billboard status this song enjoyed (surprisingly, a first for Snoop) as anything.

Best Single: Same, I guess…but, it's a lukewarm endorsement. So there.

Album: The Blue Carpet Treatment, 2006

First Single: "Vato" - Video

TBG Sez: I like The Neptunes beat a little more than the paint-by-numbers lyricism from Snoop or the B-Real hook over it. These types of "positive" pro-unity songs (in this case, an attempt to cool So. Cal tensions between Blacks and Mexicans) never work as more than a novelty, though. Still one of the better songs on an otherwise hugely disappointing album.

Best Single: "Boss' Life", which I just heard the other day. I remember hating the album version, which features Akon on the hook, but the single/video trades up for Nate Dogg. Sure, it sounds like every other song they've done since 1992, but I knows what I likes.

TBG's NFL Pickery Spectacular - Week #13 (Thursday)

Green Bay at Dallas

Aaron: Thanks to a lack of NFL Network on my cable, I'll be forced to my local Hooters for a work-related happy hour. Save me a plate of grotesquely breaded wings and a server who pretends to like me! Pick: Dallas

Joe: Goddamn Thursday games on goddamn NFL network that I can't goddamn watch. Oh, it's only the two best teams in the NFC, THAT'S ALL. Grumble. Anyway, here's what's been interesting -- has anyone else seen how ESPN has been covering the "Tony Romo grew up idolizing Brett Favre" angle? And how Romo's been all, "Look, I like the guy, but I'm not going to kiss him with my tongue at midfield, okay?" And ESPN is all, "But why not? Why do you hate Brett Favre?" It's like Favre's season is being scripted by Kurt Vonnegut, I swear. Pick: Dallas

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

TBG Reviews Taco Bell's Chipotle Grilled Stuft Burrito

There is nothing on Taco Bell's menu that can be deemed even kinda-sorta spicy. So, it's with much bemusement that I watch their latest ad campaign hyping the new Chipotle Grilled Stuft Burrito. "Don't worry", the commercial implies, "It won't burn your innards!" Well, it's good to know that the fast food industry is using the marketing term "chipotle" so responsibly. Oh, and rarely. So very, very rarely.

NOTE: Yeah, the above clip is the best I could find on YouTube. It's from 1984, includes a cameo from former Los Angeles Raiders tight end Todd Christensen and is in no way close to the "flaming bag" commercial currently airing for the burrito I'm reviewing. I'll show myself out.

I've wolfed down two of these in the last few weeks, which shouldn't be mistaken for an unabashed endorsement so much as my own personal exhaustion of everything else on their menu. Taco Bell's "Grilled Stuft" line of burritos are crammed into a George Foreman-esque grill after they're made, so they come out golden brown on both sides.

This one is "stuft" with steak or chicken, along with beans, tomatoes, cheese, sour cream, "spicy chipotle rice" (their words) and a "southwestern chipotle sauce" (again, their words). And, if you remove all instances of the words "spicy" and "chipotle" from the preceding sentence, you'll get a far more accurate representation of what the Tac-(o Bell) is cookin'.

Decent, but bland, if there was any chipotle sauce in the two I ate it must've burned off in the grilling process. If you've had one of Taco Bell's burritos, you've had this one. On the plus side, this is a colorful food item. The inside looks like an edible rainbow with reds, whites, yellows and whatever the hell color thawed microwaved chicken is.

Back to the drawing board, TB.

Grade: 2.5 (out of 5)
Calories: 670, Fat: 29g

The Oakland A's Monday #18

Cuz, it's Monday somewhere.

Recapping the first few weeks of Oakland's offseason…

A's to open 2008 season in Japan - Awesome! The A's get to play Washington Generals to the World Champion Boston Red Sox's Harlem Globetrotters right in the middle of spring training, except these games count in the regular season standings! And, the A's are the "home team", consequently losing two dates off their true home schedule, because Allah knows we can't have any long-suffering 18-year-old pink hats at Fenway not spending $250 for scalped seats (obstructed view).

Marco Scutaro traded to Toronto - The Venezuelan Lilliputian (or "Hispan-Eckstein", if you prefer) takes his grit, guile and gumption north of the border where the exchange rate on these overrated traits previously killed the careers of Manny Lee and Candy Maldonado Rob Ducey. I've bashed the blind, illogical love that A's fans have for Scoot, but at only 32, he's still got a skill set that can help a contender. This is being touted as a salary dump, but an expected post-arbitration price tag of $2M for a solid – if limited – back-up infielder isn't altogether unreasonable…unless the rumors are true that…

GM Billy Beane hints at rebuilding in '08 - Well, then. Beane has reportedly said he'll decide by early December whether or not to try'n win in 2008 or begin a rebuilding process. Most accounts had the A's planning to sign free agent Barry Bonds as the foundation for a playoff run next year, but the Federal Witch Hunt has scuttled that talk. On Beane's watch, the Oakland offense has turned into one of the worst in the AL and there aren't many other FAs out there who wield the potential impact (and relative affordability) of Bonds. As long as Beane delineates the untouchables (SP Dan Haren and…umm…) then, I'd have no problem getting some young upper echelon prospects for average talent like SP Joe Blanton.

3B Eric Chavez lashes out at A's fans - In an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, Chavez shows more piss n' vinegar than he ever has on the diamond. I know a lot of you folks on the east coast don't get much A's coverage, but try and think of Chavez, personality-wise, as akin to former Met Kevin McReynolds. Chavez has supposedly been "playing hurt" the last few years and "can't understand" the criticism from fans and the media. Never mind that he plays in front of 14,000 die-hards most nights, who've often ignored his swing-at-the-first-pitch-to-end-the-eighth-inning-after-the-pitcher-walked-the-bases-loaded approach at the plate. And, if Eric thinks the ass-kissing Oakland media is harsh…

Former A's pitcher Joe Kennedy dies - My boy Smitty and I watched from the field level as Kennedy threw six decent innings vs. the Angels up in Anaheim back in April, before Vlad Guerrero hit one about 800 feet off of reliever Jay Witasick. Kennedy had a strong year out of the bullpen in '06 for Oakland before he returned to the rotation in an ill-fated attempt to replace Barry Zito. One of the hundreds of ballplayers who got no love when they were going good and too much crap when things went bad. God must've needed a fifth starter with frosted hair. I jest. RIP.

Angels sign CF Torii Hunter - OK, so this isn't exactly A's news, but the Angels are Oakland's primary competition in the AL West. Our friends at Fire Joe Morgan have, not surprisingly, the best take on this move.

A Bootleg Family Thanksgiving

Hope everyone had a good holiday. Here's a quick recap of mine, through the eyes of some family members who rarely get mentioned in these parts.

My Mother: She came down to San Diego last Thursday and announced that she'd be staying two nights. I love my mother. She did the best job she could raising two boys. But, since my parents broke up in 2001, my mom has gone bat-sh*t insane.

Even worse, she's morphed into one of those creepy old women who go through other people's drawers, closets and medicine cabinets. She's only 56, which leads me to believe she'll have graduated to armed robbery at 80.

