All of My Obsessions in One Place

My Life

A Roxy Road

Posted by doktakra on April 10, 2012 at 1:20 PM Comments comments (0)


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Yep, that’s my 10-pound Cairn Terrier-Chihuahua puppy, one eye half-open, snoring louder than any human I’ve ever known. The video (along with this one) was shot with my phone and not altered in any way. Seriously.

It’s hard to believe that I’ve had my dog, Roxy, for almost a year now, and it’s even harder to believe that I’ve never written a post about her (though in fairness, I’ve posted dozens of photos on my Twitter and Instagram accounts). And yes, she’s my dog, as my wife, Michelle, frequently reminds me whenever Roxy wakes up at 7 a.m. to go outside, or if it’s 11 p.m. and someone needs to run to the grocery store to get more dog food.

In case you're wondering, her first name is a nod to Sly Stallone ("Rocky") and her middle name is ARCO, in reference to the Sacramento Kings' previous arena name. Somehow, I couldn't find a way to incorporate R. Kelly (yet?).

I never had a dog growing up, mostly because my dad wouldn’t allow it, fearing (probably rigthfully so), that he would end up doing all of the work. When I moved out and lived on my own, I was nervous about getting one because I didn’t know the first thing about taking care of anything other than maybe a hamster. Michelle, on the other hand, had been around dogs all her life, and had recently rescued and owned a rowdy terrier, until that dog, Lucy, grew way too big for her apartment and had to go live in her parents’ house in Miami. Since I moved into that very same New York apartment, fitting a dog into the even tighter space didn’t seem like the best idea. Still, I constantly talked about wanting one, and would once in a while catch Michelle looking at the available dogs in nearby shelters.

Then, about a year ago, Michelle and my mom half-jokingly told me that I could finally get a dog – my parents would watch it whenever we were out of town – if I started eating chicken. Now, I won’t say that it was as easy as that, and there were plenty of other factors involved, but suffice it to say, I have a dog and I do now eat chicken.

We found Roxy through PetFinder, and fell in love with the tiny but extremely loud puppy immediately. This may be shocking, but she doesn’t do much other than eat and sleep … and of course, wake up in the middle of the night and start jumping on my side of the bed. Naturally, she’s a Sacramento Kings fan, who "watches" every game with me – she’s even been on the homepage twice now, including her very own #KingsAllDay Instagram inclusion – and also has a Dolphins shirt, which she despises wearing.

Roxy hasn't learned a lot of commands, but thanks to my parents, who might love her more than they love me or Michelle at this point, she goes to sleep when she's told to do so in Russian. And since the Russian word for walk sounds almost exactly like "Goulet" – a running joke with one of my best friends based on Will Ferrell's classic "Saturday Night Live" sketch – it cracks me up every time she goes crazy if I say it. That'll probably be the next video I upload.

Having a dog has definitely changed a lot and brought on a whole new set of worries and responsibilities for us – and Roxy can certainly be a pain when she refuses to walk outside or marks her territory when we bring her to someone's place – but nothing beats coming home and having her jump up and down and wag her tail in a frenzy. Goulet!

Stride Nation: The Marathon & the Kings

Posted by doktakra on January 11, 2012 at 2:25 PM Comments comments (0)

briefly wrote about the time I ran the 2006 New York City Marathon back at the time, but whether it was due to fatigue or just pure laziness (probably more of the latter), I never went into much detail about what I went through before, during and after the race.

Last week, I finally wrote about the entire experience – from my early days of running cross county in high school, to over-training for the Marathon, to (spoiler alert!) finishing the race in my Mitch Richmond Kings jersey – on Stride Nation, a new blog started by's Tom Ziller.

Here's a short excerpt from the post, which sets the stage for the somewhat dramatic conclusion: 

As I crossed the 20-mile marker, I started to doubt whether I could finish the 2006 New York City Marathon. My quads were on fire, and my shins were excruciatingly stiff and sore. I slowed down and gingerly walked to the side, wincing in pain and groaning in disgust, as runner after runner zoomed by me.

