Everything’s Comin’ Up Milhouse

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Since I dropped a Poutine related theory on y’all a few weeks back, I thought I would drop another one on you based on my current mindset.  To be honest, I have been pretty happy about things of late … and by saying “about things” I mean only some of the things out there, cause there is a bunch of things I am miserable about too.  It’s a different feeling of sorts for me, because – quite simply – most of the last eighteen months haven’t gone my way too often.

The thing about happiness is that sometimes you only need a part of your world to go right, and it can be like the whole of the world is brighter because of it.  Yet the funny thing is that sometimes you need to remind yourself that one good thing might not outweigh it all.

That’s where the “Milhouse Moment” theory comes from.

Milhouse is a character from the show “The Simpsons” – he’s Bart Simpson’s best friend known for being nerdy with thick glasses on all the time.  He may look smart, but he is only really brighter than Bart in comparison (in the same way a quarter makes you more richer than if you had two dimes and four pennies).  In one episode dating back to 1999, Homer Simpson decided to flood the whole city for a work of art.  In those Simpson moments that are so brilliant, they showed different residents dealing with the situation.  Milhouse, standing in his room was upset he had on ‘Flood Pants’ – those pants kids have grown out of to the point that they are well above their ankles.  The specific quote goes:

Milhouse Van Houten: I hate these flood pants.
[opens door and water comes in up to his ankles]
Milhouse Van Houten: Hey, they’re working! My feet are soaked, but my cuffs are bone dry! Everything’s comin’ up Milhouse!

Let me restate this moment — Milhouse is standing on the second floor of his house.  Water is in up to his ankles.  Everything below him is likely destroyed by the flood, most of what is in his room is destroyed by the flood, in any other part of the definition he is in a disaster area.  Heck, even he admits his feet are soaked; and I haven’t even mentioned the released zoo animals (lions, tigers, zebras, etc) that are swimming around with snorkeling gear on.  Yet because his cuffs are dry …Everything’s comin’ up Milhouse!

We were once calling those moments, Milhouse moments.  When we took the time to celebrate something minor in an effort to ignore the world around us.  Sometimes we used to say someone was having a Milhouse moment just to deflate their optimism and be a jerk about it too.  It was all meant in fun, that realization that ‘Hey this one thing is really good if I ignore everything else wrong in the world’ is something funny in embracing pessimistic optimism.

This morning, I found out that I passed a major professional exam – my American Society of Quality Certified Manager of Quality & Operation Excellence.  It was not easy, grueling and tedious.  Four hours of essays and multiple choice that I spent most of January and February studying for.  It comes at a fortuitous time in my career as it suggests that I am capable of performing duties and functions I have been passed over for in the past, and am trying to pursue in the future.  There’s a very good chance that most of you reading this don’t know what that certification means, nor what it could mean for my career.  But also there is a very good chance that most who would read it on a resume will give it more than a few blinks or thoughts. In other words, I am putting a lot into the excitement and relief of passing the exam, even though I know its not probably as big of a deal as I may think.  Or in other-other words … when I found out I passed this morning, I said “Everything’s Comin’ Up Milhouse”.

The true beauty of these moments isn’t that nagging pessimism that is there, quite the opposite.  We all have Milhouse moments.  We have that time when something that is important to us makes us feel better about it than we probably should.  The point isn’t to say ‘you shouldn’t be feeling that way’.  The point is to say ‘Isn’t feeling this way awesome’?  Happiness is infectious, it is bountiful of what could become us.  Happiness leads us to the next step, the next joy, the next Milhouse Moment.

And hopefully, I’ll have more Milhouse Moments in the weeks to come.

The Little Dude Abides

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Seventy-four (74) days into 2016 and I have spent sixty-nine (69 .. yeah, baby) of those nights in a hotel.  We aren’t even through the 1st Quarter and I am nearly a third of the way to last year’s insane 210 hotel night year.  While I am the one that complains about so much time in a hotel room, the main question I get about this experience is:

“How’s Auggie doing?”