When she wasn't invading our privacy, my mom was helping herself to my beer, drinking half, then putting the rest back in the refrigerator for me to drink "later". From there she opted out of spending time with her grandson, so she could repeatedly hit "refresh" on our laptop's internet browser in hopes of some septuagenarian answering her personal ad.

Most egregiously, she poured a pound of cinnamon in with our not-exactly-inexpensive coffee grounds each morning and the damn coffee pot and filter still stinks of that spice. Oh, and she pees with the door open. Those two things just…just…

My Brother: I don't talk about my brother that much. We're fraternal twins, but we're not that close. Y'all remember Tomax and Xamot from G.I. Joe fame? When one of them got hurt, the other felt it, too. Well, that wouldn't work for us, because if I got hurt, chances are my brother would be too asleep to feel it and too unemployed to afford medical insurance, if he did.

He called on Thanksgiving morning to wish my family well and I can only assume he was just about ready to hit the sack, as he hasn't been awake at 9:00 AM since he was a senior in high school. He did make sure to put in a take-out order that included "a few slices" of my wife's famous sweet potato pie and some of my mother's homemade bread that she was bringing down. "Just have mom bring it back with her", he suggested.

My Grandfather: I drove up to Long Beach last Saturday morning to see my grandfather. He lives in one of those senior citizens-only apartment complexes and, since my grandmother passed away a few years ago, has become quite the geriatric pimp.

He always meets me on the street and, as we walk to his third floor apartment, assorted widows watching from their windows wave and call out wondering when he's going to visit, asking if he enjoyed the cookies/pie/cake they baked for him and/or informing him of various broken appliances that need "fixing".

Now, he and my grandmother were married for over 50 years, so, hilariously, he'll feign annoyance at all this attention the moment we're inside and his door is closed behind us. But, when it's time for me to leave, he'll dunk his head in a bowl of Old Spice before he walks me to my car – ensuring we stroll through the courtyard, instead of taking the fire exit stairs to the street, which are quicker (for me), but where he can't be seen.

He's also at the age where two out of every three words from his mouth are "stool"…and not the kind you sit on. Well, you're sitting, but not…ah, never mind.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

TBG's NFL Pickery Spectacular - Week #12

This week's Aaron n' Joe banter can be found right here.

Joe picked the Raiders!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

TBG's NFL Pickery Spectacular - Week #12

I assume that Joe's picks will show up 'round Saturday, with all three Thursday games predicted correctly (the score, too!)

Green Bay at Detroit

Aaron: After the Packers win, Brett Favre will kill a wild turkey for dinner. Damn, he's gritty. On a related note, Detroit's homeless better hope Brett wears his huntin' glasses. Pick: Green Bay

N.Y. Jets at Dallas

Aaron: Wow. It's like Thanksgiving and Christmas all rolled into one for the Cowboys. With games like these, I'll be drinking my holiday beers with the TV off. OK...on "mute". Pick: Dallas

Indianapolis at Atlanta

Aaron: The NFL Network might wanna consider giving me a better reason to call my local cable provider and make unreasonable, unsolicited scheduling suggestions. Pick: Indianapolis

Buffalo at Jacksonville

Aaron: LOVED the Bills fans booing the Pats last week when they went for it on 4th and 1 a few times. If I may quote Simpsons episode Homer the Clown (2F12): "Stop! Stop! He's already dead! (Sobs)" Pick: Jacksonville

Houston at Cleveland

Aaron: The Browns have all the makings of a team that's going to upset a division winner on "Wildcard Weekend", build a week's worth of "could they?" hype, then lose to New England by 66. Let's enjoy the ride. Pick: Cleveland

Minnesota at N.Y. Giants

Aaron: There's a new watch commerical that calls paid endorser Eli Manning "unstoppable". Eli Manning. "Unstoppable". Like a fuckin' force of nature or something. Eli Manning. Pick: NY Giants

New Orleans at Carolina

Aaron: Two teams that, from week to week, are impossible to get a handle on. Gotta make a call, though, and I think the Saints' 2007 season officially ends. Pick: Carolina

Oakland at Kansas City

Aaron: The Chiefs will play without Larry Johnson for the third straight game and are currently mired in a three game losing streak. My Raiders have reached the point where I'd probably pick every other team in the league if any of them were playing KC. Pick: Kansas City

Seattle at St. Louis

Aaron: The Rams might be the first 2-8 team in NFL history that, it could be argued, controls its own playoff destiny. Run the table and they could sneak in. Can't wait for ESPN's made-for-TV movie of their season if it happens. Pick: St. Louis

Tennessee at Cincinnati

Aaron: This will be the game where Titans' QB Vince Young "silences the doubters" for one week. And, if he gets to play against this sh*tty defense again the week after, he might silence them again. Pick: Tennessee

Washington at Tampa Bay

Aaron: The Redskins might be a decent road 'dog to play this weekend against a Bucs team that doesn't even average 20 points/game. Washington's not winning this one outright, though. Pick: Tampa Bay

San Francisco at Arizona

Aaron: Quite the nuclear winter for Bay Area sports fans, no? Well, the San Jose Sharks are in first place, but all I need is a hockey team that breaks my heart. Pick: Arizona

Baltimore at San Diego

Aaron: If the Ravens only had a quarterback and some receivers. As it stands, the Chargers are about due for their once-a-month beatdown of a mediocre team. Pick: San Diego

Denver at Chicago

Aaron: Is Jay Cutler still the Bronco's QB? He is? And, he's on the road? Juuuuust checking. Pick: Chicago

Philadelphia at New England

Aaron: This one's made even more awesome by the possibility of a start by Eagles back-up QB A.J. Feeley. Can a team score negative points? Pick: New England

Miami at Pittsburgh

Aaron: The Dolphins aren't the Jets. Thank God for that, Steelers fans. Pick: Pittsburgh

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Frank as in Stank

Thanks to an oppressive, eight-week ad campaign, I felt morally and spiritually obligated to catch tonight's premiere of Frank TV on TBS.

For those of you who haven't caught the commercials...oh, who am I kidding? You all already know that this is a 30-minute sketch comedy show starring super-impressionist Frank Caliendo. Unfortunately, the debut was D.O.A.

The "Seinfeld 2027" skit was impressive in that Caliendo does a killer Seinfeld, Costanza, Kramer and Newman. But, who does Seinfeld impressions, anymore? Satirizing a sitcom that's been off the air for almost a decade isn't "changing late night" - as this show's tagline promises - it's just lazy.

The same could be said about the Bill Clinton (He's horny! He likes fried foods!) and George W. Bush (He's not good with...uh, words!) skits. Both covered ground that's been travelled to death by everyone from the early '90s to today. Then, there was a running Thanksgiving-themed gag with Caliendo's John Madden impersonation. The payoff? Madden ate too much turducken.

Caliendo is a spot-on impressionist, but a little over his head as the one-man show here. The awful writing has nowhere to go but up, though, so that's something.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

That Book-Leg Guy: "Hitman: My Real Life in the Cartoon World of Wrestling"

Synopsis: The long-awaited autobiography of former pro wrestler Bret "Hitman" Hart covers his 20+ year career, his upbringing in Calgary, dysfunctional family members, numerous personal tragedies and a splash of pink.