A few weeks prior, I was walking around on crutches on the advice of my doctor, who discovered multiple stress fractures in both of my tibias. Despite being advised to rest for at least a month until my injuries healed, I couldn’t convince myself to sit out the race after vigorously training for over a half a year. But now, 20 miles in, I thought about how no one would blame me if I decided to stop.

I'd advise you to read the whole story, but, well, I'm probably a little biased. At the very least, make sure to check out, which has an amazing community of knowledgeable writers and readers discussing running tips and race preparation.

Partying with Tracy Morgan

Posted by doktakra on November 28, 2011 at 7:50 PM Comments comments (0)

Barely 72 hours later, it still feels surreal.


Michelle and I, along with a couple of our friends, had the opportunity to go to a Tracy Morgan charity comedy show in Miami, which was presented by Dolphins tight end Anthony Fasano to benefit Veteran’s Housing. Thanks to the event organizers, Lunar Sports Group, we had invites to the pre-show VIP party, backstage passes and tickets to the after-party at the Shore Club.

We were informed beforehand that several of Fasano’s teammates could come out for the show, and sure enough, Reggie Bush, Davone Bess, Brian Hartline, Jared Odrick, Clyde Gates, Steve Slaton, and ex-Dolphin Lousaka Polite were among a dozen or so players in attendance. Michelle and I volunteered to check-in the VIP guests, meaning we had to put tiny orange bands around the massive wrists of professional football stars and the tiny wrists of their supermodel girlfriends. It was a tough job, but someone had to do it.

Once the pre-show party concluded, the players and VIP guests were ushered down the hall, where Morgan came out to welcome everyone to the show. Well, he didn’t so much welcome them, as much as launch into an impromptu stand-up act, explaining that he’s the sole reason why both the NFL and NBA lockouts had ended. That’s probably the one part that I can repeat with a straight face, much less reprint here.   Let’s just say the majority of his topics had a lot to do with bodily functions and bedroom acts most people would probably never want to try. Morgan walked up and down the hall, cracking everyone up with his unique sense of humor, driving home the point that absolutely nothing and no one was off limits (more on that shortly).

Before he went back to his dressing room, I made sure to shake his hand and tell him how much I enjoy his work, figuring it would be my one chance to speak to him.

The Dolphins walked to another section of the theater to pick up food and beverages before the main act, where beat writer Andy Kent introduced us to Bess, Michelle’s favorite player. Bess was extremely nice and personable, openly talking about Miami’s heartbreaking last-second loss on Thanksgiving, and taking the time out to pose for pictures. Michelle was star-struck and giggling in delight after Bess walked away – pretty much exactly how I’d react if I ever talked to Candace Parker.

As for Morgan’s actual stand-up, he began the routine by pulling no punches about Bush’s relationship with Kim Kardashian and her E! reality show, and continued to spew (heh) unfiltered raunchiness and crudeness for the next hour-and-a-half. I don’t think there’s a person on earth who can get away with anything he said or make such absurd topics so hilarious. My face actually hurt from laughing so much.

Soon afterwards, we walked several blocks to the Shore Club, where none other than Tracy Morgan and a few of his friends sat on a bench outside, with no bodyguards or bouncers in sight. When he saw us, he dove right back into his comedy act, telling us a few jokes he forgot to say during the show.

At one point, he said (I’m paraphrasing for language, clearly) that men can't live with or without women.  Michelle laughed and told him I was learning all about that.

“Nah, he’s a good boy,” said Morgan. “He’s domestically trained, like me. He knows not to pee inside the house.” I can’t argue with this.


He then asked us if we were coming inside (as if we’d miss it for anything), at which point one of his friends told Morgan that I look like Jesus.

“He’s got the long hair, the beard – all he’s missing is the sandals,” he said.

Morgan took it a step further, declaring that I actually look like Moses’ mother. I still have no idea what to make of that, but it was fantastic. He then asked me if I’d seen the original Planet of the Apes, and for whatever reason, I told him I hadn’t. It didn’t matter – he went right into a Charlton Heston impression from some movie none of us knew; regardless, we laughed hysterically.