First of all … thanks for you concern … about me.  Yes yes, it’s good that you are concerned about my dog, but … yeah … way to be thoughtful about my feelings and not my fuzzy little sidekick.

And people wonder why I call him the worst wingman ever.

To answer your question – he basically is doing alright; could be worse, could be much better, but he’s doing alright.

Auggie’s life is a pretty set routine.  We wake up, we go out so he can do his business, we come in, he ignores his breakfast, begs for some cheese, then annoys me while I am in the shower.  He’s in his crate in the hotel during the day, and when I get home we go out for a little walkies.  Dinner is served, eaten sometimes, but served regardless.  If I head out to do something that night, he goes back into the crate.  If not, then there is a bunch of other stuff we do — either he and I play a game of ‘how to get daddy to scratch my belly, then how do I make him stop’; or someone gets to chew on a bone for a while; or someone begs for cheese; or we just chillax.  Bed time means he crawls in next to me, then hogs the bed.

There’s bonus days, and he gets to know when these are.  Tuesdays, the hotel usually grills up something (hamburger, chicken breast, bratwurst, hot dogs, etc), and I always bring one back for him.  Weekends when we are at the hotel, I go down to the lobby for breakfast and bring him back some sausage patties — he goes nuts for them (I don’t, because it gives him gas, but what doesn’t).  While I don’t take him with me to work, like I did a fair bit of the time on last year’s California project; I do take him with me when I taking a drive or heading somewhere that he won’t be in the car alone for hours at a time.

If anything, the applecart was upset yesterday — due to renovations at our hotel, I had to switch rooms into one of the newly renovated rooms.  While it’s nearly the same room, it’s still different, and that means things are different.  We are keeping the same routine, but with places to hang moved around, he has to adjust again.  But that’s what he has been doing.  After spending the first two years of his life in the same house and the same backyard – he hasn’t spent more than a couple days in any one place except for these long run stays at hotels.  All we have is each other, our car, and a routine to keep things normal.

Truth is, what he is getting the most of is routine.  While for most of us, living in a hotel wouldn’t seem like ‘routine’, but when you see the world through a dog’s eyes you realize that routine is a lot simpler.  If he is in the same place doing the same things every day, he is in a routine.  When a dog can find a routine, it gets comfortable, it continues on, it abides.

The downside of this is that he doesn’t get a lot of socializing, something I wasn’t the best with him as a pup either.  His breed is not good at socializing to begin with, while he is great with other people (if not overly excited around them), he can elevate tempers in other dogs – and he is better at winning fights than most.  It’s something I need to address, but is part of the issues this life we lead is something that needs to change.  In the meantime, I have to continue on as well, and wait for that chance I can completely abide.

We probably have another three weeks or so left in California, with the end date not set in stone yet.  When we do, it will be a slow journey back to the east coast, with expected visits to plants in Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and possibly South Carolina.  That could be a challenge for him because routines get thrown out the window, and everything is different every day.  But its something he has gone through before.

That and I’m there too (in case you forgot about me … again).  I try to be his calming influence, the one thing normal.  If I do that right, then the little dude abides.

The Not-Poutine Theory

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You may have noticed that I create these random, non-sense theories that take a concept and tie it to something broader.  There is the:

  • Unicorn Theory
  • Oil Change Theory
  • Ketchup theory
  • Catsup theory (no relation to the Ketchup theory)
  • “Everything Applies” theory
  • The 50-Mile Radius Concept
  • “Coming Off the Mountain” Simile
  • House Full of Rocks, and You Got The Hammer Philosophy

Last night I added a new one – the “Not-Poutine” theory.

For those of you who are missing out on one of the most incredible eating experience of your life, I am talking about a dish called Poutine.  It originated as street-food in Belgium, but is more recognized as an Eastern Canadian dish that is especially loved in Quebec.  It’s grown interest in the US recently because it makes for a good small sized appetizer that takes little to prepare.  Poutine, on it’s surface, is quite simple — French Fries with Cheese Curds melted on top then covered in gravy.  It is on par with candied pork belly and roasted bone marrow that is as over the top good as it also is over the top healthy.  Think about it, Poutine is fried covered in melty yummy smothered in awesome – it’s so good your arteries start holding celebrations to welcome the cholesterol back into their neighborhoods.  I had heard & maybe even tried it before I moved to Alaska, but a favorite hockey bar (yes, a bar devoted to watching hockey … which was pretty awesome if you ask me) served an excellent poutine.