The Goodness: Any chapter, paragraph or anecdote on Hart's f*cked-up family is wonderfully sordid and always interesting. Where to begin? There's the one about Bret's brother Smith, who hastily married a Puerto Rican named Maria then had a daughter they named Satanic Ecstasy Hart. And, how about Bret's brother-in-law, Davey Boy Smith? He allegedly left Bret's sister to steal the wife of Bret's brother. Another Hart brother, Dean, died of kidney failure as none of his siblings even opted to get tested for a possible donor match.

Morbidly enough, the book's best moments are rooted in such heartbreak. Hart's retelling of the physical and emotional breakdown of former peer Tom "Dynamite Kid" Billington is dark and disturbing, with more detail than in Billington's own book. Then, when Hart discusses the passing of his parents, Stu and Helen, to say nothing of the loss of his brother, Owen, you can practically feel Bret's spirit dying with them. The behavior of Bret's siblings during these difficult times is just jaw-dropping (one Hart sister allegedly conspired with the WWF in the Owen Hart wrongful death suit, while another supposedly verbally assaulted Owen's widow - while giving the eulogy for Helen Hart!)

Of course, if you're like me and followed Bret Hart's career for any length of time, you'll be most interested in the stories from the road. Bret claims to have kept an audio diary of his entire career, which has allowed for phenomenal detail on everything from PPV matches, to obscure house shows and every plane ride, rental car and cheap hotel in between. And, save for a few "you-know-whos", his criticism of certain workers (Bad News Brown, Dean Malenko(!)) is as constructive and even-handed as his praise (Curt Hennig, Bam Bam Bigelow).

Not-So-Goodness: This is a fascinating read in that Bret's tone, right around page 300, gets instantly insufferable. Probably not a coincidence that this is where he describes his first WWF Title reign. Up to here, his story as an undersized David in a locker room full of Goliaths is almost inspiring, but for the rest of the way his "wrestling hero" self-references (and personal notes on every real or worked award he's ever won) get a little grating.

And, the number of times Bret refers to himself as your "hero" is roughly the same as the number of stories he shares about shagging wrestling groupies. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate the detail (and he goes into a LOT of detail) but as his rocky marriage remains in a perpetual state of crap, Hart shows only superficial remorse for his serial adultery. Hard to take his bitching about the death of wholesome role models in wrestling seriously...all I'm sayin'.

Not nearly as surprising - but a little more disappointing - were the amount of odd, out-of-place homophobic stories from the road. I get that even pretend sports need to maintain a macho veneer, but what's really that impressive about punching a guy who makes a pass at you in the face? The whole point seemed to be a sad, insecure reassurance for readers that, yes, this guy who shaves his body and holds similarly hairless men for 30 minutes a night doesn't have "the gay".

On a kind-of related note, can we please introduce Hart to some Black people? He couldn't possibly grasp the unintentional hilarity of the word "mulatto", as he uses it a few times to describe assorted ring rats. Elsewhere, he describes that Mabel/Viscera guy as "black as coal"...and, it reads like he means it as a compliment. Trust me, I'm not mad about this...I just wanna save Bret from getting his ass kicked one day.

TBG Sez: Thanks to a week-long cold that combined bird flu with bubonic plague, I was able to plow through this 550-pager in a couple of days. I've only read four or five of these 'rasslin autobiographies, but this one's definitely going to be one of the better ones you'll read. The detail is amazing, the Hart family stuff will floor you at times and the paranoia that builds in the year or so up to the Montreal screwjob is absolutely palpable. This one's currently only available in Canada, but you can get it off of for about $25(US). If you're a fan of the "sport" or the author, I can't recommend this one enough.

TBG's NFL Pickery Spectacular - Week #11

Arizona at Cincinnati

Aaron: Glad to see the sh*ttiest teams of my youth (OK, my late teens to late 20s) are still paired up occasionally. Let's see: Cards = top 10 defense, Cincy = at home. Pick: Arizona

Joe: Porous Bengals defense don't fail me now! Pick: Arizona

Carolina at Green Bay

Aaron: Testaverde vs. Farve! This'll surely be the oldest combined age for two starting quarterbacks since every week Joe Montana took the field in his last two years as a Kansas City Chief. Pick: Green Bay

Joe: So when do the Packers play a team that's any good? And is there a higher visibility platform than Sunday Night Football to beam that mythical game to the masses? Pick: Green Bay

Cleveland at Baltimore

Aaron: Only in the NFL could Browns QB Derek Anderson, 24, put up great numbers and carry a mediocre team to respectability...only to have his long-term future in doubt cuz he's not as pretty or marketable as unproven first round pick, Brady Quinn. Pick: Cleveland

Joe: Yeah, but Brady Quinn's a big queermo. Don't you read the hilarious Deadspin commenters? Pick: Cleveland

Kansas City at Indianapolis

Aaron: The Colts put on the single worst (non-Raider) half of football that I've seen in years vs. the Chargers last Sunday. That said, the bat-sh*t insane 14.5 spread might make this the single best bet of the year. Colts win, but no way they cover. No way! Pick: Indianapolis

Joe: This, ladies and gentlemen, is why we don't deal with point spreads around these parts, lest we end up with Aaron's Lockdown Steal of the Week. (That is a big lock...) Pick: Indianapolis

Miami at Philadelphia

Aaron: The Dolphins have a rookie quarterback making his first start, on the road, no less. But, now there's word that the Eagles' Brian Westbrook is questionable for the game. IF he doesn't play, a Miami upset wouldn't surprise me. I reserve my right to mention this next week if I'm right. Pick: Philadelphia

Joe: Hold up...I just heard that a student reporter at a Philadelphia high school questioned Donovan McNabb's ability and whether he should be starting in his "Scotty's Sports Corner" column. Sorry, Miami. Pick: Philadelphia

New Orleans at Houston

Aaron: I thought the Saints' faux renaissance would last a few more weeks. Meanwhile, I'll amuse myself the rest of the season with all those "What's Wrong with Reggie Bush" stories. Pick: Houston

Joe: Rather than going back in the tank, I think the Saints will opt for "frustratingly inconsistent" instead. Pick: New Orleans

N.Y. Giants at Detroit

Aaron: Now that the Giants have clearly established their standing in the second echelon of NFC teams, maybe they can take the Lions out for pizza and Hi-C, afterwards. They are neighbors, after all. Pick: NY Giants

Joe: I already think this is a stupid pick, but the Lions are at home. Pick: Detroit

Oakland at Minnesota

Aaron: Last week, Rex Grossman beat the Raiders. The week before it was 400 lb. Ron Dayne. Do the Vikings have any washed-up talent in need of an inexplicably good game? No, no...Daunte Culpepper plays for Oakland, now. Good guess, though. Pick: Minnesota

Joe: Without Adrian Peterson, Minnesota's got nothing but washed-up non-talent. Enjoy your last win of the season, Raiders fans! Pick: Oakland

San Diego at Jacksonville

Aaron: Love the Jags' running game vs. a susceptible defense, but the Chargers are looking like a team that's going to unify against the authority of their management for the rest of the season. Wasn't that the plot in that Scott Bakula/Kathy Ireland/Sinbad vehicle Unnecessary Roughness? Pick: San Diego

Joe: Um, I believe the movie was called Necessary Roughness. Stupid. Pick: San Diego

[Aaron's Note: YOU'RE stupid.]

