Day 91: No Joke

Complimentary box of truffles from Fleming's.

Complimentary box of truffles from Fleming’s.

My wife and I ended up at our local Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar again tonight, just two weeks after we celebrated St. Patrick’s Day there with friends. This time, we found ourselves there during the April Fools’ Day all-night happy hour.

It was business as usual at Fleming’s tonight, where we always love the stellar service and the outstanding happy hour values. We went with our favorite, the prime burger with double cut fries, and shared the sweet chile calamari appetizer. The food is consistently delicious and tonight was no different.

After we finished our meal, our server asked if we were celebrating anything and I jokingly said, “happy hour.” We all laughed and a few minutes later he returned with a complimentary box of truffles. It was a nice gesture and my wife and I appreciated the non-prank touch to this silly holiday.

Day 90: Chances

Birdie chances for me and nephew.

Birdie chances for me and nephew.

As noted here, one of my goals for this year is to break 100 on the golf course. Unfortunately, I have not been able to play as much as I’ve wanted to in 2015. It’s the end of March and I haven’t gotten out to a regulation course yet. I’ve played a few executive and par-3 courses, but need to stretch my legs and play a par-72 soon. The summers in the Inland Empire can be brutal for golfers and it isn’t easy playing in the stifling heat.

The photo above is from my last trip to a par-3 course. I had not swung a club in awhile and had my ups and downs during the nine holes, but managed to stick the last green with my pitching wedge. My nephew nearly matched my shot and we both had a chance for a birdie. We both missed, but tapped in for par.

I realized that it might not be realistic to break 100 this year, but as long as I don’t miss any chances to golf with my nephew, I’m okay with it.

Day 89: Aquarium

image

I checked off another item from my Bucket List today: visiting the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach. I’ve driven by it and it’s been on my radar for years, but have never taken advantage of living in Southern California and spending a day here.

Thankfully, my wife scored discount passes and we went there today with my brother and his children. I was constantly surprised by how fun, interactive, and educational the exhibits were. The volunteer staff were excellent and we saw a lot of cool things. My favorites were the sea lions, who seemed to be playing up their cuteness to the crowd.

However, the thing I’ll never forget is bonding with my niece and nephew as we explored the aquarium and touched sharks, rays, and starfish, and jellyfish. It was a great day of ocean appreciation. Not even the slog through traffic on the way home could dampen our good mood. Of course, a car full of family singing along to Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” helped end the day on the right note.

Day 88: Game Night

imageWe introduced my niece and nephew to three new games today: Tsuro, Castle Panic, and Ticket to Ride. My wife and I were impressed with how quickly they picked up each game. We started the session with several games of Tsuro. It was the perfect way to get things rolling, since it only takes one or two turns to learn how to play and the game itself only lasts 10-15 minutes.

Next up was everyone’s favorite of the night, Ticket to Ride, which won over both my niece and nephew just as it had won over me, my wife, and stepdaughter. After the first game, everyone immediately wanted to play again, which is all you need to know to understand its popularity. It’s a fantastic family game and deserves all of its praise and accolades.

Finally, Castle Panic was a hoot, as my nephew was in charge of the sound effects for slaying each goblin, orc, and troll. He was the biggest fan of this one, more so than my niece and wife, and he quickly grasped the rules and strategy. We cheered when the Barbarian was picked up and won both games we played. High fives were given and promises were made to play again.

Day 87: Castle Panic

image

Yesterday I talked about Tsuro, one of two board games that I bought recently. The other was Castle Panic, a cooperative game that’s on the easy side of the learning scale, with a fun theme; I mean, who doesn’t like to slay trolls, goblins, and orcs? You and your partners are defending the castle against wave after wave of monsters. Each monster has 1-3 hit points and you use the cards to take away those points. Other challenges face you, including a Raiders-of-the-Lost-Ark rolling boulder that crushes everything in its path, plagues that thin out your ranks, Orc Lords leading the charge on the castle, and many more.

Over the past few nights, I’ve managed to go 3-1 in solo play. It’s definitely on the easier side of the difficulty scale, which is exactly what I wanted as I was stocking up on games for my niece and nephew’s visit. I hope they enjoy it as much as I do. I’ve already added the Wizard’s Tower expansion to my Amazon wish list.

Here’s the always entertaining Wil Wheaton and his Tabletop episode on Castle Panic:

 

Day 86: Tsuro

Tsuro

My wife’s a natural at Tsuro.

In anticipation of a visit from my niece and nephew, I bought two new games, one of them being the light and easy Tsuro. My family and I had fun breaking in the game the other night. It’s easy to learn and my wife’s a natural, winning the majority of games during our brief session.

Each player receives three tiles and is required to play one. Their dragon token is then moved along one of the paths on the tile. As each tile is played, paths are joined and the token can be taken on long or short journeys around the board. Fly off the board, however, and you’re out. Last dragon on the board is the winner.

Tsuro only takes about 15-20 minutes play, so it’s perfect for non-gamers and newbies or a nice filler between longer-running games. Along with Ticket to Ride, Zombie Dice, and Pandemic, I’m adding Tsuro to my rotation for International Tabletop Day on April 11th.

Day 85: Having a Ball

 

Our masks for the Black and White Masquerade Ball.

Our masks for the Black and White Masquerade Ball.

Last night my wife and I attended the Black and White Masquerade Ball, a Yelp Elite event hosted by Yelp’s Los Angeles (East) Community Manager Katie B. and her staff, along with the the Vertigo Event Venue and other sponsors. I’ve been fortunate to have attended some great Yelp parties for the Elite members of the website and this was another spectacular soiree. I’ve talked about my love of Yelp before (here and here) and I’m happy to be a part of its amazing online community.