Because of my gullet you would think I would avoid such stuff – on the contrary.  I can only eat so much these days, and what I do needs to have protein (cheese) and sodium (fries and gravy).  So … it works well for me.

Last night I visited a bar in downtown Fullerton called Hopscotch.  It was a trendy kind of place in the way that is almost stereotypical “Hipster of the 20-teens”.  All the women wore dress shirts and suspenders.  All the guys wore vests and had beards.  Every beer that was on tap was from a local brewery far from normal.  They had whisky flights.  They had a separate patio for the cigarette smokers and a separate patio for the cigar smokers.  Most of the hipster types were younger, but there were some of us older people wandering through too.  Yet the drink special was ‘the mixologist asks you some questions and makes a signature drink just for you … for about fifteen bucks’.  What wasn’t hip was “ironic”.  The place felt like the cover of a Mumford and Sons album.

Of course, poutine was on the menu.  Of course I ordered it.

It was not Poutine!

Okay, maybe it was close, but it was like seeing a Rib-Eye with blue cheese melted on top placed next to a dinner roll and calling it a hamburger.  Or seeing a the most gigantic Banana Split with 10 scoops of sorbet & six different topics & SPRINKLES … calling it an ice cream.

Poutine is supposed to have french fries.  This had wedges of golden russet potatoes, baked in a herb sauce, then flashed fried to get crispness on the skin and edges.

Poutine is supposed to have cheese curds, that are more color and gooey and less flavor.  This had a blend of locally sourced mornay and Havarti cheeses crumbled and touched lightly with heat, enough to bond together the potatoes.  The tantalizing mix gives just a light tartness and a heavy sharp flavor in contrast.

Poutine is supposed to have gravy.  This had gravy.  This had duck-fat gravy.  Gravy isn’t supposed to be named for an animal, its named for a color – Brown and White.   It’s supposed to be like a punch in the gut – heavy and memorable.  This was like getting punched in the gut by a duck breast perfectly rendered and seasoned to bring out the potential of a nice cut of fowl can bring to you.

Poutine isn’t supposed to have caramelized onions, in order to add an undeniable sweetness.

Poutine isn’t supposed to have fired capers releasing their gentle brine to pull the different flavors together.

Poutine isn’t supposed to be topped with herbs and parsley to bring out the woodsy scent of the intense mixture of flavors.

This was not Poutine!

Whatever it was, it was delicious.  It was transcendent.  It was this incredible mix of textures and flavors that blended so well together, but varied enough that each bite became it’s own adventure.  It was one of those dishes that you sit back and think “I have to tell someone about this” (and then say “wait a minute, I have a blog that I can use to tell someone about this”).

Sure, it was ‘Not-Poutine’ … but that’s just a label.  All that really mattered was that I liked it.

As I sat at that bar and reveled in the beauty of this ‘not-poutine’, I chatted with some of the bartenders, a couple of the hipsters that came up for a drink or two, and even some of the other non-hipsters that came in.  On the TV, they were showing one of the presidential debates going on – which of course leads to all those angry thoughts people make about whether someone votes for one label or the other label.  In my head what kept rushing through is that everywhere I looked – there was something to slap a label onto:  Hipsters, Non-Hipsters, Presidential Candidates, smokers, non-smokers, poutine.  I’m no different than anyone else, I am so busy trying to put labels on things, I don’t stop long enough to ask the simple question “do I like it”.

So there is where the theory began — We can spend all our time worrying about what we label something, or we can spend all our time figuring out if we like what we label.  Do we like a Hipster because they are a Hipster or because they are a person.  Does the Label make the man or does the man make the man.  Just because they call it poutine, and it’s not poutine, can it still taste great.

Slap some catsup on that theory, and call it good.