Tampa Bay at Atlanta

Aaron: Possible postgame headlines: "Colts Roast Falcons", "Colts Feast on Falcons", "Colts Stuff Falcons" or "Colts Feast on Roasted Stuffed Falcons". Wait, Indy v. Atlanta is on Thanksgiving, isn't it? Fine, just substitute "Bucs" for "Colts" here. What? I'm not typing it over. Pick: Tampa Bay

Joe: I don't know. The Bucs really seem to have lost their mojo as of late. And the Falcons at home seem like a decent upset pick. 'Specially now that Warrick Dunn has woken from his 50-year slumber. Pick: Atlanta

Pittsburgh at N.Y. Jets

Aaron: Never let it be said that I'm NOT the last one to use a tired soundbite: The Jets are a win over 0-9 Miami from being 0-9 Miami. No, really, that JUST came to me. Pick: Pittsburgh

Joe: Huh. I was just going to say "Jets stink worse than the rest of New Jersey." Yours is better. Pick: Pittsburgh

Chicago at Seattle

Aaron: Hey, these guys! Last January, the Bears were 8.5 point favorites in a divisional playoff game vs. Seattle and I told all of you that Chicago wouldn't cover. Still got funds in the account because of them. I will never stop mentioning this. Pick: Seattle

Joe: Wow, awesome. The Bears inept running game against the Seahawks inept running game. First back to 50 yards wins! In related news, if Shaun Alexander winds up dead under mysterious circumstances, you never heard of me. Pick: Seattle

St. Louis at San Francisco

Aaron: No, no...keep losing 49ers. Since the Patriots have your first round pick next year, we'll need a fresh new story about them in March and April leading up to the draft. Pick: St. Louis

Joe: Lord, seriously. Call me crazy, but I think the Rams may have turned a corner on their season. Pick: St. Louis

Washington at Dallas

Aaron: Not sure if we're getting this game in San Diego, but if so, they'd better feature several airings of that Pepsi AM commercial with pretty much the entire Cowboys team and front office. Cola for breakfast. And, we wonder why the world hates us. Pick: Dallas

Joe: Wait, wait, hold up a second. "Pepsi AM"? Pepsi for breakfast? I never thought I'd live to see the day. Kids, we're moving into the root cellar. The end times is comin'. Pick: Dallas

New England at Buffalo

Aaron: Let's just say the Generals aren't due. Pick: New England

Joe: Come on, seven! Pick: New England

Tennessee at Denver

Aaron: I think we can safely call Vince Young's season the first successful "Madden Curse" that didn't involve a season-ending injury. Pick: Denver

Joe: And yet that bastard team for jerks continues to win, despite all logic. Pick: Denver

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Worst Fast Food I've Ever Reviewed

Friends…I've willingly taken years off my life in an attempt to single-handedly (mouthedly?) try as many new fast food menu items as possible. They are then reviewed, so that you can decide whether or not these 1,000-calorie saturated fat bombs are worth the eventual cost of your colon.

Burger King recently introduced their "Homestyle Melt" line of burgers and breakfast sandwiches. On Sunday morning, still nursing an uneasy stomach after an anniversary evening full o' rockin' cocktails from Saturday night, I hit the BK drive-thru for some grease to soak up that errant whiskey.

My sandwich came with sausage (but, you can also order bacon or ham) and egg – hold the cheese. It was served between two pieces of sourdough with a smear of honey on one of the slices of bread. Oh, Burger King…drop your pants and fetch my belt.

I'd never actually had dry sausage before biting into this chalky monstrosity. Really…isn't sausage nothing but pig fat? Isn't that why it tastes so damn good? This was more like one of those convenience store heat lamp burgers. Awful.

And, I'm pretty sure that the bread was supposed to be toasted. It's a "melt" for God's sake! My sourdough had a weird circle of light toasting right in the center of both slices, yet somehow managed the heretofore unheard of act of being both soggy AND stale.

My meal's only saving grace were the hash brown "rounds" that BK serves. In hindsight, I should've just went with a few sacks of those, as they're infinitely better than the hash brown patty/panty liner served at McDonald's.

Sadly, my small order of "rounds" wasn't enough to save my Sunday…which, you ruined Burger King.

You ruiner.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Dinner at Fleming's (or "Who Let the Negroes In?")

Our smokin' hot babysitter was watching Jalen, Mrs. Bootleg was wearing a new dress and I was pulling into the valet parking section at Fleming's – La Jolla. The makings of a great night? Well, the wife was with me, so we'll set the ceiling at "pretty good" and go from there.

We had about 15 minutes to kill until we were seated, so we ambled over to the bar. Now, when I first met Mrs. Bootleg, her alcohol of choice was 7 and 7s. After a few years, she switched to wine then went on a self-imposed prohibition when she got pregnant. She abstained from alcohol for a long time, even after the boy arrived, and now is content to steal sips from my beer when I'm not looking.

So, it was a pleasant surprise to see the wife order a glass of wine. Her own glass of wine! She went with something called "Spellbound". Now, I'm no oenophile, but I'm assuming it's the sign of a classy joint when your wine comes in a (less gaudy) pimp goblet and is served with a smaller glass that contains – what I assume – is some of the wine run-off. Kinda like those $5 milkshakes where the excess strawberry goodness comes in that metal canister.

Meanwhile, I asked for a Maker's Mark on the rocks which, somehow, the bartender mistook for "Manhattan". Initially repulsed by the sight of the Maraschino cherry floating in my drink like some kind of delicious whiskey Jell-O, I found this bartender's version of "The King of Cocktails" to be soo-POIB. Solid 4:1 ratio of whiskey to vermouth; not overloaded with ice and filled to the top of my glass.

Adequately lubricated…it was time to up the class (and the check) of my usual TBG food reviews. Please give yourselves a moment to familiarize yourselves with their menu.

Sweet Chile Calamari - I suppose if you're with a woman long enough, there are certain elements of a marriage that are as predictable as the sunrise and no sex. Me and Mrs. Bootleg really only live by two appetizers: calamari and crab cakes. If we're at Chili's, we'll get the Southwestern Egg Rolls, but that's the ONLY time we deviate.

The only question here was whether to get the squid or the crab. I argued that we couldn't get both, since that's what one would do at a sports bar at happy hour. Besides, we had a lot of eatin' ahead of us. The wife thought I was insane. We'll see who wins this one.