Inside the club, I spotted one of the comedians who opened for Morgan and had to get a picture with him, obviously because of that amazing mustache. Somewhat disappointingly, his act barely mentions the sweet ‘stache, with just one quick line about Super Mario being on stage.

We hung  around in the back for a while, where some of the guests played pool and hit on scantily-clad women, and went home around one thirty in the morning. After spending some time with him, I can safely say that Morgan basically plays himself in 30 Rock (within the confines of network television, of course) – an outrageous and unpredictable character who’s always on and lives for making others around him laugh.

Needless to say, it was an unforgettable experience with the hands-down funniest person I’d ever met.

Walk This Way

Posted by doktakra on March 31, 2011 at 1:21 PM Comments comments (0)

Living in New York over the last decade, I can't explain why I haven't run into celebrities more frequently.  Sure, I've seen plenty of movies and TV shows filmed on the streets and caught glimpses of Denzel Washington, Angelina Jolie, and Will Smith filming a few scenes.  During my freshman year of college, I saw Robert DeNiro trip over and then stare down an orange cone on the set of Analyze That.  Signs for Law & Order: SVU and Nurse Jackie filming hours are regularly hanging on street poles in my neighborhood.

But I've hardly ever actually bumped into someone famous outside of a nightclub or at a nice restaurant.  Now, this could, of course, be due to the fact that I rarely go to fancy places (or just out, in general), but just by sheer luck and coincidence, you'd think some celebrity and I would be walking down the same street at the same time.  Until last week, this happened exactly once.

After I graduated college but before I could afford to move into my own apartment in the city, I lived in NYU housing for one summer semester.  As I made the turn on Broadway and Chambers Street on my way home from work, Sam Waterston, better known as District Attorney Jack McCoy on Law & Order, came out of his trailer parked on the side of the road.

I immediately recognized him and told him that I watched the show every week.  He was surprisingly interested in talking to me, and asked if I was still going to school and if I lived in the area.  I told him that I'd recently graduated and worked at an investment bank, but was temporarily staying at a college dorm a few blocks away.  His reply was nothing short of epic.   Now, I don't know if he was still in character or if he just naturally talks like Jack McCoy at all times, but he sharply turned his head towards me as if he was interrogating a hostile witness on the stand and yelled, "a DORM?!" in apparent disbelief.  I started telling him that I had to save money, but by that point, he seemed to have lost interest and went back inside his trailer with a quick good-bye.

This was six years ago, and professional athletes at sporting events aside, I hadn't seen a single celebrity in person since.  Well, some Real Housewives reality TV star once had dinner in the same restaurant as me and my friends, but since I had no idea who he or she even was, I don't really count that.

But after a long drought. it finally happened -- and it wasn't even in New York.  I flew down to Miami for a college buddy's wedding, and we had dinner afterwards at Emeril's Restaurant in South Beach. I went to the bathroom towards the end of the night, and just as I was washing my hands and getting ready to leave, I noticed a familiar face.  It was Zach Gilford, who happened to play one of my favorite TV characters of all-time, Matt Saracen on (the sadly defunct) Friday Night Lights.

I felt a little awkward approaching him in the bathroom -- I'm sure there's some kind of guy code against doing this sort of thing -- but I told him that I was a big fan of FNL.  He thanked me and we talked about the show for a few minutes, at which point I asked if he'd mind taking a picture with me.  He hesitated for a second, and then said, "How about we do that outside?"  Good call, Zach.

We walked out into the hallway, where Michelle had been waiting for me, and Zach asked her if she'd take the photo.  I told him that she was my fiancée, and he asked if we were from Miami and congratulated us on the upcoming wedding.  Afterward, Michelle told me she thought I ran into an old friend by the way Zach and I were chatting on our way out of the bathroom.

Nope, I was only talking to the greatest quarterback in the history of the Dillon Panthers.  Clear Eyes. Full Hearts. Can't Lose!  And no, I didn't actually say that to him. Regrettably.