Speaking of Yelp, a friend just told me that my review of the Gondola Company of Newport was highlighted in the Yelp Orange County Destination: Date Night. I remember that gondola ride like it was yesterday: my wife and I were newlyweds when we rode the gondola around Newport Beach. It was one of those perfect summer evenings, mellow and relaxing, the waves lapping up against the gondola as we sipped red wine and chatted, secret conversations lost in the sea air as the sun set behind us.

Day 84: Backcourt in the Front

History: Jordan Clarkson and Jeremy Lin

History: Jordan Clarkson and Jeremy Lin

I had just posted how happy I was to see more and more Filipino Americans and Asian Americans in the news, when history was made: my beloved Los Angeles Lakers starting backcourt was Jordan Clarkson and Jeremy Lin. Although these two will never be confused with Magic and Scott or Kobe and Fisher, it was A Moment due to the fact that they were the first Asian American starting backcourt in NBA history.

Lin is a Chinese American and well-known for Linsanity, the two weeks where he absolutely ruled New York and the sports world. It was the feel-good story of the year, not only for Asian Americans, but for sports geeks like myself.

Clarkson is a Filipino American who joined the Lakers this year and after stints in the Development League, made it to the big team.

Confession: I did not actually watch the game, something I could not have said just two years ago. Since the Lakers bungled the Dwight Howard signing, I’ve lost interest in my team, due to mismanagement (primarily in ownership; yes, that means Jim Buss) and a lack of talent. I support the team, obviously, but after watching a lifetime of games where the Lakers were contenders (if not for the title, then at least a solid playoff team), it’s tough to get excited about a team that has no shot of doing well in the postseason, let alone actually qualifying for it.

Still, the moment was not lost on me and it wasn’t lost on Lin, either. That’s his Instagram photo above, which he captioned with a note about the history he and Clarkson made. Here’s hoping they can somehow drag the Lakers back to respectability next year.

Day 83: Dictionary

Macmillan Dictionary for Children

Macmillan Dictionary for Children

When I was a kid, mom made me read the dictionary. Actually, “encouraged” is a better word, since she didn’t force me to do it. So I would crack open my Macmillan children’s dictionary and skim the words until I found one I didn’t know. The Macmillan was great, since it had plenty of pictures and drawings among the definitions.

Eventually I perused the Oxford English Dictionary a few times during my college days. The main library had a copy of the OED and it was exciting and intimidating, overwhelming and intriguing. Even though I was an English major, I was never required to use the OED for any of my assignments, but its reputation preceded it: I was pulled in by its mystique, since the OED made word nerds jump and down in its presence like apes going ga-ga over a monolith.

Years later, I would read about Ammon Shea’s quest to read the OED from beginning to end, in his delightful book, “Reading the OED: One Man, One Year, 21,730 Pages.” As crazy as the idea sounds, it appealed to me. I’ve always loved libraries and, although I have no desire to read the OED cover to cover, I can relate to the solitary quest of reading.

Today, I have a few dictionaries on my home bookshelves, but they don’t get nearly enough use. However, I do follow the OED’s Twitter account. Every day they tweet a word’s definition (usually an obscure one) and while it might not bring back the childhood pleasure of learning what an aardvark is and seeing its picture next to the definition, it’s nice to have a little knowledge break among the usual social media noise.

Day 82: Looking Back, Looking Forward

Manny Pacquiao training run

Manny Pacquiao training run

Coming of age during the 70s and 80s, I was aware of the news and happenings of the time, especially when it came to pop culture and sports. I remember the controversy of Three’s Company (a single man living with two single women *gasp*), the Lakers perpetually contending and winning NBA championships, and the revelation that Darth Vader was Luke Skywalker’s father (oops, spoiler alert). I know where I was when Reagan was shot (junior high), then later when the Challenger blew up (high school). I recall waking up one morning learning that John Lennon had been murdered.

What I don’t remember? Much of anything to do with Filipino Americans or Asian Americans. Sure, I remember when Marcos was  overthrown and the rise of People Power (and the tale of Imelda’s shoes), but it was more in the context of world news, as in the Other news that wasn’t mainstream, or didn’t really matter. Maybe I wasn’t looking hard enough then, or maybe I wasn’t as aware as I thought. I would only learn the name Vincent Chin when I was in college during the 90s.

Today, though, it’s not uncommon to see my social media feeds filled with stories of Manny Pacquiao or Jeremy Lin or Russell Peters or any other Filipino or Asian. For middle-aged Filipino Americans like myself, to be able to debate whether or not a Filipino is the greatest prizefighter of this generation is akin to seeing the yellow, blue, red, and white of the Filipino flag planted in Mars. It was absolutely unfathomable then.

And yet, here we are today and Manny is about to take part of the biggest fight of this generation. Last night, a Chinese American led the Lakers in scoring. This weekend, during the NCAA tournament, the hero of the Maryland-Valparaiso game was an Indian American. During my workout this morning, I listened to a podcast interview with one of the funniest comedians on the planet, Russell Peters, as he talked about some of the racism he encountered as an Anglo-Indian raised in Canada.

I love the fact that George Takei has had a career resurgence so late in life and that his Facebook posts are the most re-shared among my friends. I love that Filipinos are frequently seen on the music-contest reality shows, from Jessica Sanchez to the Filharmonic. I love that one of the top sitcoms on ABC is centered around an Asian American family. I love that the name of the sitcom is Fresh Off the Boat, with all of the baggage that comes with such a loaded phrase.

Most of all, I love that for every Takei, Pacquiao, Peters, Lin, Fresh Off the Boat, and more, there will be even more Fil-Ams and Asian-Ams doing similar things in the future. I’m looking forward to those days, but will always look back to remember how far we’ve come.