Monday, August 16, 2010

Gentile Summit 2010: Power Rankings

Another year of midwestern debauchery has come to an end, along with any ill-idealized dreams I had of ever being good at golf, apparently, such was the brutal nature of my swing. I may as well have teed-off with a log washed up on the shore of the muddy Mississippi.

But fear not, great fun was had in Minneapolis and environs, all thanks to the good people below.

1. Chad and Molly.

The top spot could go to none other than our esteemed host and hostess, who planned much of the agenda without complaint (audible complaint, anyway), allowed random socially awkward n'er-do-wells into their home and, burying the lede, provided ample alcohol and cigarettes.

The gem of the weekend had to be the second "floor" of their swank downtown loft, which also happened to be the roof of the building. A frequent gathering place for us, as well as assorted lesbians (who are apparently as excited by DonkeyPuncher as they are by Indigo Girls), the site featured awesome downtown views, the full gamut of offerings by Surly Brewing Co. and ample room for rousing, if one-sided, games of cornhole.

Chad also came through with best suggestion of the weekend, deep-fried chicken wings (drummies only!) at Runyon's. This is the best late-night food ever and he hardly batted an eye when he walked into a nearly closed bar and asked for 72 of them, which seemed excessive at the time, even downright gluttonous, until we got back to the loft and they disappeared in under ten minutes.

2. Emet

Tough choice for the silver medal, as Drizz put forth a monumental effort, but I don't have to sleep with Drizz every night (at least not since the summer of '07), and Emet had a stellar week as well, culminating in her doing all the packing for the trip home on Sunday morning as I moaned and sweated in our concave hotel room bed with a flu bug that can only be described as "sinister."

Emet travels great, of course. This is no surprise. She's a go-with-the-flow type, which is the perfect counterpoint to my plan-everything-down-to-the-millisecond style, so we end up getting to do a whole mess of stuff, while also finding unexpected crevices. We always remember to pause in our journeys, which provides vivid reminders of just how damn much we enjoy each other's company. Whether it was getting caught (and drenched) in a thunderstorm at Minnehaha Falls or hitting four balls into the water on #2 (me only), her good cheer never wavered. Also, she's looking really hot in her new Purple Jesus jersey.

3. Drizz.

Forget the two hours he was unaccounted for on early Saturday morning (hours he semi-recounted later), Drizz was tireless and tenacious. His finest moment was perhaps getting us to and from Canterbury Race Track/Card Club while driving at night in prescription sunglasses, having forgot his regular sunglasses at home. In the interim, he hit a straight flush at the Pai-Gow table.

But that can't be all. This is Drizz we're talking about. At one point on Friday night, he was into the water, but staged a furious comeback after running into an old volleyball acquaintance with a third nipple. I managed to get him drunk enough at Edinburgh USA to pillage his wallet on the back 9. This after he awed both me and our random playing partner (shout-out to Jack from Athens, GA!) with 300-yard drives down the middle on the front. You could actually hear the ball scream at impact. He took all that money back at cornhole (if there were a Drinking Game Olympics, Drizz would be on Wheaties boxes) and prop bets on the futility of A's hitters and the Saturday round at Theodore Wirth and probably some place else I can't remember. All I know is that Drizz is probably the first person to ever profit from a Summit, though those aforementioned two hours probably cut into the take a bit, $20 per song at a time.

4. StB.

He was lower than DonkeyPuncher at one point (I was using these Power Rankings to bend people to my will), when he said, "He's not even here!" True statement. Late (late, late) night at Cuzzy's, the kind of bar where you go when you've drank yourself entirely out of pretension and dignity, and StB continued going strong.

Extra bonus points for bringing along a case of Lager (by which I mean Yuengling, a name which I butchered so many times and in so many ways during the Bash at the Boathouse '06, that Terri the bartender finally told me just to ask for a "Lager" and so I continue to do to this day).

5. DonkeyPuncher

Docked for the rookie mistake of not arriving until Friday, especially since the fam was gone on Thursday night, and also robbing himself of crucial points by not once going to Sex World (as far as I know). Even so, he did entice a lesbian to kiss him by the sheer force of his personality and brown-ness.

As for golf, well, let's just pretend that round at Wirth never happened. Let's let it disappear in the same manner in which our respective swings were lost somewhere at the Minnesota state line.

6. OhCaptain

I (rather mercilessly) taunted Rochester's finest poker blogger all weekend about his standing in the Power Rankings, which caused him to complain at one point that he was "behind people who aren't even here!" which naturally emboldened me to continue doing it. Or course, I kid, that's just the kind of jackass I am, and Tim's virgin Summit appearance was an excellent debut, the kind that will be written about in the annals. What? We don't have any annals?