Anyways, the calamari was crisp, thick and firm – served with a sweet, peppery sauce lightly drizzled on top. A little more of the sauce for purposes of dipping, dunking and/or spooning straight into my mouth would've been appreciated, but otherwise it was the best calamari I've ever had. Grade: 5

Jumbo Lump Crab Cake - Two appetizers. I just know that our server was thinking we'd be milking the snack foods for hours while eschewing the entrees. Our server described these as crab "medallions", instead of crab "cakes". Obviously fresh, with chunks of crab meat falling everywhere once our forks broke the breading. The chef hit it with a citrus-spicy sauce thingie, too. Obvious complaint: they could've been bigger. Unfortunately, that little nit costs you a perfect score, Mr. Medallions. Grade: 4

Spinach & Portobello Salad - I doubt I would've eaten either of these things 20 years ago, but as I've gotten older, my palate has become more sophisticated…classier. Ooh, and it had freshly-fried bacon bits in it! Bacon makes it better! Served warm and topped with a goat cheese crouton, this is the salad that birthed every other salad that's ever come after it. It's the Africa of salads. Before the white man stole the spinach right off the plate. Grade: 5

Creamed Spinach - Not sure if there's a more underrated, underappreciated side dish than this one. Sure, it looks like creamed crap, but next to a hunk of cooked cow, there's nothing better. Like all the other sides at Fleming's, this is served/priced a la carte. I was ready to order seconds, after eating this creamy-green bliss. Made with fresh ground pepper and shredded parmesan cheese, I'd come back just for this. And, the cream ruins all of the spinach's health benefits. It's win-win! Grade: 5

Chipotle Cheddar Macaroni & Cheese - Anyone looking for a new word to replace "extreme", "gritty" and "pwned" in the lexicon of overused words n' phrases need only nominate "chipotle". Ten years ago, this would've just been called "spicy mac n' cheese". "Chipotle", apparently, is supposed to indicate an extreme level of spicy grittiness or something. This was solid, but unspectacular. No real spice to it, but a decent amount of gooey. Mac & cheese will always be one of those foods that Black people simply do better. Hey, I didn't make the rules. Grade: 3

Prime Ribeye 16 oz. - It's really not that hard to make a great steak. First you need the right cut and it don't come no better than ribeye and all it's fatty marbled magnificence. Then, season it and cook until you've got a light, crisp and consistent char on the outside with a color somewhere between pink and red on the inside. See? Easy! Outstanding job, Fleming's. This lightly-read blog approves. Grade: 5

Crème Brulee - French for "custard cooked with a blowtorch", I didn't have much room left for what's traditionally a light dessert. Decent for the few bites I had, though. Crispy on top, creamy underneath. Just OK. Grade: 3

Needless to say, The Camerons set a new record for restaurant credit card impact last night. And, God bless her, Mrs. Bootleg said, "I'll pay for dinner, since you did buy my pendant."

I wonder if she thinks this gets her out of getting me a real gift.

TBG's NFL Pickery Spectacular - Week #10

Atlanta at Carolina

Aaron: The Vinny Testaverde Septuagenarian Tour rolls on. Get your t-shirts (with all the cities and dates on the back)! Pick: Carolina

Joe: Carolina's drive to an 8-8 division championship begins here. Pick: Carolina

Buffalo at Miami

Aaron: Hmmm. Four of the Dolphins eight losses have been by just three points. They're coming off a bye week AND playing at home. F*ck it. Pick: Miami

Joe: Officially, I'm picking against the Bills because that's been working out pretty well for them lately. Unofficially, it's a road division game against a winless rival late in the season. Big potential landmines there. Pick: Miami

Cleveland at Pittsburgh

Aaron: And a confidential "kiss my black ass" to the Steelers for scoring 35 points thru the air last week, when I needed just an average game from RB Willie Parker to win my fantasy game. Pick: Pittsburgh

Joe: I'm so incredibly tempted to pick the Browns here, but I think the Steelers are, for the first time I can ever remember, well equipped for a shootout. Pick: Pittsburgh

Denver at Kansas City

Aaron: A haiku: Jay Cutler, road game...First place Kansas City Chiefs?...Yo, belee dat, cuz. Pick: Kansas City

Joe: Wow, someone's getting all fancy-pants for their anniversary. Pick: Denver

Jacksonville at Tennessee

Aaron: The Jaguars might wanna look into finding a quarterback this offseason. It would go a long way towards winning those pesky games against ferocious defenses. Pick: Tennessee

Joe: Tennessee continues their quest for a 12-4 season, a Wild Card round win at San Diego, and then an 82-14 loss to New England in the Divisional round. Mark it. Pick: Tennessee

Minnesota at Green Bay

Aaron: Thank you, Vikings! There's nothing quite like a week of local "sky is falling" talk after another inexplicable Chargers loss. Now, enjoy your loss this week, Vikings. Pick: Green Bay

Joe: Here's hoping Peterson runs for a 90-yard touchdown, fakes mooning the Lambeau fans, and makes Joe Buck pass out from the vapors. Pick: Green Bay

Philadelphia at Washington

Aaron: Anyone remember the last time that Donovan McNabb wasn't giving a quietly panicked, overtly paranoid mid-week post-practice interview where he's defending himself? Discuss. Pick: Washington

Joe: Doesn't Donovan McNabb usually win after giving said interviews, though? Isn't that how it works? Always one step ahead of his detractors? Pick: Philadelphia

St. Louis at New Orleans

Aaron: Still another week or so before the Saints turn back into pumpkins. Thankfully, that leaves us all enough time to enjoy those creepy compare/contrast Subway commercials with Reggie Bush and Jared. Pick: New Orleans

Joe: See, now they've actually got be believing. I'm falling for the exact shift in public opinion that I predicted. I'm all the way inside the Matrix now. Pick: New Orleans

Cincinnati at Baltimore

Aaron: I think I speak for everyone when I say I'm done picking the Bengals this year. Besides, after Monday night, I'm told Ray Lewis is feeling awfully stabby. Pick: Baltimore

Joe: Now that Baltimore's defense is allowing points, I think they can lose to anyone. Pick: Cincinnati

Chicago at Oakland

Aaron: Raiders coach Lane Kiffin made news this week when he declared that his team would be kicking to Bears super-return man Devin Hester. Thanks for clearing up any lingering doubt the casual picking fan might've had on this one, coach. Pick: Chicago

Joe: Man, I so want to pick Oakland here (come on, Justin Fargas!), but they've proven themselves to be quite crappy. Crappier, even, than the Bears, who have done pretty well against the AFC this year. Pick: Chicago

Dallas at N.Y. Giants

Aaron: Six wins in a row for the Giants, plus they're coming off a bye week. And, they're playing at home. Fun fact: The Giants have only beaten one team with a winning record this year. Pick: Dallas

Joe: ...So have the Cowboys. Pick: NY Giants

Detroit at Arizona

Aaron: Jon Kitna v. Kurt Warner?! Who will God choose? Pretty sure that Kitna's been giving Him a bit more glory this season, so there ya go. Pick: Detroit

Joe: Yeah, but: dome team in the desert, Arizona's due, and the Lions can't go 7-2, can they? Pick: Aizona

Indianapolis at San Diego

Aaron: In case Peyton Manning's reading this, just remember how the Chargers fans treated your lovable brother, Eli, when the Giants played here a few years ago. And, the things they said about your momma. Pick: Indianapolis

Joe: Well according to Bill Simmons, the Colts have the refs in their pockets anyway, so... Pick: Indianapolis

San Francisco at Seattle

Aaron: Pretty sure that anyone on either side of The Rockies couldn't care less. Call it the N(F)LCS. Pick: Seattle

Joe: Shaun Alexander's maybe not playing, which means maybe Seattle will have a running game that's worth a damn. Pick: Seattle