Sing for the Moment

Posted by doktakra on January 18, 2011 at 11:14 AM Comments comments (0)

There are certain songs we'll never forget that play a special part in our lives.  “Our songs," whether they remind us of a school dance, a first kiss, or some crazy party, come on the radio and instantly put us in a good mood as we sing along, pretending as if we know all of the lyrics. For me, aside from all R. Kelly tracks, of course – which are either unintentionally comedic beyond words or brilliant, with no in-between – there are a few songs, for better or worse, that always take me back.  Well, at least, these are the ones I can talk about on this (somewhat) family-friendly site.

Carl Carlton, “Everlasting Love – I was a horrible basketball player during my first year of summer camp. I pretty much nailed all of the stereotypes of the nerdy, unathletic white kid, and I'm pretty sure there was a time when other campers decided five-on-four would be more competitive than picking me for a team. So, when I came back home, I convinced my parents to put a basketball hoop in the driveway and spent hours pretending I was Mitch Richmond. During the bus ride back to camp the next year, "Everlasting Love" came on the radio, and for some reason, I took it as a sign. I stepped out on the court at camp, and the same kids who used to ridicule me, couldn't believe how good I'd become. Feeling cool and confident, I played a guy one-on-one for his girlfriend in front of everyone and emerged victorious, all while humming "Everlasting Love" the entire time. This will always be the highlight of my basketball career. Yes, I was 14.

Eminem, "The Way I Am" - Just as I dreamed of becoming the first ‘cool’ white rapper (Vanilla Ice and Snow obviously failed in that regard), Eminem busted on the scene with “My Name Is” and crushed my hopes. So, I did what any normal person in my position would do – I wrote Jewish parodies of Eminem’s singles, and eventually other hip-hop artists’. “I Am,” “Stan,” Dr. Dre’s “Still D.R.E.” were a few of my bigger hits, which I’d post on Napster and rename as popular Limp Bizkit, Christina Aguilera, and 'N Sync songs to get more downloads and get my name out there. The strategy sort of worked, but I was banned from performing them at my school’s talent show for risk of offending someone (I think I had a Yiddish swear word in one). I probably still have the MP3s (or WAV files) on my parents’ old computer, but I don't plan on re-releasing them anytime soon.

Donell Jones, "Where I Wanna Be" – Jones’ hit is still one of my favorite songs, even though it was playing on the radio when I was involved in a minor fender-bender in high school – with an off-duty cop. It was definitely not where I wanted to be at the time. Making matters worse, I was wearing my school's windbreaker track pants, which I conveniently "forgot" to give back at the end of the season because they were incredibly comfortable. So, of course, my track coach happened to be passing on the street during the time of the accident, and called me into his office the next day to get the damn pants back. The good news is, after years of paperwork, I somehow convinced the insurance company that it wasn't my fault. No such luck with the pants.

The Offspring, “Pretty Fly (For a White Guy) – You may not believe this, but there was a time when I acted, um, ‘hood’ in my tiny, suburban New Jersey high school. Naturally, everyone decided that “Pretty Fly” was written about me and sang it whenever I was in the hallway. If that wasn’t enough, some of the girls also started calling me “Kenny,” in honor of Seth Green’s character in Can’t Hardly Wait, which came out around the same time.  Shockingly, I was single the entire time. Ninety-two percent, yo!

The Beard Don't Stop

Posted by doktakra on October 14, 2010 at 1:13 PM Comments comments (1)

For some unknown reason, I've been fascinated by beards ever since I was a little kid.  It drove me nuts that my dad refused to grow out a goatee and that no one in my immediate family had ever sported any kind of facial hair.  One day, I found an old stack of my dad's photos, and drew a beard on his face in every single one.  Shockingly, he didn't care how awesome it made him look, and grounded me for a week.


When I could finally grow something other than a wispy, Adam Morrison-esque mustache in high school, I put my razor to work.  Or rather, I didn't.  I decided to first experiment with an Abe Lincoln beard, and went an entire summer without shaving or trimming it.  Needless to say, there were no girls in my life during this time.  I'm pretty sure Kyle Orton in his heyday still has me beat in the ugliest beard of all-time category, though I wouldn't do any NFL Betting on it.