7. Minneapolis Tim

Chad's buddy and my primary Twins fan foil for the weekend, Tim's a clever fellow with a penchant for the suicide squeeze and Neuro-Physics. I am making neither of those things up.

8. The Good People of Minneapolis

There is a term, "Minnesota Nice." I found nothing in the city to abuse me of this notion. We had a jogger stop mid-run and ask if Emet and I wanted a picture together. While we rode the public bikes around town (which was awesome and if we were ranking inanimate objects, the bikes would be in the top 3, along with Surly Furious and Target Field), a few people expressed delight that we were riding them and wanted to know if we were having fun. Also, given the opportunity to run us over on two occasions, Minneapolis bus drivers demurred.

9. Humidity

We have now reached the stage of the Power Rankings where things aren't good. I figured I could rotate a couple t-shirts over the course of the five days, thereby ensuring lighter luggage, but I had to take two of them out of the rotation on the first day after bleeding my rapidly deteriorating sweat clean through them (hear that, ladies!). I can't even get into how the weather made my hair all curly, not curly like sexy, but curly like pubes.

10. The Oakland A's

Sigh. I hate them so very much. They don't deserve me. They are winless in the three games I've attended this season. Their performance at Friday night's game against the Twins at gorgeous Target Field was so egregious that it put me on tilt. Massive Tilt. The kind of tilt I usually only experience, baseball-wise, when they are actually in a pennant race. But 15 hits and only 3 runs, some ridiculous at-bats, the inability to get to Carl Fucking Pavano...

I had to take a time-out walk along the concourse. I shit you not.


Perhaps my favorite story from the weekend happened at the Twins-A's game. We were a little tardy (the roof is a tough place to leave), and as we filled up our row, we noticed a priest sitting right behind us. He was with his father (haha the Father with his father), his brother and three nephews, all of whom were very friendly and knowledgeable and immediately started giving me shit about my A's jersey. We talked to them frequently over the course of the game, DonkeyPuncher showing off his Catholic roots, Emet and I teasing the kiddos. Late in the game, the priest leaned down and said to me something to the effect of "We were a little concerned when y'all showed up, there being a lot of families in the section and all, but we appreciate your clean language and how y'all behaved."

Which is a nice microcosm of this group. Degenerates, yes. But considerate and decent. Even if Drizz dropped two S-bombs within 45 seconds of that conversation.

Until next year, gang.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

2010: A Television Odyssey

After 7+ years, two lamps, a color wheel and countless hours of Big Screen Entertainment, the TV died. The timing could not have been worse, what with cash being eaten up at a piranha-esque rate due to numerous summer vacations and two rounds of golf per week. Emet and I even had a technician come out to see if the Old Girl (the TV, not Emet) were salvageable.

The repairman didn't have good news. No easy fix. So I said to him, "Considering the technology in this TV is obsolete and the price of a new (shiny, beautiful flat-screen high-def) TV is but 3x the price of this repair, what would your advice be?"

I knew before I even finished the question what his true answer was. His face gave it away. To is credit, he didn't dissemble. "I'd go buy a new TV," he said. He lost a repair job, but gained a customer.

Customer Service Grade: A

This was a Saturday morning, so Emet and I decided to wait a day so we could see the Sunday mailers for sale prices. In the meantime, I did my research thing and listed the Must Haves (LED back-lighting, 1080p, at least 120Mz) for the purchase. I ran down the get the paper (oh, I mean newspaper; it's this thing old people have delivered to their house and contains information) first thing on Sunday and found an appropriately priced and appointed set. I paused only to brush my teeth before I was in the car and on the way to Best Buy.

I'm not the biggest Best Buy fan, but they usually have the best prices. I have to wade through four different salespeople all trying to "help" me add-on to my purchase, but being prepared always helps. Not that I can't be diverted by other sparkling options. I texted Emet twice about a) getting a bigger set and b) getting a different set that also offered a free Blu-Ray and Surround Sound.

Despite threatening to go off the rails, I ended up with the TV I'd intended to buy, though the process took far too long and by the end I was surly and dismissive and hurrytheffup to every smiling, blue-shirted body that came my way, an attitude that was not helped when informed delivery would take nearly two weeks.

"Wait. Didn't you say you had the TV in stock?"

"Yes sir, but delivery services are backed up." Recession my balls.