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Taco Bell Times Three

Yikes! Our friends at Taco Bell have managed to sneak a few new menu items past me. Time for some short-form food reviews…

Chili Cheese Nachos Bell Grande - Taco Bell's ubiquitous take on nachos (chips, cheese goo, ground beef, beans, green onions, tomatoes and sour cream) is hit with a ladle of chili. The chili isn't anything more than re-heated Hormel, but it doesn't drag down the sum of the other ingredients. After two or three bites, I could barely tell it was there. Edible, but average…save the calories and live chili-free. Grade: 3 (out of 5)

Steak Fajita Ulti-Melt - The first of two new "upgrades" to their Cheesy Beefy Melt, this one replaces the ground beef with a bland, generic fajita steak n' peppers approach. Mine was pretty much cheese-free until the final few bites, when all the cheese came oozing out of the back. Hit it with a couple of packets of their "Fire" sauce to give it some actual taste. Grade: 2

Jalapeño Chicken Ulti-Melt - Generally not known for anything with real heat, Taco Bell tries, but falls short here. Jalapeños aren't the hottest of peppers, but TB overdoes it by loading about a dozen pepper slices into this wrap. The chicken/rice combination is completely overwhelmed by the peppers-in-a-jar flavor. Grade: 1

Five Years in Five Days – Husband of the Year (Again)

Last month, I went to an unnamed, but well-known jewelry retailer and purchased a diamond pendant for Mrs. Bootleg and the five years - under the eyes of God, anyway - she's put up with me. And, can I tell you how hard it was to mask my unabashed panic as the San Diego wildfires burned to with in a half mile of our home?

Y'see, the pendant was in the house and The Camerons were in Hawaii.

Even better, when we returned home, I'd forgotten where I hid it. For several hours, I had a crazed look about me: wild-eyed, frantic, limbs flailing. Screaming "It was right here! I know it!" to no one in particular.

I seemed to have had fewer of those days when I was single.

Anyways, I found the pendant and next lined up a delivery of flowers to the wife's office – with a few extra dollars to ensure an early delivery for Friday.

And, then Jalen caught a cold.

Mrs. Bootleg stayed home, I went to work and my flowers would be delivered to an empty desk.

I called the good people at Overpriced and asked about changing the delivery address. What follows is the rest of our conversation:

THEM: "It'll be $49 to change the delivery address. Do you need some time to think about it and call us back?"

ME: "Uh, no."

Only 70% of the cost of the flowers (on top of the original cost of the flowers) to have them delivered 20 miles north of their intended destination? Someone's in cahoots with the airline industry.

I took something they call "internet credit", because anything with "internet" in it has to be better than cash.

Yesterday evening, I picked up some take out from Wings N Things (you have been reading all week, right?) and presented the pendant and two dozen supermarket flowers(!) to Mrs. Bootleg. In return, she got me a card, a "we weren't supposed to be getting gifts!" admonishment and a promise that she'd get me something on Saturday.

A little after 2:00 PM on Saturday afternoon, Mrs. Bootleg returned home from several hours out shopping with out son, Phlegmy McGee. She excitedly told me that she had "a surprise" and that "I wasn't going to believe" what she got.

I played along with her demented preschool parlor game, right up to its anticlimactic conclusion. It was a picture of Jalen with Mall Santa Claus…on November 10?

"It's the first time he hasn't cried when he sat in Santa's lap!, Mrs. Bootleg exclaimed.

And, just like this post, that's all there was.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Five Years in Five Days – The End is Nigh

There comes a time when you've grown too old to use certain words.

"Potty" is one example. "Roommate" is another. And, "girlfriend" is a third.

"Fiancée Bootleg" has such a nice ring, that I wish I could've gotten some mileage out of it in my old column. (And, some of those 2003 columns needed all the help they could get…)

Memoirs of a Marrying Man…

Say Goodbye to Your Female Friends - You know those women from work or from college or just from around the way? They're the ones that you've never slept with (or maybe you have) and there's always been that unspoken flirtatious tension between the two of you. Well, once they find out that you're engaged, watch them all disappear. Women have this ingrained, illogical belief that married men can't have female friends. They also view your engagement as a sign that they're getting older and less desirable. For years, I didn't realize it, but those crazy, insecure broads are doing us a favor.

Wedding Planning for Guys - Believe it or not, there are actually some male-friendly parts of planning a wedding. You gotta get in on the cake tasting. Dozens of cake slivers, a multitude of flavors – and it's all FREE! It's like wine tasting, but with only 95% of the pretentiousness.

I'm also glad I was involved with the DJ selection. Mrs. Bootleg would've picked – get this – a woman to be our DJ, if I hadn't been there to shoot that gender-inappropriate idea down. Finally, make time for a few meetings with wedding photographers. Tedious? Sure, but nearly all of them have that one shot of the bride and her bridesmaids hitching up their dresses and showing some leg. Yum! Remember, it's erotic because you don't know them!

If You're Going to Overspend on One Thing… - In all seriousness, make it the photographer. I have nothing snarky to add here. Just trust me on this one.

The Guest List - We earmarked slots for 120 guests. When it came time to decide who made the cut, Mrs. Bootleg attempted to play the "I know more people than you" card. Hold your ground, guys. Make it a 50/50 split and fill up every last spot, even if you have to comb the obituaries for names. Then, graciously decide to cede some of your guests to the woman. Remember, marriage is all about things that you can dig up from the past to use to your benefit in future arguments.

Wedding Registry - During last month's San Diego wildfire drama, the wife and I were able to share a laugh over our garage full of unopened, still factory-sealed wedding gifts. Did I mention it'll be five years this Friday? Anyone want these? Perhaps, I can interest you in this? And, is there any good reason that a Black couple wants this on their wedding registry?

Much to the protests of my wife, I started an registry with nothing but DVDs. Adamant that no one would buy anything off of it, she was shocked when everything I asked for was snapped up in about a week. Fortunately, she wasn't too shocked to add several DVDs of her own. I mean Grease? Jesus.

The Fight I Forgot - Mrs. Bootleg got home from her bachelorette party in Vegas at the precise moment that my Oakland A's lost their third straight ALDS. I vaguely remember this, but apparently I was in something of a foul mood. While this doesn't sound like me in the least, the wife swears that I rudely told her I had no interest in hearing about her weekend in Sin City. From that, she took that I cared more about the game than about her. To this day, I still have no retort. Probably should try to think of one before tomorrow.

Into Every Life… - The average November high temperature in San Diego is 70 degrees. Surprisingly, November is also San Diego's sunniest month of the year and we average just over an inch of rain. So, of course, it rained during our entire wedding weekend. Coincidentally enough, the forecast for tomorrow is rain. Yes…coincidence.

Know if You Really Need a Limo - My wife arranged for a limo to take us from the ceremony to the reception. Total distance: 1.2 miles. And, yes, Mrs. Bootleg does handle the Cameron Family finances. I'll be pretty helpless when she eventually leaves me.