As time went on, I tried out a different look every week, and well, let's just say some worked better than others.  Actually, none of them really worked.  Let's take a look back at the best of these bad boys.




Sadly, I didn't rock this look in school, since I'm almost certain it would've gotten me all the ladies.  Because, honestly, who wouldn't want to date a guy with such smooth handlebar mustache?  I'll bet ex-Kings center Scot Pollard did pretty well for himself.  It just screams, "How you doin'?"



Ah, yes, my all-time favorite: the R 'n Beard. I could never get mine to look as perfectly thin and neat as Craig David's, but that didn't stop me from desperately trying to look like a reject from a '90's boy-band.  I apologize if you have Color Me Badd's "I Wanna Sex You Up" stuck in your head now...




I don't think I need to go into much detail here. These exquisitely fancy whiskers were favored by '70's porn stars (or so I hear) and former NFL quarterback Jake Plummer.



You may remember this beard from the time I attempted (and failed) to get out of jury duty in April.  I cleaned it up a little, and it still makes me look like a shady homeless guy you wouldn't want to come across in a dark alley (or Jack Shephard during his dark period).  The original inspiration, of course, came from Sly Stallone during the epic training montage in Rocky IV.



According to Michelle, I look like a sleazy car salesman with the goatee.  I can't really argue with that, though I think the Elvis sideburns make me look a little more gangsta.  I only wish I'd taken a page out of Pollard's book and braided the chin.



Wolverine of the X-Men was my favorite comic book character as a kid, so naturally, I'd grow out mutton chops as an adult.  Admit it -- you're jealous.

Euro Tripping

Posted by doktakra on July 7, 2010 at 11:43 AM Comments comments (2)

If you're wondering why I haven't posted anything here in two months, it's not just because I've been lazy (though that's certainly a part of it). In between covering the NBA Draft and several other Sacramento Kings-related events -- I've actually written 13 NBA articles in the last two months -- Michelle and I were also out of the country for two weeks in early June.  We traveled through Germany and England, and I've finally found the time and motivation to bring you some stories, random observations, and anecdotes from our trip.  Though if you want to skip straight to the photo album, I won't blame you one bit. 


Wedding in Bavaria



Instead of a "Just Married" sign, the bride and groom had a Star Trek starship and a Spock figurine on the hood of their card.  Considering that Michelle and I met at a sports bloggers' happy-hour, I'm really in no position to pass any judgement here.

During the wedding, several guests competed to see who could crow the loudest, which is apparently some kind of German tradition.  The winner then had to stand up and crow at the top of his lungs once an hour, and buy dinner for the bride and groom each time he'd forget.  I don't get it either, but you'd better believe Michelle and I will be holding some kind of equally-awesome contest to get people to do funny things at our wedding.

Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany


The castle itself is amazingly beautiful, though, as we were constantly reminded, incomplete because King Ludwig II and his psychiatrist mysteriously drowned in a nearby lake during construction (there should really be a movie about this).  If I didn't have an irrational fear of stairs, especially narrow ones atop gigantic rocks, I probably would've enjoyed the hike down the scenic path above a waterfall a little more (many more pictures in the album).

Tour of Munich

Since we were there a month ago, neither of us remembers exactly what we saw from the bus.  I've captioned most of the photos as, "something on our tour of Munich" -- very helpful and informative, I know.


From what I do remember, on the left is The Glockenspiel (I love the sound of German), which has chimes, bells, and moving figures that re-enact some kind of very long story, in the Marienplatz city center; in the middle is the fantastic view (and I don't mean just us) from the top of the Olympic Tower; and on the right, you'll find Michelle posing like Athena the Goddess in Nymphenburg Palace.

The Beer and Food



Yep, nothing like getting beer served by the liter.  Did I finish it?  Not even close.  Did it get me a just tad tipsy?  Perhaps...and mine was actually half-lemonade.


Of course, Germany is extremely pro-vegetarian -- just look at all of those ripe tomatoes next to the globs of cured meat!  My typical dinner consisted of four pretzels and this zucchini schnitzel that tastes as good as it looks (which is surprisingly awesome).