Customer Service Grade: C+

I wish that were the end of it. Two weeks with our little TV perched in front of the big, ol' useless one. But now I needed a new box and dish from DirecTV to beam beautiful HD to the Speaker Compund. Now, I've been a DirecTV customer off and on for twenty years, but that off and on (due to apartment buildings that don't allow satellite dishes) has occasioned many calls to English-challenged customer service, many swarthy installers up on my roof and many man-hours lost to unraveling the mysteries of DirecTV pricing plans.

My first telephone attempt resulted in pigeon English and a number of charges I was not willing to pay. Unable to make myself truly understood, I hung up and decided to play Customer Service Rep Roulette. On my next try, the charges were the same (three additional ones on top of the price of the box) and I insisted on an explanation for each, all the while surfing the internet for local cable company rates (outrageous) and Dish Network plans (better, but no NFL Sunday Ticket, which is my primary raison d'etre).

Customer Service Grade: D

So, it seemed I was backed into a corner. I had no place to go. Was facing $200 in trumped-up charges (these were for such bullshit items as "equipment upgrade fee," "sales order fee" and "contract amendment fee,"). So, I ran a bluff. I told the customer service lady--IN NO UNCERTAIN TERMS!--that I found these bonus charges to be egregious and wholly unfair and that I was inclined to cancel their service altogether. She responded that she hated to lose me as a customer, but she would transfer me to Cancellations and that maybe they could do something for me. The new Dude cut out the fees in like 90 seconds and I ended up only paying for the HD box.

Ship it.

Customer Service Grade: B+
(points deducted for trying to screw me in the first place)

I scheduled the installation for a day after the TV was set to arrive and steeled myself for another 10 days of Little TV Hell, but satisfied in knowing my long national nightmare would soon be over, if a bit pricey.

But I run so bad.


"It looks awfully dark, doesn't it?"

That's what I said after looking at the new TV for about an hour after I got home from work. I didn't think too much of it, since we weren't yet getting an HD signal, but my research had intimated that the LED backlight feature helped the contrast in darker scenes. I grabbed the TV's manual to investigate and stopped cold. The cover said, "LCD TV."

Shit. I grabbed a flashlight and hustled around the back of the TV looking for the model number. Shit. This is the wrong TV. And my first thought was, "I bought the wrong one."

Panicking, I located my receipt. No, I had not bought the wrong TV. The Geek Squad brought the wrong one. Same size, same brand, just the shittier, non-LED, $500 cheaper one.

Customer Service Grade: F

"Hello? Customer service?" I was on the phone again, eerily calm (perhaps because I spent a harrowing five minutes thinking *I* had made a huge mistake), but that calm was immediately tested when, upon hearing my tale of woe, the voice on the other end of the line said, "Did you accept delivery?"

Mt. Saint Speaker was poised to explode. "I didn't," I said, molten lava beginning to rise. "My girlfriend did. YOU. ARE. NOT. GOING. TO. TELL. ME..."

"No, no sir. Let me transfer you."

In the Home Theater Dept, they were apologetic. Yes, we totally screwed up. Yes, we'll send out your TV as soon as possible. Yes, we will send you a $50 Gift Card for your trouble.

Customer Service Grade: C (though the make-up was an A, I'm averaging that with the 'F', which remains totally unacceptable in any context)

Funny story. All's well that ends well. Our actual TV is coming on Wednesday. Yesterday, during AJ's birthday party, the guests kept asking, "Oh, is that your new TV?" to which I kept responding, "It's A new TV." They all thought it looked fine and it does, when watching a day baseball game, though HD does take a little getting used to, especially on the channels that are non-HD, where everything is wierdly three-dimensional and reminds me of Masterpiece Theatre on PBS.
As for the DirecTV installation, we waited way too long on Friday. He said 10:30 a.m. at first, so I felt totally secure in setting a 2:30 p.m. tee time for Emet and I. Naturally, his first job of the day ran way over and he didn't get to our place until 1 p.m. I told him he was going to have to finish in an hour. He didn't. We left anyway. Despite Emet's protestations that he was going to rob our house, I trusted him. Had to. There's no way I'm missing a round of golf. Not the way I'm swinging it. And, if he did rob us, at least we had our clubs with us, so he couldn't take those, and there's really nothing more valuable in our house currently than my sticks, not in a monetary way, you understand, but in a Can't Live Without Them way.

Full credit to Juan the Satellite Dish Technician for not robbing us.

Customer Service Grade: A (non-robbery trumping late arrrival)