Drinky, Drinky - We had an open bar at our wedding – beer, wine and hard liquor. Nothing's too good for our guests! Then, after less than two hours, these vultures had plowed through our $2,500 drink ceiling. Far be it for me to place the blame on one person, but my best man appeared to be the drunkest. He spilled some of his champagne before beginning a rambling toast, then "inadvertently" felt up my wife, before shoving a dollar bill down into the pants of another married woman…who just happened to be dancing on a chair. Actually, this would've been the wedding of the year…if I didn't have to pay for it.

If I Had to Do It All Over Again… - …I have no idea how to finish that sentence.

Next: Part Five! Uhh, I'll think of something…

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Five Years in Five Days - Collateral Damage

This Friday, Mrs. Bootleg and I celebrate five years marriage. I'm paying tribute to the little woman all week long in the hope that it'll get me out of having to buy a real gift…

In August 2001, I bought an engagement ring from Southern California's most annoying jewelers. I hadn't given much thought as to how I'd pop the question, but since the girlfriend's birthday was about a month away, I figured it would have to coincide with that.

You wouldn't know it from the 1997-inspired white text/black background design here at TBG, but I'm actually pretty creative when it comes to gift-giving. For example – and, get ready to be blown away – my groomsmen were made up of four old friends/longtime weekend pitching and hitting buddies. So, for their groomsmen gifts, I got them miniature wood bats with their names carved in.

See? Creative!

Anyways, I was drawing a blank on the "how" and "where" to propose.

At the end of my rope, I decided to embrace absolute douche-baggery and arrange for one of those Jumbo-Tron marriage proposals at the A's v. Angels game at Anaheim Stadium on Friday, September 14. Her birthday.

That the girlfriend agreed to go to a freakin' baseball game on her birthday was an early tip-off that this proposal wasn't exactly a government secret, anymore. I had an elaborate lie in my mouth that involved reservations at a swank Hollywood hot spot after the game and a posh suite for the end of the evening. All of which went unneeded when I didn't have to convince GF Bootleg that killing three-plus hours with American League baseball wasn't a bad thing on her birthday.

The Angels have quite the scam in place for scoreboard messages, too. It cost me a $75 "donation" to the Orange County chapter of one of those "last wish for dying kids" outfits. I still remember the guy on the other end telling me, "But, you can give more if you like." Thanks, I'm fine with the minimum.

I had the ring, the message and the tickets.

And, the terrorists had the airplanes.

9/11 happens…thousands die…America forever altered…Major League Baseball postpones all their games for a week.

Out of respect, I waited until the next day to call the Angels and see about getting my money back. I had no more use for a message at a game that wouldn't be played until the first week of October. "We don't refund donations, sir, but we can put the donation in your name, instead of the Angels." Pretty sure that doesn't fit the legal or literal definition of "compromise", but – out of respect – I accepted his terms.

Hastily, I made reservations for a seafood place in Del Mar that features seaside patio dining with "the most spectacular sunset in San Diego County". I asked for a seat inside, since I hate wearing a shirt and tie and sitting outside in the sun.

My cheap, ill-fitting slacks didn't do much to hide the square ring-box bulge in my pocket. I had the barbecued salmon which, if I was blogging back then, would've received the same "500" score that
the fried rattlesnake at last summer's County Fair got.

Afterwards, the girlfriend and I walked the streets by the water. She was a few minutes from asking me where her goddam ring was, so I un-wedged it from my pants (for my next marriage proposal: a better hiding place) and softly axed, "Do you wanna get married or what?"

Good times.

Next: All the ways an open bar at a wedding can go horribly, horribly wrong!'s NFL Stadium Rankings

I'm an absolute sucker for these things.

I spent part of my lunch hour pouring through the 1-32 rankings of every NFL stadium over at Sports Illustrated's criminally underrated website today. Considering one of the personal highlights of my 2007 is seeing three different Major League ballparks that I hadn't been to before, these subjective lists are a great way to kill 60 minutes.

There are seven different categories, each graded on a 10-point scale.

The text is a tad disjointed, since it's overloaded with partial quotes (and quotation marks) from fans who apparently responded via a survey of some sort, but that's a minor nit.

Oddly enough, despite my self-professed fanatical fan status, I've only been to one NFL stadium: Qualcomm in San Diego for a couple of Chargers v. Raiders tilts in 2000 and 2001. San Diego's football field is ranked 22nd, just below the Coliseum in Oakland.

Quick commentary on SI's perspective:

All regular season games (at Qualcomm Stadium) have been sold out since Sept. 27, 1998.

This comes with an asterisk, though. Our city council voted to buy all available tickets (and donate them to local schools) if the Chargers failed to sell out before the NFL's blackout deadline. This was a H-U-G-E deal locally as the Chargers stank up the joint in the late '90s/early '00s, but the city council's arrangement ensured that fans wouldn't miss their 1-15 team's home games every week. This deal expired a few years ago, right around the time the Chargers got good.

Many caution to stay away from Raiders games (in San Diego), when "notoriously drunk and rowdy" Oakland fans flood the Q.

True…to a point. Raiders fans in Southern California are mostly gangbanging holdovers from the team's days at the infamous LA Coliseum. But, the Chargers fans aren't all sweetness n' light white. They have a thuggish element that'll stab you just as quickly as any Raider fan will.

Rubio's Baja Grill… (is) tasty and capture(s) the essence of the range of San Diego sports fans…

Rubio's is the fish taco place that every write-up of San Diego food inherently MUST include. Truth is, their fish tacos are dry, bland and way overrated. They're also $1.99 in their restaurants and close to $6.00 if you buy them at the stadium and about the size of the palm of your hand.

There's lots of room, lots of beer and lots of girls in bikinis." There are other things, too, in this quintessential "laid-back," California "party atmosphere."

The above sentence describes the San Diego tailgating scene. The above sentence also doesn't nearly do the San Diego tailgating scene justice. It's all true and, regrettably, it was an identical atmosphere for San Diego Padres baseball games when the team played at Qualcomm. Many a weeknight "happy hour" was just caravanning down to the Q, buying some bleacher seats and getting plowed in the parking lot. Sigh.

"The immediate area is all a giant parking lot" "far from residential living." A short drive or trolley-ride away is Mission Valley, "a newly constructed neighborhood designed around shopping and eateries."

Umm…who wrote this sh*t? There are condos, literally, right across the street from the stadium and no less than a ½ mile away in any direction from it. And, Mission Valley isn't a "neighborhood", it's a gigantic outdoor mall with a bunch of little satellite bars, restaurants, hotels and mini-malls surrounding it. I'd share more corrections, but I plan to write SI directly with the rest of them. Harrumph.

(BTW…'s Page 2 section did a similar write-up on baseball parks a few years ago. Twas an awesome little read in its own right.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Five Years in Five Days – The Fight Fights!

This Friday, Mrs. Bootleg and I celebrate five years marriage. I'm paying tribute to the little woman all week long in the hope that it'll get me out of having to buy a real gift…

January 1997 - So, we'd been dating for a little over a year to this point. This isn't to imply that we hadn't had the occasional disagreement, as I'd learned several annoying little things over the prior 12 months or so. For example, Girlfriend Bootleg couldn't read a map…in fact, to this day, she still can't. Whether it's city, state or the San Diego Zoo's "you are here" cartoonishly illustrated poster…it doesn't matter. "I'm all turned around!", she cries. Or, my favorite, "Why are the letters so small?"