Kings of Germany



Perhaps the highlight of the trip (at least for me) came during our walk through in the English Gardens, which, confusingly enough, is in Munich and contains the Chinese Garden (above). We stopped to watch a drum circle in the park, and noticed a familiar sight.  Yep, one of the drummers was wearing a vintage Sacramento Kings jacket.  I mean, honestly, of all teams and in all places, what are the odds of this happening?

Petting Zoo in Bavaria


My other favorite part was the petting zoo, where sheep, goats, llamas, and pigs walk around freely and eat out of your hand.  We tried to get the baby goat's attention, but he clearly wasn't interested in what I had to offer him (that's him dissing me by walking away in the background).

And amongst the crowd of pigs on the right, of course, is the infamous, overanxious one that bit Michelle, who then tried to convince me to eat bacon to defend her honor...

Quick Views of London



We spent a few days doing some of the touristy things in London, all of which were fun but none of which are all that exciting to discuss in much detail.  Let's just go through these from left to right: standing in front of Buckingham Palace after the changing of the guard; the view from the London Eye (basically an enormous Ferris wheel); and outside of the Tower of London. 





Michelle and her friend Phil rocked American flag capes during the United States vs. England World Cup game. I figured no one would pick a fight with Phil because he's 12 feet tall or Michelle because she's so cute, but I stayed out of the patriotic displays for my own safety. U-S-A!


Also, I Tweeted this at the time, but it's worth mentioning again -- this was in the men's room at one of the London pubs, and doesn't cease to make me laugh.


And finally, we have Michelle looking beautiful at Kensington Gardens, and me, doing what I do best after an exhausting two weeks.

Please Let Me Testify

Posted by doktakra on April 21, 2010 at 10:04 AM Comments comments (0)

I was excited when I received a jury duty summons in the mail.  Sure, I'd probably sit around doing nothing, but I'd also get a couple of paid days off, get up later than usual, and come home earlier.  And if I didn't have a job, I would've pocketed a cool $40 a day.  What could be so bad about this?

My first order of business was ensuring that I wouldn't get selected as a juror.  I didn't cut my hair and grew out a fantastic beard to look a little more intimidating...or at least more of a mess than I usually am.  

Now, does that look like the face of a man who should be deciding another person's future?

But my plan began to unravel when my name was on one of 120 pieces of paper drawn from a ballot box (it's almost endearing that they haven't embraced the whole automated craze yet).  I was directed into a court room, where the judge asked if anyone couldn't be impartial, and -- well, that was just about the only question I heard, because I noticed the district attorney had something stuck in his bushy mustache and spent the next 15 minutes trying to figure out if it was oatmeal or a piece of hot dog,

After a two-hour lunch -- a staple in the court house, as I learned -- 24 people were randomly chosen from the ballot box to be jury finalists.  I was the second one called.  Of course I was.

I had to answer a few basic questions from the judge and both attorneys -- and by the way, it's always fun to talk about where you live and what you do for a living in front of an alleged criminal -- to show that I wasn't prejudiced.  I told them my dad was recently held up at gun point (true story) and that my cousin works for a law firm, figuring at least one of those facts, combined with the disheveled appearance, would be enough for disqualification.  Not a chance -- I was the first juror put on trial.

The case was stretched out over five excruciatingly long days, during which I learned an exorbiant amount of information about the drug market, such as, a gram of cocaine goes for $28 on the street and an eightball, which is 3.5 grams, sells for $100 (no idea who decided to make the math so damn hard).  The defendant talked to a drug dealer who sold cocaine to an undercover police officer and stood on the corner where it happened, looking up and down the streets.  The dealer then came over and gave him the full $100 from the drug sale a minute later.  Now, does that sound like the defendant had at least something to do with it?

As the first juror, I was assigned as the foreperson, meaning I had the life-altering job of announcing the verdict to the court room.  I started practicing saying, "on the charge of drug trafficing in the third degree, we, the jury, find the defendant ... (extended dramatic pause) .. guilty" in my head.