Anyways, it was New Year's Day and a bunch of us were going to Six Flags Magic Mountain. GF Bootleg and I met my brother there, along with longtime friends o' mine Thai and Vig. On that day…after we'd stood in line, bought tickets and walked through the turnstile…I learned that the girlfriend doesn't like roller coasters. At Six Flags Magic Mountain. I just learned this.

Why'd she come? F*cked if I know. And, to top things off, she got violently ill. No, no…she hadn't got on any rides. Apparently, the mere sight of the rides was enough to turn her stomach. For the next six hours, she shuffled six steps behind the rest of us, clutching her queasy belly and ruining our day.

The clincher came at the end. The girlfriend forgot where I parked the car (I know, I know…yet, I still married her). While I roamed up and down the thousands upon thousands of rows of parking, the little woman sat down on the sidewalk, because she was "too sick" for any more walking.

When I finally found the car, I drove back to pick up the patient. By now, she was curled up in the fetal position on the ground as a few concerned park visitors and the Magic Mountain Parking Lot Tram driver huddled around her. None of them with any knowledge of the sabotage she wrought that day.

October 1998 - On a cool Friday night in late October, I went out for an evening of drinking with a couple of co-workers. "Christopher" was visiting from our sister division back in upstate New York and, uh…"Mandy" was in our San Diego office with me. We all drank a lot. It happens. It was 2:30 AM and none of us were in any condition to drive, so I did the right thing.

I did the smart thing.

I left a voice mail on the wife's cell phone, informing her that I wouldn't be coming home and, instead, spending the night with Christopher and Mandy in a downtown hotel.

Despite the lives I saved that night from not getting behind the wheel, in a matter of minutes, the girlfriend had left a scathing, potty-mouthed message for me. Here's a summary: "Don't bother (expletive) coming home!" and "This is (expletive) bull(expletive)!" and "Why the (expletive) didn't you call the (expletive) house phone?"

Quite the lady, no?

Never mind that Mandy got the back room, Christopher got the couch and I got the floor. In fact, as best I can remember, here's the voice mail I left for the GF:

"Hey. Me and Chris and Mandy are pretty f*cked up. We're gonna get a hotel together and sleep it off. I'll be home as soon as I sober up, but don't expect me anytime before six."

Now, here's what she chose to hear:

"Hey. Mandy's pretty. We're gonna get a hotel and sleep together. Don't expect me home before sex."

To this day, Mrs. Bootleg still gets worked up over this. Publicly, I know that all the women have to take her side, but, c'mon ladies…you know I did the right thing.

May 2001 - Five years before this, one of my best friends got married and I brought the future Mrs. Bootleg along as my date. Seemed innocuous at the time, but, in reality, I'd inadvertently laid the groundwork for Memorial Day Weekend 2001.

We'd attend several more weddings over the ensuing months and years, leading up to the fateful phone call I'd receive from the girlfriend while at work on a Friday morning:

"Guess what? J & D got engaged!"

Now, "J" was the last of her girlfriends to get hitched. I knew what was coming, however, I mistakenly assumed that the little woman's next words wouldn't come until the ride home from J & D's wedding several months later:

"So, where is our relationship going?"

Oh, dear.

She went on and on…and on. Although she never raised her voice, it was clear that she was more pissed off now than the night I slept with Mandy, er, she thought I slept with Mandy. Hell, she even dropped the "piss or get off the pot" line. Who knew anyone but your grandfathers used that gem!

Later that day Mrs. Bootleg's job had a tailgating event at a Padres game. We spent the afternoon on opposite ends of the parking lot – her stewing in her juices while pretending to happy for the newly engaged couple (who were co-workers of hers and in attendance, showing off "the ring") and me, scoping out prospects for the future-future Mrs. Bootleg, in case the girlfriend dumped me before the game started.

Pretty sure y'all know how that turned out.

October 2007 - Our son Jalen just enjoyed his fourth Halloween. So far, he's been a cat, Batman and – my favorite – The Green Lantern for his previous three candy grabs. This year, the wife and I were at odds over his costume.

There was simply no way to outdo last year's get-up, so I deferred to the wife and trusted she'd come up with something equally as almost as clever.

Instead, she came up with…with this.

For an African-American child.

My African-American wife came up with this.

In the end, I invoked my rarely used veto powers – over her objections – and the boy went as a firefighter.

Although, looking back, I shouldn't have been surprised at my wife's preference.

Next: How Al-Qaeda blew up my marriage proposal plans!

Monday, November 5, 2007

Five Years in Five Days – How We Met

This Friday, Mrs. Bootleg and I celebrate five years of wedded bliss co-habitation. In the interest of full disclosure, I had "2 ½ years" in the pool my mother started at the rehearsal dinner. Unfortunately, every square other than that and "forever" was taken, so the odds – admittedly – were never in my favor.

Fortunately, I found the only Black woman on earth who tolerates the only Black man on earth who watches baseball, drinks beer and blogs. Ahead of the African-American cool curve, I am not, but that was also the case back in a little year I call 1995.

Kordell "Slash" Stewart was changing the way the NFL viewed Black quarterbacks – by playing every position except quarterback!

The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers parlayed a few months of popularity in 1993 into their own feature-length movie! (Still not sure why this formula didn't work for "Whoomp, There It Is!" The Movie)

And, most importantly, Aaron discovered the internet.

Keep in mind, this was before everyone in America owned two computers. My boy, Thai, had introduced me to this wonderful time waster just before I moved to San Diego in August of '95 and I was blown away by a virtual world where backstage pro wrestling poop was now part of the public domain. To say nothing of how the 'net nearly destroyed Sandra Bullock's life in the major motion picture of the same name.

It was clearly informative and powerful!

During an unusual bout of sobriety in November of that year, I found myself inside the lone computer lab in San Diego State University. And, never let it be said that state-run colleges are behind the curve, as there were nearly 100 computers for the 32,000 student body. Nearly 100!

I had this old, beat-up Buffalo Bisons minor league ballcap that I wore backwards (which was the style at the time) and some XXL baggy denim shorts. Believe it or not, the story behind the former is actually more embarrassing than the wearing of the latter, but that's neither here nor there.

Anyways, it was Tuesday, November 7th and – wait for it – across a crowded computer lab, our eyes met. She was actually a statuesque 5'11" white girl with long brown hair, but sitting next to her, sharing the same computer, was the 4'8" future Mrs. Bootleg.

I shared an awkward hallway conversation with this midget, who barely reached my sternum. We exchanged names (she "helpfully" explained that hers was like a popular French dish made with eggs, milk and cheese, as if I'd never known anyone named "future Mrs. Bootleg" before), e-mail addresses (how '90s!) and home phone numbers (cell phones would not be invented until 2004 or 2005).

Our first date couldn't have been more ghetto, as we met at Wings N Things, about 10 minutes from the campus…and, on the corner of "Crack" and "Gang". We went dutch on a pair of five wing combo meals and called each other the second we both got home.

Just precious.

Next: All the times we nearly broke up!

Sunday, November 4, 2007

TBG's NFL Pickery Spectacular - Week #9

This week's picks can be found right here.

Hey, I'm only four games back!