Of course, one of the 12 jurors had to mess everything up and insist he didn't think the defendant was guilty, because despite receiving the money from the dealer, he may not have known it was from selling drugs.  Seriously.  Instead of deliberating for all of 20 minutes, we spent the next nine hours locked in a windowless room, trying to convince the outcast juror that his line of reasoning defied all logic and common sense.  In the end, I had to announce that we were deadlocked and the disappointed judge announced a hung jury. 

But wait, there's the twist -- just like in a real Law & Order episode!  The defendant wasn't in court for the last four days of the trial, but we were instructed to disregard his absence because it was his right  In fairness, he was out on bail, and could've been in the hospital or taking care of his kids, for all we knew.   

Except he wasn't -- he skipped town and the police are still out looking for him.  The judge ruled that the jury couldn't be made aware of this fact during our deliberations.  I love our judicial system.  Because, you know, an innocent person would take off in the middle of trial and all...

On the bright side, we received a free lunch courtesy of the taxpayers on the last day.  So there's that.  And I don't have to deal with this nonsense for at least the next six years.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I really need to shave.

California Love: Deleted Scenes

Posted by doktakra on January 12, 2010 at 1:05 PM Comments comments (0)

Coming Soon: A major announcement that you might already know if (a) we're actual or online friends; (b) you follow my Twitter; or (c) you listen to this Jagged Edge classic...

You know how CSI and CSI: Miami will have those occasional crossover episodes to make you tune in to each show to get the entire story, even though don't really need to watch both episodes to get the scoop on everything anyway?  That's kind of what's going on here.  By now I'm sure you've read all about my gloriously entertaining first visit to Sacramento (and shame on you if you haven't), but here are some other highlights from my three-day trip to the Westside (do people still say, "Westside" or am I living in 1996?).

Santa Monica Pier:  I've got a long-running streak that goes back all the way to my summer camp days at the Green Lane "Y" in New Jersey -- I've never gone home empty-handed from a boardwalk basketball hoop.  In fact, I used to be so good at hitting those tricky shots, that other campers would ask me to shoot for them just to get the prize.  You'll be glad to know the streak lives on -- I won a stuffed animal shark for Michelle after eight attempts on my first try, which is now promptly sitting in a box in our storage unit.  Good times.

Someone So Unforgettable:  We were on five flights with three different airlines over the weekend, and despite Virgin Airlines' free in-air TV and WiFi and Jet Blue's timely NFL package, my hands-down favorite was Southwest Airlines.  As we prepared for landing, one of the flight attendants announced that we'd be treated to some entertainment -- Nat King Cole's "Unforgettable."  That would've been fine and all, but she then proceed to sing the entire song herself over the PA system.  Look, you just had to be was like being trapped at an "American Idol" audition 10,000 feet up in the air.

Just Win, Baby:  It would've been far too easy had we boarded our flight out of Sacramento early Sunday morning and been back in New York by eight o'clock at night.  But of course, our plane was diverted to Oakland due to heavy fog, so we missed our connecting flight out of Long Beach.  Fortunately, Jet Blue gave us the option of leaving out of Las Vegas, complete with a three-hour layover in Sin City, which no rational person could possibly be mad about or decline.  Things got even more interesting when an earlier flight to Vegas was held up in Long Beach just as we arrived, and the security people inexplicably let us on board without even checking our IDs (gotta love the way they've stepped their game up after those recent scares).

Long story short, we rented a cheap hotel room and spent a solid six hours gambling at the Flamingo and Caesar's Palace .  I wasn't old enough to enter the casinos the last time I was in Vegas on a family vacation in high school (thanks, mom), but I more than compensated this time around.  I won't disclose how much money I lost, but let's just say that it was roughly three times more than what Michelle gambled away.  Note to self:  the roulette tables are not your friends.


By far the greatest moment was when a woman won $1,000 in the "Wheel of Fortune" slot game in front of us, and then told me, "now it's your turn" before walking away.  She left $20 worth of credits in the machine, which I went on to lose in about three minutes, but still, that type of thing just doesn't happen every day.  Or hell, maybe it does in Vegas...I should go back more often.